2007 - %3, May

Ninth Purged U.S. Attorney Found

| Wed May 9, 2007 1:05 PM EDT

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall thinks they've identified a ninth U.S. Attorney pushed out for being ideologically out of step with Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department. His name is Todd Graves and he was formerly a U.S. Attorney in Missouri. Graves was on the DOJ firing lists shortly before resigning, and while he hasn't said outright that he was purged for political reasons, he has given quotes to the media like, "When I first interviewed (with the Department)…I was asked to give the panel one attribute that describes me. I said independent. Apparently, that was the wrong attribute."

Further fueling speculation is evidence of nefarious meddling by Republican Senator Kit Bond and the fact that Graves' replacement, Bradley Schlozman, has a history that matches the priorities of the Gonzales DOJ. According to Josh, Schlozman's "entire tenure at DOJ has been dedicated to turning back the clock on minority voting rights in the United States and more broadly to suppressing Democratic vote turnout."

Gonzales and Scholzman are being brought before Congress to explain the situation later this month.

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Popular Conservative Blog: "Rudy's Done"

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:48 PM EDT

Many people have wondered when conservatives would get past the Rudy Giuliani 9/11 hero worship and recognize that he's badly out of step with them on gays, guns, and abortion. Well, on abortion at least, it's happening.

Giuliani in Drag, and Leather, and Fur, and Pearls... A Compendium

| Wed May 9, 2007 12:09 PM EDT

This is horrifying but also kind of awesome. It's a Slate sideshow of all of Rudy Giuliani's moments playing dress up -- as a crack addict, a greaser, the beast from Beauty and the Beast, and most commonly, a woman. Check it out.

Combine all this with the also horrifying but kind of awesome "ferret moment" from Rudy's radio show and you get the sense that Rudy is a guy who either didn't intend to run for president before 9/11 vaulted him to the national stage, or he did intend to run for president but didn't give a damn and insisted on living his life the way he wanted to live it. Which is kind of refreshing. His current reversals on all the positions he staked out in that carefree period, however, are not so endearing.

Update: While you're over there at Slate, take a look at this detailed dissection of Rudy's truly disastrous private life (three marriages, ugly and public divorces, adultery, and multiple estranged kids -- that enough?). Writes Slate, "It's not only the religious or the uptight that can be put off by an utter lack of personal morality in a presidential candidate."

Late Update: I feel bad calling Rudy's private life "truly disastrous." Who am I to judge? What say you? Is judging candidates on their private lives part of presidential politics? A legitimate evaluation of a man or woman's character, or part of the sordid underbelly of our political system? Leave thoughts in the comments...

Deflating the "Independents in '08!" Meme (and Taking a Knock at Howard Fineman)

| Wed May 9, 2007 11:27 AM EDT

Howard Fineman is once again following my lead. Hot on the heels of my blog post speculating about a Hagel-Bloomberg independent ticket in the 2008 presidential race, Fineman writes in Newsweek that, yes, an independent ticket in 2008 is a real possibility, but no, Hagel shouldn't be considered its most likely torchbearer. He cites Bloomberg, Gore, and get this, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  fineman_serious.jpg It takes Fineman until the end of the piece to acknowledge that Arnold can't run and Gore likely won't. And having retracted two of the three heavy-hitters at the center of his article, Fineman somewhat lamely mentions Lieberman and Hagel as possibilities.

So I was right -- Hagel and Bloomberg. And maybe Lieberman. But one gets the sense that Fineman was on deadline, and wanted to take the "Independents in '08!" meme for a test drive without really having all the material he needed as fuel.

In fact, this whole "Independents in '08!" thing feels a little like a media creation -- something political journalists daydream about when bored of covering the same six frontrunners for... well, how long is the campaign season now? Two full years? It has a sideshow feel to it -- I should have conveyed that better in my post about Hagel and Bloomberg.

Witness, for example, Fineman's reasoning for why an independent candidate could win this year when such candidates have failed in every other year. The early primary schedule means that the winner of each party's nominations could be identified by early February of 2008, seven months before the parties' conventions. In those seven months, speculates Fineman, buyer's remorse will set in for some members of both parties and they will go looking for someone else to support.

Okay, I guess, except no committed Republican or Democrat treats party identification that trivially, and the independent voters won't have made up their minds that early, meaning buyer's remorse won't have time to set in. Besides, the GOP and the Dems probably realize there is too much time between the deciding primaries and their conventions and will likely move the convention dates up. Problem solved.

Fineman ends by saying, "Keep an eye on the independents. There's where the action is, and will be." I say, meh. Take it all with a grain of salt.

No Domestic Partner Benefits For State Employeees In Minnesota

| Tue May 8, 2007 11:19 PM EDT

After Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made it clear that he would veto any bill giving domestic partnership benefits to several state employees, the Minnesota legislator dropped the matter last week. Members of the House and Senate eliminated language in a major spending bill that would have given such benefits to domestic partners, including gay partners.

The original language provided benefits for gay couples only, but was expanded to cover other domestic partners, including siblings. The language was changed because of Pawlenty's threat to veto any bill that included giving benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. A spokesman for the governor said: "we really haven't had a chance to review" the new language, but added that "generally, the state government finance bill has a lot of question marks."

Extending insurance coverage to non-married partners had the backing of the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

Spider-Man 3 Proves Crappy Movies Make Buttloads

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:56 PM EDT

spiderman3_rt.jpgThis weekend, Spider-Man 3 had the highest grossing weekend ever. This after last week's reviews promised "The angst-filled Spider-Man 3 is all plot-holes and Band-Aids," describing the movie as "overlong, visually incoherent, mean-spirited and often just plain awful," "[a]esthetically and conceptually wrung out, fizzled rather than fizzy," "ungainly, cumbersome" and inspired by no more than the bottom line. Do Americans not even read movie reviews, or is their taste in movies single-mindedly focused on special effects rather than plot, acting, or even—gasp—meaning?

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Weird Weather Watch

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

MoJo is tracking the effects of changed weather patterns on towns and wildlife. Read about the Southern California spring with no flowers or berries—but with serious economic impacts—on The Blue Marble.

Weird Weather Watch: Bone Dry Spring Means No Flowers or Berries

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:02 PM EDT

I've blogged in the past about the severe drought in Southern California, which has kicked fire season off early. It's also putting a serious damper on spring flora and fauna activity. The L.A. Times reports:

Seasonal ponds are cracked dry, leaving no haven for some frog eggs or fairy shrimp to hatch. Some flower-dependent butterflies are staying dormant for another season. Plants aren't bearing berries; some oak trees aren't sprouting acorns. Bees are behaving strangely.

Ranchers are sending a stronger signal to the economically-minded: The grass is too dry for cattle to graze, and ranchers are selling cows cheap or moving them out of state.

Not only are bees "behaving strangely"—their numbers are way down around the globe—but they have no flowers to pollinate, and no pollination means no honey. So it's official: California is not the land of milk or honey.

D.C.'s Gun Ban Could Be Headed to the Supreme Court, Gun Laws Beware

| Tue May 8, 2007 4:30 PM EDT

Last month, I interviewed Robert Levy, the Cato Institute senior fellow and constitutional lawyer, who successfully used a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment to overturn the D.C. gun ban in March. When the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Levy's case, Parker v. District of Columbia, it dissolved the strictest gun regulations on the books in any state and marked the first time this interpretation of the Second Amendment has been used to successfully overturn a state's gun law. When Levy and I spoke about his victory, he mentioned the likelihood that Parker would go before the Supreme Court. Today, that likelihood just got greater. The D.C. federal appeals court denied D.C.'s request for a second ruling before the entire court. (Originally, the case was heard before a three-judge panel.) So, Levy is likely off to the Supreme Court. Gun laws beware! If Parker is upheld in the Supreme Court, the ruling will jeopardize state gun laws across the nation, making them vulnerable to more legal challenges.

Hospitals Fleece the Uninsured

| Tue May 8, 2007 3:36 PM EDT

Going without health insurance really wouldn't be so bad if independent patients could pay the same per procedure as insurance companies do. But U.S. hospitals charge patients without health insurance an average of 2.5 times more for services than fees paid by health insurers, and 3 times more than Medicare does. According to a new study, that gap has more than doubled in two decades. It effectively excludes the uninsured from the system. "Fifty years ago, the poor and uninsured were often charged the lowest prices for medical services," according to one author of the study, Gerard F. Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "The markups on care for those who can least afford it have got to end."

In other bad news, the Senate yesterday killed a move to allow patients to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings. They killed it by adding an amendment to require U.S. officials to certify the safety and effectiveness of each drug first, which would not be funded or feasible. To check for your own senator's vote, here's the roll call. A yes vote on the amendment meant they opposed drug imports. Obama, Brownback, and McCain didn't vote. Clinton voted no. Hagel, Kerry, and Kennedy voted yes to the amendment.