Monday, February 28, 2005

Ten Commandments on Trial

This is a snippet from a NYT article abut the upcoming Supreme Court hearing issues on the display of the Ten Commandments in governmental buildings. Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows my feelings on this issue - we should not (links to past posts here and here)

The article says:

At the same event, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm established by the Rev. Pat Robertson that litigates for evangelicals and other religious communities, offered a different perspective. The Ten Commandments have acquired secular as well as religious meaning, he said, and have come to be "uniquely symbolic of law."

Mr. Sekulow noted that the marble frieze in the courtroom of the Supreme Court Building itself depicts Moses, holding the tablets, in a procession of "great lawgivers of history." (The 17 other figures in the frieze include Hammurabi, Confucius, Justinian, Napoleon, Chief Justice John Marshall and Muhammad, who holds the Koran.) "Does the Supreme Court now issue an opinion that requires a sandblaster to come in? I think not," Mr. Sekulow said.

The Bush administration, which has filed briefs urging the justices to uphold the displays in both cases, takes the same approach, calling the Ten Commandments "a uniquely potent and commonly recognized symbol of the law."

The problem with that rationale, that it is only historical, is a farce. While the supreme court has Moses with the Ten Commandments in a long line of other historical laws, it does so in a historical sense, and without particular deference to Judeo-Christian faith over any other, over even to religious law over secular law. I have not yet heard of a case involving the Ten Commandments being ordered out of a courtroom, while leaving Mohammad or Hammurabi's law (which is the origin of much of the Ten Commandments).

It is quite obvious that Judge Moore, former Alabama State Court Justice, had no intention of displaying the commandments in a historical sense, or with any other form of law that has had an impact on Western Law. He publically stated it was because of religious convictions. If they were serious about this line of reasoning, why are they not also pushing for other religious as well as secular law origins? I have no problem with using the Ten Commandments as an educational tool. But, this is anything but educational.

DeLay Me Down

This is going to be interesting to see how this turns out. It is tough for me to believe that DeLay had no hand in this incident (and many more).

DeLay PAC Lawsuit Goes to Trial in Texas

By JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas - Testimony began Monday in a case brought by five Democrats who allege a political action committee started by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay improperly spent about $600,000 in corporate contributions to unseat them.

Plaintiffs' attorneys displayed in court e-mails and handwritten notes made by principals of Texans for a Republican Majority that they said proves corporate money was improperly spent.

A lawyer for the treasurer of Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee denied that.

Texas law bans the use of corporate money to influence the outcome of an election but allows its use for administrative costs for political committees, such as rent or utility bills.

Republicans swept to complete power in state government in 2002 when the GOP seized majority control of the Texas House for the first time since the 1870s.

DeLay has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has congressional immunity from being forced to testify. But evidence presented in the civil case could affect an ongoing criminal investigation that has resulted in indictments against three top fund-raisers for DeLay.

Last year, the House ethics committee deferred action on investigating any role played by DeLay in the corporate campaign donation controversy.

The trial before state District Judge Joe Hart is expected to last a week.

Among the witnesses subpoenaed to testify are Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick, who was swept to power by the GOP majority, and Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, the state's largest business lobby. Neither is a defendant in the lawsuit.

Craddick is not expected to appear in court himself. Hammond, the Texas Association of Business president, once boasted that his group had spent $1.9 million to support Republican candidates in 2002 legislative campaigns.

The Problem with Bush's Clear Skies Initiative

Bush wants to weaken the Clean Air Act by allowing a cap and trade system for several toxic pollutants (nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury). The plan is so weak that Republican and Democratic Governors alike are opposing the bill (Link). The biggest and most dangerous problem with a cap and trade system for toxics like mercury is that the more concentrated it is in a area, the damage it causes the human population raises exponentially (like the Richter scale for earthquakes). Mercury can be passed from mother to child while still in the whomb, causing brain damage before the babies first breath. Bush's plan means that while some regions of the country will see a decrease in mercury release, other regions (near industry or power production) will see a sharp increase in mercury levels, much higher than safe, and it would all be legal. The areas most affected, as usual, will be poorer neighborhoods and large cities.

If you have any children or plan on having any, this could have a huge impact on you and your family. If Bush has his way, this study release today would be miniscule compared to what would happen in the future. There are sections of this country who have still never complied the Clean Air Act (now 35 years old). Making it weaker is not the answer, it only adds to the problem.

New Study Shows Impact of Mercury Pollution: $8.7 Billion Lost Annually Due to Poisoning in the Womb

Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-478-6128; Matt Bormet, 202-478-6189, both for Physicians for Social Responsibility

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) (EPA) face pending deadlines on mercury reduction plans, a new study published today calculated that the U.S. loses $8.7 billion annually due to the impact of mercury on children's brain development. The peer-reviewed study by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine's Center for Children's Health and the Environment was published today, February 28, online by the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) journal, Environmental Health Perspectives ( ) .

"Before they take their first breath, as many as 600,000 babies may suffer permanent brain damage from their mothers' exposure to mercury pollution," said Susan Marmagas, MPH, director of Physicians for Social Responsibility's Environment and Health Program. "The damage has personal consequences for these children, but now we see that it also has enormous implications for the national economy."

In the study, "Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methylmercury Toxicity to the Developing Brain," pediatricians at Mt. Sinai found that $1.3 billion of the economic losses from mercury pollution is directly attributable to mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants. Mercury emitted from power plants is absorbed by fish and eaten by women is passed onto their children in utero. Scientists have documented that mercury exposure impairs brain development and reduces IQ.

The EPA has identified coal-fired power plants as the largest industrial emitters of mercury, producing more than one third of all mercury pollution in the U.S. Coal-fired power plants emit thousands of pounds of toxic mercury into our nation's air every year-about 91,000 pounds in 2001-but they never have been regulated. By March 15, 2005, the EPA is required to issue mercury limits for power plants, but these rules are expected to delay significant mercury reductions for at least 13 years. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday, March 2, on the Bush administration's similarly weak legislative proposal, its misnamed "Clear Skies" bill.

"This report shows that if Congress passes 'Clear Skies,' it will forever cloud our children's future," concluded Marmagas. "Children are highly susceptible to threats in the world around them, and parents and doctors can only do so much to protect them. Congress and the EPA have a duty to prevent the threat of mercury pollution, and it is deeply troubling that they are shirking this duty."

In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites) found strong evidence for the toxicity of methylmercury to children's developing brains, even at low levels of exposure. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Controls found that as many as 637,233 American children are born each year with mercury levels of more than 5.8 ug/L (5.8 micrograms per liter), the level associated with brain damage and loss of IQ.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is a leading public policy organization with nearly 30,000 members representing the medical and public health professions and concerned citizens, working together for nuclear disarmament, a healthy environment, and an end to the epidemic of gun violence.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Republicanisms 101

Republican education by Frank Luntz - From his 160 page memo on how to continue to deceive the American people. Orwell, eat your heart out:

Sometimes it is not what you say that matters but what you don’t say. Other times a single word or phrase can undermine or destroy the credibility of a paragraph or entire presentation. This memo was originally prepared exclusively for Congressional spouses because they are your eyes and ears, a one-person reality check and truth squad combined. However, by popular demand, I have included and expanded that document because effectively communicating the New American Lexicon requires you to STOP saying words and phrases that undermine your ability to educate the American people.
So from today forward, YOU are the language police. From today forward, these are the words never to say again.
1. NEVER SAY Government
INSTEAD SAY: Washington
The fact is, most Americans appreciate their local government that picks up their trash, cleans their streets, and provides police and transportation services. Washington is the problem. Remind voters again and again about Washington spending, Washington waste, Washington taxation, Washington bureaucracy, Washington rules and Washington regulations. Then remind voters that if Washington created this mess, it is Washington’s responsibility to fix it. “If we expect to succeed, we must look to ourselves and not to Washington to raise our kids, start our businesses and improve our day-to-day lives.” If you must talk about government, use the context defined by President Bush: “Government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives.”

2. NEVER SAY Privatization/Private Accounts
INSTEAD SAY: Personalization/Personal Accounts
Many more Americans would “personalize” Social Security than “privatize” it. In fact, two-thirds of America wants to personalize Social Security while only one-third should privatize it. Why? Personalizing Social Security suggests ownership and control over your retirement savings, while privatizing it suggests a profit motive and winners and losers. BANISH PRIVATIZATION FROM YOUR LEXICON.(Emphasis mine, caps lock theirs)

3. NEVER SAY Tax Reform
INSTEAD SAY: Tax Simplification
While a majority of Americans are generally in favor of tax reform, one-third of the population fears that they would end up paying more in taxes if the tax code was in fact reformed. However, almost all Americans believe they would personally benefit from a tax code that was simplified—in terms of money they owe, time they spend and anxiety about the IRS. When more Americans fear the IRS than root- canal surgery, something should be done to simplify the tax code.

4. NEVER SAY Inheritance/Estate Tax
INSTEAD SAY: The Death Tax
While a sizable 68% of America thinks the Inheritance/Estate Tax is unfair, fully 78%think that the Death Tax is unfair. And while a narrow majority would repeal the inheritance/estate tax, an overwhelming majority would repeal the death tax. If you want to kill the estate tax, call it a death tax.

5. NEVER SAY A Global Economy/Globalization/Capitalism
INSTEAD SAY: Free Market Economy
More Americans are afraid of the principle of globalization than even privatization. The reason? Globalization represents something big, something distant and something foreign. It’s the same reason why Americans like their local government but dislike Washington—the closer you are, the more control you have. So instead of talking about the principles of globalization, instead emphasize “the value and benefits of a free market economy.” Similarly, capitalism reminds people of harsh economic competition that yields losers as well as winners. Conversely, the free market economy provides opportunity to all and allows everyone to succeed.

6. NEVER SAY Outsourcing
INSTEAD SAY: Taxation, Regulation, Litigation Innovation, Education
When you use the words of your opposition, you are basically accepting their definition and therefore their conclusion. We should NEVER use the word outsourcing because we will then be asked to defend or end the practice of allowing companies to ship American jobs overseas. Rather, we should talk about the “root cause” why any company would not want to hire “the best workers in the world.” And the answer: “over-taxation, over-regulation, too much litigation, and not enough innovation or quality education.” Because it rhymes, it will be remembered.

7. NEVER SAY Undocumented Workers
INSTEAD SAY: Illegal Aliens
The Dems have adopted the phrase “undocumented worker” but you shouldn’t. Call them exactly what they are. In fact, instead of addressing “immigration reform,” which polarizes Americans, you should be talking about “border security” issues. Securing our borders and our people has universal support.

8. NEVER SAY Foreign Trade
INSTEAD SAY: International Trade
For many reasons unrelated to this issue, the word “foreign” conjures up negative images. Americans simply don’t like “foreign oil,” or “foreign products” or “foreign nationals.” International is a more positive concept than either foreign or global.

9. NEVER SAY Drilling for oil
INSTEAD SAY: Exploring for energy
It’s the picture people paint in their minds, the difference between an old-fashioned oil rig that gushes up black goop vs. 21st century technology and innovation that provides us the ability to heat our homes and drive our cars. When you talk about energy, use words like “responsible” and “balanced” and always address your concern for the environment.

10. NEVER SAY Tort Reform
INSTEAD SAY: Lawsuit Abuse Reform
The term “tort” has very little meaning to the average American, and at best reminds one of a French pastry. “Lawsuit Abuse” is something most Americans understand and resent. If you really want to make your case, add the word “frivolous.”

11. NEVER SAY Trial Lawyer
INSTEAD SAY: Personal Injury Lawyer
It is hard to distrust a trial lawyer because we see them portrayed so favorably on L.A. Law and Law & Order. But personal injury lawyers, also known as ambulance chasers, remind people of those annoying, harassing commercials we see at 1:00 a.m. cajoling us to sue someone. If you want to get the full bang for the buck, call them “predatory personal injury lawyers.”

12. NEVER SAY Corporate Transparency
INSTEAD SAY: Corporate Accountability
I constantly hear the need for “transparency” coming from members of the financial services industry as well as members of Congress. But if you asked the American people, corporate accountability is a much higher priority. The fact is, a majority of Americans can’t even explain what transparency actually means. But everyone understands and demands accountability from all sectors of the economy … and the government.

13. NEVER SAY School Choice
INSTEAD SAY: Parental Choice/Equal Opportunity in Education
Americans are still evenly split over whether they support “school choice” in America’s schools. But they are heavily in favor of “giving parents the right to choose the schools that are right for their children,” an there is almost universal support for “equal opportunity in education.” So frame the issue right and you get the support you need.

14. NEVER SAY Health care “Choice”
INSTEAD SAY: “The Right to Choose”
This is an important nuance so often lost on political officials. Almost all Americans want “the right to choose the health care plan, hospital, doctor and prescription drug plan that is best for them,” but far fewer Americans actually want to make that choice. In fact, the older you get, the less eager you are to have a wide range of choices. One reason why the prescription drug card earned only qualified public support was that it offered too many choices and therefore created too much confusion for too many senior citizens.

H/T Watching the Watchers

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Laugh - To Stay Sane

These are some excerpts from Bush's latest meeting with Putin:

"I live in a transparent country," Bush said at one point. "I live in a country where decisions made by government are wide open." 1

Umm... since when has the Bush administration been open? This is the most secretive administration I have ever seen.

"For most of the rest of the world it must have seemed like the theater of the absurd to have Putin and Bush up there (debating) democracy," said Clifford Gaddy, a Russia expert at the Brookings Institution. 1

Absurd is an understatement.

"I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you, our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity, and we resolve our disputes in a peaceful way," Bush said with obvious irritation. 1

Seriously... Am I living on another planet, or perhaps an alternate universe? What has he resolved yet in a peaceful way?

But my favorite for the week is still:

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," Bush said at the press conference jointly held with EU leaders.
"And having said that," he quickly added, "all options are on the table." 2

1 - Analysis: Bush, Putin Debate Free Societies

2 - Bush calls notion of Iran attack `ridiculous'

Another State Moves Towards Civil Unions

A Connecticut legislative committee has ok'd a recognition of civil unions to move out of the Judiciary committee and onto the main floor for further discussion. This would be the second state to move forward without judicial intervention.

Conn. lawmaker panel OKs civil union bill

Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network
Thursday, February 24, 2005 / 06:10 PM

A measure creating civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut passed a significant legislative hurdle on Wednesday with the state's judiciary committee approving the bill, 25-13.

"We have an opportunity to provide a huge step forward for equal rights," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, a gay Democrat from Stamford, in a quote published by the Hartford Courant. McDonald noted that, unlike Vermont, Connecticut lawmakers are acting without a court order.

The measure now requires approval from the state's legislature and governor. If that happens, Connecticut will become the second U.S. state after Vermont to offer civil unions and the third state after California to offer nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.

The bill faces opposition from those who believe it goes too far and those who believe it does not go far enough.

(Full Story)

Haste Makes Waste

President Bush knows that the longer people really study his plan for Social Security reform, the less they are going to like it, so he is urging congress to move quickly to complete his SSI coup de gras. This is how the PATRIOT act was passed. So quickly that most congressmen and women never even read the bill before voting for it. SSI reform is nothing to be rushed into. Six months or a year will not make a difference in the overall health of the plan. This is something I want Congress to think long and hard about before acting.

Bush Urges Haste on Social Security Reform

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Back from stroking U.S. allies in Europe, President Bush now is lobbying a home-front target: wary lawmakers returning from a long congressional break, where they heard their constituents' concerns about Social Security overhaul. The lawmakers got an earful from voters back home. Now, Bush wants them to listen to him.

"We need to act now to fix Social Security permanently," he said Saturday in a radio address aimed at Congress.

The president is making a fresh push for his plan to let younger workers put part of their Social Security payroll taxes in private investment accounts. He has taken that campaign to eight states and is continuing it next Friday in New Jersey and Indiana.

Bush is making the trips in hopes of persuading voters to pressure Congress to tackle the future solvency problems of the politically sensitive Social Security system. His message is twofold: reassure those born before 1950 that their Social Security benefits will not change in any way and tell younger workers that "Social Security is heading toward bankruptcy."

"Massive numbers of baby boomers, like me, will soon begin to retire," Bush said in his radio remarks. "People are living longer and benefits are scheduled to increase dramatically, and fewer workers will be paying into the system to support each retiree."

(Full Story)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Swift Boat Slimeballs Stike Again

This is a good editorial about the new "swift boat" slime machine that has now turned its sights to the AARP and its opposition to Bush's Social Security privatization plan. For those of you who do not know, the original ad put out by USA next, a conservative citizens group, portrayed the AARP as hating our military and loving gay marriage (no of which is true). This ad, having nothing to do with the actual issue of social security, was created by the same forces that created the discredited "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Not only is this a cheap, mud slinging gimmick, but it is childish and stupid. If this is how the far right wants to frame the issues, I have enough confidence in the American people to see this as what it is... Slime from a slimy group. Talk about no class...

Swifties Slime Again

GI Jesus

For anyone who regularly reads my blog, you know that I am anything but anti-military. A strong and efficient military is vital to the defense of our nation and interests around the world. I even almost ended up in the Air Force 2 different times, but this goes too far for me. Now the US military is promoting "men's night out" events at churches and using them as recruitment functions. Invading places of worship that teach peace and love is no place to recruit for war. Even more disturbing was that the recruiters used images of Jesus Christ in their presentation. This is an attack on my religion and faith.

See the picture show for yourself at shlonkom bakazay

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gannongate continues

Americablog has a letters from Reps. John Conyers (Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee) and Louise Slaughter (Ranking Member, House Rules Committee) asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to include Jeff Gannon/James Guckert in an investigation of "whether the Administration violated the ban on prepackaged news stories by siphoning print stories to James D. Guckert, also known as "Jeff Gannon" (Link) and to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who is investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, today letting him know that he might want to subpoena Gannon's daily diary which may have information about who in the Bush Administration leaked Plame's name. (Link)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

You Can't Spell Hypocrisy Without CCRKBA

This press release from the The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) is completely absurd. Obviously, they are not seeing the trees through the forest. CCRKBA is complaining that CNN's report on how a terrorist could use .50-caliber weapons is "sensational" and "The CNN report comes awfully close to being an attempt by a news organization to encourage an incident, just so CNN can later say 'We warned you'" is one of the most laughable arguments in recent history (the last being "it was a historical document"). Don't you kind of wish CNN had done a report on how terrorists could use passenger planes as weapons against us prior to 9/11... Maybe then someone would have perked up in the Bush administration and finally have a 'Counter terrorism meeting' of substance. I want people out there lighting the fire under the bureaucrats butts, not stifling their words.

And I also find it funny that CCRKBA criticizes CNN's words (1st Amendment) and says nothing about the actual guns (2nd Amendment). Lets not forget that it is the 1st Amendment that protects the 2nd Amendment. CCRKBA's press release (1st amendment) criticized CNN (1st Amendment). CCRKBA is a citizen group (1st Amendment) who lobbies congress (1st Amendment) to be able to keep guns.

Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Blasts CNN Report Alerting Terrorists How to Obtain .50 Cal. Rifles

BELLEVUE, Wash., Feb. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) today condemned a sensational report on CNN that not only alerts potential terrorists on possible misuses of .50-caliber sporting rifles, but also literally provides a "road map" on how to obtain one of these cumbersome and very expensive firearms.

"In yet another media attempt to demonize a particular firearm, which CNN's own reporter, Drew Griffin, acknowledged has 'really never been used domestically in a criminal event,' this outrageous report still suggests to potential terrorists how such a gun might be put to criminal use," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb.

CCRKBA executive director Joe Waldron agreed, noting, "The CNN report comes awfully close to being an attempt by a news organization to encourage an incident, just so CNN can later say 'We warned you'. This sort of journalism belongs right down there with the CBS debacle over the manufactured documents regarding allegations about President Bush (news - web sites)'s service in the Texas Air National Guard. With so-called 'news' like this on the nation's airwaves, it is no wonder that the American public no longer trusts the media, and believes the press has a political agenda."

The CNN report focused on what might happen to a commercial jet aircraft if a terrorist fired at it with a .50-caliber rifle.

"Essentially, CNN's Griffin and anchor Paula Zahn have literally told would-be terrorists, 'See what you might do with one of these firearms'?" Gottlieb observed. "Naturally, if such an incident occurs, CNN will quickly blame everyone but themselves. That's not simply disingenuous, it's despicable. Of course, CNN isn't the only news agency guilty of planting this seed of an idea in the mind of some lunatic. CBS' '60 Minutes' did the same thing, and they're all hoping to one day harvest a bumper crop of sensational stories about some airplane that comes under fire."

"If the press handed out awards for irresponsible journalism," Waldron suggested, "CNN would certainly be in the running. Their own report admits these clumsy recreational firearms have not been a problem. Not satisfied with that, it appears CNN isn't just reporting news, it's trying to invent news, and in this case, that news could have tragic consequences. That's Jayson Blair journalism at its worst. CNN ought to be ashamed, but it's doubtful they know the definition of that word."

With more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is one of the nation's premier gun rights organizations. As a non-profit organization, the Citizens Committee is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local communities throughout the United States.

Poor Poor Alabama

When I was in law school, I had a crazy professor named John Kramer. In the story below, the state of Alabama passed a law banning the sale of "sexual devices" which was being challenged in the Supreme Court as an invasion of privacy. There are many things I could say about this law, but I think a story about one of my law school professors says it all.

His name is John Kramer and he is possible now, certifiably insane. But a number of years ago, Mississippi tried to pass the same law banning the sale of sex aides. There was a town hall meeting in Mississippi where the law was being debated, so Professor Kramer decided to prove a point. Professor Kramer, who lives in New Orleans, drove to a local adult shop and bought the biggest dildo he could find... a two foot double-headed, think as your wrist dildo. He then drove across state lines and entered the town hall meeting, walked up to the front of the hall and produced the dildo from his bag... He then proceeded to whack the law's sponsor over the head with it and said, "See, I bought this is another state... I didn't buy it in Mississippi... But that didn't protect you, did it?... Your law can't stop this, now can it," and then walked out

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on Ban on Sex Toy Sale

By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a constitutional challenge to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex toys.

The high court refused to hear an appeal by a group of individuals who regularly use sexual devices and by two vendors who argued the case raised important issues about the scope of the constitutional right to sexual privacy.

The law prohibited the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." First-time violators can face a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as one year in jail.

The law, adopted in 1998, allowed the sale of ordinary vibrators and body massagers that are not designed or marketed primarily as sexual aids. It exempted sales of sexual devices "for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purpose."

Georgia and Texas are the only other states that restrict the distribution of sexual devices, according to the court record in the case.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, representing those who challenged the law, argued that private, consensual sexual conduct among adults is constitutionally protected and beyond the reach of government regulation.

They said the Supreme Court's decision in 2003 striking down a Texas sodomy law also created a fundamental, constitutional due process right to sexual privacy.

"The evidence shows that this case is not about novelty items, naughty toys or obscene matter. It is a case about human sexuality and extremely intimate acts," the attorneys said.

They said Alabama has never explained "why sales of performance enhancing drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra and even ribbed condoms are not similarly prohibited."

The attorneys said the state did not contest the evidence that about 20 percent of all American women use a vibrator and at least 10 percent of sexually active adults use vibrators in their regular sex life.

A federal judge ruled against the state and found a constitutional right to use sexual devices. But a U.S. appeals court based in Atlanta upheld the law by a 2-1 vote.

(Full Story)

Eminent Domain

Eminent domain... I am sure we have all heard the rash of stories about how local municipalities are condemning private homes in order to make way for new private economic development. Whether it be shopping malls or condos, the rationale for seizure of private property for private economic development is valid. It draws new business, raises property taxes and revenue which pays for schools, police, fire departments. And, it is usually only a small portion of the community that pays the price for the benefit of everyone else overall. How else can a local municipality revitalize towns falling into slow economic ruin.

But, is this what America is really about. It is one of our most cherished values - the right to own our own land without unreasonable interference. And the Americans who bear the brunt of this growing trend is usually hard working lower middle class and lower class citizens. First, the government paved over their houses with freeways. That, at least, was truly public use. Now, we are trying to take their homes so someone else can make money. This, even with the economic benefits it brings the rest of the community is somehow just plain wrong and has gone too far. Where will this end? And is anyone safe? A man's home is his castle and should be treated as such.

Court to Hear Battle Over Eminent Domain

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Residents trying to hang onto their homes in a working class neighborhood of New London, Conn., are waging a battle in the Supreme Court over their city government's attempt to seize property for private economic development.

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners filed a lawsuit after city officials announced plans to bulldoze their residences to clear the way for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. The residents refused to move, arguing it was an unconstitutional taking of their property.

The case's outcome will have significant implications for so-called eminent domain actions.

There have been over 10,000 instances in recent years of private property being threatened with condemnation or actually condemned by government for private use, according to the Institute for Justice. The group represents the New London residents who filed the case.

The issue revolves around whether a government is serving a public purpose when it uses its power of eminent domain to take land. The Fifth Amendment prohibits taking private property for public use without just compensation. The New London case is not about the amount of compensation being offered, but whether the government can take the property at all.

Over the years, the Supreme Court has deferred to the decision-making of elected state and local officials.

The court said in 1954 that it is legal for urban renewal to encompass non-blighted commercial buildings in a blighted neighborhood. In 1984, the court upheld Hawaii's land reform law that broke the grip of large landowners, with property being taken and then resold to others.

More recently, many cities and towns have been accused of abusing their authority, razing nice homes to make way for parking lots for casinos and other tax-producing businesses.

(Full Story)

In Memoriam

Iconoclast... Yup. Drug abuser... Uh-huh. A little bit off kilter... Without a doubt.

One hell of a writer... You betcha!

Thompson Death Marks End of Literary Era

If you have never read it, check out "Fear and Loathing on the Campeign Trail '72"

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I Knew Ther was a Good Reason Not to Follow NASCAR

This is not a knock on NASCAR, or even on the vast majority of devoted NASCAR fans out there. NASCAR is not my kind of gig (give me Hockey any day... sniff) but I know that it has a huge following in the US, so it must have redeeming qualities to a lot of people. But this action by the neo-Nazi National Alliance to target NASCAR events to spread their message should give all Americans something to think about. There is obviously a reason they are targeting these events and not the ballets or operas. You must ask, what is the environment that attracts the neo-Nazi National Alliance to these events? Why are these fans more susceptible to their message? And, if you are a NASCAR fan, what can you do to ensure the neo-Nazi National Alliance cannot exploit NASCAR for their own benefit? If I were a NASCAR fan I would be absolutely livid that such a vial group would target me as being neo-Nazi material.

White Supremacists Target NASCAR's Daytona 500 Race for Major Recruitment Drive

To: National Desk

Contact: Mark Medin, 954-478-3240, Monika Koplow, 954-938-8188, both of the Anti-Defamation League

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla., Feb. 18 /U.S. Newswire/ -- One of the country's largest and most virulent anti-Semitic and racist hate groups plans to undertake a major recruitment drive at the Daytona International Speedway during NASCAR's Daytona 500 Race on Sunday, February 20.

Among other claims, the neo-Nazi National Alliance (N.A.) says it has arranged for an airplane to fly over the racetrack with a banner that reads, "Love Your Race" and promoting the group's Web site. Members of the group also plan on handing out fliers in the parking lot near the nationally televised event.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors extremist groups, has notified local and state law enforcement authorities of the planned recruitment effort, and is warning the public to beware the group's hateful agenda.

"Our concern is that people will think that the National Alliance is some kind of mainstream group, when in fact they are a dangerous extremist group," said Mark Medin, ADL Florida Regional Director. "The National Alliance clearly sees this high-profile gathering of NASCAR fans as a prime opportunity to spread their message of hate, or possibly to recruit new members."

According to postings by National Alliance members on the Internet, the Tampa unit, led by Todd Weingart, is coordinating the recruitment drive. The group's national leadership in West Virginia has indicated their support.

This is not the first time the group has targeted a NASCAR event. In November 2003, four members of the National Alliance reportedly handed out racist fliers, cards and tape recordings of their broadcasts at the NASCAR Winston Cup Race in North Carolina. At the time, the group said it was trying to exploit tensions around efforts by African-Americans to diversify the sport of car racing.

One of the largest and most active neo-Nazi organizations in the U.S., the N.A. has four chapters in Florida: Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach and Gainesville. The group has recently spread racist and anti-Semitic literature in Ft. Myers, Davie and St. Petersburg, and has rented billboard space on the Florida Turnpike near Orlando.

In the last decade, the N.A. has enjoyed significant growth and has recently focused most of its attention on recruiting young racists. At the same time, the N.A. has tried to attract middle-class professionals willing to be part of a dedicated cadre that carries out the group's goals. Over the last several years, dozens of violent crimes, including murders, bombings and robberies have been traced to N.A. members or appear to have been inspired by the group's propaganda.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Terror Threat Politics

Even though Tom Ridge adamantly portrayed himself above the fray of politics in his job, it has come to light that he was secretly meeting with Republican pollsters prior to the election. Remember how the terror threat would go up every time the Democrats made any headway in the campaign?... Then the Democrats accused Tom Ridge of playing politics with the threat of terrorism? Well, it looks like they may have not have been so far off base after all.

Ridge, Pollsters Met During Bush Campaign

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge met privately with Republican pollsters twice in a 10-day span last spring as he embarked on more than a dozen trips to presidential battleground states.

Ridge's get-togethers with Republican strategists Frank Luntz and Bill McInturff during a period the secretary was saying his agency was playing no role in Bush's re-election campaign were revealed in daily appointment calendars obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

"We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security," Ridge told reporters during the election season.

His aides resisted releasing the calendars for over a year, finally providing them to the AP three days after Ridge left office this month.

Homeland Security officials said the meeting with Luntz at department headquarters was aimed at improving public communication of the department's message, particularly on TV. Ridge declined an interview with the AP about the calendars, referring questions to former aides.

(Full Story)

Bush Sends Class Action To Federal Court

I am not sure how much effect that this bill will have on class action law suits in actuality. It will stop plaintiff lawyers from forum shopping (finding the most sympathetic court to hear the case), which I don't think is a particularly bad idea. But, it will essentially now allow the defense attorneys to do the same thing (forum shop) in federal court so they can find the most sympathetic court to try the case. This can have disastrous effect on consumer protection. Only time will tell whether this will make the American people less safe from dangerous products. In the end, I don't see much changing.

Bush Signs Bill Curbing Class-Action Suits

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Friday signed a bill that he says will curtail multimillion-dollar class action lawsuits against companies and "marks a critical step toward ending the lawsuit culture in our country."

The legislation aims to discourage multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuits by having federal judges take them away from state courts, a victory for conservatives who hope it will lead to other lawsuit limits. The president has described class-action suits as often frivolous, and businesses complain that state judges and juries have been too generous to plaintiffs.

"This bill helps fix the system," Bush said in the East Room of the White House, his first bill signing ceremony this year. "Congress has done it's duty."

But during the brief ceremony, Bush repeatedly described the bill as just a beginning in his drive to place much broader restraints on the American legal system.

"We're making important progress toward a better legal system," he said. "There's more to do. ... We have a responsibility to confront frivolous lawsuits head-on."

Under the legislation, class-action suits seeking $5 million or more would be heard in state court only if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state. But if fewer than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state as the primary defendant, and more than $5 million is at stake, the case would go to federal court.

Consumer groups and trial lawyers fought against the bill, but lost their struggle when Republicans gained seats in last fall's elections and Democrats defected on the issue.

"The House of Representatives joined the Senate in sending a clear message to the nation: the rights of large corporations that take advantage of seniors, low-wage workers and local communities are more important than the rights of average American citizens," said Helen Gonzales of USAction, a liberal, pro-consumer activist group.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pass the Buck President

There is little argument these days (even from staunch conservatives) that Bush is the least personally accountable presidents in the last 100 years. Now, he is also turning into "pass the buck Bush." Many of Bush's policy provisions balloon in cost shortly after he leaves office, leaving the next president (whoever that may be) with huge budget problems.

After Bush Leaves Office, His Budget's Costs Balloon

By Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 14, 2005; Page A01

For President Bush, the budget sent to Congress last week outlines a painful path to meeting his promise to bring down the federal budget deficit by the time he leaves office in 2009. But for the senators and governors already jockeying to succeed him, the numbers released in recent days add up to a budgetary landmine that could blow up just as the next president moves into the Oval Office.

Congress and the White House have become adept at passing legislation with hidden long-term price tags, but those huge costs began coming into view in Bush's latest spending plan. Even if Bush succeeds in slashing the deficit in half in four years, as he has pledged, his major policy prescriptions would leave his successor with massive financial commitments that begin rising dramatically the year he relinquishes the White House, according to an analysis of new budget figures.

(Full Story)

Evangelical Divide

This is a good article about the growing divide in evangelical Christians about what and how faith should play in politics. It has some quotes from Jim Wallis, the author of "God's Politics" which I recommend for everyone to read.

Moderate evangelicals preach their own politics

By Stevenson Swanson
Tribune national correspondent
Published February 14, 2005

NEW YORK -- When it comes to politics, evangelical Christians don't all sing from the same choir book.

Abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research may be the issues most commonly associated with evangelical voters, but moderate and liberal evangelicals are mounting an effort to make their voices heard on subjects not normally associated with their movement, including poverty, the war in Iraq and the environment.

White evangelical Protestants voted overwhelmingly for President Bush last year, but, illustrating the broader spectrum of thought within the group, 76 leaders of evangelical colleges, seminaries and ministries recently asked him to do something about what they called the nation's "unacceptably high" rates of hunger and poverty and the high numbers of Americans who lack health insurance.

"I think it's really important to break up the old stereotypes," said Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical whose new book, "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," has drawn attention to evangelicals' political diversity. "There is a progressive religious option, and that is encouraging to people of faith who are tired of the control of this issue by the right."

Although precise definitions vary, the estimated 55 million evangelicals in America generally believe the Bible is infallible and that a transforming experience, or being "born again," is required for a person to be saved.

Wallis, for example, uses the Bible to back his contention that evangelicals should be more concerned about the poor. The Bible, he says, contains 3,000 verses that mention the poor.

"How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?" he writes in "God's Politics."

Among other initiatives in the evangelical community, Call to Renewal, the anti-poverty advocacy group that Wallis heads, is working with other religious groups on the issue of achieving a "living wage" for low-income workers through increases in the minimum wage and the earned-income tax credit.

For the sake of political influence, Wallis and others argue that the evangelical vote should not be taken for granted. That means, they say, that Republicans should not assume evangelicals automatically will vote for them and that Democrats should not give up attempts to make inroads among less-conservative religious voters.

Statistically, that's a hard argument to support. Evangelicals, who make up a quarter of the adult population, favored Bush by 78 percent to 22 percent for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, according to an analysis of election results by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That's up from Bush's 71 percent among evangelicals in 2000.

(Full Story)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday Reading

There is a good NYT article about why the tax cuts whould be on the table when talking about the debt reduction.

Bush's Class-War Budget

Thursday, February 10, 2005

New Definition for 52 Pick Up

If this doesn't say, "asleep at the wheel," I don't what does. Did Osama need to call George up directly and give him the names of the hijackers and the dates involved in order for anyone in the government to have taken action? I don't believe the fumble by the FAA was directly attributable to the White House, but I do attribute the White House blocking the information release for five months was purely political and further shows the lack of accountability by this administration.

Report: FAA Had 52 Pre-9/11 Warnings

WASHINGTON - The Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) received repeated warnings in the months prior to Sept. 11, 2001, about al-Qaida and its desire to attack airlines, according to a previously undisclosed report by the commission that investigated the terror attacks.

The report by the 9/11 commission that investigated the suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news - web sites) detailed 52 such warnings given to FAA (news - web sites) leaders from April to Sept. 10, 2001, about the radical Islamic terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).

The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al-Qaida's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation. However, none of the warnings pinpointed what would happen on Sept. 11.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency received intelligence from other agencies, which it passed on to airlines and airports.

But, she said, "We had no specific information about means or methods that would have enabled us to tailor any countermeasures."

Brown also said the FAA was in the process of tightening security at the time of the attacks.

"We were spending $100 million a year to deploy explosive detection equipment at the airports," she said. The agency was also close to issuing a regulation that would have set higher standards for screeners and, for the first time, give it direct control over the screening work force.

Al Felzenberg, former spokesman for the 9/11 commission, which went out of business last summer, said the government had not completed a review of the 120-page report for declassification purposes until recently.

The unclassified version, first reported by The New York Times, was made available by the National Archives Thursday.

The Bush Cowboyism Backfire

After 2 years of confrontation, the North Korean's have declared that they have a nuclear weapon. The rationale behind the building of the bomb was growing fear of a hostile Bush administration.

"We ... have manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. 1

What further complicates the picture (and a shadow on the Bush policy) is that we cannot even be sure if the North Koreans were even actually working on a nuclear weapon program prior to the Nov, 2002 claim by the Bush administration and the subsequent withdraw from the 1994 treaty. With the revelations that the CIA had it completely wrong in Iraq, there is new doubt that North Korea was violating the treaty, as claimed by the Bush administration.

The claim could not be independently verified. North Korea expelled the last U.N. nuclear monitors in late 2002 and has never tested a nuclear bomb, although international officials have long suspected it has one or two nuclear bombs and enough fuel for several more.

After confronting N.K. in 2002, N.K. forced out IAEA inspectors, thus ending any chance of actually monitoring what was happening within the country, and N.K. restarted their nuclear program in earnest. When Bush proposed 6 party talks, one of the conditions of dealing with N.K. was requiring that N.K. admit to a secret nuclear program prior to 2002. To me, this is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials where the accused were forced to admit guilt while the kindling ignited around them.

Since 2003, the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia have held three rounds of talks in Beijing aimed at persuading the North to abandon nuclear weapons development in return for economic and diplomatic rewards. No significant progress has been made.

A fourth round scheduled for last September was canceled when North Korea refused to attend, citing what it called a "hostile" U.S. policy.

On Thursday, North Korea said it decided not to rejoin such talks any time soon after studying Bush's inaugural and State of the Union speeches and after Rice labeled North Korea one of the "outposts of tyranny." 1

But the Bush administration's effort to keep N.K. isolated predated the Nov. 2002 breakdown of the 1994 treaty. In response to plans by South Korea and Japan (which Bush strongly disapproved of), the White House started ringing the uranium issue alarm with the two nations (sounds reminiscent of Iraq's supposed importation of yellow cake). A CIA report that was presented to Congress in 2002 was anything but a slam dunk for Bush's claims.

CIA report submitted to Congress in November 2002, Pollack wrote that "the imprecision in the CIA analysis underscored the difficulties of estimating the extant capabilities and ultimate purposes of the North's enrichment program" and left it unclear "how complete and compelling the intelligence data may have been." According to Pollack, the CIA report indicated that North Korea had no operational enrichment facility to declare. ... The intelligence community believed that North Korea still [would have] confronted daunting obstacles had it decided to build an enriched uranium weapon, or even to acquire the production capabilities that might ultimately permit such an option. Most officials recognized that the path to a meaningful enrichment capability remained a distant and very uncertain possibility.

Despite its limited knowledge about the uranium program, the U.S. government "opted to exploit the intelligence for political purposes." The uranium issue "furnished powerful ammunition to render the Agreed Framework a dead letter"--something enormously appealing to hawks in the administration, who had opposed Clinton-era diplomacy toward North Korea as much too soft. As Pollack described it to a New York Times columnist, the Bush administration used "whatever [intelligence] was there on North Korea to step away from a set of obligations, to shine a shaming light on North Korea and perhaps to get others to put the heat on North Korea."2

Once again, the path here is very similar to what happened in Iraq. Bush broke off any negotiations with Iraq and then forced the inspectors out. Without anyway to verify the existence of WMDs, Bush was able to push through the Neo-con agenda. The same CIA evidence that Bush used in Iraq, he was also using for N.K. Replacing "North Korea" with "Iraq" and I think we can all agree that this is the same "evidence" that Dr. Rice presented to Congress.

An examination of the November 2002 CIA report that set forth the basis for Kelly's confrontation confirms these charges of imprecision. Although the document alludes to "clear evidence" that North Korea had "recently" begun constructing a centrifuge facility (centrifuges are machines used to enrich uranium), the CIA did not explain the nature of this evidence beyond mentioning, in general terms, that Pyongyang had acquired "centrifuge-related materials in large quantities." No specific evidence was presented to support the report's conclusion that North Korea was "constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more weapons per year when fully operational, which could be as soon as mid-decade." 2

I have no doubt that N.K. had nuclear aspirations. The question is whether or not they were actually acting on them or if they even could, subject to international embargos on the bomb making equipment. Either way, the Bush cowboy attitude of shoot now and ask questions later that he applied in Iraq has hastened the N.K. development of nuclear weapons. Just like the old west, every one needed a gun to protect themselves. The only viable option for N.K., given the Bush unilateral enforcement action doctrine, the break down of the 1994 treaty, and Bush's statements labeling N.K. as a tyrant, is to develop nuclear weapons for self preservation. Once again, Bush has blundered diplomatic policy and made the world a less safe place. His swagger has, for the second time, made a bad situation, worse.

1- N. Korea Announces It Has Nuclear Weapons - AP

2- Did North Korea Cheat - Foreign Affairs Magazine

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

GOP Jail Bird

It is about time that this scum gets to spend some time behind bars. Anyone who messes with the democratic process (republican or democrat) deserves to be punished. I just hope that the other two get what they deserve also.

Former GOP Consultant Sentenced to Prison

Va. Man Pleaded Guilty to Making Harassing Phone Calls to N.H. Democrats

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page A12

BOSTON, Feb. 8 -- A federal judge in New Hampshire sentenced the former president of an Alexandria political consulting firm on Tuesday to five months in prison, the first jail term handed out in connection with the jamming of state Democratic Party phone lines on Election Day in 2002.

Allen Raymond, who headed the now-defunct company GOP Marketplace, which was hired by New Hampshire Republicans for election-related telemarketing services, pleaded guilty last summer to one count of conspiring to make harassing phone calls.

He apologized before U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico, who imposed the sentence. It included a $15,600 fine.

"Your honor, I did a bad thing," he said, according to the Associated Press. "While what I did was outside my character, I take full responsibility for my actions."

Raymond was the first to be sentenced of three men charged after the revelation that Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont were peppered with more than 800 computer-generated calls over a period of 90 minutes on the morning of Nov. 5, 2002.

Firefighters in Manchester, who were offering rides to the polls independently of the two parties, were also targeted, prosecutors said. Police later determined that an Idaho-based firm called Milo Enterprises had been engaged by GOP Marketplace to make automated hang-up calls.

State Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan said the incident -- which occurred as voters were choosing a senator, two House members, a governor and many state officials -- was designed to boost GOP prospects by suppressing turnout. Republicans swept most major races that day.

"They were trying to make it difficult for seniors and people who were economically depressed to get to vote," Sullivan said. "This was way more than a dirty trick. This was a serious crime, and the judge clearly took it seriously."

Republican State Committee Chairman Warren Henderson said in a written statement that he was "personally offended at this illegal and unethical assault on the integrity of our democratic process."

"The Republican Party of New Hampshire does not condone this kind of behavior, and is repulsed by the actions of Mr. Raymond," he added.

Chuck McGee, who resigned as executive director of the state GOP after the incident, has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. He has not been sentenced.

Jim Tobin of Bangor, Maine, who resigned in October as New England regional chairman of President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, has been charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting telephone harassment. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Raymond's attorney, John Durkin, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. He said in court that his client had been manipulated by senior Republican officials, provoking a heated exchange with the judge.

"This was not Allen Raymond's idea," he said, according to AP. "Tobin called on Raymond to do this."

"What about common sense?" DiClerico responded. "What about a personal moral compass?"

Danger on the High Skies

Read this scary report from Slate Magazine about loopholes in the airport security system

A Dangerous Loophole in Airport Security

H/T Devil's Advocate

Misled Once Again

Looks like the Bush Administration misled the American public again when it said the prescription drug benefit would cost $534 billion over the next 10 years. Now they are "re-assessing" the costs and see that it will cost twice the original amount. I think Bush was moving in the right direction by ensuring older Americans can receive the medication that they need, but he should have vetoed the bill in the form it came across his desk. The law, as it was signed, makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. This alone would have cut costs up to half of the current budget. Instead of being fiscally responsible, the Republican Congress and Bush have needlessly given billions of our tax dollars to the pharmaceutical industry. The architect of the provision that forbids the government from negotiating with the drug companies, a former Republican Representative from Louisiana, is now being paid $2 million per year to lobby congress on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.

It is time for congress to go back and change the law so we can both provide our seniors with their medication and be more fiscally responsible. Bush budget calls for reductions in social services to millions of americans. Instead, maybe we should be cutting welfare to the drug companies.

Medicare Drug Benefit May Cost $1.2 Trillion

Estimate Dwarfs Bush's Original Price Tag

By Ceci Connolly and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page A01

The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.

The projections represent the most complete picture to date of how much the program will cost after it begins next year. The expense of the new drug benefit has been a source of much controversy since the day Congress approved it, with Democrats and some Republicans complaining that the White House has consistently low-balled the expected cost to the government.

As recently as September, Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan said the new drug package would cost $534 billion over 10 years. Last night, he acknowledged that the cumulative cost of the program between 2006 and 2015 will reach $1.2 trillion, but he cited several major savings and offsets that he said will reduce the federal government's bottom-line cost to $720 billion.

The disclosure prompted new criticism by Democrats about the administration's long-term budget estimates. It also showed that Medicare, the national medical insurance program for seniors, may pose a far more serious budgetary problem in the com- ing decade than concerns about the solvency of Social Security.

(Full Story)

Farm Aide

I agree with the president on something. The loopholes that allow big corporate farms to receive millions of dollars in subsidies needs to be corrected. But, it also needs to be done in a way to ensure the small farmers (the intended recipients) are not hurt by the cuts in subsidy payments. Small family farms are economically less viable and it is anti-capitalistic to subsidize them, but the
American family farmer has made up the back bone of this country for 2 centuries and should not be left out in the cold.

Bush Faces Fight on Farm Payment Limits

WASHINGTON - The idea behind President Bush's proposal to limit crop subsidies is to stop big corporate farming operations from gobbling up most of the government payments, but smaller farmers say they'd be hurt too.

"If you want to do away with family farms, do away with subsidies," said Daryl Burney, a cotton farmer with a 1,000-acre operation in Coffeeville, Miss. "We're dependent on subsidies to survive. The profit margin on the farm is so narrow right now, you can't afford any mistakes."

Bush wants to lower the maximum amount that farmers may collect, which Burney said would cut into his income. Burney's subsidy checks don't always reach the current limit, but, he said, they come close enough that "we would blow the cap slap off" under the president's new budget.

As part of his budget for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, Bush on Monday proposed dropping payment ceilings from $360,000 to $250,000 and closing loopholes that have allowed some to claim millions of dollars in payments. He also called for an across-the-board cut of 5 percent for all farm payments...

Southerners like Burney would feel new limits more keenly because their crops of rice and cotton cost more to grow and get higher subsidies. They're not alone. Growers of other commodities — wheat, corn, soybeans — say they can't withstand cuts of any kind now that prices for many of their crops are falling.

The president already has a fight on his hands. Southern growers have friends in high places, among them Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hot Water For Bloomberg

Bloomer is sitting on the hot seat right now when it comes to gay marriage (Full Story). A New York State Court has ruled that it is improper to allow straight couples to marry and not homosexual couples to marry. Bloomberg has come out in support of gay marriage, but is finding that he needs to appeal the State Court decision in order to appease his conservative supporters. He is currently in a no win situation. There are many things I disagree with Bloomberg about, but overall, I think he has done a decent job as mayor. He is going to find a tough road to re-election though with this issue. He risks alienating the gay community and many other straight-but-sympathetic New Yorkers in the general election, but if he does not challenge it, he could face stiff competition in a primary run by other more conservative Republicans.

Either way, gay marriage is coming. It is only a matter of time.

Typical from a Yalie Prof

This is one of the dumbest ideas I have read about in a long time

Professors Make a Case for Criminalizing Reckless Sexual Conduct

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has steadfastly denied allegations that he raped a 19-year-old woman in 2003 at the Colorado resort where she worked.

Bryant has acknowledged having unprotected sex with the woman, but has maintained all along that the sex was consensual.

Whether it was or not, two law professors say that what Bryant admits to doing in his hotel room that night—having unprotected sex with a woman he had known for less than two hours—was both reckless and dangerous.

So they wrote an article for The University of Chicago Law Review proposing a new law designed to curb such conduct by criminalizing first-time sexual encounters between unmarried people who do not use a condom.

This is going off the deep end of trying to legislate what goes on in the bedroom.

The proposed new crime, which the two professors call reckless sexual conduct, would be punishable by a fine and up to three months in jail.

To convict, prosecutors would have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that a first-time sexual encounter occurred between the accused and the alleged victim, that the couple were not married to one another and that no condom was used. The accused would then have the opportunity to prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that the alleged victim consented to having unprotected sex.

The two professors—Ian Ayres of Yale Law School and Katharine Baker of Chicago-Kent College of Law—argue that such a law would promote public health and help reduce the tragedy of sexual coercion.

"Simply put, our goal is to promote condoms and communication for first-time sexual encounters," Ayres says.

Studies show that the lion’s share of sexually transmitted diseases is the result of first-time sexual encounters. And almost all of these diseases could be prevented, Ayres and Baker say, if condoms were used.

Well duh... of course they are from first time encounters. And if you wear a condom the first time encounter and don't for the second time, then the lion's share will come at second time encounters...

The reason there is few second time encounters when an STD is passed is because who is going to have sex a second time with someone who just gave them the clap? An extreme burning sensation when you pee would be a good reason not to go out on a second date... But maybe I'm just silly that way.

And what about those second or third time encounters. What if you haven't seen the person in 10 years? Is it a first time encounter again, or 43? What about homosexuals? Wouldn't it just be easier to make it illegal to give someone an STD at any encounter? And why do married people get off the hook? What if the first time a man and woman have sex with each other is on their wedding night?

Unprotected first-time sexual encounters also are correlated with coercion, the two professors contend. Few men careful enough to use a condom, they say, are reckless enough to rape. And the same recklessness that causes men to overlook the risk of disease and pregnancy can lead them to overlook whether the woman has truly consented to having sex, they say.

This is dangerous because by inference, if a man does use a condom, he did not coerce a woman into having sex. "Your honor, I could not have raped her... I used a condom."

Giving men a new incentive for wearing a condom in a first-time sexual encounter should significantly reduce both the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and the tragic lack of communication that often gives rise to the illusion of consent, the two professors argue.

This makes the woman the eternal victim in society and puts the entire legal burden on the man. Why is it only the mans responsibility to use protection. And as for the intent of the law, reducing STDs and unwanted pregnancies, it doesn't have equal protection. If a man gives a woman and STD, he can go to jail for having unprotected sex. If a woman gives a man an STD, there is no ramifications for her actions. In fact, the man could still go to jail, even if he is the recipient of the unwelcome surprise.

In addition, the professors say, the crime of reckless sex also would be a powerful prosecutorial tool for the thousands of acquaintance rape cases that are simply not winnable under current law.

The proposed new crime would not replace current rape laws nor immunize men who commit rape with condoms from prosecution under existing law, the professors insist. Like DUI laws, however, the proposed new crime’s very existence would send a clear message that society considers reckless sex both physically and emotionally damaging.

"A crime of reckless sex, by encouraging people to protect themselves and their sexual partners, can encourage deliberation and communication in ways that promote public health and greatly reduce unnecessary and damaging sexual violence," Ayres and Baker write.

Maybe public awareness and education is a better tool. Condom use is much higher now than it was 30 years ago...

But the article goes on to reiterate some of the same issues, so read on.

Their proposal, which was first floated last September on a legal affairs Web site, drew dozens of comments, most of them negative.

"You’re joking … right?" one person wrote.

"This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read," wrote another. "How about a law against shaking hands without gloves?"

Criminal defense lawyers aren’t much kinder.

Miami lawyer Neal Sonnett, a past chair of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, says he thinks the proposal would create bad constitutional law and bad social policy.

"Notwithstanding the good intentions of these two professors, this is not something that ought to be regulated by criminal statute," he says. "If the concern is acquaintance rape, we already have statutes on the books to deal with that."

Some academics express mixed feelings about the proposal.

Georgetown University law professor Paul Rothstein says he sympathizes with what Ayres and Baker are trying to do. Rape cases are inherently difficult to prove. And unpunished rapes are a big social problem, he says.

Rothstein says such a law would be difficult to enforce. And it might also be unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 holding in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, which struck down a Texas anti-sodomy statute on the grounds that it represented an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of the bedroom, he says.

Rothstein says the proposed statute presents other potential problems. It does not seem to treat men and women equally and appears to represent a return to paternalism toward women. "It presumes women are more sensible than men, and always insist on a condom," he says.

Such a statute also could be abused by an overzealous prosecutor with a political agenda, Rothstein says. "I can see the whole machinery of searches and seizures, subpoenas, taking witness statements, searches of computers and letters, electronic eavesdropping, grand jury inquiries, in order to gather evidence of first-time encounters and unprotected sex," he says. "Talk about a state intrusion into the privacy of the bedchamber. Should public money be expended this way?"

But Ayres says a crime of reckless sexual conduct would be a lot easier to prove than rape. He also says the proposed statute is a minimally intrusive means of guarding against the documented dangers of unprotected sex. And the risk of potential abuse would be limited by the fact that a prosecutor would need a complaining accuser to bring a case and by the fact that a defendant could protect himself simply by using a condom.

Yet even some prosecutors express reservations about the wisdom of such a law.

"I think it’s a laudable social goal," says Clatsop County, Ore., District Attorney Joshua Marquis, who serves on the board of directors of the National District Attorneys Association, "but making it a crime may be a little bit of a reach."

Rape charges against Bryant were dropped last September after his accuser told prosecutors she was unwilling to testify against him. However, the alleged victim’s civil suit against Bryant is still pending

Monday, February 07, 2005

A Man With No Soul

Rehnquist is battling cancer and Scalia is already trying to move into the Chief Justice seat before it is even vacated. This man has no tact to be joking about the future of one of his colleagues health. When a colleague is ill, you don't start using his title, even as a joke. A man with class would say, "the issue of who will succeed Chief Justice Rehnquist will be dealt with when and if he steps down. Until then, I, and the rest of the Supreme court give him our prays and complete support in a full recovery."

A slimy man, like Scalia, starts elbowing for the job while his colleague is in chemo.

Scalia Won't Discourage Chief Justice Talk

Vacation Report

Well... I am back. I'm not too happy about it, but whatcha gonna do. By popular demand, here is my "what I did on my summer (winter) vacation" report.

Where I went
I was in Cocoa Beach Florida to visit my Mother and Step Father. It is great to have your family live in an area where you can visit and vacation at the same time. It was really great seeing them again even tough they took every opportunity to try to embarrass me in front of my girlfriend.

What I did
As any good left wing elitist would do, I spent most of my time windsurfing and surfing at the Banana River Windsurfing Resort. If you like to windsurf and surf, there is no better place to do both in the same place. The owner is also one of the best instructors in the nation, so if you ever wanted to learn, this is the place to do it. The wind was great for windsurfing, but the waves were fairly brutal (which I am still paying for).

What I read
God's Politics by Jim Wallis. If you are left or right, this is a must read for anyone who is interested in politics and how religion ties in. I give it two thumbs up.

Most exciting moment
We went up to the Kennedy Space Center for the tour and exhibits. I don't care how old you are, I think everyone reverts to a 10 year old dreamer when taking the tour and seeing a Titan V rocket up close.

Second most exciting moment
I was really glad that the elections when as smoothly as they did. The results so far look fairly discouraging, but I will give kudos to the elections as a whole.

Most obnoxious moment
Watching the State of the Union (which was pretty blasé if you ask me) when the doofus Congressmen held up their purple fingers. I'm sorry, but it was completely obnoxious and out of place. It reminded me of the idiot sports fan who paints their body the team colors and then runs around screaming, "woohoo!! we won!! we kicked their asses!! woohoo!!" No... you didn't do jack. The players out on the field took the hits. You just watched from the stands. An Iraqi who risked their lives to vote... they can hold their fingers up in pride. The Congressmen who did it need a good slap up side the head. It wasn't solidarity, it was just obnoxious and quite embarassing.

Saddest moment
Coming home :(

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Osama appears in a chesse sandwhich. Posted by Hello

If you missed out on buying the Virgin Mary, now is your chance to get Osama on a platter. E-bay bidding is currently at $10.41

H/T Wonkette