Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court Overturns Guantanamo Tribunals

In a 5-3 ruling today (5-4 for all practical purposes), the Supreme Court threw out the Bush Administration's Guantanamo "trials" ruling that they violated the Geneva Convention as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This ruling provided the first hard evidence of Alito's tendencies to defer to executive power as I argued he would do when he was nominated. The Bush Administration really seems to view this as its top priority for Supreme Court nominees, they want people who will defer to the President's authority, as Bush believes (probably rightly) that his legacy resides with the success of his "war on terror." Marty Lederman at SCOTUSBlog has more.
the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.

This was a nice rebuke of the Bush Administration's claims of a completely open ended interpretation of executive power in wartime, as well as their claims of the Afghanistan war resolution as a completely open ended document for executive power. This was a big relief to see a rebuke of the Administration here, the claim they make to justify these outrages that the Afghanistan war resolution lets them do nearly anything they want is disturbing on several levels. Most importantly the fact that the "war on terror" that the Administration claims to be fighting will go on forever would, under their argument here as well as in Padilla and Hamdi, give the President nearly universal wartime powers as long as the President wants them. There is no traditional war against a traditional enemy at all, if we view the "war on terror" as a traditional war we will be fighting it forever, for terrorism can never be completely eradicated. Given the arguments the Administration has made about the Afghanistan war resolution, Barbara Lee's vote against it is starting to look awfully good. I suspect many more Senators and Representatives would have voted against it if they thought the Administration would use it the way they have.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Supreme Court to Review Bush Administration's Refusal to Regulate Carbon Emmissions

The Supreme Court has accepted an appeal in the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency which challenges the Bush Administration's claim that they are not required to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. I don't know enough about the specifics of this case to discuss how the Court should rule, but it is a sorry day that we even have to debate this. Whether they are required to or not, the EPA should be working to curb carbon dioxide emmissions. This is the greatest environmental challenge of our day and the Bush Administration sits back and works for big oil instead of working for the American people. From a public policy perspective this approach by the Administration is irresponsible.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Washington Post Spouts Bullshit

Washington Post writers Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray show that they have no idea what they're talking about in an article about the House move to put off immigration until after the election.
House Republicans have long frowned upon the president's approach. In December, they passed a bill that would tighten border controls, clamp down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and declare illegal immigrants and those who assist them to be felons. Their position was solidified this month after Republican Brian Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby by running against Bush's immigration plan in a hard-fought special election to replace imprisoned former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

There is absolutely no evidence in support of that statement, and actually some limited evidence that the opposite might be true. The fact is that the CA-50 in which Bilbray defeated Busby has a +14% Republican edge, to suggest that Bilbray won because of his hard line on immigration is patently absurd when as a Republican he won by only a 3% margin in a heavily Republican district. Furthermore, the independent running in the race who had the endorsement of the minutemen only won about 4% of the vote. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Bilbray won because of his conservative stance on immigration, while it might have actually hurt him considering that the race in the CA-50 should have been an easy win for Republican Brian Bilbray. The Washington Post should try doing a little bit of research before they write total bull shit and claim it to be fact.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Broder Hates Democracy

David Broder, defending Joe Lieberman in his collumn seems to suggest that long time Senators should not be held accountable to their party's voters in a primary. The essential fact of the matter is that Lieberman has run this campaign like a Republican and seems to have a disturbing willingness to flee the Party and run as an independent if he doesn't win. Furthermore, Broder ends his collumn defending perhaps Lieberman's most rediculous statement comparing Connecticut Primary voters to Jihadists. As if its so outrageous for issues to matter to voters. Just because Lieberman is an incumbent does not give him free reign to do anything without repurcussions from the voters. If Lieberman does not feel that he's a Democrat anymore he should leave the Party before the primary, he should not run as an independent in a fit that his message does not resonate with Connecticut primary voters.
"I know I'm taking a position that is not popular within the party," Lieberman said, "but that is a challenge for the party -- whether it will accept diversity of opinion or is on a kind of crusade or jihad of its own to have everybody toe the line. No successful political party has ever done that."

I just find that unbelievable, primary voters are jihadists according to their Senator, anyone who runs on that message doesn't deserve to win the primary.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


End this, now, please, time to get out.
WASHINGTON - American deaths since the invasion of
Iraq have reached 2,500, marking a grim milestone in the wake of recent events that
President Bush hopes will reverse the war's unpopularity at home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

United Auto Workers Re-elect President

Ron Gettelfinger has been re-elected as President of the United Auto Workers. I don't know a whole lot about Gettelfinger, but I do know one thing. The UAW needs to change direction. They cannot continue to accept pay cuts and suffer layoffs as they have in recent years. They are declining in numbers and relevence, as the article points out:
All the union officers were elected by a voice vote, and there was no opposition to any of the nominations, despite the troubles have swept the industry during the past four years. In that time, the U.A.W. has lost roughly 78,000 members, falling to under 600,000, the lowest level since 1942.

The lowest level since 1942, amazing. The fate of our country will fall in line with the fate of labor, and the UAW is of particular importance. The break in labor last fall was an acknowledgement of this, things cannot continue to be done the same way. As for the United Auto Workers, they must move away from their tendency to pit themselves against environmentalists. The US auto industry is in decline and the only way to curb that will be for US auto manufacturers to be innovative as they once were. I'm sure if Henry Ford could return to this earth he would be shocked to find that we are still using the internal combustion engine (I stole that from somebody, but I don't remember who). The UAW should join hands with environmentalists to push for US car manufacturers to aggressively pursue energy efficient vehicles, beginning with hybrid technology and moving forward from there. It serves the best interest of all parties involved, environmentalists concerned with global warming, workers concerned with job and pay cuts, and the manufacturers who are seeing declining sales. This is perhaps the best possible example of an issue that would fall within Rousseau's "general will." Everybody's interests would be best served by a move towards energy efficient innovation by the US car companies. The UAW needs leadership that will push them in that direction using whatever tools necessary.

House Appropriations Committee Passes Minimum Wage Increase

The House Appropriations Committee voted Monday to add a minimum wage increase to an appropriations bill for labor and health programs. I don't see this passing ultimately, but its nice to see this move forward. I thank the 7 Republicans who broke ranks to tack this onto the bill. I predict that the Republican leadership won't let the bill go to the floor with the amendment, which would be an interesting hypocrisy for people who forced ANWR drilling onto the floor via appropriations bill. Hopefully this can set the stage for the passage of a similar minimum wage increase when the Democrats take control of the House in 2006, force Bush to veto it and expose the agenda of his party.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dog Night

I was just watching ESPN and found out that its "dog night" in Detroit for the Tigers game. It was so funny I had to put it here. This brought to mind several questions. Do you have to buy an extra seat for your dog? If you do have to buy an extra seat for your dog how much does the "dog seat" cost? Is this Detroit's way to sell out the stadium, by selling a few thousand seats to dogs? If the dog runs out on the field, who gets ejected, the dog or the owner?

Monday, June 12, 2006

WaPo Summarizes the Candidates

The Washington Post summarized the candidates for Mexico's Presidency on the 9th. Patricia Mercado actually sounds pretty good, but I still stand strongly behind Obrador. When I was in Mexico in January I recall seeing several signs for Mercado, but knew nothing about her until now. I just hope she doesn't serve as Obrador's Nader. As an aside, this piece of the article struck me as interesting:
In 2000, Obrador became mayor of Mexico City. He won over the hearts of residents by providing cash subsidies to single mothers and the elderly and addressing horrendous traffic problems with elevated highways and an improved bus system. He left office in 2005 with an unprecedented 80 percent approval rating.

If Obrador improved the traffic flow in that City I would hate to see what it looked like before he became Mayor, that town has some major traffic problems.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why Stop At Flag Burning?

The three items on the Republican Senate agenda this week were gay marriage, estate tax repeal, and flag burning. Two of these have now failed and we are waiting on the constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the American flag. Before the Senate votes on flag burning, Senator Frist should withdraw the constitutional amendment and rewrite it to make it more expansive and more in line with the conservative GOP agenda.

It is clear from Ann Coulter's outrageous comments recently, and from the Republicans rushing to defend her, that what they really want is for ordinary citizens to be stripped of the right to criticize their government. So Mr. Frist, I ask you, why would you stop so far short of what you really want? Particularly given how extraordinarily rare flag burnings are. Senator Frist, please, do not undershoot your goals, legislate to make America what your Party clearly wants America to be. I propose that the flag burning amendment be withdrawn so that a far better constitutional amendment can be brought to the floor. Why stop at flag burning? The Senate Republicans should instead go for what their party really wants and ban all speech except by public officials. For as Ms. Coulter and her supporters have argued: Why let the 9/11 victims make the case when Howard Dean can make it for them? Let's just get rid of speech by ordinary citizens, that way we can better weed out the rabble. The text of the amendment currently reads as follows:
The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.

But this can be much improved upon, Senator Frist should not stop there, when he can go so much further. The Amendment that the Senate should in fact be voting on would read like this.
The first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Private Citizens in the United States shall speak only when spoken to.

With the extraordinary effort Republican partisons have gone to recently to defend Ann Coulter's outrageous statements, I fail to see why the Republican Party would sell itself short. Senator Frist should move to eliminate the pesky First Amendment immediately.

cross posted at dailykos

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi Killed

Al Zarqawi has been killed in a US Airstrike. Ultimately I believe this is meaningless in terms of what happens in Iraq, though not insignificant in public opionion related issues within the United States. The Iraqi insurgency has no top down organizational structure. The Iraqi insurgency doesn't even have a common goal. People are fond of comparing this war to Vietnam, and some of the parrallels are valid, but one thing in particular breaks down. In Vietnam it was easier to tell who the enemy was. This is because in Vietnam we were fighting the Vietcong who wanted South Vietnam to join communist North Vietnam, but in Iraq we are fighting 8 million different factions that all want something different. Some are Sunni separatists, some Shia fundamentalists, some Sunni fundamentalists, some former Baathists, and some foreign fundamentalists fighting their jihad for no secular purpose at all. Its such a hodgepodge of interests that we literally have no enemy in Iraq.

Whoa, Slow Down

Abe Kaul blogs like he's on crack.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Results Coming In

The special election in the CA-50th seems to be tightening as the night goes on, Busby currently trails 45.06% to 49.64% with 78% of precincts reporting. I don't think she can bridge the gap, though I hope I'm wrong when I wake up. An impressive run by Busby to do that well in a heavily Republican district and force the Republicans to spend $4 million to the Democrats $2 million in order to hold onto it. A fiercely Republican district, I will count the closeness of this race as a moral victory.

In other news, Jon Tester has defeated John Morrison for the Montana Democratic Party nomination to take on Sen. Conrad Burns in the November election. The nation's most unpopular Senator is in trouble. David Sirota has a great post on Tester.

Good Night and Good Luck.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Election Day

It is election day in the CA-50. I would expect a close race for the House seat left open by Duke Cunningham. Personally, unless there is very low Republican turnout (a definate possibility) I don't see Busby getting over the 46% she took in the primary.

I will now take this moment to criticize the fact that there is a special election at all. It is only a few months until the general election in November, and much of that time the House will be out of session. There was no reason for a special election here, whoever wins is going to have to be elected again after just a few months. Personally I think Arnold should have just appointed someone to fill the seat until the election, instead San Diego County has to spend a lot of money and resources on running this special election. The OH-02 special election was different, the winner of that election had most of a term to fill out, and thus it made sense. Here it really does not. I hope the best for Busby, but there shouldn't be a special election, it is a waste of time and resources.

Monday, June 05, 2006

On the Mexican Presidential Election

I am watching this election pretty closely, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Center-Left PRD in Mexico is currently running neck in neck with Felipe Calderon of the right wing PAN (Vincinte Fox's party). The Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico as a one party state for 70 years until Fox's election in 2000 seems to be completely out of the race. The New York Times ran an excellent article about the race and about Obrador in particular yesterday. Some exerpts from the article of particular interest to me.
As the Mexican historian Enrique Krauze has pointed out, López Obrador's emphasis on his loyalty to the poor connects him, in the mind of much of the Mexican general public, to "the core ideals of the Mexican Revolution." It is common at campaign rallies to see people holding placards with slogans like "López Obrador: For all Mexicans, but first for the humble" and "They will not rob us of our dreams."
"People say that I am promising too much. But we're talking about a society where 20 million people — 20 million! — live on $2 a day. So when, for example, I talk about giving food aid to the poor, I'm talking about 20 pesos each" — the equivalent of about $2. "And that money — those $2 — would double what these 20 million get and radically change their lives. What the people of Mexico need is not that much, you know."
Everything changed when Fox, the PAN candidate, won the 2000 elections and the PRI government of Ernesto Zedillo did not try to invalidate the results. But in the minds of many Mexicans, perhaps even a majority, this political transformation was not matched by economic progress. The middle class unquestionably expanded during Fox's term, and along with it grew rates of homeownership and, in certain regions of the country, disposable incomes. But in other parts of the country, the Nafta years were ones of falling incomes and rising joblessness. A result was mass emigration to the United States, enormous even by already-high past standards. "It's not a migration; it's an exodus" was the way one of López Obrador's aides described it. Or, as one Mexican writer put it to me, Fox did create 10 million jobs for Mexicans — unfortunately, they were all in the United States.

López Obrador emphasizes the emigration issue at virtually every campaign stop. Resentment at the treatment of Mexican migrants in the United States is at a fever pitch in Mexico, with practically every affront against illegal workers, real or imagined, getting huge coverage in the Mexican media; the recent pro-legalization rallies in the U.S. were treated with adulation. But López Obrador speaks of emigration as a tragedy for Mexico and as something Mexico needs to put a stop to out of its own national interest. Unlike many Mexican political figures, AMLO doesn't seem to expect the U.S. to continue to accept the current levels of immigration. Nor does he base his economic calculations on the $20 billion that emigrants to the U.S. send home each year, in the process helping to prop up the Mexican economy. And he says that addressing the question will be a priority for his administration.

"If I am elected," he told me, "I will propose a conference on migration with the United States. Building a wall is not a viable solution. The only thing that will work is creating jobs in Mexico. Fox was not able to maintain good relations with Washington. But I can't see any reason why I can't succeed in doing so."

Mexico has not had anyone like this ever, someone who really seeks to make life significantly better for poor Mexicans who have been forgotten about in a neoliberal tide. All through her history Mexican politics have been dominated by foreign business interests. There have been brief shifts away from this, obviously in the break from Spain, in the rise of Benito Juarez, and the Mexican Revolution, all represented an acknowledgement of the struggles of indigenous and southern Mexicans, but they were shortlived. Independence was followed by Santa Anna, Juarez was followed by the French occupation, and the Revolution was betrayed by the PRI. Obrador follows from the tradition of Hidaldo, of Juarez, and of Zapata, the tradition that fights for the poor and disenfranchised of Mexico.

Too many particularly in the south have been pushed aside by this neoliberal tide. In principle NAFTA can be good for Mexico, and where I had worried about the extent to which Obrador was against the treaty, this article kind of puts those fears to rest. He seems to acknowledge that NAFTA and globalization are a fact of life but wants to alter the trade policies so that poor rural farmers and workers are better protected. In terms of US Mexico relations, I really think that Obrador hits immigration issues on the head, its bad for Mexico to be losing some of its most motivated citizens to the United States. It is as I've said many times here before, an economic refugee crisis. It is a problem of human suffering, and people are going to continue to migrate to where the jobs lie, to Mexico City and to the United States until the basic problem of poverty that drives the situation is dealt with.

Great article on the race, not nearly as pro-Obrador as I am, but a very good summary of the election circumstances, go check it out. As a side note, I believe that Obrador's support is underrepresented in the polling, his support will come from rural and poor areas where pollsters will be unable to reach. Mexican polling has failed before, Fox trailed by 6% right before the election in 2000, and we all know what happened.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gore Instists that he Will Not Run for President

In today's Washington Post, Al Gore explicitly states that he will not run for President.
"I can't imagine any circumstances in which I would become a candidate again. I've found other ways to serve. I'm enjoying them."
"I have no plans to be a candidate for president again," he said. "I don't expect to ever be a candidate for president again. I haven't made a so-called Sherman statement, because it just seems unnecessary, kind of odd to do that."

Its a shame, if he wanted it I think the Democratic nomination certainly, and the Presidency likely would be his for the taking in 2008. The remade Al Gore would be a compelling candidate far better than the cautious candidate we saw in 2000.

Pinning Down the Identity Gap

I believe I have found the cause of the identity gap. It would certainly need more study if I have. Check out the Diary at DailyKos.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Republican Strategy in 2006

They have no record to run on, they have cheerleaded a disastrous war, the most visable public figure for their Party has a 30% approval rating, and they have failed to engage in any oversight of an administration that, as Blumenthal pointed out in yesterday's Salon, has shown a blatant disregard for the Constitution. So what are the Republicans going to do to avoid losing one or both Houses of Congress in November? Jack Cafferty hits it on the nose on CNN this morning. They are going to try to ride hatred, bigotry, and fear into the election.
This is pure politics. If has nothing to do with whether or not you believe in gay marriage. It's blatant posturing by Republicans, who are increasingly desperate as the midterm elections approach. There's not a lot else to get people interested in voting on them, based on their record of the last five years.

But if you can appeal to the hatred, bigotry, or discrimination in some people, you might move them to the polls to vote against that big, bad gay married couple that one day might in down the street.

Its really no different than the strategy in 2002 and 2004, divide the country and push all public debate into a "us vs. them" mentality. In 2002 and 2004 it was easier for they could simply use 9/11 to do this. Now, with Republican leadership in foreign policy clearly out of touch, this tactic of division and seclusion has a greatly diminished chance of working for the Republicans in 2006. So they have returned to their favorite whipping boy in 2004, the gays, and added a new player to the mix. The "illegals". Expect the Republican theme in 2006 to be a constant harping of the need to be afraid of these two minority groups. Be afraid of the gays and the illegals.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The War Paradigm

Sidney Blumenthal has a good article over at Salon on the "war paradigm" adopted by the Bush Administration after the September 11th attacks. Not anything really new, but he clearly and concisely hits the mark on the way this Administration governs. One piece of information I was unaware of:
In the short run, Bush's defense of his war paradigm could precipitate three potential constitutional crises. In the first, freedom of the press would be at issue. On May 21, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the "possibility" that the New York Times would be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for publishing its Pulitzer Prize-winning article on the administration's warrantless domestic surveillance. "It can't be the case," he said, that the First Amendment "trumps" the "right" of the government "to go after criminal activity" -- and he then defined the Times' printing of its story as "criminal activity."

The 1917 Espionage Act? I was either unaware of Gonzalez making this argument or had forgotten all about it. That shows a truly unbeleivable disrespect of the first amendment and for openness in government. Very good article, go read it.

Spokesman Review Avoids Reality

Ironically on this day the Spokesman Review decides to run this fantasy article, the major news of the day would be this report. One wonders if Sowell and the Spokesman Review which chooses to pick up his article have been paying attention particularly in the past month when we've seen a major decline in the stock market, rising inflation, and now very low job returns. Is there any remaining doubt that the Spokesman Review clings to some FoxNewsesque idea of balance? Anyone who hopes to become informed by reading the paper should probably be avoiding the Spokesman at this point. When the Spokesman Review consistantly runs this kind of crap and then "balances" it with soft moderates like David Broder its seriousness as a paper is put into question.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bush Tries to Reconcile House and Senate Immigration Bills

President Bush attempting to convince the House and Senate Republicans to reach a compromise over their competing immigration bills today spoke from the US Chamber of Commerce headquarters on the need for compromise.

At this point it strikes me that neither bill is good, the Senate bill is bad but not terrible and the House bill is outrageous. There is no reason that this issue needs to be dealt with at this exact moment. Democrats should withdraw their support and allow Republicans to feud over the xenophobe bill and the corporate friendly bill. If most Democrats withdraw their support from both bills I don't think there's any way that these can be reconciled, we can come back to the issue after the midterms or after the 2008 Presidential election. Until this is taken for what it is, an economic refugee crisis nothing good can come of it. What is needed is serious visa reform (which a guest worker program with a path to citizenship starts to do), a renegotiating of NAFTA, and a committment to helping Mexico improve her rural infrastructure. As long as we're talking about militarizing the border, eliminating due process for illegal immigrants, and building a giant fence nothing should be passed.