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November 29, 2005
The Army has a new offer: Join us and regain your old rank without repeating basic training.
Source: NY Times Political Reports
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN and IAN FISHER, New York Times
By Charles R. Babcock, Washington Post
Can Republican congressmen get their stories straight about this "need for sacrifice" business? Let's find out [emphasis added]:
The House on [Nov. 15] agreed to a $3,100 pay raise for Congress next year to $165,200 after defeating an effort to roll it back.
In a 263-152 vote, the House blocked a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to force an up-or-down vote on the pay raise. Instead, lawmakers will automatically receive the raise officially a cost of living adjustment as provided for in a 1989 law that barred them from pocketing big speaking fees in exchange for an annual COLA.
Matheson was the only one of 434 House members to speak out against the 1.9 percent COLA, which will raise members' salaries in January.
... "It's not a pay raise," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "It's an adjustment so that they're not losing their purchasing power."
Okay, point taken. But — bear with us — how about the budget cuts this month for Medicaid, food stamps, and student loans? Take it away, NewsHour [emphasis added]:
Democrats argue the proposed savings in the next five years come at the expense of several desperately needed social programs. The measure allows states to impose new costs on Medicaid recipients, cuts funds for student loans, restricts access to food stamps and trims farm supports. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed her concerns.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Raises the cost of student loans; cuts health care for the poorest children in America. It's really a disaster; it is an embarrassment.
JEFFREY BROWN: Republican Marsha Blackburn countered that charge on the House floor.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: The left is out in full force telling Americans that we are about to cut Medicaid. Mr. Speaker, shame on them. Next year, under this bill, Medicaid will grow 7 percent -- grow 7 percent. That's not a cut. We're taking the rate of growth from 7.3 to 7 percent.
If the left wants to lie about it, that's not a lot that we're going to be will be able to do to stop them.
Looks like it ain't the left that needs to get its story straight, Ms. Blackburn.
[Hat tip: Steve Benen @ the Carpetbagger Report.]
Source: Democracy for America
November 30, 2005
During a stop in El Paso, Texas today, President Bush slammed a congressman and his Republican party for taking bribes, stating:"Any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, must take their office seriously and the ethics seriously .The idea of a congressman taking money is outrageous," referring to the guilty plea and resignation of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham yesterday.
Strangely, President Bush has evidently forgotten about the numerous ethics investigations and indictments that have recently racked the Republican Party.
Maybe he just needs a friendly reminder which we will happily provide.
The list Mr. President:
Source: Democracy for America
November 28, 2005
Some of you may have missed this last week, and it's important.
The Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has entered a highly active phase as prosecutors are beginning to move on evidence pointing to possible corruption in Congress and executive branch agencies, lawyers involved in the case said.
Prosecutors have already told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and his former chief of staff that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The 35 to 40 investigators and prosecutors on the Abramoff case are focused on at least half a dozen members of Congress, lawyers and others close to the probe said. The investigators are looking at payments made by Abramoff and his colleagues to the wives of some lawmakers and at actions taken by senior Capitol Hill aides, some of whom went to work for Abramoff at the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, lawyers and others familiar with the probe said.
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R), now facing separate campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas, is one of the members under scrutiny, the sources said. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and other members of Congress involved with Indian affairs, one of Abramoff's key areas of interest, are also said to be among them.
I wonder what DeLay's crowd would shriek if he were indicted by Bush's Justice Department. "Out of control partisan prosecutor" just wouldn't be transferrable. And given my current obsession with Montana, I salivate at Burns' problems. It makes a Senator Tester (ActBlue page) that much more possible.
It's still Fitzmas season with Rove in Fitzgerald's crosshairs, a Texas judge refused to throw out Ronnie Earle's case against DeLay, at least not yet, Republican Congressman Earl Cunningham will be pleading guilty to being a corrupt bastard, and now Justice has up to 40 investigators swarming over "at least" half a dozen more Republican congresscritters. And then there's the state-by-state scorecard of Republican corruption.
These are good times for criminal prosecutors. Bad times for corrupt Republicans. And bad times for those of us trying to invent new holidays to describe each of these investigations.
State House News Poll. 11/17-20. Registered voters. MoE 4.8% (9/14-17 results)
Romney (R) 36 (40)
Romney (R) 41
Romney's approval/disapproval sits at a sad 42/53. Apparently, Massachusetts registered voters don't like wannabe presidential candidates who kowtow to the GOP's extreme rightwing.
Update [2005-11-28 8:14:16 by Armando]: A companion piece on Iraq withdrawal. In his WaPo column this morning, William Raspberry said:
So how do the Republicans respond [to recent events]? Sometimes by direct attack, as when they tried to discredit Murtha as a coward. But given a president whose National Guard service was suspect at best and a vice president who was garnering draft deferments while Murtha served, that couldn't work.
And sometimes by simply noting that the Democrats don't have an exit strategy, either. Of course they don't.
If the Democrats had their own Karl Rove, he'd probably tell them not to even try to come up with one. If a sound exit plan means getting out without leaving Iraq less stable than it is now, and with a reasonable chance of becoming an American-style democracy, nobody has one.
If Iraq is most likely to implode into civil war, leaving it a far more dangerous hotbed of terrorism than it was before our invasion, wouldn't the Democrats be smart to let it happen without interference? That isn't to say the Democrats yearn for failure -- but it's a cinch they don't want to be blamed for it.
Well, I have volunteered for the job and have counseled exactly that. Am I being cynical? No. I would argue I am being principled. Raspberry says:
But the quagmire in Iraq involves much more than politics. It involves national honor, the undiminished threat of international terrorism -- and the lives of too many people who deserve better.
It's hardly the time for clever politics.
For those in power who have the ability to formulate and implement Iraq policy this is surely true. That is the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress. Neither is listening to a damn thing Democrats say about Iraq except with regard to how to respond to it politically. The Democrats have no say whatsoever in Iraq policy. And BushCo has decided that this be so.
So what are Dems left to do? Very simple. They have to plan and act in ways designed to allow them to regain power in 2006. So they can try and deal with the Iraq Debacle given us by Bush and the Republicans. This requires offering plans for Iraq when voters can choose between Republicans and Democrats. The 2006 election campaign.
It is the only principled thing to do.
So, like everyone else in the world, Madonna wants to direct films:
Madonna says she would like to follow the lead of her husband, filmmaker Guy Ritchie, and direct a movie of her own. . . . "I would love to direct a film. I felt very inspired by making this movie, and I learned a lot about filmmaking and storytelling. I would like to do it on my own next time," she said in an interview broadcast Sunday with Channel 4.
I have a story for her, via Josh Marshall:
You know that when the casino boat line SunCruz was owned by Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan, the company paid the men who blew away SunCruz founder Gus Boulis.
Now it turns out they also had the company pay the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP election committee) $10,000 on behalf of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). That was in exchange for Ney's putting anti-Boulis remarks in the congressional record that helped Abramoff and Kidan pressure Boulis to sell them SunCruz.
The guy who helped arrange Ney's anti-Boulis-trash-talking and the later pay-off was none other than Mike Scanlon, who later did public relations work for SunCruz, in addition to going into the Indian gaming bilking biz with SunCruz owner Abramoff. Scanlon is the guy who just agreed to testify against, well ... everybody in the Abramoff cases.
Josh says these guys lived an Elmore Leonard novel. Heh.Let's makes this an Open Thread.
Call me Hunter. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely -- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me...
I always told myself that if I were to give up blogging, or take up blogging more fully, or abandon politics forever, or embrace it as a permanent cloak, or do anything of significance at all on this disturbing and rapidly spinning planet, that would be the text I would someday use to explain my decision. I will confess that Moby Dick, though initially read on the half-serious smirking dare of a high school English teacher, is one of my favorite works, beside half of anything by Twain, and anything by Kipling twice-over. Yes, I am one of those kind of people.
And if the book itself opens a window to some of the best and worst truths of the world, that single opening paragraph describes, at one point or another, the truth of any human worth speaking to, in their times of high exasperation. It describes my frantic flight from Los Angeles to the wilds; it describes my flight from the fields of science to the fields of not-science; it describes my flight from organized religion, as a teen. It describes battles with depression, and battles of conscience.
If all of that sounds like very big philosophizing to encumber a considerably smaller and self-describedly insignificant man, you would not be wrong. I am not a titan of journalism masquerading behind an anonymous mask, or a political strategist seeking contracts, or anyone of any note or passing consequence. I have been blessed, for the moment, with a small voice, and it remains a marvel to me that it is heard, and alarming to me when it echoes in even the smallest of ways. And this site, particularly, is a voice that is heard -- in tiny, tiny ways. Journalists have let me know they read it; words I have used have appeared in small public places, in small public ways; stories that have started here, or more correctly have wound up here, have shot off again like rockets to parts known and unknown. It is both a very small thing, and a very large thing.
And yet the futility of it all is downright taunting, when it comes right down to it. The world is a large, large place, and ripples will not change its course, though the occasional tsunami makes it wobble slightly. There are days, like today, when I wonder at the landscape, and imagine the whole besotted world to be dashed up against the rocks, and wonder if any of us will ever gain our bearings again.
Oh, that's just great. Just great. From the Sunday Telegraph (UK):
A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
According to the Telegraph reporter, the video is even set to music: "Mystery Train", by Elvis Presley.
And so the circle -- or spiral -- continues. For those with short memories, it was the alleged misconduct of armed contractors in Iraq that led to the killing and public display of four of them, hanging from a bridge... which led to two separate massive retaliatory assaults against Fallujah... which led to a widespread backlash in Iraq... which led to, among other things, a widened insurgency... which contributed to a situation in Iraq in which armed contractors are necessary for protection of private clients... which led to the alleged misconduct of several of them...
Which leads to what, I wonder?
Oh, I remember. Now comes the part where reporting civilian deaths is anti-American, because the Iraqis themselves really can't figure out that this crap is going on until they see it in British and American newspapers. Because they don't know when their own relatives have been killed until some paragon of American soldierness posts trophy pictures of them in exchange for Internet porn, or some dumbass "security contractor" sets it to music and puts it on their website.
God help us. And I mean that literally.
Update [2005-11-27 17:54:48 by Hunter]: And see here, from the LA Times:
WASHINGTON One hot, dusty day in June, Col. Ted Westhusing was found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport, a single gunshot wound to the head.
The Army would conclude that he committed suicide with his service pistol. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.
The Army closed its case. But the questions surrounding Westhusing's death continue.
Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.
It should be read in full.
Atrios wrote about the purpose of copyright law and in passing says this about antitrust law:
The business centered discussion of these and related issues often serves to obscure the point of certain institutions. For example, antitrust law exists solely for the protection of competition for the benefit of consumers, not to protect competitors. It's a seemingly subtle distinction, but it makes a world of difference in how we think about it.
I agree that that is how we view antitrust law today, and properly in my view. But was that the original intent of the enactors of the Sherman Antitrust Act? Or was that what courts decided? Here is Robert Pitofsky persuasively arguing otherwise in a 1979 presentation:
Although the political forces that produced the major antitrust statutes--in 1890, 1914, 1936, and 1950--varied widely, those statutes once enacted have almost always been enforced and interpreted so that economic considerations were paramount. The issue among most serious people has never been whether non-economic considerations should outweigh significant long-term economies of scale, but rather whether they had any role to play at all, and if so, how they should be defined and measured.
There probably has never been a period comparable to the last decade, however, when antitrust economists and lawyers have had such success in persuading the courts to adopt an exclusively economic approach to antitrust questions. In this paper, I will urge a different view. It is bad history, bad policy, and bad law to exclude certain political values in interpreting the antitrust laws. By "political values," I mean, first, a fear that excessive concentration of economic power will breed antidemocratic political pressures, and second, a desire to enhance individual and business freedom by reducing the range within which private discretion by a few in the economic sphere controls the welfare of all. A third and overriding political concern is that if the free-market sector of the economy is allowed to develop under antitrust rules that are blind to all but economic concerns, the likely result will be an economy so dominated by a few corporate giants that it will be impossible for the state not to play a more intrusive role in economic affairs.
What is interesting about the discussion which arises on antitrust law issues is the unquestioned belief that the courts are to act with policy driven concerns in mind. And this comes from the Right most prevalently. Consider this from Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit in a 1991 case:
The modern conception of the Sherman Act is of a statute that seeks to protect consumers from monopolistic practices rather than competitors from competitive practices.
More on the flip.
Their vehicle overturned.
Telegraph was apparently the first newspaper to carry news today that a military vehicle carrying U.S. politicians overturned on the way to the Baghdad airport on Saturday and injured two members of Congress.
The source was a Georgia congressman unhurt in the accident, Rep. Jim Marshall.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany for an MRI on his neck, said Marshall, who was also in the vehicle. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) was sent to a Baghdad hospital, Marshall told the Macon Telegraph.
Marshall, a Georgia Democrat, said he was not hurt.
The congressional delegation was riding in a box-like vehicle that troops call the "ice cream truck" -- it streaks through the middle of the road to deter oncoming motorists, Marshall told the paper. But shortly after dark, an oncoming truck refused to yield.
"Then, all of a sudden, brakes get slammed on. Then we hit something and go off the side of the road and tip over," Marshall said.
In the Comment Section:
Many are, not just Cuban-Americans like me. So is the American travel and leisure industry:
Cuba is a large island, three-quarters the size of Florida, and aside from crowded hot spots like Havana and Varadero and a handful of colonial cities and resorts, it is largely underdeveloped - making it a sleeping giant of Caribbean tourism.
"The travel industry is sitting on the last virgin territory in the entire world," says Kirby Jones, the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association. "Americans want to go there for the same reason that dozens of companies around the world have. There's money to be made."
Ian Schrager, the New York entrepreneur who helped create the trend for stylish boutique hotels with the Royalton in Manhattan, the Delano in Miami Beach and the Mondrian in Los Angeles, went to Cuba in 1994-95. "I was completely enchanted with the country," he says. "I was completely taken with it. To me what was interesting was Old Havana, like Venice, a special place frozen in time."
There's no question he would like to put a hotel in Old Havana. "My customers are waiting for Cuba to happen," he says. In Miami, Frank Del Rio, the chief executive of Oceania Cruises, who left Cuba as a child, is clear on the subject. "It's got mountain ranges, colonial cities, beaches; it's got everything," he says. "No travel organization in the United States will be caught flat-footed when the travel restrictions are lifted. We are all prepared."
Waiting for Castro to pass away says the article. But will that change this?
Five days in Cuba and I've not had a good meal except at the Café del Oriente in Old Havana. But foreigners get the best food money can buy. Foreigners get the best of everything. Most Cubans shop for food at neighborhood markets where dogs sniff around, vegetables are rotting and flies buzz over raw meat laid on bloody counters.
With incomes ranging from $8 to $20 a month, the working-class Cuban cannot afford the Palco supermarket in the Cubanacán area, with its shelves of Kellogg's cereals and six-packs of Coca-Cola (both made in Mexico) and the slabs of fresh beef in the butcher area. That, and the preserved mansions in Miramar and Siboney (where Fidel Castro has a compound), are within reach only of retired generals like the one I met one morning there, and other members of the Havana elite - diplomats, foreign entrepreneurs, government functionaries and their families.
And will anyone care?
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