Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Virginians Did Some Serious Butt Whipping -- yep, just like I said...

From the blogger with a pulse on the special election in the 33rd District in Virginia, Raising Kaine is reporting that with nearly all districts counted, Herring leads Staton by about 62 to 38 percent.

In other words, pop the cork and CELEBRATE.

Can't help but think back a few months ago, when Gov. Tim Kaine decisively beat out former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore,and some party hacks said the reason was because Kilgore just wasn't conservative enough...

Well, the guy who just lost on the Republican side of the ledger was a right-wing wacko. And guess what? He lost. And not by a tiny bit, but by a landslide.

Hmm...wonder what's gonna be Republicans excuse this time around?

Gosh, it feels good to be on the winning side as a Democrat in Virginia. Now let's hear our newly elected governor kick some more serious butt on national television with the Democratic response to "The Yellow Ruse of Texas," our "Liar in Chief."

Just a little term of endearment from a Democratic political consultant who helped to engineer the winning response by Democrats in Loudoun County in November and today.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Take it to the Bank, Mark Herring will Win the Senate Seat in Virginia

Democrat Mark Herring who faces a crucial election this coming Tuesday will win!

Yes, you heard it here.

After doing a little telephone canvassing, and taking a very unscientific anecdotal poll, I have concluded that former Loudoun County supervisor, Mark Herring will cream Mick Staton, "the son-in-law and political protege of former Del. Dick Black, a divisive and regressive presence in the House" who thankfully lost his reelection bid last November.

Herring will overwhelmingly win the senate race in the special election for the 33rd District that serendipitously became open after newly elected Republican Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell tapped former Republican Senator William "Bill" C. Mims for the number two spot in his office.

Gosh, it almost reminds me of the time former Republican Gov. James Gilmore nabbed former-Democratic Del. Dave Brickley for his cabinet and the poor Democrats soon thereafter lost the House.

Lucky, lucky Democrats for having the good fortune of an open seat in a special election with the Kaine victory wind at their back. The ultimate nail on Staton's political coffin came this morning with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Washington Post.

Yes, Raising Kaine duly notes the telling tea leaves on the ground, by way of desperate Republicans already spinning the loss as no big deal, just a little special election, no more!

Well, this is BIG! How big...? Big enough that Smiley-faced-cowboy Allen will now have to come up with a Northern Virginia strategy if he hopes to win reelection to the Senate in the fall.

And if James Webb signs up, it's Katy-bar-the door. Republicans can kiss a senate seat bye-bye in November. Hopefully, a huge win by Herring will be the added nudge Webb needs to jump into the race.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

We’re All Going to Hell in a Handbasket……

If only Americans who continue to support Pres. Bush knew of the shenanigans that go on every day in the administration.

Every day, a new outrage.

To illustrate, the New York Times reports this morning that administration officials are busy silencing critics on the subject of global warning.

James E. Hansen, a “longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies” recently gave an interview to the Times in which he expressed his grave concern over the condition of our planet and official attempts to keep him quiet.

A career with NASA that began in 1967, Hansen “has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels.”

With 2005 already recorded as the warmest year in over a century, global warming from burning fossil fuels can no longer be denied, although right-wing wackos prefer for the world to not to dwell too much on the subject, hence the latest muzzling.

Be that as it may, today’s outrage isn’t about the administration’s total failure to come up with a plan to stop the inevitable course of the planet’s destruction. No, it's about their single-minded obsession to prevent civil servants from speaking the horrifying ghastly truth about the matter to the public.

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."
From the beginning of the Bush administration, including Cheney’s secret energy meeting, the K Street project, the Pentagon Group, FISA directives, Medicare Prescription bill actuaries, Katrina, and now even the weather, the Bush administration is like an addict on crack, high on its unimpeded power. So the campaign to silence every critic moves forward.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

Apparently the mission for NASA has changed from one of “gurantee[ing] freedom, promoting prosperity, and ensuring...security of our nation" to making the president "look good."

Hey, now there's some real hard work.

The Times reports that the latest scuttle between Hansen and administration officials merely “echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.”

Print media is at least reporting the news; but as polls show, the majority of people get their news from television; and with one new outrage nearly every day, it's hard to fit them all in 60-second micro news segments.

Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia should make global warming and the administration's heavy-handed, oppresive way of silencing critics two of his talking points in his Democratic response to the president's State of the Union address.

Speak the truth to the American people, governor. The American public need to finally wake up from their self induced apathy and smell the rancid, rotting roses.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Read it and Weep Republicans - Catholics are Back in the House...

A truly breathtaking statistic is nestled in a LA Times/Bloomberg poll. It not only confirms that Bush and his Republican confederates in the Senate and House are very unpopular with Americans, more on that later, but for the first time, the poll reveals a group of voters that has been crucial to Republican victories has switched allegiance.

Bloomberg News reports that in their latest LA Times/Bloomberg poll, Catholics astonishingly and overwhelmingly prefer Democrats to Republicans.

If you recall, during the last presidential election, a majority of Catholics preferred Bush over Kerry by a margin of 52 to 47 percent. But now it looks like they're not only having buyer's remorse, but feel they were snookered and then sucker punched.

Yes, inspite of all the hoopla with the two recent Catholic nominations to the Supreme Court, polls from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 show that a measly 31 percent of Catholics prefer a Republican over a Democratic congressional candidate.

Read it and weep, Republicans. Bloomberg writes:
[S]ome election experts closely follow attitudes of Catholics -- about a quarter of the American electorate -- as an often reliable barometer. In this survey, white registered Catholics, by a 54 percent to 31 percent margin, prefer a Democratic congressional candidate to a Republican.
Hmmm ... maybe Kaine's "suburban strategy" wasn't the only reason the newly sworn-in governor of Virginia won by the cozy margin of 52 to 46 percent in beating Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore in the fall.

Progressive blogger MyDD links to the most recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll, as well as the latest Fox News and NYT/CBS News polls.

Same old good news for Democrats. Bush and his cronies and their tired, lying talking points are rejected by a sizeable majority.

In a mix of two old adages and one new truism, you can fool some of the people some of the time but eventually, reality breaks through and well, the roosters come home to roost in the real world.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Republican legislators Rally Around Kaine's Proposal for More Local Control Over Growth

Leaders in the House are joining Gov. Tim Kaine in calling for " more flexibility in controlling development."

Looks like the mountains are coming to Mohammed; legislators are finally listening to Northern Virginia voters.

Kaine singled out traffic as one of the premier issues during his successful fall campaign for governor where he won traditionally Republican votes in the outer burbs of Washington, DC.

During the election, Kaine promised voters he would fight to give "local governments more power to slow growth, require traffic studies and coordinate their long-term plans with state transportation planners," as the Washington Post reports.
"There is a very high expectation from citizens that we would do something this year, and I'm glad we're moving in that direction," said David L. Bulova (D-Fairfax), a freshman delegate who campaigned for new local powers over development. "There's been a lot of resistance in giving local governments the authority, but in walking door to door last summer I got a lot of feedback from constituents who got it."

With Democrats picking up seats, Republicans have decided they better get onboard the popular winning train of controlled growth, although some die-hard Republicans are still resisting.
My thoughts are that localities already have the controls they can use," said Del. Riley E. Ingram (R-Hopewell), chairman of the House committee that has defeated attempts to give localities more control.

But take it from the good professor at the school of policy at George Mason University, who is giving Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia a run for his money in the field of punditry, Mark J. Rozell, who had this to say:
Anybody who's interested in staying in political office has to be onboard on this issue . . . or at least be on the record as being onboard with this issue."

And if Kaine is able to move those pesky mountains, maybe we won't have so many poor saps stuck in traffic in the future; all the while strengthening the brand for Democrats.

Kaine withdraws support of Marriage Constitutional bill, but will he sign the bill anyway...?.

For all the people who are unhappy with Gov. Tim Kaine for turning his back on the gay community and supporting a referendum that declares marriage only between a man and a woman, take heart, maybe...

The governor has now said he does not support the full wording of the proposed constitutional amendment.

The amendment reads:
“That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.”

Virginian Pilot reports that “Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, a gay rights organization, said her group will ask Kaine to rewrite the ballot language so that the full amendment appears rather than an abbreviated version being backed by the amendment’s sponsors.”

But in order to change the actual language in the ballot, Kaine would need approval from both the Senate and the House. To change the language used in explaining the measure to voters in November is strictly within his power.

Kaine said he could support the amendment if it were limited to the first sentence. However, the governor found fault with the remainder of the proposal. He said the wording is so vague that it could outlaw many types of contracts
between unmarried people.

“There’s just no reason we need to do that,” Kaine said. “I just think we’ll be buying problems if we go down that road.”

Gun-toting Republicans in Richmond...

A Republican state legislator, pictured with a bullet proof vest he wore on the floor last year by the Virginian Pilot, fired his handgun inside the Capitol building and created a minor ruckus.

Del. Jack Reid of Henrico was trying to eject the ammunition clip when it accidently fired. The bullet was stopped by a nearby bullet proof vest. Reid said the bullet could have easily passed through the wall and hit someone if it had not been stopped by that lucky vest.

At one time, Virginia had the least restrictive gun policy in the nation; and even today, Virginians love their guns.

However, the state does check every citizen at the door of every court house, and they must leave any knife, pepper spray, or item deemed dangerous with guards.

But rules are just for ordinary citizens. Lawmakers can carry weapons into government buildings in Richmond unimpeded.

It does raise a safety question," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said. "You've got Boy Scout groups and pages and all kinds of folks walking around in the halls, so I think it's something the Legislature needs to look at."

But not so quick, governor. It was an accident and Reid "apologized at several meetings of the House Republican and Democratic caucuses and then before the entire chamber, the Pilot reported. He's sorry, and that should be that!

And yet, I can't help but harken back to the tale of the sad father of 13 kids a few years back who was charged and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for accidentally leaving his child in a van who died.

In other words, lawmakers should immediately change the law and ban guns from the state Capitol and other buildings at Capitol Square before someone gets hurt or killed.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith doesn't quite see it that way; the rights of gun toting legislators are paramount.

"The truth is you're more likely to get hurt in a car accident than by a gun," he said. "So why restrict people's freedoms?"

Why indeed!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Is Chief Justice Roberts an Abolitionist?

Once again, my heart is-a-flutter, the Supreme Court stopped the execution of Clarence Hill in a Florida prison just as he was about to get zapped.

CNN is reporting that Justice Kennedy ordered a temporary stay, with at least four justices consenting.

For the record, this makes the third time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of death inmates since Roberts joined the court.

One could hardly imagine Alito voting to vacate any death penalty conviction, as Roberts recently did in the case of Darrick Demorris Walker. He was the poor sap who had been convicted and sentenced to die in Virginia through perjurious testimony cops knew to be false.

Or that Alito would agree to hear the case of Paul Gregory House, a death row inmate who was convicted and sentenced to die in Tennesee. At trial, DNA evidence was presented that upon further examination turned out to belong to the victim’s husband.

As evidence proved during the Senate confirmation hearing, there is no reason to expect Alito to have a kind heart and stop “settl[ing] all issues in a light most favorable… to law enforcement,” as Sen. Leahy noted.

Whether the stay of execution becomes permanent or Hill ultimately meets his maker, ¿Quién sabe? But I have to register my fetching observation, three out of three rulings from the Court in favor of true justice since Roberts joined ain’t bad at all!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Draft James Webb...Update"

Virginians are getting serious about raising high-decibel calls to draft the former secretary of Navy under the Reagan administration to run against Smiley-face-clueless George Allen in November.

Shout it to the mountains, shout it to the world, spread it to every corner of the Commonwealth, and let every tongue speak, Webb is our best hope to defeat Allen!

Virginia has already elected a former naval officer who served in the United States Marine Corps during a conflict in Southeast Asia and then went on to became secretary of the Navy during recent history.

Yes, our senior senator, John Warner, "served as a ground officer with the First Marine Air Wing during the Korean War and then went on to become secretary of the Navy from 1972-1974.

Let's have a twice over.

Webb, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, signed-up with the Marines and was a commissioned officer with the Fifth Regiment during the Vietnam War, "became the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and then become Secretary of the Navy" during the Reagan administration.

Webb received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. And no doubt, his slew of medals had more than a little something-something to do with his recent column excoriating the folks who "question[ed] whether [Congressman] Murtha deserved his two Purple Hearts" and Bronze Star in the New York Times.

Semper Fidelis, fellow Virginians.

For the record, our current junior senator from Virginia never served in the military -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Of course, it seems people who've never served in the Armed Forces are the first ones to support elective wars.

In fact, Allen could justifiably be tagged as just another Republican Chickenhawk who rode the shameless horse of fear and panic to the steps of the Senate capitol.

Allen beat out former Sen. Charles Robb, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, with his "tough on crime" meme during the last war we waged and lost: drugs. His blueprint legislative triumph was his "truth in sentencing" law engineered while governor that entirely did away with parole.

On his Web site, Allen proudly proclaims he safeguarded "America's national defense and homeland security." But exactly what has Allen done? I mean besides his rubber-stamp support of the president as he trampled our rights and trashed the constitution.

Want to find out what issues Allen wants to fight on behalf of Virginians...? Well, he's still trying to find some way to run away from his record -- er, I mean design an effective message -- and his reelection site "is still under construction."

Come on senator, you've been in Washington for nearly six years, surely there's something in your record that you can brag about to the folks back home, no...?

Let's work together to send Allen packing back home; and keep the Marine tradition alive in Virginia by drafting a real fighting man who paid more than lip service to the notion of service to country.

Join the movement to draft James Webb as the Democratic candidate for senator, fellow Virginians. Sign the petition and spread the word!

Making sense of Alito, Roe and Spying

With the recent 10-8 vote to confirm Alito and all Democratic senators in the Judiciary Committee voting to reject him, a line has been drawn in the sand, the Washington Post reports.

If Alito is to be confirmed, he will likely have no more than one or two votes from Democrats. When in comes before the full Senate on Wednesday, it remains to be seen whether any Republican will vote against him.

After a one-month hiatus from his Washington Post online column, Dan Froomkin weighs in on the recent White House blitz to try to convince the public how perfectly legal they are to spy on Americans.

Against the backdrop of the constitutional question regarding the expansive powers of the executive branch, Alito's confirmation looms ahead. Froomkin helpfully links to a USA Today/CNN Gallup poll.

It seems the more Americans learn about Bush’s surveillance, eavesdropping and attempts to find out what we're doing on the Internet, the less comfortable they become.

Within a two-week period, from January 6-8 to January 20-22, approval for the administration's perpetual, all-encompassing ways to fight terrorism by spying on Americans dropped by 4 percent, from 50 percent to 46 percent.

Pehaps like the social security media blitz, the president should shut the f/u before he gets further behind on the subject.

Tellingly, a majority of Americans do not want to Roe overturned, a sizeable 66 percent. But the problem lies in that a sizeable 21 percent have no opinion on the subject. In other words, this chunk of Americans must be convinced that Alito threatens Roe before they endorse the idea of keeping him off the bench.

The Senate vote on the floor offers Democrats the venue to convince Americans that Roe and civil liberties are in jeopardy. Right now, only 38 percent think Democrats have justification for a filibuster, all the while disapproving of Bush spying and his call to overthrow Roe.

Maybe one of the Democratic talking points should be a few choice quotes from Bush to a crowd of die-hard pro-life activists in Washington on Monday. Such as his call to cheer and faith.

As reported by Reuters in the Washington Post.
You believe as I do that every human life has value, that the strong have a duty to protect the weak and that the self-evident truths of the Declaration of
Independence apply to everyone, not just to those considered healthy or wanted
or convenient."
Or how about, "We, of course, seek common ground where possible," the president assured his flock. "We're working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause, and this is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America's deepest principles -- history tells us that with such a cause, we will prevail."

A couple of questions pollster might want to ask the public, “If substantial evidence surfaces that Alito is very likely to overturn Roe, would a filibuster be justified? And how about if substantial evidence surfaces that Alito very likely also thinks the president has unlimited power...?

The Supreme Court fight menaces ahead...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Call to Action - Lobby Time…

You can always tell when the Virginia General Assembly is in session by the political posturing of members to show what tough “hombres” they are on crime.

And just as sure as the earth rotates around the sun, birds fly south, and stars collide in space, each legislative session brings political machinations as Republicans try to whack Democrats with their “soft on crime” meme.

But really, as the second-highest state that executes its citizens, does Virginia really need to add any more crimes to the too-long list of death penalty felonies?

Apparently some Republicans think we do. HB 782 Elimination of the Triggerman Rule is a gem of a bill that “eliminates the ‘triggerman rule,’ which provides that only the actual perpetrator of a capital murder is eligible for the death penalty.”

Ever since Sen. George Allen galloped to Richmond on the back of his “truth in sentencing” law, there is a rush to see who can sponsor the most Draconian laws as soon as the last opening remarks are over.

Newly elected Del. C. Todd Gilbert of Woodstock, in a hurry to make a name for himself, and Mark D. Obenshain, political scion of the late Richard D. Obenshain who died in a plane crash in 1978 while campaigning for the Republican senate seat, eventually won by Sen. John Warner, sponsored the legislative handiwork.

Contrary to death penalty supporters' talking points , this bill would add a whole new class of death row inmates that hardly represents “the very worst of the worst.” The current law provides first-degree murder charges for accomplices.

The bill is being introduced to the House Courts of Justice Committee by the Criminal Sub-Committee tomorrow. For those who live in Virginia and care about this issue, please help. Contact your legislator; and if you have time, contact every other member as well.

House Courts of Justice Committee Members:
Name Phone Email
Albo, David B. (chair) 698-1042 DelDAlbo@house.state.va.us
Armstrong, Ward L. 698-1010 DelWArmstrong@house.state.va.us
Athey, Clifford L., Jr. 698-1018 mailto:del_Athey@house.state.va.us
Barlow, William K. 698-1064 mailto:del_Barlow@house.state.va.us
Bell, Robert B. 698-1058 mailto:del_Bell@house.state.va.us
Cline, Benjamin L. 698-1024 DelBCline@house.state.va.us
Fralin, William H., Jr. 698-1017 DelWFranlin@house.state.va.us
Gilbert, C. Todd 698-1015 DelTGibert@house.state.va.us
Griffith, H. Morgan 698-1008 mailto:del_Griffith@house.state.va.us
Hurt, Robert 698-1016 mailto:del_Hurt@house.state.va.us
Iaquinto, Salvatore R. 698-1084 DelSIaqunito@house.state.va.us
Janis, William R. 698-1056 mailto:del_Janis@house.state.va.us
Johnson, Joseph P., Jr. 698-1004 mailto:del_Johnson@house.state.va.us
Kilgore, Terry G. (v-chair) 698-1001 mailto:del_Kilgore@house.state.va.us
Marsden, David W. 698-1041 DelDMarsden@house.state.va.us
McQuigg, Michelle 698-1051 mailto:del_Mcquigg@house.state.va.us
Melvin, Kenneth R. 698-1080 mailto:del_Melvin@house.state.va.us
Moran, Brian J. 698-1046 mailto:del_Moran@house.state.va.us
Toscano, David J. 698-1057 DelDToscano@house.state.va.us
Waddell, Katherine B. 698-1068 DelKWaddell@house.state.va.us
Watts, Vivian E. 698-1039 mailto:del_Watts@house.state.va.us

Group Email:

Mail to: mailto:del_Albo@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Armstrong@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Athey@house.state.va.us
mailto:del_Barlow@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Bell@house.state.va.us; DelBCline@house.state.va.us
DelWFranlin@house.state.va.us; DelTGibert@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Hurt@house.state.va.us
DelSIaqunito@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Janis@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Johnson@house.state.va.us
mailto:del_Kilgore@house.state.va.us; DelDMarsden@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Mcquigg@house.state.va.us
mailto:del_Melvin@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Moran@house.state.va.us; DelDToscano@house.state.va.us DelKWaddell@house.state.va.us; mailto:del_Watts@house.state.va.us; DelMGriffith@house.state.va.us

Confirm Alito -- Filibuster the Patriot Act

After posting Democrats would surely filibuster Alito, the Senate Judiciary hearings came and went; and I began to doubt my forecasting skills. Something wasn’t adding up -- too quiet on the home front!

In fact, subsequent to watching the relative ease with which Roberts was confirmed, and the ineffectual questions posed by Democrats during the Alito hearings, liberals and progressives are now gearing up to suck it up, yet one more time, and watch Alito be approved.

Yes, behind all the bravada that all is not lost yet, keep the faith, sign this petition or that one, all but the most extreme dyed-in-the-wool liberals see the writing on the wall, and are busy making plans for the aftermath.

But in an act of genius, the number one progressive blogger on the Web, Daily Kos, makes a case for filibustering by showcasing the analysis of another blogger, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Red State.

The argument goes something like this: Democrats will lose nothing by filibustering, if at the same time they ensure the cloture motion ulimately wins. That is, enough Democrats are given a pass to ostensibly vote against their party, so that the nuclear option is never released.

Kos seems to agree with Red that this approach might be a win-win situation for Democrats, for in preparing for the fall elections, Democrats can then parade their gravitas on the issues of unchecked presidential power, warrant-less survellaince and choice for women in one fell swoop with the name of Alito as their poster boy.

In other words, the Red/Kos scenario is all show and dough, with payoffs in November with Democratic wins; and to that end, the cloture vote is designed to advance fall prospects by targeting one endangered Republican senator up for reelection, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

The cloture vote would force Chafee to pick one side of the argument; and unfortunately, both sides are problematic for him.

In a "damn if I do, and damn if I don’t" conundrum, if Chafee fails to vote for cloture, he then suffers in the upcoming primary from his challenger to the right; and if he votes for cloture, he gets whacked from the Democratic candidate in the fall.

Like Red/Kos, I don’t think Alito has 60 votes in the Senate; in fact I’d be willing to bet he gets no more than 57 votes, proving the Dems have the firepower to force the issue; but by not filibustering, they can make strategic hay at a later time.

And just what supreme battle is more important than a lifetime appointment to the Highest Court? Well, how about a Democratic takeover of both chambers of Congress, or at minimum, the House?

Can you spell impeachment? I thought you could.

Yes, one way to frame the fall elections is around the idea of run-away executive power by the administration, and failure of Republicans to hold the White House accountable, as eloquently explicated by former-Vice President Al Gore last Monday.

The Alito fight is one Democrats would probably lose. So what better way to make some of the same political points than to filibuster renewal of the Patriot Act? That is, until Democratic provisions are placed in the bill that protect the privacy of all American citizens, provisions the administration is surely not to like.

No more search engine peek-a-boos, or as Maureen Dowd of the New York Times calls “ogling [her] Googling.” No more “warrant-less surveillance” of private citizens, simply because they disagree with the White House. No more eavesdropping on the private telephone conversations of Americans. No more rummaging through taxpayers’ library records. NO MAS!

Republicans are in a bit of a political pickle; they are weaker today than they were before Christmas. Why waste energy and capital in a meaningless filibuster maneuver with no intent of carrying out when the real McCoy is at our doorstep?

Threat of a Patriot Act filibuster offers Democrats the best chance to politically wound Pres. Bush and his party right smack in the cajones ; and right after they collegially voted “no” to Alito but allowed the vote to proceed.

By this strategic switcheroo, the public face of the Senate will be one of congeniality and nobleness. Saving the republic, while making their case to voters why it is urgent they elect Democrats to Congress in November.

Let's face it, if Democrats don’t start winning elections, and soon, more than the Supreme Court will be lost!

Confirm Alito -- Filibuster the Patriot Act

See updated post at http://howlinglatina.blogspot.com/2006/01/confirm-alito-filibuster-patriot-act_22.html.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Let the Games Begin...follow up to earlier post..

Just finished reading the New York Times article about the US letting Cuba play, and here's a quote from the hard-right flank of Miami diehards, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balard.

Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who lobbied the Bush administration to bar the Cuban team, called the decision to let it participate "lamentable and unfortunate."

But just like blow-hard conservatives continue to drink the kool-aid from this administration as the deficits mount with no end in sight, it seems more than a few party loyalists suddenly decided that Fidel just wasn't worth a fight.

Other Cuban-Americans in Miami were more supportive of the reversal, saying that fighting with Castro over baseball was a waste of time.

Are my eyes deceving me, or did I just read that...? Rabid right-wing Cuban-Americans have made Fidel "la obsesión de la vida," their life's idee fixe, and now this...?

Where is the outrage? I mean I know folks who turned in their season passes to the Orioles in the late 1990s just because they played a few games with Cuba.

Maybe the younger generation is less reactionary, and decided if not entirely to bury the hatchet in a coffin, at least to hide it during baseball season.

Or maybe it's just more evidence that Bush supporters will forswear core beliefs to follow their leader off any cliff, you know, to advance the war on terror and all.

Bush OK's Field of Dreams for Cuba...

After considerable pressure from other nations, the US relented and agreed to allow Cuba's baseball team to participate in the first World Baseball Classic.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the ultimate green light was given by none other than Little Havana's best friend, President George Bush.

Oops, expect the president and his brother to drop in the Florida polls...
Administration officials said the reversal of the position came after the president became directly involved. As a former partner in the Texas Rangers, they said, he knew immediately that there were ways to organize the high-profile exhibition games without aiding Castro's government.
The International Baseball Federation had threatened to withdraw support for the event if the Treasury Department did not relent and give Cuba "a licence to participate in the 16-team international competition," the Financial Times and other newspapers reported.

But you see, it turns out the only reason Cuba was denied the license in the first place is because the administration feared Cuba was going to make some $$$ on the deal; and don't you know, only pals of Bush in Major League Baseball (who obviously trump the folks in Miami) are allowed to do so.

So the league "and the players' union revised their application to guarantee that Cuba would not make American money by playing," and voila, the union was saved and the issue was resolved.

The games will take place in March in Puerto Rica, Japan and the United States; but before the agreement, even Junior Puerto Rico was making some noise. It had warned the US that without Cuba it would "withdraw as a host."

Some of the greatest baseball players have hailed from Cuba, from Camilo Pascual in the 50s and 60s, Miguel Cuellar in the 60 and 70s, Tony Perez and Luis Tiant in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and Orlando Hernandez, Livan Hernandez and Jose Contreras today.

Friday, January 20, 2006

From the Light...DeLay is going down for the count...

Molly Ivins, veteran journalist and political observer from Austin in a recent article linked to CNN's Web site said, "DeLay is going to lose in his district."

Oh my goodness, this is BIG!

Even though DeLay may lose in November, Molly writes that Democrats have failed to capitalize on Republican hijinks and missteps; and she takes them to task for not standing up for the values Americans have told pollsters they want.

War in Iraq? Check.
Single-payer health care? Check.
Raise the minimum wage? Check.
Repeal the tax cuts to the rich? Check.
Reduce the deficit without cutting domestic spending? Check.

Unlike my earlier comments about progressive bloggers who whine about Democrats they know nothing about, Molly aims her firepower at the Hillary Clintons, Steny Hoyers and Joseph Bidens of the Democratic party who embrace the political school of "Republican-lite."

Funny, when thinking about a true patriot, Molly hearkens back to the late Gene McCarthy, a "quiet man trained by Benedictines" who she said, "liked to quote poetry."

And as I read this, I couldn't help but think about the recently elected governor of Virginia, a not-so-quiet man, but also trained in the faith who progressive bloggers have used as a whipping boy since the recent announcement of his soon-to-be Democratic State of the Union response.

McCarthy was Catholic, same as Kaine; and call me a nutty back-scratcher, but I see similarities between the two public servants beyond mere religion.

Another Rant by Progressive Bloggers...

Geez, I can understand how some people might be a little leery about Gov. Tim Kaine giving the Democratic response to the State of the Union. Almost no one outside my home state of Virginia has ever heard of him. But some of the invective directed at the choice is off base and totally uncalled for.

Arianna, publisher of The Huffington Post, headlines her contempt with this bitchy banner, "Dems Pick Kaine for State of Union Response: What the Hell Are they Thinking?"

For Arianna, the fact Osama bin Laden is still lurking in some cave reinforces liberals claim that Bush has not made America one iota safer -- and Democrats should pound this theme by selecting the public face of war opposition, Rep. John Murtha, to give the Democratic SOTU response.

As far as I can tell, pullout from Iraq and capturing bin Laden are two separate issues with two separate arguments. I mean, exactly how is bin Laden less of threat if we pull out of Iraq...?

I've yet to hear anyone, including Arianna, propose that freed resources be used to go after bin Laden once we leave Iraq.

It seems what truly incessed Arianna is that Kaine paid tribute to our soldiers during his Inagural Address. Here are the offending remarks:

Patrick Henry was sworn in here as the newly formed commonwealth's first governor in 1776 and, three years later, Thomas Jefferson followed in his footsteps. Henry and Jefferson stood here in the midst of a war raging on our country's soil, a war that threatened the very existence of Virginia and our young nation.

They stood here at a time, just as today, when Virginians serving freedom's cause sacrificed their lives so that democracy could prevail over tyranny.

They stood here proclaiming the promise of Virginia, when the world around them doubted that the land of their vision would survive.

Paying tribute to our military men and women is now equal to support for the Iraqi war? I thought we agreed a long time ago not to go that route.

Ulimately, Arianna declares herself unimpressed with Kaine after hearing him speak on C-SPAN; and tellingly observes that ABC's blog, The Note, "suggest[ed] Democrats make it a priority to get the Guv a speech tutor before the State of the Union. "

Hmm. Here is what The Note actually said, "[A]n official involved in the decision elaborated on the Kaine logic: 'He a D who was elected from a red state running on middle-class issues and a values platform—-exactly the kind of person Ds need to showcase to independents.'"

And that was only one quote from one anonymous official, folks.

Tristero of Digby's Hullabaloo was more delicate, but links to Huffington as a way to make his point; he, too, opposes Kaine as the Democratic spokesperson.

Well, let the sniping continue...

In the meantime, bloggers from Virginia think "Tim Kaine is Gonna Rock."

You go, Tim; and show deep blue and crimson red America why we love you so much!

No Mercy for Jill Carroll ...

During the last couple of days, we've been hearing that six of the eight female prisoners in Iraq would be released very soon, as if their release was a foregone conclusion.

The people who kidnapped journalist Jill Caroll and killed her translator said they would kill her unless all female prisoners in Iraq were released. The media reports there are only eight women in prison.

Now we learn from Editor and Publisher that the military is saying, "Hell no, we won't let any of them go."

[T]he U.S. military does not expect to release Iraqi female detainees in the near future, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

So typical of this administration's callousness towards others. I bet if daddy's little girls were kidnapped, the White House would be doing cartwheels to get them back.

Hell, they'd probably pen a treaty with al-Qaeda; and take up bin Laden's offer for a truce.

Never mind that Iraqi government recommended the United States release six of them on Monday! We call the shots -- but we're not occupiers. Oh no, don't you know, the Iraqis just had an election that brought them freedom -- it just doesn't mean crap.

Editor reports:

An official from the Human Rights Ministry, which sits on the commission along with representatives of the Defense and Justice ministries, said the call to free the women was not made in response to demands from Carroll's kidnappers, who gave uthorities until Friday night to free the women."There was no outside pressure on the commission" to recommend releasing the women, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal from insurgents.

"This recommendation came after we studied the women's files provided by the
American military."

So what's the holdup?

Well, it seems the "Iraqi women who are being held by the United States in Iraq" have to go through some damn "process of review" before the US lets them go.

In other words, they only get to go home when Uncle Sam is good and ready; and if in the meantime Jill gets whacked, well what could we have done?

Our fearless leader (when it comes to other people's lives) is so emotionally removed from the pain and suffering of others that he can't seem to appreciate that a blameless breath is at stake.

Move along, stay the course, stay the course...and screw the rest of the world!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Culture of Corruption takes down another Fleecer...

Bloomberg reports today that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government agencies that finance home mortgages, ended their relationship with Tony Rudy, former DeLay's chief of staff and the Alexander Strategy Group, where Rudy "lobb[ied] on behalf of ASG’s largest clients."

As Bloomberg helpfully reports ASG was started up by Edwin Buckham; and guess what? He, too, is a "former chief of staff to DeLay."

After all the ruckus with Abramoff, Bloomblerg writes that Alexander plans to close shop within weeks. The lobbying firm "employed Jim Ellis, the head of Americans for a Republican Majority, DeLay's political action committee [and] from 1998 until 2002 employed DeLay's wife, Christine, paying her from $3,200 to $3,400 a month."

So many dear friends, so much corruption...

I wonder how many more companies are going to bail out on DeLay cronies, especially now that he's lost his groove, sort've speak.

If I were all those K Street lobbyists, I'd start looking for a few former Democratic aides for pals. Who knows, maybe in November, their old bosses will take back Congress, and K Street will need a whole new set of friends.

Yep, it's bin Laden, and he's still a-missing...

Just finished reading a quick clip from Salon that the voice on the tape threatening to attack the US is indeed Bin Laden. The CIA has confirmed the voice in the tape is none other than the missing terrorist.

"Following technical analysis of the Osama bin Laden tape aired today, the CIA assesses that it was the voice of Osama bin Laden," said the agency official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to use their name.

In a tape delivered and aired by al-Jazeera, bin Laden said that contrary to Bush claims of keeping us safe, the reason the United States has not been attacked since 9/11 is because preparation takes time.

So while Bush and his minions go around the country bragging about how much safer we are as a result of their illegal spying on Americans, bin Laden is free to roam the countryside and plot and plan on how best to destroy us.

The Washington Post quotes bin Laden from a CNN transcription:

Our mujaheddin [Islamic fighters] were able to overcome all the security measures in European countries, and you saw their operation in major European capitals," bin Laden sa[id].

As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They are in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.

Gosh, I feel safer already.

For the love of god, yes our stupid president let bin Laden get away when he had him cornered in Tora Bora, but that was a full four years ago.

What ever happened to Bush's promise to bring Osama to justice, "dead or alive?" If our intelligence can find droves of senior and number-2 leaders, why can't someone, anyone find and kill the frigging bastard...?

Kaine to Give Democratic State of the Union Response!!!!

Wow! And how cool is that...?

Rumors have been confirmed by the Washington Post that our recently minted governor will have the honor of responding to whatever doggerel Bush spits out in his State of the Union address.

Kaine is a warm, charismatic speaker, oozing with sincerity and spirit.

Progressive bloggers were hoping Democrats would tap Rep. John Murtha, who in December called for the US to withdraw from Iraq.

But I think the party rightly wanted the face of Democrats to be that of fresh idealism with results; and Kaine's successful campaign for governor in Virginia showed he can effectively communicate with red state voters.

So now he must work his magic on the rest of the nation, and rebuff Bush's tired, hackneyed message, which likely will have little to say about Iraq, and the thousands of soldiers killed and injured.

The new face of Democrats will have some very old ideals -- integrity, community and service -- with Kaine as their spokesperson.

As a young man, Kaine volunteered to go to Honduras as a Catholic missionary right after finishing Harvard Law School. Kaine not only talks the talk but has walked the walk; and as the Good Book asks people of faith to do, Kaine dedicated his life to service.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Yes, it makes perfect political sense to show America what the Democratic Party stands for, at its idealistic best.

Speaking with party officials, CNN has this quote about Kaine:

Governor Kaine is the perfect choice to respond to the State of the Union Address," said a Democrat with knowledge of the party's State of the Union preparations. "He is a Democrat who was elected from a red state by focusing on the issues that affect all Americans and has a proven track record as a leader who successfully tackles the tough issues."

And Buttermilk & Molasses, a Richmond blogger, had this to say:

If the Dems hope to capitalize on Tim Kaine's ability to challenge Bush on both pragmatic issues of effective governance and the traditional Republican stranglehold on faith and values, they might just have a shot at regaining Congress in the fall. If nothing else, they'll be positioned to speak to the American public in a language people can understand.

With Kaine's selection, I am reminded of my sister's comments a few years back when she met Kaine on the campaign trail of former Delegate David Brickley. Kaine was speaking to volunteers who were trying to help Brickly recapture his House seat in the newly gerrymandered 31st District in Virginia.

She said, "Wow, this guy sure can give a speech and connect to the audience...He reminds me of Bill Clinton."

So jolly, jolly, jolly! Let us reintroduce ourselves to America as the party of true moral values as articulated by Virginia's great new governor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ooh Baby, it's Cold Outside...Vets to Pay More for Insurance...

With each passing day, it is becoming abundantly clear the Bush administration cares very little about the welfare of veterans.

The Virginian-Pilot is reporting on the insolent attempt to raise health premiums for "military retirees" beyond the breaking point.

According to the Pilot, "the Pentagon hopes to reap billions of dollars to pay for ships, aircraft and other weapons by doubling or tripling health insurance premiums..."

Of course, this is antipodal to previous commitments by military reenlistment officers of lifelong health benefits upon retirement.

Such huge premium hikes are counterproductive to America's war on terror -- er -- Islamic extremism; but hey, King George wants to save $$$ so he can give tax breaks to his rich buddies.

The Pilot notes any premium increase will make it harder for the armed forces to recruit new boots; and also tick off the men and women who honorably served their country in times of war and peace.

Although the Pentagon refused to confirm the news story, the director of a retiree military activist group, Steve Strobridge said "several independent sources [have] provided" a draft of "proposed increases."

And just how much more will the retired soldiers have to pay...?

The Military Officers Association of America, "with 370,000 members...asserts that by 2009, the Pentagon wants to more than triple the annual premiums paid by retired officers younger than 65 for coverage under Tricare Prime, the military's premier health insurance program."

That would raise those costs to $750 per year for individuals from today’s $230 and to $1,500 from $460 per year for families.

Tricare Prime premiums for retired enlisted members younger than 65 would roughly double during the same period, the retiree groups say, as would the deductibles charged both officer and enlisted retirees participating in Tricare
Standard, a less-generous, fee-for-service program. F or the first time, retirees would be charged an annual enrollment fee of as much as $300 for family coverage for Tricare Standard.

Get out your wallets, military veterans. What else did you expect from a cabal of Chickenhawks who only use you for photo opportunities...?

Not convinced, well Soldiers for Truth is reporting that soldiers who buy body armor to try to save their hide could lose their life insurance benefits if they are killed.

[S]oldiers, who are currently staging for combat operations from a secret location, reported that their commander told them if they were wearing Pinnacle Dragon Skin and were killed their beneficiaries might not receive the death benefits from their $400,000 SGLI life insurance policies.

James Miller, former secretary of the Navy under the Reagan administration and Vietnam war veteran points out in a recent New York Times editorial, the administration could care less about veterans. Just witness the "swiftboating" of Vietnam War veterans when they crossed Bush and his merry band of four-flushers,

The war in Iraq may not be especially popular with foot soldiers; and the smearing of McCain, Gore, Clellan, Kerry and now Murtha must certainly leave more than a few GI's wondering if their service to nation means anything. But heretofore, health care benefits and death benefits were sacrosanct. No more!

Spinmeisters who support the plan say retirees are still getting a great deal in relationship to the private sector.

Cindy Williams, a former Congressional Budget Office analyst now teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that because most service members retire while relatively young and take civilian jobs, they do not have to rely on the military for health insurance.

Thousands opt not to give up their military coverage, however, because Tricare’s relatively low fees encourage them to stay in the military system, Williams said.

Well how about the fact soldiers often placed life and limb in jeopardy to go off and fight in less than noble wars...?

A military career demands sacrifices that very few other Americans are willing to put up with – and for 20 to 30 years,” said Strobridge . “Today’s retirees made those sacrifices. Military retirees paid far more for their health care than any civilian.

Strobridge and other retiree advocates also argue that the Bush administration can hardly claim retiree benefits are unaffordable while it continues to push for billions of dollars per year in tax cuts.

Veterans are finding out the hard way their born-again cowboy in the White House speaks with a forked tongue. They have been swindled, duped, hoodwinked...

But don't worry; you're not the only ones. Just get even.

Take it from Bushologists, this is the administration's modus operandi in their alternative world at Potemkin Village. Now go out and vote for Democrats in '06; and when those pesky overseas ballots are counted, let's turn swing and red states blue.

No More Business As Usual in Virginia...

The Washington Post is touting Gov. Tim Kaine's new strategy for strengthening the hand of local governments to stave off uncontrolled development and sprawl.

As more and more houses extend outward of 100 miles from Washington, many Northern Virginians are frustrated by the long commute; they feel builders clumped a bunch of housing without appropriate planning for roads.

In a December 14, 2005 article, the Washington Post reported that "local governments [were] afraid to stop growth based on traffic projections because the courts have given conflicting rulings on whether they ha[d] that authority."

During the campaign, Kaine promised voters if elected he would seek a bill that spells out local government's authority to tie road transportation to land use and growth; and to keep his campaign promise, Kaine is now "proposing that localities be empowered to reject rezoning requests that would overwhelm roads."

Adding to the traffic problem, the Post notes builders have often used "voluntary proffers...such as a new intersection or land for a new school [that] ha[s] become de facto bribes for a rezoning approval" from county governments.

Transportation was a key issue that helped swing Prince William and Loudoun Counties to the Kaine win column. Kaine carried both jurisdictions approximately 35 miles south of the nation's capital, which in '00 and '04 Bush handily won.

For a run-down of Kaine's agenda, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a convenient link to his speech to the State Assembly on Monday.

[Hat tip to Road to Ruin, a great Virginia blog dealing with transporation issues.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Few Kittens Leave their Catteries...

Progressive bloggers rail against biased mainstream media that pegs pundits according to their pedigree rather than clear thinking, good judgment and well-thought-out ideas. In the latest clamor, progressives came to the defense of Dan Froomkin, Washington Post blogger, when he was publicly derided by the paper's ombudsman.

As a one-time sociology major, I am more than a little familiar with stratification and status; in any job, there are always the "fat-cats" and "little-cats," usually based on power. The news business is stratified by alma mater, alliances and readership.

So the new boys and girls in town, by way of blogs, profess to dismiss ad revenue, Peabody and Pulitzer Prizes. The pure honor is only to inform readers and then laying claim to viewership currency, by virtue of wide popularity and recent Web log awards.

And it is this new medium of currency that from time to time, IMHO lead some astray. A few months ago, bloggers criticized recently elected Gov. Tim Kaine for dropping an ad from a progressive blog. And today, another blogger berates an aspiring, un-elected official for crossing his path by sending an uninvited press release, vowing to forever block any future e-mail.

I just got spam from some Democrat running for Congress in Pennsylvania. He felt it very important that I know that he helped rebuild some house today...

[W]hen Patrick Murphy's assistant sends me a press release telling me he helped rebuild the home of a disabled Marine, I want to rip the head off small kittens...

Send me a press release on any topic and you die...

Mr. Murphy's entire campaign is now permanently in my spam filter, no email from anyone there will ever see my in-box ever again.

And like good little kittens worthy of some O'Reilly, Limbaugh or Hannity catnip, a number of bloggers supported the public flogging. Fortunately, more than a few brave souls also dared to say, hey, get over yourself. Meow, meow...

Indeed, whether a would-be official pulls an ad they think might hurt their future campaign chances or sends an unsolicited press release, we are all working towards a more progressive and liberal society. Newbies should be treated by established bloggers the same way they wanted to be treated when they first started posting on their Web log.

And by the measured support from the progressive posts for the miscreant political aspirant/spammer who just so happens to be an Iraqi veteran, at least one major difference between liberals and conservatives is evident. Not everyone drinks from the same kool-aid dish; liberals can and do think for themselves. When a fat-cat is leading the litter astray, sometimes kittens go a-cat walking.

Lying Republican Talking Points...

In a speech commemorating Martin Luther King Day, former Vice President Al Gore condemned the warrantless eavesdropping by the Bush Administration.

Yesterday, Gore didn't his mince his words to a Constitutional Hall crowd in Washington. He said secret spying on Americans by Bush is unequivocally illegal and contrary to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Moreover, with obvious conflicts of interest by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Gore called for the prompt commission of a special counsel to "investigat[e]...serious violations of law..."

The administration immediately responded to Gore's attack the only way they know how to -- by deception and fraud.

Last night on Larry King Live, Gonzales compared surveillance of Aldrich Ames, the CIA turncoat during the Clinton administration to what Bush was doing; and to what he was legally authorized to do -- as decreed by administration legal toadies.

The mendacious talking point that Gore should STFU since Clinton was equally guilty continued this morning. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that Gore was being disingenuous in light of the "warrantless physical searches" during the Clinton-Gore administration, referring once again to Ames.

And to further cement the dissembling, McClellan even quoted former deputy attorney general under the Clinton administration, Jamie Gorelick. McClellan said Gorelick had testified "before Congress that the president had the inherent authority to engage in physical searches without warrants."

But what Gonzales and McClellan failed to disclose is cogently spelled out in Think Progress. When Clinton made his warrantless search of Ames, and when Gorelick testified in Congress, "FISA did not cover physical searches."

That's right, boys and girls. The expansion of FISA that now includes warrantless physical searches was only enacted into law in 1995, a full two years after the Ames affair.

"I think his hypocrisy knows no bounds," McClellan is quoted as saying of Gore. To which I would add, professing dismay at someone else's righteous condemnation is the apogee of hypocrisy. And so much for Republican talking points!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Supreme Musical Chairs...

It seems bloggers are beginning to surmise that possibly the Roberts/O'Connor/Rehnquist switcheroo might just leave the court ideological the same even if Alito is confirmed.

Daily Kos writes in a post of the remarkable lack of concern by Democrats on the impending Alito confirmation and posits a theory.

[T]he original replacement proposed for Sandra Day O'Connor was now-Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts is...likely [a] clone of O'Connor on many issues. O'Connor was seen as probably the most pro-business Justice on the court, and Roberts was expected to be her clone on those matters. Then Chief Justice Rehnquist died, and Roberts' nomination was transferred from O'Connor--who hadn't yet vacated the bench--to that of Rehnquist.
To shed context into the Roberts/Alito paradigm, the International Herald Tribute has an interesting analysis that compares what Roberts said in the Senate hearings against what Alito said.

Judicial Philosophy

Judge Alito: "The principles don't change. The Constitution itself doesn't change. But the factual situations change."

Judge Roberts: "I do not have an overarching judicial philosophy that I bring to every case. I tend to look at the cases from the bottom up rather than the top down."
Both nominees were asked whether they considered themselves "originalists" who believe, like Justices Scalia and Thomas, that the Constitution must be interpreted in light of the original intent of its framers. Judge Alito seemed to endorse originalism.

Chief Justice Roberts, by contrast, appeared to disavow originalism, emphasizing that he has no "overarching judicial philosophy." His explanation that he begins with the facts of a case from the "bottom up" rather than imposing a theory like originalism from the "top down" signals that he might allow for more constitutional evolution than Judge Alito.

Roe v. Wade

Alito: "If 'settled' means that it can't be re-examined, then that's one thing. If 'settled' means that it is a precedent that is entitled to respect as stare decisis and all of the factors that I've mentioned come into play then it is a precedent that is protected, entitled to respect."

Roberts: "It's settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis."

The nominees were asked if they agreed with Chief Justice Roberts's earlier comments that Roe was the "settled law of the land." Both engaged in Clintonian hairsplitting about what, precisely, "settled" means.

Chief Justice Roberts seemed to reaffirm that Roe was a "settled precedent," but left himself wiggle room by saying that the decision was "entitled to respect" under the doctrine of stare decisis, which means "let the decision stand."

Judge Alito pointedly refused to say that Roe was "settled," leading some commentators to conclude that he might be more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"I'd bet a large sum of money that Alito won't vote to retain Roe v. Wade, and I wouldn't bet a nickel on Roberts," said William Stuntz, a law professor at Harvard.

But some of Judge Alito's supporters disagree. "I don't think there's a great deal of daylight between Alito and Roberts on privacy," said Charles Fried, of Harvard Law School, who testified for both nominees and has predicted that neither would overturn Roe. "Roberts said Roe is 'settled law' and everyone took that as a commitment not to vote against it. Alito is very correct, and in his correctness he just thinks it's inappropriate to give that kind of commitment."

Congressional Power

Alito: "I think that Congress's ability to reason is fully equal to that of the judiciary."

Roberts: "I don't think the court should be taskmaster of Congress. And I appreciate very much the differences in institutional competence between the judiciary and the Congress when it comes to basic questions of fact-finding."

In both confirmation hearings, Democratic and Republican senators expressed concern about the Rehnquist Court's willingness to strike down acts of Congress. At issue is the scope of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

In a series of 5-to-4 decisions, conservative justices have overturned federal laws that they said did not substantially affect interstate commerce, like laws regulating guns in schools or violence against women.

Chief Justice Roberts's suggestion that Congress has more "institutional competence" than the Supreme Court to engage in "fact-finding" indicates that he would be more deferential to Congress than Judge Alito would. Chief Justice Roberts went out of his way to emphasize that the Supreme Court, unlike Congress, is ill equipped to make policy judgments or predictions about the economic effects of laws.
Chief Justice Roberts "might even be more deferential than Chief Justice Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor, who often joined Justices Scalia and Thomas and Kennedy in imposing strict limits on federal power," said John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Executive Power

Alito: "The whole issue of the extent of the president's authority to authorize the use of military force without Congressional approval has been the subject of a lot of debate."

Roberts: "If the executive has acted unconstitutionally, [courts] have the obligation to block the executive action."

The most controversial question in the Alito hearings was the scope of a theory
that some scholars call the "unitary executive."

In its weak form, this theory says the president has the power to fire executive branch officials, like the independent counsel. In its more aggressive form, advanced by scholars like Professor Yoo, the unitary executive theory says the president has broad authority to act in wartime without checks by Congress or the courts.

Not all conservatives agree: Justice Scalia, for example, has said that the president needs explicit authorization from Congress to suspend habeas corpus, while Justice Thomas says the president has broad authority to act without constraint.

"I don't see a lot of daylight between Alito and Roberts on executive power issues," said Professor Yoo. "I think they would be closer to Chief Justice Rehnquist, who said we are at war, Congress has authorized the war and that authorization gives the president all the traditional powers."

Other scholars detect more of a difference, noting that Judge Alito at one point mischaracterized a famous opinion by Justice Robert Jackson imposing limits on presidential power. "I think Roberts was more comfortable with the idea of deciding a presidential power question, while Alito was a little less sure of his ability to be able to rein in a president," said John Barrett of St. John's Law School. "Each judge is clearly a believer in executive power, but Roberts feels a little more comfortable being assigned to limit it than Alito does right now."

The analysis is an interesting read -- if nothing else to see how different experts view nuanced but important variances between how Alito and Roberts arrive at their legal conclusions. Constitutional conclusions that could affect the nation for decades to come.

Please dismiss the quote from Professor Yoo on presidential power, however. I mean using the words from Yoo when discussing executive privilege is like quoting O.J. Simpson when talking about the efficacy of DNA evidence in murder trials.

Yoo, a party hack -- I mean constitutional scholar -- advised Bush that laws during wartime are exactly what the president decides.

But yes, there may be valid reasons to hope Roberts will take up the centrist role, a role all the more pivotal because Roberts is no mere associate, but the big Kahuna, the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wink, Wink...Read Between the Lines...

Every once in a while a lefty blog excoriates this columnist or that one; and usually I agree but sometimes I don't.

In the case of Deborah Howell, the ombudsman for the Washington Post, progressive bloggers have consistently denounced her less than even-handed approach to the task as arbiter of truth, such as less than a month ago when she caused a clamor for complaining that Dan Froomkin's columns were misleading.

Howell wrote that Froomkin's columns were deceptive because they read, "White House Briefing Room," and they were "highly opinionated and liberal," rather than straight reporting from a White House scribe.

Well, okay, Froomkin's columns mostly take the White House to task for their political foibles as reported by mainstream media through links to their stories; and even though it's a stretch to say Froomkin is biased and contentious for pointing them out, perhaps Howell believes that by revealing White House mistakes a writer shows evident bias against King George.

But with her latest drivel, the absolute last straw from the camel's back was broken, or in the case of our one-sided advocate, the humped long neck of her professed impartiality.

Today, Howell wrote about the Abramoff caper. She starts out by praising the investigative reporting of Post staff members and notes many Post writers had previously used Jack Abramoff as a source before the scandal broke.

The outrage comes in the next paragraph when she gratuitously compares the valid Democratic complaint that DeLay and Abramoff were pals with the scurrilous charge that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota "have gotten Abramoff campaign money."

Earlier in the article, Howell made the false accusation that Abramoff "made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties," when in fact the only beneficiaries of Abramoff's direct largesse were Republicans

As Media Matter notes, Reid and Dorgan never received any Abramoff money; what they did get was money from Abramoff's clients. As senator from the state of Nevada where gaming is the biggest industry, money from gaming comes as no huge surprise in the case of Reid.

Media Matter offers a link to the "Center for Responsive Politics database of campaign contributions" that definitively show no "contributions from Abramoff to Reid or Dorgan or to any Democratic leadership political action committees."

Howell grudgingly admits reporters "on the investigations [haven't] put Democrats in the first tier of people being investigated." Yet the hint of impending scandal looms ahead nonetheless. If not the first tier, possibly the second, third or fourth tier, if one only reads between the lines.

And if not, don't worry. Howell straight forwardly counsels, "Stay tuned. This story is nowhere near over."

Get it...? Harry Reid. Byron Dorgan. Second Tier. Story not over.

Misstatements and innuendo. So much for living up to her title of impartial finder of facts.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

No Village Left Behind...

Yet another unprovoked bombing kills innocent civilians. At the current rate, the US may manage to eventually kill more blameless victims than Saddam Hussein during his reign of terror .

Let's look at the latest attack. News organizations trumpeted the latest airstrike with headlines such as from Newsday, "Air strike slams into hideout of top-ranking al-Qaida leader" or from the Associated Press, "US may have killed al-Qaida's no. 2."

But we now learn that at least 17 people were killed, and guess who was not among them...?

Al-Zawahiri. Oops, so sorry.

Just last week, we noted a family of 12 Iraqis was killed in their home "150 miles north of Bagdad."

The Associated Press is now reporting that Pakistan is very upset with the US for killing Pakistanis from a village just inside their border.

Thousands of local tribesmen...demonstrated against the attack, claiming the victims were local villagers without terrorist links and had never hosted Ayman al-Zawahri.

CIA intelligence had believed al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's lieutenant was in Damadola, "four miles inside northwestern Pakistan."

"Their information was wrong, and our investigations conclude that they acted on a false information," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official with direct knowledge of Pakistan's investigations into the attack.

Pakistan has never authorized the US military or the Afghanistani government to cross their national boundaries to hunt for al-Qaida leaders. And what makes this case so egregious is that they didn't just cross over, but unilaterally bombed a village based on faulty intelligence.

The Washington Post reports five weeping women were cursing the attackers; and one 17-year old male "said 24 of his family members were killed, including his parents."

Guess what folks...? This is not the way to win friends and influence in the Middle East.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Too Little -- Too Late

Pat Robertson is finally brought to his knees. After mouthing off that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's illness was God taking vengeance for ceding holy territory to the Palestinians, the wrath of ELOHIM instead fell upon Robertson.

You will recall, last summer Robertson called for some brave Christian to assassinate Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. And even after Christian leaders distanced themselves from Robertson, no apology from the man of God.

Now it seems Robertson's latest ranting has placed a malediction on the plains of Israel Park and Robertson. The Seattle Times is reporting that Israel has cut off talks with Robertson for a Bible themed park.
Israel's top tourism official said Wednesday he had suspended talks with American evangelical leader Pat Robertson to develop a Christian tourist center by the Sea of Galilee after Robertson's comments last week blaming Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke on divine punishment for withdrawing from Gaza.
Well nothing brings about contrition like the loss of cash; and the Associated Press is now reporting that Robertson, moral leader and founder of the Christian Radio Broadcasting Network has sent an urgent note of apology to Prime Minister Sharon's son.

The obsequious fawning two page letter is available on CBN's Web site. In it, Robertson asks Omri "for your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel for remarks" he made that in "retrospect [were] inapprorpriate and insensitive."

And to boot, threatened to jeapordize all those blessed tour deals in the "40 acres of land on the northern shore of the Galilee" that Israel was about to fork over.

No doubt visions of Jim Baker, timeshares, and his Christian theme park at Heritage USA moved Robertson to write his toadying, sycophantic mea culpa. But to no avail, I might add.

CNN is reporting that Israel plans to "go ahead with plans to build an evangelical Christian heritage center in northern Israel -- but without Robertson."

Oops...Maybe next time Robertson will keep his wicked mouth shut.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just found this grreat blog that's worth a visitor's time to go check out at RW RESEARCH.

Damn you, Roger Keith Coleman...

With a heavy heart, I must report that DNA from Roger Keith Coleman seems to confirm that he was indeed the killer.

Term-limited Gov. Mark Warner ordered DNA from a California laboratory to be tested to see if it matched.

Coleman had been found guilty, sentenced to die and executed in 1992 for raping and killing his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy.

It turns out his DNA matched the evidence, although there were rumors of DNA from two other men as well. Hopefully, a news story will eventually explain this interesting fact.

¿Por qué no me Quieres?

The obviously racist ordinance in my former hometown, Manassas, 30 miles west of our nation's capital has been repealed after the ACLU and other groups threatened to take the relatively small town of 40,000 to court.

The ordinance had restricted the number of family members who could live under one roof, irrespective of adherence to occupancy limits.

As the Washington Post noted, a five-bedroom house with five cousins was considered illegal under this Draconian law. Of course, one might ask if occupancy does not exceed code, what difference does it make whether it's five cousins living together or five brothers?

Clearly, this law was designed to restrict households with distant relatives living in the same household; a strategy newly arrived immigrants use to save $$$ on housing, especially in the high-rent market of Northern Virginia.

Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled groundskeeper and nanny, but just don't move next door!

It's Getting Hot in Here...AGAIN~

Just finished a Washington Post article on the Alito nomination and the very last sentence gave me measured pause.

With the goings-on of the last few days and Alito's mastery during his confirmation hearing, my earlier post of an Alito filibuster seemed premature and off the mark.

But now that the Post reports, "[A] group supporting abortion rights, Republican Majority for Choice," is opposing Alito's nomination. And for the record, no less than four Republicans senators are on their advisory board, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter.

The remaining congressional senate luminaries are: Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

It sure looks like the Alito run-away train might have hit a boulder. I mean, support from the pro-choice group means the four senators are bound to hold their views close and dear to their campaign wallets; and two of the four members are up for reelection in '06.

Can you say F-i-l-i-b-u-s-t-e-r, boys and girls!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

False Prophets...Still Around After All These Years...

It appears the Taliban faction of the Christian right wing has decreed the 12 miners who were trapped underground and died only have themselves to blame.

In an article from AgapePress, Rev. Rob Schenck, National Clergy Council founder and president, suggested the miners only turned to God when their individual resources failed them. And for this, God rejected them.

"We often turn to God only when we feel like nothing else can be done," Schenck ominously noted, "And, in the Bible, God rebuked nations who only turned to Him in their most extreme moments of need."

When someone thinks about Brother Rob and Biblical precepts, his remarks about the tragedy are unsconscionable, groundless and off the mark. After all, didn’t God reveal in the Holy Book that his children can suffer through no fault of their own but for a higher purpose…?

Let's look at Job. The reverend has railed against the victims, same as Job’s friends did against him. And his words are as foolish as ones spoken by Eliphaz in saying:

As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish." (Job 4:8-9)

Job grew tired of defending himself against baseless charges, as should any person of sound mind and pure spirit. He told them off:

[H]ow can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!" (Job 21:34)
Indeed, Job was “blameless and upright, a man who...shun[ned] evil.” And God ultimately blessed him for his steadfastness in faith.

As for the three friends, God rebuked them for their brashness in daring to opine of matters outside their realm of understanding, something Schenck and his pal, Pat Robertson might want to keep in mind next time they offer their divinations.

We learn from Job 42:7-8:
The LORD...said to Eliphaz...I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right...So now...go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly."
Spiritually proud people are often the first ones to wrongly give counsel. False prophets are as numerous today as during biblical times. Wisdom comes from silent prayers and obeying nudges from the Holy Spirit. Nothing less. Nothing more.

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