That's the bottom line.
Seat Al Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or we'll block a new organizing resolution that would let you reassign Specter's previously Republican committee seats to one of your own.
Until a new organizing resolution is adopted, Specter's committee seats (Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans' Affairs, Environment & Public Works, Special Aging) are locked in. He'll be caucusing and (sometimes, anyway) voting as a Democrat, but will be occupying Republican seats.
Democrats should demand Republican agreement to seat Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or they'll just block a new organizing resolution until he arrives, and change it as they see fit later on. After all, with 60 Democrats (once Franken is finally seated), they can give themselves any ratios they want, whether they opt to remain true to the 60/40 split in the Senate or not, since there won't be enough votes to filibuster an unfair organizing resolution.
But we wouldn't want it to come to that, would we?
Until there's a change, Appropriations goes effectively from 17-13 in favor of Democrats to 18-12. Judiciary to 12-7. Environment to 12-7. Veterans' Affairs to 10-5. Special Aging to 12-7....(Click for remainder.)
This is why the Republicans are at 21%. This is why moderate Republicans have either been defeated, retired, or have become Democrats. This is why people like me, and Markos, and Arianna once were Republicans, and now no more (I can't really speak for Markos and Arianna, but you get the idea). The Republican party is dying. It began at least a decade ago. The party moved so far to the right, embraced such extremists and extremism - calling Obama a socialist? - that a super-majority of Americans now no longer identify with the GOP.
And speaking of Michael Steele, let's not forget that it was Steele who said the GOP would seek retribution for voting for the stimulus package. So let's all give Michael "pro-choice (sometimes) and pro-gay-marriage (kind of)" Steele a hearty thanks for the great work he's doing leading the GOP. Today couldn't have happened without him.
PS Steele, in his live phone interview on CNN, also keeps using the word "Democrat" incorrectly - it's something far-right Republicans do, in some kind of weird effort to diminish Democrats. For example, he just referred to the "Democrat primary" and the "Democrat base." It's Democratic. You'd think the head of the Republican party would know how to speak proper English. But putting that aside, it's one more sign of just how bad the Republican party has become - resorting to cute little far-right mind games like mispronouncing the name of the party rather than proposing ways to get us out of the economic crisis and avoid a worldwide flu pandemic....(Click for original.)
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Olympia Snowe — one of the three moderate Republicans including Arlen Specter who supported President Obama's stimulus package — told CNN Tuesday that she has also been approached many times about becoming a Democrat, but that it hasn't happened for a while.
"I've been asked, but not recently," she said.
Snowe said the Republican Party never learned its lesson from the "painful" party switch of Sen. Jim Jeffords in 2001.
"For me personally and then for the party, its devastating," Snowe said of Specter's move. "I've always been concerned about the Republican party nationally, about their exclusionary policies towards moderate Republicans. That's not a secretly held view on my part."
(Click for original.)
“This was a straight up survival decision,” according to NBC News’ Chuck Todd.
The Washington Post reports, “Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.”
“Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota,” Chris Cillizza writes for the paper’s online The Fix column.
“My change in party affiliation does not mean I will be a party line voter for the Democrats than I have been for the Republicans,” Specter noted in a press release. “Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatically 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on employee free choice card check will not change.”
Cillizza observes, “Because of the shrinking Republican vote in the state, Specter was seen as a dead man walking politically in the primary with polling showing him trailing Toomey by ten or more points. The bar for Specter to run as an independent was also extremely high due to the rules governing such a third party candidacy. That left a Democratic candidacy as Specter’s best option if he wanted to remain in the Senate beyond 2010.”...(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via Time.com
(WASHINGTON) — The Senate was set to approve President Barack Obama's nominee for health and human services secretary Tuesday, giving the agency a leader in the midst of the swine flu outbreak.
Morning debate and an afternoon vote were scheduled to confirm Kathleen Sebelius, the two-term Democratic governor of Kansas. She was expected to get the 60 votes needed in the Democratic-led Senate, though perhaps with little margin to spare. (See pictures of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico.)
Anti-abortion groups have been lobbying Republican senators to vote against Sebelius, criticizing her stances on abortion and her ties to a late-term abortion doctor who donated to her campaigns. Sebelius initially underreported to senators the size of those donations, though she apologized and said it was an inadvertent error.
If she's confirmed, Sebelius would have an immediate challenge because of the swine flu outbreak. With no HHS secretary in place, the White House has turned to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to help lead its response, even while insisting that vacancies at the top of HHS were not a problem.
Sebelius would be the first of 20 HHS officials requiring Senate approval to clinch her job, so she'd be getting to work without much of a team. The Senate hasn't acted on Obama's nominees for deputy HHS secretary or commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Obama hasn't even nominated people for other key jobs, including surgeon general and assistant secretary for preparedness and response....(Click for remainder.)
Sean Hannity must have thought he struck political gold last night by accusing Nancy Pelosi of lying when she said she wasn't briefed on the CIA's "interrogation techniques." Ignoring, as he usually does, the questions of who ordered the torture and the other details surrounding our treatment of prisoners, Hannity developed a sudden fascination with this one aspect of the controversy. And instead of interviewing anyone with any real knowledge of the situation, he brought on Bernard Goldberg. After attacking Pelosi, Goldberg joined Hannity in tarring Obama as a friend to our enemies by suggesting he was not moral enough to use torture if it would save American lives. With video.
"Witness after witness after witness" Hannity crowed, all say that Democrats knew specific details that "enhanced interrogation" would be used and "they enthusiastically supported it, encouraged it and actually questioned if they should go further."
If Goldberg has any credentials regarding Capitol Hill, they were not disclosed to the FOX News audience. He was introduced merely as the author of a book (which I refuse to plug by naming) about so-called liberal media bias.
But that didn't stop Goldberg from opining that if Pelosi "called me up personally and told me the sun was going to come up tomorrow morning in the east, I would check it out."
Hannity chuckled heartily.
Goldberg went on to make the dubious claim that in 2002 there were "very, very few" politicians against "enhanced interrogation." But media expert Goldberg didn't seem to think it necessary to explain how he knew such a thing. Goldberg went on to speak contemptuously about a truth commission on torture. "But if we're going to have one, fine. Let Nancy Pelosi be the first witness, under oath to tell us what she knew and when she knew it." If she's found to be lying, "Prosecute her. Plain and simple. Prosecute her for not telling the truth."
Hannity heartily agreed. In the Orwellian world of Fox News, torture should not be investigted (much less punished) but lying under oath is a major crime.
Getting up on his high, Hanctimonious horse, Hannity again hypocritically accused the Democrats of "politicizing national security." Then he once again all but begged our enemies to attack us by trumpeting how much more vulnerable to attack we are now....(Click for remainder.)
The Raw Story
The Fox television network has refused to air President Barack Obama’s primetime press conference on Wednesday night, scheduled to mark the president’s 100th day in office.
“The address, scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET), could have possibly affected the ‘American Idol’ results show, which begins at 9 p.m., and the network did not want to risk that during the critical sweeps period for ratings, according to sources,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “Fox has historically not registered high ratings for presidential addresses and decided, given the nature of this particular press conference, not to show it, sources said. Fox aired Obama’s two previous primetime addresses.”
“It’s the first time a broadcast network has refused Obama’s request,” noted the Associated Press. “This will be the third prime-time news conference in Obama’s presidency. ABC, CBS and NBC are airing it.”
“Network execs got word yesterday morning that Obamavision was making another return visit, sending them scrambling to decide whether to air, how to reschedule planned programming, etc.,” opined the Washington Post’s television columnist. “Really, how hard would it have been to count 100 days out from Obama’s first day in office in anticipation that something like this would happen, and get out ahead of this headache? The guy’s nothing if not consistent when it comes to on-camera time.”...(Click for remainder.)
By Tom Jacobs
AlterNet via Mother Jones
Jonathan Haidt is hardly a road-rage kind of guy, but he does get irritated by self-righteous bumper stickers. The soft-spoken psychologist is acutely annoyed by certain smug slogans that adorn the cars of fellow liberals: "Support our troops: Bring them home" and "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
"No conservative reads those bumper stickers and thinks, 'Hmm—so liberals are patriotic!'" he says, in a sarcastic tone of voice that jarringly contrasts with his usual subdued sincerity. "We liberals are universalists and humanists; it's not part of our morality to highly value nations. So to claim dissent is patriotic—or that we're supporting the troops, when in fact we're opposing the war—is disingenuous.
"It just pisses people off."
The University of Virginia scholar views such slogans as clumsy attempts to insist we all share the same values. In his view, these catch phrases are not only insincere—they're also fundamentally wrong. Liberals and conservatives, he insists, inhabit different moral universes. There is some overlap in belief systems, but huge differences in emphasis.
In a creative attempt to move beyond red-state/blue-state clichés, Haidt has created a framework that codifies mankind's multiplicity of moralities. His outline is simultaneously startling and reassuring—startling in its stark depiction of our differences, and reassuring in that it brings welcome clarity to an arena where murkiness of motivation often breeds contention.
He views the demonization that has marred American political debate in recent decades as a massive failure in moral imagination. We assume everyone's ethical compass points in the same direction and label those whose views don't align with our sense of right and wrong as either misguided or evil. In fact, he argues, there are multiple due norths.
"I think of liberals as colorblind," he says in a hushed tone that conveys the quiet intensity of a low-key crusader. "We have finely tuned sensors for harm and injustice but are blind to other moral dimensions. Look at the way the word 'wall' is used in liberal discourse. It's almost always related to the idea that we have to knock them down....(Click for remainder.)
The new Congress has been making up for lost time on climate change. Senators and Representatives have been rushing to get a cap-and-something passed this year.
At the same time there are fears that it may be impossible to build a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for a good climate bill, leaving greens with two options: either accept a bad bill, or accept inaction.
But things might not be as bad as they seem.
In a report released today, the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law found that if push comes to shove, Obama could create a cap-and-trade system on his own, complete with auctions and the ability to sign an international agreement.
This means that if the Senate refuses to agree to meaningful action on climate change, there is another option available. Obviously this is not ideal—legislation would provide a better democratic “stamp” and help ensure the longevity of the policy. But at the end of the day, with climate tipping points breathing down our neck, and the Copenhagen summit looming large, it is good to know that our President could pull the trigger.
At the same time that the Obama administration has the option to create a cap-and-trade system, it is also under a strict timetable to begin regulating greenhouse gases from a host of sources. First cars, then marine vessels and aircraft, and eventually stationary sources. Many of these mandatory requirements of the Clean Air Act can only be fulfilled by command-and-control regulation—which businesses hate because they are more costly and constrain flexibility. By law, EPA will eventually have to choice but to regulate. If industry wants to avoid these regs, then, they will have to go through Congress....(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration took steps Monday to reverse a last-minute Bush-era rule that allows mountaintop mining waste to be dumped near streams saying it was bad public policy.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the rule didn't "pass the smell test" and he wanted a federal judge to give the Office of Surface Mining another crack at refining the so-called buffer zone rule. If a judge approves, Salazar proposed the temporary reinstatement of a 1983 regulation that would keep coal companies 100 feet away from streams unless they could prove mining wouldn't harm water quality or quantity.
Two lawsuits pending in federal court seek to block or overturn the Bush rule, which was approved the month the administration left office.
In a court filing Monday on one of the cases, Justice Department lawyers said the rule should be vacated because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had not been consulted about its effect on threatened and endangered species. Sending the rule back to be reworked would achieve the same relief sought by the lawsuits, the filing said.
"The responsible development of our coal supplies is important to America's energy security," Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. "But as we develop these reserves we must also protect our treasured landscapes, our land, our water and our wildlife."
But environmentalists who would like to see mountaintop removal end altogether said the Interior Department would have to do more to protect waterways from mountaintop mining. Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs in one of the cases, said that while the lawsuit would be null and void if the judge agrees with the administration, the fight would go on to ensure the rule was enforced....(Click for remainder.)
By Benjamin H. Friedman
The Christian Science Monitor
Washington - Hawks depicted the cuts that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently proposed for the Pentagon's weapons programs as a savage assault on the military industrial complex. They insisted that Secretary Gates would leave us prostrate before future rivals.
Counterinsurgency enthusiasts, meanwhile cheered Mr. Gates's willingness to swap high-tech platforms for capabilities suited to the unconventional conflicts we are fighting.
The truth is that the Gates proposal is both too cautious and inadequate. After all, Gates isn't cutting non-war-related military spending; he's raising it slightly, to a whopping $534 billion.
If he has his druthers, the next military budget will look much like this one: It will still serve excessive objectives. We will still defend allies that can defend themselves, fight in other people's civil wars in a vain effort to "fix" their states, and burn tax dollars to serve the hubristic notion that US military hegemony is what keeps the world safe.
To really keep us safe, we should slash defense spending. Americans should prepare for fewer wars, not different ones. Far from providing our defense, our military posture endangers us. It drags us into others' conflicts, provokes animosity, and wastes resources. We need a defense budget worthy of the name. We need military restraint. And that would allow us to cut defense spending roughly in half....(Click for remainder.)
FOX News' Goler Reverses Meaning of Obama Quote to Falsely Suggest He Supports European-Style Health
During the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropped a comment by President Obama and took it out of context -- effectively reversing the statement's meaning -- to falsely suggest that Obama supports creating a health care system "like the European countries." Goler claimed that Obama "doesn't want to do it halfway" on health care, and then aired a clip from a March 26 online town hall event of Obama saying, "If you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?" Following the clip, Goler reported: "His critics worry universal health care would mean government-run health care." In fact, Obama actually said, "Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?" [emphasis added] In doing so, Obama was paraphrasing the town hall question he had been asked -- "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" -- before explaining why he opposed such a system.
During the March 26 "Open for Questions" town hall event, Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, read Obama the following question submitted online by "Richard in California": "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" After explaining of health care reform, "the reason that I think it is so important is that the high costs of health care are a huge drag on our economy," Obama paraphrased the question he had been asked, saying "Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?" before responding that America's current employer-based system "works for a lot of Americans. And so I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps."...(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON – The centerpiece of President Barack Obama's plan to keep thousands of people from losing their homes amid the worst economic crisis in decades is headed for defeat next week in the Senate.
Allowing people to seek mortgage relief in bankruptcy court is opposed by Republicans and enough Democrats to block it. They remain worried that the legislation would unleash a torrent of loan defaults, ultimately driving up mortgage rates and introducing fresh uncertainty to an already ailing economy.
The rejection would deal a blow to the popular president pushing an ambitious agenda to stabilize the economy.
"I just want to underscore our commitment ... to doing everything we can to help mitigate the damage homeowners are facing across the country," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers this week.
The number of homes under threat of foreclosure has shot up since last year, when 2.3 million households received foreclosure filings.
RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing firm, has reported that some 650,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related note in the first three months of 2008. This year, nearly 804,000 homes have already received foreclosure notes....(Click for remainder.)
It's always been impossible to take Erick Erickson, RedState's editor, seriously. When we last heard from the fairly prominent conservative blogger, he was writing about violence against elected public officials who were regulating chemicals in dishwasher detergent.
It gives one a sense of the guy's credibility and level of seriousness.
Today, Erickson was in rare form, accusing President Obama of taking active, deliberate steps to encourage a deadly terrorist attack against the United States. He wasn't kidding -- Erickson seriously seems to believe the president wants terrorists to kill Americans.
The best strategy would look something like taking a band-aid off quickly. Get the pain over fast. And if an attack happens quickly enough into the new administration, they can blame Bush.When this truly insane idea sparked some criticism, Erickson, apparently playing by junior-high-school rules, "Truth hurts I guess."...(Click for remainder.)
So the Obama administration is working hard to release all the memos on interrogations, change all the policies Bush implemented, and clear out the old as fast as possible. Never mind that if it were done slowly over time, our terrorist enemies might not be so incited to attack.
If your working premise is that they are going to attack anyway, get them incited quickly, get it over with, and blame Bush. There is no other justification for so quickly making us less safe.
By Darcy Burner
Earlier today, these five members of Congress - all of whom are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus - were arrested for civil disobedience protesting the expulsion of aid workers from the Sudan. These are our champions, people who have dedicated their lives to human rights and justice, who are, in every sense of the word, leaders.
I have spent nearly all of my time lately thinking about how as progressives we should approach governing - and these and the other members of the Progressive Caucus are our strongest allies.
I had a meeting on my schedule today with Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, to discuss the new non-profit I'm now the executive director of. The American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation's mission is to bring together progressives inside and outside of Congress to advance the things we care about - to build the infrastructure that allows the CPC and the progressive movement to work together.
Congresswoman Woolsey was enthusiastic, as all of the Members and Congressional staff I've talked to have been. But she was also clearly having a very good day, because she had spent much of the day tangibly fighting for our shared ideals. She and Donna and John and Jim and Keith and the 72 other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus get up every day to try to bend the arc a little bit further towards justice....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
Responding to the furor over the Republican party's opposition to pandemic preparedness funding in the recent stimulus bill, GOP leaders came forward today to reaffirm the party's pro-swine position.
"The Republican Party has traditionally been the pro-swine party," said GOP strategist Karl Rove on Fox News. "This is a moment in our history when everyone must ask themselves: Are you with the pigs, or are you against them?"
Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) also voiced her solidarity with swine, telling reporters in Anchorage, "The only difference between a pitbull and a pig is lipstick."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the staunchest opponents of pandemic preparedness spending, said that the public should ignore the "scare tactics" of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and should "go about their normal business with pigs."...(Click for remainder.)
By Alexander Zaitchik
Beck likes to brag about this new contract and to talk about money in general. Six sentences into his memoir, The Real America, and he is already mentioning that Stern and Limbaugh still make more money than he does. In a stage monologue about his conversion to Mormonism, recorded shortly after he negotiated his latest contract with Premiere, he tells a middle-class audience that, by the way, he just made $50 million.
Of course, strong and even ruthless capitalist instincts are no mark of shame on the right. Beck views the pursuit of wealth as the duty of every "Real American" -- and Christian. His conservative fans no doubt agree with him. But Beck is not a lifelong conservative who happened to make a lot of money in the capitalist system he loves.
For most of his adult life, he was, in his own words, "a bitter, hopeless [drug-using] alcoholic who hated people." He long ago started putting money before country, and there's every reason to believe that he still does. His metamorphosis into a right-wing values-crusader matches up neatly with the birth of his Wellesian/Limbaughsian dreams of national talk radio fame and entertainment empire.
He understood 15 years ago that the way to own a sprawling mansion estate in New Canaan, Conn., is to rant about the sprawling Malibu estates of Hollywood liberals. His on-air persona is a product of his own reinvention, even if he calls it "redemption."...(Click for remainder.)
I'm pretty sure Kit Bond doesn't see the irony of using the Nazis' Dolchstoßlegende in a national policy debate about torture.
WALLACE: Senator Levin, let me get Senator Bond into this.And with that, Bond scores a truly rare twofer: using Der Dolchstoss and a Gestapo euphemism for torture (Verschärfte Vernehmung) in the same response.
Let's talk about this issue of accountability, the possibility of prosecutions of top administration officials. You've heard Senator Levin talk repeatedly now about Defense Secretary Rumsfeld — and I'm not talking just about Abu Ghraib. I'm talking about the CIA interrogations.
You made the following statement this week, and let's put it up on the screen. "Our terror fighters need to know whether the president has their back or will stab them in the back." Senator, is that how you view any prosecutions, as a stab in the back?
BOND: I think that would be a stab in the back. I think he has already demoralized the CIA, put them in a CYA mode. I think we're going to have a culture in the CIA which had access to very — in very limited circumstances, to enhanced techniques.
Keep it up, Kit. (Click for original.)
The Huffington Post
Last week, Stephen Colbert revisited a segment he had done on Florida Representative Bill Posey, who sponsored a bill that "would require future presidential candidates to provide a copy of their original birth certificate," in order to put insane rumors of President Barack Obama's birthplace to bed.
Colbert thought a similar measure should be taken to end the whisperings that Posey was a human-alligator hybrid. Posey, in response to Colbert, said, "I expected there would be some civil debate about it, but it wasn't civil...There is no reason to say that I'm the illegitimate grandson of an alligator." And one wondered, "Does Posey not realize that Colbert is not speaking in earnest? His reaction seems uniquely stupid!"
Stupid, yes. But apparently it's not unique at all, according to a study from The Ohio State University, which proves, with math and stuff, that lots of conservatives seem to not understand the intrinsic, underlying joke of The Colbert Report:
This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert's political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert's political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.(Click for remainder.)
By Steve Benen
Former Sen. John Sununu (R-Crazytown) of New Hampshire, who lost last year after one term in the chamber, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, complaining about the possibility of passing health care reform through the reconciliation process. It's filled with errors of fact and judgment, but one mistake is especially jarring.
Sununu mostly relies on predictable canards. For example, if the Senate approves a bill without giving the minority a chance to filibuster it represents an "attempt to circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy." Since the "normal and customary workings of American democracy" dictate that a Senate majority should be allowed to pass legislation without a mandated super-majority, I'm afraid Sununu has it backwards.
He added that the budget reconciliation process "was never intended to push through dramatic and expansive new programs." That's debatable, but I couldn't help but notice that Sununu didn't protest when his Republican colleagues pushed through welfare reform using the same process.
But here's the real problem:
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton governed effectively by coupling the vision of an outsider with irrepressible self-confidence. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used the depth of their insider knowledge to coax the Congress into moving their policies forward. Barack Obama brings neither of these traits to the Oval Office. Misusing reconciliation ... shows a lack of confidence in his own ability to pass an agenda using the regular legislative order.And here's where Sununu proves he doesn't know what he's talking about.
Did Johnson and Nixon rely on reconciliation to pass key bills? No. Why? Because the reconciliation process didn't exist at the time....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
The Nixon Administration bugged Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex. Their operatives were caught breaking and entering Watergate to replace a defective device. One of the operatives was a former CIA agent, James McCord, and at least one other had been involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Although it is true that, as conventional wisdom holds, the cover-up was worse than the crime, that is really only part of the Watergate story. The other part is that the investigation of Watergate and the cover-up revealed other illegal and rogue operations that were not, strictly, part of the break-in or its cover-up: the existence of the 'plumbers unit', the plan to firebomb the Brookings Institute, the break-in to Dr. Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. Years later, Nixon proclaimed that an act is not illegal if the president does it, the first modern assertion of the imperial presidency.
Look where the imperial presidency got us then, look where it got us now.
The rightwing, the very same people who raise their hands in horror at every minor congressionally-passed regulation as an invasion of liberty, such as the Americans With Disability Act, resisted every step of the investigation into Nixon's rogue regime.
Enter, Dick Cheney (stage-right). Cheney had served Rumsfeld in the subsequent Ford administration, saw the imperial presidency dethroned, returning the country to Constitutional government. He did not like it, and, after selecting himself to be Bush's vice president, openly stated that one of his aims was to make the Presidency (or Executive) more powerful again.
It is no accident that the next imperial presidency was shared by Dick Cheney. The Bush administration was a rogue regime, unchecked by a partisan and then a cowardly Congress, in many areas, not just torture. It transformed the first country in the world founded on the Enlightenment by changing data and scientific findings to suit its needs. It signed laws and then issued statements indicating what parts it would ignore or enforce according to their whims. It directly interfered in the prosecution of justice. It was criminally negligent in its appointments to agencies, like FEMA, charged with protecting the citizenry. It claimed and exercised unlimited power in time of war....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
Teaching about intolerance in my high school ethics class in a small town in Oklahoma lead to a real life lesson for my students when I was forced to resign for insubordination. Conflicts had escalated between the superintendent of schools, my students and me over his biased decision to suspend my class because I was teaching The Laramie Project.
I had sought and received approval from the principal to teach the tragic story of Matthew Shepard, a gay young man brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming by two young men who "hated" gay people. I chose The Laramie Project because of its prevailing themes of intolerance and hate crimes. The students and I studied the criminal investigation and examined how different citizens of Laramie responded when they learned Matthew's murderers--Aaron "A.J." McKinney and Russell Henderson-- were life-long residents of the rural Wyoming community. One thing is for sure, I did not use The Laramie Project to teach about gay rights or to teach a unit on gay lifestyles, as the superintendent Mr. Turlington has alleged. It is not necessary to teach about gay lifestyles to my students' generation. Several students have gay family members; some of the family members have been in long-term, same-sex relationships.
In truth, I was challenging them to examine where and how the two young men--McKinney and Henderson-- learned to hate; because hate, like love, is learned behavior. I wanted them to understand where the lessons of hate and intolerance are typically learned: parents, teachers, members of the community, even in churches. I had hoped that by using The Laramie Project each student would examine their prejudices and form healthier practices of tolerance, compassion and advocacy....(Click for remainder.)
I just was on a call sponsored by People For the American Way, Alliance for Justice, National Women's Law Center, and NARAL Pro-Choice America regarding the war being waged by extremist Right Wing groups against Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department. As we have learned, the OLC is a very important part of any administration. Ms. Johnsen's views on torture and the right to choose have made her a prime target of the Right Wing machine.
Clinton Administration Solicitor General (and OLC head) Walter Dellinger and conservative legal scholar Doug Kmiec, who served as the head of the OLC during the Reagan Administration, spoke in support of Ms. Johnsen. In addition, Aviva Orenstein, Professor of Law at the Indiana University Mauer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana, a colleague of Johnsen's, also spoke on her behalf. More . . .
Dellinger stresses the importance of the OLC, as recent events have borne out. Dellinger speaks glowingly of Johnsen, calling her one of President Obama's best nominees. He remarks that she has a track record at OLC, having served in the office in the past. Dellinger says that when Johnsen was in the office with him - the office motto was "Dawn Johnsen is always right." He labels her as one of the leading scholars on Executive power in the country....(Click for remainder.)
When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zabaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn't believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury's 2005 memos asserted that "enhanced techniques" on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.
Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush's illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.
President Obama released the four memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. They describe unimaginably brutal techniques and provide "legal" justification for clearly illegal acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the face of monumental pressure from the CIA to keep them secret, Obama demonstrated great courage in deciding to make the grotesque memos public. At the same time, however, in an attempt to pacify the intelligence establishment, Obama said, "it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."...(Click for remainder.)