Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GOP kills Jobless Bill

Senator Ben Nelson D-NB
More than 1.2 million people have lost unemployment benefits averaging $300 a week thanks to 47 Republicans in Congress and Democrats (in name only), Ben Nelson and  and one Independent, Joe Lieberman. (Robert Bryd of W. Va did not vote.) At a time when unemployment sports double digit numbers in some states and the economy struggles to recover, short sighted legislstors follow Herbert Hoover's doctrine of "don't spend, save, and balance the budget". These are noble sentiments, but not now with the country's struggling economy.

If you read some of the insulting statements from GOP Representatives and Senators, you clearly understand that they are out of touch with working folks.  Their focus is on the welfare of big business and the oil companies, not the average American man and woman.

Read the Associsted Press article below for more informtion.

News from The Associated Press

Stop Trashing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (R- Ala)
As Sens. Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl and John Cornyn disparaged the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the opening day of Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings, dismissing him as an "activist judge" in what appeared to be a raw attempt to score political points, I wondered: "Have you no sense of decency, at long last?"

Thurgood Marshall deserves respect and thanks, not sneers.
 Read the Stephanie Jones article in the Washington Post for some of the historic facts and hope that when Elana Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court that she brings some of the courage and insight of her mentor.

Stephanie J. Jones - Thurgood Marshall's legacy deserves cheers, not sneers

Recapture the Dream-Yes, We Can

President Barack Obama

Today, ultraconservatives are pushing the Republican Party perilously far to the right. President Obama is leading our country in a way that reflects our highest values and our deepest hopes - but the Republican right wing wants him to fail.

As the president works to restore our country's reputation and to mobilize support for solutions to the many problems that confront us -including the struggling world economy, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, energy insecurity, and risks to the environmental health of our planet - partisan Republicans have offered nothing except criticism, obstructionism, negativism, and defeatism.

This leaves the rest of us with a choice. We can keep fighting to solve problems and to promote change, or we can surrender. I choose to fight, and I need you fighting beside me.
          Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright

Speak up for our President and then put your money where your mouth is just as the GOP and Tea Party supporters do.

Remember the struggle in getting here as you take a look at this inspirational video.

SCOTUS: The Roberts’ Court Rulings

While the world watches the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court continues its work under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts. The court addressed a variety of notable issues.

The case that will define this term is the court's controversial 5 to 4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which reversed decades of law and precedent and said corporations and unions can play a more active financial role in elections. It prompted a denunciation not only from the liberal members of the court but also from President Obama, who criticized the ruling in his State of the Union address.

The court extended the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that "the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home." This ruling is a long-sought victory for the NRA and other gun rights advocates.

The court upended the political scene in Arizona by putting on hold a public campaign-financing system that has been in place a dozen years. The court decided not to undertake another review of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act. It upheld a lower court and rejected a challenge by the Republican National Committee to the law's centerpiece prohibition on unregulated "soft money" contributions to political parties.

Liberals objected to the majority's decision that shifted to suspects the burden of invoking their right to remain silent under the famous Miranda ruling; simply not speaking for hours, the majority said, was not enough.

The court ruled that the federal government has the right to civilly confine sex offenders after they have served their prison terms. It overruled federal judges in California who wanted to beam the same-sex marriage trial to other courtrooms. Its gun decision could doom state and local laws across the nation, and its ruling that juveniles may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for non-homicide crimes is contrary to the law in dozens of states.

The court criticized the work of Congress. It voted 8 to 1 to declare unconstitutional a statute that prohibited creating or selling videos that depicted animal cruelty, saying it violated the First Amendment.

The court upheld a U.S. law that bars "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, rejecting a free speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups. The court ruled 6-3 Monday that the government may prohibit all forms of aid to designated terrorist groups, even if the support consists of training and advice about entirely peaceful and legal activities. Material support intended even for benign purposes can help a terrorist group in other ways, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion.

It should be noted that the court decided 56 percent of its cases by either unanimous or 8 to 1 margins, compared with less than 40 percent a year ago. While Democrats portray the court as a haven for corporate interests, others remark favorably about the court’s bold new direction. Time will tell whether Elena Kagan is appointed to the court and, if so, how she will impact the dynamics of the Roberts’ court.

Sources: The Washington Post; Scotusblog

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eliot Spitzer: He's Back!

There is a change at CNN prime time news. Campbell Brown's out; Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker are in. Surprised?  How did Spitzer navigate the rocky road from disgraced Governor to cable news prime time co-host? Check out the playbook outlined at Newsweek. It's simple if you know how and have the connections to make it happen.

Pariah to Pundit: Eliot Spitzer's Comeback

Friday, June 25, 2010

Black Republicans Gain Momentum

South Carolina State Rep. Tim Scott

There hasn’t been an African-American Republican in the House of Representatives since Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts exited in 2003. So, it’s news when three African-American Republicans win races in the South.

In South Carolina’s First Congressional District, Tim Scott, a black lawmaker from Charleston, beat Paul Thurmond, the son of erstwhile segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond. Those in the know say that Scott’s solidly Republican district will almost certainly send him to Washington in the fall, making him the fourth black Republican to be elected to Congress in the modern era.

Scott wasn’t the only black Republican to score a win on last Tuesday night. In North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, former military man Bill Randall won a run-off, setting him for an uphill contest against Democratic incumbent Brad Miller. In Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, Bill Marcy, a retired Chicago police officer, won the GOP nomination. Marcy, too, faces a Democratic incumbent, Bennie Thompson, unlikely to lose his seat.

Timothy F. Johnson, founder of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group dedicated to adding African-Americans to the party of Lincoln’s ranks, originally had his eye on 32 black candidates running on the Republican ticket this cycle. “For far too long, all Americans have assumed that all blacks think alike and vote alike,” Johnson says. “We don’t.”

Four percent of African-Americans voted for John McCain in 2008. Only 1.5 percent of delegates in the Republican National Convention were black. The lily-white affair played so poorly that party officials have dedicated themselves to diversifying the ranks by the time the 2012 convention rolls around in Tampa Bay. At minimum, the GOP is aiming to have 10 times as many black delegates in Florida, raising the number from 36 to 360.

The black Republicans getting the most attention these days are Star Parker, running in California’s 37th District, and Florida’s Allen West. Parker has attracted party glitterati like Sarah Palin to her side, but her district, which includes Long Beach and Compton, is about as blue as they come. West, a retired lieutenant colonel, has a real shot of bumping off Democratic Rep. Ron Klein.

Source: The Daily Beast (Samuel P. Jacobs, June 2010)

Beefing Up Border Security

No mention of comprehensive immigration reform here: President Obama has requested an emergency $600 million from Congress to boost border security. The cash would pay for a big personnel increase—1,000 more Border Patrol agents, 160 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, 1,200 National Guard troops, and more FBI task forces and Drug Enforcement Administration agents—as well as other security measures, like more Border Patrol canine teams, two drones, and DNA and ballistic analysis technology for Mexican authorities desperately trying to control the drug violence there. Another $100 million would go toward strengthening fences and infrastructure along the border. As the drug war heats up in Mexico, so does illegal immigration anxiety in the Southwest, and Obama's request is perhaps a reaction to Arizona's controversial new immigration law.

Sources: Los Angeles Times (Peter Nichols, June 22, 2010)
              The Daily Beast
Photo: Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Judge Blocks Oil Drilling Moratorium

U. S. District Judge Martin Feldman

The Interior Department said it needed time to study the risks of deepwater drilling when it declared a moratorium on May 6.  In response to the massive Gulf oil spill, President Obama extended it for six months.

Several companies asked the court to overturn the moratorium saying it was arbitrarily imposed. The lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La. claimed there was no proof the other operations posed any threat.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and corporation leaders claimed the moratorium would force drilling rigs to leave the Gulf of Mexico for foreign waters, resulting in the area losing thousands of lucrative jobs, most paying more than $50,000 a year. 

U. S. District Judge Martin Feldman blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects imposed by the Presideent and the Interior Dept.

On Tuesday, Feldman ruled that the government overreacted, saying one rig's explosion did not mean others would blow up, too.

"If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing,” Feldman wrote.

It should be noted that Judge Feldman owns extensive investments in energy related industries and has stock in at least seventeen different oil companies.

Environmental groups supported the moratorium and believe that the judge's ruling overlooks the ongoing harm to the Gulf and the devastation it has had on the people's lives.

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar vowed to appeal the decision immediately.

"I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities," Salazar said Tuesday.

Sources: NY Daily News,

Loose Lips Sink Ships: Goodbye Gen. McChrystal

President Obama, Vice Pres. Biden, General  Petraeus

Loose-lipped General Stanley McChrystal is out, and General David Petraeus is in. In accepting McChrystal resignation in the wake of his scornful remarks to Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama said he did not make the decision "over any disagreement in policy" or "out of any sense of personal insult".  Speaking in the Rose Garden, the president said: "War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president."

The president felt that the job in Afghanistan could not be done under McChrystal's leadership.  He believed the critical remarks from the general did not display the conduct expected from s command-level officer.  McChrystal released a statement saying he resigned out of "a desire to see the mission succeed" and expressed support for the war strategy.

General David Patraeus was the architect of the successful war strategy in Iraq and, as the Central Command Chief, he was McChrystal's direct boss. In the Congressional hearing last week, he said he would reccommend dleaying the prescribed pullout of U. S. Forces from Afghanistan beginning July 2001.  He said security and political conditions in Afghanistan must be ready to hsndle s U. S. drawndown.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected to hold a hearing by Tuesday on Petraeys' confirmation.

Sources; The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Yahoo! News

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Assets Revealed on Capital Hill

                                                              Senator John Kerry (D- MA)
Wednesday was financial disclosure day on Capitol Hill, the one time of the year when government watchdogs and the media can glimpse the personal assets of Congress members. Lawmakers must show the value of their assets as of the previous Dec. 31, as well as any gifts they received and financial transactions they made.

Nearly 30 members of the congressional committees overseeing oil and gas companies held personal assets in the industry totaling $9 million to $14.5 million late last year. That included at least $400,000 in the three companies at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico oil-drilling disaster, according to a Washington Post analysis of financial disclosure forms released Wednesday.

According to the disclosure forms, last year saw an increase in lawmakers investing in oil and gas firms. In 2008, members of the five committees held investments worth at least $8.1 million in companies they oversaw; by the end of 2009, that figure had grown by more than 12 percent.

Holdings in the companies involved in the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico also grew last year, from a minimum of $98,000 to a minimum of almost $400,000. At the top end of the estimates, lawmakers on those panels may have held just shy of $1 million in shares of BP; Transocean, which owned the oil rig; and Anadarko Petroleum, a lease partner. The three companies are now under the microscope of those same lawmakers.

Before the gulf disaster, some lawmakers sold off shares in the companies now involved, including Sen. John Kerry, whose wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, sold the last remaining shares she held in Transocean. But at the end of 2009, Heinz family trusts still held $350,000 to $750,000 in BP stock, much of it bought last year. (Laws require members of Congress to disclose their spouses' assets as well.)

Kerry -- the Senate Democrats' lead negotiator on energy legislation -- had at least $6 million in assets from a dozen big oil and gas companies, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips. The senator said his wife's inherited trusts, from her first husband's family ketchup fortune, would not deter him from taking on the oil industry.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also held as much $50,000 worth of stock in the British oil giant, which owns the well that has been spewing oil since the explosion off Louisiana.

Source: Washington Post Politics, Paul Kane and Karen Yourish, June 17, 2010; Ezra Klein June 17, 2010

Apology for Obama's "Shakedown"

Shame on Rep. Joe Barton!

Everyone watched a congressional subcommittee hearing into the Gulf Coast oil spill with great anticipation. We all expected the star performers would be BP CEO Tony Hayward and other BP executives. Surprise, surprise.

Barely ten minutes into the session, GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stole the show. In his opening remarks, Barton apologized to BP CEO Hayward for the "shakedown" the Obama White House pulled on BP. Barton explained ..I'm ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday.  I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private company can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.  In this case a $20 billion shakedown."  In his wrap up, Barton said: "I apologize.  I do now want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words--amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize".

Barton is a staunch conservative with a long record of backing oil industry interest. He has received more than $1.5 million in campaign donations from the oil industry. Individuals and political action committees associated with BP have donated $27,350 to Barton's political campaigns since the 1990 election cycle -- eighth among members of Congress. I guess it's understandable that Barton said:" I'm not speaking for anybody in the House of Representatives but myself."

It didn't take long for Republican leaders to distance themselves for Barton's remarks, while some called for Barton's resignation from the committee.  In record breaking time, Barton was apologizing again.  This time the apology was to anyone who "misconstrued" his remarks. He withdrew his apology to BP CEO Hayward, but made no effort to apology to President Barack Obama. After all, what's another slap in the President's face. Shame on you, Joe Burton!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Down With the IRS? I Think Not!

Across the nation, Americans express concern about our country's perilous financial position. Everybody can chant the problems that we face, including an aging population with fewer workers funding Social Security, increasing health care cost, mounting government spending, and a massive debt passed on to our children and grandchildren. Many are worried about possible tax increases that will stunt economic growth.

Politicians and candidates for office give a lot of lip service to these problems, but there are few concrete proposals for reversing our economic condition. As I listen, all I hear is Republicans trying to protect the rich and business and corporate interests so that "wealth can trickle down", while Democrats spend money on social programs to improve the lot of the masses.  The country's budget is tapped with funding for the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the proposals for balancing the budget calls for the eliminaton of the IRS. Supporters of this plan claim that such a change is fair and simple and would improve ecomomic growth. Take a look at how this would work as explained by Michael J. Graetz, Columbia Law School professor in the June 2010 issue of the AARP Bulletin:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mystery in South Carolina Politics

Despite having no real campaign or prior political support in the state, Alvin Greene won the primary to face Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) this fall. The Democratic nominee from South Carolina was unemployed and entirely unknown before he somehow won his party’s nomination on Tuesday.

Now, Greene is in trouble because of a pending felony charge for showing pornographic images to a University of South Carolina student. Suzy Khimm, a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones, wrote that Greene was also kicked out of the Army and the Air Force.  The South Carolina Democratic Party called on Greene on Wednesday to drop out of the race, but he vowed to stay in the race.

The third-ranking House Democrat, Jim Clyburn, said he found it strange that Greene, a relative unknown prior to Tuesday, was able to produce the money to register and run for Senate despite being unemployed.

Greene allegedly tried to pay the registation fee in cash, and Clyburn said he wondered whether an outside party might have funded both the fee and Greene's campaign, in violation of federal campaign finance laws. Other sources say that Greene tried to pay with a personal check, but was required to present a check from a campaign account.

"There were some real shenanigans going on in the South Carolina primary," Clyburn said during an appearance on a local radio show. "I don't know if he was a Republican plant; he was someone's plant."

"I would hope the U.S. attorney down there would look at this," Clyburn said about Greene's qualifications for the ballot.

"I think there's some federal laws being violated in this race, but I think some shenanigans are going on in South Carolina," Clyburn explained. "Somebody gave him that $10,000 and he who took it should be investigated, and he who gave it should be investigated."

Stop the madness! This should prove interesting as the story unfolds.

Sources:  The Hill Blog, hauffington Post, The Beast, Mother Jones

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Courtroom Drama: Kwame Kilpatrick

It sounded like a movie or the latest episode of Law and Order, but the courtroom scene was real life drama. It was the sentencing of Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned from office last year after pleading guilty to felony charges in a perjury case and no contest in an assault case. In the present case, defendant Kilpatrick violated the terms of his probation by failing to pay $79,011 by Feb. 19, 2010, which included defendant specifically failing to provide complete accounting of his family finances, failing to surrender his tax refunds, failing to disclose gifts and benefits, improperly accepting dollars from political funds.

The current drama revolves around the case addressing Kilpatrick violating the terms of his probation.
An audible gasp erupted in the courtroom as Judge David Groner sentenced Kilpatrick to 18 months to five years in state prison for probation violation.

The judge says Kilpatrick has shown a lack of candor, remorse, humility and forthrightness. He indicated he was about to sentence him to more than 17 months. Judge Groner reminded Kilpatrick of the crimes he had committed. He lied under oath about his affair with his chief of staff, about the firing of a deputy chief, authorized a secret settlement with $8.4 million in taxpayer money and then violated his probation.

As Kilpatrick remained expressionless, Judge Groner told him that at every turn he had tried to thwart attempts to figure out how much money he had to pay restitution to the City of Detroit.

Judge Groner asked Kilpatrick to stand with his lawyers while he sentences him.

'I want to go home,' Kilpatrick says

"I respectfully humbly ask you, with everything that's in me, to be free," Kilpatrick pleaded.

"For the first time in my life I'm a great husband. I'm a new guy. And I know there's a lot of people who don't accept that," Kilpatrick stated.

Your testimony in this courtroom amounted to perjury when you stated, "I don't know if my wife works. I don't know the amount of rent. I don't know who pays the bills."
... Obviously, there has been no rehabilitation. You have not changed. ... Put your hands behind your back, sir. ...

What a waste of talent and potential.  Shame on you Kwame Kilpatrick!

Political Lessons: Alabama's Artur Davis

It wasn't just that Rep. Artur Davis was defeated in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Tuesday's Alabama primary. He got creamed. He lost to state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks by a 62 to 38 percent margin.

But every poll had Davis ahead, some by large margins, and that leads to wondering what happened. I was amazed at what I learned about the race, but I'm willing to share.  Take out your pens and take note.

Any smart politician knows to shore up their base. Davis was advised by top Democratic strategists, from the White House on down, to solidify his base. He never did that. Rep. Artur Davis' stunningly lopsided loss in the Alabama gubernatorial primary has been attributed, in large part, to his unwillingness to court the Democratic base and, in particular, black voters, who seemed completely un-enthused by the notion of electing the state's first African-American governor. Davis seemed to go after white support without even giving a nod to the state's influential black power brokers.

National media types were perplexed and shocked because they dubbed him "a rising black star". People who follow black politics closely were not shocked.  I hope national media outlets would stop lifting up black politicians as future stars. They have to earn it. Going to an Ivy League school doesn't guarantee success. Black voters are like anyone else: you must speak to them, work with them and not take them for granted.
This Davis did not do.  He ran a tone deaf campaign that ostracized and minimalized black voters. And lost. Badly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Israel Continues Blockade

A defiant Israel enforced its 3-year-old blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday, with naval commandos swiftly commandeering a Gaza-bound aid vessel carrying an Irish Nobel laureate and other activists and forcing it to head to an Israeli port instead.

The bloodless takeover stood in marked contrast to a deadly raid of another Gaza aid ship this week. However, it was unlikely to halt snowballing international outrage and demands that Israel lift or at least loosen the devastating closure that confines 1.5 million Palestinians to a small sliver of land and only allows in basic humanitarian goods.

For now, the confrontations at sea are likely to continue.

Israel said it would block any attempt to reach Gaza by sea, in order to prevent weapons from reaching the Iranian-backed Islamic militant group. "Israel ... will not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in Gaza," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Bush Admits To Waterboarding

Former President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he has no regrets about waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying that, if presented with the same opportunity, he’d “do it again.”

Bush made the comments in reference to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks who was waterboarded after his capture, during a speech to the Economics Club of Grand Rapids in Michigan. The remarks were first reported by the Grand Rapids Press.

“Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” Bush said. “I'd do it again to save lives.”

Karl Rove, the ex-president's former top political adviser, has frequently defended the use of waterboarding, telling the BBC in March that he is “proud” of the practice. Former Vice-President Dcik Cheney also made similiar admissions. it's amazing that none of these guys have any problem admitting to war crimes.

Bush also defended his decision to invade Iraq during the speech, despite the fact that weapons of mass destruction were never found.

“Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, and the world is a better place without him,” the former president said.

I wonder if he asked the family's of  the thousands of young men who died or were wounded in the Iraq War if they would agree with him.

While Bush defended his administration during the speech, he declined to criticize President Barack Obama when asked about his replacement during a question and answer session.

“You are not going to see me in the public square criticizing the president,” Bush said.

Source: Politico; Yahoo News