Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Hampshire Poll

In another poll, this time from Research 2000, Clinton leads (22%), with Obama (21%) a close second followed by Edwards (16%) and Gore (10%).

- Murphy

Clinton leads in Polls

Polls in four important presidential primary states have Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) leading polls while the meteoric Sen. Barack Obama lingers behind.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and former New York Mayor Rudi Juliani, trade measures, each grabbing the lead in two states.

Obama's high-profile apparently affects regular political consumers more than everyday voters. His lower-than-expected showing in some polls has been chalked up to lack of name recognition, but the voters in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire certainly aren't political naifs, though Nevada has only recently begun to attract the attention the other three have.

That said, Obama's best performance in the American Research Group polls is in the state he has spent the most time in recently, New Hampshire.

Currently Clinton and Edwards are lying low. If Obama does decide to run, he could well make up any differential in name recognition with a year of steady campaigning. As a potential campaign wears on, his novelty will wear, but with careful planning he is guaranteed to have oodles of free press.

- Murphy

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Hammer's Ripple

Our mothers always tell us to do well by others. It's an implicit knowledge of fate, but delivered without the hokey "vision thing." In the end, the rubber band often does snap back in our face.
Bonilla's stunning defeat raises a question Republicans cannot dismiss: Could President Bush's home state go blue? Pundits chalked up Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) 38-percent win last month to the weird four-way race he was forced to endure. But if Texas Hispanics, the fastest growing segment of the state's population, are bolting the GOP over immigration, that could have big statewide and national ramifications.

- Murphy

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The great decline is picking up speed.

Jeeez....just when you think Broadway productions designed to wring the last few dollars out of a formerly authentic idea had hit bottom, along comes this: Like a Rolling Stone.

Someone better check on Dylan, this might have killed him.

It's like every thing wrong with modern theater rolled into one package. It's like the twisted love child of some forbidden rendezvous between Andrew lloyd Weber and Disney's marketing department.

Of course they'll probably rake in some dough and critical praise, "It's like Moving Out, but more authentic 'cause its Dylan!" Elton John's work almost works with the schlock treatment, but this is somewhere in the region around Mr. Spock and the "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

- Murphy

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Corner's Rubin: "Baker now is Jimmy Carter"

Juxtaposing Baker in 1994 with his efforts on the Iraq Study Group, The National Review's Michael Rubin believes Baker has slipped his moorings.
Comparing Baker 1994 to Baker 2006 is illuminating. Juxtaposition of his attitudes toward Iranian moderates, toward Syrian intentions in Lebanon, and his recognition of the cynicism with which Arab states use the Palestinian conflict show how deeply Baker's 2006 prescriptions run counter to reality. Baker then was a statesman; Baker now is Jimmy Carter.
It should be noted that the ISG recommendations were not Baker's alone, but a compromise proposal. One that appears to satisfy no one.

After reading the 1994 Middle East Quarterly article Rubin cited, I just don't know if I see where it is that there is a great divergence between the Baker of today and 1994. His comments on Iran, Syria and the role of the Palestine-Israel conflict aren't particularly hawkish or bellicose in 1994. In fact, after watching Baker on Charlie Rose and other shows months before the ISG report was to be released (at the time, Baker was hocking his book, Work Hard, Study...and Keep Out of Politics!) and his attitude towards the complimentary and competing roles of diplomacy and force in the Middle East were in keeping with his reflections in the article.

In fact, some of the quotes in the 1994 article could have come from a Carter talk.
"I fear the current wave of radical Islamism is going to be a continuing problem as long as poverty and discontent exist in that part of the world."

"Obviously, the idea of reaching out to moderates in Iran was a nonstarter. On the other hand, for the full four years that I was there [at the Department of State], we were quite prepared to sit down at an official level with the government of Iran--there's no surprise about that--provided they understood the first topic on the agenda would be their support for state-sponsored terrorism. We were unwilling during our four years to have any of this back-channeling stuff. So, those are two different situations."

"The Arabs no longer present as much of a unified front as they used to, for three reasons: the collapse of communism and the end of the East-West conflict; the defeat of Arab rejectionism and radical Palestinian elements in the Gulf War; andÿthe fact that Israel has now reached an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization. And you've got Gaza-Jericho first there and -- and that deal was made without consultation with -- with some of the Arab states. So, the states have less of a reason to condition their positions on whatever will result in the permanent status talks. As a result, they're less committed to the idea of a Palestinian state. I suppose they will still give lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state, but the Syrians particularly feel free to reach an agreement with Israel on peace without regard to what happens on the Palestinian track.

At least with respect to the countries around Israel, you're not going to get real economic development until there's peace. And when you do get peace, boy, there's going to be tremendous development and economic activity in so many different ways in those countries--in Israel herself and in the countries bordering Israel. And I'm optimistic that you can get peace."

"Now, we broke the mold of long-established U.S. policy by getting the Russians to cosponsor the Madrid peace talks. That was a worthwhile effort, and it was one way we were able to get Syria to say, yes, she'd come to the table. You're not going to have peace until people talk to each other."
Bakers recent comments have been in line with much of these early statements.

What stands out in particular are his comments on keeping the table clear for state-level talks with Iran and his explanation that the direct negotiations between Israel and the PLO over the Gaza-Jehrico First agreement freed many of the other actors to make their own path. Baker also points to international negotiations that brought Syria to the negotiating table.

Today the ISG is calling for direct talks with Iran and Syria, both of whom he acknowledged were dangerous elements then as well as they are today. The ISG also points to the need to address the specter of Palestine that lingers over any debate about the middle east.

In a general topic-by-topic comparison, it is hard to view much light between the Baker of 1994 and today. Perhaps, instead, Baker's advice is not what the parties want to hear.

- Murphy

Bush's Brain gets the freeze?

Say it ain't so Carl.
It's an ugly rumor, but it's spreading like wildfire: Karl Rove has lost his touch. In an amazing betrayal within a family where top political aide Rove is royalty, Bushies have been sneering at his pre-election happy talk that the gop would keep the Senate and take a slight hit in the House, both soon to be run by Democrats. And now we learn that President Bush really believed the GOP was safe, too. On the day before the elections, he asked embattled House gop leader Dennis Hastert to run for speaker again so he could guide the White House's agenda in Congress.

- Murphy

Clinton looking better

So says an ongoing Cook survey.
"In the November survey however, those who thought she'd have as good a chance as any climbed 14 points to 60 percent, and those worried that she couldn't win dropped 13 points to 36 percent. There was no significant difference between men and women or among those most likely to vote in a Democratic presidential primary."

- Murphy

Monday, December 04, 2006


Will it be Obama? His meteoric rise to the top seemed a bit too rapid, his star too bright, to take a shot at the biggest game in town; President. Yet he's making the rounds, talking the talk and looking the part.

Clinton v. Obama for Dem nominee in '08? The odds are getting better.

- Murphy


The two sides of an extremely bad coin. Both are from Kevin Drum, and both illustrate the level we have reached in Iraq.

The so-called, "80%' or "tilt" strategy advocates the United States declare reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite impossible and throw our support behind the Shiite majority. It's a possible path the administration discussed recently. While it does seem like a faster method of settling a violent and bloody fight, it has enormous costs of its own. Drum explains two possible types of fallout.

A. Complicity in slaughter.
It's hard to believe that anyone is taking this seriously. If reconciliation with the Sunni minority is impossible — and it probably is — then we should withdraw and let the Shiite majority take over. The result would be bloody, but at least we wouldn't be involved. The alternative being mooted here would put us directly on the Shiite side, and we'd be viewed as actively cooperating with a massacre of the Sunni minority no matter how hard we protested otherwise. It's hard to imagine a more disastrous end to a disastrous war.

B. The Saudi regime (which is Sunni) decides to make it very, very hard for the U.S. In an op-ed in the Washington Post an advisor to the Saudi government laid out their potential reaction to a U.S. backed Shiite majority: funding, arms and logistic support to Sunni military leaders in Iraq. He also tosses in the threat of action on the oil front; causing the price to tank. A direct attack on both Iran and U.S. oil companies. Drum speculates this is what Vice President Cheney was summoned to Riyahd for.

Neither option bodes well for the U.S. or Iraq.

- Murphy

Amb. Bolton resigns

John_R_Bolton.pngThe Washington Post reports that President Bush accepted U.N. Ambassador John Bolton's resignation today.

Bolton's departure from the diplomatic stage is not unsurprising. Not only had the incoming Democratic majority in the Senate already begun responding to questions with, "Bolton who?", but the Republican controlled Congress in 2005 refused to certify him, resulting in Bush sides-stepping the process and making Bolton a recess appointment during the Congressional break in August of 2005.

Democrats have loudly and consistently opposed Bolton who they described the long-time critic of the United Nations as heavy-handed in his treatment of staff and colleagues, and anti-diplomatic in his dealings with agencies and governments.

President Bush renominated Bolton for ambassador in the days following the November election. It was a sign, Democrat said, that Bush's promises of bipartisanship were hollow.

Yet given the opposition on both sides of the isle, it may be one thing there actually was some agreement on.

- Murphy

Friday, December 01, 2006

The two sides of an extremely bad coin. Both are from Kevin Drum, and both illustrate the level we have reached in Iraq.

The so-called, "80%' or "tilt" strategy advocates the United States declare reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite impossible and throw our support behind the Shiite majority. It's a possible path the administration discussed recently. While it does seem like a faster method of settling a violent and bloody fight, it has enormous costs of its own. Drum explains two possible types of fallout.

A. Complicity in slaughter.
It's hard to believe that anyone is taking this seriously. If reconciliation with the Sunni minority is impossible — and it probably is — then we should withdraw and let the Shiite majority take over. The result would be bloody, but at least we wouldn't be involved. The alternative being mooted here would put us directly on the Shiite side, and we'd be viewed as actively cooperating with a massacre of the Sunni minority no matter how hard we protested otherwise. It's hard to imagine a more disastrous end to a disastrous war.

B. The Saudi regime (which is Sunni) decides to make it

No investigation on Hadley memo

Where are all the calls for investigation of the leaked Hadley memo? So far, none.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Wolf Blitzer on the "The Situation Room" that no investigations are planned.

- Murphy

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Posner at Hopkins

Judge Richard Posner, speaking on CSPAN on the intertwined roles of intelligence, counter-intelligence and law-enforcement, commented that law-enforcement alone cannot win the war on terrorism, mostly because the way of thinking is somewhat "alien" to law enforcement. As an example he cited the arrest of a group in Miami. He noted that they had a dream, but no materials, training or resources.

"What they did have was an FBI informant," he said.

Instead of playing out the line to see what kind of connections the group develops, or the paths they take in their search for help, the FBI went in and arrested them. The FBI, he said, is not used to the intelligence game; once they have enough evidence, they make the arrest.

Yet, those types of methods aren't completely foreign. The FBI has spent decades setting stings to take down criminal enterprises. Some went on for years. Perhaps the more serious problem, then, is not ability, but resources.

Posner also suggested that bloggers and others could be utilized as first-line analysts in spelunking through the voluminous open-source material available on the internet; magazines, journals, web pages, etc.

The down-side of this, of course, are the likely thousands and thousands of amateur sleuths out there proffering their grand theories.

- Murphy

Elections aren't enough

A piece on the National Review's online gab-fest, The Corner, took the surprising, but realistic, view that the Iraqi elections were a great symbol of promise, but made little actual headway in dealing with the country's troubles.

The greatest of these problems is, obviously, the ongoing civil war.
The notion that elections bring democracy by teaching people to be responsible for their own bad choices simply cannot work in a totally illiberal environment. Our military commitment has been far too small to support our political ambitions. We haven’t disarmed the militias and we haven’t held the territory we’ve cleared. Because we haven’t established security or handed a central power a monopoly of legitimate force, elections have backfired. We’ve been hoping that elections themselves would do the work that only a government monopoly of force and long-term cultural change can do.
Stanley Kurtz points to the enormous power Moqtada al-Sadr has over the present and future of the Iraqi government and perhaps even the United State's future in Iraq.

He goes on to repudiate the Bush administration's path to war, something that, at the time, was repeatedly and endlessly pointed out to be a flawed creation. At the very minimum, critics pointed to President George H.W. Bush's decision not to take the fight to Bagdhad in 1991, citing the exact problems that have erupted during his son's endeavor.
Now it may well be that, even at the start, we lacked the political will to marshal sufficient military force: to enlarge our military, to go to war with Sadr, to enlarge our footprint in Iraq itself, and to keep central power in our hands for a longer period. But those are the things that would have been needed to begin to bring real democracy to Iraq. To believe we could democratize without all that–chiefly through elections themselves–was an error.

- Murphy

Friday, November 10, 2006

CSPAN Caller: Dems really in power last 6 years.

Comment on C-SPAN from a caller: "Democrats have been in power whether you realize it or not."

The caller started off saying she and many Republicans like her had stayed home to send the Republicans the message that they hadn't taken the fight to the Democrats enough. The Dems, the caller said, are responsible to obstructing the Republican's efforts.

The call came on National Journal during an interview with Richard Baker, a senate historian.

- Murphy


John Judis of the New Republic offers an interesting analysis of how the Democrats won back Congress. The critical term is…independents (surprise!).

An illustrative excerpt:
But Democrats also won in a host of districts and states that George W. Bush carried in the last election. In some cases, Democrats won primarily because the seat had been held by a Republican implicated in a personal or political scandal. But, in many others, Democrats benefited from the reemergence of political trends that had been suppressed after September 11--or, even before that, by Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. The most important of these trends involves independents.…In the 1980s, these voters generally supported Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; but, in 1992, many of them abandoned Bush for Ross Perot, who received 18.9 percent of the national vote.…In 1996, Clinton and the Democrats won back many of these voters, but, after September 11, they gravitated toward the Republican Party, helping to account for Republican success in 2002 and 2004. In this election, however, independents flocked back to the Democrats. Nationally, the Democrats won independents by 57 percent to 39 percent. In the East, the margin was 63 to 33 percent; in the Midwest, 56 to 41 percent; and, in the West, 58 to 35 percent. Democrats also did well in many of those Western and Midwestern states where Perot had won over 20 percent of the vote in 1992: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas (where the Democrats won two of four House seats and the top state offices), Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
If Judis is correct, Republican strategist Karl Rove's promise of the ever-lasting Republican majority was impossible all along. The growing number of self-identified independents would always contribute enough turbulence to keep a permanent majority out of anyone's reach.

Already a great deal of fun has been had reflecting on the "genius" of Rove who, according to President Bush in his less-than conciliatory press conference the day after the election, was not working as hard on the campaign as the President.

As Judis described, many independents came to the Republicans following 9/11. That rally and the desire for stability and continuity contributed greatly to Republican success in the 2004 election. The Iraq war was still young and it dominated the environment. Criticism was mounting, but the momentum was greater.

This time, the costs have surpassed the benefits for most Americans. Once dissatisfaction with the war reached a tipping point, dissatisfaction in other areas such as the economy added the straw.

An additional point that Judis makes very well, is that this election represents a step in the final realignment that became brightly visible in 1994 with the Republican takeover of the South.

- Murphy

Friday, September 22, 2006

The truth, my friend, may not always set you free...

There is a story of journalistic courage that will hopefully re-spark the debate over the role of journalism and the protection of sources, a debate that is stained following the circus over the CIA leak investigation.

The two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who kicked in the door to slugger Barry Bond's skeleton closet are now facing 18 months in jail for mining exactly the same vein the San Francisco prosecutor later dug into.

- Murphy

Friday, September 15, 2006

Not quite Famous

Macy's is running commercials in St. Louis. They integrate Eero Saarinen's Arch in the commercials, but still have a "we're not based in St. Louis" feel.

- Murphy

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How are they doing...

Former Slate columnist Eric Umansky examines the ebb and flow of journalistic coverage of the Bush Administration's tactics in prosecuting its foreign policy.
Reporters and news organizations deserve enormous credit for exposing the abuse and torture of detainees during the U.S. war on terror, more than other institutions or individuals. Without Carlotta Gall, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, and many other reporters, we might well never have learned of the abuse and torture that have occurred in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.

What is true and what is significant are two different matters. Everybody agrees that journalists are supposed to ascertain the truth. As for deciding what is significant, reporters and editors make that judgment, too, all the time — what story leads on the front page, or gets played inside, what story gets followed up. And when it comes to very sensitive material, like torture, many journalists would prefer to rely on others to be the first to decide that something is significant. To do otherwise would mean sticking your neck out.
Umansky describes, with great detail, the various investigations and reports that have helped uncover methods and practices that seem to defy U.S. and international law. It also tells some compelling stories of how these issues finally see the light of day.

- Murphy

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"I'm Out!"

Iraqi leader Ayatollah al-Sistani has thrown up his hands and is on his way out of Iraqi politics. Up, until recently, Sistani has been widely viewed as a moderating force. The increasing sectarian violence combined with little trust in the "official" enforcement, police and army, has splintered the remaining middle ground.

- Murphy

Inside voices

Great piece in Newsweek by Fareed Zakaria.
One man who is greatly enjoying being the subject of this outsize portraiture is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has gone from being an obscure and not-so-powerful politician—Iran is a theocracy, remember, so the mullahs are ultimately in control—to a central player in the Middle East simply by goading the United States and watching Washington take the bait. By turning him into enemy No. 1, by reacting to every outlandish statement he makes, the Bush administration has given him far more attention than he deserves.
As Zakaria and others have pointed out, making international statements for the benefit of domestic approval is usually a recipe for disaster. President Bush and many of the leaders of antagonistic states exhibit a rhetorical similarity, a similarity that would be loudly denounced if it were ever brooked in the press.

- Murphy

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"You can't be untouchable, but you can be undefeated".

Over at Slate magazine, William Saletan summed up exactly what I have been trying to say for quite a while now.
In a liquid world, you can't seal off evil. All you can do is fight liquid with liquid. You have to absorb the tragedy, flowing around and through it. You need the strength of a river, not a rock. You need resilience. You can't be untouchable, but you can be undefeated.
You can skip the duct-tape, a crack team of investigators and a realistic view of the world will better serve you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Lean times?

The threat of a recession hastened by the tipping of the housing market has again been raised. I have heard this time and again for several years as the household savings rate dropped into the red and housing prices headed for the sky.

"Refinance this, refinance that; can't afford it? Just refinance!"

With so much of the economy dependent on consumption and so many of the consumers financing their contributions to the economy with credit and mortgages, when creditors come calling it will not be a pleasant visit.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Liberman's Challenge

Connecticut journalist and commentator Colin McEnroe explains what the national media seem unable to get. It's not the liberal wing of the Democratic Party driving opposing Lieberman, it's the Connecticut voters that have supported him lo these many years.
The New York Times and other national media outlets are right that the Iraq war -- this deeply unpopular, catastrophic adventure -- is what finally made the natives brave enough to act, and what may have ended Joe Lieberman's tenure as a senator. But people in Connecticut know the war was only the tipping point. They have long memories of everything that came before.
(Via Atrios)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Playing the hole card

There is an aspect to the Israeli actions in Lebanon that has seemed to cruise under the radar in much of the network coverage. Over at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum passes along mid-east expert Juan Cole's assessment of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's weighing in on the combat.

Cole's basic point is that the U.S. and British forces in Iraq depend on the acceptance of the Shiite community in the South. Sistani's threat of "dire consequences" would smartly be interpreted as a decline in Shiite cooperation (or at least non-aggression). Given the current difficulties with a relatively passive community, the potential dangers of a hostile Shiite community could end any hope of U.S.-led progress. The ability (much talked about on the blogs, but rarely in the news) to shut down the U.S.'s supply route through the South would completely change the game.

That said, Iraqis on all sides have sometimes seen a continued U.S. presence as in their interest. Driving out U.S. forces, or at least hindering their ability to act by forcing them to hunker down in their easily re-supplied megabases, may not be seen as a step in the right direction, and may even invite more direct action from the U.S. forces.

Monday, July 24, 2006

We all change places when I ring the bell...

The Washington Post has come up with a list of topics to analyze the upcoming mid-term elections. The Bellwheaters, it's called.
The bellwethers, as defined here, are not simply a collection of competitive races: They are the contests that illuminate in especially vivid fashion the currents shaping a potentially historic year.
It's a collection of the expected issues: The war in Iraq, Bush's popularity, Echoes of Abramoff, the pocketbook, etc. So far it mostly sums up where selected races stand via the a particular issue, but make no major projections. For example, under ballot initiatives they highlight the effect the stem cell initiative will have in Missouri's Senate race, but list it as a toss-up. A Post-Dispatch poll showed that Missouri voters favor protecting stem cells 62% to 35%.

The stem cell issue crosses traditional political boundaries. The GOTV potential on the right will likely be muted by those who straddle the pro-life/pro-stem cell line. How many of them will actually come out to vote is an issue as well. A majority of Republicans oppose stem cell research (58% to 40%), but if those 40% decide to stay home, or vote in favor of stem-cell research and leave the Senate race blank, McCaskill could get the margin she needs.

Add in the fact that 83% of Democrats and 64% of independents favor the research and it is hard to see Republicans gaining enough traction on the issue.

We all change places when I ring the bell...

The Washington Post has come up with a list of topics to analyze the upcoming mid-term elections. The Bellwheaters, it's called.
The bellwethers, as defined here, are not simply a collection of competitive races: They are the contests that illuminate in especially vivid fashion the currents shaping a potentially historic year.
It's a collection of the expected issues: The war in Iraq, Bush's popularity, Echoes of Abramoff, the pocketbook, etc. So far it mostly sums up where selected races stand via the a particular issue, but make no major projections. For example, under ballot initiatives they highlight the effect the stem cell initiative will have in Missouri's Senate race, but list it as a toss-up. A Post-Dispatch poll showed that Missouri voters favor protecting stem cells 62% to 35%.

The stem cell issue crosses traditional political boundaries. The GOTV potential on the right will likely be muted by those who straddle the pro-life/pro-stem cell line. How many of them will actually come out to vote is an issue as well. A majority of Republicans oppose stem cell research (58% to 40%), but if those 40% decide to stay home, or vote in favor of stem-cell research and leave the Senate race blank, McCaskill could get the margin she needs.

Add in the fact that 83% of Democrats and 64% of independents favor the research and it is hard to see Republicans gaining enough traction on the issue.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fine tooth comb?

An op-ed in the Israeli paper Haaretz lays out the case for action:
Our sole objective is not to have troops who take orders from Iran and Syria grooming their mustaches on our border.
While it may not be the most complete summation of Israel's policy in the current battle, it is the most colorful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It really is quite simple

With a few assembled facts the New York Times outlines the administration's real agenda.

When is a restriction actually an expansion?

When your friends are cutting the deals...

The Washington Post story on the deal negotiated by Specter points out that the bill gives the President the option of submitting his programs to the court, it does not require it.

It also notes that Specter agreed to remove a portion of the FISA law that states it has exclusive jurisdiction in the area of surveillance. Opponents of the President's NSA surveillance have argued that the administration is wrong to assert the President has the inherent constitutional authority, neither are the programs authorized by the "Use of Force" resolution passed in the days after September 11th. If the agreement is approved, it would appear to undercut the original intent of the FISA law.

The agreement has been reported as a concession on Bush's part, yet by restricting FISA jurisdiction and making approval by FISA an optional step, it would seem to actually expand the President's ability to conduct surveillance.

- Murphy

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reaching for the quiver...

President Bush described his current foreign policy quite eloquently...
“Unless a president sets his own priorities, his priorities will be set by others — by adversaries, or the crisis of the moment, live on CNN. American policy can become random and reactive — untethered to the interests of our country.”
...almost seven years ago.

Ivo Daalder has the rundown on the President's new approach to foreign policy.

- Murphy

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Indictment this week? Or just liberal wishful thinking?

Jason Leopold reports over at Truthout that Karl Rove was told this past Friday that he will be indicted.
During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.
How solid is the story is up to debate. At the very least, the timing might be off. Rove did pull his speech at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday.

His legal team, however, is saying
nothing has changed.

It's only Tuesday...

- Murphy

Fair-weather friends...

Hotline On Call makes an interesting observation.
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT 03) represents one of the most conservative, pro-Bush districts in the country. Like Bush, he's getting hammered by parts of the Republican base over immigration. Unlike Bush, however, the base might throw him out of office next month.

At the Utah state GOP convention this weekend, a majority of the 1,100 district delegates voted against him. Despite a near-perfect rating from the American Conservative Union, he has taken flack from his party's base over his support of guest-worker legislation.

- Murphy

Monday, May 01, 2006


Has Atrios stumbled upon the GOP strategy for neutralizing the Democrats in '06? He may have...
Late October - Despite the fact that all but 30 Democrats vote for the resolution, Republicans run a national ad campaign telling voters that Democrats are objectively pro-Ahmadinejad. Glenn Reynolds muses, sadly, that Democrats aren't just anti-war, but "on the other side." Nick Kristof writes that liberals must support the war due to Ahmadinejad's opposition to gay rights in Iran.

Election Day - Democrats lose 5 seats in the Senate, 30 in the House. Marshall Wittman blames it on the "pro-Iranian caucus."

The Day After Election Day - Miraculously we never hear another word about the grave Iranian threat. Peter Beinart writes a book about how serious Democrats must support the liberation of Venezuela and Bolivia.
While Republicans will no doubt denounce it as "alarmist" and denigrating to suggest the Administration would politicize Iran for domestic political reasons, I think its safe to say they could only believe that if they weren't paying attention for the past 6 years.

From getting the New York Times to quash the secret wiretapping program before the '04 election, to the humiliation of respected generals who recommend troop levels and strategies that are politically inconvenient for their Iraq adventure; there is sufficient evidence to conclude that politics plays a primary role in any and all policy decisions.

- Murphy

Friday, April 21, 2006

The past comes back to haunt Iran policy

If the reports and timeline are accurate, Kevin Drum's summation of the ham-fisted, and perhaps deliberately disrupted, history of U.S. and Iranian relations since 2003 is about as clear an example of why the foreign-policy hard-liners in the administration need to be driven out.

With that as background, here's my suggestion: quit letting Cheney's crackpots run foreign policy and talk to Iran. After all, the administration's ideologues killed an opportunity to ratchet down tensions three years ago, and since then things have only gotten worse: Iran has elected a wingnut president, they've made progress on nuclear enrichment, gained considerable influence in Iraq, and increased their global economic leverage as oil supplies have gotten tighter. So why blow another chance? If the talks fail, then they fail. But what possible reason can there be to refuse to even discuss things with Iran — unless you're trying to leave no alternative to war?

The possibility that the administration's current "showdown" with Iran was manufactured, or at the least avoidable, is maddening, but not necessarily surprising. The lead-up to the war in Iraq was also avoidable. It was cynically presented to the American people and politicized to the hilt. The administrations true goals were masked with layers of assurances that war was, "a last resort," when in reality, the administration had already chosen their path. The oft heard, "we can't back off our forces now that they are poised to go," reasoning was one of the clearer examples at the time.

- Murphy

Policy? Or Stunt

Today's raid on IFCO Systems that netted more than 1,000 illegal workers and took several company officers off to face some serious charges seems to be a step in the right direction. Taking steps to implement immigration reform ideas like cracking down on businesses that knowingly hire illegal workers, not only is likely to be the most effective, it is also likely to be the most economic.

Practically speaking, you can't check every business; it's like taxes, some people will cheat. Yet if you demonstrate that the costs of getting caught are high enough, you can deter significant violations.

The real question now, however, is if this action was merely a show put on by the administration to show they are thinking about practical measures? It was the largest such raid in history, certain to generate lots of favorable press; but will anything follow in its wake?

Will the Republicans really take on business interests on this issue?

- Murphy

Monday, April 17, 2006

The more you make, the more you save

The L.A. Times has a great story this tax day, "Taxes Flatten but Deep Pockets Still Buldge". The Times says that while the much-fabled "Flat Tax" has not been enacted, the Bush administration's tax policy has achieved much the same thing.
As a result, people with income between $500,000 and $1 million owed the same share of their income in combined federal income and payroll taxes — 22% — as did taxpayers reporting at least $1 million in income, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Taxpayers in the $100,000 to $200,000 range paid nearly the same rate, 20.6%. Those in the $50,000 to $75,000 range paid 17.4%; taxpayers in the $40,000 to $50,000 range paid 15.8%; and those in the $30,000 to $40,000 range paid 13.6%.

Advocates of the flat tax have long argued that it would stimulate economic activity, ultimately benefiting everyone. Bush shares that view, though he has not officially advocated a flat tax.
It is not exactly flat, but it is closer to the proposed %17 flat tax proposed by former Presidential Candidate Steve Forbes.

- Murphy

No Confidence

Former ambassador Richard Holbrooke expands on the Rumsfeld dilemma.

Even in this age when retired officers can begin a second career as a cable-news commentator, there is a certain well-founded unease when military leaders openly criticize their civilian superiors. It is a rare event and it speaks volumes about the seriousness of the breakdown in the administration's handling of Iraq.

If this were one or two generals, it may be easy to dismiss as merely a blip; but six, with the possibility of more, is an earthquake.

A current member of the military told me last week that comments by Senators such as Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the effect that we are losing the war offers aid to the enemy by giving enemy propagandists ammunition. That's a not-so-subtle way of calling someone a traitor. Yet, by that logic, so are these generals.

It's one thing to criticize politicians for trying to score cheap political points, but if you consider it in light of the generals' comments, perhaps they are putting the best interests of the country first. I doubt the generals are interested in putting their men or their respected services at risk.

I think they can clearly articulate that there is a distinction between saying the U.S. has lost the war and saying the administration can lose the war.

Public opinion is essential to the success of any war. However, unlike the administration expected, military deaths are not the primary source of declining support, it is their failed policies. The administration spent so much time trying to insulate the public through glowing pronouncements of certain victory, restricting deployment to politically "acceptable" numbers and focusing only on intelligence that agreed with their view of the world, that they seem to have convinced themselves as much as the public that they were in for a walk in the park.

If they had been honest from the start, we would likely be in a very different situation.

- Murphy

Monday, April 10, 2006

Once it's out of the holster...

Hhow serious is the possibility of military action against Iran? The Forward Newspaper's Marc Perlman takes a look at how serious they are. Is it rhetoric? Perhaps not.

One major danger to the "talking tough" approach is that, as someone pointed out, you can eventually talk yourself into a corner. Part of the argument for invading Iraq was along the lines of, "Well, we spent all this time building up for the war and our troops are already there."

Pulling back on the hammer, pointing the gun and then saying its a fait acompli is a pretty weak argument, but one that didn't get much criticism in the lead-up to Iraq.

The corollary to the cocked gun is the "we'll lose our credibility if we back off now" argument. How much more destructive is it to U.S. credibility than to invade and then have all of your pre-war arguments collapse in the light of day.

- Murphy


What happens when you lie about war?

Credibility and power do not merely stem from having major firepower, an extensive intelligence operation and a good economy. Credibility comes from trust.

Growing up my father once told me that as long as I was honest with him, he would would always be able to back me up, no questions asked. Being a parent, I think he would likely support me regardless, but his point was that a person's word is their bond. If they go back on that, who would rightfully trust them?

Now, no one believes that government shouldn't have secrets and that it should protect them. Yet when a President willfully misleads the public, especially on a matter as important as war, he undercuts his ability to function as a leader. Deception is often necessary in statecraft. Yet deception in the service of a war of choice is beyond the pale. Not only does it violate the trust of the people you swore to protect, but you hurt the country and its future relations as well. The President will leave office at some point, the country still must live with his legacy.

Recent reports have pretty much nailed down what many Bush-watchers believed to be the case, the White House willfully misled the American public in order to bolster support for his war in Iraq. A war they had every intention of waging, regardless of the circumstances.

- Murphy

Time to work on Farsi

Why stop with one boondoggle when you can have two?
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

Afghanistan remains unfinished, the administration has failed the forces on the ground trying to rebuild Iraq; now this? I hope Hersh is correct and that the military is taking the situation seriously enough to be speaking out.

By now, I think everyone has heard the concerns that the U.S. military is stressed to its breaking point. That doesn't mean they can not act, in an emergency they can still handle any other force, but only for a short time. A new, sustained front is likely beyond the capability of the current force. The only real option would be air strikes.

Airstrikes may sound like a viable option, but unlike the Balkans, Iran has the capacity to hit back. At the very least they could make a successful rebuilding of Iraq a distant dream, they wouldn't even have to do much.

Bush may want to invade Iran to secure his legacy, but it is unlikely to be one to be looked upon with much pride. Perhaps he should be thinking of the long-term affects of his actions rather then worry over his legacy.

- Murphy

I am the law

How much longer will Republicans in Congress allow the President and his administration to continue on unmolested? It does seem that at least Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WS) is taking an initiative, but most aren't willing to buck the pressure from the White House.
WASHINGTON, April 6 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales suggested on Thursday for the first time that the president might have the legal authority to order wiretapping without a warrant on communications between Americans that occur exclusively within the United States.

"I'm not going to rule it out," Mr. Gonzales said when asked about that possibility at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

At what point does the oath the Congressmen and the President swear to when the enter office overcome their oath to their party and power.

- Murphy

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Best and Brightest.

This column by Fareed Zakaria cuts right through a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate.
Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America -- to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcome and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America.
I think Zakaria hits upon an issue here that, for some reason, has been lost in the arguments over positive and negative impact of a growing number of immigrants. Immigration is more than an economic, zero-sum game. Immigration is also the adoption of a new country and creating new communities.

What will become of the epic stories of immigrants arriving on U.S. soil to make a new, better life for themselves and their family in light of the arguments we hear batted around today? How many of those immigrants have gone on to bring greatness, wealth and prestige to their adopted home?

There will always been lone individuals that will confirm the worst fears of those concerned about immigrants. We can either continue on as a land that cares more about your character and your drive than where you came from, or we can slip into destructive neo-protectionism and align ourselves with the failed practices of the Know-Nothing party that lies, deservedly, in the ash heap of American history.

Is this still the land that welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses because we believe they believe they can become the best and the brightest? Or should we hang out our shingle that says "no foreigners need apply"?

- Murphy

Honest day's pay...

Here's a question that I haven't heard asked or answered: How hard is it for conservative politicians to argue that immigration is a threat to wages while also arguing that unions (which, arguably, by keeping upward pressure on wages, also provide non-union workers with better wages) are no longer compatible with the modern economy?

Oddly enough, the unions and conservative groups may have found an unexpected bridge on this issue. Politics can make strange bedfellows.

As a quote in a recent Post-Dispatch story noted, the numbers of illegal immigrants working in construction and other trades is almost non-existent because of union oversight.

Could a combination of greater union representation among hourly workers and stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants be more effective than walls, guns and temporary worker status?

- Murphy

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thanks for the help...

I disagree with Fareed Zakaria on a number of topics, but I always appreciate his approach. Today's "This Week" on ABC was no exception.

Zakaria hit the nail on the head in describing why President Bush's foreign worker plan, while sounding good, is destined to cause more problems than it solves. He pointed out the glaring fact that programs that import labor while withholding the promise of citizenship as an end result has led to large withdrawn communities that, seeing no point in it, avoid assimilation.

I doubt many conservative groups concerned about immigration have forgotten the images of Muslim youths setting fire to cars in the suburbs of Paris.

It's not likely the President' staff missed the problems Europe has experienced. It's likely the President is just trying to punt on this one. His base doesn't like it, they see it as a precursor to amnesty, but it's a moderate-sounding idea if you don't look too deep. For this administration, sounding good will always win out over actually being sound.

Kevin Drum hits on this as well.

- Murphy

Monday, March 20, 2006

Maj. Gen. says: Rummy Resign

Maj. Gen. Eaton
Maj. Gen. Eaton

Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton levels a devastating critique against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in today's NewYork Times' Op-Ed section.

Eaton was in charge of training the Iraqi army in 2003-04.

Via Talking Points Memo.

- Murphy

Demons begone!

Pat Robertson's "700 Club" just ran a story of a man who found god after being lured to satanic worship by, …wait for it…, a ouija board.

Of course the biographical note that he was child of an abusive, alcoholic father has nothing to do with his social disfunction, depression or disturbed mental state.

I'm certainly glad the man has found happiness and stability, but his story was preceded by Pat Robertson hawking his diet program.

Oh and the next segment is about microchips and the mark of the beast!

The 700 Club, always good on a cloudy afternoon.

- Murphy

Phillips: taking calls

Well, he's not taking phone calls, but he is the guest at the books section of the Talking Points Memo Cafe.

So far there is an interesting discussion going on.

Whether or not one supports the thesis of Phillips' new book, American Theocracy, he is an exhaustive researcher and the little I have read of his 12 books demonstrate a copious volume of knowledge.

- Murphy

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Former Billiken's men's basketball skipper Lorenzo Romar led his Washington Huskies to the Sweet 16 by defeating last year's runner up for the championship spot, Illinois.

Romar looked happy leading his alma mater. It's their third trip to the NCAA finals in 3 years and second time in the sweet 16.

- Murphy

American Theocracy

For a good view of modern conservatism it's hard to find someone better than the man who wrote the book on conservatism, Kevin Phillips. Phillips penned the influential The Emerging Republican Majority in 1969.

Columbia University Provost and history professor Alan Brinkley "reviews Phillips' latest book, American Theocracy. (Via Laura Rozen)

- Murphy

Dada as Policy?

Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre

Digby has a good take on the sound of thousands of conservative feet shuffling away from President Bush and his new blend of conservativism.
Appropriately, modern conservatism turns out to be the first post-modern political movement.
President Bush's approach to governing may actually fit well with post-modern existentialism. They have an fanatical fixation on the appearance of things rather than their substance. That is not an unusual tendency in politics, but they have moved from merely holding press conferences and feeding stories to trusted reporters (which they also do).

The administration is so concerned about its image that they have tailored the world to their view. They have successfully moved the public perception of facts from a concrete source of information to a relative construct that is defined by your view of the world. Criticism is not valid because you don't have the "facts" they do, e.g., evolution, global warming, fiscal responsibility. The facts are dismissed because they support a conclusion the administration does not agree with.

They have even reorganized government agencies to keep the campaign moving. Unfavorable facts or reports are dropped or dismissed and an essential part of the management practice is geared towards preserving the public image of the administration. Nothing is to be done unless it furthers the aims of the administration, namely political gain.

They have even gone so far as to deny reality. A singular incident involved David Letterman broadcasting a clip of a kid acting bored while on stage at a Bush speech. The White House initially accused Letterman of doctoring the footage, then denied they made the accusation. Letterman had a field day, showing the clip each night through the week, passing along the White House denial of the day, until it culminated with having the kid on the show as a guest. At that point the White House claimed they knew nothing of the incident.

When you are in a debate with a late-night comedian over facts backed up by video footage, you have lost touch with reality.

- Murphy

Making Pappy proud

So...the U.S. National Security strategy takes a chapter from the Clinton playbook.

The U.S. is also beginning limited dialogue with Iran.

In policy circles I suppose this is called "realism", this is what it is also called in the real world. Bush's foreign policy approach was destined to change. The only group that actually believed his bellicose, abrasive, America-1st strategy would do anything other than damage international relations and weaken security were Bush and his advisors. Even Bush the elder and his experienced cadre were baffled by the turn the U.S. took. (It also appears Papa Bush's counselors may be on the way back.)

The idea of using America's might to encourage democracy and push for human rights is a noble one and one that has been a part of U.S. foreign policy since President Carter 1st used it to exploit an issue on which the Soviet Union was inherently vulnerable.

Yet in this administration it appears to be mere window dressing. Human rights and democracy are ancillary benefits, at best, to a middle-east strategy designed to restructure the entire region in just a few years. They are perfectly happy to support dictators who pay mere lip-service to human rights as long as it is their larger interest.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being practical, realistic, as it were. Compromise is the nature of relationships, international or not. Just don't promise the sky if you only intend to paint one on the ceiling.

- Murphy

True Power

Conservatives often couch their frame their criticism of government in terms of "power". As in Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan's assertion that:
Money is power, more money for the government is more power for the government. More power for the government will allow it to, among many other things, amuse itself by putting its fingers in a million pies, and stop performing its essential functions well, and get dizzily distracted by nonessentials, and muck up everything. Which is more or less where we are.
Yet as Josh Marshall points out, the problems the country currently faces have nothing to do with government tax rates. The point is intended to discredit politicians who propose taxes to cover the expenses of new or existing programs. It is even less salient when you view it in the context of conservative "fiscal responsibility". Ramping up expenditures while refusing to fund them for political reasons is not conservative, its irresponsible.

To add to that, concern for the growth of government power is important, yet focusing on its expanding role in social/economic programs while providing a pass for a boom in law enforcement powers misses the real issue.

In the end, the government's greatest power is to deprive its citizens of liberty. It does this through the its law enforcement powers. It's why we have the fourth through the eighth amendments, to protect the citizens from potential abuses of government power.

The expansion of government programs does increase the governments involvement in the lives of ordinary Americans, but it doesn't add to its power. Expanding law enforcement powers while rolling back judicial and public oversight is a much greater threat to basic freedoms.

- Murphy

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Straw Poll

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wins one of the first GOP presidential straw poll.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in second and President Bush came in third.

The Bloomberg article notes that the poll is reflective of a nominee's organizational ability and less an overall evaluation of a candidate.

Given that it was a poll held in Memphis, in the Senators home state of Tennessee, by the Souther Republican Leadership Conference, Frist's performance is not surprising. Romney, however, is interesting.

Yet what are Frist's qualifications? He is the Senate Majority Leader, but he has acted less as a leader for the Senate and more as the President's Senate whip.

- Murphy

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Architect of t.v. political news coverage dies at 85

Those political junkies out there who still follow the convention coverage might be interested in the passing of Reuven Frank. Frank was one of the original NBC News producers. Under his watch the Hunley-Brinkley Report thrived and the networks started blanket coverage of the presidential conventions (this is back when the parties would actually select their nominee at the convention, rather than laud them as they do now).

The obit is an interesting look at t.v. news history as well.

A good passage:
"Our men are already on the job from coast to coast," Mr. Frank said in a news release issued by NBC on June 8, 1960, a month before the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. "They'll arrive at the conventions with their own assigned delegations or personalities. And when the conventions get under way, our men will belong to and be an integral part of their assignments."

He added, "It's a kind of aboveboard and perfectly ethical journalistic 'espionage,' if you will."

- Murphy

Truthiness beats newsiness?

Via Romanesko:
Do fake anchors grill newsmakers better than real journos?

Howard Kurtz: No, you've got plenty of company. Of course, these shows have the freedom to make stuff up, be insulting, put fake reporters in front of green screens and pretend they're in Iraq, etc. But they certainly do a great job of nailing hypocrisy in ways that much of the MSM doesn't even attempt.

- Murphy

Monday, February 06, 2006

If Clinton did it, it must be legal

The Republicans love to cite Clinton precedent.

The warrantless searches done by the Clinton administration that Sen. Orrin Hartch pointed to were committed before the FISA statutes were amended to prevent exactly the searches the Clinton administration took.

Sen. Feinstein just called him on it.

- Murphy

Think they don't know?

McClellan, the President's spokesman, and others have argued that they did not seek legislative changes to the FISA law to allow their type of warrantless searches because it would "open their playbook" to al Queda.

He then went on to cite al Queda's sophistication and ability to adapt. Given that Bin Laden and the entire network has relied upon non-technological methods of communication (coded messages sent with couriers, face-to-face meetings) since before
9/11, it would suggest that the terrorist network is quite aware of the dangers of using electronic communications.

Any group that is presumed to have the expertise to obtain and implement a suitcase nuclear weapon would have the tech savvy to know better than to focus on electronic communications.

Any Islamist who forgets that is likely to learn the lesson the Chechen rebel leader Dudayev learned in 1996, 10 years ago, when the Russians homed in on his satellite phone and took him out with a missile. The Chechen rebels are also in contact with the larger network of Islamist extremists.

- Murphy

Presidential Powers

The L.A. Times has an excellent piece describing the presidential powers under question during the Senate committee hearings.

At its core, the Administration argues that based upon a brief piece of legislation authorizing the President to go after Al Queda, the President has nearly unlimited powers as long as they can be construed as at least tangential to to his pursuit of terrorists.

During the hearings, Gonzalez cited the Hamdi case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the administration had the power to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens based upon the Use of Force authorization. He argued that the surveillance measures would be viewed similarly because they are "less intrusive."

- Murphy

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Higher wages are good for you, right?

One of the key passages in this illuminating article in the Los Angeles Times article is the one that describes the disconnect between real growth for working people and the mindset of the investor class (certainly a majority of workers in the U.S. are involved in some form of investment by this point, but they don't, as a rule, shift the market. If they did, their good fortune would be reflected in the market.)
The 3.3% annualized wage gain still lags behind the 3.4% yearly inflation rate, economist Bernstein said. And continuing pressures from globalization will subdue wage gains for some workers, he said. Employers in many industries still can shift production to countries with cheaper labor.

"If you are a white-collar worker in an occupation where information can be digitized, there is a good chance you are competing now with workers who are equally skilled but earn a tenth as much as you do," Bernstein said. "Of course that will have an impact."
Now compare that with this selection:
The bottom line: The labor market is tightening, which means more bargaining power and stronger wage growth for workers. Their earnings have failed to keep up with inflation during a five-year economic recovery marked by rising energy costs and growing competition with low-wage countries such as China and India.

But the prospect of better rank-and-file pay and lower joblessness spooked some investors Friday because it threatened to reignite inflation and limit corporate profit growth.

Investors fear that inflation pressures could force the Federal Reserve and its new chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, to boost interest rates more than hoped for. That, along with weakened profit growth, could halt what has been a promising 2006 stock market rally.
Real wage improvements for a majority of the population is looked upon with trepidation by the market? I've taken a few econ classes, I understand the reasoning from the investment angle, yet rarely is the gap illustrated so clearly. At the very least, the market should look at the increased purchasing power wage gains can represent.

A robust stock market does benefit everyone, yet a country made up of workers who are seeing their purchasing power steadily decline while their jobs go overseas doesn't sound like a recipe for a strong economy.

Focusing on corporate revenue and stock prices only tells you so much. If consumers are no longer able or willing to purchase your product, all the corporate restructuring and foreign borrowing will amount to nothing.

The market hasn't even seen the real shock. The energy crisis has been somewhat mollified due to a mild winter. What happens if we see weeks of serious cold? The reappearance of energy bills in the hundreds of dollars will put a serious dent in the economy. It will translate to higher revenue for energy companies, thereby guaranteeing a stock boost, but what will the real long-term effect be on the economy. No one seems to want to answer that question, especially in times when a state government is willing to allow gas companies to penalize its customers for installing energy-saving equipment in their homes.

- Murphy

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Balking at the budget

Labor groups are pressuring GOP members not to vote for the budget reconciliation bill due to cuts in Medicare.

Are the Republicans starting to finally feel the heat after 5 years of President Bush's budgets?

With the criminal investigations spreading through the Republican party, and a President reaching lame-duck status in record time, a breakdown in the Republican message control, the Republican members of Congress may suddenly be more concerned with how budgets and legislation will affect their constituents, not their party funds.

- Murphy

Monday, January 30, 2006

Woodruff, Vot and Jill Carrol: keep 'em in your thoughts

How many journalists will have to be wounded, captured or killed before the administration's defenders stop attacking the working press as "missing the big picture" in Iraq? It's hard to spend time counting the numbers of pencils the U.S. is sending the schools when you might be blown up or abducted for doing your job.

I would say that when your friends and co-workers are being killed, injured and abducted on a regular basis, you have a pretty clear image of the "big picture."

It's hard to learn when insurgents are sowing chaos in your cities and towns.

- Murphy

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Justice is more than a pretty word

So many of the changes occurring under the Bush administration go not not only behind closed doors, but in obscure offices that few have heard of, let alone understand.

The administration is making enormous, unilateral changes that are cloaked in legalese and policy. Those changes affect the legal status of U.S. citizens, affect our health care, affect our jobs and how our soldiers fight. They are major changes that can easily be obscured through bureaucratic and legal language.

A lawyer can tell you they are taking your house and you won't even realize it until the Sheriff arrives to boot you.

Newsweek has an excellent story detailing the behind-the-scenes fight between the President Bush's assertion that he has absolute power in times of war, and those folks at the Justice Department who believe that the rule of law supersedes the President's wish to be king.

- Murphy

Thursday, January 05, 2006

End of the Sharon Era?

Israeli paper, Haaretz seems to think so.

If the Israeli prime minister's situation is as severe as is speculated, it may be a sad day for his family and for his supporters.

If Sharon does survive this life-threatening incident, he is unlikely to return to the political stage, as Haaretz noted above.

- Murphy

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Time to get cable?

I may finally have to break down and get cable. There is just so little left worth watching on broadcast t.v.

Via Romenesko, it looks like Ted Koppel and eight other members of Nightline are moving to the Discovery Channel.

The well-respected newsman plans on producing and hosting programs examining important topics.

I have long been a fan of Koppel and have been nervous about reports that ABC execs want to liven up the program to increase its ratings. I guess well-produced insightful news programs just aren't enough.

I held out a small flicker of hope that Clooney's "Good Night and Good Luck," would spark a renewed interest in serious television journalism. That, unsurprisingly, hasn't come to pass.

Yet the success of "The Daily Show" and some of HBO's and Showtime's more serious programs show there is an audience for smart, challenging programing. TDS never intended to be anything other than a parody. Yet sometimes satire is far more informative than straight news. John Stewart and his crew, however, seem to enjoy their ability to inform through humor, though they always maintain that being funny will always come first.

- Murphy

Seperation of Powers and Wiretaps

Does the FISA court have you down? Do multiple decades of intricate legal machinations cause you to glaze over? Just want a simple explanations of what is legal and illegal; or perhaps concerned that your conversations may have been listened in on? (Just because you're paranoid....)

Well, Morton Halperin has written a very good summary of the many legal and Constitutional issues involved. It's not the shortest summary, but it is one of the best.

Halperin not only explains the role different legal standards play in determining if the President has the right to conduct warrant-less wiretaps, but explains the historical considerations and the intentions of Congress.

The intentions issue is one of importance simple due to the fact that the one of the legs of administration's argument rests on its interpretation of Congress' actions. If Congress specified a particular reason for including or excluding certain powers, and the President reads it another way, well…rhetoric aside it leaves little room for argument.

The President's argument rests on the administrations interpretation of the Constitution's description of a President's power, Article II (specifically the part on his role as Commander in Chief, section 2), and Congress' passage of the Authorization for Military force in September of 2001.

The case revolves around the issue of, "Why didn't the President go to the FISA courts?" The process was already in place to do exactly what the President said he needed, to act quickly and secretly. The only reason to avoid that process was to avoid having to approach the FISA courts; courts that haven't met a government request it did like.

Why avoid a system that was virtually a rubber stamp for warrants related to national security and provided complete secrecy?

- Murphy