Blogs

If Bush Could Give the Man who Murdered a Senator's Mom a Recess Appointment, He'd Do It

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 6:22 PM EDT

Democrats don't much care for Sam Fox, who was Bush's nominee to be ambassador to Belgium. Fox was a major contributor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that hit Kerry way below the belt in the 2004 campaign. Senate Democrats were so outraged by Fox's nomination that Bush ultimately withdrew it. Pundits cooed that Bush was really getting the hang of working with Democrats.

No, he's just a nasty, nasty man. With the Democrats gone for spring vacation, Bush gave Fox—and two others—recess appointments. But, he protested innocently, Fox won't draw a government salary. (A) That may be unconstitutional, and (B) Fox is a multi-millionaire.

Who were the other two recess appointments? Well, it just gets better. Bush named Andrew Biggs, a champion of privatization—another issue on which many believed Bush had conceded defeat—as the deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Bush also named Susan Dudley, to whom all regulation looks like a sharpened silver cross does to a vampire, to lead the Office of Management and Budget—you know, the office that has to sign off on most government regulation. Her appointment promises to be particularly damaging following as it does on the heels of an executive order giving the OMB increased control over such important agencies as the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The New York Times reached Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Democratic caucus in the House, who managed to say, "Clearly, these are politically provocative acts." I hereby nominate Sarah Feinberg for the grace under fire award.

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Bush's Shell Game Continues

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 5:36 PM EDT

bush_talking.jpgTuesday, President Bush almost seemed to be his old swaggering self in a Rose Garden press conference. But it's easy to go on the offensive when the defense has called time-out: Congress is on spring recess. Bush attacked the Democratic leadership for leaving without finishing the Iraq war funding bill before they left. The president said if Congress doesn't step to, he may be "forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair and quality-of-life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces," to ensure funding for "troops on the front lines."

This assessment was absolute balderdash. A stop-gap funding measure has already provided $70 billion for the Iraq war. Congressional Democrats have reminded that Bush's refusal to be more honest about the costs of the war in his own budget has forced them to approve a series of piecemeal spending packages. And last spring, the Republican-led Congress also left for spring recess without finalizing an Iraq spending package—in fact, they didn't do so until the middle of June.

In the same press conference, Bush charged that the $70-billion supplemental spending bill is loaded with Democratic "pork." The president's War on Pork (WOP) began just as the Democrats took power. Nifty, huh? Yesterday, the White House unveiled an online database of all the earmarks in the 2005 fiscal year budget. Well, all the congressional earmarks, which total $19 billion. The White House neglected to include its own pet pigs, which bring the total to $48 billion.

Weird Weather Watch: April Showers Snowstorms

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 4:26 PM EDT

A spring snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow on New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine last night, leaving more than 100,000 homes without power.

Meteorologist Butch Roberts of the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said, "We had Easter on December 25th. People had crocuses coming out and blooms on bushes. And now we have Christmas, with all this snow. It's a little topsy-turvy."

Spring is notoriously unpredictable in New England, but National Weather Service data [PDF] suggests that major snowfalls are highly unusual.

Mary Cheney: It's a Boy!

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 2:59 PM EDT

Dick Cheney's already a grandfather. There are five young impressionable minds he's molding; let that one settle in. (And all those family hunting trips? Hopefully the grandkids get the good body armor.) Now a sixth is on the way, this one born of his lesbian daughter Mary and her partner, Heather Poe. Cheney has hardly been the bragging granddad to date, but yesterday he went public with his pride as he announced that the baby is a boy.

Cheney told ABC Radio, "I'm looking forward to the arrival of a new grandson." He said that the baby was due next month (but didn't say whether his nursery is filled with purple Teletubbies or is swathed with a rainbow).

He also didn't say that he supports the right of said grandson's parents to be happily married. The bastard.

"I think each state ought to have the capacity to decide how they want to handle those issues . . . And I obviously think it's important for us as a society to be tolerant and respectful of whatever arrangements people enter into."

Cheney's punt to the states is telling. His daughter and her partner live in Virginia, where in November voters approved a sweeping amendment banning gay marriage (and stripping all unmarried couples of many rights). So Poe will have no legal relationship to the child she and Mary are bringing into the world together — how would Dick feel about this one if Poe were the one carrying the baby?

But in some ways, this was a pretty big step for the guy. Remember back in January when Wolf Blitzer asked him about the impending arrival of his grandchild? Cheney warmly replied that the topic was "out of line."

A Brief Foray Into Primetime: LOST as Shakespearean Drama

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 2:39 PM EDT

Last night's "Lost" left main gals Kate (brunette) and Juliet (blond) handcuffed together and running through the wilds a la "Charlie's Angels." As the two made their way through the brush, it struck me that their names are both found in Shakespearean works: Kate as the prickly one in "The Taming of the Shrew," and Juliet as the star-crossed lover in "Romeo and Juliet." In traditional Shakespearean fashion, both gals have picked the same man as their ill-fated lover.

As cliché as it is for two women to catfight over a man, I thought the episode was interesting. Kate's tortured relationship with her own mother, and Juliet's work at making women into mothers (she's a fertility doctor) brought an interesting psychological element to the episode. Kate yearned to be supported by her estranged mother, but by killing her mother's husband, she condemned the relationship to failure. Juliet, on the other hand, only wanted to help her sister get pregnant, and was then recruited to work on a fecund, jungle island where no one has any trouble getting pregnant.

It's worth noting that there has been very little female bonding on this male-written show. Although men bro down like there's no tomorrow--trekking into the woods, killing boars, hiding guns--the women are seemingly not very interested in interacting with one another, save when they need to take a pregnancy test. In fact, I can't think of a single episode that's focused on a female-female relationship in the show's three year history.

Ultimately, I don't know if the episode furthered any plot arcs, except for the fact that The Others are now seemingly gone except for Juliet. Quite a few bloggers have suggested that (like Shakespeare's Juliet at the masked ball) Juliet is a decoy, a mechanism for getting inside the Losties once and for all. If she does, I hope she takes the time to make friends with some of the women, because I'm tired of men being the only ones with female friends on the show.

Okay, back to reality, where we have our own ongoing mayhem and tragedies to deal with.

—Jen Phillips

John Walker Lindh Asks for Shorter Sentence in Light of Hicks Plea Deal

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

In light of David Hicks' sentencing to nine months in an Australian prison, John Walker Lindh is requesting that his 20-year sentence be reduced. An entry on Lindh from the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline:

[Lindh is captured on November 25, 2001 and] will be charged with ten counts, including conspiring to support terrorist organizations and conspiring to murder Americans. Maximum sentence: three life terms and 90 additional years in prison. He will eventually plead guilty to two counts: violating an executive order prohibiting US citizens from giving their services to the Taliban and committing a felony while carrying firearms. He'll be sentenced to 20 years in prison, a long sentence for a nonviolent felony conviction for a first-time offender.

David Hicks is an Australian who was caught fighting for the Taliban by the Northern Alliance. John Walker Lindh is an American who was caught fighting for the Taliban by the Northern Alliance. One could probably argue that Hicks' sentence is too light (and pretty clearly a political move designed to help the unpopular conservative Australian PM John Howard in an election year), and one could probably argue that Lindh's sentence is too heavy. Dude was an incredibly screwed up 19-year-old when he made his way to a Pakistani madrassa and began his journey to "terrorist" status.

Keep in mind that Lindh was tried and sentenced roughly half a year after he was captured, whereas Hicks was held in Guantanamo for almost five years without charge.

And FYI, Mother Jones has done some really good work on John Walker Lindh in the past. See "Trial by Fury" and "Anatomy of a Whistleblower."

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Giuliani Flip-Flop-Flips on Flat Tax

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 12:02 PM EDT

Rudy Giuliani is was one of the GOP's strongest opponents to a flat tax. When Steve Forbes was running for president on the idea in 1996, Rudy "disparaged a flat tax in general and Mr. Forbes's plan in particular," according to the New York Times. Rudy said a flat tax "would really be a disaster."

But what's a disaster between presidential candidates? In exchange for Steve Forbes' endorsement, Giuliani recently announced he was a big proponent of the flat tax. He said of a federal income tax, "maybe I'd suggest not doing it at all, but if we were going to do it, a flat tax would make a lot of sense."

Okay, so that's a flip-flop. Care to reverse your position again, and make it a flip-flop-flip?

[When asked how he could support a flat tax after long opposition, Giuliani said,] "I didn't favor it, I said something academic... What I said was, and it was not a joke, but it was half-jocular, was if we didn't have an income tax...what would I favor? First I would favor no tax. That would be my first position. My second position would probably be a flat tax."
But, he said, the tax "would probably not be feasible."

I love this attitude. Can you imagine him as president? "Oh, did I say we should bomb Iran? I was kidding. But kidding on the square. I was, like, half kidding. Oh, Ahmadinejad launch an attack on Israel as a response? Crap. You're kidding, right?"

The problem with Giuliani, and maybe this is a good problem, is that he isn't comfortable flip-flopping. McCain panders to people he once despised and Romney has reversed his entire playbook on social issues -- and both are sticking to their reversals, no matter how shameless or false they appear, and no matter how hard they get hammered for it. Giuliani, on the other hand, seems uncomfortable abandoning positions he has long held, and after he abandons them, he claims them back, or gets hopelessly muddled.

Maybe that's to his credit.

More on this at Bruce Reed's space on Slate. Also, Cameron blogged about the flat tax and Giuliani's relationship to the crooked Bernard Kerik in an earlier post titled "Giuliani Meltdown."

Giuliani Flip-Flop-Flips on Public Funding for Abortions

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 11:39 AM EDT

Earlier, I wrote about Giuliani's flip-flops on public funding for abortion:

A top Rudy advisor has told the conservative National Review that Rudy opposes public funding for abortions. That's very different from Rudy's position in the 90s, when he ran for office touting his support for public funding.

CNN dug further into this recently when it interviewed Giuliani, and some poor writer had to figure out how to transcribe Giuliani's endless maneuvering and non-answers. Check it out.

In a 1989 speech now being widely circulated on the Internet, Giuliani called for public funding of abortions for poor women, saying, "We cannot deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks resources."
Asked by Bash [the interviewer] if he would maintain that position as president, Giuliani said "probably."
"I would have to re-examine all of those issues and exactly what was at stake then -- that was a long time ago," he said. "When I was mayor, adoptions went up, abortions went down. But ultimately, it's a constitutional right, and therefore if it's a constitutional right ... you have to make sure that people are protected."
Pressed if he would support public funding for abortions, Giuliani said, "If it would deprive someone of a constitutional right, yes, if that's the status of the law, then I would, yes."
After the interview, Giuliani's campaign clarified that if elected, he would not seek to change current federal law, which limits public funding for abortions to cases of rape, incest or where the life of the pregnant woman is in danger.

So within the space of one interview, Giuliani says he would "probably" support public funding for abortions, then says he would have to support public funding because choice is a constitutional right, then says he would not support public funding except in a few instances.

All of this from a guy who has spent his career being a strong pro-choice advocate, and is known for his strength and resolve.

McCain's Bazaar Photo Op Saga Ends in Bloodshed

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 9:06 PM EDT

God, this is so sad.

21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress...
Mr. McCain said that the situation was showing signs of improvement and blamed waning support in the United States for the war on the media, which were portraying an overly negative image of the crisis.

I suppose if 21 people weren't killed coming out of the market, 21 different people would have been killed somewhere else, just because violence is that bad in Baghdad these days. But seriously, Jesus Christ.

What a horrible price to pay so an American politican could make a fake point to undergird his fake credibility.

Spotted on Wonkette.

Gingrich: Pie, Meet Boca

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 8:54 PM EDT

gingrich.jpgAt a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women, Newt Gingrich argued that the United States should abolish bilingual education so that "people…learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto." The likely presidential candidate also said that the government should not require that ballots "be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote. (Because non-English speakers do everything without foresight or logic, apparently.) The lady Republicans cheered thunderously.

Hispanics, however, were predictably peeved by these comments, and Gingrich was asked about them in an appearance on Hannity & Colmes. I'm not sure if his response there was anti-Semitic or just stupid, but he said, "Frankly, ghetto, historically had referred as a Jewish reference originally. I did not mention Hispanics, and I certainly do not want anybody who speaks Spanish to think I'm in any way less than respectful of Spanish or any other language spoken by people who come to the United States."

Finally, he faced the music and apologized to the Hispanic community—I mean, obviously, he meant no harm and doesn't hold any negative stereotypes or anything. What a bunch of oversensitive, hot-blooded, bean-eating, lazy, sombrero-wearing landscapers to think otherwise!