Saturday, April 30, 2005

Al Queda Training Video

U.S. forces recently discovered another terrorists training video. Something tells me we are going to be ok...

Training video

An attempt to hijack Christianity

I found this piece by Jim Wallis via Iddybud. Jim Wallis is a strong support of the notion that religion has been hijacked by politics and that it cannot and should not be owned by either political party. He tries to remind us that there is a lot more to faith/Christianity than just abortion.

Jim Wallis on the Hijacking of Christianity

An attempt to hijack Christianity
by Jim Wallis
From: Sojourners

"Last week, I wrote about the "Justice Sunday" event held at a Louisville, Kentucky, mega-church. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, and Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler were joined by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on video in the event titled "Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith." Of course, I have no objection to Christian leaders expressing their faith in the public arena - it's a good thing that I do all the time. The question is not whether to do so, but how. As I heard more and more about "Justice Sunday," it felt to me like it was crossing an important line - saying that a political issue was a test of faith.

So, when I was invited to speak at an interfaith "Freedom and Faith" service at Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, I agreed. On Sunday morning, I flew to Louisville, and that afternoon addressed more than 1,000 people who attended the rally. I didn't go to say that these leaders shouldn't bring their faith into politics; the issues concerning them - abortion and family values - are also important to me. But the way they were doing it was wrong. The clear implication of their message was that those who opposed them are not people of faith.

We can get some historical perspective by looking at how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did it - and he was the church leader who did it best. Once after he was arrested, he wrote a very famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," addressed to the white clergy who were opposing him on the issues of racial segregation and violence against black people. Never once did he say that they were not people of faith. He appealed to their faith, challenged their faith, asked them to go deeper with their faith, but he never said they were not real Christians. If Dr. King refused to attack the integrity and faith of his opponents over such a clear gospel issue, how can the Religious Right do it over presidential nominees and a Senate procedural issue known as the filibuster?

After the "Justice Sunday" event, and the controversy surrounding it, some of the sponsors are denying they ever claimed that those who oppose them are hostile to people of faith. Yet their words stand for themselves. In the letter announcing the event on the Family Research Council Web site, Tony Perkins wrote: "Many of these nominees to the all-important appellate court level are being blocked...because they are people of faith and moral convictions.... We must stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith."

So, I told the Louisville rally that when someone has stolen our faith in the public arena, it is time to take our faith back. "Justice Sunday" was an attempt to hijack Christianity for a partisan and ideological agenda. Those on the Religious Right are declaring a religious war to give their version of faith religious supremacy in America. And some members of the Republican Party seem ready almost to declare a Christian theocracy in America. It is time to take back both our faith and our Constitution.

It is now clear there are some who will fight this religious war by any means necessary. So we will fight, but not the way they do. We must never lie or misrepresent the facts or the truth. We must not demonize or vilify those who are our opponents. We must claim that those who disagree with our judgments are still real people of faith. We must not fight the way they do, but fight we must. A great deal is at stake in this battle for the heart and soul of faith in America and for the nation's future itself. We will not allow faith to be put into the service of one political agenda.

This is a call for the rest of the churches to wake up. This is a call for people of faith everywhere to stand up and let their faith be heard. This is not a call to be just concerned, or just a little worried, or even just alarmed. This is a call for clear speech and courageous action. This is a call to take back our faith, and in the words of the prophet Micah, "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God."

- Jim Wallis

Darfur Part II


The tragedy in Darfur has played itself out as an increasingly critical side-show to a decades long battle for control of the country of Sudan. From the time the British granted Sudan its independence in 1956, a series of coups and elections have put Sudan under the control of military dictatorships, extreme right wing governments, and briefly a communist government. Generally, regardless of who was in control, the Sudan government heavily favored the Muslim population.

The fight between the Muslim oriented government and southern rebels who represented the mostly non-Muslim south of Sudan began before independence and abated in the early 1970s. Then, in 1983, the government of Sudan attempted to impose Muslim law on the entire country. The predominantly Christian non-Muslims in the south saw that as a betrayal and the civil war flared up again. The major player for the southern rebellion has been the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (“SPLM/A”) led by John Garang. Because there were many Christian casualties among the southern population during the civil war, the U.S., prompted by Christian missionary agencies, became interested in the conflict and used its diplomatic power to try to bring about a settlement between the central government and the southern rebels.

Darfur, formerly an autonomous sultanate, was conquered by Britain in 1916 and incorporated into Sudan. It is located in the western part of Sudan, and varies geographically from desert in the north to grasslands in the south. Darfur covers about one-fifth of Sudan’s territory and has approximately six million people, one-seventh of Sudan’s population. It includes a mixture of Arab and non-Arab ethnic groups, both of which are predominantly Muslim, and virtually all of whom are dark-skinned. The ties of the Arab and non-Arab groups to their Arab and African tribal roots are extremely strong.

The Arabs are mostly nomadic, herding camels in the desert north and cattle in the southern grasslands. The Africans, including the Fur, Zaghawa, Daaju and Massalit, the largest tribes, live in western Darfur and tend to farm although the African Zaghawa tribe who live in the north of Darfur, where there is also a significant Arab population, herd cattle and move south with their herds at harvest time.

A drought that began in the 1980s turned much of Darfur’s grasslands into desert. As the area occupied by the Sahara expanded, the competition for water, grazing rights, and prized agricultural land intensified. Northern herding tribes were driven further south and west in search of grasslands. In the north, Arab herders resented the Zaghawas’ encroachment onto the Arabs’ diminishing grazing lands. African farmers in the west, who were just beginning to utilize tractors and other mechanized farming equipment to make their land more productive, resented the encroachment by Arab nomads from the north who trampled farms in search of pasture and water for their cattle and horses. The farmers began to impede the migrations. The tribes began increasingly violent feuding over the scarce resources. In the meantime, Arabs began coming in from countries to the west, exacerbating the feuds. The Sudan government did nothing to defuse the tensions.

Disputes over land had always been common. Tribal leaders traditionally mediated those disputes, and their decisions previously had been respected in Khartoum. The government of Sudan had weakened the old tribal administration system, replacing it with state institutions that were not trusted enough by the people to be able to resolve the economic and ethnic disputes that were growing. As the tribes became more polarized, they resorted to armed conflict.

In 1986, Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi had armed the ethnic-Arab tribes of Darfur and enlisted them to fight Garang’s SPLM/A. After helping the government of Sudan beat back an SPLM/A attack in Darfur in 1991, one of the armed Arab tribes sought to resolve ancient disputes over land and water rights in the Darfur region by attacking the Zaghawa, Fur, and Massalit peoples. Thousands of non-Arabs and hundreds of Arabs were killed, tens of thousands of cattle were lost, more than six hundred villages were burned, and hundreds of Arab tents were burned. A 1989 inter-tribal conference came up with recommendations for compensation and punishment that were largely unheeded, leaving strong grievances.

Despite the fact that both Arab and non-Arab factions were culpable, the Sudanese government sided with the Arabs, encouraging the formation of an “Arab Alliance” in Darfur to keep non-Arab ethnic groups in check. Weapons flowed into Darfur and the conflict spread. After President Bashir seized power in 1989, the new government disarmed non-Arab ethnic groups but allowed politically loyal Arab allies to keep their weapons.
Sudan’s central government had neglected Darfur, providing inadequately for roads, schools, hospitals, civil servants or communications facilities. Most top posts were awarded to local Arabs even though Africans thought themselves to be in the majority. The violence against African tribes escalated. Ethnic Africans and others in Darfur appealed to the Sudan government to include their concerns in the U.S.-backed peace process that was under way to resolve the dispute between the northern and southern regions of Sudan. When that effort failed, African tribal activists believed that only taking up arms, as Garang had done in the south, would allow them to get world attention.

In February of 2003, the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (the “SLM/A”) was formed, with a force of about 4,000 rebels, to act on the grievances of the African population of Darfur, and to a lesser degree, the grievances of the population of Darfur as a whole. The Justice and Equality Movement, with fewer than 1,000 rebels, had been established in 2002 but later joined the SLM/A in several campaigns against government forces. At first, the SLM/A appealed to both Africans and Arabs, going so far as to appoint an Arab as commander of the SLA in south Darfur. The SLM/A described its goals in terms meant to appeal to the broadest cross-section of Darfur: to protest “policies of marginalization, racial discrimination, exclusion, exploitation, and divisiveness” with the goal of creating “a united democratic Sudan on a new basis of equality, complete restructuring and devolution of power, even development, cultural and political pluralism and moral and material prosperity for all Sudanese.” On April 12, 2003, Sudan’s President Bashir downplayed the SLM/A’s rebellion, calling it “acts of armed banditry.”

Two weeks later, on April 25, 2003, the SLM/A made a major raid on a Sudanese military air field in El Fashar, killing a hundred soldiers, destroying airplanes and helicopters, stealing weapons, ammunition and vehicles, and kidnapping the head of the Sudanese Air Force. The government of Sudan then decided to treat the SLM/A as a major threat.
The government strategy, employed against Garang and his rebel allies in the south of Sudan, had been to bomb from the air and employ Arab tribesmen to launch raids on the ground. In the fighting which erupted in the West, the regular army could not be trusted to fight against their neighbors and families because a majority of Sudan’s army troops were from Darfur. So the Sudanese government called on Darfur’s Arab tribal leaders to defend their homeland against the SLM/A rebels. In a move later regretted by Sudanese leadership, the Sudanese government called on Musa Hilal, sheikh of his Arab tribe, to lead the Arab militias. His selection was problematic because he had recently been prosecuted, imprisoned and banished from Darfur for among other reasons, having been a long-time instigator of skirmishes by the Arabs against the Fur and other African tribes. With arms and funds from the government, he set up a training camp for militias that were to be part of or associated with the Popular Defense Forces (non-military groups utilized by the government to fight rebels) and rallied Arabs to the cause of suppressing the SLM/A rebellion and populating all of Darfur with Arabs. The Arab militias organized by Hilal and others, referred to by many as the “Janjaweed” (Arabic for horse and gun), have participated in pillaging, looting and raping in Darfur, and together with the Sudanese Air Force and Army, with whom they often carry out their attacks, have killed as many as 300,000 Darfur residents, destroyed 400 villages and caused more than 1.85 million people to flee from their homes to refugee camps in Sudan and 213,000 to escape to neighboring Chad. According to press and NGO reports, the Sudan government has given Janjaweed recruits salaries, communication equipment, arms, and identity cards.

The Janjaweed, along with other armed outlaw groups, continue to terrorize and destroy African villages and often attack people who leave the refugee camps, killing the men and raping the women. The Janjaweed and other outlaw groups have at times made it difficult to deliver necessary food and aid to the refugee camps. On December 21, 2004, Save the Children, U.K., suspended relief operations in Darfur after four of its staff were killed and less than a week later, the U.N. World Food Programme temporarily halted operations because of the violence.
The Sudanese government has not cooperated in acting against the militias nor has it provided information about militia leadership to the United Nations, as requested.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Follow up: Heating Oil Prices to High? Just Burn Books...

Looks like the nut job Alabaman state legislator is still making waves. I had previously posted on this story(Link). This is the type of law maker that gives Southerners a bad name.

Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors

CBS) A college production tells the story of Matthew Sheppard, a student beaten to death because he was gay.

And soon, it could be banned in Alabama.

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

Librarian Donna Schremser fears the "thought police," would be patrolling her shelves.

"And so the idea that we would have a pristine collection that represents one political view, one religioius view, that's not a library,'' says Schremser.

"I think it's an absolutely absurd bill," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship.

"It's a Nazi book burning," says Potok. "You know, it's a remarkable piece of work."

But in book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda,"
and he's alarmed.

"It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal."

(Full Story)

H/T Objective Justice

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Not-So-Different Bush SSI Plan

In order to ensure retirees did not outlive their 'personal accounts' the Bush plan would require retirees to annuitize some, if not all of their personal accounts. This means that once the retiree (annuitant) dies, the rest of it will evaporate and there will be nothing to bequest to children or spouses. So, the whole notion that there would be something to leave to your kids is bunk for many Americans. At least with SSI, there are survivor benefits. With Bush's plan, there would be nothing. Bush's plans gets worse day by day.

Bush Plan Would Make Some Buy Annuities
By LAURA MECKLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - It sounds appealing: Create your own personal account with Social Security taxes, and when you die, leave the money to your heirs.

It will belong to you, President Bush and his allies say repeatedly. You'll own it.

But many retirees will have to use a big chunk of their nest egg to buy an annuity, which guarantees a monthly income but disappears when you die.

Retirement planning is a balance between personal control and financial security, experts explain, and to get one, you give up the other.

"It's an unavoidable trade-off," said Jeffrey Brown, a finance professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who served on Bush's 2001 Social Security commission.

Social Security today is essentially a giant insurance program, or one big annuity. The people who die early subsidize those who live a long time.

The Bush plan is all about ownership. Younger workers could divert up to two-thirds of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts. When they retire, the money in those accounts is theirs — they can spend it, save it, leave it to heirs.

But there's a hitch, and it deals with financial security. Bush would make many people tap those personal accounts to buy life annuities sufficient to prevent them from slipping below the poverty line in retirement. Beyond that, others might want to buy annuities to be sure they don't outlive their money.

"People definitely want security," said Virginia Reno, vice president for income security at the National Academy of Social Insurance. "Ownership and individual responsibility has its appeal, but it also brings the risk you can make mistakes. You simply don't know whether you're going to die soon, whether you're going to live a long time."

Annuities have become a significant piece of the life insurance market, now accounting for just over half of all premiums. They come in a variety of packages, but in a life annuity, a client pays a lump sum and in exchange is guaranteed a certain monthly payment until he or she dies. The payments are determined by a variety of factors, including interest rates and the client's age and health.

Like Social Security today, annuities provide security. But they sacrifice ownership.

"When you annuitize your resources, you completely give up the right to have access to that wealth. You can't leave it as a bequest," said Brown, an expert on annuities.

(Full Story)

American People 1 - GOP 0

After digging themselves into another lose-lose situation, House Republicans have finally agreed to return ethics violation investigations to the Congress. A rule designed to protect Tom DeLay will be reversed so that his alleged indiscretions will finally be investigated. He may well be cleared of all allegations, but at least now, there will now be a little dignity returning. A rule that Republicans have still not changed back was the one that required a GOP leader to step aside if they are indicted for a crime.

GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule Blocking New DeLay Probe

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 27, 2005; Page A01

House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.

Republicans touched off a political uproar in January by changing a rule that had required the ethics committee to continue considering a complaint against a House member if there was a deadlock between the committee's five Republicans and five Democrats. The January change reversed this, calling for automatic dismissal of an ethics complaint when a deadlock occurs.

Democrats rebelled against that and other changes -- saying Republicans were trying to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) from further ethics investigations -- and blocked the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is officially known, from organizing for the new Congress.

Republicans on the committee say they will launch an investigation of DeLay's handling of overseas trips and gifts as soon as the impasse over the rules is broken. The Washington Post reported last weekend that Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff charged DeLay's airfare to London and Scotland to his American Express card in 2000.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay said that he will meet with the committee chairman and the ranking Democrat, and that his staff is assembling documents to turn over to the committee. The panel admonished DeLay three times last year for what it deemed inappropriate official behavior.

The officials participating in talks about restarting the committee said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has agreed to ask the House to vote later this week on a rollback of the rule change. A Republican adviser said the decision "is the speaker's way of trying to put this behind us and get us back to regular order."

"There will be a [political] cost to this, but if he had not done this, the cost would continue to increase," said the adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Hastert had not announced his decision.

This morning, at a weekly meeting for all House Republicans, Hastert will present options for the rollback package, officials said. The officials, who demanded anonymity because the negotiations were confidential, said the proposal will include a reversal of the January rule that would automatically dismiss an ethics complaint after 45 days if the committee is deadlocked.

(Full Story)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Darfur Part I

Since some of my readers are interested in the topic, I have decided to post the the report our committee published to President Bush and Congress. It really doesn't say much more than what has already been said by other committees on the same topic, but the challenge now is to actually push the U.S. government into some sort of action. The Bush administration is currently dragging its feet on intervention. It is a long report, so I will publish it one section at a time over the next couple of days (there still may be some typos in this copy).


“Where are the men seized in This Wind of Madness?” is the question asked by Sao Tome poet Alda do Espirito Santo. Although written about another war at a different time and place in Africa, Santo’s words are profoundly relevant to today’s conflict in Sudan. For black Sudanese to weather the storm of killing in Western Sudan, political and military leaders in Khartoum and the desert highwaymen of Darfur must be made to realize that their lives, liberty, and fortunes are subject to certain forfeit for their crimes.

Rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan began an uprising in February 2003 after years of skirmishes between mainly African farmers and Arab nomads over land and water in the arid area. The Islamist government turned to militias, drawn chiefly from the nomadic Arab population, to help suppress the rebels. The militias, known as the Janjaweed, have committed widespread atrocities against African villagers uprooting more than 2 million people, who have fled to other regions in Sudan or across the border to Chad. The British government and others estimate that up to 300,000 civilians have died in Darfur since fighting broke out. Moreover, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 Internally Displaced Persons (“IDPs”) are dying every day from disease and malnutrition in dozens of makeshift refugee camps.

Time is rapidly running out for the 1.85 million IDPs in Darfur and the 213,000 refugees who have fled to Chad. The following actions are urgently needed to alleviate what the United Nations - prior to the Indian Ocean tsunami - termed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

· Provide Food Aid. The malnutrition situation remains fragile and well beyond emergency thresholds for the IDPs living in 148 makeshift refugee camps in Darfur. Global acute malnutrition rates are at 21.8% with 3.9% severe malnourishment. We implore the Senate to pass, and President Bush to sign into law, the authorization for $150 million in emergency humanitarian [food] aid to Sudan which is contained in H.R. 1268. We also urge the President to accelerate the release of previously authorized humanitarian assistance funds earmarked for Darfur.

· Protect Aid Workers. Even if funding targets for the provision of food aid are met, security and logistical problems will remain daunting. In December 2004, Save the Children, U.K., a major relief organization, pulled out of the region completely after four of its staff were killed in Darfur, where it provided health care, food support, child protection and education to some 250,000 children and family members. More recently, according to the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, incidents of banditry have been on the rise in Westwestern Darfur. In addition to these dangers, Darfur is a difficult context in which to operate logistically with minimal infrastructure throughout the region. As a quick and inexpensive solution to the security problem, we urge that U.S. government funding be earmarked to provide armed civilian security contractors to “ride shotgun” with humanitarian food convoys. To overcome environmental obstacles, we further urge the U.S. to provide aid agencies with additional means of air transport (e.g. helicopters).

· Devise a Peacekeeping Strategy: A well thought out peacekeeping strategy must be devised taking into account the mission statement, rules of engagement, cost, and political factors.

· Impose Limited Sanctions. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1591 adopted on March 29, 2005 imposes an arms embargo on Sudan and places a travel ban and asset freeze on Sudanese government officials. Legislation pending in both the House and Senate also calls for travel bans and assert freezes. These targeted sanctions will not harm the general civilian population of Sudan and might influence Khartoum to comply with world community demands. Accordingly we support passage andpending legislation to the extent that it provides for implementation of these measures.

· Prosecute War Crimes. There must be diligent prosecution of war criminals in the International Criminal Court in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593 adopted on April 1, 2005. Specifically, the Prosecutor should forthwith investigate, and if appropriate, indict 51 alleged war criminals referred to the U.N. Secretary General by the International Commission of Inquiry on February 1, 2005. At the dawn of the 21st century with the memory of the Holocaust and more recent genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia fresh in our collective psyche, the unequivocal response to those who would perpetrate crimes against humanity in Darfur must be that there is no place on earth where they can escape the reach of justice.

· Negotiate a Political Settlement. Although humanitarian aid is desperately needed in the short run, a long-term political solution is key to resolving the catastrophe in Darfur. President George W. Bush is generally credited with having rejuvenated the North-Southnorth-south multilateral peace process largely through the efforts of his special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth. Those efforts resulted in a comprehensive settlement of the 20-year civil war in Sudan between the north and the south. Robust U.S. leadership and engagement is now likewise absolutely crucial to the success of the peace negotiations taking place in Abuja, Nigeria between Khartoum and the Darfur rebels.

The problems in Darfur are complex and not susceptible of easy resolution. We are absolutely convinced, however, that the foregoing measures, described in greater detail below, can restore an air of sanity to this troubled region if implemented with the urgency required.

Bill's Pickle

Frist has dug himself into a hole now, and doesn't seem to know how to get out. Senator Frist, who hopes to one day be President Frist, is in a situation where, if he implements the 'nuclear option' and foregoes 200 years of tradition, his GOP agenda is shut down. But, if he backs down and compromises with the Democrats, he is seen as weak and abandoning his evangelical supporters. He is in a lose-lose situation which is telling of his leadership abilities. If I was a Republican, I would be very disappointed in his stewardship of the Senate GOP. Greed will get you in a bind ever time.

Frist Says He's Not Interested in Deals
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Reacting to a Democratic offer in the fight over filibusters, Republican leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he isn't interested in any deal that fails to ensure Senate confirmation for all of President Bush's judicial nominees.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid had been quietly talking with Frist about confirming at least two of Bush's blocked nominees from Michigan in exchange for withdrawing a third nominee. This would have been part of a compromise that would have the GOP back away from a showdown over changing Senate rules to prevent Democrats from using the filibuster to block Bush's nominees.

But Frist, in a rare news conference conducted on the Senate floor, said he would not accept any deal that keeps his Republican majority from confirming judicial nominees that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Are we going to step back from that principle? The answer to that is no," Frist said.

That means he and Reid are still at deadlock, because Democrats have said they would not accept any deals that would permanently ban them from blocking Bush's nominees to the Supreme Court or the federal appellate courts, the top two tiers of the judicial system.

"As part of any resolution, the nuclear option must be off the table," said Reid, referring to the GOP threat to change the filibuster rules.

(Full Story)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Two Can Play This Game

Now things are starting to get interesting. Bill Frist's attempt to end-run the Senate's long standing tradition of filibuster may be even more counter productive than previously thought. Since Republicans have decided to do away with tradition, so are the Democrats. Traditionally, the agenda of the Senate is controlled by the Senate Majority Leader (in this situation, Bill Frist). Normally, the minority party will defer to the majority party's agenda (a long time tradition). But, the Democrats plan to use a little know (or at least little used) Senate procedure called Rule XIV:

Senate Rule XIV requires that measures be read twice on different legislative days (see "Adjournment and Legislative Days" section) before being referred to a committee. Most bills and joint resolutions, however, are considered as having been read twice and are referred to committee upon introduction. Under Rule XIV, when a Senator demands two readings and there is objection to the measure's second reading, the measure is placed directly on the Calendar of Business (see next section) without reference to committee.
Additionally noted:

The Senate only has two calendars: the Calendar of Business (commonly called the "Legislative Calendar"), and the Executive Calendar. Nominations and treaties are referred to the Executive Calendar. Legislation reported from committee are referred to the Calendar of Business, or placed on this calendar by unanimous consent. As discussed earlier, Rule XIV provides a procedure for placing measures on the Calendar of Business without reference to committee.

Traditionally, bills presented by the minority party would be referred to a committee where it would die an un-eventful death because it would never make it back out of committee (kind of like an alternative filibuster). This little provision will allow Democrats to place bills directly onto the Senate floor where there would be an up or down vote. This means that every bill about health care, veterans benefits, education, etc, that the Republicans have been killing in committee would now have to be voted on. Every time the Republicans vote 'no' on funding head start, health care, etc, there is an official record of their vote that Democrats can use against them in the next election cycle.

As I said before in prior posts, the Republicans are getting greedy in this whole filibuster thing. It may just be there down fall.

Source: House and Senate Rules of Procedure: A Comparison

Frist's Fight

Yesterday, Bill Frist's video taped speech on "judge bashing" was broadcast to evangelical churches across this country. While I had planned on writing something of my own on this event, Frank Rich said it much better than I ever could.

A High-Tech Lynching in Prime Time

Published: April 24, 2005

hatever your religious denomination, or lack of same, it was hard not to be swept up in last week's televised pageantry from Rome: the grandeur of St. Peter's Square, the panoply of the cardinals, the continuity of history embodied by the joyous emergence of the 265th pope. As a show of faith, it's a tough act to follow. But that has not stopped some ingenious American hucksters from trying.

Tonight is the much-awaited "Justice Sunday," the judge-bashing rally being disseminated nationwide by cable, satellite and Internet from a megachurch in Louisville. It may not boast a plume of smoke emerging from above the Sistine Chapel, but it will feature its share of smoke and mirrors as well as traditions that, while not dating back a couple of millenniums, do at least recall the 1920's immortalized in "Elmer Gantry." These traditions have less to do with the earnest practice of religion by an actual church, as we witnessed from Rome, than with the exploitation of religion by political operatives and other cynics with worldly ends. While Sinclair Lewis wrote that Gantry, his hypocritical evangelical preacher, "was born to be a senator," we now have senators who are born to be Gantrys. One of them, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, hatched plans to be beamed into tonight's festivities by videotape, a stunt that in itself imbues "Justice Sunday" with a touch of all-American spectacle worthy of "The Wizard of Oz."

Like the wizard himself, "Justice Sunday" is a humbug, albeit one with real potential consequences. It brings mass-media firepower to a campaign against so-called activist judges whose virulence increasingly echoes the rhetoric of George Wallace and other segregationists in the 1960's. Back then, Wallace called for the impeachment of Frank M. Johnson Jr., the federal judge in Alabama whose activism extended to upholding the Montgomery bus boycott and voting rights march. Despite stepped-up security, a cross was burned on Johnson's lawn and his mother's house was bombed.

The fraudulence of "Justice Sunday" begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," says the flier for tonight's show, "and now it is being used against people of faith." In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It's a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the "left's last legislative body," and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for "outrageous" judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.

The "Justice Sunday" mob is also lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real "Justice Sunday" agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show last week: " 'Activist judges' is a code word for gay." The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the "Justice Sunday" flier, now it's the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.

Anyone who doesn't get with this program, starting with all Democrats, is damned as a bigoted enemy of "people of faith." But "people of faith," as used by the event's organizers, is another duplicitous locution; it's a code word for only one specific and exclusionary brand of Christianity. The trade organization representing tonight's presenters, National Religious Broadcasters, requires its members to "sign a distinctly evangelical statement of faith that would probably exclude most Catholics and certainly all Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist programmers," according to the magazine Broadcasting & Cable. The only major religious leader involved with "Justice Sunday," R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has not only called the papacy a "false and unbiblical office" but also told Terry Gross on NPR two years ago that "any belief system" leading "away from the cross of Christ and toward another way of ultimate meaning, is, indeed, wicked and evil."

(Full Story)

Friday, April 22, 2005

An Earth Day Note

Yes, today is the bain of the anti-environmentalists. Today is Earth Day. It is a day to remind ourselves of the stewardship we have been granted for the planet. Over the last 3 decades, the environmental movement has made a lot of progress in cleaning up the water, the air, the sea, etc. It is a movement that has not been without faults and failing of its own, but has overall had a positive impact on the United States and the world as a whole. Long past are the days when rivers caught fire and entire neighborhoods were condemned because of toxic contamination. The Clean Air Act has made the nations air more breathable, and lessened the suffering of thousands of children and elderly. The water coming from our taps is cleaner than it was and corporations are being held accountable to the chemicals they dumped into rivers and streams for decades.

When you think about the environmental movement, it is not all about hugging trees and saving obscure snails from extinction. It is also about being pro-human. Pollution disproportionately affects those who are most vulnerable. The children, the elderly, the poor. As we look back at 30 years of protecting our world, we should be proud of what we have achieved, but at the same time not stop because there is much more to be done. There are sections of the US that have never met the minimum air quality standards. There are sections of the US where ground water is still undrinkable. There are sections of the US where cancer rates are 4 to 5 times higher due to chemical releases.

A flourishing economy is important to maintain and improve the quality of our lives, but the quality of our lives is also dependant on out health and ability to enjoy what we have. Environmental concerns and business do not have to be at odds with one another. America was able to put a man on the moon in less then a decade. We can also developed ways of protecting our health while also protecting out jobs.

Whether you are an environmentalist or not, take this day to celebrate what God has given us and re-dedicate yourselves to doing even the small things that make a difference. Recycle that can, buy the product with less packaging, walk to the neighbors instead of driving. In the end, it makes not only environmental sense, but economic sense.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ad Nauseum

If it weren't so scary, it would be funny. Tom "The Hummer" DeLay stepped up his attack on "activist judges" calling Justice Kennedy's use of the internet for research "incredibly outrageous." DeLay told FOX radio:

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

Please... Someone... Anyone... Put this man out of my misery.

And, by the way, the whole Wingnut claim that the decision was based on international law is lying. In Kennedy's own words:
"The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions."

DeLay Slams Supreme Court Justice

H/T Devil Advocate

Dems Reject GOP DeLay Compromise

The Republicans are trying to spin things again, but it won't work. Yesterday, the GOP offered to set up an inquiry into DeLay's un-ethical behavior, but the Democrats rejected the offer and continued the Ethics Committee boycott that has stopped any further investigation.

In an interview on Fox News Channel, House speaker Hastert noted:

that DeLay had said he was open to an investigation by the ethics panel. But, Hastert said, "as long as the Democrats won't let the Ethics Committee form, they have it both ways" — continuing to criticize DeLay without giving him a chance to clear his name.

This is completely untrue. Since the GOP changed the rules, the investigation would not go forward unless Republicans also voted to further investigate DeLay. If no Republicans voted to further investigate, the matter would be dropped within 45 days.

Hastert suggested that Democrats may fear that a working ethics panel would train a spotlight on ethics violations by their own members.
There are "probably four or five cases out there dealing with top-level Democrats," Hastert said. "There's a reason they don't want to go to the ethics process."

Completely untrue. The Democrats want to go back to the old rules which ensure that party politics cannot stop ethics violations. If the Democrats got their way, there would be no chance of them protecting their own party members from further investigation. If the Democrats get what they want, it would only ensure that any misdeeds done by Democrats are also investigated. It would make no sense for Democrats to go back to the old rules if they wer trying to protect their own memebers.

This is just another instance of the GOP trying to protect DeLay and spin the story. The fact remains that the GOP changed the ethics rules so DeLay could escape further investigations.

GOP's DeLay Inquiry Offer Rebuffed

Update: Here is a nice little quote from Tommy boy from a1995 House floor speech.

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I am in meetings the rest of the day, but please join the crowd over at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred for a great debate on "politics cannot hide the truth" here and here. See the first one for the topic. The socond one is part duex. Its a really great read and debate.

Its Denzel Day

That's right people, it is Denzel Washington day. He is performing in the play "Julius Caesar" across the street. Every Wednesday, after his matinee show, he comes out to sign autographs. If he comes out and sees his shadow and runs back in, it means 6 more days of sliding Dow Jones. I'll let you know how it goes.

Update: Ok... he is coming out... he does not appear to be seeing his shadow. He is signing autographs... BUY! BUY! BUY!... Wait, he is running back inside, but it was because a large woman from Topica goosed him... HOLD! HOLD! HOLD!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pot, Kettle... Hello?

Talk about a situation of the pot calling the kettle black. Tom DeLay sent out letters to his supporters where he stated:

"Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction, and the criminalization of politics.

DeLay has built his entire career on the politics of personal destruction. There is a reason he got the nic-name "hammer." Now that the table have turned, he is complaining about it? He also said:

"They hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda."

I'm sorry, but Tom DeLay is no Ronald Reagan Republican. I was not a big fan of Reagan, and I even find this to be an insult to Reagan.

Full Story: DeLay Letter Cites Democrats' 'Hate'

Hail To Mistress Ann

All across the right wing blogs, I have see the buzz about the Time interview with the Mistress of the Dark, Ann Coulter. I cannot see the fascination with her. What bothers me even more is that they can pay homage to this woman and then justify their own attacks on left wing "lies and deceit." The NYT has and interesting op-ed on the Time cover story.

The Conservative Pin-Up Girl

A couple of quotes of hers

On the Oklahoma city bombing:
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

About women serving in the military:
"I would like a United States military capable of winning wars, which will not involve sending girls to do fighting." Coulter concluded: "And, yes, I think it's appalling that these women are mud wrestling, but I think it's appalling that they are in the military."

On 9/11:
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

On Democratic women:
"the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

When debating a disabled Viet Nam vet:
"People like you caused us to lose that war."

On how to deal with liberals:
I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days.

On women:
"I'm so pleased with my gender. We're not that bright." and "women, though they're not as bright, don't want to die any more than men."

yeah, a real patriot.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Is the Sky Falling?

I found this interesting press release today from the Competitive Enterprise Institute today. It goes on to bash environmentalist for trying to actually keep the earth clean and, in the end, somewhat praise them. I was confused.

WASHINGTON, April 18 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The 1970's brought us many things, including the idea that Earth was going to pot. Gloom and doom predictions by those supposedly in the know have kept "Earth Day" a main focus for the environment movement. But the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public policy group based in Washington, D.C., and according to the Wall Street Journal, "the best environmental think tank in the country," Earth Day is nothing more than a propaganda tool used to scare the public. As evidence, CEI cites the following advances, many of which go well beyond the 30-yr. history of "Earth Day."

The world "going to pot." Hmmm... Maybe a river catching fire gave us the idea that we are polluting too much.

-- There is no "scientific consensus" that global warming will cause damaging climate change. In fact, global average temperature is only about 0.6o higher than a century ago. Outlandish claims that our earth is warming at an extreme rate mischaracterize the scientific research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences. The world is not in severe danger from rising sea levels. Research from Nils-Axel Morner of Stockholm University demonstrates that current sea levels are within the range of sea level oscillation over the past 300 years. And extreme weather conditions have no provable link to Global warming. Research by German scientists have demonstrated that the devastating floods in central Europe in 2002 were quite normal. And don't blame climate on the growth of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. World experts agree that "other factors" are more important when it comes to the spread of diseases. CEI senior fellow in international policy, Iain Murray.

No, there is not a consensus. And the planet's temperature has only risen .6 to 1.1 degrees (depending on the study). But two things are know. 1) Fossil fuel emissions are greenhouse gases. 2) When you add anything to a state in equilibrium, it changes the equilibrium. How much will it change if we continue at the present rate of increase? No one can really say right now. But what have we got to lose by moving to alternative energy sources? Nothing. We get off of foreign oil, bring our trade deficit under control, etc.

-- Alarmists such as Paul Ehrlich made hysterical predictions 30-plus years ago about the world running out of food. However, worldwide, the amount of food produced per acre has doubled over the past 50 years. In the United States alone, more than three times the amount of people are fed on 33 percent less farmland than in 1990. In addition, death from famine dropped during the 20th century, despite the world's population quadrupling. Advances in agricultural technology and liberalization of global trade have had an impact on alleviating the food shortage. In recent years, one very important component of the food supply- fish, has come under attack by scare mongrels that tell us rising levels of mercury in fish are putting people at risk. In fact, according to data taken from the Smithsonian Institute, mercury levels found in fish are no higher today than they were 100 years ago. Greg Conko, CEI director of food safety policy.

Yes, the farmlands are more productive. But, everything is finite. There is only so much corn you can harvest from an acre of land. And the whole thing about famine dropping has a lot more to do with the ability to transport food than actual production of food. 100 years ago, you could not move food to reagions struck by famine as easily as you can today. Tankers, planes, trucks, etc. have more to do with any drop in famine than increased production of food.

Lets see, the mercury in fish. I wanted to see this study first hand, so I went the CEI web site to find the source. Surprise, surprise, no citation for the study. So, I went to the Smithsonian website... nothing. Nothing on the web at all on this study. It turns out, the CEI source for this Smithsonian study was an FDA official that had heard about, but never seen a study by the Smithsonian. He could neither confirm, nor deny the existence of it. So, on I pressed. On further investigation, the only reference I can come up with is that it was a 1972 study that was renounced in 1974 by its own authors because they discovered mercury was part of the preservatives used by scientists at the turn of the century. Good going CEI. I always like it when people try to convince me with 33 year old studies that have been debunked by the very scientists that created it.

-- The on-going belief that using pesticides will cause cancer has never been proven and in fact, has led to the spread of serious health risks, including the West Nile Virus and malaria. Both diseases are controllable and have been drastically reduced in communities and countries that allow the spraying of DDT. In addition, credit pesticide use and artificial fertilizers for creating a worldwide boom in the production of food. The word "chemical" instilled fear in many people during the last century. However, according to a researcher, chlorine, used to disinfect drinking water, ranks right up there with the discovery of antibiotics as one of the major public health accomplishments of the 20th century. Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy.

No one can prove that smoking causes cancer either. Trying to find a 100% correlation between a drug and cancer is almost impossible to prove because it would take a study of humans in a controlled environment and at least 50% of them would have to die. Call me silly, but I am willing to make the extrapolation that a chemical that was created to kill another living organism probably is not the best for us either. Are pesticides necessary? Yes, but that doesn't mean that you can just give a blank check to the chemical industry. You can't wait for 100% conclusive proof because it will never happen.

-- A popular environmental concern warns us that air quality is getting worse and is making us all sick. However, statistics show over the last 20 years, carbon monoxide levels have dropped 58 percent, despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled; ozone concentrations have decreased by 17 percent; and the ambient concentration of lead has plummeted 96 percent. Marlo Lewis, CEI senior fellow.

Gee, maybe the is because of the Clean Air Act and the ban on leaded fuels. I can say from first hand experience, companies do not reduce pollution out of goodwill towards their fellow man. They only reduce pollution after kicking and screaming and being forced to by the government. And, even with the Clean Air Act, there are many parts of this country that have never met the minimum standards even with decades in which to comply. So, once again, I am confused. Is the CEI praising environmentalists here? I thougt this was a bashing excercise.

-- "Tree huggers'" claims of mass de-forestation are completely unfounded based on the numbers. In the early part of the twentieth century, people cut down twice as many trees as they planted; now the United States grows 36 percent more trees than it harvests. Some researchers believe tree numbers are larger today than when Columbus arrived in 1492! In fact, less dependence on wood for fuel and construction has led to a decrease in wood consumption by half since 1900. Look to private conservation efforts, not federal government, for the 86 percent increase in reforestation, which helps create habitat for endangered species. Species like the California Condor are becoming extinct and environmentalists tout the Endangered Species Act for helping the condor and many other species. While the ESA's sole purpose is to save species, in fact, not one recovered species has been helped by the ESA, according to many experts. Like the California Condor and the Wood Duck, countless species have been saved through the hard working efforts of private individuals and organizations. Robert J. Smith, Senior Environmental Scholar.

This is true. Forests are getting larger in the US. This is because the reduction in farmland and regrowth in New England. At the turn of the centry, you could not go to New England to see the leaves change because there were no trees. But, unsurprisingly, what the CEI doesn't say that the US is the only nation where forests are growing faster than they are being cut down. Even Canada is cutting down fast than they are growing. World wide, we are cutting down trees far faster than they are gowing.

And for the claim that not a single species has been helped by the ESA, one only needs to look at our nations symbol, the bald eagle, to see how it has worked. Without the ESA, the bald eagle would be on the verge of extinction, if not already extinct by now. It has been a combination of law and efforts by environmentalist that have saved the national bird.

The CEI presents a very, very skewed portrait of the environmental community. On the one had, it derides environmentalist as crying wolf, and on the other, it gives them credit for saving the wood duck, cleaning the air, saving the condor. In the end, I can't tell what the CEI's point in this press release was, other than to try to confuse people. Much of what the CEI points to as positives are the result of envirnonmental action, not inaction. If this is really the Wall Street Journal's idea of the 'best think tank,' I am going to have to re-evaluate my confidence in their market research also.

CEI's press release

Friday, April 15, 2005

Thinking Experiment

I found this link over at the Devils Advocate. It analyzes your name and tells you your personality based upon your name.

Part I
Try putting your name in and then read the 'profile.' Then come back and read part II.

Part II
So, how did you fair? The first time I read mine, I thought, "wow, fairly accurate." Then I thought about it some more and decided to be more analytical about it (after all, it said I am fairly analytical). Make two columns on a sheet of paper titled yes and no. Read through it again and break down each clause and for each one that definitely applies to you, mark yes. For each clause that does not apply to you, mark no. Don't fudge by trying to 'fit' yourself into a category. Be honest with your answers. I put in several names and found each has around 20 clauses. When finished, read part III.

Part III
What did you get? For me, after I broke it down, I had 10 'yes' checks and 11 'no' checks. But, the first time I read it, I thought it was fairly accurate. It turns out it was right down the middle. It is the same thing that allows fortune tellers to make a living. Human nature allows us to accept the things we want to and disregard the things we don't. When it comes to the political realm, we do the same thing. Whether it is the 'liberal media' or radio talk show hosts, we hear what we want to and filter out the rest.

The Times I Wish I Could be More Hypocritical

It is April 15th... Tax day. Across the street is and IRS office. About 12 anti-tax people are over there protesting. It wasn't so bad until the guy with the drum showed up. It is times like these, I question my firm belief in freedom of speech. It is also times like these that make the right to bear arms so dangerous. The drummer is lucky there is no Wal-Marts in Manhattan.

When Republicns Attack - Check Your Local TV Listings for Details

Conservatives are pulling out all stops in their war on the constitution. I hate to uses these stupid terms like "war on." It is cliché and childish, but it really can't think of any other way of putting it. You have these Christian groups who warn of "liberal activist judges" who "thwart the will of the people." Even though the will of the people is firmly against these groups, not the judges, the role of judges is not to cater to the will of the people. The role of judges is to protect minority groups from the will of the people.

I understand that you will always have a number of elected officials who are on the fringe. That is too be expected. But now, it is the Republican leaders of both the House and Senate that have declared jihad.

You have Tom DeLay, who doesn't even try to hide the fact that he believes this country should be a Christian Theocracy. DeLay has publically stated he wants to take away your right to privacy, protections for minorities and the seperation of church and state.

And, you have Bill Frist, who claims to want an independent judiciary, but then plans speeches at evangelical conferences titled "The filibuster against people of faith." Frist is playing the "religion card" and portraying Democrats as being anti-Christian. The flier from the conference (pictured below) show a boy holding a gavel and a bible and asking if he must choose between the two.

What's wrong with this pitcute Posted by Hello
The answer is yes. If a judge must choose between using State or Federal law to decide a case, or using the bible, then he must choose State or Federal law and not the bible. Now, lets examine this further. Remove the bible from the boys hand and replace it with a Torah. Not so bad, right? Still Judeo basis. What about Buddhist prayer beads? Are you still happy? What about a Koran? Are you starting to get a little nervous? How about a dagger for Satanic Sacrifice? Is it ok for a Satanist to sit on the bench and use their faith as a basis for deciding cases? If a judge cannot sit on the bench and seperate your religious beliefs from the law, the judge has no business being there. A evangelical judge who can put down the bible when he puts on the robe will have my full support.

So, the question becomes, are Democrats becoming anti-Christian, or are the extreme Christian Republicans becoming anti-American?

Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue
Anti-'Activist' Activism

Thursday, April 14, 2005

DeLay Rejects Right to Privacy

Tom DeLay gave a pen and paper sit down with reporters yesterday. During the interview, Mr. DeLay declares there is no constitutional separation of church and state. Mr. DeLay declares there should be not right of judicial review. And, my favorite, that the only reason Americans have a right of privacy is because Congress didn't stand up to the courts.

Mr. Dinan: You've been talking about going after activist judges since at least 1997. The [Terri] Schiavo case gives you a chance to do that, but you've recently said you blame Congress for not being zealous in oversight.
Mr. DeLay: Not zealous. I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

The only reason we have a right to privacy is because the Congress didn't 'stop them'? Are you kidding me?

So, in Mr. DeLay's world, there would be no right to privacy. The government would be able to control every aspect of your life.

In Mr. DeLay's world, there would be no ability for the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of laws passed by congress. Protection of minority groups would be permanently gone.

And, in Mr. DeLay's world, Pat Robertson would be the Supreme Ruler of the United Theocracy of America.

Mr. DeLay claims that the Democrats have no agenda. You know what? I would prefer their 'no agenda' any day to DeLay's agenda. I personally like right to privacy and freedom of religion.

(Full Interview)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ad Nauseum

Typical of many Republicans today - when you screw up, blame the dirty 'liberals' for your problems. I especially like how DeLay claims "Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship." This is coming form a man nic-named The Hammer.

DeLay Urges GOP to Blame Dems Over Ethics
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism.

Officials said DeLay recommended that senators respond to questions by saying Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship, and are attacking him to prevent Republicans from accomplishing their legislative program. One Republican said the Texan referred to a "mammoth operation" funded by Democratic supporters and designed to destroy him as a symbol of the Republican majority.

DeLay also thanked Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., for his recent comments and said the news media had twisted them to make them sound critical, the officials added, all speaking on condition of anonymity.

In an appearance on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Santorum said DeLay "has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves. But from everything I've heard, again, from the comments and responding to those, is everything he's done was according to the law."

The officials who described DeLay's brief remarks noted that the session, a regularly scheduled weekly lunch, was held under rules of secrecy. Dan Allen, DeLay's spokesman, declined comment.

DeLay's case is at the heart of a broader controversy in the House, where Democrats accuse Republicans of unilaterally changing ethics committee rules to prevent any further investigation of DeLay. Republicans have denied the allegation.

(Full Story)

Nutty Wingnut Lawyers

I have read over and over on conservative blogs about the ACLU and their "outlandish" arguments. I will agree, some ore over the top. But, I have never heard of anything like the stupidity coming from this oral argument by wingnut lawyers in front of an appeals court.

Attorneys [for the gun lobbyists] said so-called "activist judges" shouldn't interfere with the law as passed by the legislature.

The Judges replied in their written opinion:
"At the oral argument on this case," the judges wrote, "appellant referred, at times, to not wanting 'liberal' or 'activist' judges to overstep the will of the Minnesota legislature. Simply put, the term 'liberal/activist judge' is, in reality, a 'non-term.' Both parties to this debate recognize the truth. What one calls 'a well-reasoned conservative judicial opinion by a son or daughter of the founding fathers' means only that the judge ruled in your favor. When the judge rules against you and in favor of your opponent, on the identical facts and argument, you will now turn to the banal cliché that the judge 'is too activist' for me. The term is meaningless, self-defeating, and, worse, it actually weakens appellant's position."
Now, what the judges said is quite true, but how stupid do you have to be to as a lawyer to 'warn' the judges you are arguing in front of 'activists.' That's like saying, "dad, don't be an asshole while making your decision on whether or not I, your 16 year old son, can go to that unsupervised keg party." Usully dad won't be as nice in saying, "your a freak'n idiot," as the judges were.

Minnesota Appeals Court, Warned By Gun Lobby Allies Not to Be 'Activist,' Deactivate CCW Law That Police Opposed

On a related note, the Tom DeLay minions are coming out of the wood work. The Federal courthouse in Brooklyn had to beef up security because of a slew of death threats targeting Federal judges. Its good to know that DeLay's call for a war on the constitution is being taken to heart.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

When I pick'em, I pick'em good

Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut was the first Republican to break ranks and call for Tom DeLay to step down as Republican leadership. Shays was the lone Republican I voted for in the last election. I voted for him with great trepidation because of the current direction of the Republican party as a whole, but a vote should be about the person who will hold the office, and not the party. Congressman Shays is for many of the same things I am. I am glad that the Republican I voted for has the courage to be independently minded and not march in lock step with the other minions. Congressman Shays is jeopardizing his standing within his own party, but by taking a stance against DeLay's corruption, he will probably make the party stronger as a whole (much to my chagrin).

Kudos to you Congressman Shays.

Shays Says DeLay Should Step Down
By LOU KESTEN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Rep. Christopher Shays said Sunday that fellow Republican Rep. Tom DeLay should step down as House majority leader because his continuing ethics problems are hurting the GOP.

"Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," Shays told The Associated Press on Sunday.

DeLay, R-Texas, has been dogged in recent months by reports of possible ethics violations. There have been questions about his overseas travel, campaign payments to family members and his connections to lobbyists who are under investigation.

A moderate Republican from Connecticut who has battled with his party's leadership on a number of issues, Shays said efforts by the House GOP members to change ethics rules to protect DeLay only make the party look bad.

"My party is going to have to decide whether we are going to continue to make excuses for Tom to the detriment of Republicans seeking election," Shays said.

Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said Sunday that DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics.

"I think he has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves," Santorum told ABC's "This Week." "But from everything I've heard, again, from the comments and responding to those, is everything he's done was according to the law.

(Full Story)

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Theocrats Strike Again

If you are gay, don't get sick in Michigan because you might not be able to get care. Doctors in Michigan will now be allowed to turn down caring for a patient because of their sexual orientation. Any Doctor who turns down a patient because of their sexual orientation is not worthy of a medical license. I'm guessing educators are next to get an exemption from teaching gay kids.

If there are any Christians out there wondering why many liberals have so much disrespect towards Christianity, this is one example why.

Michigan Preparing To Let Doctors Refuse To Treat Gays

(Lansing, Michigan) Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.
The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.

The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused.

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) the first openly gay legislator in Michigan, pointed out that while the legislation prohibits racial discrimination by health care providers, it doesn't ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation.

"Are you telling me that a health care provider can deny me medical treatment because of my sexual orientation? I hope not," he said.

"I think it's a terrible slippery slope upon which we embark," said Rep. Jack Minore (D-Flint) before voting against the bill.

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills promote the constitutional right to religious freedom.

"Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," he said in a written statement.

H/T Devils Advocate

DeLay Declares War on the Constitution

Republican House Leader, Tom DeLay, had gone over the edge again. DeLay spoke in a video taped speech to one of his uber-conservative support groups. The speech titled "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" delivered nice little tid-bits of his advanced knowledge of the constitution. First of all, what he calls a judicial war on faith, I call defense of the 1st amendment. But, then again, I am rather partial to the idea of freedom in this country, so I tend to be a little biased.

"Judicial independence does not equal judicial supremacy"

Nor does Congressional independence equal Congressional supremacy. Do I really need to explain what checks and balances mean? I thought it was fairly self evident, but I always liked 9th grade civics class, so I kind of paid attention.

"The failure is to a great degree Congress's," Mr. DeLay said. "The response of the legislative branch has mostly been to complain. There is another way, ladies and gentlemen, and that is to reassert our constitutional authority over the courts."

Apparently, Mr. DeLay, you've forgetting that third section of the constitution where it creates a separate and independent judiciary. I know... I know, it is a long document with all those words, but keep reading. I promise you it is there. And if you don't have a copy, the national archives is right down the street. There is often a long line out front, but I am sure you can pull some stings. There is a specific reason the Founders created it this way, and it was so arrogant legislators, like you, Mr. DeLay, could not proclaim yourself Supreme Ruler of the Universe (besides, that's my job title).

"I believe the judiciary branch of our government has overstepped its authority on countless occasions, overturning and in some cases just ignoring the legitimate will of the people"

Hmmm.... The will of the people. Now, when you say, ignoring the legitimate will of the people? Do you actually mean your will? Because if that is what you mean, then I will have to agree. The courts have overruled your will. As for the will of the people, not so much. Depending on what poll you look at, between 70-77% of the American people wanted congress to stay out of the Schiavo case. I know that polls are unreliable, but unless the plus/minus on those polls were +/- 50%, I am going to have to say the will of the people was against you, not the courts.

And, I know this is a little nit-picky, but the whole idea behind life time appointments for federal judges was so they would not be pressured to bend the the will of the people. I know this is a complex idea, but try to stay with me Tom. The Congress is there to answer to the people. The courts are there to ensure the will of the people does not infringe on the rights of the minority. Got it?

The only thing that 'Run Amok' is you, Mr. DeLay.

DeLay Says Federal Judiciary Has 'Run Amok,' Adding Congress Is Partly to Blame

Update: The group that DeLay was speaking to supports legislation to ban Fenderal judges from making any rulings on God.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Missouri Cuts Medicaid

Where is the religious right on this? Why are there no candle light prayer groups on the capital steps of Missouri? How does this nation go one week from fighting for Terri Schiavo to Cutting health care for 100,000 poor people? Where is the 'culture of life' now?

Mo. Lawmakers Pass Bill Cutting Medicaid

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press Writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri lawmakers passed a bill authorizing the elimination or reduction of Medicaid health coverage for tens of thousands of low-income residents.

The state House on Thursday sent the bill to Gov. Matt Blunt, delivering him a key victory in his budget battle. The state Senate passed the measure last month.

The House vote came the same day a committee was finalizing a roughly $19 billion spending plan that would implement the Medicaid cuts beginning July 1. The House is expected to debate the budget next week.

Blunt, a Republican, and GOP legislative leaders say the Medicaid cuts are needed to balance a budget that increases school funding without seeking higher taxes.

Opponents contend the health care cuts could be life-threatening to the disabled, elderly and affected parents.

(Full Story)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Ad Nauseum

Here are two more stories about Tom DeLay for those of you who are keeping track. One is about how his wife and daughter were paid $500,000 from his political action committee for "work" rendered.

DeLay Denounces Report on Payments to His Family

The second story is about how he accepteded a trips and contributions by sweatshop owners in Saipan from U.S. laws.

DeLay's Lavish Island Getaway

Schiavo Memo Put to Bed

Yes, all of you right wing conspiracy theorist can stop your pontifications on which dubious Democrat planted the memo in order to make the Republicans to look bad. As usual, it was a Republican, who made the Republicans look bad. Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez has copped to the memo coming from his office.

Martinez: Schiavo Memo Was From My Office

WASHINGTON - Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez says an infamous unsigned memo passed around on Capitol Hill emphasizing the politics of the Terri Schiavo case originated in his office.

The memo — first reported by ABC News on March 18 and by The Washington Post and The Associated Press two days later — said the fight going on then over removing Schiavo's feeding tube "is a great political issue ... and a tough issue for Democrats."

"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was described at the time as being circulated among Senate Republicans while legislation was being considered to place the Schiavo case under the jurisdiction of federal courts.

Martinez said in a written statement that he discovered Wednesday that the memo had been written by an aide in his office.

"It is with profound disappointment and regret that I learned today that a senior member of my staff was unilaterally responsible for this document," Martinez said.

He said he accepted the resignation of the staffer who drafted and circulated the memo. "This type of behavior and sentiment will not be tolerated in my office," he said.

Martinez did not identify the aide, but The Washington Post said he was the senator's legal counsel, Brian Darling.

"Until this afternoon, I had never seen it and had no idea a copy of it had ever been in my possession," Martinez said of the document. He had previously denied knowing anything about the memo and condemned its sentiments.

The memo had been disavowed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, both primary forces behind Congress passing the bill and sending it to President Bush on March 21.

(Full Story)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Technos Gone Wild - Now on VHS and DVD

I saw this at a friends place a couple of months ago. LOVED IT!

Perfect for a late in the day chuckle.


P.S. The eyebrow rais is the best part. Make sure to wait for it.

More on Darfur

This is a very poignant Op-Ed about the Darfur situation. I recommend the read.

The Pope and Hypocrisy

Published: April 6, 2005

President Bush and other world leaders are honoring John Paul II in a way that completely misunderstands his message. We pay him no tribute if we lower our flags to half-staff and send a grand presidential delegation to his funeral, when at the same time we avert our eyes as villagers are slaughtered and mutilated in the genocide unfolding in Darfur.

The message of the pope's ministry was about standing up to evil, not about holding grand funerals.

"Throughout the West, John Paul's witness reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak," Mr. Bush said. Well, what about that reminder? What kind of a "culture of life" is it that allows us to shrug as Sudanese soldiers heave children onto bonfires?

The latest estimates, from the British government and others, are that 300,000 or more have perished so far in Darfur. Mr. Bush has forthrightly called this slaughter "genocide," but he has used that label not to spur action, but to substitute for it.

These days the Sudanese authorities are adding a new twist to their crimes against humanity: they are arresting girls and women who have become pregnant because of the mass rapes by Sudanese soldiers and militia members. If the victims are not yet married, or if their husbands have been killed, then they are imprisoned for adultery.

(Full Story)

Ad Nauseum

Yet another questionable trip taken by DeLay and paid for by lobbyists... blah, blah, blah. I think the press should start looking for times DeLay was actually ethical - it would be more of a challenge. So many allegations are building up, listing them is starting to sound like a bad version of the 12 days of Christmas. Seriously, how is he still the Republican leader?

A 3rd DeLay Trip Under Scrutiny

By R. Jeffrey Smith and James V. Grimaldi, Washington Post Staff Writers

A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign.

It is unclear precisely how the money was transferred from the Bahamian-registered company to the nonprofit.

The expense-paid trip by DeLay and four of his staff members cost $57,238, according to records filed by his office. During his six days in Moscow, he played golf, met with Russian church leaders and talked to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a friend of Russian oil and gas executives associated with the lobbying effort.

DeLay also dined with the Russian executives and two Washington-based registered lobbyists for the Bahamian-registered company, sources say. One of those lobbyists was Jack Abramoff, who is now at the center of a federal influence-peddling and corruption probe related to his representation of Indian tribes.

House members bear some responsibility to ensure that the sponsors for their travel are not masquerading for registered lobbyists or foreign government interests, legal experts say. House ethics rules bar the acceptance of travel reimbursement from registered lobbyists and foreign agents.

(Full Story)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gives You A Warm Glowing Feeling... Literally

We have all heard the debate back and forth about using Yucca Mountain as a national depository for nuclear waste. Well, it gets better. Looks like the scientist in charge of the program didn't know exactly what to do, so they just made crap up. Here are some of the released e-mails written by government scientists to colleagues on the Yucca Mountain project between 1998 and 2000.

I don't have a clue when these programs were installed. So I've made up the dates and names. ... This is as good as it's going to get. If they need more proof, I will be happy to make up more stuff, as long as it's not a video recording of the software being installed." — Writer identified as USGS Employee 1.

"Here's my question: When we go to start (quality assurance)'ing the site-scale modeling work, will I get taken to the cleaners because I am not referencing either a tech procedure or a scientific notebook? In other words, would it be cost-effective to create a (scientific notebook) for the site-scale work and back-date the whole thing??" — Unidentified worker.

"This is now CYA and we had better be good at it. I seem to have let this one slip a little too much in an attempt to cover all our work (and get us the hell out of the long-term problem of Yucca Mountain) but now it's clear that we have a little to no choice. In all honesty I've never felt well-managed or helped by the USGS (Yucca Mountain Project) folks. In fact, as you know, I've often felt abandoned. This time it's no different, or worse, and we have to work together to get out of this one." — USGS Employee 2.

"Some nights I have a hard time going to sleep because I realize the importance of trying to get the right answer, and I know how many serious unknowns are still out there, and how many quick fixes are still holding things together." — Unidentified worker.

The Yucca Mountain project "has now reached a point where they need to have certain items work no matter what, and the infiltration maps are on that list. If USGS can't find a way to make it work, Sandia will (but for now they are definitely counting on us to do the job)." — USGS Employee 1.

To read more about the story: Fraud Allegations Probed at Yucca Mountain

Another Republican Lie

Ok, this is where I get to call bullshit. This is more scare tactics by the Republicans to give tax breaks and soften environmental regulations for their friends in the energy industry.

DALLAS - On a day when oil prices breached a record high, a prominent House Republican said that steep gasoline costs will prod Congress to pass an energy bill this year and warned of a possible "horrible summer" because of power blackouts.

Barton warned that years of inaction have left the nation's electrical grid unable to cope with growing demand, raising the possibility of blackouts this summer.

"We could have a horrible summer this year," he said. "They haven't built any new power plants in California."

The actual truth is, is that there are too many power plants. That's right, too many. Energy companies all across the nation have been closing down plants because there is a glut of energy production. When the utilities were deregulated, energy companies overbuilt which resulted in too much energy being produced, which resulted in a drop in energy prices. So, the companies started mothballing plants that were less profitable. The rolling blackouts in California had nothing to do with a lack of power plants, but because of un-ethical trading companies like Enron. So, let me say this one more time - there is no crisis in energy production. It is a lie to scare us into allowing congress to do whatever they want. Don't let Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, lie to you.

Barton: Gas Prices May Prod Energy Bill

Monday, April 04, 2005

Poll Results

The polls are in... the people have spoken

Who is the least honest partisan media pundit: Total votes 264

Rush Limbaugh won this round beating all other challengers combined with a whopping 135 votes - (51%)
Bill "is that a vibrator up my butt or are you just happy to see me" O'Reilly came in second place with 46 votes - (17%)
Sean Hannity took third with 37 votes - (14%)
Al Frankin just narrowly came in fourth with 35 votes - (13%)
And sucking hind teet was Janeane Garofalo with 11 votes - (4%)

Better luck next time Janeane

If there was a more moderate 3rd party, would you say: Total 59 votes

Sign me up brother topped the charts with 50 votes (85%)
No, I'm with my party 'til I die with 9 votes (15%)

It looks like there is hope for us after all.

If you are far Left or far Right, what do you think about the moderate wings of your party: Total 45 votes

They deserve to have a voice and we should compromise won with 38 votes (84%)
Kick 'em to the curb lost with 9 votes (16%)

You guys are so sweet.

Update: for an even better poll results, she this story are Wonkette

Friday, April 01, 2005

Letter to Tom DeLay

I think this letter does a pretty good job of summing up The Hammer's display of stupidity yesterday. I was unaware of the potential legal implications until I saw this (not that he needs any more).

This sums it up quite nicely Posted by Hello

H/T Rooftop Report

Update: here is a good editorial talking about DeLay's attack on our nations checks and balances

Misleading Again

Once again, the President is trying to mislead the American people by drawing false analogies. He is using the example of the Thrift Savings Plan which is a plan available to federal employees. What he doesn't say is that the Thrift Savings Plan is in addition to Social Security, not in leau of Social Security.

I could actually get behind the idea of a Thrift Savings Plan. It is basically an IRA, but may be more utilized because the funds would come directly from your paycheck.

Bush Social Security Analogy Questioned

By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Out on the hustings, President Bush likes to make a case for allowing younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes by citing the example of the Thrift Savings Plan, private investment accounts available to members of Congress and other federal employees.

"Doesn't it make sense for members of Congress to give younger workers the opportunity to do the same thing with their money that they get to do in their retirement system?" the president asked this week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, baiting his congressional opponents. "Frankly, if it's good enough for federal workers and elected officials — putting aside some of your own money in a personal savings account — it ought to be good enough for all workers in America."

What Bush fails to mention is that his accounts differ from Thrift Savings Plan accounts in a key way: They would be carved out of the Social Security taxes nongovernment workers pay. By contrast, federal employees get their accounts in addition to a traditional Social Security benefit check.

(Full Story)