Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 25th, 2007

Krugman hits the bull’s-eye on bipartisanship

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Which comes first, bipartisanship or tackling the big problems? Krugman knows:

American politics is ugly these days, and many people wish things were different. For example, Barack Obama recently lamented the fact that “politics has become so bitter and partisan” — which it certainly has.

But he then went on to say that partisanship is why “we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that’s what we have to change first.” Um, no. If history is any guide, what we need are political leaders willing to tackle the big problems despite bitter partisan opposition. If all goes well, we’ll eventually have a new era of bipartisanship — but that will be the end of the story, not the beginning.

Or to put it another way: what we need now is another F.D.R., not another Dwight Eisenhower.

You see, the nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed.

After all, American politics has been nasty in the past. Before the New Deal, America was a nation with a vast gap between the rich and everyone else, and this gap was reflected in a sharp political divide. The Republican Party, in effect, represented the interests of the economic elite, and the Democratic Party, in an often confused way, represented the populist alternative.

In that divided political system, the Democrats probably came much closer to representing the interests of the typical American. But the G.O.P.’s advantage in money, and the superior organization that money bought, usually allowed it to dominate national politics. “I am not a member of any organized party,” Will Rogers said. “I am a Democrat.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 8:33 pm

The GOP FCC

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It works only to protect Big Business:

At the Federal Communications Commission, reports were altered, and studies were blocked from release that showed local ownership was beneficial for local news coverage. The panel is still withholding hundreds of pages on media ownership research from release to the public. So says the Associated Press:

When the government decided to take a hard look at how well broadcasters were serving their communities, two economists at the Federal Communications Commission got a research idea: They would look at whether locally owned TV stations produced more local news than stations owned by companies based outside the area.They found that local ownership resulted in more local news coverage. They also realized they had turned up what one of the researchers, economist Keith Brown, called “inconvenient facts.” The findings were at odds with what their agency, under heavy lobbying from the broadcast industry, had endorsed.

The months-long study was spiked by the agency with “no plausible explanation,” Brown says. He suspects it was because the conclusions were at odds with the shared position of the FCC and the broadcast industry: that media ownership rules were too restrictive and should be loosened.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 6:44 pm

The prosecutor purge is challenged

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From TPMmuckraker:

Prosecutor Purge Is Illegal, Lawyer Argues

An Arkansas lawyer has risen to challenge the law which allows the administration to circumvent Senate approval when installing new U.S. Attorneys.

On behalf of his client, an alleged crack cocaine dealer who’s accused of killing a man he’d robbed to prevent him from talking to the police, Little Rock lawyer John Hall has challenged the appointment of Timothy Griffin, the recently-appointed U.S. Attorney for eastern Arkansas with close ties to the White House.

Griffin’s resume is long on Republican bona fides and short on the sort of law experience usually expected of U.S. Attorneys. He was installed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and thanks to a measure slipped into the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act last year, may never face Senate confirmation.

Hall’s motion argues that because Griffin’s appointment circumvented Senate confirmation, it was unconstitutional — thus rendering the prosecution of his client invalid. “Contrary to the [Justice Department], I’ve actually read the Constitution a few times,” Hall told us. You can read his entire motion here.

We’ve excerpted the best part below the fold.

From the filing:

An example [of how the Attorney General could use the new law to circumvent Senate confirmation], one that might be called extreme but is not the slightest bit implausible, is this: The President appoints a qualified “strawman” (or woman) as a United States Attorney that the President knows will be confirmed by the Senate at the beginning of the President’s term of office. The Senate advises and consents to the appointment, and the U.S. Attorney is sworn in. Shortly after that, the Attorney General removes the U.S. Attorney and appoints a replacement who never has to face the Senate, and it turns out that the replacement U.S. Attorney is inexperienced or unqualified for the job or a blatantly political appointment that no one can understand would qualify as “the principal federal law enforcement officers in their judicial districts.” Conceivably, under the Attorney General’s interpretation of his appointment power in § 546(c), an incompetent or a blatantly politically appointed* U.S. Attorney could hold office like this for seven and a half years, or even longer, assuming the President is re-elected, without ever facing Senate confirmation over his or her qualifications.

*The footnote reads: “As has been suggested here because of Mr. Griffin’s connection to Karl Rove and the President’s 2000 Florida recount case that assured his election.”

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 6:36 pm

Pelosi is good

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From AmericaBlog:

Markos reports the following, then read on because I have more and it’s good:

In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president’s minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new “way forward” for U.S. forces in Iraq.

“He’s tried this two times — it’s failed twice,” the California Democrat said. “I asked him at the White House, ‘Mr. President, why do you think this time it’s going to work?’ And he said, ‘Because I told them it had to.’ ”

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, ” ‘I told them that they had to.’ That was the end of it. That’s the way it is.”

Oh, it’s better than that. When I was on the Hill on Tuesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) told us (on the record) the rest of the story. Apparently, Pelosi’s final come-back to the president was the following:

PELOSI: He’s tried this two times — it’s failed twice. I asked him at the White House, ‘Mr. President, why do you think this time it’s going to work?’

BUSH: Because I told them it had to.

PELOSI: Why didn’t you tell them that the other two times?

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 6:32 pm

Cheney pushed to delay NIE

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McClatchy Washinton Bureau reports:

Vice President Dick Cheney put “constant” pressure on the Republican former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel’s Democratic chairman charged Thursday.

In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said it was “not hearsay” that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe.

“It was just constant,” Rockefeller said of Cheney’s alleged interference.

Cheney said in response to Rockefeller’s charge that he believes Sen. Roberts “was a good chairman” of the Intelligence Committee, spokeswoman Lea McBride said.

Roberts’ chief of staff, Jackie Cottrell, said in an email statement it was Democrats’ fault the investigation remains incomplete more than two years after it was begun.

“Senator Rockefeller’s allegations are patently untrue,” she said. “The delays came from the Democrats’ insistence that they expand the scope of the inquiry to make it a more political document going into the 2006 elections. Chairman Roberts did everything he could to accommodate their requests for further information without allowing them to distort the facts.”

Roberts chaired the intelligence committee from January 2003 until the Democrats took over Congress this month.

Rockefeller’s comments were among the most forceful he has made about why the committee failed to complete the inquiry under Roberts.

The panel released a report in July 2004 that lambasted the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies for erroneously concluding that Saddam Hussein was concealing biological, chemical and nuclear warfare programs.

It then began examining how senior Bush administration officials used faulty intelligence to justify the March 2003 invasion.

Robert promised to quickly complete what became known as the Phase II investigation. After more than two years, the panel published only two of five Phase II reports amid serious rifts between Republican and Democratic members and their staffs.

Rockefeller recalled that in November 2005, the then-minority Democrats employed a rarely used parliamentary procedure to force the Senate into a closed session to pressure Roberts’ to complete Phase II.

“That was the reason we closed the session. To force him” to complete the investigation, he said.

He said that Cheney’s intervention with Roberts was part of a White House effort to orchestrate the work of the Republican-led Congress.

Republicans “just had to go along with the administration,” he said.

The most potentially explosive of the three unpublished Phase II reports was to compare top Bush administration statements about Iraq’s weapons programs and ties to terrorists with what they were seeing in top-secret intelligence reports.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 4:52 pm

The buildup to war with Iran

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Alert Reader points out this Raw Story article:

(Click here to read the full timeline of the decades-long buildup to Iran)

The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA’s own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq’s insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

The motivations for an Iran strike were laid out as far back as 1992. In classified defense planning guidance – written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz, and ambassador-nominee to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad – Cheney’s aides called for the United States to assume the position of lone superpower and act preemptively to prevent the emergence of even regional competitors. The draft document was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post and caused an uproar among Democrats and many in George H. W. Bush’s Administration.

In September 2000, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued a report titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” which espoused similar positions to the 1992 draft and became the basis for the Bush-Cheney Administration’s foreign policy. Libby and Wolfowitz were among the participants in this new report; Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other prominent figures in the Bush administration were PNAC members.

“The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” the report read. “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein. . . . We cannot allow North Korea, Iran, Iraq or similar states to undermine American leadership, intimidate American allies or threaten the American homeland itself.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 4:49 pm

GOP hypocrisy and dishonesty writ large

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The Carpetbagger:

For the last few years, congressional Republicans would cry “obstructionism!” at the drop of a hat. Any effort to stand in the way of the president’s agenda in Congress was outrageous, offensive, and possibly even unconstitutional. What mattered, more than anything, was preserving the notion of majority rule. To filibuster was to be un-American.

That was then. Have you noticed how the GOP has suddenly rediscovered its appreciation for standing in the way of the majority?

Back when he was in the Senate majority, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell thought it was pretty outrageous that Democrats were using the threat of filibusters to set up a 60-vote requirement for the confirmation of a handful of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. McConnell called the Democrats’ tactics an “ugly denial” of “fundamental fairness” that was “unprecedented in the history of the country” and would cause “great damage” to the U.S. Senate.

Now that the Republicans are in the minority, it turns out that using filibusters to force 60-vote cloture votes is nothing other than standard operating procedure. The Senate is set to debate competing anti-escalation resolutions next week, and McConnell tells MSNBC that all of them “are likely, as virtually everything in the Senate is likely, to be subject to a 60-vote threshold.”

Remind me, what was that the GOP was saying about “obstructionism”?

Yesterday, Republicans filibustered a minimum-wage increase, even though a majority of senators supported it, the House already passed it, and the measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support across the country. No matter, GOP senators said, this was no time for an up-or-down vote.

Soon, many of those same Republicans will also explain that they’re afraid of a non-binding resolution on the president’s escalation policy, so this can’t have an up-or-down vote either. Again, bipartisan support isn’t enough — McConnell & Co. want 60 votes.

They’re off to a good start, aren’t they? Less than a month into the 110th Congress, the GOP caucus has delivered two high-profile filibusters on two measures with broad support, both of which would pass if brought to the floor for a vote.

If I didn’t know better, I might think the Republicans were suddenly afraid of majority rule. That couldn’t be, could it?

We’ve seen it many times before, of course. Remember how the GOP shouted from the rooftops that Supreme Court nominees deserved an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor until, when Harriette Miers was nominated, suddenly it all changed?

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2007 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

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