Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Capital deficit

President Bush famously said he had political capital to burn. Many, including supporters and opponents, thought the statement may come back to haunt him, well I am sure there are times these days when he may think he can hear the echo.

The statement was typical Bush. In some ways it may have reflected a certain amount of truth. His victory was not a rousing mandate, but enough people decided to back him even though they questioned many of his policies including taking the nation to war in Iraq and were aware of the questionable use of intelligence in the selling of the war. A mandate it might not have been, but it certainly must have looked like a blank check to Bush and Rove.

A story in today's Washington Post raised the specter of the dreaded "Lame Duck" term. Bush may have squeaked through the election, but the people who once supported him are starting to have some buyers remorse. His polling numbers continue their downward slide and the President's number one policy initiative, Social Security privatization, has hit a brick wall, hard.

Even members of his own party are openly challenging the President's agenda. The recent move by Republican moderates (a relative term now) in the Senate nuclear option debate was a direct challenge to the Bill Frist/Tom DeLay-run Republican party. While they may have been raising their own status a bit, the move reflects a growing disgruntlement with a party leadership that seems more and more to be the political wing of the religious conservatives, to paraphrase the Republican former Senator, John Danforth.

That most of the recent slippage has occurred in the domestic arena is unsurprising. Since taking office, Bush's domestic agenda has taken a lot of heat from both the policy watchers and the public. The national security and foreign policy question, which many cite as pulling the President through the election, is a more vague area that many voters are unfamiliar with and are more willing to trust the administration due to their own lack of knowledge.

When it comes to the home-front, however, even the President's most popular ideas (e.g. No Child Left Behind) take a lot more scrutiny. People are comfortable dealing with their schools, retirement programs and grocery costs. They see the effects first-hand and are much more willing to take politicians to task when they start to tinker with them. A failing school and rising food costs are much more tangible than international diplomacy.

The more nuanced and concrete world of domestic policy is less affected by tough-guy rhetoric. The "compassionate conservativism" that Bush ran on in 2000 is resonates with more individuals, but its roots in liberal policies (medicare, social security, education funding) does not muster the rabid support among Bush's base, the base he is most able to motivate when challenging terrorists to "bring it on". He may, in fact, split his own support.

Republican congressmen seem to be picking up on this and as the President's focus turns inward to domestic issues, they are less willing to tow the administration's line and are demanding changes to the President's agenda. The social security privatization move has become such an albatross that some members of congress opt to stay in Washington when the President comes to their district, not the sign of healthy leadership.

The more moderate reality of the American people seems to deny the Republican leadership's cocksure assertion that they are the future of American politics and will never again return to the minority. While the Republican Party has made enormous gains in the past decade, they have done so by adopting liberal language that cloaks their true policy beliefs and the result of which has been a backlash against the party, mostly those in Congress. The Democrats faced a similar situation in the early nineties, a backlash that led to the Republican gains in Congress led by Newt Gingrich and his "Contract with America."

Bush has 3 1/2 years to go in his term and to discount the unquestioning support he inspires in people would be a bad move for the Democrats. They should focus on breaking the Republican control of Congress and highlight the Republican policies that are in fact out of step with the majority of Americans. The Social Security example is a perfect opportunity. Despite all the smoke, the people seem to realize that the President wanted to end a program that is arguably the most successful (certainly the most popular) government program in history. They should tie the Republicans to that lead balloon and proudly embrace their role as Social Security's protectors.

In the end, people support most of the domestic programs that have been enacted over the past century. The Bush wing of the Republican party (the Grover Norquist/"the business of government is business" wing) oppose the New Deal and Great Society programs that have been so successful and popular, and use deflective language to cover their actions to eliminate them.

The Bush administration would do well to mind the will of the people. A mistaken belief in one's own righteousness has hastened the fall of countless people and parties.

- Murphy

Deep Throat!

He has finally revealed himslelf, or has he? Woodward and Bernstein refuse to comment on whether former FBI agent V. Mark Felt is the most famous source in journalism. They have, in the past, said others were not the man the made Nixon squirm, yet they are mum on Felt. NPR's Talk of the Nation covered the story today and the facts seem to fit. They say his family encouraged him to out himself before he dies. Felt is apparently very illl and in his 90's.

Woodward and Bernstien are sticking to their guns and refuse to reveal their most celebrated source until after the source passes on.

- Murphy

Update: Woodward, Berstein and Bradlee confirm that Felt is Deep Throat.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Roundup of responses

Here is an incomplete list of some responses to yesterday's deal regarding the judicial nominees:

After reading some of the analysis it looks as if the Democrats did manage to do more than just establish a holding action.

I still maintain, however, that the main point is that the Republican majority is actively working to eliminate any check on its power. The apoplectic response by some on the right illustrates the true motive behind the move. They saw this as a chance to further restrict Democratic resistance to their programs. Instead several Senators, for one reason or another, bucked the pressure of the increasingly strident right and avoided signing on with the nuclear option (a term Jonah Goldberg admits was coined by a Republican, supposedly Trent Lott, though Goldberg doesn't say) a move that is guaranteed to generate some right-wing heat for them.

- Murphy

When is compromise not compromise?

When only one side gives up ground, its not compromise. There are attempts all over to get a sense of who got the better end of the deal. On the whole I think it is not as bad as some think, but I don't see it as an actual win for the Democrats, it seems more of a holding action. The Republicans were able to get the three most controversial judicial nominees through and the Democrats get to keep a weakened filibuster. It may have been the best option the Dems could get in the short term, but unless the moderate Republicans are willing to stand by their seeming commitment to support more broadly accepted nominees in the future, we are likely to see this standoff again.

In the end the real point has been overlooked. The Republican majority threatened override the rules of the Senate (which state that 2/3 majority is required to change the rules) in order to change the eliminate rules that put limits on their power. It would have an abandonment over 200 years of precedence as well as a clear departure from the intent of the framers of the constitution.

This was not a debate over nominees but whether the majority party in the Senate has to right to overturn the rules in order to expand its power. The rules on the matter are clear, just as the Republicans are clear about their interest in shirking any and all limits to their power.

This agreement is a patch, this issue will continue to raise its head until responsible individuals who respect the framework of the government are elected.

- Murphy

Monday, May 23, 2005

No beer?

Local Teamsters are setting up picket lines in select locations to protest contract problems with Lohr Distributing, Anheuser-Busch's distributor. Picket sites may include Busch Stadium. Needless to say, there will be no beer deliveries today from Lohr.

- Murphy

Good old Ike...

Over at his blog, STLStreets, local man-about-town and new taverowner Steven Fitzpatrick Smith has a good quote from the old General.

I just began to follow Smith's blog and I must say I enjoy his perspective. He's been around for awhile and seems to have a finger in countless pots. I look forward to reading future stories.

Also, I get the feeling that his new tavern, Royale Food and Spirits. is going to be a good place to catch stories about the goings on around town. The new digs will be in the former home of the Real Bar and Grill on South Kingshighway near Arsenal. Deb Peterson reported that the Food Channel is going to do a bit on the new bar, I wonder if that's a new rival to the Food Network, or just a slip?

- Murphy

I think Kevin Drum makes exactly the right point regarding Newsweek's continued prostration.
This is like watching Darkness at Noon in real life. Newsweek made a small error in a 300-word blurb a couple of weeks ago, and since then the right-wing media hate machine, like a jackal sensing a rare opportunity for blood, has somehow managed to convince them they bear responsibility for riots in Afghanistan that were staged by extremists who obviously used the Newsweek article as nothing more than pretext.
Newsweek and the rest of the media need to get up off their knees and start fighting back. They've done enough apologizing.
Kevin lists off several of the more egregious examples of abuse that have been documented and are widely known in the muslim world.

The Defense Department did not refute the story, the source had been reliable, and there is a track record of abuse that makes the incident plausible.

Shooting the messenger doesn't change the news.

- Murphy

Sunday, May 22, 2005

60 Minutes tackling abstinence only myths...

60 Minutes investigates the Bush administration's support for abstinence-only programs, programs that teach information that flies in the face of decades of social and health research. They will undoubtedly come under fire as supporting "liberal" social policies, but the growing criticism of some of the major abstinence-only is supported by decades of research.

Not only are their messages dangerous to individuals' health, but they purposefully mislead adolescents in order to further their own agenda. They teach people to ignore facts, a policy that not only endangers their health but also puts their educational future in jeopardy.

While one may fall on one side or the other on the issue of abstinence and sex-ed, certainly any rational person can accept the fact that teaching bad information in order to instill a belief is detrimental to everyone involved including the basic underpinnings of education. How can a person function in modern society if they are unable to trust basic factual information and the processes by which they are arrived.

- Murphy

Soon to be noted....

I suspect that this speech by Professor John Gaddis from Harvard University is going to come up on the Sunday shows as well as numerous Republican talking points. A Harvard Professor endorsing the Bush doctrine is going to make a few waves.

The problem is his analysis is, well, not to the depth you would expect from a member of the academy.

When he sticks to an analysis of foreign policy, his basic assertion is that Bush's second inaugural expressed the true "Bush Doctrine", that Bush' foreign policy sought the spread of democracy despite the negative impact on international relations and public perception. He speaks as the convert who is willing to dismiss the countless examples where the reality doesn't match the rhetoric.

Gaddis' speech intrigued me at first, yet it changed from an analysis of the relationship between foreign policy statements their interpretation, and the realistic impact of the policy, to a defense of the policy based on general rhetoric that ignores the realistic implementation of the policy. If, as he asserts, the Bush doctrine is superior to the policies of other administrations for its unwillingness to abide by the existence of tyranny, the examples of U.S. supported administrations that defy basic standards of democracy are a clear and blatant counter to his thesis. Egypt and Saudi Arabia alone stand as prime counters to the idealistic glow with which Gaddis seems to view the administration's policies.

Taking a public position on policy can be very brave, yet to take a position and use demonstrably false logic is foolish.

Gaddis' endorsement of the "Bush Doctrine" will certainly create some validation, but it fails to live up to any critical analysis.

- Murphy

Friday, May 20, 2005

Misplaced priorities..

The Post-Dispatch has an editorial in Thursday's edition that I makes some good points about the use of confidential sources and the increased vigilance required on the part of journalists using them. Yet I think the Post editorial board misses the point and has been caught up in the Newsweek meta-story: The violence in Afghanistan is Newsweek's fault.

The real story here is not that a formerly reliable source backed off his claims under pressure, but that the White House has managed to turn the public and the media's attention away from accusations of abuse at U.S. detention facilities.

WH Press Secretary Scott McClellan

Despite the fact that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Myers, said the article was unrelated to the violence in Afghanistan, the White House was able to redirect the spotlight away from the administration and its policies to Newsweek and potential "liberal" bias in the media. No administration supporter has been able to mention the name Newsweek without adding the words bias or propaganda for a week.

The administration chastised Newsweek for a culpability that even the top military commander denied exists, and the mainstream press (from NPR's Daniel Schorr to CNN's various anchors) has dutifully followed, writing breathless stories about Newsweek's guilt or innocence and the questionable role of confidential sources. Commentators and editors are falling over themselves to state that they will continue to hold themselves to a higher standard than Newsweek, lest they end up on the administration's bad side.

By turning the focus of the media back in upon itself, the White House has assured that editors will take even greater pains before printing controversial articles. In an administration that places secrecy and loyalty above all else, some of the only insight we will gain into internal debates or access to potentially illegal or unethical practices is through the use of confidential sources.

The administration has managed to turn attention away from its own policies and in the process has ensured an even less aggressive media.

- Murphy

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sen. First says filibusters okay...

The Senator reportedly defended the right to use filibusters, but only if they aren't used against the Republican nominees. Via Think Progress:
So, Frist is arguing that one filibuster is OK. His problem is that several Bush nominees have been filibustered. This position completely undercuts Frist’s argument that judicial filibusters are unconstitutional. (Which is, in turn, the justification for the nuclear option.) If judicial filibusters are unconstitutional there is no freebee. But Frist digs his whole even deeper:
The Republican argument for the filibuster is about as nonsensical as it could be. They have even overturned their own stated reasoning for taking such a drastic step.

As more and more information comes out, it is ever more clear how revolutionary the Republican's nuclear option would be. The Republicans would have to overrule the Senate rules to change the Senate rules. A supermajority of Senators is required to change the rules unless the President of the Senate, Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, rules the rule unconstitutional. The Vice President, as a member of the executive, is put in a rather tricky constitutional position. In essence he is ensuring the passage of the President's agenda over the objections of members of the Senate. It's a rather untenable position for the system of checks and balances that has ensured the survival of our Democracy.

In the interest of short-term political gain, the Republican party is willing to short circuit the very basis of our Constitutional government.

- Murphy

British MP blasts Senator

British Minister of Parliment, George Galloway, voluntarily crossed the Atlantic to sit before Senator Norm Coleman's (R-Minn) committee Tuesday to answer charges leveled against him by Coleman. It was probably a good thing the committee was seated as well.

Galloway proceeded to launch into a speech that will have Senate watchers buzzing for a while. As the MP noted, standards of decorum have declined in the Senate in recent years, but the treatment he received in absentia from Sen. Coleman's committee was not something he was willing to abide by.
"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.
Coleman's committee is one of several investigating the Oil-for-Food scandal that has given anti-U.N. Republicans plenty of ammunition. Yet the committee's treatment of Galloway as well as revelations regarding U.S. indifference to U.S. companies profiting from the same corruption is likely to fly back in Republican's faces.

Galloway himself needed no help in chastising the committee. He appeared under oath to answer charges that he received kickbacks from Iraq and the following charges that those kickbacks have spurred him to be a leading figure in the anti-war movement before the U.S. invasion.
Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.
I have to pull the C-Span footage of this testimony up. Galloway ran rings around the committee and completely refuted every point they tried to make, including correcting incorrect data they had used to try and tarnish him

I can only assume that the committee felt that they could simply make their charges and something in the MP's background would have given him pause to sit, under oath, before a Senate committee. That's a proposition even a saint would be hesitant to accept.

As if to add insult to injury, Galloway appeared on Charlie Rose and was treated to a re-airing of all the Republican accusations that he had essentially proven wrong in his testimony. Rose is usually pretty good, but I was quite disappointed by his efforts.

Go and read the whole speech at Daily Kos.

- Murphy

Monday, May 16, 2005

Misplaced Priorities...

While the Republicans in the Senate decide which method to use to undercut our constitutional foundation of checks and balances in order to further placate their domestic base, others are looking to the outside to analyze potential threats to the future role the United States will play in the world.

Despite his cynicism, Pat Robertson is correct in the statement that the role the judiciary plays in affecting the course of our future is enormous. Robertson, however, would like to realign the judiciary away from its traditional role as an independent check on the executive and legislative branches, and toward an ideologically-based and theologically-informed branch that is subservient to the other two branches. This would effectively overturn Marbury v. Madison (1803) which would throw modern jurisprudence into complete a tailspin.

Yet while the vocal minority that is the religious right seeks to enshrine its own doctrinal beliefs into the constitution to protect its own short-term political gains, international events are unfolding that threaten to have a much larger impact on the United States than any social issue could possibly exert.

Over at The American Prospect's blog, Tapped, there is a good article examining the United States' obligations to Taiwan and South Korea and their current activities that may threaten to draw us closer to direct conflict in the Near East. This comes on the heels of growing awareness in mainstream conversations of the increasing weight the Near East will play in the coming century. A perfect example of which is The Atlantic's cover story by David Kaplan in the most recent issue, "How We Would Fight China". The article points out that the Pacific Command retains more troops and equipment than any other U.S. command including Central Command which is handling the current conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are even larger questions regarding the U.S. financial picture and the fact that the central banks of Asia, China included, are absorbing a huge amount of our current debt. The effects of a destabilized Near East could have an enormous impact on not only the U.S. economy, but the resulting destabilizing of the world economy.

These are all issues that need to be addressed now. The Republican leadership is shirking its duties in kowtowing to a minority voice that, while loud, is increasingly out of tune with the global relationships the United States depends upon for its success and stability.

- Murphy

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Steve Martin to receive Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for humor.
Martin issued a statement saying: "I think Mark Twain is a great guy and I can't wait to meet him."

- Murphy

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Our reality and history challenged President...

Yalta Conference
President George Bush seems to get a kick out of giving historians and teachers heart palpitations. He recently made a statement that equated the Yalta agreement with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, keyboards went active criticizing the comments as additional evidence that the President is more interested in scoring points with his followers than demonstrating any understanding of history and its role in shaping the present.

A couple responses: Political Animal, Talking Points Memo and Slate Magazine, Arthur Schlesinger Jr..

Those on the Right have already heaped praise upon Bush for "setting the record straight", as they see it. To the Right the Yalta conference was evidence that the "fellow travelers" in the State Department had a tight grip on Roosevelt's foreign policy. While there is irrefutable evidence that there were serious problems with communist spies in numerous government departments, the Yalta agreement reflected a fairly hard reality that the U.S. could not take on the Japanese alone. The prospect of battling both a multi-million man Russian army as well as invading the Japanese home island was beyond reason. This at a time when the U.S. was facing manpower shortages.

The Yalta agreement was certainly not an agreement to be praised, but it was an agreement that reflected the military and political reality on the ground.

The Right has been beating the anti-FDR drum since before the war, the Yalta agreement only gave them an opportunity to make an argument that sounded more convincing. The socialist President handing over the powerless people of Eastern Europe to his fellow travelers the communist Russians.

- Murphy

Monday, May 09, 2005

Playing politics with the Judiciary....

As if there weren't enough cases of Republicans using their newfound power to try and put the screws to judges who hand down rulings they disagree with, Missouri Republicans are proposing a constitutional ammendment to change the process by which judges are impeached.

One judge in particular, Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman, was re-elected last year despite the efforts of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar. Emery told the Post he isn't even exactly sure why he opposes Teitelman.

When we have elected officials tinkering with our governing documents who aren't even clear about the reasoning of their actions, it should be a time of great concern for those interested in legitimate, democratic representative government.

Correction: The MO Supreme Court Judge's first name is Richard, not Mark as I previously wrote. Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed that out.

- Murphy

And then there was one...

Former aide to Rep. Richard Gephardt, Chuck Banks, is running against the second to last Republican elected official in Jefferson County, current JeffCo Presiding Commissioner, Mark Mertens.

The other Republican representing Jefferson County is State Senator Bill Alter. Alter squeaked between two Democrat candidates who split the Democrat vote to take the seat in Jefferson City.

- Murphy

Catastrophe or opportunity?

The Post-Dispatch ran an excellent article on the impact military base closures have on the communities in which they reside. They take a stab at examining the doom and gloom predictions of locals politicians and business leader when Uncle Sugar leaves town.

Scott Air Force Base's future is in the hands of the base closure recommendation process, a process no politician wants to publicly associate themselves with.

If Scott were to be shuttered, innovative and creative ideas could provide a needed rebound for the local economy. The story listed several successful retooling of area bases. Some seemed more feasible than others, flight-based operations are unlikely to move in given the lackluster performance at Mid-America Airport. However, agribusiness might find the location perfectly suited, perhaps a partnership with local universities to look into agricultural pharmaceuticals.

Like most events in life, a good plan and some creative thinking could turn what looks to be a problem into an opportunity.

Additional: Harry Levins of the Post-Dispatch has a good article on the effect a base closing has on local retired military members.

- Murphy

Friday, May 06, 2005

Robertson pleads misunderstanding...

Pat Robertson responds to a letter from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), regarding his comments on ABC's This Week. In his letter to Sen. Lautenberg, Robertson reasserts his belief that an activist judiciary is still a greater threat to the United States than a bunch of "crazed terrorists".

The real problem with Robertson's statement was not that he believes islamist terrorist are not the society-destroying threat the many make them out to be, its his response to Stephanopolus' attempt to clarify what Robertson said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, sir, you have described this in pretty -- this whole battle in pretty apocalyptic terms. You've said that liberals are engaged in an all-out assault on Christianity, that Democrats will appoint judges who don't share our Christian values and will dismantle Christian culture. And that the out-of-control judiciary -- and this was in your last book, Courting Disaster -- is the most serious threat America has faced in nearly 400 years of history, more serious than Al Qaeda, more serious than Nazi Germany and Japan, more serious than the Civil War?

ROBERTSON: George, I really believe that. I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together. There is an assault on marriage. There's an assault on human sexuality, as [U.S. Supreme Court] Judge [Antonin] Scalia said, they've taken sides in the culture war. And on top of that, if we have a democracy, the democratic processes should be that we can elect representatives who will share our point of view and vote those things into law.
The idea that militant islam is not truly a threat to our way of life or our overall security (though it will continue to be a threat to the safety of individuals) is pretty well accepted. However, Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan and Soviet Communism did truly pose a threat to our society at a bedrock level. Their defeat was essential to the continued existence of our country and the continued existence of democratic governments the world over. Equating that threat with the role the judiciary has played in issues dear to the christian right is truly abhorrent.

Equating the American judiciary with societies that practiced genocide, liquidated millions of individuals and violated every standard of humane conduct not only in war but in the day-to-day nature of their society is beyond belief.

His incendiary comments come at a period marking the 60th anniversary of the Victory in Europe.

Robertson's comments will hopefully bring to light the radical beliefs of these extremist groups. Their ideas lie not only outside the mainstream, but in an area of unreality.

- Murphy

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Round the bend...

Image via CNN

The folks over at the National Review's blog, The Corner, would do well to take their anti-U.N. paranoia down a notch. Some of their analysis can be questionable, but when you even spin the facts of stories that you link to, you are taking it a bit far.
A U.N. employee is being questioned.
Posted at 04:53 PM
I read the CNN story they link to, it pretty clearly states that the U.N. employee they questioned, a Dutch analyst with the U.N. weapons inspection agency, was not a suspect and was probably drunk.
The New York police and the FBI said the man was not a suspect. Police said he was detained only because he was asked not to cross a police tape and did so anyway. A police official said the man may have been drinking
Perhaps the Cornerites antenna picks up on something I don't, but I get the feeling that if an analyst from from weapons inspection agency wanted to get someone's attention with a bomb, it would be a bit more spectacular that a toy grenade filled with black powder.

I think the real story here is someone finally got fed up with the bad forecasts on the Weather Channel.
Other companies with offices in the building include … the Weather Channel.

- Murphy

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Calling Mr. Scopes...

A few years ago I was reading Molly Ivins' tales of covering the Texas Legislature. "The finest form of free entertainment ever invented," she said. At the time I was writing for the University News, the student newspaper of Saint Louis University. I remember wanting to write about politics. I wanted to cover Jeff City and other legislative bodies and write the stories that people would leave people laughing, angry or just shaking their heads.

At the time, I was dismayed. In my youthful naivete I believed that the modern news establishment had driven all the color out of politics. Responsible people were paying attention now and politicians had hired consultants to ensure sobriety and decorum. I would never be witness to the truly jaw-dropping spectacle that was state politics.

I know now that I could never have been so wrong...

From today's Post-Dispatch on a bill to mandate teaching alternative theories to evolution:
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, has no false hopes for her bill, which is one of several bills supported by social conservatives that has stalled this year. Davis said she hopes that by getting a hearing, she at least introduces a concept that might catch on in next year’s session.

...Ann Ihms, who traveled from her home in Indiana to testify, said the Columbine killers had a disregard for life that could have rooted from the view that humans evolved from lower species.

“What does that cause children to think?” she asked. “If I’m from a monkey I might as well act like a monkey.”

... Davis is among several socially conservative Republicans who had hoped for a fruitful session this year, given the fact that Missouri has a Republican governor and a Republican-led Legislature for the first time in more than 80 years.

Instead, the Legislature has dedicated its time largely on economic issues, such as school funding and controlling Medicaid costs.

Davis said she believes socially conservative bills will eventually win the support of Republican leaders. That will happen, she said, because they are issues that resonate with most Missourians.

“If they’re good ideas, they’ll stand the test of time,” she said.

- Murphy

If you pull it out, you better be willing to use it...

Over at my newest favorite read, the Decembrist, Mark Schmitt comments on media reports today that Sen. Frist is thinking of pulling the trigger on the "nuclear option."

I think Mark's take on it is exactly right,
I'm not privy to any insider anything, but I'm pretty sure that either they don't have the votes, or they're not sure they have the votes. Either way, they're stuck. For now, it's all bluster while they figure out what to do.
Everything I have read says that Frist doesn't have the votes. Even Republican's say he doesn't have the votes. This may be an attempt by Frist to try and shore up his position. If he blows this, he's can kiss any further advancement in the Republican Party goodbye.

Just this past Sunday, Pat Robertson panned any chance of Frist's Presidential aspirations. Frist's participation in the Family Research Council's "Justice Sunday" circus was designed to garner support in the religious conservative community. His future hangs on his handling of the nuclear option.

- Murphy

Nail on the head...

The Hammer
Originally uploaded by murphym2.
The DSCC has a website up called House of Scandal. The purpose being to collect and illustrate the far-reaching excess of the Bug Man, Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The site has an excellent graphic on the front illustrating the numerous shady "degrees of DeLay."

They even have a Dean-inspired hammer that tracks the amount of contributions to their "Hammer the Hammer" campaign.

While I think the Democrats and pundits are going to have a lot of fun with DeLay, I think it might be in their interest to keep him around, at least until the next election. DeLay's not even running that popular in his own district.

The Dems need to show that the entire Republican minority owes its soul to the Bug Man and that he is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Trying to tell us something?

Conservative astroturf organization Progress for America has adopted Noah McCullough, a 10-year-old Presidential trivia whiz, as its spokesperson for president Bush's Social Security plan.

While I will admit it is kind of cute to have an adolescent whiz kid as your spokesperson (a kid who already has his Presidential campaign website set up), could it be that only a child can honestly go out and stump for the plan? Most adults would require either a lack of ethics or a complete suspension of logical capacity to accept the President's ideas for Social Security.

While this may be old news, it just strikes me as ironic that they would send out a child to try and rally support for the President's ideas.

- Murphy

Democratic reform...

Rami Khouri, the editor of The Daily Star,the Middle East's leading English-language newspaper, was on Charlie Rose tonight.

He is excited to see greater involvement in studying the development of Middle-East democracy, even more so because of the collaborative relationship between American and Arab scholars in many of these studies. There has been plenty of talk about democracy in the middle-east, perhaps now it will be looked at as a serious policy goal and not simply a throw-away political line in a speech.

Khouri also wanted to emphasize the existence of domestic groups working for democratic reform in these countries. The U.S. is not going to walk in and plant democracy, it must grow up from the people. Effective U.S. help will be difficult to enact, however. While democratic initiatives can be quite popular, signs of U.S. collaboration can kill a program before it can get off the ground.

The most effective way the U.S. can support these nascent democratic movements would be to actually follow through on their condemnation of anti-democratic practices. The U.S.'s increasingly close relationship with the government of Darfur and Bush's widely-publicized nuzzling with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia do not inspire great confidence for reformers in the middle-east.

The Bush administration would do well to take the advice of the democracy-minded individuals in the middle-east.

- Murphy