Tuesday, January 31, 2006
First and most importantly, today is Groundhog Day, and it coincides this year with the State of the Union speech. I find the confluence of these events quite an ironic juxtaposition; one involves a meaningless ritual in which the country looks to a creature of nearly no intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog.
Today is Alan Greenspan's last day on the job; he gives way to Ben Barnanke.
And on the day that Sam ScAlito is sworn in as the nation's 110th Supreme Court Justice, Coretta Scott King passes away.
As I watched the whip count for the cloture vote on C-Span yesterday afternoon, I was surprised and pleased that it showed 57 votes aye, 40 no (a 'no' vote for cloture, or ending debate on the nomination, being evidence of the strength of the opposition's prospects for filibuster). Only 41 votes were needed, and had cloture failed, the filibuster would have commenced, and the Republicans' nuke threats would have been called.
But that hope was dashed, as at least fifteen Senators abandoned their commitment, and the final vote was 72-25.
These are the Democrats who, despite furious activism, abandoned their party and voted yes on cloture:
Conrad-one of the Dakotas
Dorgan-also a Dakota
As I watched the vote, I was struck again by the congeniality evidenced by the Senators. Lots of laughing, hand-shaking, back-slapping, and not among the Republicans but the Democrats. What is so funny, I kept thinking. And then I began to recall the words of the Senators who voted for cloture but said publicly that they thought it an exercise in futility: Joe Biden, chuckling with Don Imus -- well, ha ha, I already did my filibuster when I questioned Alito. We don't have a prayer of stopping him. I'll vote no on the first cloture vote, but it's really a waste of time ...
Barak Obama said to George Staphylococcus he'd vote no to cloture, but also said it was a waste of time. We really need to elect more Democrats ...blah, blah, blah. Thanks for the enthusiasm, Barak.
Jeff Bingaman: 20 minutes before the vote he tells us, through an aide, maybe he'll vote against cloture if we give him 2,000 calls in 20 minutes. He voted for cloture.
Mary Landrieu, who had us all crying for New Orleans, voted for cloture. See, this will focus attention on a relief package for New Orleans. Alito is a distraction. So much for a pro-choice woman that Emily's List endorses.
Robert Byrd, the respected constitutionalist; the man who carries a copy with him at all times, who rails against executive power and the surrender of Congressional war-making authority to an imperial Bush, votes yes on cloture to a Supreme Court nominee whose "unitary executive" theory gives a blank check to that same President to torture, wiretap, and hold Americans indefinitely and without charges because "it's wartime".
Maria Cantwell. The guru of Real Audio, the Internet personified, votes for cloture on a man who won't tell us if there's a constitutional right of privacy.
And the noble Tim Johnson and Byron Dorgan -- profiles in courage on the great plains.
Sean-Paul Kelley is outraged, calling them a "quivering, quavering, gelatinous mass of timorous toadies".
B & B is much more reserved.
Casual Soapbox breaks it down nicely.
Me? I think I'm through being mad about it, but the fight goes on. We've got to take not only our country back from the fascists but we've got to take the Democratic Party away from the quitters and cowards, and we must do so before it is too late for democracy, and for us all.
To that end, there's an interesting protest opportunity this evening.
Friday, January 27, 2006
The more you learn about the Texas lobby boondoggle (this is where the state's federal relations office was gutted in order to hire K-Street-Project-approved private lobbyists such as DeLay's former Chief of Staff), the more ludicrous the narrative becomes.
The Texas Office of State-Federal Relations (OSFR) has existed since the 60's, and its purpose is clear from the title. According to the website, it's there in Washington to "advocate for the interests of Texas." Simple. You might even say that they're there to lobby the federal government on behalf of Texas. ...
... Members of the OSFR staff quietly went over the bids and selected the Federalist Group's Drew Maloney, who had been Tom DeLay's Chief of Staff until March of `02. The Federalist Group is literally an all Republican firm.
The Governor and his minions at OSFR snuck this past the Democrats, the press, everyone.
Gov. Perry is responsible for this, on whose orders you can probably guess (hint: back in 2003, the Houston Chronicle had an anonymous source who claimed that a certain Majority Leader was responsible). It was clearly his initiative. The Governor appointed Perez to his post, and Perez serves at his pleasure. The idea that a career bureaucrat would come up with this on his own, offering to deeply cut his own staff - from 17 to 7, more than half - is ludicrous.
Everyone seemed happy with this arrangement until early 2004, when Sen. Hutchison and Gov. Perry clashed over the issue of base closings. Perry made a big show of supporting the Pentagon's draft guidelines; Hutchison came out against. At the same time, Hutchison was reportedly mulling over running against Perry for the Governorship.
Then, in February, the Governor began to publicly worry whether Piper Rudnick had a "conflict of interest" in representing Texas, since the firm was reportedly in negotiations with Florida to lobby to preserve their bases.
Now, there is an inherent conflict of interest when a private lobbyist, with a full slate of corporate clients, is paid with state taxpayer dollars to lobby for federal dollars. So this is obviously a phony line of argument. And the Federalist Group has a host of other governmental clients (cities, counties, university systems, etc.) that the Governor has never had any problem with.
No matter: the contract with Piper Rudnick was abruptly severed in the spring of '04. Another round of bidding ensued, and Todd Boulanger, former member of Team Abramoff, won the contract, despite the fact that his bid wasn't the best, as if that was the point.
The excerpts above simply don't do justice to the research done by Kiel. You must read the entire thing to get the true sense of the breathtaking cronyism that has snaked its way throughout our state government.
Kiel says he's got more to come, but I've already read all I can stand.
Eddie tried to live-blog the event in CC but got caught in that weak-wireless-signal Catch 22 -- stay inside to hear the event, or go outside to post, but not both.
While I was there, John Kerry decided to filibuster Alito. Good on him.
David Van Os asked me to be his campaign manager, and I accepted. So I'll be blogging a lot less, and as a matter of ethics, not at all after today about the man whom Ronnie Duggar calls "the Ralph Yarborough of his generation". So you need to bookmark his website, and help out a little from time to time if you can.
You see, Van Os has no intention of running television commercials ad nauseum or even trying to blanket the state with yard signs; his campaign runs on a virtual shoestring. My time and efforts, for example, are currently gratis, as I wind down my business in order to go full-time. His message is delivered the old-fashioned way; directly to the people.
One thing I've learned in the short period of time that David has been my good friend is that once you hear him speak, it's over.
I experienced this for myself a few years ago where he outshone Jim Hightower, and I've seen it happen time and time again, most recently at a little place called Arturo's Underground Cafe in Austin where about fifty people ( about forty of them under the age of 25) gathered at a post-steering committee meeting after-party. They came to hear a four-piece bluegrass band named Herb Pharm (sorry, no link; when you Google their name and add 'bluegrass' or 'austin' you still only get 100,000 hits for supplements) and they stayed to hear David.
I also added the button in the right column for SH 146 candidate Borris Miles, who's taking on incumbent Al Edwards. I could say a lot about my representative, but I'm pretty sure it's all been said. And I can't say anything bad about the third Democrat in the race, Al Bennett, who is an outstanding gentleman and to whom I wish all the best. I want to support your candidacy in another race very soon, Al.
There's a lot more to talk about, but I'll get back to you later on it. Don't go away and stay away, please.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Reid only needs 41 votes to sustain a filibuster. If he has 41, then every one of those Senators should support a filibuster, or their 'no' vote is meaningless.
Reid also said he would not pressure Democrats on this because it's a "conscience vote".
Reid would not name the "Alito 8" who are blocking a Democratic filibuster -- so it is important to identify them and tell them not to betray the Democrats who funded them and voted for them. If Democrats want our support to win in 2006, we need their support now.
Here's an easy directory for you to use, today, to contact them.
The most likely Alito 8 suspects are "Red State" Democrats:
Tom Carper (DE)
Kent Conrad (ND)
Byron Dorgan (ND)
Tim Johnson (SD)
Mary Landrieu (LA) -- she is speaking publicly against a filibuster
Blanche Lincoln (AR)
Mark Pryor (AR)
The "Alito 8" may also include some of the 7 Democrats in the Gang of 14:
Robert C. Byrd (WV)
Daniel Inouye (HI)
Joseph I. Lieberman (CT)
Mary Landrieu (LA) (see above)
E. Benjamin Nelson (NE)
Mark Pryor (AR) (see above)
Ken Salazar (CO)
Nelson has already said he will vote for Alito. Screw him, but we don't need his vote as long as we get nearly all of the others.
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Saxby Chambliss (GA)
Susan Collins (ME)
John Ensign (NV)
Lisa Murkowsky (AK)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Rick Santorum (PA)
Bob Smith (OR)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Ted Stevens (AK)
John Vitter (LA)
George Voinovich (OH)
And most certainly call the five Democratic Senators who want you to support them for President in 2008. If they want to prove their leadership, they need to lead the filibuster. It only takes one Senator to start a filibuster. Call them with a simple message: IF YOU CAN'T LEAD A FILIBUSTER, THEN YOU CAN'T LEAD OUR PARTY IN A CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT.
Evan Bayh (IN)
Joe Biden (DE)
Hillary Clinton (NY)
Russ Feingold (WI)
John Kerry (MA)
See, I don't think it's all that complicated. You use the filibuster because your instincts tell you it's the right thing to do. If you're afraid to use the filibuster because you're afraid you might lose it, then it's pretty apparent that you've already lost it.
If you use it, and Frist goes nukyuler, what have you lost? That which you were willing to concede anyway? And what have you won? The respect of the base of your party perhaps? Or the media or -- God forbid -- even the Republicans that you're willing to stand up and fight? An opportunity to again display the ruling monopoly as power-tripping and corrupt?
The Times sums it up for me:
A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.
Sometimes it's difficult to believe the people allegedly on our side need to be reminded of this. Nevertheless, let's be sure we remind them. Today.
Update (1/26, about 1 p.m.): Well, whaddya know. You were heard.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has escaped widespread notice provides graphic evidence that damage done by last year's hurricanes poses an ongoing problem for the Gulf's oil industry and coastal environment.
A double-hulled tanker barge now drained and floating upside down at a dock off Mobile Bay was responsible for what appears to be one of the Gulf of Mexico's largest oil spills, which received scant attention when it occurred after midnight Nov. 11. A gash in the hull 35 feet long and 6 feet wide released up to 3 million gallons of oil off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.
Federal officials said the 442-foot ship's hull ruptured and spilled the oil after it collided with a submerged oil platform wrecked by Hurricane Rita in September. Federal records show at least 167 Gulf platforms were damaged or destroyed during the active 2005 hurricane season. Many of these are submerged or so damaged that the warning beacons on them no longer function, and federal officials acknowledge they have no idea how many have working marker lights.
At least two more vessels have collided with submerged platforms since the Nov. 11 incident, federal records show. As of Thursday, the Mobile Register was unable to obtain details of the other two incidents.
Coast Guard officials said the spill, and the $35 million cleanup associated with it, might have been avoided if the owners of the oil platform had marked the submerged wreck with a lighted buoy, as required under federal law. But the wreck was marked only with floating plastic balls described as "cherry fenders." Such buoys are not lighted and would be difficult to see at midnight, when the accident happened.
More troubling, officials with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which regulates the offshore oil fields, told the Register that they don't know if lighted buoys have been placed at any of the 115 wrecked platforms that remain in the Gulf. Three weeks after the spill incident, the agency published a "Safety Alert" that lists the locations of damaged platforms and warns mariners the platforms "were destroyed and might be potential obstructions."
Annnnnd there's more, and it gets worse.
I wonder if Halliburton got a no-bid contract to clean it up...
Monday, January 23, 2006
The demonstration seemed harmless enough. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. They were there to protest the corporation's supposed "war profiteering." The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.
But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection" — tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON — short for Threat and Local Observation Notice — that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.
A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention — although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.
CIFA's activities are the latest in a series of disclosures about secret government programs that spy on Americans in the name of national security. In December, the ACLU obtained documents showing the FBI had investigated several activist groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, supposedly in an effort to discover possible ecoterror connections. At the same time, the White House has spent weeks in damage-control mode, defending the controversial program that allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the telephone conversations of U.S. persons suspected of terror links, without obtaining warrants.
Read the rest.
There's a variety of First Amendment exercises on the local calendar for the rest of January: L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer is shilling his book -- err, speaking to the Houston World Affairs Council in the Westin Oaks Hotel on Thursday, January 26 and drawing a protest outside; The World Can't Wait is organizing "Drown Out the Lies" demonstrations on January 31st, the night President* Bush speaks to the Nation about its State (including a march on KHOU, the CBS affiliate here); and a small group of people will be at Senator Kay Bailey Perjury Technicality's office later this week to find out how she intends to vote on Borkalito.
I suppose my file is going to be getting thicker. Of course since we're no longer talking J. Edgar Hoover and it's on disk, I should probably hope to reach a megabyte or two shortly, not including the photos.
I have added the following signature to my e-mail ( and you are free to do the same):
LEGAL NOTICE: Due to Presidential Executive Order, the National Security Agency may have read this email without warning, warrant, or notice. They may have done so without any judicial or legislative oversight. You have no recourse nor protection save to call for the impeachment of the current President.
And if you want to see exactly how the FBI has implemented this computer monitoring program, then click here.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Friday, January 20, 2006
US Senate challenger Barbara Radnofsky will hold two press conferences next week to announce her anti-corruption initiatives. She will be in Houston on Wednesday, January 25 and in Austin on Thursday, January 26. CD-31 candidate Mary Beth Harrell will attend the Austin press conference.
“A major moral cost of corruption is our children growing up in a world where lying, cheating, and stealing appear to be acceptable. It’s a world where leaders embrace perjury, take money under false pretenses, and lack any code of honor so they refuse to try to correct the wrongs in which they’re involved,” says Radnofsky. Her initiative will include the following “to do” items for Sen. Hutchison:
- Renounce perjury
- Return the money she accepted from El Paso's Tigua Indian tribe, who were defrauded by indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff
- Make good on the promise she made to the people of South Texas recently when she echoed Radnofsky’s call for a VA hospital south of San Antonio.
The steering committee of the David Van Os for Texas Attorney General campaign will be held in Austin tomorrow (yours truly will be moderating this event), and that coincides with the platform meeting of the Texas Progressive Populist Caucus (at a different location also in Austin).
If I left someone out, give us an update on your candidate's events with a comment.
Fred at Truth Serum points out the hypocrisy inherent in the local Republican blogosphere as they desperately fail to explain away Tom DeLay's slumping polls.
Anna at annatopia met Smoky Joe Barton's Gravy Train at the station today. It made the Traditional Media. A platoon of Texas progressive blogs piled on: BOR, Peoples' Republic of Seabrook, Kuff, Common Sense, Eye on Williamson County, In the Pink Texas, The Agonist, By the Bayou and Wyld Card all had something to say about it, as did Barton's Democratic opponent, David Harris, at his Dkos diary.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting called out Rick Perry for his blatant cronyism regarding the state contracts awarded two of Jack Abramoff's best buddies, which I posted about here and also at HouDems. You can contact Governor Adios MoFo at that last link and tell him yourself what you think.
Remember my post earlier about the Houston Democrats being disinvited from Monday's MLK Day Parade through downtown Houston? Well, here's the backstory.
OK, my mouse finger needs a break. There's a lot of candidate happenings this weekend, and I'll drop them in above this.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
A Fort Worth man, the only Hispanic person to declare for governor, was bounced from the ballot late Thursday after his check to the Texas Democratic Party for the $3,750 filing fee bounced.
The name of Felix Alvarado, a middle school administrator, will not appear on the March 7 party primary ballot, said Charles Soechting, the party's state chairman.
"The position I would have to take is, the filing fee wasn't paid," Soechting said. "It's sad. I hate to see that happen to anybody."
Thursday evening, Alvarado, 63, confirmed submitting his check for the filing fee without sufficient funds available.
"I take full responsibility for that. That's my mea culpa. I overplayed my hand," he said. "I'm disappointed."
In his campaign's contribution and expenditure report covering July through December, Alvarado reported no money in his treasury as of Dec. 31. The report shows that he's taken two campaign loans: $1,000 from a brother and $300 on a credit card.
The ramifications are that the eventual Democratic nominee for governor should be able to escape the primary on March 7 without a runoff, which will make it easier on Kinky Friedman and Carole Strayhorn to secure the 45,000-ish unduplicated signatures from non-primary voters needed to appear on November's ballot.
A four-handed free-for-all for eight months, spring to fall, will make for one hell of an interesting political season this year.
More than the number of Americans killed on 9/11; a thousand more than have been killed so far in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Somehow I get the feeling that your government doesn't care quite so much about them as they do those others.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Texas Democrats on Wednesday called for Gov. Rick Perry to cancel a $180,000-a-year state lobby contract they contend was used to funnel taxpayer money into Republican campaigns.
Perry's office called the allegations a "baseless, partisan move" and defended the contracts as nonpartisan.
Drew Maloney, a former chief of staff to embattled Rep. Tom DeLay, was one of two lobbyists hired by the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations in 2003 to represent Texas interests in the nation's capital. Once awarded the contract, Maloney made more than $75,000 in contributions to Republican campaigns, both nationally and in Texas.
"It's unbelievable to find, in effect, laundering taxpayer money to put in the coffers of Republican politicians in the state of Texas," said Democratic Texas Rep. Jim Dunnam. "It's an outrage, and it's unbelievable."
The Republican-led Texas Legislature approved spending $1.1 million on the contracts, despite repeated attempts by Democrats to redirect the money into state programs. The contracts expire in 2007.
"Gov. Perry should not continue to waste huge sums of taxpayer money to fund the unnecessary lobby contract of another man who is directly involved in the unseemly activities of Tom DeLay," Dunnam said. "Why do we spend $1.1 million state tax dollars on lobbyists when Texas is home to 32 congressmen and women, two senators and the president of the United States?"
The state lobbyists have helped the state secure more federal money for state programs, said Perry spokeswoman Rachel Novier. "We're getting a really good return on our investments for the dollars that we spend for the Office of State-Federal Relations and for advocating on behalf of Texas in Washington," she said.
Maloney, who could not be reached for comment, is employed by the Washington lobby firm the Federalist Group, which he joined in 2002 "to serve as the chief lobbyist for House Republican Leadership," the group's Web site says. (He was also) a key figure in 2002 fundraising that has led to criminal charges against DeLay and two of his associates, who are accused of using restricted corporate money in Texas campaigns.
Another lobbyist in the office, Todd Boulanger, once worked closely with confessed influence peddler Jack Abramoff. Boulanger has a $330,000 contract with the state.
There's also this, from Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report Executive Summary of 1/13/06 (emphasis his) :
Today, the Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting joined a number of non-partisan organizations in calling for bankrupt lobbyist Bill Ceverha to immediately resign his position on the Employee Retirement System (ERS) Board. Ceverha, who was found to have violated state law in his role as Treasurer for Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), was appointed to the ERS Board by Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, the primary beneficiary of the illegal TRMPAC-Delay 2002 campaign effort.
“If you told friends or co-workers that a bankrupt lobbyist who has violated state campaign finance laws was sitting on the board that oversees a $20 billion retirement fund, they’d say that was nuts,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting.
Is this a simple culture of corruption, or has the culture grown out of the petri dish, spread out across the table, and in fact consumed the entire science laboratory?
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Gen. Wesley Clark, former presidential candidate and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, will be in Corpus Christi, TX on January 26, 2006 to announce his support for Juan Garcia's race (campaign website) for Texas House District 32.
As previously suggested here (and Evan deduced it) Clark will probably make an appearance with Bob Gammage on this trip, though a specific stop in Houston isn't yet confirmed.
Update (1/18): That didn't take long ...
Arthur Gochman, Molly Gochman,
Don Riddle and Greater Houston Area Friends of Bob Gammage
as we welcome
General Wesley Clark
Thursday, January 26th, 2006 for a fundraising reception for
Bob Gammage for Governor
1:00 pm, Hotel Derek, 2525 West Loop South, Houston
Suggested Contribution Levels:
$1000 Host, $500 Patron, $250 Gold Founder, $100 Silver Founder, $50 Friend
This month's soiree last Friday featured a few first-timers you may have heard of: Hubert Vo, Scott Hochberg, and Joe Jaworski.
Melissa Noriega (wife of Rick), Karen Loper, a longtime pol around these parts, and Katie Floyd from the Radnofsky campaign -- along with the usual online suspects -- made an appearance. Jim Dallas of BOR also showed up early and stayed late.
These are organized by Charles Kuffner, who also has a post today pointing out the shortfalls in the Chronic's political coverage. It must be getting embarrassing for the Leading Information Source to be scooped on a regular basis by us bloglodytes.
They link to us (well, me at least) on almost a weekly basis through this page, so I know they're reading. It would be nice to see them keep up with us once in awhile.
Monday, January 16, 2006
"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."
That's from his speech entitled Beyond Vietnam, which he delivered in April of 1967. You can hear excerpts of other speeches in his own voice by clicking here (broadband and Flash necessary) and you may read the full transcript of Beyond Vietnam and hear additional excerpts of it here.
Another favorite (this one is a little unsettling in light of the current state of world affairs; spoken at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church also in 1967):
"Don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman for the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, 'You are too arrogant. If you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name.'"
If you have any favorite quotations of Dr. King, please post them in the comments.
Here you can read about the terms of the "agreement". It would be important to note that without these terms, the HCDP would have been disallowed from participating.
Well, late yesterday, the Democrats were uninvited anyway.
It probably has nothing at all to do with the fractious rivalry that's been going on for ten years between competing supporters.
But it's a big stinking mess, nevertheless. And I hope we find out more about the backstory, so this dirty laundry can get cleaned soon.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
In an interview with U.S. News, Cheney said, "You do have to keep a sustained campaign going. There's no question about it. Last fall, obviously, there were a lot of other items on the agenda. We went through the whole exercise with Katrina and the hurricanes and disaster relief and so forth that was, I suppose, a bit of a distraction. But it is important to try to maintain public support for what we're doing out there."
Here's the Moneyshot Quote.
Here's what the senator from Pennsylvania said. I wonder if he really means it:
STEPHANOPOULOS: There was a lot of talk about that at the Alito hearings, and listening closely to you I certainly seem to take away that you believe the president does not have the right, does not have the inherent power under the Constitution to circumvent a constitutional law, and as far as you are concerned, the FISA law is constitutional, isn’t it?
SPECTER: Well, I started off by saying that he didn’t have the authority under the resolution authorizing the use of force. The president has to follow the Constitution. Where you have a law which is constitutional, like Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, there still may be collateral different powers in the president under wartime circumstances.
That’s a very knotty question that I’m not prepared to answer on a Sunday soundbite. But I do believe that it ought to be thoroughly examined. And when we were on the Patriot Act and found the disclosure of the surveillance, I immediately said the Judiciary Committee would hold hearings, and I talked to the attorney general, and we’re going to explore it in depth, George. You can count on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, if the president did break the law or circumvent the law, what’s the remedy?
SPECTER: Well, the remedy could be a variety of things. A president — and I’m not suggesting remotely that there’s any basis, but you’re asking, really, theory, what’s the remedy? Impeachment is a remedy. After impeachment, you could have a criminal prosecution, but the principal remedy, George, under our society is to pay a political price.
To be clear, Specter did stammer a lot through that last bit.
Friday, January 13, 2006
The mantra that "a President is entitled to his nominee" will be repeated many times as Senators decide how to cast their votes. The premise stems from the notion that it is he who has a vested appointment power, and that the Senate should accord the President a high degree of deference when he makes he choice.
The question is this: Does this theory of entitlement prevail when the President has abused the trust of the American people?
Here is a president who has misled our nation into war, abrogated the laws duly enacted by Congress, and violated our constitutional and civil rights. He's drudged through scandal after scandal, but has yet to be held accountable. Where is Phase II of the pre-war intelligence investigation? Where is the outrage over the fact he nullified Congress' ban on torture? He violated his oath to protect the Constitution when he issued his royal edict to spy on us outside the law. Yet who will hold him responsible? A Republican Congress?
The president, exhibiting the theory of the unitary executive that Alito endorses, has snubbed the legislative and judicial branches of government and has declared himself above the law. And now, Senators will claim with straight face that he is entitled to his nominee?
The man is entitled to nothing from the Congress he has abused and misled. The man is entitled to nothing from the American people he has betrayed. It is us, the citizens of this country, who are entitled to the truth. And until we receive that truth, this nominee should not pass.
(standing and applauding)
Update (1/15): This is strikingly blunt:
Mr. Bush, however, seems to see no limit to his imperial presidency. First, he issued a constitutionally ludicrous "signing statement" on the McCain bill. The message: Whatever Congress intended the law to say, he intended to ignore it on the pretext the commander in chief is above the law. That twisted reasoning is what led to the legalized torture policies, not to mention the domestic spying program.
Then Mr. Bush went after the judiciary, scrapping the Levin-Graham bargain. (...)
Both of the offensive theories at work here - that a president's intent in signing a bill trumps the intent of Congress in writing it, and that a president can claim power without restriction or supervision by the courts or Congress - are pet theories of Judge Samuel Alito, the man Mr. Bush chose to tilt the Supreme Court to the right.
The administration's behavior shows how high and immediate the stakes are in the Alito nomination, and how urgent it is for Congress to curtail Mr. Bush's expansion of power. Nothing in the national consensus to combat terrorism after 9/11 envisioned the unilateral rewriting of more than 200 years of tradition and law by one president embarked on an ideological crusade.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
From the time Texas revolted against Mexico in 1836 until Ronald Reagan became president, the number of Texas prison beds grew from zero to a little less than 30,000. In the next 25 years, that number increased five-fold to more than 150,000, and the majority of new inmates were non-violent offenders. Even that rate of increase, though, can't keep up with new prison entries stemming from the Legislature's penchant for passing so-called penalty "enhancements" that don't take into account financial costs. We are at a crisis point -- the status quo is untenable.
The best way out of this imbroglio would be to follow the advice of one of my past campaign clients, former House Corrections Committee Chairman Ray Allen (R-Grand Prairie - he's sadly retiring from the Lege this year), who is fond of saying Texas should imprison only people "who we're afraid of, not those we're only mad at."
Update (1/14): Scott adds to his discussion by linking and commenting on a post at Houston Strategies.
Burnt Orange Report has had the most to say about it so far; there's a conversation going on here as well.
I've made my thoughts pretty clear already at both of those places, so no need to repeat them here. Suffice it to say that you'll be reading and hearing more about this today.
Maybe my contributions and linkage will finally convince Karl-T to add me to his blogroll.
Update (1/15): Gammage clarifies:
(Gammage) reaffirmed his support for abortion rights and raising the minimum wage, despite what the Bell campaign said were contradictions in Gammage's voting record while in Congress in the 1970s.
"I've cast a lot of votes ... over the 25 years I was in public service. I wish I could look back on that record of service and say, 'I never made a mistake,' " he told reporters.
Gammage, who last held office in 1995, also is a former state legislator and a former Texas Supreme Court justice.
He said he strongly supports a woman's right to an abortion and always has, despite several votes in 1977 and 1978 against federal funding of abortions. "The question as we saw it at the time was not whether a woman should have the right to choose but who should pay once that choice was made. Today, I wouldn't vote that way," he said.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I have come to the conclusion that Samuel Alito is actually Eddie Haskell.
He’ll say anything to get what he wants, especially a job; he'll suck up to the boss like it’s going out of style, and he'll act innocent, pretend it never happened or deny it all when he’s caught (sucking up or lying, whichever it is).
A conflicted, insecure, ass-kissing nerd and total creep. Alito is the kind of guy who was afraid of having women at Princeton, a guy so misogynistic and intoxicated with authority that he ruled that a ten-year-old girl could be stripsearched without a warrant. The kinda guy on record as saying Bork was the greatest, a guy who says he’ll recuse himself from cases where he has a conflict of interest and then doesn’t, a guy who favors unlimited dictatorial powers for Bush -- a bitter, confused, misguided, frustrated failure who will have a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind for the rest of his life if he gets on the Supreme Court.
"It's all about character" -- and as Digby's post above shows, Alito's character is a pile of steaming horseshit.
If there ever was a time for Democratic (and moderate Republican) Senators to stand up and speak up, it is now. Alito must be filibustered. The GOP is reeling right now, barely hanging onto the ropes from the repeated barrage of all their scandals and crimes. All their so-called "wins" are turning out to be losses, where they rigged the game and bribed the refs in order to make it look like they won. And it's all starting to crumble now. They're weak and on the run and they're making one last-ditch attempt to move their lackey into place for life.
Senators: you can stop Alito. If you filibuster and Congress shuts down, most Americans will support you. Rove is going to be indicted, Abramoff is going to sing like a canary, and six months from now half the Republicans in Washington could be in court or in jail.
Drag this confirmation out until the fall when we just might have a legitimate government again -- instead of this dictatorship of desperate delinquents.
You have the power. Use it.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Democrat David Van Os, candidate for Texas Attorney General, spoke to local Democrats at the Johnson County Democratic Party headquarters Tuesday night. Van Os intends to challenge current attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, in the November election.
The San Antonio attorney’s exhortations to reclaim political power from what he termed the corporate elite met with an enthusiastic response from those in attendance. Van Os, a self-proclaimed “true Texas populist,” vented as much ire toward what he calls “silk-stocking Democrats” as he did Republicans throughout the night.
“What gives despots and tyrants power is people running away from them. We have to fight back,” Van Os said. “I’m the most loyal yellow-dog, true-blue Democrat, but what gets me are scaredy cats always running from the Republican clique.”
Van Os said he is nonetheless heartened to see so many Democrats filing at all levels throughout the state. “It’s all over the state everywhere, and these aren’t top-down deals coming from the business elite. These are grassroots campaigns,” Van Os said.
He went on to predict an upcoming political earthquake in Texas and the United States. “The Democrats coming out to file are not Republican-lite Dems, they are the real fighting Democrats and the people need fighting Democrats to come back to life and return Texas to them.”
From the Cleburne Times-Review.
David is correct: the people of Texas have filed for office to take their country back. There are soldiers and teachers and small businessmen and women up and down the Democratic ballot.
The earthquake has happened, and the blue tsunami is rolling toward Texas. And it's going to wash all across this state; inland to Dallas and Fort Worth and through the Hill Country over San Antone and Austin, up to the Panhandle and on past Amarillo, and all the way out to the mountains of El Paso.
It's going to wash quite a few red folks away with it, but if you heed my warning all you'll have to do is get on your surfboard and ride the wave.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Over a thousand Democrats met at the Moody Gardens resort on the island on Saturday for some SDEC business, a few party caucuses, and a big rally featuring nearly all of our November candidates, union and party activists and humorist Jim Hightower.
I still can't quite wrap my head around it. Just a few of the personal highlights:
The only one of our candidates whose hand I missed shaking was Ben Grant's. Mrs. Diddie and I spent some quality time with our friends David and Rachel Van Os in the Strand, having lunch on the wharf. I also got some extended face time with Bob Gammage at the banquet's after-party (and got satisfactory answers to all my questions). Met Fred Head for the first time and exchanged business cards. I didn't spend as much time as I have in the past schmoozing with Chris Bell and Barbara Radnofsky and their staffers, as we were all working separate sides of the room. But their speeches at the noon rally were on fire, and Bell followed up enthusiastically at the SDEC meetings with the news of DeLay's demise.
We named our table the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy and rocked the house. Art Sadin, one of the event's sponsors and who was sitting next to Master of the Universe Walter Umphrey at an adjacent table, came over and asked to be admitted into our circle.
Want some news that's not quite ready for publication? One of the leading 2008 Democratic presidential candidates will be in Houston before the end of January to campaign for his friend who's on the ballot.
A wrap-up complete with photo slideshow is here.
But there was news happening while we were celebrating, and I'll summarize it following:
-- La Cucaracha Grande finally gave up on regaining Majority Leadership, leaving House Republicans to choose between a "Boner" and a Blunt.
-- via Vince at BOR, there's more from the AA-S on the Texas Association of Business, John Colyandro and Ben Bentzin, who is in a special election for a vacant Texas House seat in less than two weeks. A commenter there has an interesting POV.
-- Vince also has the Texas Monthly piece (reg. req.) on how the Texas GOP is cannabalizing themselves. Best example yet of why they will lose in November. Too good to excerpt; go read it all.
-- up in CD-06, things have taken a nasty and personal turn for the worse. (Actually, now that I have finally gotten around to commenting about it, it's over and done with.)
-- Oh yeah: that goombah Scalito is going to be making news this week.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Joyce Green died on the roof of her Lower 9th Ward home as her New Orleans neighborhood flooded during Hurricane Katrina. Helplessly, her son watched her die as the water rushed dangerously below them. Just last week he was able to return to their collapsed house on Tennessee Street for the first time, and found her skeletal remains amidst the ruins. He was able to identify them because they were wrapped in the clothes she was wearing the day she died.
During Katrina, the Lower 9th Ward was deluged due to breaches in the Industrial Canal levee. Additionally, an enormous barge that was illegally left in the canal was launched into the neighborhood, destroying lives and property during its reckless trajectory. Four months later, many questions remain unanswered regarding the destruction in the Lower 9th Ward, including the question of possible criminal negligence. However, before those questions have been fully investigated, let alone answered, the City of New Orleans is rushing to bulldoze much of the neighborhood--without informing homeowners.
On the eve of the holiday season, Greg Meffert, the city's chief technology officer, revealed that the city would immediately demolish about 2,500 "red-tagged" homes in the Lower 9th Ward. Before Meffert's announcement, a red-tag merely meant that a home was unsafe to enter. The City of New Orleans website specifically states in bold italicized text that "a red sticker does not indicate whether or not a building will be demolished, only that the structure is currently unsafe to enter."
Yet the City decided to bulldoze red-tagged homes without informing homeowners of the new meaning of the red tags or the demolition order. This is a clear violation of due process, guaranteed under federal and state constitutions, which protects property owners from the unlawful destruction of their property. It is also a clear, opportunistic attack on the Lower 9th Ward community, whose historically black roots run deep in the neighborhood. Boasting the highest level of black home ownership in the nation, the area is also where many black New Orleanians have traditionally been able to purchase their first homes.
Much more from Scott Boehm (click the link in the headline), the Rude Pundit, and Schroeder.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Think Progress also has a comprehensive scorecard.
Monday, January 02, 2006
For openers, let's presume that Kinky Friedman can draw 10% of the November vote total. Not far-fetched; he's probably good for as much as 15%. Give Chris Bell (or Bob Gammage) somewhere between the 37% John Kerry pulled in 2004, and the 40% Tony Sanchez got in 2002.
At mimimum that's 47%, leaving 53% for Perry and Strayhorn to split. If Strayhorn can draw 17%, then a Democrat is elected Governor.
Get generous and give Kinky 13% and Bell or Gammage 40% -- achievable numbers, but probably at the upper end of expectations -- and the margin of defeat for Perry shrivels to 8% (the percentage of Strayhorn votes that keeps Goodhair from winning).
I think Carole can conceivably draw 20%, and if Bell/Gammage were to only get 35% and Kinky 11%, Rick Perry still loses with his 34%. The most accurate assessment at the end of this day is that Kinky will get whatever he gets, as will the Democratic nominee; the impact of Strayhorn on Perry's numbers is the unknown variable. The wild card.
I think it's also safe to say that Bell and Gammage will begin a spirited 60-day campaign starting tomorrow, and that Perry and Strayhorn will tear the hide off each other once she's officially on the ballot, sometime in April.
I would also imagine that the pollsters -- Zogby, Gallup, et. al. -- are gearing up for big business here in Deep-In-The-Hearta.
Update (1/3/06): Jack adds credibility to the theory, and has some advice for the Bell campaign.
Update #2 (1/4/06): This guy gets it:
I'm betting Perry will have a tough time winning in a field of four. Dems who would have voted for Kinky in a field of three, might vote for a Dem in a field of four under the premise of "hey, we could win this thing." (This provides a direct answer to Kinky's campaign slogan "Kinky, Why the Hell Not?"). If anyone besides Perry wins, it'll mean a shakeup of the Texas Republican Party. If CKS wins, she'll let some moderates back into the Rebublican ballgame, and will undercut the national right wing agenda from within its home base. If CKS doesn't win, it'll likely mean a further purge of moderates from within the Republican Party -- which will only lead to further independent challenges from within the party. Whatever you think of CKS, just be glad she kicked Perry in the groin. It won't be the last time, either. And Kinky's entry into the race will guarantee that whatever happens to the Republican Party in Texas will be witnessed, live, across the nation.
And this guy doesn't.
Here's how this hits me:
-- as my headline implies, Grandma dislikes Goodhair just as much as the rest of us who aren't fundamentalist Republicans. She wants him gone, and she makes that possibility more likely. This is a good thing.
-- the funding for alternative gubernatorial candidates just got cut a little thinner, which doesn't help Chris Bell or Bob Gammage. They are now evaluated on the basis of whether they can outpoll Carole, which we all are dying to find out ASAP. Not good for our side.
-- the next governor of Texas will be elected with a plurality of the vote, probably something on the order of 40%, maybe less. Not really a good thing, no matter who it is.
-- from now until November, the mud will be slung and the fur will fly in what is bound to be the most entertaining political contest in memory. Definitely a fun thing, and probably a good one as well.
Lots more to this development, and I'll update this post with other takes as I find them.
Update: Bell's campaign thinks it's a good thing for them:
If Chris Bell holds onto the 37% that voted for John Kerry and the 40% that voted for Tony Sanchez, he wins.
Kuffner and I agree on the money:
What scares me is the possibility that Strayhorn's trail-lawyer benefactors will continue to throw their money at her for the rest of the campaign. Without that kind of financial support, I fear that Bell or Bob Gammage will get squeezed out monetarily. Strayhorn already has a bunch of cash, and Kinky Friedman says he's got close to a million bucks. Where is the Democratic candidate going to get campaign funding amid all that?
Greg is in full-dweeb mode. BOR offers some additional financial speculation.
Gov. Rick Perry will kick off the 2006 campaign season with a 30-second television ad airing during today's Cotton Bowl matchup between Texas Tech and Alabama.
The ad will debut just hours after Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn announces whether she will challenge Perry in the March Republican primary or run for the office as an independent.
I've stayed away from saying anything about One Weird Grandma's machinations, and we'll find out today what's up with her anyway. But the game's just about to start as I type this, so I don't want you to miss a minute of the action:
"Our people are compassionate, our visions bold, our values strong. The best is yet to come," Perry says in the ad, which also will run during Wednesday's Rose Bowl, when Texas will take on Southern California for the college football national championship. "I'm proud of Texas. How 'bout you?"
I'm real proud of my state, Governor, thanks for asking. I'm pretty much done with you and the Republicans screwing it up, also.
Perry campaign spokesman Robert Black said the ads will run during a time when Texans are particularly proud of their state — and two of its athletic teams.
"There will be some in this campaign who will try to make Texans believe that Texas is little more than a third-world country," Black said. "But Gov. Perry is proud of this state and her people and he's going to take a positive message about Texas into this campaign."
Now that's actually a pretty good collective shot at all of your opponents at once. Cast the challengers who point out your miserable failures as "naysayers". Where have we heard that before?
Boy, do I look forward to the revisionist history -- err, 'positive message about Texas' Governor Goodhair brings.
What a jackass (apologies to good donkeys everywhere). Rick Perry, Aggie cheerleader, trying to piggyback on the success of the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders by association. That's a gravy-trainer of the slimiest order. But what did you expect?
Sunday, January 01, 2006
The top deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft refused two years ago to approve important parts of the secret program that allows domestic eavesdropping without warrants, prompting two leading White House aides to try to win the needed approval from Mr. Ashcroft himself while he was hospitalized after a gall bladder operation, according to officials knowledgeable about the episode.
"The top deputy" would be James Comey, the same guy who appointed Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the Plame leak, and who left the Justice Department last August to become the general counsel of mega-defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
But the sinister/truly comical part is the visual of Attorney General Abu Gonzo and Bush chief of staff Andy "Deck of" Card(s) standing over the hospital bed of John "Holy Crisco" Ashcroft and trying to get him to sign off on the eavesdropping.
Daily Kos had it first, and asks the right questions: did Ashcroft commit perjury, and did the President also lie to the American people when he said:
... For years, law enforcement used so-called roving wire taps to investigate organized crime. You see, what that meant is if you got a wire tap by court order-and, by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example.
'Everything we hear about'. What about the things you're not telling us, Mr. President?
And then there's this, under the header "Fawn Hall Republicans", which refers to Oliver North's comely shredding accomplice during the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal, and her testimony during the Congressional hearings that followed:
(T)here were "times when you have to go above the written law."
Just go read the whole piece, as it goes into detail about how "Big Time" Dick Cheney has reassembled a powerful executive office that had been disarmed after the abuses of Watergate.
Update: From Newsweek ...
On one day in the spring of 2004, White House chief of staff Andy Card and the then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a bedside visit to John Ashcroft, attorney general at the time, who was stricken with a rare and painful pancreatic disease, to try—without success—to get him to reverse his deputy, Acting Attorney General James Comey, who was balking at the warrantless eavesdropping. Miffed that Comey, a straitlaced, by-the-book former U.S. attorney from New York, was not a "team player" on this and other issues, President George W. Bush dubbed him with a derisive nickname, "Cuomo," after Mario Cuomo, the New York governor who vacillated over running for president in the 1980s. (The White House denies this; Comey declined to comment.)
Update #2: georgia10 elaborates.