Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blagojevich's Chutzpuh

A decent and honorable governor would have resigned from office after he (or she) was caught on tape planning to (a) sell a vacated senate seat to the highest bidder, (b) threaten to withhold financial assistance from a newspaper company unless it fires his critics within the organization, and (c) tie hospital aid to campaign contributions. Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Illinois), however, isn't an honorable man.

The governor has now appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the vacated seat the prosecutor says he tried to sell to several potential candidates. He says Burris shouldn't be punished for something the governor is accused of doing. "Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," Governor Blagojevich said. U.S. Representative Bob Rush (D-Illinois) used more colorful language to make the same point. "I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer," he said at the press conference.

By picking Mr. Burris, the scandal-ridden governor dared the senate to deny the seat to an African American in a body that is filled with old white men and he raised questions concerning any potential deal he made with his appointee, who had contributed to his campaign among other senate Democrats. He injected into the process a constitutional crisis Illinois voters and the United States could have avoided had he resigned. The senate Democrats have no choice now but deny Burris the seat if only to deny the scandal-ridden governor legitimacy, then let the courts decide whether they had a right to deny the appointee the seat.

Mr. Burris, like all who were offered the president-elect's vacated seat, had an obligation to reject the appointment. Now, whether the governor is stripped of his powers or not, and whether he is impeached or not, Mr. Burris will have the right to fight for the seat he was appointed to. The reporters are not "hanging" or "lynching" a victim here, and to compare the questions they have to the crimes perpetuated against his ancestors is outrageous.

Illinois mut impeach their governor before he tarnishes his state's reputation even more.

Destroy Hamas?

So much for lowering expectations.

I largely agree with the analysis given by the editorial writers at The Washington Post. The Israeli strikes while justified, won't accomplish will be viewed as a victory for Hamas and the Iranians. (Yes, I know the editorial writers consider them one of the losers but the war allows them to play the role as the nationalistic resistance force while Fattah stands by and largely does nothing but issue condemnations which the Israelis will ignore). Imagine a replay of what transpired when the Israelis bombed the Hizbollah-occupied portions of Lebanon. The Israelis are using conventional means to win a non-conventional war. One employs overwhelming military tactics. The other guerrilla warfare. One group's aim is to "completely destroy[s]" its opponents, as Gabriela Shalev says, while the other need only survive to fight another day.

In fact, as one Palestinian journalist and former Princeton professor argues in today's paper, it might even be counter-productive. Hamas, having lost its popularity, found the means to wrap themselves in a Palestinian flag.

Hamas cannot be vanquished. It must be co-opted and for anyone who thinks they won't negotiate, Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser in the Ford and Bush (I) administrationss, offer something to consider in America And The World, a book he recently co-authored with former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezkinski and columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post:

"When I first became involved in this overall issue in the early '70s' Scowcroft said, "we weren't allowed to talk to Fatah because it was a terrorist organization. We had to go through Morocco or others to communicate with them. This is the process we're going through."

Fatah was a terrorist organization. Today they are the Israelis preferred Palestinian negotiating partners.

David Grossman at Haaretz offers the way out for the Israelis should they choose to take it:

After its severe strike on Gaza, Israel would do well to stop, turn to Hamas' leaders and say: Until Saturday Israel held its fire in the face of thousands of Qassams from the Gaza Strip. Now you know how harsh its response can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction we will now hold our fire unilaterally and completely for the next 48 hours. Even if you fire at Israel, we will not respond with renewed fighting. We will grit our teeth, as we did all through the recent period, and we will not be dragged into replying with force.

Moreover, we invite interested countries, neighbors near and far, to mediate between us and you to bring back the cease-fire. If you hold your fire, we will not renew ours. If you continue firing while we are practicing restraint, we will respond at the end of this 48 hours, but even then we will keep the door open to negotiations to renew the cease-fire, and even on a general and expanded agreement.
- David Grossman at Haaretz

I suggest they take it. If, after 48 hours, Hizbollah is still launching its missiles into Israel, Olmert can restart the bombing campaign.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Alterative Energy Deal

Reading the "Week in Review" section of The New York Times today would have made alternative energy advocates pleased. Thomas L. Friedman, a liberal columnist at The New York Times, called for an increase in the carbon tax which could be offset with a cut in the payroll or income tax. U.S. Representative Bob Inglis (R-Georgia) a conservative Republican and former Reagan economist Arthur B. Laffer said they could support a carbon tax if it is offset via a payroll tax cut.

"Conservatives do not have to agree that humans are causing climate change to recognize a sensible energy solution. All we need to assume is that burning less fossil fuels would be a good thing. Based on the current scientific consensus and the potential environmental benefits, it’s prudent to do what we can to reduce global carbon emissions. When you add the national security concerns, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels becomes a no-brainer.

Yet the costs of reducing carbon emissions are not trivial. Climate change may be a serious problem, but a higher overall tax rate would devastate the long-term growth of America and the world."
Arthur B. Laffer and U.S. Representative Bob Inglis (R-Georgia) in The New York Times

"But I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of ways to retool America around clean-power technologies without a price signal — i.e., a tax — and there are no effective ones. (Toughening energy-effiency regulations alone won’t do it.) Without a higher gas tax or carbon tax, Obama will lack the leverage to drive critical pieces of his foreign and domestic agendas.

How so? According to AAA, U.S. gasoline prices now average about $1.67 a gallon. Funny, that’s almost exactly what gas cost on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. In the wake of 9/11, President Bush had the political space to impose a gasoline tax, a “Patriot Tax,” to weaken the very people who had funded 9/11 and to stimulate a U.S. renewable-energy industry. But Bush wimped out and would not impose a tax when prices were low or a floor price when they got high.

Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11. The public is ready to be mobilized. Obama is coming in with enormous popularity. This is his best window of opportunity to impose a gas tax. And he could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month. But if Obama, like Bush, wills the ends and not the means — wills a green economy without the price signals needed to change consumer behavior and drive innovation — he will fail."
Thomas Friedman in The New York Times

Take notice, Obama.

Republicans and Race

Why do the African Americans vote for the Democrat? Well, here's one reason. Forget the Southern Strategy and that now-tarnished claim to "states' rights" (a claim the southern states used to fight against civil rights protections for African Americans). Forget the Republican Party's support for racial profiling. Even the moderates within their party don't get it. Rudoph Giuliani? Defend the police at any cost, even when the victim is a sodomized black man. Ex-Governor Christie Todd Whitman (R-New Jersey)? She had a police officer photograph her frisking a 16-year old African American child in Camden (mind you, he was already frisked by the police officer) when she was New Jersey's governor.

How about the Republicans participated in the African American forum hosted by Travis Smiley? Frormer Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) showed up, as did the candidates desperate for press attention: U.S. Representatives (at the time) Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado), Duncan Hunter (R-California), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and former U.S. Senate Candidate and talk show host Alan Keyes (R-Illinois) but he's black so he wouldn't really be there to bridge the cultural divide between the white Republican candidates and the African American community. The top contenders who did not show up? Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts), former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-New York) and former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee).

I find the reaction from the RNC chair person wannabes interesting. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich condemned Chip Saltsman for writing the "Puff the Magic Negro" spoof though he merely deemed it "inappropriate." He's white. RNC chairman Mike Duncan said he was "shocked and appalled." Good for him but again, he's white. Saul Anuzis, who is also running for the position said it was "in bad taste." Like Asparagus? He two isn't black.

Ken Blackwell, the former secretary of State for Ohio, however laughed it off. No need of being "hypersensitive." He's black. I wonder. Is he trying to downplay his race in order to win? Are his white opponents trying to downplay their racially tone-deaf attitudes?

More On Warren

Today there is some very small news to report on the president-elect's selection of Saddlback Church pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation next month.

First, columnist Frank Rich of The New York Times, wrote an op-ed notes why the "reverend" should not be invited - he compared the relationship between two mutually consenting adults to the relationship between a sexual predator and his prey.

Second, having noted that in his question to David Axelrod, "Meet The Press" host David Gregory failed to use that comparison for his follow-up question.

First, Frank Rich (note the words I boldfaced):

"Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.” columnist Frank Rich of The New York Times.

That in essence is what Rick Warren and those who compare gay intimacy to pedophilia do. It is an act of vilification and it is unjustified because there can be no comparison between an act between two consenting adults and an act that involves a predator and his victim. Homosexuality is at its worst, a victimless sin or vice (if you will). Pedophilia is an act akin to rape.

Now for David Gregory's missed opportunity on "Meet The Press" this Sunday:

MR. GREGORY: Let me turn, in our remaining moments, to the issue of politics. I don't have to tell you that the president-elect has been criticized by some of his supporters for naming Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration, the evangelical figure, preacher, pastor in California who is opposed to gay rights and supported Prop 8 in California, which overturned gay rights in California. Frank Rich in The New York Times wrote this that was critical of the president-elect this morning. "Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. ... When Obama defends Warren's words by calling them an example of the `wide range of viewpoints' in a `diverse and noisy and opinionated' America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a `viewpoint' defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable." Let me just point out that Rick Warren did liken gay marriage to a brother and sister marrying or to an older guy marrying a daughter. Do you think that the president-elect has risked offending the very people who put him into office?

MR. AXELROD: Well, look, Rick Warren and the president-elect have had a dialogue for some, some time, David. They've had a dialogue about things on which they agree, such as fighting poverty and reducing the terrible plight of--the terrible disease that, that crosses Africa. And they've, and they've had a dialogue about things on which they disagree, such as civil rights for gays and lesbians and a woman's right to choose. But the important point here is that you have a conservative evangelical pastor who's coming to participate in the inauguration of a progressive president, and this is a healthy thing and a good thing for our country. We have to be--we have to find ways to work together on the things on which we do agree, even when we profoundly disagree on other things. And that's how we are going to build bridges of understanding and move this country forward. And that's what Barack Obama promised as a candidate. That's what he's going to deliver as president.

MR. GREGORY: But is--isn't the question for all those progressives, all of those new registrants to the Democratic Party, when you promised a progressive presidency with a progressive candidate, and then you get this. Pat Robertson, the televangelist who said in praise of Obama this week, "I am remarkably pleased with Obama. ... He's picked a middle-of-the-road Cabinet." Again, do you think Obama supporters would think that that's the kind of praise they want to hear?

No that isn't the question David Gregory. The question is not whether the president offended those he put in power nor is it whether the president should want to accept praise from the evangelical community. What matters is the honor the president-elect wishes to bestow upon a man whose tone contributes to the partisan politics of personal destruction which we need to leave behind What matters is whether the tone which is set is one which, as Axelrod suggests "build bridges of understanding" or not. Equating gays with pedophiles does not "build bridges." It builds walls.

Why didn't he ask David Axelrod directly whether equating gay relationships to pedophilia is an example of acceptable discourse or not?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cohen on the Warren Fiasco:: Obama's Moral Problem

The conventional thing to say is that Obama has a preacher problem -- first the volcanic Jeremiah Wright and now the transparently anti-gay Warren. But the real problem has nothing to do with ministers and everything to do with Obama's inability or unwillingness to be a moral leader. Sooner or later, he just might have to stand for something. - columnist Richard Cohen in The Washington Post

Dead on Cohen. Dead on.

"This was apparent to me almost a year ago when I reported that Obama's church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, had given a major award to Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. The award was presented in Wright's name and featured in a cover story in the church's magazine, Trumpet. When I asked the Obama campaign about this, I was told that Obama himself did not agree with Farrakhan. What a relief!"

It's that obvious. Reverend Rick Warren isn't being agreeably disagreeable. He's being viciously disagreeable. The incest and polygamy comparisons are insulting since the restrictions which are imposed in both cases are far less onerous. In the former case, straight and gay people are forbidden to marry or for that matter enter into an intimate relationship with a member of their own family (usually first or second cousin removed). In the latter case, straight and gay people are forbidden from marrying two or more people. The comparisons in both cases can and should only be used when the issue is being decided by the Courts since utilizing the rationale for protecting private intimate and consensual conduct would cover all six relationships (straight monogamy, gay monogamy, straight polygamy, gay polygamy, straight incest, and gay incest).

"Reverend" Rick Warren however, raised the incestual and polgamy claims during and after a vote on a proposition where the burden for justifying a distinction between the six types of consensual relationships I mentioned above is lowered. Courts must consider slippery slope arguments. The people do not.

But of course the Saddleback pastor did us worse by comparing our relationships to the pedophiles' relationship to the children they victimize and that is hardly an example of civil discourse.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Will has a point

Leaving aside the merits (or fewer demerits) of the plan, there are still questions concerning the authority President George W. Bush had in loaning GM and Chrysler the TARP funds to prevent them from going under.

"For eight years, the Bush administration's "presidentialists" have aggressively wielded the concept of the "unitary executive" -- the theory that where the Constitution vests power in the executive, especially power over foreign affairs and war, the president is immune to legislative abridgements of his autonomy.

The administration has not, however, confined its aggrandizement of executive power to national security matters. According to former representative Mickey Edwards in his book "Reclaiming Conservatism," the president has issued "signing statements" designating 1,100 provisions of new laws -- more designations than have been made by all prior presidents combined -- that he did not consider binding on him or any other executive branch official.

Still, most of the administration's executive truculence has pertained to national security, where the case for broad prerogatives, although not as powerful as the administration supposes, is at least arguable. With the automakers, however, executive branch overreaching now extends to the essence of domestic policy -- spending -- and traduces a core constitutional principle, the separation of powers."
- George F. Will in The Washington Post

Of course, nothgng gets through Congress if those seeking to pass a bill lack the votes to overcome a filibuster.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Rod Dreher, who dismisses the protest against "Reverend" Rick Warren as a "hissy fit" should read and respond to Matthew Yglesias' damning point about symbolism. Bold-faced my emphasis:

"A brief point to make is that it’s very easy for a person who isn’t part of the minority group that’s being symbolically dissed to dismiss someone else’s concerns as merely symbolic and not that big a deal. But it’s worth considering how much public policy acts consistently to reaffirm the symbolic commitments of majority groups. If Barack Obama were proposing to eliminate Christmas as a national holiday and end the White House Easter Egg Hunt, nobody would be surprised to see people get very upset even though the concrete stakes would be low. And it matters a lot to potentially vulnerable minorities to see their own concerns symbolically reaffirmed for members of the majority. When you see the reverse taking place, and being done by the erstwhile leader of the political coalition that’s supposed to be taking care of your interests, that’s a very disturbing development."

More Reax to Rick Warren: Moderates Providing Cover to Obama

"It's a freakin' prayer people! It's not like Obama nominated Warren to a cabinet position or some form of policy making or advisory spot. It's a prayer. Anybody selected for that role is bound to piss some group off, and it happened to be the LGBT community." from Jim and Brenda Johnson @ Straight, Not Narrow

"The thing is, Obama is trying to change the nature of public discourse from the raw blast it has been for the past 20 years to something more civil and tolerable. You sense that every time he opens his mouth. He's all for opening doors. I don't know how many of ultra-conservative evangelicals will walk through the door he is opening by having one of their most popular leaders join the inaugural celebration, but I appreciate his inclusive intent." Joe Klein at Time Magazine

But at the expense of tolerating inflammatory language directed at another group? Aren't pedophiles the most hated and feared class of criminals in this country in this country (and hopefully, abroad?) Reverend Warren said he is against gay marriage. Fine. Then he said he is brothers marrying their sisters (and vice versa) and worse, he said that he opposes pedophiles from marrying children. How then can the employment of the pedophile canard be accepted as a part of this nation's "civil" discourse?

Addendum: Andrew Sullivan begins to cave on the Reverend Warren fiasco:

"We absolutely do need to be vigilant on this. But we should also understand Obama's attempt to bridge some gaps in America that the Clintons, with their boomer baggage and Dick Morris cynicism, couldn't and didn't. This is what matters. Do gays and lesbians want to be a part of this - or sit fuming on the sidelines at symbolic slights?

I know the arguments against this, and if Obama delivers nothing on gay equality, the critics will have every reason to complain loudly, as they should. But I'm not going there yet. And the truth is: if we cannot engage a Rick Warren on the question of our equality, we may secure a narrow and bitter victory in some states (just as the Christianists won a narrow and bitter victory in California in November). But we will not win the bigger argument and our victories will lack the moral legitimacy they deserve."

In other words, we are in no position to fight the Obama administration. We must shut up or lose our place at the table. To which it could be said - where's our place at the table? The Republicans got two cabinet posts (or at least two that lean Republican). Gays? Zero.

Second, the question is not whether we engage in a debate with those who oppose gay marriage. It is whether some of the tactics which are employed against us are beyond the realm of acceptable discourse.

I do not side with those who say any and everyone who opposes any single gay rights measure is a bigot. There are straight allies whose libertarian outlook leads them to support gay marriage, oppose hate crime legislation, and distinguish between public and private discrimination.

There are people who would support ENDA but oppose letting gays enter the military. One can make the argument that ENDA is a no-brainer but forcing straights and gays to sleep and shower together invites too much sexual tension. There are people who, even though they think gay couples are entitled to some public recognition and respect, believe that marriage should be preserved for heterosexual couples to prize their ability to create new life. There is a lot of gray in the gay rights debates; it's not all black and white.

What I and no one should accept, however, is the employment of the pedophile canard because that is an act of vilification pure and simple.

Blgaojevich will "Fight"

First his statement:

I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing. And that is talk about this case in 30 second sound bites on 'Meet the Press' or on the TV news. - Governor Rod Blagojevich

What he really meant is "I'm not going to do what my accusers and political enemies have been doing. And that is talk about this case before a group of skeptical - to - cynical reporters on shows like "Meet The Press" where they can actually ask me some tough questions.

Look. He may be innocent. I doubt it but he may be. We haven't seen what, if anything else, the federal prosecutor could use against him. But the fact remains that, whether he is innocent or not, his political capital is gone. No one believes him. No one will strike a deal with him. And no one will stand by his side during a photo op. Any and every political/administrative decision that he makes will be carefully scrutinized. Did x give him campaign funds? Why didn't y get some funding? Why did z vote for the bill that the governor is pushing?

The governor is well within his right to his day in court. He is not entitled to drag the whole state with him. He should resign and let someone who won't be preoccupied with these very serious legal charges take his place.

and even if talking about extortion isn't a crime (and not just putting it into practice) it is for sure unethical and unbecoming of someone who was elevated to a position to protect the residents of Illinois, not himself.

The Vatican and the UN Statement: They MIght Not Be that Boneheaded and Authoritarian After All?

I guess some people at the Vatican thought their opinion opposing the UN resolution went too far by endorsing laws that legitimize the imprisonment and in some extreme cases, the death of those who engage in conduct they deem immoral.

Good for them (I speak of those who had the good sense to issue the "clarification" ah-hem). Liberty requires at a minimum, the toleration of, respect for the right to engage in behaviors that one does necessarily approve of as long as that behavior does not infringe upon the rights of others.

The President-elect's Vacated Senate Seat

I'm with the editorial writers at The Chicago Tribune. The president-elect should use the bully pulpit to give Illinois' voters the method of picking a senator that they can rely upon - themselves. No governor selling the seat to the highest bidder. No quid pro-quo (well maybe insofar as funding is concerned that is possible but it is diluted in part by the voter's ability to pull the lever for the candidate they prefer).

More on the Education Cabinet Pick

'Duncan has already made clear that he refuses to abide by the conventions of the current education debate. When the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal and pro-labor think tank, circulated an education manifesto that focused on expanding the services for poor children available at public schools, Duncan signed on.

The statement, reflecting a view strongly held by teachers groups, rejected the idea that "schools alone can offset the full impact of low socioeconomic status on learning." It called for "high-quality early childhood and pre-school programs, after-school and summer programs, and programs that develop parents' capacity to support their children's education."

But Duncan also signed a statement from the Education Equality Project associated with Joel Klein, the schools chancellor in New York City, and Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools, both of them heroes to the tough-on-the-unions camp.

The statement called for "an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective principal in every school, by paying educators as the professionals they are, by giving them the tools and training they need to succeed, and by making tough decisions about those who do not."

Duncan was one of the few education experts to put his name on both statements. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, sees this as a sign that "he is not an ideologue" and is willing to reach widely for new ideas.

"Way too much has been made of this battle between the reformers and the status quo," said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a group respected by reformers. She praises Duncan for dealing with "hard problems" that get scant attention in the set-piece education debates, including the need to change high school education and improve curriculums. He pushed hard to raise teacher quality, working closely with the New Teacher Project, which Rhee founded, to expand recruitment.'
E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post

Good. Try the negotiation route, but what happens if and when (more likely "when") the teachers unions fight against the elimination of teacher tenure, that most indefensible policy of protecting piss-poor teachers from earning the pink slips they deserve and condemning the students in their care to the policy of low expectations? Raising the pay for those who teach in urban schools? Fine. I'm all for it. More school funding for text books, after-school activities, and tutoring? While the hell not? But what good is throwing the money into a failing district whose teachers' union is dead set against reform? of weeding out the poor teachers among them? of using salary increases/bonuses and cuts as an incentive to provide their students with a good quality education.

Obama wouldn't send his children to Chicago's schools? and he isn't sending them to the capital's public schools and for a good reason. They suck. Which is why the school vouchers argument is appealing to those whose children are trapped within those school systems.

Mr. Solmonese: "No More Mr. Nice Gay"

Joe Solmonese is a part of the establishment. He is the president of the Human Rights Campaign, a group that automatically endorses Democrats without expecting a commitment from then in turn. Why they couldn't either stand by the senator for Oregon (for being one of the more gay-friendly Republicans they need to court) or dump him for t Jeff Merkley who that ultimately replaced him (for promising to be more pro-gay than Smith) is beyond me. It had scaled back on its demands from the Obama administration for some good reason and it said almost nothing when a trial balloon referring to a possible reneging on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal was floated in the media. No. The "hissy fits," as Rod Dreher refers to them, were made by the bloggers on the left and right (Andrew Sullivan and Chris Crain on the right and Michael Signorile, Pam Spaulding, and John Aravosis on the left). In fact, we probably received more support from the straight netroot liberals and Keith Olbermann (on marriage anyway) than we did from the Human Rights Campaign.

Go figure.

"Well, Joe Solmonese apparently had enough. He saw the marches. He saw the reaction to Proposition 8 and he read blogs that were out to discredit his organization (Thank you Chris Crain, Andrew Sullivan and company). If I might quote Dan Savage, "no more Mr. Nice Gay:"

It is difficult to comprehend how our president-elect, who has been so spot on in nearly every political move and gesture, could fail to grasp the symbolism of inviting an anti-gay theologian to deliver his inaugural invocation. And the Obama campaign's response to the anger about this decision? Hey, we're also bringing a gay marching band. You know how the gays love a parade."
Joe Solmonese in The Washington Post

Better late than never.

Double -Standard Alert

But lately, some students and faculty have said that Koh walks a line on which a man of his stature cannot balance without falling to one side: the line between dean and advocate. There is discussion among some conservative groups in the law school that Koh has had somewhat of a chilling effect on conservative thought on campus — or that he has actively made some effort to quiet it.

“My one misgiving about him is that he tends to wear his convictions on his sleeve,” said Peter Schuck, a longtime Yale Law School professor. “The Law School would be a stronger institution if there were more ideological diversity.”
- from The Yale Daily News

Oh but don't the conservatives wear their convictions on their sleeves? Do not the religious evangelicals say they have a place at the public table? I see. Freedom for me but not for thee.

There may be reasons to oppose his nomination to the Supreme Court. He could be the liberal's Antonin Scalia - brilliant but temperamentally unsuited to write opinions for the court, but when did wearing one's convictions on their sleeve bother the conservatives when they do it? Um. Isn't that what Rick Warren did with Proposition 8?

Hat tip: the conservative Ed Whelen, who thinks the evangelicals who are praising Obama for picking Rick Warren to deliver the invocation are being lulled into a false sense of security.

ah. if only that was true.

By the way, I don't think Ed Whelen was complaining about Scalia's ideological temperament when he wrote this in his dissent to Romer v. Evans?

"The Court has mistaken a /wiki/Kulturkampf">Kulturkampf for a fit of spite. The constitutional amendment before us here is not the manifestation of a "`bare . . . desire to harm'" homosexuals, ante, at 13, but is rather a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws. That objective, and the means chosen to achieve it, are not only unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced (hence the opinion's heavy reliance upon principles of righteousness rather than judicial holdings); they have been specifically approved by the Congress of the United States and by this Court."


Interesting Krugman Article

A reminder that some things aren't inevitable, that progress can be undone.

The Loan

Good. This was needed and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle must understand this is better than nothing. Wage cuts may be necessary but the president's emphasis on the sacrifices union workers make is questionable when the corporate executives who drove their companies into the ground can afford six-digit pay cuts and still live comfortably (or, well, as comfortably as the union workers).

Left unsaid is whether the company's workers can afford the wage cuts and in particular, whether their cuts will force them to fall behind on their home mortgage payments, and compound the home foreclosure problem we are facing or not. If so, I don't know why the Democrats are not pointing to the effect these job losses will have on the housing market. Are they really that dumb? Their "strategery" makes no sense.

Warren Reax:

Tai-Nehisi puts the "tradition" argument to rest. Well, others have in the past only to be ignored but the "traditional" argument is one of the flimsiest of the arguments. The slippery slope argument is pretty weak when the comparison is made to pedophilia and bestiality (two forms of non-consensual forms of sexual conduct and a little stronger (constitutionally but not legislatively) when the comparison is made to incest and polygamy (two areas where consent is usually involved).


Here's Keith Olbermann covering the Warren pick. One other thing: Rick Warren was asked if he is "homophobic" in a quote that was excerpted for the show. He could legitimately said he isn't homophobic because he is not afraid of them. One can be homophobic and supportive towards gay rights and one can be anti-gay without being homophobic. I know the terms are wrongly in my view used interchangeably but one is not dependent upon the other. Note too, that John Harwood, who was interviewed for the story, noted no upside for gays. He turned the subject to his spending bills. And no, I would not consider Rick Warren more moderate in style if he is comparing the vehement opposition he has to gay marriage to the vehement opposition he would have to a pedophile marrying his victim.

And, as promised, Rachel Maddow's statement.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Rick Warren Invocation

President-elect Barack Obama (D-Illinois) offended some gays recently with his decision to invite Reverend Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.

Reverend Warren sides with the social conservatives on homosexuality, abortion, evolution, stem cell research and church-state separation issues while aligning himself with the liberals on global warming, poverty, Darfur, and HIV funding. To many gay Americans, offering the pastor this honor is an insulting. The "reverend" not only campaigned for Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment banning gays from marrying their loved ones, he did so using demeaning their relationships by comparing his opposition to gay marriage with his opposition to grant pedophiles (among other groups) a right to marry children.

"If Obama prides himself on reaching out to all sides of every debate, then why is it that Obama has never sat down with, or promoted at his events, an avowed racist or anti-Semite?", John Aravosis said on his blog. "It's odd, and therefore telling, that Obama considers all of us equals, yet he only seems to reach out to those who bash gays, and not those who bash blacks, or Jews, or people with disabilities, or any other member of America's civil rights community."

"I don't understand how you tell your LGBT supporters you're a fierce advocate for their equality and then provide a global megaphone and a presidential endorsement of someone who's a fierce advocate for their inequality," another blogger wrote at Pam's House Blend.

While reiterating his "fierce" advocacy for gay rights, Mr. Obama said we must reach across the political aisle. To bolster his argument, and to justify his decision to give the pastor his invocation the Saddleback pastor's invitation to let him speak before his congregation.

Talking Pints memo has the video:

"And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion," Mr. Obama said.

"Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking."

Lesbian talk show host Rachel Maddow, who had herself come under criticism from Pam Spaudling and Michael Signorile for her failure to challenge former Governor (and presidential contender) Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) for his anti-gay views, made the obvious distinction between Mr. Warren's invitation to Obama to speak about AIDS and Mr. Obama's invitation to Mr. Warren to deliver the invocation on her show tonight. (the link will be posted tomorrow).

"Reverend" (eh-hem). Warren invited Obama to speak to his audience to offer his views about controversial issues in a private setting. The president-elect invited the pastor to speak for all of us at our inauguration. Mr. Warren, in effect, becomes our pastor for the day. His prayers become our prayers.

Conservative author and blogger Andrew Sullivan, though expressing less outrage, personalized the issue by posting an e-mail from someone who was, in his opinion, undeniably harmed by the sexual re-orientation programs Rick Warren supports.

Jonathan Handel employed (ineffective I believe) sarcasm to express his dismay with Obama's decision, tying Obama's deal with Rick Warren to the embattled corrupt governor of Illinois:

As awful as these possibilities are, I soon realized that there was a more logical explanation: Obama, Warren, and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich must have crafted a three-way deal! It's simple, really:

(1) Blago has obviously promised Obama that he'll appoint whoever Obama wants as Senator, if there's anyone left who will accept an appointment from the tainted Governor...

(2) Obama, in turn, selected Warren to give the invocation...

(3) ... and Warren, for his part, will give Blagojevich a no-show job at his Orange County mega-church. Blago gets to collect his loot, live in Southern California, and take sanctuary in the church if the feds try to haul him off to prison.

This is a smart strategy. It's sophisticated and elegant, and it sure keeps everyone off balance, liberals and conservatives alike. No elementary quid pro quo for this Administration. Instead, welcome to the era of quid pro quo pro quid. Now that's change we can believe in.

Um. No.

The reaction from the leading spokesmen and women from gay community, is predominantly opposed to the Rick Warren pick but not universally so. In some cases, gay spokesmen and women focus their outrage at the liberals who wholeheartedly and, in their opinion, naively, supported the former Illinois senator's election to the White House.

"Obagaycon"Chris Crain, the former editor of the Blade newspapers, focused his sarcastic rage at the gay rights organizations for hypocritically and selectively for embroiling itself in an argument that doesn't even concern the policies Mr. Obama would implement as president:

You can almost guess from the level of fury that what's at stake isn't something real, like a retreat on policy or foot-dragging on a campaign promise," Mr. Crain said.

"Barack Obama's offense was to select Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical who opposes gay marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Never mind, for the moment, that Obama also opposes marriage equality, as did Hillary Clinton and every other viable presidential candidate.

Warren also spoke out in favor of Proposition 8, but never mind that support for a constitutional amendment overturning a historic gay marriage ruling puts Warren in smack dab the same spot as presidential candidate John Kerry, who nonetheless received heaped praise from the Human Rights Campaign and other gay rights groups. And never mind that Warren was selected to deliver a prayer, not a political speech, and will no doubt say nothing at all relating to gays or marriage -- come to think of it, that kind of avoidance would have practically qualified Warren for a "strategery" role in the No on 8 campaign."

Stephen H. Niller of The Independent Gay Forum used this occasion as an "I told you so" lecture to the gays who devoted their time and effort to getting Barack Obama elected when high profile anti-gay marriage ballots were on the ballot in two states:

'And are LGBT national "leaders," who turned their groups into fundraising funnels for the Democratic Party — and made getting out the vote for Obama their #1 priority (at the expense of fighting anti-gay state initiatives supported overwhelming by the huge minority turnout Obama triggered) — just beginning to sense this?' Miller said.

The gay community's straight allies in the progressive movement were none too pleased as well. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga at Daily Kos, "Duncan" at Eschaton and "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann have all weighed in for the anti-Warren side.

Evangelical and social conservatives, not surprisingly, have rallied behind Barack Obama's pick. Peter Spriggs and Tony Perkins, both of anti-gay The Family Research Center, praised Obama while condemning the gays for expressing intolerant views (intolerance towards intolerance), while Rod Dreher, a socially conservative editorial board member of The Dallas Morning News, played upon unflattering gay stereotypes by referring to their complaint as a "hissy fit."

Some moderates have provided the president-elect with some cover. David Gergen, an editor at the moderately Republican-leaning US News & World Report who frequently comments on CNN, vouched for Rick Warren's good character on "Anderson Cooper 360" in spite of their differences on gay rights.

Marc Ambinder's straightforward analysis of the two viewpoints also provides Obama with some cover:

"In his short political career, Obama has deftly manipulated political symbols to his advantage, but he's never been one to pay homage to one of the most sacred regulations of identity politics, which is that one must take care of one's own kind before turning outward," Ambinder said at his own blog. "His mind operates differently. Obama does believe, as many of his supporters do, that there are uncrossable demarcation lines between the reasonable and the profane. But he doesn't believe that Warren, someone he admires for reaching outside his (Warren's) comfort zone on AIDS, is all that different from himself. Obama is simultaneously capable of admiring Warren while disdaining Warren's oogedy boogedy appraoch to gay relationships and his uninformed response to torture. Warren's views might be hurtful to gays; Obama does not think they are harmful."

To his credit though, Mr. Ambinder also provides some important context for the reaction in the gay community:

"Relative to other minority groups, the LGBT community is disproportionately dependent on the goodwill of the president, because almost all of their big-ticket agenda items are federal laws (the military, DOMA repeal, hate crimes, ENDA, the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, etc.). And relative to other minorities, gays still want and need basic reassurance that they are an ordinary part of American life and politics. So everyone is peering anxiously at Obama wondering if he is going to let them down like Clinton did.

Would this have been easier for gays to take if, say, Obama had just named Mary Beth Maxwell as Labor Secretary? I doubt you'd have had any controversy at all. As the Cabinet appointments get doled out, gays feel like they are standing awkwardly on the side of the playground while, one by one, the other kids get picked for the soccer team. The Council on Environmental Quality? Nice, but JV."

I have to agree with Mr. Ambinder on this point. We have seen Obama fill up his cabinet with African Americans, women, men who were in the military, and Republicans. The glass-ceiling for gay cabinet members has not been moved one iota for there will be no gays in Obama's cabinet. Gays raised the alarm when the president-elect's transition team did not include the removal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on his list of things to do and the complaints dissipated only after an Obama spokesperson said he did not make up his mind.

We must add to this analysis the bitter and raw feeling many of us had on election night when a milestone for one persecuted group was reached while ours was taken away. And we saw the exit polls. That persecuted group sided with the persecutors. We were left behind.

I also have to agree with John Aravosis on his larger point. Rick Warren's views on HIV, Darfur, and global warming can not earn him a free pass to compare a gay person's relationship with his or her partner, boyfriend or spouse to a sexual predator's relationship to his under age victim.

There are ways to argue against gay marriage with civility. The procreation and two-gendered role model arguments have been and can be made respectfully but the pedophilia argument is beyond the pale. Communities enact legislation restricting a known pedophile's access to housing for a reason. Residents don't want to live near them. They want to protect their sons and daughters from someone may take advantage of them. No criminal is hated and feared more than the pedophile. Even the murderer is feared less. Why? Because there is no recognized propensity to commit murder. The pedophile, however, does have that propensity to prey upon the children within their reach.

Comparing the offensiveness one should find in gays marrying with the offensiveness with the offensiveness one has in pedophiles marrying their victims coarsens the debate on marriage and contributes to the anger, fear, and disgust one might have towards gay people. That is why Mr. Aravosis' critique comparing Obama's invitation to Warren to a theoretical invitation to an anti-black preacher is relevant and justified.

The president-elect probably won't back down from his decision to let Rick Warren deliver the invocation address. He must, however, offset this symbolic statement that anti-gay prejudice is acceptable with a very strong gay rights agenda. He must, in no uncertain terms, aggressively push for inclusive hate crimes legislation and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and he should, in no equivocal terms, condemn those who compare us to pedophiles.

Ken Salazar's Reaction to Tom Vilsack

I couldn't help but notice how President-elect Obama's nominee for Interior, Senator Ken Salazar, (he's the guy in the cowboy hat) responded to his pick for Agriculture - Governor Tim Vilsack. Note how the outgoing senator's eyes rolled upward when Obama mentioned Vilsack's support for bio-tech. (As an aside, I rolled my eyeballs up after watching the clip with Salazar talking about his faith).

What are we to make of that?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chu for Energy: Good Pick

another superb picc. In Dr. and Nobel laureate Steven Chu, President-elect Barack Obama found a physicist with managerial skills who devoted his times at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to biofuel research, energy efficiency and conservation. As to the questions concerning his legislative experience - the physicist could surround himself with those with that political background while he presents the credible face for energy reform.

Arne Duncan as Education Secretary

Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama nominated Arne Duncan, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools as his Education Secretary. Mr. Duncan is viewed of as a consensus-builder who won the respect of the teacher unions and reformists alike. According to an article in The Chicago Sun Times, Mr. Duncan as the CEO was, to the chagrin of the Chicago Teacher's Union President, a firm supporter of "Renaissance 2010," a plan that led to the dismantling and closing of 61 under-performing schools and the establishment of new experimental schools. Some focused on specialties (math, science, arts, social justice, world language & culture, technology, manufacturing) while others were devoted to college prep.

Test scores at the elementary schools has gone up but the public school's CEO left much to be desired at the high school level (not that he created the mess).

The president-elect's education pick doesn't shy from experimentation or controversy. He supported the opening of two single-gender charter schools (one for boys and one for girls) as well as a gay-supportive one that ultimately was pulled by its supporters after facing the objections of gay and religious right activist alike.

He negotiated with the teacher's union for a "pay-for-performance" experiment.

Mr. Duncan's support for merit pay, and charter schools suggest that his sympathies lie with the Democratic Party's reformist wing in the education debate but his ability to forge a consensus with the reformer's nemesis - the teacher's unions - bodes well too. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-New York City) too, sided with the reformers but his confrontational (perhaps bombastic) style cost him the support he needed to yoke control from the city's education board.

President-elect Barack Obama promised change in direction and style. He would the change agent that bridged the divide, the president who would bring rival coalitions together. Mr. Duncan's ability to work with the teacher's union while promoting reform suggests he may be uniquely qualified for that mission. This is change we can believe in, or at least hope for.

The Shoe

If only we got that chance. Remember those carnivals where the children can throw something at a button, dropping a guy or girl who is on the platform into a pool of water? Washington could make billions if they gave Bush's detractors, who must of course include a substantial number of conservatives, centrists, and liberals alike, a chance to do something like that for a fee.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama's Team: f Not Rivals, a Team of Contenders

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) former presidential rival appointed to serve as Secretary of State.

Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) former presidential rival appointed to serve as Secretary of Commerce

Governor Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa) former presidential contender who is expected to serve as Secretary of Agriculture

Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) former presidential rival and current vice president-elect.

Count that. Four rivals in Obama's cabinet. Four presidential contenders who didn't make it in the cabinet. If it weren't for the sex scandal, former Senator John Edwards might have been our next Attorney General.

Whose left? Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alasaka) of course. Pun intended.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Weekend Preview

1. FOX News Sunday on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):

Topics of the Week - the auto industry's next move, a special election for Obama's vacated senate seat, Obama's handling of the corruption scandal.

(a) Debate on the Auto Bail Out: Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) vs Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) on the auto industry bail out and the prospect of bankruptcy as the next option.

(b) Obama's Vacated Election Seat:
State Republican House Leader Tom Cross (R-Illinois) on holding a special election for President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat.

(c) FOX News Sunday Panel:
Panelists Brit Hume of FOX News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Juan William of National Public Radio on the way the president-elect and his team are handling the Illinois Governor's corruption scandal.

(d) Classic Power Player of the Week: Morrill Worcester on his patriotism, gratitude and generosity for our nation's veterans.

This show, which is hosted by Chris Wallace, is repeated at 2:00 PM ET and 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.

2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):

Topics This Week - interview with John McCain, punditry surrounding the auto bail out and the fall out surrounding the Illinois governor's indictment.

(a) Sunday Exclusive Interview: Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on the auto bail out, a second stimulus package, the future of the Republican Party, and how he plans to work with the incoming administration.

(b) Roundtable: Gwen Ifil of PBS, Paul Krugman of The New York Times, Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal, and George Will of ABC on the auto bail out, corruption in Illinois, and President-elect Barack Obama's handling of the scandal.

(c) In Memorium: honoring veterans, famous celebrities and politicians who have passed away recently.

(d) The Sunday Funnies: the funniest political jokes from the late night talk and comedy shows are excerpted.

This show is hosted by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings.

3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):

Topics This Week - Corruption in Illinois, the scandal's effect on the Obama administration, economic panel discussion including two governors (or former governors) and three current/former CEO's.

(a) the Illinois Governor Corruption Scandal: Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D-Illinois) and Lieutenant Governor Paul Quinn (D-Illinois) on the latest corruption scandal news in Illinois.

(b) The incoming Obama administration and potential ties to the Illinois Governor: Mary Mitchell of The Chicago Sun Times and Chuck Todd of NBC News on the questions surrounding who, if anyone within the incoming administration, talked with the governor about the vacated senate seat and the potential "stain of political corruption" the governor's scandal could have on the incoming administration.

(c) The Economy: Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-Michigan), former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) of Bain Capital, former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Wal-Mart President & CEO Lee Scott, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt on the weakening economy, consumer anxiety, the auto bail out and a potential solution.

This show, which will now be hosted by David Gregory, is repeated at 2:00 PM ET and 6:00 PM ET on MSNBC>

4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):

Topics This Week - the economy and auto bail out, Illinois Political Corruption Scandal.

(a) The Economy and the Auto Bail Out
: Guests include Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)

(b) the Illinois Political Corruption Scandal: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D-Illinois) and Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University.

This show is hosted by Bob Schieffer on Sunday mornings.

5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):

Topic This week - nothing posted.

This two-hour show is hosted by Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Teacher Unions

"People should be paid for a job well done. If they're demonstrably failing, a system that insists on paying them anyway is not just patently unfair but a disincentive to keep up the effort." - from The Los Angeles Times editorial board

For most working Americans this goes without saying. You do your job to the best of your ability. Impress the boss and you might get a bonus or climb your way up the corporate ladder with promotions. Slack off, fail to hand in your reports or fall behind in your productivity and you get reprimanded, demoted, and even fired.

That's the real world. Government workers, teachers included, however, live in a world of fantasy. They rarely get fired and even the mediocre among them get the same pay raises. Seniority rules. Productivity does not. Why would teaching be treated as a cushion job?

Why would we risk the fate of their students' future for the teacher unions?

President-elect Barack Obama has yet to pick his Secretary of Education. I don't want him to pick Michelle A. Rhee, the chancellor of the District of Columbia's public schools because the students and parents of that school district need her to keep the teachers on their toes. Is her solution perfect? No. There should be no option between tenure and higher pay. Tenure should be eliminated and the salaries for urban school teachers who do a good job increased substantially, but her plan is a start. the plan won't work. But she is taking on an establishment that has no interest in reforming the schools so that they can effectively teach the students how to read and write.

I do hope Senator Obama picks someone who will back the reformers like Rhee or Joel Klein of New York City - someone who would use the federal government's purchasing power to reward the reformers or use it to impose mandates for tenure reform.

Socialism Against Blue Collar Workers

"We will leave here tonight to go home for the holiday recesses, but for the literally hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs depend on this industry, this will not be a joyous season, wondering whether or not their jobs, their livelihoods, their homes, their children's futures are at risk," - Senator Chris Dodd, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times.

Sad to say, he is right. Remember when, during the presidential campaign, Republicans were talking about "making the pie bigger?" No "redistribution" allowed. Defending the value in equal opportunity while opposing the value in equality of results? What is the focus on equality of results in their book? Socialism. Well, that applied when blue collar workers were trying to make a living. Now Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) says union workers at Chrysler and GM have to accept wages nonunion workers at the "transplant" plants get. So much for "making the pie bigger" and so much for their anti-equal results rhetoric. Fighting for equal pay is acceptable (in their view apparently), when the wages are gutted.

Go figure.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jackson and the Governor

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois), one of several people who was courting the now-indicted Governor Rod Blagojevich for President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat, may have done nothing illegal. Jackson may not have known about his associate's promise to raise the governor $500,000 for a potential re-election campaign or the "emissary's" promise to raise $1 million. His "associate" may have acted on his own behalf.

In a press conference, the congressman from Illinois said he was not a "target" of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. Representative Blagojevich said he "did not initiate or authorize anyone at anytime to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a send a messenger or an emissary" the governor to make an offer, to plead my case, or to propose a deal about a U.S. senate seat period." He took no questions from the reporters during the press conference.

James D. Montgomery Sr. his lawyer, said "Congressman Jackson has never authorized anyone to seek the governor’s support in return of money, fund-raising or other things of value." The Congressman is, of course, entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty. Nothing in the affidavit proves that he was aware of the negotiations between the governor and someone acting as his "associate" or "emissary." Any calls for his resignation from the U.S. House Representatives would be premature.

Representative Jackson nevertheless should take his name out of the running for President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat because, as he said "they" [the people of Illinois] deserve to have their trust and their confidence in the government restored." "The fact is anyone appointed by the governor at this point would be too severely tainted to serve the state effectively and without suspicion in the senate." The same can be said for Jackson himself. The people of Illinois would question whether the "associate" was acting on the senator's behalf or not. Though he did not authorize any "associate to make such a deal," he did not dissuade them from approaching the governor [albeit to only make a valid case for his appointment to the seat] and though he may not be a "target" of Fitzgerald's investigation, Jackson Jr. is definitely a "subject" of the investigation. He is expected to meet with the U.S. attorney on Friday to answer some questions.

The people of Illinois and the people of the United States are entitled to a senator who will devote their full attention to the needs of his or her state and the needs of our country. Mr. Jackson Jr. cannot provide Illinois and the the United States with that attention right now for obvious reasons so he should step aside and let someone who does not face lthose egal questions.

Corruption Scandal: The Good News for Obama

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.” - from the affidavit

Yes, the indicted governor himself, caught on tape, can be used as evidence that Obama was not going to pay to play.

Questioning the Illinois Governor's Sanity

"Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if he appoints Senate
Candidate 4 to the Senate seat and, thereafter, it appears that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might
get impeached, he could “count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there.” HARRIS said, “you can count on [Senate Candidate 4] to do that.”

from the affidavit

Um. I don't think any senator would give up his or her seat to help an impeached governor "parachute" his or her way into another political job, particularly if that embattled governor found him or herself headed to the slammer.

Quote of the Affidavit/Indictment

"In addition, Levine told Cellini about another conversation he had with Rezko. During Levine’s conversation with Rezko, Rezko again advised Levine to solve the Rosenberg problem “with your head, not your heart.”

For a little background - Thomas Rosenberg of CapriCapital, a real estate investment management fund, wasn't going to pay the $1.5 million donation tomanage $220 million of the TRS pension board's funds. Eventually, Blagojevich's cronies followed Tony Rezko's advice and backed down.

Yes, folks. if the cronies were going to resolve the "problem" with their heart[s]" they were going to deny CapriCapital its business. Their sense of justice is baffling.

Blagojevich: No Mercy for the Hospitals but He'd Take a Position with the Red Cross?

"35. As described more fully in the following paragraphs, Mercy Hospital, which
sought permission from the Planning Board to build a hospital in Illinois, received that permission through Rezko’s exercise of his influence at the Planning Board after Rezko was promised that Mercy Hospital would make a substantial campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Rezko later told a member of the Planning Board that Mercy Hospital received the permit because ROD BLAGOJEVICH wanted the organization to receive the permit. ...

... 38. During his testimony, Levine described a plan to manipulate the Planning Board to enrich himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The plan centered on an entity commonly known as Mercy Hospital (“Mercy”) that was attempting to obtain a CON to build a new hospital in Illinois. Levine knew the contractor hired to help build the hospital. In approximately November 2003, on behalf of the contractor, Levine checked with Rezko to determine whether Rezko wanted Mercy to obtain its CON. Rezko informed Levine that Mercy was not going to receive its CON. According to Levine, he asked Rezko whether it would matter to Rezko if Mercy’s construction contractor paid a bribe to Rezko and Levine and, in addition, made a contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Levine testified that Rezko indicated that such an arrangement would change his view on the Mercy CON.10

39. Levine’s testimony regarding Rezko’s actions to change the Planning Board
decision concerning Mercy’s application for a CON based on contributions for ROD
BLAGOJEVICH is confirmed by attorney Steven Loren. Loren testified at Rezko’s criminal trial and, before that, in the grand jury.11 According to Loren, in approximately December 2003, Levine informed Loren that Rezko was against the Mercy CON. According to Loren, Levine relayed to Loren a conversation between Rezko and Levine during which Levine asked Rezko whether a political contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH would make a difference for Mercy’s CON, and Rezko responded to Levine that such a contribution might make a difference.

40. Thereafter, and confirmed by the testimony of Levine, Beck, and Almanaseer,
as well as recorded conversations, Rezko switched his directions to Beck and informed Beck that Mercy was to receive its CON. According to Almanaseer, although he previously had been told by Beck that Rezko did not want Mercy to receive its CON, he was later told that there had been a change and that Rezko now wanted Mercy to receive its CON." ... -

a would-be hospital needs to pay for planning board approval?


Did you know that a $50,000 campaign contribution is worth $8 million in hospital aid?

"65. According to Individual A, on October 8, 2008, during a discussion of
fundraising from various individuals and entities, the discussion turned to Children’s Memorial Hospital, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Individual A words to the effect of “I’m going to do $8 million for them. I want to get [Hospital Executive 1] for 50.” Individual A understood this to be a reference to a desire to obtain a $50,000 campaign contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital. Individual A said that he/she understood ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s reference to $8 million to relate to his recent commitment to obtain for Children’s Memorial Hospital $8 million in state funds through some type of pediatric care reimbursement. As described in further detail below, intercepted phone conversations between ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others indicate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is contemplating rescinding his commitment of state funds to benefit Children’s Memorial Hospital because Hospital Executive 1 has not made a recent
campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH."

Really sickening.

Addendum 2

and yet the governor at (least briefly) thought he would sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat for a "high-ranking" position with the Red Cross.

"94. On November 5, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with JOHN HARRIS regarding what ROD BLAGOJEVICH could obtain for the Senate seat. After discussing various federal governmental positions that ROD BLAGOJEVICH would trade the Senate seat for, ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked about “the private sector” and whether the Presidentelect
could “put something together there. . . .Something big.” Thereafter, HARRIS
suggested that the President-elect could make ROD BLAGOJEVICH the head of a private
foundation. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told HARRIS that he should do “homework” on private
foundations “right away.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked whether he could get a high-ranking
position at the Red Cross. HARRIS stated that “it’s got to be a group that is dependent on [the President-elect],” and that a President probably could not influence the Red Cross. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told HARRIS to “look into all of those.”


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Blagojevich

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was right yesterday when Illinois' governor was arrested for, among other things, planning to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant senate seat to the highest bidder. Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Illinois) won his first gubernatorial election promising reform but today he, like his predecessor, George Ryan (R-Illinois) found his administration mired in scandal. Ryan did not run for a second term. His chief-of-staff and campaign were convicted of racketeering and fraud. Eventually he himself was charged with and convicted on racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax evasion charges relating to his efforts to give a lobbyist and his friends state contracts.

Governor Blagojevich, it is alleged, also threatened to withhold state aid from The Tribune Company, the owner of The Chicago Tribune, if it did not fire some of the editorial writers of the conservative-leaning newspapers for their anti-Blagojevich editorials.

The political fallout from his indictment has yet to be determined. Some state legislators say they will propose legislation that would strip the governor of his power to appoint a successor to President-elect Barack Obama's vacated seat. His successor's claim to the senate seat will now be questioned by those who wonder if there was a deal. The governor can spare the replacement, taxpayers, and legislators of any drama surrounding the appointment and the constitutional challenges that of necessity would arise from such legislation by resigning immediately.

Illinois' voters no doubt must be questioning what they must do to get a decent governor. Illinois' Republican and Democratic parties offered them two corrupt governors. I wonder if they believe Illinois is hopelessly corrupt and if so, whether they should even bother to vote for the next governor.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sorry Cohen but even though

Zimbabwe's president may be a thug, he has done nothing to hurt this country and nothing that undermines our national interests. The world is filled with thugs, some more brutal than others. The case for removing Saddam Hussein from power was much stronger.

The Auto Loan "Bailout" Bill

The draft bill which the president's administration and Congress are working on a $15 billion loan program for Chrysler and General Motors in return for some government oversight. (Ford will not be seeking any bridge loans as of now). In return, the auto companies which are granted seven-year bridge loans would be required to submit a long-term restructuring plan to the president's "car czar" who would have the authority to disburse the funds and manage the reorganization process. The submitted reorganization plans, which are due by the end of March with one possible 30-day extension) are required to account for how (a) the loans are repaid, (b) comply with state and federal fuel efficiency standards and otherwise "develop plans" for new and existing products, (c) the company would develop "net positive value", (d) "rationalize" or otherwise cut its costs with respect to employment, manufacturing, etc. (e) restructure debt, and (f)a product mix and cost structure.

Failure to comply with the requirements may result in the forced repayment of the granted loan at an earlier specified date determined by the president and his "car czar."

The "car czar" would serve at the president's pleasure. He or she would be entitled to review any and all the financial records maintained by the aided company and reject any financial transaction of $25 million or more.

If approved, this bailout would forbid corporate executives from receiving "golden parachutes" and any bonuses that encourage them to take "unnecessary and excessive" risks that threaten the company's value. It would mandate the recovery of any bonus that was rewarded on account of "materially inaccurate" earnings or gains. And it would deny the senior corporate executives bonus payments for as long as any part of the bridge loan is outstanding.

Disagreements remain
. The White House apparently opposes two provisions - one forbidding the auto companies from participating in any lawsuits contesting state or federal environmental laws and another which requires the companies to report to the "car czar" $25 million + transactions.

The $25 million + reporting requirement is needed to protect the company and the taxpayers from the senior executives' mismanagement. Washington has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers who are being asked to bail Chrysler and General Motors' out of the hole they dug for themselves. Since the automobile companies are expected to repay these loans with interest, Washington has every right to approve and reject acquisitions and sales that would effect their ability to repay those loans.

The objection to the lawsuit provision is also without merit. Automobile consumers today look for the cars with better fuel mileage. They want, for the most part, to be able to say they are environmentally-friendly by purchasing affordable environmentally-friendly cars. To become competitive, Chrysler and General Motors must build cars that meet state and federal fuel efficiency standards.

Congress has drafted a pretty good bill that deserves the president's signature.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Obama on the Fariness of Mortgage Protection

"Well, look, that, that's one of the tricky things that we've got to figure out how to structure. We don't want what you just described, a moral hazard problem where you have incentive to act irresponsibly. But, you know, if my neighbor's house is on fire, even if they were smoking in the bedroom or leaving the stove on, right now my main incentive is to put out that fire so that it doesn't spread to my house. And I think most people recognize that even if there were some poor decisions made by home buyers, that right now our biggest incentive is to make sure that the housing market is strengthened. I do think that we have to put in place a set of rules of the road, some financial regulations that prevent the kind of speculation and leveraging, that we saw, in the future." President-elect Barack Obama on "Meet The Press"

The incoming president knows how to present his arguments in a way even "Joe The Plumber" can understand. Wow. We were deprived.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

First Gay Cabinet Pick?

Oh goodie. Nice to see on of our own considered for a cabinet post. We took a beating on election night, so watching the president nominate a gay person to serve in his cabinet might reassure us that he means business when he says he serve as everyone's president.

Gay Marriage: Use the Health, not Civil Rights Argument

some advice we could have used before November 4.

Pakistanis Rise Up

It would be nice if the Pakistanis read Thomas Friedman's column every once in a while, especially this one.

"I am still hoping for more. I am still hoping — just once — for that mass demonstration of “ordinary people” against the Mumbai bombers, not for my sake, not for India’s sake, but for Pakistan’s sake.

Why? Because it takes a village. The best defense against this kind of murderous violence is to limit the pool of recruits, and the only way to do that is for the home society to isolate, condemn and denounce publicly and repeatedly the murderers — and not amplify, ignore, glorify, justify or “explain” their activities.

Sure, better intelligence is important. And, yes, better SWAT teams are critical to defeating the perpetrators quickly before they can do much damage. But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”

and he raises an unsettling point that we must ponder:

"On Feb. 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Muhammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?"

Friedman of course may be lumping too many Pakistanis together. The group that marched against the cartoonists could represent an extremely vocal and very active sizable minority of Pakistanis while the group that is not marching in response to the assault on Mumbai includes radical, "moderate" (however defined), and the politically inactive alike. Nevertheless, the Pakistanis aren't leaving the outside observer with a good impression of themselves. Their most vocal and politically active citizens speak out for Islamofascism, censorship, and terrorism while the more reasonable constituents don't seem to care one way or the other.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bush Administration Ignored Facts?

"The administration’s blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of a philosophy that trusted market forces and discounted the need for government intervention in the economy. Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s."

So the Bush administration was blind to not only facts about constitutional law, war, and diplomacy but also economic regulations. Why am I not surprised?

Joe The Plumber

his book's title?:

“Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream.” Perhaps he will challenge Sarah Palin for the Republican presidential nomination four years from now.

You Don't Say

Um. Thanks for telling me. Now I know I lost my house before the recession began. (No the Political Heretic did not lose his house. Just used to make his point).

Obama's National Security Team: A Mixed Bag

No surprises were made today when President-elect Barack Obama officially named the members of his national security team. The drama surrounding Senator Clinton and her husband was aired on the talk shows to weeks. Would Senator Clinton run her own government-in-exile from the State Department? Would her husband, the former two-term Democratic President of the 90s, make his Foundation's donor list public? What would Vice President-elect Joe Biden, the former chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, think if Clinton sidelined him? We were told to expect an announcement of her pick after Thanksgiving. And we were told when negotiations concerning the donor list were underway.

Readers of this blog know where the Political Heretic stands with Obama's pick for State. He was and is emphatically against it but knows he can do nothing about it but hope she proves to have everything that she claims to have.

Eric Holder definitely has the experience one would expect for the next attorney general. He served a respectable tenure at the Justice Department under Janet Reno until he signed off on the undeserved Marc Rich pardon. The Political Heretic believes Mr. Obama could have done himself a huge service by picking someone who was not tainted by the Clinton administration's sordid past and opposes his nomination for Attorney General for the reason stated by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post:

"Holder was involved, passively or not, in just the sort of inside-the-Beltway influence peddling that Barack Obama was elected to end."

Janet Napolitano's nearly four-year stint as Arizona's governor may give her the executive and legal credentials to run the Department of Homeland Security but there the senate should would bring to the table that a former city police chief, or AFT/FBI (two separate agencies) chief wouldn't have.

On Immigration liberal she is unsurprisingly disappointing pick. She opposed laws banning day laborers from looking for jobs on municipal streets and withdrew money from one county that was conducting raids on establishments employing illegal immigrants.

The Political Heretic thinks Obama's decision to keep Robert Gates at Defense and bring retired Major General Jim Jones on as his national security adviser was wise since he is inheriting from the Bush administration two wars.