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