Political MoJo

NYC to Bush: Drop Dead!

| Wed Jun. 21, 2006 5:47 PM EDT

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly lambasted the Bush administration's plan to cut terrorism funding to New York and Washington by more than 40 percent this morning in a hearing before Long Island Congressman Peter King's House Committee on Homeland Security. King, himself a conservative Republican, has been furious with the administration over department's plan to reduce New York City's antiterrorist funds to $124.4 million in 2006, down from $207.5 million a year ago. "It was indefensible, it was disgraceful, and it raises very real questions about the competency of this department," he said in the hearing.

The process of applying for antiterror funding "should not be a contest to see who could write the best term paper for their college class," argued Bloomberg. The administration, however, has called New York's antiterror program "ineffective", and has argued that the city doesn't have any national monuments or icons worth protecting.

In the same hearing, New York congresswoman Nita Lowey pointed out that while New York was responding to warnings of a planned cyanide attack on its subways, Columbus, Ohio was buying bulletproof vests for its police dogs.

It's worth remembering that on 9/11 itself, the administration was severely lacking in its ability to so much as communicate with New York and Washington. The President on Air Force One had no telephone contact with D.C. for much of the day; the military was not informed of the hijackings until it was too late to act; and neither the airlines nor the FAA told New York city officials about the attacks in progress until the planes hit the buildings, even though they had blow-by-blow accounts from flight attendants 10 minutes after the hijackings began—early enough to begin getting people out of the second World Trade Center Tower. There's little indication matters have improved much since then.

In the wake of 9/11, Bush fought to prevent an investigation of the attacks, and tried his best to keep information from a congressional inquiry under wraps. Having used the attacks as justification for the war in Iraq, the president now seems ready to dump New York and move on to places where Republicans must attend to their electoral base. Here, (via CBS), are a few of the places that will be getting more antiterrorism money under the administration's plan:

  • Jacksonville, Fla. 2005 funds: $6.8 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 26%. Major landmark: Alltel Stadium, home of Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • St. Louis; 2005 funds: $7 million. 2006 funds: $9.2 million. Increase: 23.6%. Major landmark: Gateway Arch.
  • Louisville, Ky.; 2005 funds: $5 million. 2006 funds: $8.5 million. Increase: 41.2%. Major landmark: Churchill Downs race track.
  • Omaha 2005 funds: $5.1 million. 2006 funds: $8.3 million. Increase: 38.2%. Major landmark: Offutt Air Force Base.

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Will Democrats Roll Over for Timber Companies?

| Wed Jun. 21, 2006 1:52 PM EDT
Some big companies are boosting their share of campaign contributions to Democrats this year, a sign that executives may be starting to hedge their political bets after a decade of supporting congressional Republicans.
The Wall Street Journal ran that little item a few days ago. Corporations are filling up the donkey coffers. That's good for the Democrats, who get more money to run their little campaigns, which probably makes a difference at the margins.

But it's not nearly as sweet for everyone else, seeing as how corporate-owned Democrats tend to be the worst sort of Democrats. Exhibit A is this New York Times story today about how a few Democrats might give up their opposition to estate tax repeal—which is currently stalled in the Senate—in exchange for tax breaks for the timber industry. None of the Senators have wavered yet, but Dems on the payroll of Big Timber at risk of reversing their stances include Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

No Immigration Bill for Now

| Wed Jun. 21, 2006 1:17 PM EDT

On one level, it seems like unabashed good news that the House has decided to put off negotiating any sort of immigration bill with the Senate until after the fall elections. After all, the betting line is that, even if the Democrats don't retake the House and the Senate, there will at least be more Democrats in Congress, which will likely make it harder for the GOP to pass a draconian immigration bill with walls along the border and mass deportations and the like.

But I can't honestly say I'm looking forward to a summer of "public hearings" on immigration from the House, which will likely consist of bashing the Senate's bill and trumpeting the House Republicans' own, more stringent bill. What are the odds that this won't degenerate into a babble of anti-immigrant demagoguery? Oh, right, zero.

More ways to wreck whale ears

| Wed Jun. 21, 2006 1:51 AM EDT

Let's see. Most of the world has agreed to protect whales from extinction; whales rely on sound waves to navigate, communicate, in short, survive; so what we'll do is shoot "air guns" (sounds so innocuous, right?) into the ocean whose deafening sound can be heard from the California coast clear to the other end of the Pacific? This makes sense in whose world? The answer in a second; meanwhile, check out whale expert Dick Russell's piece in Mother Jones special oceans coverage on another sound source that has been causing whales to beach themselves en masse, some with their brains literally scrambled. Now--ready? The air guns (which are bad for squid, too) are "critical in the search for tomorrow's oil and gas resources," according to Exxon Mobil.

Press Secretary does Snow job on Imus

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 8:42 PM EDT

It doesn't take much to get Don Imus to endorse all manner of lies and distortions. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow found it was pretty easy on June 14 when he stated that George W. Bush had never linked Saddam Hussein with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Snow quoted Bush as saying "there's no demonstrated link between Saddam [Hussein] and 9-11, and we're never going to make that argument." Of course, Bush did make that link. For example, he made it in his letter of March 21, 2003 to the Speaker of the House and the President Pre Tempre of the Senate. Dick Cheney made the same link on two different appearances on Meet the Press, and the September 11 Commission reported that as early as September 12, 2001, Bush asked his staff to explore links between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of the day before. Bush's insistence that such a link be made is documented by former U.S. Treasurer Paul O'Neill in Ron Suskind's The Price Of Loyalty, and by former national security specialist Richard A. Clarke in Against All Enemies.

New Budget Rules Are a Disaster

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 7:44 PM EDT

Fair warning: we're about to wade into some murky budget-related territory here, but these are important issues, so let's go. The House Budget Committee just approved a bill to give the president the line-item veto, which would allow Bush to strip out any piece of a spending bill he didn't like.

I happen to think this is a truly terrible idea, and you can read all about it here and here. The measure is being hyped as a way to let the president control "pork-barrel" spending, but in all likelihood, it will end up being used as a weapon for political retaliation—the president will get the power to nix spending projects in districts of representatives he wants to screw over. A man who orders that mentally disturbed prisoners be tortured so that he can "save face" surely doesn't deserve more power. We can all agree on that. Anyway, it gets worse…

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Torture Is Depraved and Ineffective, Part 2,397

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 6:52 PM EDT

Apparently, Ron Suskind's new book reports that the CIA tortured a mentally disturbed man who knew very little about al-Qaeda all so that the president didn't have to "lose face." Lucky for us, while under torture, Abu Zubaydah confessed to all manner of plots and schemes in every corner of the country and had law enforcement running around the country on various wild goose chases. Draw your own lessons from this little story.

Can't We Just Have a Moment of Silence?

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 3:39 PM EDT

This is awful. And doesn't it seem... unseemly somehow to jump on the deaths as instant debate fodder?

Back to "It's The Economy, Stupid?"

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 2:30 PM EDT

Democrats in Congress seem to be running for cover in the face of a GOP rebound on the war, but a recent minimum-wage amendment introduced by Ted Kennedy could be the wedge issue they need for the upcoming election. The amendment, introduced June 19, would raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997, from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. "A minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, earns just $10,700 a year," Kennedy said in a floor statement. "That's $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."

A recent Labor Department report shows that inflation is erasing wage increases. Weekly wages dropped 0.7 percent in real terms in May. In 50 percent of the 65 months since Bush took office, workers' pay either has remained unchanged or declined, Bloomberg reports. "People at the high end of the income scale are doing a lot better than people in the middle or low end, but there are a lot more people in the middle and low end,'' Douglas Lee, president of Economics From Washington, a Potomac, Maryland, consulting firm, told Bloomberg. "For those people, inflation is eating into their income gains.'' An AP poll of 1000 or so people in early June found 60 percent disapproved of Bush's handling of the economy, while 38 percent approved.

It's possible that Democrats could, as they did during the 2002 midterms, try to focus on the economy and refuse to make Iraq an election issue. Even though the civil war in Iraq is intensifying, Bush's PR performance after the killing of Zarqawi has brought the president a rebound of sorts—at least with the media. Meanwhile, Dems may rant and rave about Iraq, but they can't agree on what to do about it. Four Democratic senators—Jack Reed, Carl Levin, Dianne Feinstein and Ken Salazar, with support from Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, and Minority Leader Harry Reid—have introduced a non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution asking Bush to begin a phased redeployment out of Iraq by the end of this year. But the measure doesn't say how fast the drawdown should go.

An alternative measure, sponsored by Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer and John Kerry would order the President to withdraw troops by July 1, 2007. But a similar withdrawal measure flopped last week on a 93-6 vote in the Senate—and the House has passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting a date for withdrawing the troops on a 256-153 vote, with large numbers of Democrats joining the GOP votes in favor of indeterminate commitment to the war.

Refusing to Abandon Roe

| Tue Jun. 20, 2006 2:25 PM EDT

Most people have heard the argument from various "contrarian" liberals that overturning Roe v. Wade would actually be a boon for abortion rights—not to mention the Democratic party—because it wouldn't make much of a difference anyway and it would rouse pro-choicers from their apathetic slumber. Examples are here and here. It's totally false, of course, but it's still an insidious idea that seems to have some staying power among well-to-do male pundits living in blue states. So I'm glad Scott Lemieux took the time to shred the argument in this American Prospect article.

But the other thing to note—and Scott sort of gets at this in his piece—is that Roe v. Wade is somewhat beside the point here. Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad Roe exists, and even seem to be one of the few people convinced it was correct as a legal decision. But barring John Paul Stevens dying or some similar catastrophe (and I'm not much for praying, but I could be persuaded to light a candle for Stevens), the Supreme Court isn't likely to overturn Roe anytime soon.