Monday, November 21, 2005

Republicans Dis the Boss

No, not Bush, Bruce Springsteen. Senate Republicans blocked an attempt to pass a symbolic resolution to honor the iconic and famously pro-America rocker.

Apparently the Republicans are still angry that Springsteen stumped for Kerry last year.

Via. Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly who also reports that, more and more, these sort of honorary resolutions are becoming subject to partisan fights.

- Murphy

Saturday, November 19, 2005

In Debt Forever

Congress is moving to eliminate the cap on student loan interest rates.

Someone once commented that the Republicans won control of Congress and they ought to do something with their power.

Given the decline of manufacturing, a college education is often the only way to get ahead in the "new economy". It strikes me that it would help if Republicans didn't saddle the millions trying to get a piece of the growing economy President Bush loves to rave about.

Compound interest is wonderful for investment, but it is a killer for debt. Perhaps the Republican leadership would see fit not to saddle the American people with debt for the rest of their lives. Education is an investment, not a luxury.

If the Republicans can cut their well-heeled supporters a tax break, perhaps they could see their way to providing a way for the rest of us to reach that point.

- Murphy

Racist Much?

The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law. It also says that despite Republican assurances the law would not disenfranchise elderly, poor and black voters, Susan Laccetti Meyers, the staff adviser for the Georgia House of Representatives, told the Justice Department "the Legislature did not conduct any statistical analysis of the effect of the photo ID requirement on minority voters.
Via. The Washington MonthlyThis is one of those examples that always crop up that folks should remember before heading down the path of thinking there is no conscious disenfranchisement going on.

- Murphy

The Executive Brand We Have

This is one of the most important sentiments expressed about the true importance of electing responsible people to run our government.
That’s why I wish we could de-personalize elections. The American people need to understand more clearly just what a vote for Bush really represented.

A vote for Bush was also a vote for Rumsfeld running the Pentagon; it was a vote for Brownie running FEMA; it was a vote for the Federalist Society selecting our nation’s lower-court judges; it was a vote for an FDA that puts religion before science; it was a vote for David Safavian running procurement; it was a vote for Vladie Tomlinson running CPB (which runs PBS and NPR); it was a vote for oil executives writing energy policy; it was a vote for John Yoo writing torture memos; it was a vote for an EPA hostile to environmental law; it was a vote for a Department of Labor that warns Wal-Mart before an investigation; it was a vote for the Heritage Foundation staffing the CPA; and on and on.
Publius at Legal Fiction nailed it.

If more of the Democratic party and more of the anti-Bush groups focused on this rather than the variety of niche issues, there may be a chance to shift the wind.

- Murphy

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

No "Rumsfeld Wars"

Defense Tech is reporting that Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is distancing himself from responsibility for the war in Iraq.

Given the enormous role played by Rumsfeld, Cheney and the neocons in not only the war in Iraq but the entire forein policy structure of the United States, their sudden interest in reminding people that the ultimate responsibility lies with the President when previously they were happy to stand front and center on this issue, does not bode well for the administration. This makes reports of Bush's increasing isolation seem even more understandable.

The President's entire legacy rests on how he handles Iraq and terrorism. Now the partners that got him in up to his neck are distancing themselves. Or, perhaps, the President has pushed them away as the realization slowly dawns that his policies are not likely to earn him a great place in history.

The Washington Post Magazine story that Defense Tech refers to is an illuminating portrait of Rumsfeld. Far from distancing Rumsfled, it lays the consequences of the war square on his shoulders.

An important point near the end of the article comes from Army Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, senior office in Central Command, who summed up the state of the U.S. defenses in the face of actors such as Al Queda. Abizaid concluded that the nation is still unprepared to confront such an enemy.

There may be no "Rumsfeld war" but there is a "Rumsfeld military" and that military has been unsuccessful in prosecuting the war in Iraq. It has only been with the reassertion of the senior military commanders on the ground that there has been any progress in combatting the insurgency.

- Murphy

Monday, November 07, 2005

Happy B-Day, WWW

The world wide web will turn 15 years this month.

Over at the Financial Times, James Boyle explains how the web turned out so well, and why it won't happen like that again.

Someone previously said, if the attitude that corporations and media groups have towards the web were predominate earlier in our history, it's questionable that public libraries ever would have gotten off the ground. I think that is just about right.

- Murphy

Friday, November 04, 2005

Interesting Poll Numbers

There are some poll numbers out recently that will not sit well with the White House.

ABC News Poll
Bush Job Ratings
Overall job: Approve 39%, Disapprove 60%

Economy: Approve 36%, Disapprove 61%  

Iraq: Approve 36%, Disapprove 64%  

Health care: Approve 34%, Disapprove 61%

Gas prices: Approve 26%, Disapprove 68%
Bush Personal Ratings

Is a strong leader: Yes 47%, No 53%

Is honest and trustworthy: Yes 40%, No 58%

Shares your values: Yes 40%, No 58%

Understands problems of people like you: Yes 34%, No 66%.
Via Kevin Drum, CBS figures on the importance/unimportance of recent scandals.
Plamegate: 86% important 12% not important

Clinton-Lewinsky: 62% important, 37% not important

Whitewater: 49% important, 45% not important

Iran-Contra: 81% important, 19% not important

Watergate: 78% important, 22% not important
Via Crooks & Liars, the general public appears to view the advise part of the Senate's advise and consent job with more importance than the administration believes. The results of a Gallup poll evaluating Alityo in the shadow of Roe.
If it becomes clear Alito would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, Americans would not want the Senate to confirm him, by 53% to 37%....
This is not the view of America that the conservative christian wing of the Republican party would like to see put forth.

Bush is not alone in his trip to the bottom of the polls. Vice President Cheney just hit 19% in his approval rating.

The public may not be as amenable to the administration's reasons for their actions.

- Murphy

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You say potato I say actavisto...

Two Yale Lawyers, one a professor, one a recent grad, decided to take a swing determining just what makes an "activist judge". It's a widely used phrase among right-wing commentators and politicians who want to take a shot at judges who issue rulings they disagree with.

Many of those paying attention recognize the rather meaningless phrase for what it is, but Paul Gewirtz and Chad Golde decided to evaluate the sitting supreme court for levels of "activism" using a single, neutral and consistent standard, "How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress? "

The results certainly won't please the right-wing punditocracy but should not surprise those who see through the term for whiffle ball bat it is.
We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices appears below.

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

One conclusion our data suggests is that those justices often considered more "liberal" - Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens - vote least frequently to overturn Congressional statutes, while those often labeled "conservative" vote more frequently to do so. At least by this measure (others are possible, of course), the latter group is the most activist.
The troubling aspect of this study is not that the truth is not on the side of the critics, but that the right's use of the phrase has so permeated the public that many individuals toss of the phrase, "activist judge" without any real knowledge of what they are talking about.

There are certainly more measures than the one used above, but in the context of how it is used by conservative commentators (it is often used neighboring the implication that the judges are overturning the "will of the people" by overturning legislation) this is perhaps the most accurate measure of who are the "activist judges" among us.

- Murphy