Saturday, July 09, 2005

Bush Defies Schumer's Claims for More Transport Security

At MyDD, blogger Chris Bowers sarcastically notes that the Bush administration will not fund anti-terrorism initiatives that work to secure public transportation because President Bush does not care for those who use public transportation (More here). Bowers has a good point, but does not give the administration its due credit.

There is little debate that the current administration has put a lot of effort and money into the war on terror. It has led a war in Afghanistan, pushed Congress to allocate billions of dollars to the states for homeland security, and according to rhetoric that some buy and other's don't, continues a very costly occupation in Iraq to fight terrorism.

The way the money has been distributed throughout the country has not been as admirable. Rural states have been given funds that are proportionate per person to states such as New York and California, which are under much greater risk of attack because of the population density of cities such as New York and Los Angeles. What the administration needs to realize is that terrorism is virtually unpreventable in certain situations. When facing people who are willing to kill themselves in the act, one must look at the situation in Israel first. Israel puts more effort into security than ever, but suicide bombers still manage to penetrate all of the defense systems and do damage. Imagine how much easier it would be in Kansas or Iowa.

This is why the U.S should focus its homeland security initiatives on areas of potential "major destruction", such as the New York subway system or the areas around Nuclear generators.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Right Wing Blogers Take A Note From Facism

This column from MyDD, a liberal blog based in Ohio, describes the lack of open discussion offered at conservative blogs. The writer cites the five most tafficked right wing blogs and comments that only one of them (Little Green Footballs) offers readers the option of responding to daily posts.

At first, one thinks that the writer is suggesting that conservative bloggers are protecting themselves from liberal counterpoints or "corrections", since such things are sure to arouse anger and/or amusement from liberal blogs. However, after the writer is finished with his commentary, he selects roughly a dozen comments made by readers on the conservative blog Little Green Footballs, and, because of the savagery and intolerance displayed in the comments, decides that conservatives are best left silent.

The key word in this post is "select". Although many of the comments that Chris showcased were true examples of ignorance and hatred, Little Green Footballs is a very popular site not because it is necessarily the most hateful, but because it appeals to a wide range of people, who may or may not be the types to call for an "eradication of Islam" or the" mass killing of Arabs".


Master of the Computer
Enlighten-New Jersey
The Metro Section
The New York Connection
Slant Point
CB9M Chair's Blog
Modern America
Fat Mixx
Right Side of NY
NJ conservative
Parkway Rest Stop
The Great Minnesota Progressive
Daily Kos
Buzz Machine
These Park Advocates
Operation Truth
Le Blog Independant
The Art of Getting By
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
Blanton's and Ashton's-Article.II. Section.IV
More coming...

Corzine and Forrester Gear Up to Spend

Jon Corzine, former president of Goldman Sachs, and Doug Forrester, who currently runs a prescription management company, are expected to break records in this year's gubernatorial race with unprecendented campaign spending. Corzine has already stated that he will spend "whatever is necessary" to become governor. While this statement seems natural to many, in New Jersey, the notion of "buying the office" is reminiscent of the corruption that has dominated many parts of state politics for decades.

It's disappointing to find out that neither of the candidates could agree on a spending cap. Although the money isn't necessarily better in the hands of politicians than with TV or radio networks, it would also be nice to see the candidates pledge their money to a noble state cause, such as building parks or playgrounds in low income areas. The talk of the state this upcoming election has a lot to do with government waste and high taxes, and both of these men have the ability to create initiative with their own funds, rather than the funds of New Jersey taxpayers.

Michael McConnell Attacked for "Souterism"

Read this article at the Minnesota Progressive about comments made by Andy Schlafly, son of conservative activist Phylis Schlafly, about Judge Michael McConnell, who is one of the top prospects for the O'Connor seat on the Supreme Court.

The Minnesotans are hostile to Schalfy's comments, but after reading the column one should understand why conservatives should be worried about McConnell.

Andy Schlafly apparently warned the president that potential Supreme Court nominee, Michael McConnell, of the 10th circuit court of appeals in Salt Lake City, is reminiscent of David Souter, the conservative justice who has become a consistent liberal on the court. However, unlike Souter, McConnell has proclaimed himself "staunchly pro-life" and he is sure to go through a much more intensive screening process by the Bush administration as well as congressional Republicans, who would like nothing more than to see a judge who is willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade. However, this is where the problem starts for conservatives: in a law review article in 1997, McConnell wrote that "Roe vs. Wade was an "established precedent" in constitutional law, and should not be overturned.

McConnell also takes "originalist" interpretation of the constitution one step further than self proclaimed "strict constructionists", Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Scalia and Thomas, who are both extremely religious, do not support complete separation of church and state on issues such as school prayer, whereas McConnell believes in the power of one to censor the hundreds, reports Schalfly. McConnell also believes in broader boundaries for freedom of expression or religion, such as the right to do drugs or engage in polygamy.

To be quite honest, McConnell is impressive. Although his devotion to Mormanism probably influences some of his decisions on the issue of religion, his libertarian philosophy would guarantee a court that is ready to protect the Bill of Rights, whereas a Scalia-type would selectively decide what is protected by "freedom of expression" such as prayer in school, and what is not, such as homosexuality.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Jen Bluestein and the Mayor

The Metro Section, a New York political blog, described a statement by a spokeswoman of Councilman Fernando Ferrer as an extreme political overstatement. Jen Bluestein, the spokeswoman, accused the Bloomberg administration of attacking the legacy of Martin Luther King. The statement came as a response to rumors started by a letter sent by the head of the New York Republican Committee, Stephen Minarik, that alleged that Fernando Ferrer, the leading Democrat in the upcoming mayoral election, had taken donations and endorsements from a nonprofit group, which, according to New York laws concerning nonprofits would put the organization, the Drum Institute for Public Policy, in violation of tax laws.

Bluestein seemed to feel that since the Drum Institute credited the teachings of Dr. King as their guiding principles, any official who would question the legality of the nonprofit was hence questioning the integrity of the late civil rights leader himself. Her statement is ludicrous but not necessarily without reason. New Yorkers are generally distrustful of Republicans and many of Ferrer's supporters probably wouldn't see it as below the GOP chairman to attack Martin Luther King.

Let Nature Take Its Course

According to a New York Blog, The New York Connection, Mayor Bloomberg is out of touch with the impoverished conditions of many New York parks. When prodded about the poverty reported by a New York Times journalist (description), the mayor's spokesman Adrian Benepe responded "Let nature run its course."

While Benepe's comment could certainly be result of a misunderstanding, it is also evidence of ignorance on the subject. Perhaps the administration is not aware of how, according to the Times, the parks are neglected by the police and are host to drug dealers, prostitutes, and large camps of the homeless. It would seem to make sense because during the Giuliani administration, police were most probably given specific areas to clean up, such as Central Park, which used to have large sections designated for drugs and prostitution. Even though the war against petty crimes changed the atmosphere of "mainstream New York" by making areas of commercial Manhattan safe for locals and attractive to tourists, in all probability it shifted a lot of the crime to other areas that would not receive as much scrutiny. The Bloomberg administration should look into this dilemma described by the Times because parks provide an invaluable service to the New York youth, who often spend entire summers at the neighborhood park. The mayor would be performing a great service himself if he made sure they were playing sports and not running errands for drug dealers.

State Profiles: Louisiana

The state of Louisiana has always produced interesting politicians. From the infamous demogogue governor and later U.S senator Huey Long, to the recently incarcerated former governor Edwin Edwards. However, what is most interesting about Louisiana to me, is its resistance to the republican party which now dominates politics in most southern states. Although Louisiana is not necessarily a haven of liberalism, it is a state that cherishes its differences that lie in its French heritage, it's history of corruption, and its "honky tonk" atmosphere that's exhibited at Mardi Graz celebrations all over the state.

Many would not have thought it possible for a state to come so close to electing the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to be governor and in the same year elect a liberal democrat to be president. However, the citizens of Louisiana did beat the klansman, by sending corrupt democratic governor Edwin Edwards to the state mansion with the slogan "VOTE THE CROOK", and then awarding Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas for his charisma by electing him over the unappealing George Bush. Four years later, Bill Clinton proved to be more popular in Louisiana than in Connecticut or California, when he picked up 52% of the popular vote.

On Capitol Hill Louisiana has only recently begun to have significant G.O.P representation. It sent its first Republican to the U.S senate since Reconstruction last November. Before that, the senate seats had been occupied by centrist Democrats John Breaux and Mary Landrieu as well as a moderately conservative Democrat, Bennett Johnston. Traditionally, Louisiana Democrats have been populist in nature, meaning socially conservative but economically liberal.

Nevertheless, five of the seven U.S congressmen from the Pelican State are now republicans, one of which was previously a Democrat and switched in the 2004 election. The representative, Rodney Alexander was said by James Carville to be the "dumbest Democrat in D.C and now probably the smartest Republican"( More on Alexander's antics) However, 2/3 of the state legislature remains Democratic.

At, The Head Heeb, this blogger likens the election of Edwin Edwards to the Israeli Likud Party.

The Slant Point's Guy

The Slant Point, a New York City right wing blog, often speaks of Thomas Ognibene, a former councilman from Queens, as the potential savior of the New York Republican Party.

Thomas A. Ognibene, the leading challenger to Mayor Bloomberg in the republican primary, has spoken out against what he describes as the "hardly republican values" of the incumbent. Ognibene, despite the liberal political atmosphere of New York City, and his mere $50,000 of campaign funds, has stayed true to his platform of staunch conservatism on national issues such as gay marriage as well as local ones such as the smoking ban, which Bloomberg supports.

Although the Bloomberg campaign has vowed to take Ognibene's bid seriously, the odds are waged heavily against the former councilman, due to lack of publicity (82% of New Yorkers interviewed could not form an opinion on Ognibene due to lack of knowledge) as well as a history of controversial stances on issues involving race relations. According to the Times, "Ognibene fondly recalls arranging for the legal defense of Bernard Goetz after he shot four black teenagers he thought were about to mug him in 1984".

While Ognibene has a valid point: Mayor Bloomberg is a republican by name only and would be a democratic mayor if he could have won in the democratic primaries, he has little hope of wooing even republicans to the polls in his favor. Remember, new york republicans are not national republicans, it was their distinct pragmatism that nominated a liberal republican in Bloomberg, hence giving them a chance in the general election, rather than a conservative like Ognibene, who could never beat a solid democrat in New York City.

This article at The Metro Section, details a council election involving Rudy Guiliani's cousin, who is running in a GOP council primary against an Ognibene crony.

Conservatives speak in favor of Ognibene at The Slant Point.

Mayoral Candidate Ponders Creating a New Party

Speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, is lagging far behind other democratic candidates in the opinion polls, reports the Times. However, Miller has decided to run with a plan that is not new to New York City politics and even contributed to the current mayor's successful election nearly four years ago. He has decided to create his own party.

He'll do this by getting the necessary signatures that will allow him to appear on the ballot in November. However, he will not be excluded from the Democratic primary and if he wins, will appear on the November ballot as a Democrat. Nevertheless, considering his current undesirable position in the polls, he will most likely enter the general election as a member of his own party, the "Smaller Class Size".

The party name is self explanatory. Again, the speaker is using a similar tactic employed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002, when his platform was almost exclusively education-based. However, it's unlikely that a single platform party will grab the attention of voters, especially considering Mayor Bloomberg's recent success in education.

More on the ethnic implications of the polls here.

Cory Booker vs. Old Newark

Cory Booker has an impressive resume. He started his life in a middle class neighborhood in North New Jersey, graduated from Stanford University after attending on a football scholarship, studied history at Oxford University in Great Britain, and later received a law degree from Yale.

However, what is most impressive about Booker was his what landed him in Newark politics and the committment he has shown to public service. When he first moved to Newark, Booker deliberately moved to one of the most dangerous areas of Newark, going on a ten day hunger strike to protest the lack of security and police available in the area. He later lived in a mobile home and parked it on drug corners in an effort to inspire citizens to fight against the drug cartels that were taking over neighborhoods. Booker was later elected the Central Ward Councilman. To many, he is the ideal candidate to clean up the troubled city.

However, when Booker attempted to run for mayor, in 2002, he encountered a fortified political wall built by the veteran politician and fourth term mayor, Sharpe James. James has had a dubious tenure as mayor that includes a $213,000 salary last year and a reputation for overpaying his friends in government. His chief of staff was convicted of bribery and his police chief was convicted of embezzlement. Nevertheless, James has benefitted from a political machine that has portrayed Booker as a namby pamby suburban. James did not shy away from anti-semitic demogoguery during the campaign (Booker is half Jewish) and even claimed that Booker accepted donations from the Ku Klux Klan. Booker lost the race by a fair margin.

What is alarming to most democrats is the willingness for activists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to associate themselves with James. This New York blogger decided that he had lost all respect for the activists because they aligned themselves with a man he considered to be a blatant liar.

One of the most popular topics on Jersey blogs now is the documentary "Streetfight", about the James-Booker race in 2002. Check it out.

One Blogger gives the case against James
This website gives the case against Booker.
Mr. Snitch provides a good dissertation on the documentary "streetfight" about the James-Booker race in 2002.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Can Community Service Law Repaint New Jersey's Tarnished Image?

Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-11) introduced a measure today that would require state officials found guilty of political corruption, in addition to any term of imprisonment, to complete 250 hours of community service, reports New Jersey Politics.

Kean, along with many other state republicans, has proudly taken on the role of a "government reformer", in light of the scandals involving the administration of former democratic governor Jim McGreevy. Throughout the gubernatorial primaries, "cleaning out Trenton" played a vital role in the platforms of many of the republican candidates, and is anticipated to be on the top of Doug Forrester's list of campaign proposals. Nevertheless, democrats do not feel as vulnerable on the issue as they normally might because their candidate, U.S senator Jon Corzine, is relatively new to state politics. Although Corzine has faced criticism from opponents due to his record breaking expenditures during his senate race (including $60 million of his own) and his presumably equal war chest for the upcoming election, Corzine did not make his fortune as a politician, but from his career at Goldman Sachs, where he eventually rose to the position of chairman.

The legislation was introduced in an attempt to distinguish the "New Era" of New Jersey politics, one that the concerned lawmaker hopes will be one of honest government with common values, from the traditional image of New Jersey government as a corruption infested patronage trough. However, the idea that community service is such a daunting prospect to politicians who are currently willing to risk jail sentences in order to accomplish their political goals is dubious. However, perhaps helping the constituents that they previously deceived could inject corrupt politicians with some of that old fashioned idealism that might have motivated them to enter government.

Councilman Has Salary Withheld For Sexual Harassment

The New York City Council asked lawyers to "garnish" the wages of Councilman Allan Jennings, who has repeatedly refused to comply with the resolution adopted by the body which censured the Democrat from Queens for sexually harassing two female subordinates and demanded $5000 in damages for the women.
A spokesman for Gifford Miller, the speaker of council, warned Jennings that despite his attempts to evade his punishment, the council will make sure that it is enforced. Jenning's office responded with a statement that denounced the politically motivated charges and also alleged that the charges originated in "secret kangaroo meetings". However, Jennings plans to challenge the fine legitimately by appealing the censure imposed by the council.
It's interesting to speculate on the difference between the partisan politics of Washington D.C and the almost exclusively intra-party politics of New York City. It's reminiscent of the days of the "Solid South", where state legislatures were uniform in party but relatively diverse in political ideology. However, in New York City, nearly every elected office holder has some liberal allegiances. A New York based right wing blog, The Slant Point, comments further on the subject.

New York GOP Chief Hints Corruption in Democratic Primary

The chairman of the New York Republican Party, Stephen J. Minarik, recently sent a letter to the state attorney general, Elliot Spitzer, alleging that a nonprofit group formally run by the leading Democratic candidate for mayor, Fernando Ferrer, had violated tax laws during his tenure as CEO.
The complaint is based on various alleged nonprofit violations. Minarik wrote that $95, 100 was raised by the group for Ferrer's campaign. He went on to detail the education plan endorsed by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, which he claims is the same as Ferrer's, and that a fellow of the institute, Andrew Friedman, who receives a small retainer for his duties, had recently spoken at an event held by the mayoral hopeful. Under New York state laws, a nonprofit organization may not endorse candidates, make donations, or join in "politically partisan activities", reports the Times.
The Ferrer campaign immediately denounced the letter as partisan maneuvering. Ferrer's spokeswoman, Jen Bluestein, also accused the Bloomberg administration of being behind the attack. She continued by castigating Bloomberg for attempting to damage the reputation of an institute that has continued the "legacy of Martin Luther King".
The office of the attornery general issued a statement saying that they would review the accusation's validity and look into the case as they would any other. Many republicans are suspicious as attorney general Elliot Spitzer has openly supported the mayoral bid of Fernando Ferrer and has demonstrated a keen interest in pursuing elected office himself, as governor.
Interesting. The citizens of New York can only hope that Spitzer puts a legitimate effort into the case to ensure a clean election. However, if Ferrer is guilty as accused, it's in the public interest that another candidate emerges from the Democratic Party to make the race competitive. Although this page applauds Mayor Bloomberg's success in decreasing the number of failing students in the city by tens of thousands, it is wary of an education system that is rubber stamped by standardized tests.

London Beats New York for Olympics

Many New York City area residents are disappointed at the decision made by the Olympic committee to award London, Great Britain, the 2012 olympics despite major lobbying by the Bloomberg administration, including promises of new subway lines and increased security for the games. New Yorkers had reason to feel optimistic right before the vote because of an impressive presentation by the New York delegation that detailed the international atmosphere unique to New York as well as the city's economic power. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) even made an appearence and as the Times says "seemed to charm the I.O.C members".
However, "we" didn't get it. And neither did the French, our counterparts. However, the Olympics probably was probably not suited for New York or any of the old east coast cities of the U.S. There is frighteningly little space to build the enormous stadiums required and even less room for the traffic that one anticipates with the Olympics coming to town.
One of the many New Yorkers who did not see the olympics as beneficial to his city, this blogger, Spencer, detailed the case against New York's bid.

Powell Looking to Bid on Nationals

Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, has revealed a new interest: Baseball. Although the former secretary of state has been said to have left the President's Cabinet out of disappointment with President Bush's indifference to his advise, if awarded the team, Powell will not have to take orders from anyone, including the Nationals fiery manager and Hall of Fame baseball player, Frank Robinson. Robinson, who recently declared that he would "never speak to Mike Scosia (the Los Angeles Angels manager) again" over what many consider a meaningless baseball argument, might have to answer to a four star general if things go the way Powell plans them.
Interestingly, much of the media is convinced that Powell is a serious choice only because he is a registered Republican. With tax exemptions and anti-trust exemptions at the hands of the Committee for Government Reform, many Democrats believe that liberal bidder George Soros, has not a chance in hell. However, it seems that if there is one Republican who does not want to be in the pockets of those on Capitol Hill or those at the White House, it's Colin Powell.
There's interesting commentary on the subject at Oh Well: A Commentary on News and Politics. The blogger is right when he says that money and power often combine to form corruption, especially in Washington D.C. However, he is mistaken about the Nationals. The Nationals don't have money until they have a major investor like the ones mentioned above.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Signs of Division Within GOP on Supreme Court Nominations

It seems that the more moderate, or perhaps simply the more pragmatic wing of the Republican Party has begun to quiet the calls from the religious right to oppose Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's potential nomination to the Supreme Court. While many of Gonzales's opponents have cited that his nomination could create party division, it seems that their opposition is doing exactly that.
In an article on AMERICAblog, blogger Joe writes that "the theocrats want their payback and will not be quiet". It strikes many as absurd that conservatives would worry about the President's ability to appoint a judge that fits their definition of a "strict constructionist". However, the word in the New York Times is that "Gonzales is Spanish for Souter", a current justice who has consistently sided with the liberal wing of the court.
Nonetheless, these are different times. At the time of the Souter nomination, the president was less conservative, the Democrats controlled Congress, and the religious right was a far less potent force in American politics. Today, the Republicans have a comfortable ten seat advantage in the senate and the current president discusses the issues of abortion, affirmative action, and prayer in school (most important to social conservatives). Nevertheless, the thought of the centrist seat occupied by O'Connor being replaced with another moderate is too painful for many conservatives to take without protest.

Politics in Baseball

Washington D.C has long been home to some of the world's greatest leaders and some of its weakest baseball. However, this year, the new Washington Nationals have suprised everybody, including themselves, and are atop the National League East with a comfortable 4.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who are in second place.
However, the team is still owned by Major League Baseball, and various bidders have emerged as potential owners of the flourishing franchise. Among them is a former partner of George W. Bush, from the days when the president was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers, Fred Malek. However, another prominent name in the mix is Billionaire George Soros, an outspoken opponent of Bush. In an article titled DC Wants Owner as Red as the Uniforms, a columnist for the South Bend Tribune, Jim Kelly, discusses how Congress could prevent a liberal like George Soros from prospering as the owner of a baseball team. He includes a quote from the chairman of the government reform committee, Tom Davis (R-VA), who said that "congress understands the stakes" of selling the team to Soros.
Interestingly enough, one of the controversies detailed in Kelly's article , as well as in a similar article that appeared in the New Yorker Magazine, was the name changes that could occur depending on the political affiliation of the owner. The New Yorker writer, who is apparently skeptical of current politics, suggested naming the team The Lobbyists, since apparently they have more power than senators. Kelly said that if Soros took over the team would go from the Nationals to the United Nations.
Personally, the present writer believes that the team should be named after whatever political party is currently in power on Capitol Hill. Perhaps that would motivate people to vote out incumbents at a greater rate than they do now.

Liberals and Conservatives Liken Eachother to Terrorists

Ann Coulter, a rabid right wing columnist, has been known to argue opinions that most Americans would be hard pressed to defend. In fact, the homepage of her website, which gives dozens of examples of federally subsidized forms of "anti-American" or "pro-terrorist" free speech, in the form of college professors, museums, or monuments, should come as little suprise to those readers familiar with her rhetoric. However, while browsing the blogosphere, the writer encountered the liberal response to the Coulterish rhetoric in the form of a list composed on the Daily Kos, a well known liberal blog.
The Coulter list is mostly absurd. Although it's reasonable to question why the National Endowment of the Arts would fund an exhibit depicting Jesus Christ, a figure of great importance to many Americans, in a jar of urine, it's rediculous to take offense at a Smithsonian exhibit which said that "In America, sugar meant slavery". Slaves were a valuable component of the American economy before the civil war and to ignore that is to rewrite history. The exhibit at the Smithsonian was not a display of opinions, but of facts.
It's harder to comment on the Kos list because the "religious right" is not a set organization. However, the writer is skeptical about the Taliban's stance on stem cell research. It's hard to imagine that in a country that, until the U.S occupation, had only one internet connection, stem cell research was a major issue.

Bush's Approval Rating Down in Red States

The 2006 midterm election is not supposed to be a good one for Democrats. Most of the Republicans up for re-election are reliable incumbents in red states. However, new polls, conducted by Survey USA, are indicating that the ultimate symbol of the Republican Party, President George W. Bush, is suffering in "red states".
In Tennessee, where the young Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is expected to challenge a Republican for the soon-to-be vacant seat currently held by Majority Leader Bill Frist, Bush's disapproval rating is at a stunning 49%. Keep in mind that John Kerry did not visit Tennessee once during his presidential campaign. In Virginia, where first term Senator George Allen is anticipating a battle against the Democratic Governor Mark Warner, Bush's disapproval rating is also 49%. Most importantly, those who refer to themselves as moderates give the president a meager 40% approval rating.
Conservative blogger Jane Galt dismissed these cries of hope from Democratic bloggers as mathematically "improbable" since many of the Republican incumbents are from "safe" red states such as Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, Montana, and Utah. She also went on to list the "swing seats" that would have to be won for the democrats to gain control.
Although she is right about Mississippi, Montana, and Utah, her assumption that Virginia and Texas are safe is dubious. Although Texas and Virginia are conservative states, their voters are southern ones who do not abhor the word "Democrat" the way westerners in states such as Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah do.
Nevertheless, it's at least another year before members of either party can start legitimately speculating on the results of the elections, which will take place in November 2006. The truth is, if these polls are not indicators of the midterms, the Democrats could find themselves going the "way of the Whigs" come 2007.

Senate Profiles: Lincoln Chafee

If Rhode Island is not the most liberal state in the Union, it has certainly elected the most liberal Republican to the United States Senate. Lincoln Chafee, the lone Republican to vote against the Iraq war, and a member of an increasingly small minority of the GOP that is liberal on issues such as abortion, civil rights, and the environment, is a remnant of the long gone days when "Republican" was not synonymous with "Right Wing".
Chafee's father, the late John Chafee, became a Rhode Island icon during his tenure in the Senate; he probably has a great deal to do with his son's insistence to remain Republican, despite his tendency to vote with Senate Democrats.
However, Chafee is not liberal on everything. In 2001, he voted in favor of the $1.35 trillion tax cuts over 11 years, despite voting against another $350 billion tax cuts proposed in 2003. In many ways, he is similar to other moderate to liberal Republicans such as Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, who generally support tax relief, but are more concerned about the large budget deficit that is being carried by the current administration.
Chafee is definitely the most outspoken of the liberal Republicans. Although he openly endorsed Bush in 2004, it was not President Bush, but rather, former President George H.W Bush. Chafee told reporters that he wrote in Bush Sr. rather than choose between Bush Jr. or John Kerry.
What irks liberals about Chafee is his reluctance to challenge the President on judicial nominations and especially, John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations. Many believe that Chafee, who sits on the foreign relations committee, was capable of blocking Bolton's nomination in committee. However, Chafee responded to the criticism by saying that he was "inclined to support the President's nominations".
Chafee could be facing a tough primary in 2006 when he asks for the votes of Republicans who could feel betrayed by his liberal positions.

All About Property Taxes

As the Gubernatorial race in New Jersey heats up, the issue championed by Republicans during the primary is starting to be used against the GOP as the campaign websight of Senator Jon Corzine, the Democratic nominee, points to the fact that throughout the last 20 years, property taxes have increased an average of 7% under Republican leadership and 6% when there's a Democrat in Trenton.
While this percentage is almost token, considering the time span that's being discussed, the rhetoric is an important step for Democrats who will first need to combat the "high tax and high waste" image that's been associated with the administration of ex-Governor Jim McGreevy if they expect to see Corzine in office.

An Anti-Federalist to the Court?

One of the more interesting pieces of information concerning the Supreme Court nominations involves one of the potential nominees, Michael J. Luttig, a judge on the 4th circuit court of appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia. Luttig dissented in a case where the majority ruled that for North Carolina farmers to shoot Red Wolves, which have been categorized as Endangered Species, on their property, would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. However, is Luttig's dissention, the judge argued that since there were only 43 known Red Wolves in North Carolina, the issue cannot possibly be one of "interstate commerce", and hence is out of the jurisdiction of the federal legislature.
This philosophy that Luttig embraces is called "New Federalism", the belief that Congress should not enact laws that bind the states. However, to the writer, it seems to contradict the very purpose of James Madison's constitution, which was written to replace the Ariticles of Confederation, which gave the federal government so little power since every state had to ratify every law that was passed in the capitol.

United Church of Christ Backs Gay Marriage

The United Church of Christ became the first mainstream Christian denomination to openly support same-sex marriage when the "general synod" (the church governing council) passed a resolution endorsing "equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender". In the New York Times article, quotes from various UCC pastors showed slight differences of opinion on the issue, including one minister saying that he would have favored a resolution endorsing civil unions, rather than the right to marriage. The resolution is a continuance of the UCC's long history of championing human rights as it came out against slavery in 1700 and even ordained a woman as early as 1853.
Interestingly, the UCC has been conducting a campaign for gay rights for some time now, starting with a commercial that was turned down by TV networks in which a bouncer at a club would not let nonwhites or gay couples in. At the conclusion of the ad, a text appeared which read "Jesus didn't turn people away...Neither do we"
The UCC is one of several churches that is guided by the philosophy that "God is still speaking", meaning that there is more to interpret than the original text of the Bible. It would be interesting to see the political distribution of the Church membership, especially since there is little evidence of division within the UCC, despite its relatively large population of 1.3 million.

Miller Doing Time While Novak Enjoys CNN

For those of you who read the New York Times, you probably know of the case involving Judith Miller, the Times reporter who has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to release her sources before a Federal Grand Jury.
What Miller did to receive a subpoena was miniscule: she gathered information relating to a case involving the syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who, during a rant about former U.S diplomat to various African nations, Joseph C. Wilson, disclosed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a secret officer of the CIA, investigating weapons of mass destruction in Niger. Although what Novak did is grounds for a federal offense, since he not only ruined Plame's career as a secret agent but put her in immediate danger, no law enforcement authority seems interested in prosecuting him.
What's more interesting is that despite the possibility that a high level official might have leaked this information to Novak, he has not received a subpoena to testify. Furthermore, Judith Miller, who was merely reporting on the potential leak that may have occured in the Novak case, is now going to prison for contempt of court. What or who is protecting Novak from the wrath unleashed on the Miller?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Supreme Court Discussion leads to Charges of "Democratic Obstructionism"

Virtually every organ of the Democratic Party has already spoken out against what it expects President Bush to do to the Supreme Court: turn it into a forum of right wing ideology for decades to come. Leading Democrat Ted Kennedy released a statement that sparked protest from conservative pundits when he said that "(senate democrats) intend to oppose any candidate" that does not champion the rights of the mainstream America. Right Wing Activists such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity can be expected to bark back with the standard "anti-kennedy" rhetoric. Anybody in the tri-state area can probably hear this general discussion by tuning into WABC 770, AM from about 12 pm-9pm.
However, conservatives besides those in the entertainment industry can also be expected to take advantage of the political opportunities that open when Democrats threaten to block Supreme Court nominees that are "out of the mainstream". Senator John Warner (R-VA) has already warned that the "nuclear option is on the table", in anticipation of a Democratic filibuster during the confirmation.
Although neither party has done especially well in the polls lately, the nomination process is likely to favor the GOP. Since there was a deal struck between both parties during the last judicial crises, if the Democrats filibuster a Supreme Court confirmation-despite the obviously grave importance of selecting an appropriate judge for the position-, they will seem to have broken their promise. This will seem especially obvious if the president decides to nominate one of the judges who was accepted in the previous deal, such as Janice Rogers Brown or Pricilla Owen. Since they were not considered extraordinary circumstances in the deal, it will be hard for the Democrats to label them so in the Supreme Court battle.

Cuba Embargo Comes up in Interior Appropriations

After spending merely two days on debate, the Senate passed the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2005. Although the final bill did not drastically change the current funding level of the Interior, as might be expected with President Bush's calls to cut spending, there were numerous interesting amendments that came up during the two days of debate.
One of them represented the annual attempt by Democrats to ease relations with Cuba. This time it was an amendment by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) that would have facilitated travel to Cuba in the instance of "humanitarian circumstances". Although the amendment was not officially rejected, the supporters of the provision motioned to "suspend the rules" on the amendment, meaning that for some reason they could not vote of the amendment due to a procedural block. However, in order to suspend the rules, a 2/3 majority was needed, and the motion failed. The supporters have a diverse membership, including the vast majority of democrats as well as some of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate such as Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Michael Enzi and Craig Thomas of Wyoming, and Jon Kyl of Arizona. While most Republicans dissented, several democrats in traditionally liberal Senators Frank Lautenberg and John Corzine of New Jersey, as well as conservative Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Most importantly, the Democratic leader, Harry Reid also voted Nay. This is a link to an interesting blog owned by a liberal who works for the Latin America Working Group, a lobby that works to open relations with Cuba.

Thorny Path to Court for Gonzales

Although the only man who nominates judges has openly shown interest in sending him to the Supreme Court, Alberto Gonzales is probably growing increasingly pessimistic about his chances to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The reason is not related to the strong opposition he faced from Senate Democrats during his confirmation to be the U.S attorney general. The infamous memo he sent detailing interrogation methods that drew scathing criticism from Senator Joe Biden, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has nothing to do with his doubts.
Curiously, what seems to be blocking Gonzales' chances at the Court is doubts from conservatives, not liberals. Already conservative interests groups have sent delegations to the White House protesting what they see as a dangerous interest of the President's. Leading conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly, The National Taxpayers Union, and the National Review have all expressed some form of cynicism about his potential nomination.
To many conservatives, Gonzales displayed questionable views on affirmative action and most importantly, abortion, during his tenure on the Texas Supreme Court. It seems that while he was on the court, Gonzales was rather liberal in granting permission to pregnant minors to forego the state mandated process of getting permission from their parents to receive an abortion. However, the court's policy was to allow this only if parental notification would put the specific minor at "risk of abuse".
However, any sign of waffling on the abortion issue is sure to ignite strong opposition from the right wing of the Republican Party. Republicans are already weary of "appeasement" in the form of Anthony Kennedy and David Souter, the former having served as a swing vote and the latter having served as a reliable liberal.

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