Saturday, February 28, 2009

So Whose Mentally Retarded?

"But as long as the nation is obsessed with historic milestones, is no one going to remark on what a great country it is where a mentally retarded woman can become speaker of the house?"

Ann Coulter never fails to impress. You just know she is going to let out a bombshell when she speaks or writes. Oh and don't forget the racist "slumdog" comment about Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana).

By the way, the mentally retarded people have made a great milestone, far better than being speaker of the house. They had the White House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be a liberal, perhaps even for liberal but she is a fairly intelligent, person. She could at least speak in full, complex sentences.

Friday, February 27, 2009

President Obama's Iraq Speech

President Barack Obama today announced that he would withdraw our combat brigades within the next 19 months, but leave a residual force of between 35,000 - 50,000 troops to train the Iraqis, and engage in "counter-terrorism operations" until they are required to withdraw in 2011 in accordance with an agreement made between his predecessor and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

"Let me say this as plainly as I can," President Obama said. "by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end." During the presidential campaign, the president said he would pull "combat" troops out within a 16 month period, but he also said he would consult with military leaders to see how to withdraw these troops more carefully then we got ourselves into Iraq.

Though the president said he would withdraw "combat" troops three months after he originally promised, he is, to his credit, pursuing a new, more realistic goal than the one offered by his predecessor. The president will fight for an "Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant with a "government that is "just, representative, and accountable."

Absent from the president's list was any prerequisite for a democratic Iraq. (Yes, one can have a "representative" Iraq that is not democratic and indeed, in some cases an undemocratic government can be more "representative" than a democratic one).

The intra-Iraqi diplomatic strategy Obama said, will be led by Ambassador Chris Hill. Mr. Hill presumably will facilitate discussions among Iraq's competing ethno-sectarian political factions including the ongoing dispute between Iraq's Kurds and Arabs over the Kirkuk oil fields and autonomy. Mr. Obama said his administration will serve as "an honest broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements." The president's diplomatic outreach will extend further by including the country's neighbors.

Mr. Obama's announcement has garnered himself the surprising support of the Republicans on the hill, most noteworthy among them his former rival for the White House, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) as well as some criticism from the Democratic Party and the liberal, anti-Iraq war activists who backed him over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary.

They would question why the president would leave 50,000 troops in Iraq if, as he himself own noted in his speech, that "we cannot police Iraq's streets until they are completely safe," "stay until Iraq's union is perfected," or "sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military" while costing "the American people nearly a trillion dollars."

Victory can only be achieved diplomatically. An agreement on Kirkuk's political status and an agreement on the fair distribution of Iraq's oil revenues among Iraq's Sunni, Kurdish, and Shiite factions alone can guarantee Iraq's stability.

The president said all "combat" troops will be withdrawn by August 31, 2010. "By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."

No, the combat mission won't end on August 31, 2010, and the president is being disingenuous by suggesting that it is coming to an end. As long as American troops are assigned to engage in counter-terrorism missions or otherwise drawn into skirmishes with the Shiite militias, Kurds or Sunni insurgents, or as long as they are asked to assist in Iraqi military operations, our combat mission will not come to an end.

Ultimately the president will have to decide what the American response will be if, while we are withdrawing, Iraq's factions start the war against themselves or if the negotiations among Iraq's political factions prove unfruitful.

The president should be given some leeway to pursue this shift in strategy. Mr. Obama doesn't want to see Iraq break apart as he withdraws U.S. forces from Iraq and his team might prove themselves to be more effective at the negotiating table than Bush's team was. He did say it was his "intention" to abide by the agreement made by his predecessor and the Maliki administration. We, however, must hold the president to his word and insist upon a withdrawal by 2011 (should his "intention" change) since we cannot fight this war into the indefinite future for the very reasons he stated in his speech today.

Marijuana

Oh goodie. Now if only we could legalize pot.

Representation for D.C.

The senate voted overwhelmingly to give D.C. representation in the House while stripping away gun control measures. Frankly I don't think those gun measures in the end will derail the measure. The federal courts will, particularly since the justices at the Supreme Court would have to find away around the language expressly limiting representation to states.

D.C. residents may have to press for a constitutional amendment granting it legal representation or plead for statehood.

Note the language and the words I emphasized:

"Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen."


There is yet another measure which might be challenged but I am not sure if this was decided already:

The senate, in its effort to expedite constitutional challenges, says the measure will be directly appealed to the Supreme Court, thereby circumventing the Appeals Court. I don't know if this potential separation of powers issue has been settled. Then again, even if it was settled it might no longer be if such a ruling was made when different justices were on the bench.

Stay tuned.

For the record I have no problem with sections 202 and 203 or Title II of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009. Sections 204 and 205, however, should be removed in conference.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Speech Linked

Briefly. Thought it was a good speech. He listened to the advice of those who said he needed to be more upbeat and he was without denying the obvious. I'll have more to say tomorrow when I'm not falling asleep at the keyboard. In the meantime, here's the transcript.

I was pleased when the president said he would tackle health care this year. His promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, however, was designed to appeal to those who believe we shouldn't be denying suspected war criminals with the right to contest their status and to those of us who believe these people were deprived of their right to a fair and speedy trial holding them up in Balgram is as morally unacceptable as holding them up at Guantanamo Bay.

The Republican's Response

which was delivered by Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Lousisana) to the President's speech was very lame. Very lame. Jindal sounded too folksy but that wasn't the worst of it. He gave a speech totally unconnected from the problems we are facing right now.

"Good evening. I’m Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American President stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the President completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall … to Gettysburg … to the lunch counter … and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the President’s personal story - the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world."


Take note readers, this will be the only complement Governor Jindal would give and it is also a self-serving one since it is an ode to the color barrier (one that Jindal himself would have faced) broken down.


"Like the President’s father, my parents came to this country from a distant land."


Oh hey, what do you know? I'm the next Obama!


"When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4 ½ months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a ‘pre-existing condition.’

To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses."

(WTF? is this the time to write your autobiography so you could run for the White House or is this the time to somehow offer the Republican alternative point by point?)

"Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery - so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment."


"As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country - and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day. Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

As the President made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions."


"Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward."


There he goes, distancing himself from Washington.


"Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts."


"Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people."


I can't believe he is using this anecdote to make his case against the stimulus package (?) or regulation in general (?).


"There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes - and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today."


Well, if Jindal was listening to the president he would note that the administration's vision isn't to "supplant" but "catalyze" private enterprise.

"To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything."

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families … cutting taxes for small businesses … strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers … and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs."



Same old, same old failed and thoroughly discredited Republican prescription rehashed. By the way, it should be noted that again, the president said he would cut taxes for most American workers. The few who would see their taxes go up make at minimum, $250,000 a year (or a quarter million dollars) or more.


"But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history - with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC."

Investing in high-speed rail projects aren't wasteful (particularly f it cuts the time in a commute between two cities) and it is the kind of spending that preserves if not creates new construction jobs. Oh and by the way, it isn't a done deal. Proponents for the Las Vegas-Anaheim line will have to compete for funding with other city-to-city lines.

Monitoring volcanoes?

Actually it is for the "repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades including stream gages, and seismic and volcano monitoring systems; national map activities; and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects." (see U.S. Geological Survey in Title VII of the bill.)

Again, maintenance and investment in basic infrastructure preserves jobs. Governor Bobby Jindal isn't concerned about volcanic eruptions in Louisiana.I guess he considers this wasteful since there aren't that many active volcanoes in Louisiana. And the purchase of new cars? Hello. the Auto industry is dying and will take all the help it can get.

"Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children."



"In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times - including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences, and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, DC."


The Democrats in a conservative state are generally more conservative than the national party activists, making it far easier for both sides to come together.



"To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump - and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation … increase energy efficiency … increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels … increase our use of nuclear power - and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything - and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage - period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. We oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients - not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything - and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.



Well, Obama didn't say he'd scrap the private business model so Jindal must be looking for an argument to excuse his opposition to universal health care.



"To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country."


I don't have any problems with what he said here but school choice is not the be-all, end-all since most students would be left behind in poorly managed schools.


"To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is under water - and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation - and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, DC - so we can rid our Capitol of corruption … and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen."


I don't see why he is bringing this up. Obama is new. We don't kif he has done anything wrong. etc.



"As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America’s fighting men and women can do anything. And if we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive … defeat our enemies … and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope - but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you - the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democrats’ view that says -- the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs."


"In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear - because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust - and rightly so.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share … the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America’s best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery … overcame the Great Depression … prevailed in two World Wars … won the struggle for civil rights … defeated the Soviet menace … and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man - and the American spirit will triumph again."


Obama never said we cannot recover. He sad we needed the stimulus bill passed soon so this nation can recover.

"We can have confidence in our future - because, amid today’s challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens …the most abundant resources … the most resilient economy … the most powerful military … and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. And God bless America."
END

Senator Says Conservatives Will Have Oppotunity to Reshape Court in Nine Months when Ginsburg Dies

Senator Richard Shelby is taking some heat for some comments he made regarding Obama's birth certificate. His colleague from Tennessee however has yet to take some heat for statements he made concerning the recovering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

So, what did Senator Bunning say that should land him in hot water? Oh. let's see. Conservatives will have a chance to remake the Court in its image when Justice Ginsburg, dies of cancer in about 9 months.

Wow.

Revolting (looking forward to someone's demise is deplorable) and delusional (since when is Obama going to appoint a conservative justice to replace Ginsburg?) His apology is also weird. Of course she was offended by those statements. It was not his "intent" to offend her. No but I guess it was his intent to offer his ideological brothers and sisters some hope that her demise would give them an opportunity to shift the court to the right.

Touching Speech

from Dustin Lance Black. It was a really moving and passionate speech for gay equality and for a leader of that movement. He spoke from the point of view of a gay man born and raised in a conservative Mormon family. Of one of those people who might have committed suicide were it not for the few out gay role models like Harvey Milk. It made my night.

Sean Penn too delivered a good but more bracing speech for gay equality. Black offered the more upbeat message of hope. Penn spoke of the shame which future generations will have for the parents and grandparents who voted for anti-gay marriage initiatives like Prop 8.

Bill Maher's short speech was disappointing to say the least. I like Bill Maher alot. He's a great comedian. His "New Rules" segment is one of the best skits I have ever seen on a comedy show and I largely agree with his views regarding religion. But last night he complained because his movie wasn't nominated for any award. I'm sorry but the Oscars are set up to honor those who were nominated for their hard work, and not complain about those which did not make it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Very Bad Judicial Reform Ideas

from The Washington Post

The reformers say the Supreme Court is too undemocratic. Well duh. Their job isn't to listen to the will of the people. It is to uphold constitutional values.

There is only one proposal that I could go for - the removal of those whose health problems that take them away from their job.

Immigration: Allies We Could Do Without

In a heated exchange over immigration Wednesday, Rep. Leo Berman shouted "go home!" to a Dallas lawyer of Chinese-American descent who had called the lawmaker "despicable" and "evil." from The Dallas Morning News

to which it can be suggested that the lawyer is at home.

I could agree with every listed measure Berman proposed (and I do) and still think what he said was despicable because it was racist and xenophobic. Americans need not be white and immigrants need not be white. They need only come into this country the right way.

The Best Response to Those "Declining" Stimulus Spending

We'll take it.

"Governor Sanford says that he does not want to take the money, the federal stimulus package money. And I want to say to him: 'I'll take it.' I'm more than happy to take his money or any other governor in this country that doesn't want to take this money, I take it, because we in California need it," - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) on "This Week."

Of course those who say they won't take the funding are privately hoping they are overruled by their state legislators so they don't get blamed for the failure to revive their economy. They could always take the credit for doing something aside from accepting the stimulus package if and when their state economies are revived later on down the road.

The Grand Gay Compromise

"It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill." David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch in The New York Times

I largely agree with this approach even if they seem to downplay the differences the two sides have with respect to this issue. Gays living in states that offer them no legal recognition obviously won't be treated as couples unless this plan is modified to include recognition granted in gay-friendly municipalities as well but we have to work with what we can get, not with what is desirable.

William Saleton briefly makes the case for gay marriage in an op-ed column as well. I agree with Saleton on the substance but have to agree with Rauch and Blankenhorn on the politics. Gay marriage won't be happening anytime soon. We should take what we can get.

It should be noted, however, that this sensible plan was put forward by two people who, in spite of their differences on gay marriage, have no objection to homosexuality and the rights of gay Americans in general. Expect the religious right and the Catholic Church to push back as much as possible. A U.S. Representative Sally Kerns (R-Oklahoma) or Utah State Senator Chris Buttars would never sign onto to this grand compromise. They also too easily downplay the arguments we are still having with respect to abortion rights. I don't think that the religious conservatives have signed onto any grand bargain on that issue either.

Addendum:

speaking of the "threat" of gay marriage, Rick Sincere has this humorous take story concerning a straight woman from Indiana.

Doom and Gloom vs. Optimism

"For all the gloomy headlines we’ve absorbed since the fall, we still can’t quite accept the full depth of our economic abyss either. Nicole Gelinas, a financial analyst at the conservative Manhattan Institute, sees denial at play over a wide swath of America, reaching from the loftiest economic strata of Wall Street to the foreclosure-decimated boom developments in the Sun Belt.

When we spoke last week, she talked of would-be bankers who, upon graduating, plan “to travel in Asia and teach English for a year” and then pick up where they left off. Such graduates are dreaming, Gelinas says, because the over-the-top Wall Street money culture of the credit bubble isn’t coming back for a very long time, if ever. As she observes, it took decades after the Great Depression — until the 1980s — for Wall Street to fully reclaim its old swagger. Not until then was there “a new group of people without massive psychological scarring” from the 1929 crash." - Frank Rich at The New York Times

"Yes, we have to shore up the banking system, which underpins everything; and finding a fair way to prevent hardworking people, who played by the rules, from losing their homes to foreclosure is both right and essential for stability.

But beyond that, let’s think, talk and plan in more aspirational ways. We’re down, but we’re not out. As we invest taxpayer money, let’s do it with an eye to starting a new generation of biotech, info-tech, nanotech and clean-tech companies, with real innovators, real 21st-century jobs and potentially real profits for taxpayers. Our motto should be, “Start-ups, not bailouts: nurture the next Google, don’t nurse the old G.M.’s.”
Thomas Friedman at The New York Times

I think President Barack Obama is trying to present both points. He did it while signing onto the stimulus bill. He did it while unveiling his house mortgage plan and he will continue to do it, I hope as time goes on.

NY Times Editors and Immigration: The Mask Comes Off

I wonder if the editorial writers at The New York Times can every go a Sunday without their pro-illegal immigration rants.

Give them credit though for honesty:

"The failures of the immigration system are many and severe, but the main problem is not that the country is catching too few undocumented immigrants. It is catching too many."

They took off their masks. "Comprehensive immigration" their a--.They don't believe our government should be in the business of removing those who come into this country illegally.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bagram: The New Guantanamo

When he was on the campaign stump, President Barack Obama, then a junior Democratic senator from Illinois and aspiring presidential candidate, vowed he would close the war prison at the Guantanamo Bay. He said the prisoners now held at Guantanamo Bay should be brought to justice. Those guilty of criminal wrongdoing would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Those who have done no wrong would be released.

This to many conservatives seems like a radical proposition. Many (particularly the "law and order" wing of the conservative movement) think we cannot treat war prisoners as criminals or put their right to a speedy trial above our need to safeguard the country from the next terrorist threat or 9-11.

It is now, however a radical proposition. It is the American way. A suspect is hauled before court to face criminal charges. The prosecutor makes his or her case. The defendant gets a rebuttal and a jury weighs the evidence and decides if the suspect is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." There is no doubt some risk. Juries make mistakes and juries can make the right decisions based upon the incomplete evidence which is submitted for them to review. Some Innocent men and women go to jail while some guilty men and women are set free.

The indefinite incarceration of a murderous sociopath or a serial killer is not a given. This risk is accepted since the alternative - the incarceration of the innocent man or woman - is a travesty in justice. We, at the very least, must allow the suspect to challenge and refute the evidence used to justify his or her incarceration.

So when the president, then only a senator running for the White House, promised to reverse course, those of us with a civil libertarian outlook were pleased. To us, Obama's predecessor committed human rights violations by holding captives against their will for an indefinite period of time with no chance to contest their status as "enemy combatants."

We yearned for change and were pleased when he indirectly rebuked outgoing President George W. Bush in his inauguration speech. He firmly rejected the claim that we must choose between liberty and safety. The two were not incompatible. And we were cautiously optimistic when he signed three executive orders distancing himself from his predecessor by signing three executive orders closing Guantanamo Bay and any CIA-maintained facility abroad, and banning torture in spite of the caveats which he put in them.

Late today, however, we heard some information which suggests that the president may be reneging on his promise to give each prisoner a fair hearing. The president has apparently decided to deny the prisoners held at Bagram in Afghanistan the right to contest their status as "enemy war combatants" at a fear hearing.

We did not fight to close Guantanamo Bay, the symbol of most of what is wrong about our fight against the war on terror, to see another base take its place. The same principal that led us to cry out for justice when the president denied the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay their day in court lead us to fight for the rights of those now held at Bagram. The government has no right to serve as a defendant or alleged "enemy combatant's" "judge, jury, and executioner." No government has the right to deprive oneself of his or her "life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness" without "due process of law." And no president can deprive that person of hsi right to a "trial by his peers" unless Congress suspends the writ of habeas corpus.

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address. "Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations."

Yes, we must reject "as false" that "choice between our safety and our ideals."

Yes I do.

Mr. President, yes you must.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Nonapology Apology

Typically when a local politician is rebuked for saying something that is deeply offensive, stupid or wrong, he or she would issue the non-apology apology. The non-apology apology is the means by which an offender can express his or her deep regret or profound sorrow for the hurt which the offended feels without blaming him or herself. Our Congress man or woman, senator, and president can do no long, lest his or her opponent hold that against them when he or she runs for a re-election.

I believe the non-apology apology has no place in our political discourse. The person, persons or organization which is accused of wrongdoing either committed an offensive act or he/she/it/they did not. But as long as it remains a part of our political discourse we should at the very least expect our news organizations to hold themselves up to a higher standard. We expect "straight talk" from them. News editors and reporters make their livelihood around getting the facts.

Tonight, the editorial writers at The New York Post, a conservative news tabloid headquartered in New York City, issued its own non-apology apology. They apologized to those who were offended by a political cartoon which as two policemen who, after shooting a chimpanzee, say another person will need to write the next stimulus bill. "It has been taken" (that is, by those who saw it) "as a depiction of President Obama).

In other words, the writers would have us believe they did nothing wrong. Those who saw the cartoon in the paper believed the worst even if it wasn't warranted. This seems like a disingenuous evasion for the caption specifically refers to a person writing the stimulus bill not the stimulus bill itself. Someone else, the cop says, must be found to write the next stimulus bill. Nowhere in the non-apology apology is there a profound expression of regret for publishing something deeply offensive. Nowhere is there an acknowledgment that they were being racially insensitive.

Worse, the non-apology apology doesn't even sound like an apology. I can't help but think that it was meant to be read aloud in a defiant tone. It is so curt, so vehement in its denial and so full of defiance to be read as an apology. Included within it is a caveat. Those who are trying to bring the paper down, those who are trying to score some political points off of this bad publicity do not get an apology.

If the writers at the editorial board couldn't write a sincere apology, they shouldn't have wasted their ink, time or print writing one at all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Burris

From the moment Roland Burris accepted former Governor Rod Blagojevich's offer for the senate seat, the Political Heretic knew he had no shame. Illinois' junior senator, after all, was appointed to fill the very seat which the ousted governor is accused of selling to the candidate who would raise campaign funds for him.

The Senate at first refused to seat Mr. Burris at first because they knew he was picked through a politically tainted process by an ethically-challenged governor. Illinois' residents would ask themselves if a deal was struck between the senator and the governor. Mr. Burris, however, was not ashamed. He flew to Washington and called their bluff with the expectation that he would either be seated or cause the spectacle that would lead his detractors to back down. He stood out in the rain, held press conferences, and made an appearance on Rachel Maddow's show. In each case he denied any wrongdoing.

In an affidavit he submitted in January, the senator denied any contact with Blagojevich's associates. At his state's impeachment proceedings, however, Mr. Burris admitted that he spoke to former Chief of Staff Lon Monk for the position but again, denied any wrong doing. He did not buy the seat from the ousted governor.

This month, Mr. Burris submitted a revised affidavit in which acknowledges that he spoke to the governor's brother. The senator said he thought of raising campaign funds for the governor at the brother's request but ultimately proved unsuccessful in this endeavor. Though he didn't, it is asserted, raise the money, he apparently had no qualms doing so and then accepting the position even after the special prosecutor released his affidavit asserting that, among other things, the now ousted governor was attempting to sell President Barack Obama's senate seat.

With all due respect to the editorial writers at The Chicago Sun Times, we don't need a full explanation from the senator or an investigation that would drag out for days, weeks or even months. We need his resignation now.

Change on the Environment

Determining whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It obviously is a pollutant which may explain why the prior administration was dragging its feet. If Bush administration officials reached the opposite conclusion they'd be mocked (for good reason) on the talk shows.

Housing

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan (HASP? sounds like Gasp!) can be found here. A brief explanation is provided by The New York Times and, I'm sure, other newspapers.

I will refrain from comment for now since the devil may very well be in the details which are released in March.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Senator Roland Burris

Senator Roland Burris of course has no honor. We saw that when he accepted from the scandal-tarnished Ex-governoer Rod Blagojevich the same vacated senate seat he (the ex-governor)purportedly attempted to sell to the highest bidder. Now we know that he lied about his conversations with Blagojevich's inner circle. In his latest affidavit, he admits to something which he omitted during his testimony at the impeachment hearings - that he met with Rod Blagojevich's brother, who, he said, unsuccessfully tried to get him to raise campaign funds for the governor. The brother's name was specifically mentioned at the hearing so in all likelihood this omission cannot be attributed to oversight.

He probably did not want this information disclosed since it could hamper his effort to get be seated in the senate.

Burris won't resign so Illinois' residents will have to begin their search for his successor four years from now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reality-Deprived

States are really feeling the crunch and may have to do what companies are doing - laying off workers. Does that trouble the Republicans at all? Not in California where the state's governor, a Republican no less, is threatening to lay off off 20,000 workers if the legislature does not pass the budget. 20,000 workers and what stands in their way? The bill includes an increase in taxes. No kidding. Taxes have to go up if the state is going to pay its workers. If it seeks to provide California residents service.

The new Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele actually told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos that the government doesn't create jobs because they wouldn't be permanent. Hello! A job is a job and a paycheck is expected whether the employer is a private business or a public agency. Steele says a lot of these jobs would disappear as soon as the contract between the contractor and public agency is completed but of course this absurd argument is made at the very time employers in the private sector are laying off thousands of workers in the private sector as I type.
They really need to listen to David Frum. Then the House Republicans voted, to a man/woman against the stimulus package.When will they become th e party of ideas?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

State Secrets Privilege in Court

Hard to argue against what the editorial writers say here. Pass this bill and pressure the president to sign it into law.

Merit Pay and Teacher Tenure

I forgot to link to this editorial from The Washington Post concerning a proposal concerning merit pay for teachers and the need to eliminate tenure. It's a quick read. Yes, teachers unions "from sea to shining sea" oppose such measures but to anyone who works for a company that generally links job security to performance, supporting this measure should be a no-brainer.

Like the CEO's and the Wall Street bankers now under fire, government workers don't seem to live in the real world, where those who work hard and play by the rules earn themselves bonuses, raises and promotions and those who slack off, make deficient products, or expose their businesses to legal challenges find themselves scrounging for food at the food shelter.

CEO Salary Requirements in Stimulus Bill

Well, it is better than nothing but still, if the salaries are increased, the bonuses are increased.

Once a company receives federal aid to keep itself afloat, the company cedes its right to make financial decisions which leave it deeper in the whole. Washington has an interest in seeing a return in its investment and hardworking U.S. taxpayers do too and if the Republicans want to complain about "big government" and class warfare, we in the media (and the Democrats for obviously different reasons) should remind the voting public that the Republicans were pressuring Chrysler and GM to gut their union workers' wages in return for the aid package.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Caterpillar

Perhaps the president should let the chief executive officer of a company make the promise to rehire some of its workers before he makes that promise. And I thought Vice President Joe Biden was the one known for putting his foot in his mouth.

President Barack Obama and Senator Judd Gregg and the Census

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) officially withdrew his nomination from the White House, forcing the president to renew his search for the White House. Senator Gregg was the second of two nominees to withdraw his name for the position from contention. Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) bowed out after it became clear to him that the investigation into a pay-to-lay scheme in New Mexico would not be resolved in time for his nomination to be ratified by the senate.

Gregg's nomination puzzled the more progressive members of the Democratic Party. The junior senator has a fairly conservative voting record on the fiscal issues so he and the president, a former senator himself, had a fairly liberal voting record. They both, to their detriment, voted for "comprehensive" (ahem) immigration "reform." Senator Gregg, himself once voted to abolish the cabinet position he was going to administer.

The president, however, wanted to reach out to Americans with different points of view and set a bipartisan tone in this country's time of need. Some progressives in the Democratic Party, including John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, were thrilled because it gave New Hampshire's sitting Democratic Governor a chance to nominate a Democratic replacement, giving the party the filibuster-breaking 60th seat (assuming Al Franken of Minnesota was seated). Their support soured once the governor said he would nominate a Republican seat-holder.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs squarely put the blame on the senator for offering his services to the president. "He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda," Gibbs said in the statement.

Somewhere along the way, the senator began to question whether he really could his philosophical differences to the side. The president, either on his own initiative or responding to pressure from liberal interest groups, decided to remove the Census Bureau from the Commerce Secretary's purview and place it within the hands of the White House.

This measure, while designed to protect the Democratic Party's interests in the 2010 census count and the Congressional redistricting that would occur as a result, cast some doubt on Senator Gregg's future influence within the administration. The senator probably thought that he would be sidelined or that while he may have been involved in Oval Office deliberations, he would have served at best as a figurehead.

Neither party came out of this announcement looking good. The president was clearly blindsided by the senator's decision to withdraw his name from contention. This announcement came on the same day that new reports aired the Republicans' plan to challenge the Census Bureau's planned relocation in the court. The president looked foolish by at least appearing to have it both ways. He wanted the credit for extending an olive branch to the Republican Parties while curtailing that Republican cabinet official's influence in at least one aspect, exposing his administration and the taxpayers to a lawsuit concerning his plan to politicize a government agency by moving it from one department to the cabinet.

For his part, Senator Judd Gregg made a fool of himself for accepting his nomination to serve in an administration he largely could not support. The president ran for the White House on an agenda which Gregg opposed.

Before he nominates someone else, the president should ask whether the candidate in question can fully back his agenda and whether that candidate could be trusted to run any government agency that traditionally would answer to him or her.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Peace in Middle East Probably Forestalled

Not a good day for peace. Israel moved further to the right which probably means there will probably be no pressure to stop settlement construction, let alone evacuate from preexisting ones. Labor was outperformed by a party led by Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman, who makes Netanyahu seem like a peace negotiator.

George Mitchell will have his hands full.

The Irony behind "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

One soldier wants out but is forced to stay and the other wants in but was forced out. Yes the guy who was forced to stay was probably looking for a free ride and ran off once he realized he could be sent into combat. Hey! There's nothing wrong with kicking the guy out and forcing him to pay for any expenses it contributed to his college education (assuming they it was paid for in part or whole) and there's nothing wrong with tricking him into fulfilling his agreed upon duties (he did sign up; there is no draft).

But there is something very weird here. The soldier who, filled with a sense of patriotism, is ready to put herself in harms way is booted out because she kissed another woman. The guy who got chicken feet is lured out of hiding and back into combat. See the irony?

Op-ed on defeatist "Don't Ask, Don't Tell

"The other readiness argument concerns recruiting. To fill its swelling ranks, the military now grants one in five recruits waivers for disqualifications that run the gamut from attention-deficit disorder to obesity to armed robbery convictions. In a press conference last fall, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the head of Army recruiting, said the relevant question in considering such applicants was, “Does that person deserve an opportunity to serve their country?” That’s exactly right. And to choose a felon over a combat-proven veteran on the basis of sexuality is defeatist. Ask any squad leader." Owens West in The New York Times

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Disappointing View in White House

In the end, Mr. Geithner largely prevailed in opposing tougher conditions on financial institutions that were sought by presidential aides, including David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president, according to administration and Congressional officials. Geitner sticking up for Wall Street at our expense

Rendition

Why is the president's team defending this?

Stimulus Bill

Kudos go to Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) for breaking with their party on the stimulus bill. Yes, they watered down some elements that can be stimulatory and yes, the editorial writers at The Washington Post make a good argument against the tax credits for the cars and first house purchase about the tax but their colleagues were opposed to any bill. Their votes denied the Republican opposition from filibustering at the moment we need action.

This bill could use more funding for transportation projects and school construction but at the end of the day something is better than nothing. House and senate leaders are reportedly trying to reconcile the differences in the two bills. It may not be the perfect bill. The House leaders, however, shouldn't rewrite the senate's bill too much. They need a filibuster-proof majority behind the stimulus package. That political reality, alone should inform their judgment. Better to take what they can now and fight for the other programs in the budget bills that follow.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Cabinet Nominee for Labor

Not again!

Obama on the Stimulus

Even if the the bill is a stimulus, the president isn't presenting the argument that makes it sound like a stimulus. I'd expect this in a stump speech or on the campaign trail. He needs to explain how the bill stimulates the economy. Their are some stimulatory elements within the bill. Providing broadband to rural communities will provide jobs at a time when the economy is contracting. The aid which is being distributed to the states and localities will help them provide vital services without major job cuts. But there are some elements from the package that need to be removed (virtually everything being given to the Agriculture Department can go). But the package includes too much spending on programs, whether they are worthy or not, that shouldn't be in a stimulus plan because they take the president off message.

He was no doubt given a poor deck of cards. The Republicans are regurgitating the talking points that defended the policies which led to this economic downturn and they have no incentive to bargain for a bill that will allow the president to take some credit for a potential upswing that occurs before the voters go to the polls again but the Democrats on the Hill, particularly the House Democrats, must share in the blame. They after all, provided the Republicans with some easy targets to pick at. Opposing contraceptive spending, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Hollywood liberals serves two purposes.

It energizes the religious conservative base conservative Republicans look to for votes and it casts into doubt the president's assertion that this is a stimulus (and not a supporters' "Christmas list") spending bill.

I would take a page from the editorial writers at The Washington Post. Gut the spending devoted to the social programs which the Democrats hold dear to their heart since they could be funded in the next budget and use those savings and then some for more infrastructural spending (short and long term).

We not only want to get an economic stimulus bill passed and implemented quickly; we want to get it done right.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

SCHIP

Today President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that his predecessor should have backed (at least in part) in 2007. The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 lifts a state ban on providing certain legal immigrants (pregnant women and "children" under 21 years old). Such residents were barred from the State Health Insurance Program for the first five years after they enter the United States. The bill also mandates dental coverage, and parity between mental health and physical health spending. The CBO projects a 4 million child increase in eligibility.

U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) according to The New York Times, referred to this bill as "a foundation stone for socialized medicine" while his equally conservative colleague from California, the one-time Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock, said it was "slowly replacing employer health plans with government-paid health plans." Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) disagreed."You would have thought this issue would have been clear sailing on both sides."

To me this seemed like a no-brainer. Health insurance costs may be rising but the cheapest to cover are the children since they usually are not burdened with the complicated diseases associated with aging. Their parents, however, might not be able to pay for their child's health insurance, particularly at this time wehen many Americans are getting laid off.

One troublesome provision included in the bill may need to be revised in a separate bill if illegal immigrants use the weakened standards to reap the benefits devoted to those who by law are entitled to live here.
Under the old law, applicants had to submit documentation proving they are an American citizen or a legal resident of five years. Now the states need only match the name and the social security number. We don't want to make it easier for illegal immigrants an opportunity to break the law again by stealing that which is not owed to them.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I think I am on record, going at least back to my initial enthusiasm for the Huckabee campaign, as favoring the Republican Party going in a more populist, Main Street direction. But if they choose the nitwit populism of Joe the Plumber -- and it looks like they are -- they will truly deserve their joke status.

It's good to be a populist, but you have to know things. What was so exciting about Sarah Palin was her populism -- until it became clear that for her, it was backed up by not much. It was style, not substance -- and she was a veritable Margaret Thatcher compared to ol' Joe, whose politics, such as they are, seem to amount to irritable gesturing."
Rod Dreher on Joe the Plumber

Hard to disagree with him on anything that is mentioned here.

Daschle Continued

Note the portion which I bold-faced.

"After this editorial was published, Tom Daschle did the right thing – for himself and more important for the Obama administration – and withdrew his name from nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He may have been propelled to do so by the news that Nancy Killefer, who was appointed by Mr. Obama to the newly created position of White House chief performance officer, had also withdrawn – citing her own tax troubles. The withdrawal of Ms. Killefer had left a lot of people, including us, scratching their heads and wondering what had become of President Obama's high ethical standards. It should not be hard for the new president to find high-quality appointees to both of these posts. Before he names them, he might have his team do a little more thorough scrubbing of their tax returns. Americans have the right to know that their appointed leaders pay their full share of taxes."

Obama should not have weighed in for Daschle last night. He may have been the best nominee but once this information concerning his cozy relationship with the health care industry and his failure to pay his taxes on time came to light, he should have dumped him immediately. He said he wanted the appointees to meet his ethical standards. He already granted an exception to one lobbyist. Daschle had to go.

Daschle

Tom Daschle was one of the president's best and worst nominations for the cabinet. His expertise on health care and his friendships on Capitol Hill made him an ideal cabinet nominee. His failure to pay back taxes, however did him in and in this day, when American workers are struggling to make ends meet, tolerance for cheating is low, as it should be.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Burnett Missing the Point on CEO Compensation

Note this from "Meet The Press."

MS. BURNETT: "I understand the outrage, and you understand the populism. There are, though--well, how should we say this? The taxpayer money is not being used to pay the bonuses. I think people could understand if you work for a company--right? If the three us worked for a company, your guests, and I lost $10 billion but Steve over there, he made a billion dollars. So overall the company actually loses money, but Steve went and did his very darndest for that company and he made money. So should he be paid for his work? That's essentially what we're talking about here. And reasonable people could argue about this, but many reasonable people would conclude, yes, he should be paid for that. And I think, David, you've raised a fair point, which is maybe it's the whole use of the word "bonus."

MR. GREGORY: "Mm-hmm."

MS. BURNETT: "If you explained to people this is how they are compensated, that might make a difference. But there is also a fundamental misunderstanding. The taxpayer money isn't being taken and paid out in the form of bonuses. It goes in a, a separate pool, shall we say, a separate account for banks. So maybe people don't care about that distinction, but it is there."

So it is going into "a separate pool." A "lockbox" if you will. Washington is still being asked to bail these banks out and it has an interest (one would hope anyway) in getting the money back once this crisis is over. It also has an interest in making sure this bailout works. Paying the corporate executives, particularly those which brought their companies down, these bonuses and letting the companies purchase their corporate jets is counterproductive. It makes no business sense, and in a climate in which thousands of workers are losing their jobs, or living with wage freezes or, in the case of the autoworkers, being asked to take a pay cut, it seems only fair to ask the CEOs to do the same.

It the state is going to save the banks it has a right to ensure that the banks do everything they need to do to survive. The Obama administration should back Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and impose compensation limits on companies that receive federal aid.