A new minority staff report by the Senate Finance Committee concludes that “[f]ive conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, ‘appear to have perpetrated a fraud’ on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Among the organizations called out are Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (sheah), an outfit created by Norquist and former Dubya Interior Secretary Gail Norton, whose office was already waist-deep in ill-gotten Casino Jack loot. (In fact, Abramoff’s point person in Norton’s office was CREA’s president, Italia Federici.)
Update: In related news, Abramoff flunky Bob Ney pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and making false statements (without, mind you, resigning his seat in Congress.) While he didn’t speak with reporters, Ney’s written statement noted that the “treatment and counseling I have started have been very helpful, but I know that I am not done yet and that I have more work to do to deal with my alcohol dependency.” Ok, one more time, people. Alcoholism means you drink too much. It does not mean that you bilk the public, indulge in bribes, or send teenagers dirty IMs.
Now here’s something we haven’t seen in a few years…a good election night for the Dems! Despite — or perhaps because of — Dubya’s last-minute visit to the region, Democrat Tim Kaine has won the Virginia governorship. And, after a truly ugly race against GOP stooge Doug Forrester, Senator Jon Corzine is now governor of New Jersey. On the GOP ledger and closer to home, Republican Mike Bloomberg was re-elected New York City mayor in a foregone conclusion (he was leading by 30 points in the polls.) Update: No love for Schwarzenegger, either.
“The Senate put off until fall completing a $491 billion defense bill in order to act this week on the National Rifle Association’s top priority: shielding gun manufacturers and dealers from liability suits stemming from gun crimes.” Well, that sounds much more important than our troops overseas, doesn’t it? Looks like Catkiller Frist is shoring up the freakshow base for 2008 at the expense of the American people again. Where’s the outrage? Update: The bill passes 65-31.
Stymied by the Senate, Dubya looks to sneak Bolton into the UN with a recess appointment, perhaps as early as this Friday. “Senate Democratic leaders have removed a possible hurdle by signaling that they would not use a recess appointment of Bolton to hold up Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Update: Next week?
Led by Andy Stern of the SEIU and James Hoffa of the Teamsters, four key unions boycott the AFL-CIO convention, with plans to withdraw from the organization in short order (The Teamsters have already left.) Early word seems to be that this bifurcation could spell trouble for the Dems in 2006, but, frankly, the House of Labor has needed serious renovations for a good long while. Perhaps this schism won’t be as profitable for labor as that of the CIO in 1935, but how much harm could it really cause? Old-School Big Labor couldn’t even get Gephardt past third in Iowa last year. I don’t know the details of the power struggle, but I get the sense that Stern & co. are advocating some tough-minded reforms, including consolidating smaller unions, while AFL-CIO president John Sweeney is attempting to protect various union fiefdoms in tried-and-true calcified-leadership fashion. Let’s see what the Young(er) Turks have to offer. Update: The SEIU’s officially out now, too.
Federalist Society or no, John Roberts now seems almost assured of winning confirmation as the Supreme Court’s newest justice (barring an eleventh hour revelation of impropriety, of course.) So, the Dems plan for the next best thing, which is to use the Roberts hearings as political theater with which to expose general right-wing looniness. Hmmm. Might work, I suppose. Hopefully, the Dems will keep their eye on the ball and make sure any gamesmanship on Roberts doesn’t suck the press away from the still-growing White House felony investigation, which now seems to include possible perjury and obstruction of justice charges for Rove, Libby, et al. Update: Wilson’s revenge? Salon suggests the operative law in the Rove case may be the Espionage Act of 1917, which isn’t what you’d call one of progressivism’s better moments.
“The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it’s making the difficult job of being a parent even harder.” It’s Dem Mods v. dem mods as Senators Hillary Clinton and (surprise, surprise) Joe Lieberman decide to sic the FTC on Rockstar Games for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, namely for the “Hot Coffee” PC mod which may or may not have been included in the original source code. (FYI, you can see the controversial game-clip here — It’s not safe for work, but it’s basically two pixellated characters having explicit sex in various positions, a la the puppets in Team America.)
As with most PMRC, V-Chip, and/or anti-Hollywood-style scapegoating for easy moderate bonus points, I don’t particularly think this type of sophomoric tomfoolery in an M-rated (17 and over) game is the central reason for the Decline and Fall of America’s Wayward Children. (And several wry Slashdotters have already pointed out the ridiculousness of the argument being made about GTA here: “I don’t care if my child carjacks a senior…[or] if he takes a golf club and starts clubbing to death pedestrians. But he may never, over my dead body, have adult on adult, consensual sex!“) But Sen. Clinton’s proposed remedy — adding teeth to the ratings system by potentially fining stores who sell M or AO-games to minors — doesn’t sound like the end of the world either. Update: Rockstar fesses up. Update 2: “Maybe she’d be wiser to focus on issues that matter to these people — say, the fighting and dying in Iraq — than on the fighting and the dying in the fake, fun world of ‘Grand Theft Auto.’” Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo calls out Clinton.
“‘I fully recognize that I showed poor judgment when I sold my home in Del Mar to a friend who did business with the government,’ Cunningham told supporters.” Um, yeah, for starters. As federal investigators close in on his several shady dealings (re: kickbacks and bribes) with defense contractors before his committee (as well as other ne’er-do-wells), Six-term congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), who recently invoked the fallen of 9/11 to flog his flag-burning amendment, has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2006. Good riddance…and take a gander, Boss DeLay.
Here’s an independence day nightmare: “With the Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the conservative movement has within its grasp the prize it has sought for more than 40 years: the control of all levers of the federal government.“
Yes, the right-wing fundies’ time is now, which is why they are already trying to spike Alberto Gonzales as too moderate and imploring Dubya to pick the “right” kind of conservative. Meanwhile, as the two parties gear for battle (despite talk to the contrary) and Dems reconsider the filibuster, Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter contemplates his own legacy, which, if past behavior is any indication, likely means rolling over on command.
“Our troops deserve better: they deserve leadership equal to their sacrifice.” In the NY Times, John Kerry offers some advice to Dubya on tonight’s Iraq speech. Update: That’s your speech? Terror, terror, terror, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, all over again? Pathetic and shameful.
“All the hand-wringing among Democrats about why liberals don’t go to NASCAR races or duck hunts misses the fact that Tom DeLay and Bill Frist don’t go to monster-truck night with the guys from Deliverance either. They hit the links at exclusive country clubs with rich donors and corporate lobbyists.” Slate‘s Michael Crowley surveys the implications of the GOP’s predisposition for golf. In related news, apparently Republicans aren’t all that bad at baseball, either (which may help explain this.)
“There’s not much these days that the two parties in Washington can rally around, as evidenced by the increasingly shrill tone here. You might think that one thing on which everyone in both parties could agree would be a resolution apologizing for the Senate’s failure, over many decades, to make it a federal crime for racists to hunt black people like animals and hang them from trees.” Terry Neal wonders why eleven GOP Senators refused to sign the recent anti-lynching resolution. (Cliopatria‘s Robert KC Johnson posted a list of the eleven Senator’s responses from Roll Call a few days ago.)
As I’ve said earlier, I can see how a mea culpa that’s coming anywhere from thirty to 130 years late may not be the most useful legislation ever passed by the Senate. But, when it comes time to mark your name down against an abomination like lynching, why not take the opportunity? To paraphrase Karl Rove, moderation and restraint is not what I feel when I see African-Americans strung up and mutilated by mobs of white folk. But, for one reason or another, a sizable number of the GOP think different. Therapy and understanding for the attackers, perhaps?
“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers…I don’t know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground.” No, Karl, you felt confusion and stark abject terror…or is there some other reason why our Fearless Leader spent that fateful day (post-Pet Goat, of course) AWOL in the skies over Louisiana and Nebraska, leaving Mayor Giuliani to rally the nation?
At any rate, I’m sensing a pattern here…Soon after a GOP rep invokes 9/11 to flog a flag-burning amendment, White House strategist Karl Rove wallows in 9/11 and liberal-bashing before a GOP crowd here in NYC. Phew, talk about a Hail Mary. That dated soft-on-terror swill isn’t going to get lame duck Dubya’s domestic agenda off the ground, Karl. So you’d best start scroungin’ through that bottomless bag of dirty tricks for a different silver bullet. This outrageous claptrap is sad, pathetic, and demeaning…even coming from a right rotten bastard like Rove. Update: The Dems respond, and the White House digs in.
Here’s an oldie-but-goodie from the GOP…by a margin of 286-130, the House pass another variation on the anti-flag-burning amendment. “‘Ask the men and women who stood on top of the (World) Trade Center,’ said Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif. ‘Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment.’” Yes, I’m sure the victims of that day were calling their loved ones by cellphone during those horrible moments to voice their support for a freakin’ flag-burning amendment. Have you no shame, Mr. Cunningham?
It’s an ugly day for voter rationality in today’s New York Times. According to a new study by several political scientists, our political predispositions may be genetic (and last summer’s Zellout may have been the result of a lingering discordance between genetic and environmental factors in Miller’s make-up.) Whatsmore, we seem to choose our elected leaders immediately by their physical attributes, namely a general look of competence: “Both babies and baby-faced adults share certain characteristics: round faces, large eyes, small noses, high foreheads, and small chins. No one trusts the competence of a baby, and few, apparently, trust that of an adult who looks like one.” (Don’t lose heart, fellow advocates of an informed and capable electorate — There’s obviously a huge gaping hole in this latter theory.)
“‘This could literally put us out of business,’ said Paul Stankavich, president and general manager of the Alaska Public Radio Network, an alliance of 26 stations in the state that create and share news programming.” Well, that’s the idea. The House GOP moves to kill off the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, getting rid of liberal Bill Moyers and that lesbian-loving rabbit in one fell swoop. “‘Americans overwhelmingly see public broadcasting as an unbiased information source,’ Rep. David Obey (Wis.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said in a statement. ‘Perhaps that’s what the GOP finds so offensive about it. Republican leaders are trying to bring every facet of the federal government under their control…Now they are trying to put their ideological stamp on public broadcasting.’“
Ambitious Dems Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and Governor Mark Warner try to establish their presidential bona fides by joining in on the anti-Dean pileup. I wouldn’t have used Deans’s “white christian” line — We shouldn’t be in the business of reinforcing the GOP’s hold on white Christian voters, particularly when so much of the Republicans’ bellicose, intolerant, and avarice-fueled agenda is flagrantly anti-Christian in any real sense. Today’s GOP may talk the talk of Jesus, but their leaders continually prostrate themselves before the altar of Mammon. As any good Christian knows, you can’t serve them both.
All that being said, it’s highly dismaying to watch the Dems eat their own like this. Obviously, our lazy, cowed excuse for a national newsmedia is going to leap at every possible note of intemperance to emanate from Dr. Dean, because it’s an easy story that won’t tick off the White House and doesn’t involve much in the way of reporting. So every two-bit Democratic official that wants to start generating some media buzz and moderate cred for a 2008 bid is currently mouthing off to reporters about the former Governor of Vermont.
Do Republicans do this? Not hardly. I don’t remember GOP officials rushing to lambast Bill Frist for his “against people of faith” photo-op, or Tom DeLay for all the garbage that routinely comes out of his mouth, to say nothing of all the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, etc. But one Dem uses stronger rhetoric than usual to characterize the opposition and we fall over each other to condemn him in the name of electable statesmanship. It’s pathetic. Word to the wise, Dems: Let Dean be Dean — we didn’t pick him for his social nicety — and concentrate your rhetorical firepower on the opposing trench.
“Frist called her “a superb judge” who applies the law ‘without bias, without favor, with an even hand.’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the 14 negotiators, called Brown “an extremely talented and qualified judge” who will ‘advance the cause of conservative judicial philosophy.’” As Janice Rogers Brown moves through the Senate, some Dems and left-leaning groups start rethinking the benefits of last month’s nuclear compromise.
“Now in terms of the requests for the documents, I view that as just another stall tactic, another way to delay, another way not to allow Bolton to get an up or down vote.” As per his usual my-way-or-the-highway approach, Dubya announced he’s decided to stonewall the Dems by withholding the requested intelligence documents bearing on Bolton. Given that this UN appointment seems a done deal in terms of votes, you’d think our “uniter, not a divider” prez might’ve relished an opportunity to appear magnanimous and thus replenish some of his squandered political capital. But perhaps he didn’t want to put another feather in McCain’s cap so soon after the nuclear compromise…or perhaps these documents confirm anew that Bolton is unfit for his post. (Video link via Freakgirl.)
Even more troubling, in keeping with the administration’s attempts to make Amnesty International this week’s Newsweek, our president also put the blame for the “absurd” recent Amnesty report about our dismaying recent proclivity for torture squarely on the shoulders of “people who hate America.” As Sidney Blumenthal notes, “It may be of minor ironic interest that before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration cited Amnesty International’s reports on Saddam Hussein’s violations of human rights as unimpeachable texts. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld often claimed Amnesty as his ultimate authority.”
“Today’s conservative activists have become the new postmodernists. They shift attention away from the truth or falsity of specific facts and allegations — and move the discussion to the motives of the journalists and media organizations putting them forward.” By way of Crooked Timber, E.J. Dionne calls out the po-mo bent of today’s GOP.
On the Sunday shows, Republican Senators Arlen Specter and Sam Brownback go toe-to-toe on stem cells. “Brownback questioned ‘what it does to the culture of life’ when government approves performing research on the embryos, which he considers ‘young human life.’ Specter shot back, asking what it does ‘to the culture of life when you let people die because there are medical research tools which could keep them alive?’” For what it’s worth, Specter believes the Senate has the votes to override a Bush veto, even as Boss DeLay erroneously invokes various world religions to keep the House in line.
So much for the Republican Revolution…The WP delves into Speaker Dennis Hastert’s life high on the hog. “[U]nlike a long line of big spenders before him — including such masters of pork-barrel politics as the late speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) — Hastert is a conservative Republican who favors smaller government and leaner domestic budgets. He has led the fight to enforce tough White House spending limits for the highway program and domestic spending bills, sometimes over the objections of GOP committee chairmen.” Do as he says, not as he does.
Still waiting in vain for the White House to turn over some crucial intelligence documents regarding Dubya’s pick, the Dems succeed in holding off the Bolton vote until next week. The GOP moderates still don’t seem to be joining Voinovich in apostasy, though, so it looks like Bolton will soon be representing us before the world. For shame.
A day after Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) excoriated the pick in print, the Bolton nomination goes before the full Senate. (Alas, despite Voinovich’s letter, the GOP looks likely to fall in line.)
Priscilla Owen may be through, but a number of papers note today how Monday’s compromise only sets the stage for an ugly battle over Dubya’s next Supreme Court pick, likely to be a conservative freakshow.
With the nuclear detente and Priscilla Owen now on her way to a judgeship, congressional attention turns to stem cell research. With the right-wing fundies already on the warpath over the loss of GOP nukes, how will they respond in the unlikely event of Dubya’s threatened veto getting overridden?
On the eve of meltdown, the Senate center holds, producing a compromise that allows three Dubya judges — Priscilla Owen, Janice Brown, and William Pryor — through in return for a nuclear standdown. The Dems are heralding this as a victory, but, with Rehnquist in ill health, this may just postpone the conflict…
As Frist’s press secretary gets tang-tungled trying in vain to explain her boss’s support for a 2000 judicial filibuster, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of Catkiller‘s stooges (who also blamed courthouse violence on activist judges a few weeks ago), sets the nuclear gambit in motion with a call for cloture. This will come to a head Tuesday, unless the moderates can avert the cataclysm. “Throughout the past three days of debate, Democratic senators pointed repeatedly to the Senate’s approval of 208 of Bush’s judicial nominees. Instead of being satisfied with a 95 percent success rate, the highest for a president’s judicial nominees in the past two decades, Bush has shown that he wants to have everything his way, the Democrats charged. By comparison, Republicans blocked 69 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees during his two terms.”
As Frist’s nuclear countdown ticks off, Senate moderates attempt a compromise, Senate aides hone their maneuvering, and Senate freakshow Rick Santorum (R-PA) invokes Godwin’s Law in claiming that Dems were “the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, ‘I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me?’” (C-SPAN link via Quiddity.)
Undeterred by the Dem’s last-minute attempt to let less-controversial judges pass through first, Bill Frist initiates the nuclear countdown in the Senate. “‘I don’t rise for party,’ said Senator Frist. ‘I rise for principle.’” That is to say, the principle of seeing all the right-wing fundies line up behind his 2008 presidential bid.
Nuclear negotiations break down between Reid and Frist, setting the stage for a cataclysmic Senate meltdown this week over Karl Rove’s pet judge, Priscilla Owen. (That is, unless the Ben Nelson-John McCain compromise — which seems a considerable capitulation by the Dems — gains currency with the GOP.) Can Catkiller really have the votes? Surely, there are more than three so-called “conservatives” in the Senate who would vote against this type of radical rule change. Or has the GOP sunk so low? Update: A few days old now, but ah well: Salon offers a handy nuclear primer.