Thursday, June 29, 2006

Lying Republican scum

I'll summarize this but it's worth reading the whole story in Slate today.

It's a bit of a small point from today's Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It hinges on a standard tool for determining legislative intent. In interpreting a statute, if the court finds that the language of the statute is clear, the clear language of the statute controls. The question, though, is what to do if the language is ambiguous. One of the standard tools is legislative history, which encompasses a range of information, including statements made during debate on the legislation. It makes sense, right? If we want to know what Congress meant when they passed a law, see what they were saying about it when they passed it.

In this case, a big issue was the correct interpretation of the Detainee Treatment Act, which was passed last December. Late in December, after the bill was passed, when nobody else was around, John Kyl (R-Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) inserted a phony dialogue in the Congressional Record, making it look as though it was a colloquy they held during floor debate on the bill. Then, they used the language they inserted into the record as the basis for an amicus curiae brief they filed in the Supreme Court to argue for their preferred interpretation.

Too bad for them, though. Either Justice Stevens or his clerk was too smart for them, discovered this, and actually called them out on it. Here's what he said in a footnote of his opinion: "While statements attributed to the final bill's two other sponsors, Senators Graham and Kyl, arguably contradict Senator Levin's contention that the final version of the Act preserved jurisdiction over pending habeas cases … those statements appear to have been inserted in the Congressional Record after the Senate debate."

You certainly wouldn't expect anything better than this from Kyl, but Graham likes to put on a show of being more moderate, presumably grooming himself for an eventual presidential run. What this shows, though, is that he is devoid of integrity and cannot be trusted.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Evan Bayh sucks

In the great news tonight of the defeat of the flag-burning amendment, there is some bad news:

Among possible presidential contenders in 2008, six voted yes: Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana and Republicans George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Frist, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and John McCain of Arizona. Five, all Democrats, voted no: Joseph Biden of Delaware, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Last fall I wrote a post on TPMCafe (sorry, I can't find it now) in which I called Evan Bayh's Democratic bona fides into question, and I actually got a response from Dan Pfeiffer, his communications director.

I'll send dan a copy of this post, but really, how can you begin to justify amending the First Amendment to silence government critics?

If the capaign has already started, one of our first jobs is making sure Bayh (query: is Bayh the new Lieberman?) is defeated so soundly he can't be taken seriously for this or any other year.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Leahy's right

Once again the R's are pushing a flag-burning amendment. I don't buy that this is motivated in any way by a sincere adherence to American values. If you value America, and what it stands for, you value freedom. These guys just don't.

Pat Leahy, our senator, has it just right:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, argued that burning the American flag was precisely the kind of speech the First Amendment is meant to protect.

"The First Amendment never needs defending when it comes to popular speech," the six-term Vermont senator said. "It's when it comes to unpopular speech that it needs defending."

He called the efforts to pass the amendment "electioneering rallying cries" that struck at the heart of what the Constitution and the flag represent.

"I would hope that all of us in this chamber champion liberty ... but when I hear some talk about cutting back on our First Amendment rights, you can see why people would wonder," Leahy said.

Democrats are not the only ones against the amendment. It also does not have the support of the Senate's No 2. Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"I think the First Amendment has served us well for over 200 years. I don't think it needs to be altered," McConnell said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

On the lighter (?) side

It's Sunday night, it's been a beautiful weekend, and I'm just up waiting for my cheesecake to be done. So rather than post something substantive I'll just invite you to hop over here to take a little quiz that tests your ability to distinguish Ann Coulter from Adolph Hitler.

A warning: it's not easy!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who needs help in this country?

If you were an economic policy maker, and you were thinking about which segments of society need a little economic boost, who would get it? The lowest-paid workers in America, or the rich, who are inheriting millions from their parents?

Here's how the Republicans answer the question:

House Tees Up Estate Tax Reduction

Bid to increase minimum wage nixed

The benefits of free enterprise

The defenders of Medicare Part D keep claiming that the system will save money because, even though the government is prohibited from bargaining for the lowest price, the health plans will use their market power to obtain low prices.

You may be shocked to hear this, but the facts are in and it isn't true. Families USA has just released a study that proves that the big drug companies have raised their Medicare Part D prices for a whole range of prescription drugs. What's more, Part D is paying many times more than the VA is paying for the same drugs, sometimes ten times as much.

Once again, this shows that the Republicans can't even do what they're supposed to be good at: minding the store, keeping the business side of things running smoothly.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

No Joe-mentum!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The law in its infinite majesty . . .

forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread" - Anatole France.

From today's Times:

Pennsylvania Woman Sentenced in Theft of $1.85

A judge on Monday sentenced a woman to prison for telling her 6-year-old daughter to steal a volunteer fire company's fund-raising jar, a crime that netted $1.85. The woman, Judith Weidner, 42, told the police she needed the change for gasoline, but in court she blamed a heroin addiction. Judge David W. Addy sentenced her to one to three years in prison for the January 2005 theft.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Net Neutrality

I just got this from my brother-in-law.

I know I've been remiss in not paying more attention to the net neutrality issue, and I can't even give you a good excuse for why. Still, this story seems to be a pretty good illustration of why it's important.

It seems that Cox Cable is blocking Internet access to Craigslist for its cable/broadband subscribers. They claim that it's a software problem, but wouldn't you know that Craigslist is an advertising competitor of Cox. They've known about the problem for months, but they still haven't done anything about it and there's nobody who can make them.

This does look pretty important, after all.
Cross-posted from Green Mountain Daily:

Iraq isn't strictly a local Vermont story, but the front page of today's Burlington Free Press carries two stories that fit together to show what's wrong with the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq.

First, we have the story that about 375 Vermont National Guard members are on their way back from Iraq. This is obviously good news, and we are glad that they will soon be reunited with their families.

Second, and also good news, is the well-deserved death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

So what's the problem, you say? Well, it's something you didn't read in the Free Press, or in most of the other MSM coverage of Zarqawi's death, but it's crucial to what's happening in Iraq today. You see, we had a chance to get Zarqawi way back in 2002. “Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

The reason was simple: taking Zarqawi out of the picture would have taken him off the table as a rationale for invading Iraq. “People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

Think what that would have meant:

Nicholas Berg, Eugene Armstrong, and other Americans beheaded by Zarqawi: maybe they'd still be alive today.

The suicide bombings around Iraq that Zarqawi organized, and the hundreds killed: maybe they never would have happened either.

And that invasion of Iraq, the one sold to us and to the world based on claims that Iraq was supporting terrorists: well, we know the story about chemical and biological weapons was a lie, we know the story about support for terrorists was a lie, and we know it took a hard sell to get Congress to approve military force. It's hard to say that this one piece of evidence would have made the difference, but you never know.

And with no invasion of Iraq we wouldn't have to read about Vermonters being separated from their families. And we wouldn't have those families worrying about whether their loved ones will be coming home.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Arlen Spector is some pissed!

If you're like me you've pretty much concluded that Arlen Spector is worthless, a phony moderate who can't be counted on for much of anything.

I still think that's true, but Josh posted the letter he sent Cheney yesterday about Cheney's sabotaging his work on the NSA spying fiasco, and Spector's anger and frustration are clear.

Here's the letter.

How to think about immigration

Immigration has become a big issue lately, although it's not entirely clear why. Still, I think there is a lot of confusion on both sides of the debate about how to justify immigration policies. Put simply (and I'll mainly talk to the Left side of the debate), the purpose of immigration law is to serve the national interests of the United States. It's not to be "fair", or to feel good about ourselves as a nation, or to honor our ancestry or the hard work of people who are facing sacrifices and deprivation to get in.

Andrew Stettner, a lawyer at the National Employment Law Project, has a good post discussing what our immigration policy should be and why. His discussion comes from a different perspective and emphasis than most of what I've seen up to this point, including a different take on the argument that we need immigrants to take jobs Americans won't do.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

American values

Here's a good one: Bush says immigrants should learn American values.

Yes, I'm not kidding. I'm not sure exactly what values he's talking about, though.

Could it be the right to petition the government for redress of grievances?

Or the idea that no matter how modest your beginnings, if you work hard you can become successful?

Or the idea that defending your country is not just a duty, it's a sacred honor?

Or maybe the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures"?

Or maybe freedom of religion?

I guess he's right: some people have a lot to learn.

Another attack on the workers

This is just disgusting. I was watching the news on my local PBS station tonight when I saw an ad--oops, I mean underwriting notice--that featured a series of working people talking about what they like about their unions. Only it wasn't really working people, and they really weren't talking about their unions, it was a commercial from a right-wing union busting group. They claim to report "the 12.5 million facts union officials don't want you to know."

Sounds pretty interesting, right? It also might be helpful if you could go to their web page and find out who they are, but that's a little more complicated. You go to their "About us" page and you don't find anything about who runs the site, just more anti-union rhetoric. The only contact information you can find on the site is for reporters.

Fortunately, the Center for Media & Democracy has investigated and guess what: the whole thing is run by a union-busting lawyer and funded by a bunch of right-wing corporations and foundations, nice folks like Wal-Mart.

In these times workers are under attack. Airlines and other corporations are shortchanging workers' pension funds. Union busters selling "union avoidance information" peddle their union decertification manuals on the Internet. Here in Vermont, union-busting school officials seek to roll back health care benefits and force unionized teachers to strike. In the face of all this activity we need to expose astroturf organizations like

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Almagated scabs, finks, and stooges union

This week I got another e-mail from the Working Families e-Activist Network about the union effort at the FAA. They're calling on people to contact their representatives in Congress to stop the FAA from declaring an impasse and imposing a contract, including pay cuts, on the air traffic controllers.

Here's what I don't understand about that: I'm having a hard time why I should have any sympathy for these guys. Aren't the air traffic controllers we have now the scabs who took jobs away from the real air traffic controllers when Reagan fired them? So now they find out that the union, whose jobs they stole, had legitimate grievances when they went out on strike? Tough. Maybe if they hadn't helped Reagan bust the union they would have someone to stand up for them.

Does anyone have a thought as to why this might be wrong?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You really need to train people for this?

Great news: The U.S. military has just announced a new training program.

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the commander of U.S.-led forces, said the core-values training would emphasize "professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat" as well as Iraqi cultural expectations.

"As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," Chiarelli said. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."

The training will be conducted in units in the next 30 days and was aimed at reinforcing training service members received prior to their deployment, according to the statement.

What this means, apparently, is that they'll train our soldiers and Marines not to go on rampages, break into houses, and kill women, children, old people, and people in wheelchairs.

How hard is it to get that lesson across? They have to be trained for this?

I guess this explains why we were greeted with flowers and chocolates, huh?

Bonus?? Bonus???

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've had a lot of jobs, but I would also have to admit that most of them have not been in private industry. When I was in high school I caddied; I put in a couple of stints as a pizza baker; I even spent years teaching prospective law students how to get good scores on the LSAT, and a lot of them are now lawyers. I was good at it, too. Still, the bulk of my life I've worked for nonprofit organizations that don't plan or hope to make money.

So maybe I just don't understand why big companies give out bonuses. I always assumed it was to reward outstanding performance or effort, but the Times today suggests otherwise. In fact, according to this story, a lot of these guys are getting bonuses just for dong their job, or even for doing their job pretty badly.

Take the case of the News Corporation. According to the Times:

Some employment agreements actually stipulate that they will provide bonuses even if company performance declines. The agreement struck in 2004 by Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of the News Corporation, entitles him to a bonus even if earnings per share fall at the company. If earnings rise by 15 percent in any given year, Mr. Chernin's bonus is $12.5 million. But if they fall 6.25 percent, Mr. Chernin's bonus is $4.5 million, and an earnings decline of 14 percent translates to a $3.52 million bonus.

Or complying with the law. The story talks about a number of executives who got bonuses for complying with Sarbanes-Oxley, which they were required to do anyway. "Good job, chief. Here's a couple of mill for not getting tossed in the slammer."

As I say, I guess I just don't understand.