Monday, July 31, 2006

Another Good Reason to Give Lieberman the Boot!

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Teddy pulls no punches!

Roberts and Alito Misled Us

By Edward M. Kennedy
Sunday, July 30, 2006

I have had the honor of serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 43 years, during which I've participated in confirmation hearings for all the justices who now sit on the Supreme Court. Over that time, my colleagues and I have asked probing questions and listened attentively to substantive responses. Because we were able to learn a great deal about the nominees from those hearings, the Senate has rarely voted along party lines. I voted, for example, for three of President Ronald Reagan's five Supreme Court nominees.

Of course, an examination of a nominee's views may cause the Senate to withhold its consent. That is what happened in 1795 to John Rutledge, who was given a temporary commission as chief justice by President George Washington (while Congress was in recess) and was then rejected by the Senate several months later. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon's nomination of G. Harrold Carswell was derailed when the Senate learned of his segregationist past. At that time, I explained that "the Constitution makes clear that we are not supposed to be a rubber stamp for White House selections." That was also the Senate's view in 1987, when its rejection of Robert H. Bork's extreme views led to the unanimous confirmation of the more moderate Anthony M. Kennedy. The Senate's constitutional role has helped keep the court in the mainstream of legal thought.

But the careful, bipartisan process of years past -- like so many checks and balances rooted in our Constitution -- has been badly broken by the current Bush administration. The result has been the confirmation of two justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., whose voting record on the court reflects not the neutral, modest judicial philosophy they promised the Judiciary Committee, but an activist's embrace of the administration's political and ideological agenda.

Now that the votes are in from their first term, we can see plainly the agenda that Roberts and Alito sought to conceal from the committee. Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law.

The confirmation process became broken because the Bush administration learned the wrong lesson from the failed Bork nomination and decided it could still nominate extremists as long as their views were hidden. To that end, it insisted that the Senate confine its inquiry largely to its nominees' personal qualities.

The administration's tactics succeeded in turning the confirmation hearings for Roberts and Alito into a sham. Many Republican senators used their time to praise, rather than probe, the nominees. Coached by the administration, the nominees declined to answer critical questions. When pressed on issues such as civil rights and executive power, Roberts and Alito responded with earnest assurances that they would not bring an ideological agenda to the bench.

After confirmation, we saw an entirely different Roberts and Alito -- both partisans ready and willing to tilt the court away from the mainstream. They voted together in 91 percent of all cases and 88 percent of non-unanimous cases -- more than any other two justices.

A few examples help illustrate how the confirmation process failed the American people. During Roberts's hearing, I asked him about his statement that a key part of the Voting Rights Act constitutes one of "the most intrusive interferences imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes." In response, he suggested that his words were nothing more than an "effort to articulate the views of the administration . . . for which I worked 23 years ago."

Today -- too late -- it is clear that Roberts's personal view is the same as it was 23 years ago. In League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry , the Supreme Court held that Texas's 2003 redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act by protecting a Republican legislator against a growing Latino population. Roberts reached a different view, concluding that the courts should not have been involved and that it "is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race."

The same Roberts who wished the federal government would leave Texas alone was unconcerned by federal intrusion into Oregon's approach to the issue of assisted suicide. In Gonzales v. Oregon , a majority of the Supreme Court held that the Justice Department lacked the power to undermine Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. However, Roberts joined a startling dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia, stating that the administration's actions were "unquestionably permissible" because the federal government can use the Constitution's commerce clause powers "for the purpose of protecting public morality."

It is difficult to believe that a neutral judicial philosophy explains Roberts's very different views in these two cases. He memorably claimed during the confirmation process that he wanted only to be a diligent umpire, calling balls and strikes without regard to what team was at bat. But it turns out that our new umpires have a keen interest in who wins and who loses.

One clear loser is the environment. In Rapanos v. United States , the court was asked to interpret the definition of wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Four justices deferred to the Army Corps of Engineers' expertise in implementing the statute. But Roberts and Alito joined an opinion that describes wetlands as "transitory puddles" and criticizes their colleagues for "giving that agency more deference than reason permits." For Roberts and Alito, protecting the environment -- unlike "protecting public morality" -- is clearly not a top priority.

Perhaps the biggest winner is the president himself. During Alito's hearing, I asked him about a 1985 job application in which he stated that he believed "very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government." He backpedaled, claiming: "I certainly didn't mean that literally at the time, and I wouldn't say that today."

But he is willing to say it now. In the very recent case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld , Alito signed on to a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas that asserts a judicial "duty to accept the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs" as grounds for allowing the administration to use military commissions of its own design to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This is part of a pattern. When he was in the Reagan Justice Department, Alito wrote in support of signing statements, through which the president has claimed to limit the scope of measures passed by Congress -- including the ban on torture. When questioned about the legal status of such statements, he said it was an open issue that still needed to be "explored and resolved" by the court. But Alito joined a Scalia dissent in the Hamdan case that endorsed the use of signing statements without providing any analysis or legal support.

Similarly, Alito had a pattern of ruling against individuals in Fourth Amendment cases -- including a case involving the strip-search of a 10-year-old girl. When questioned, he insisted that one of the judiciary's most important roles "is to stand up and defend the rights of people when they are violated." But Alito cast the deciding vote in Hudson v. Michigan , in which the court decided -- contrary to almost a century of precedent -- that evidence gathered during an unconstitutional search of a suspect's home could be used to convict him.

In the term that begins in October, the court will decide major cases on abortion, affirmative action and the Clean Air Act. Roberts and Alito may well cast the deciding votes. If their first term is any indication, their agenda will be exactly what many of us feared -- and nothing like the judicial modesty they promised during their hearings.

At a time when great legal issues are being decided by the slimmest of margins, we cannot afford to learn nominees' views only after they have obtained lifetime tenure on our highest court. Instead, the Judiciary Committee, the Senate and the American Bar Association need to work together to return to an honest confirmation process. I support reform despite my belief that the next justice will be nominated by a Democratic president and be sent to a Democratic Senate for confirmation.

The discussion should start with a few truths. First, any qualified nominee to the Supreme Court will have spent many years thinking about legal issues. We should require that nominees share that thinking with the Judiciary Committee, and not pretend that such candor is tantamount to prejudging specific cases. In particular, the Senate should have the same access to the nominee's writings as the administration. Second, the Judiciary Committee will need to reorganize the way it asks questions. An in-depth inquiry will require something more than short rounds of questions that pass from senator to senator. Third, we need to remember what this process is all about. It is good to hear that a nominee has a loving family, faithful friends and a sense of humor. It is important to know that nominees possess the intellect, life experience and discipline that make a good judge. But it is essential that we learn enough of their legal views to be certain that they will make good on the simple promise etched in marble outside the Supreme Court: "Equal Justice Under Law."

Edward M. Kennedy (D) has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1963.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

...and bringing them to justice?!?!?!?!

Crooks and Liars has the July 28, 2006 video of George W. Bush explaining his view of American foreign policy. Note at the very end when he says "On the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short run by being aggressive in chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice."

Remember this March 13, 2002
Press Conference in which he said, "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you" and "And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

We're all scratching our heads, George!

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention

Does it take a Republican then to say what the Democrats should be saying now?

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Friday, July 21, 2006

The Slobber Goddess gives good quote!

In Ann Coulter's June 15th Column she shares a few really good blasts from the past:

— On Ronald Reagan: "I predict historians are going to be totally baffled by how the American people fell in love with this man (Ronald Reagan) and followed him the way we did."— CBS News White House reporter Lesley Stahl on NBC's "Later With Bob Costas," Jan. 11, 1989

— On Pat Buchanan: "On the road I travel to the mall in Wheaton, Md., two white men severely beat two black women Tuesday. One was doused with lighter fluid, and her attacker tried to set her afire. Both men cursed the women for being black. I couldn't help but shudder: That could have been me. This heinous act happened only hours after Pat Buchanan voters gave him 30 percent of the vote in the Maryland GOP presidential primary." — USA Today columnist and former "Inquiry" page editor Barbara Reynolds, March 6, 1992

— On Lee Atwater: "(Lee Atwater) was a scoundrel, one of the darkest figures to dominate our recent politics, a man with a comprehensively cynical view of his fellow creatures. ... He made it in the most improbable way, learning to dress at Brooks Brothers and keep his funky white trash wickedness too. ... In running campaigns that played on racial divisions, he was something worse than a bigot; he was a man who pretended to be a bigot in hope that it would sell." — Washington Post op-ed by reporter Marjorie Williams, March 30, 1991

— On Newt Gingrich: "So how do you put an end to what Jim Wright called 'mindless cannibalism'? Do you put a muzzle on Newt Gingrich?" — "CBS This Morning" co-host Kathleen Sullivan, June 1, 1989

Hat tip to Ann. These quotes were the first time in recent history her column had anything worthy of agreement.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Out of the mouths... err fingers... of babes!

George W. Bush used the Presidential veto pen for the first time in his Presidency. America is at war. We have spiraling deficits and debt. There are attacks on American civil liberties and he uses the pen for the first time to veto a bill on Stem Cell Research. His first veto is against science.

Here, an innocent by-stander appears to understand:

We can only hope a Congress dedicated to upholding Congressional oversight and Constitutional "checks and balances" will start to speak to this bully as sharply.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Spatula-Makeup waving goodbye to her political career

Seems Katherine Harris is getting some scrutinzin'.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From the Dick Cheney School of Politics

South Carolina Lawmaker Threatens Utility Workers, Accidentally Fires Gun

It appears a South Carolina lawmaker (and we assume, formerly “law-abiding gun owner” of the NRA) got a little hot under the collar Saturday evening. [1] Unfortunately, he had his gun with him.

A South Carolina lawmaker was arrested after his pistol fired when he went to investigate utility workers checking for storm damage in the backyard of his parents’ home.

Rep. Wallace Scarborough, R-Charleston, was charged with two counts of assault with intent to kill after the 47-year-old brandished and pointed a pistol at utility workers and then fired his gun about 9:45 p.m. Saturday, according to an affidavit.

Scarborough, who was house sitting for his parents, was released from jail Sunday on a personal recognizance bond, according to jail officials.

Two South Carolina Electric and Gas employees were checking electric equipment after a series of storms passed through the area, SCE&G spokesman Eric Boomhower said.

Scarborough’s lawyer, state Rep. John Graham Altman, said Scarborough asked the workers to leave and when they told him they had a right to be there, the lawmaker returned to the house to call police.

On the way, the gun accidentally discharged and a bullet hit the porch...more...

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Savage Whiner.... er Weiner!

A Savage letter?

Right-wing talkmeister Michael Savage is raging against a report suggesting he was once a good deal friendlier toward gays.

Radar magazine reports that, back when he was a botanist known as Michael Weiner, the syndicated radio host was friendly with poet Allen Ginsberg. According to the mag, on March 8, 1970, Savage wrote to Ginsberg, who visited him in Fiji:

"After speaking to you on the phone ... I walked downstairs to the school courtyard, where a little-known black brother looks at me, takes my hand gently, we do some old-world lower East Side finger tricks, and he peacefully kisses the back of my hand - I do the same for his hand. I told him about our brief talk and he says, 'I must have felt the vibes.'"

Radar says the letter can be found among Ginsberg's collected papers at Stanford University. Ginsberg, who belonged to the North American Man/Boy Love Association, wouldn't seem to be on the "buddy list" of Savage, who once said, "The gay and lesbian mafia wants our children!"

But then, Radar reports, Savage's "thinly disguised confessional" novel, "Vital Signs," did have a protagonist who admitted he was drawn to "masculine beauty," saying, "I choose to override my desires for men when they swell in me."

Savage, who is married, calls the Radar story a "smear campaign" launched by "gay fascists."

"Maybe I have amnesia," Savage tells us. But "I never wrote such a letter."

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Be afraid - be very afraid

Two things happened last week that should send terrifying shivers down the spines of even the most ardent supports of President George Bush's assault on civil liberties.

They also go to the heart of why this newspaper has been so critical of his administration.

The first was an extraordinary statement by Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He was commenting about the arrests in Miami and Lebanon of men who were talking about committing terrorist attacks in the United States, men who authorities say had no clear plans and no obvious weapons to carry them out even if they had been better organized.

"You may not end up winning in court," the New York Republican said, "but you get a bad guy off the street."

Now think about that for a second.

Didn't we see that in Steven Spielberg's nightmarish vision of the future called "Minority Report," in which people were arrested by "pre-crime police" and jailed merely for thinking about committing a murder? And, of course, an innocent man is caught up in the corrupt system before truth (an actual need for real evidence) and the American Way (those pesky checks and balances) prevail.

Think about it again: "You may not end up winning in court."

Argentine dictator

A statement like that is reminiscent of Argentine dictator Juan Peron's lament in the musical "Evita" about "the inconvenience of having to win a majority."

For the Bush gang, the niceties of international treaties, courts and congressional oversight are just such an inconvenience. That is the fundamental issue with Bush. It isn't because he is too aggressive in the pursuit of would-be terrorists. It is because he wants absolute authority to define, capture, abuse if not torture, convict and imprison anyone - indefinitely.

If you accept that Bush has such powers, you have to accept that he can do unto each one of us what he is doing unto others - with no right of appeal or oversight. You could be one of those hapless alleged terrorists languishing for years in legal limbo, or you could have your phone tapped (surely not for political purposes) or have your finances scrutinized (surely never to be leaked or used against you somehow). We can all trust Karl Rove not to politicize that kind of information, right?

Chilling event

And that brings us to the second chilling event of the week - a Republican leader standing up for Congress' right and duty to oversee intelligence operations. That's right, a REPUBLICAN is upset.

The New York Times revealed that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., sent the president an angry letter about "alleged intelligence community activities" not described to committee members in classified briefings.

"If these allegations are true," he wrote to Bush, "they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of law and ... a direct affront to me and the members of this committee."

Hoekstra said Sunday that he had finally been briefed and the allegations were true. But he still wasn't happy.

"I wanted to reinforce to the president and to the executive branch and the intelligence community how important, and by law the requirement, that they keep the legislative branch informed of what they are doing," he said. "It is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing."

And that goes to the heart of the stories on the administration's use of foreign prisons, abusive treatment, unwarranted wire taps on domestic phone calls and, most recently, The New York Time's scoop on the administration's secret program targeting suspected terrorists' banking records.

Treasonous action

Ironically, Rep. King - who doesn't really care about having enough evidence for convictions - called on the Justice Department to prosecute The New York Times for "treasonous" action.

Of course that will never happen. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal all published the story without revealing any operational secrets. What they did reveal was that once again, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are, at best, thumbing their noses at Congress and, at worst, ignoring the law.

That is shown by the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee wasn't briefed about the banking program until after it was known that the Times was going with the story.

Fortunately in the case of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the U.S. Supreme Court got into the act and made clear that Congress did not hand Bush a "blank check" to do as he pleased after 9/11. Even the administration backed down Tuesday by agreeing to give Guantanamo prisoners protection under the Geneva Conventions.

Yes, we are at war with a nefarious and pitiless enemy. And Bush needs to do everything in his power to keep this country safe from terrorists.

But we as Americans - Democrats, Republicans, independents, conservatives and liberals - cannot cede to him the right to decide alone who is a terrorist and how that person will be treated. To do so is to allow us to sink to the level of the worst of history's totalitarian regimes.

The Olympian, July 12th.

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The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

You won't believe this one:

"The President is always right!"

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Conjoined Dims

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Kasich and Fox News Leak Terror Tool Secrets!

You won't believe this from John Kasich on Fox News program, Heartland. You also won't see hypocrites Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly rant about it.

A great recap by chrish at News Hounds.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Next Swift Boat Victim?

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Virginia Senate Democratic Candidate, James H. Webb, former Republican and Navy Secretary under Ronald RayGun:

Webb was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He served with the 5th Marine Regiment in Vietnam as a rifle platoon and company commander. He remained in the Marine Corps until 1972, receiving the Navy Cross, the second-highest award in the Navy; the Silver Star Medal; two Bronze Star Medals; and two Purple Hearts.

But, he's taking on Republican incumbant George Allen, so we can expect the cowardly Swift Boat vultures to go after him soon. If they hold to form, here's what the new article might say:

Webb cheated his way to a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He faked his service records with the 5th Marine Regiment in Vietnam as a rifle platoon and company commander. He was an enemy spy and friend of Jane Fonda’s. He cut and ran from the Marine Corps in 1972, after forging documents in order to receive the Navy Cross, the second-highest award in the Navy; the Silver Star Medal; two Bronze Star Medals; and two Purple Hearts for questionable and insignificant wounds.

Be prepared, Mr. Webb. Be prepared.

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