Like Dan Froomkin calling bullshit on Dick Cheney and the media coverage of him.
Leaks, Politics, and Power
1 day ago
"It appears that at least in Senator Enzi's case, he doesn't believe that there is a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the president thinks that is wrong," said Gibbs. "I think Senator Enzi has clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided it is time to walk away from the table."
Gibbs's comments came after Enzi told a Wyoming town hall audience last week that would not compromise with Democrats. And in a radio address on Saturday, Enzi accused Democrats of proposing health care reform that "will actually make our nation's finances sicker without saving you money."
"I think the radio address over the weekend by Senator Enzi, repeating many of the generic Republican talking points that Republicans are using, that have bragged about being opposed to health care, are tremendously unfortunate, but in some ways illuminating," said Gibbs.
In targeting Enzi, Gibbs offered the strongest hint to date that the White House is fed up with the process and progress of bipartisan negotiations in Congress. Asked whether he thought Republicans were negotiating in good faith, he shot back:
"That is a question you should ask them. I think, again, some of the comments that have been made certainly seem to suggest to anybody who reads them that they see to be less interested in the bipartisanship they talked about only a few weeks ago."
The press secretary called the recent slew of largely negative health care-related comments from Republican senators "tremendously unfortunate."
"It looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution," said Gibbs. "It is bad for this town but it's worse for this country."
WALLACE: This is your first interview since Attorney General Holder named a prosecutor to investigate possible CIA abuses of terror detainees.
What do you think of that decision?
CHENEY: I think it's a terrible decision. President Obama made the announcement some weeks ago that this would not happen, that his administration would not go back and look at or try to prosecute CIA personnel. And the effort now is based upon the inspector general's report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.
They made decisions about whether or not there was any prosecutable offense there. They found one. It did not involve CIA personnel, it involved contract personnel. That individual was sentenced and is doing time. The matter's been dealt with the way you would expect it to be dealt with by professionals.
Now we've got a political appointee coming back, and supposedly without the approval of the president, going to do a complete review, or another complete investigation, possible prosecution of CIA personnel. We could talk the whole program about the negative consequences of that, about the terrible precedent it sets, to have agents involved, CIA personnel involved, in a difficult program that's approved by the Justice Department, approved by the National Security Council, and the Bush administration, and then when a new administration comes in, it becomes political.
They may find themselves dragged up before a grand jury, have to hire attorneys on their own because the Justice Department won't provide them with counsel.
It's a terrible, terrible precedent.
We could talk the whole program about the negative consequences of that, about the terrible precedent it sets, to have agents involved, CIA personnel involved, in a difficult program that's approved by the Justice Department, approved by the National Security Council, and the Bush administration, and then when a new administration comes in, it becomes political.
They may find themselves dragged up before a grand jury, have to hire attorneys on their own because the Justice Department won't provide them with counsel.
It's a terrible, terrible precedent
CHENEY: Well, you think, for example, in the intelligence arena. We ask those people to do some very difficult things. Sometimes, that put their own lives at risk. They do so at the direction of the president, and they do so with the -- in this case, we had specific legal authority from the Justice Department. And if they are now going to be subject to being investigated and prosecuted by the next administration, nobody's going to sign up for those kinds of missions.
It's a very, very devastating, I think, effect that it has on morale inside the intelligence community. If they assume that they're going to have to be dealing with the political consequences -- and it's clearly a political move. I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing this -- then they'll be very reluctant in the future to do that.
And the effort now is based upon the inspector general's report that was sent to the Justice Department five years ago, was completely reviewed by the Justice Department in years past.
They made decisions about whether or not there was any prosecutable offense there. They found one. It did not involve CIA personnel, it involved contract personnel. That individual was sentenced and is doing time. The matter's been dealt with the way you would expect it to be dealt with by professionals.
U.S. Senator John McCain, a torture survivor from his days as a captive during the Vietnam War, says his private comments about harsh interrogation methods were misrepresented by the Bush Administration in a recently released legal document intended to justify a six-day-long course of sleep deprivation for one CIA detainee in November of 2007.
The newly declassified memo by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel mentions a secret briefing McCain and other members of Congress received sometime before October 17, 2006. The memo says the lawmakers were told about six CIA interrogation techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation.
The memo recounts McCain's reaction this way. "[S]everal Members of Congress, including the full memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Senator McCain, were briefed by General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, on the six techniques that we discuss herein," writes Steven G. Bradbury, a deputy assistant attorney general in the July 20, 2007, memo, which cites a CIA summary of the discussions. "In those classified and private conversations, none of the Members expressed the view that the CIA detention and interrogation program should be stopped, or that the techniques at issue were inappropriate."
A spokeswoman for McCain said that contrary to those claims, the Arizona Republican repeatedly raised objections in private meetings, including one with Hayden, about the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique. "Senator McCain clearly made the case that he was opposed to unduly coercive techniques, especially when used in combination or taken too far — including sleep deprivation," says Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for McCain.
An aide to McCain said that in meetings with Hayden and others, McCain raised the story of Orson Swindle, a friend of McCain's who suffered forced sleep deprivation through stress positions as a captive of the North Vietnamese. During the his last presidential campaign, McCain repeatedly spoke publicly of prolonged sleep deprivation as a form of torture.
The contention by McCain and others that private discussions were misrepresented are important because they call into question the legal conclusions that allowed harsh interrogation in late 2007. The CIA account of the congressional briefing was used by Bradbury to argue that prolonged sleep deprivation did not "shock the conscience," a legal standard based on the Constitution's Fifth Amendment right to due process. While "not conclusive on the Constitutional question," Bradbury argued that the lack of objections from members of Congress following the classified briefing contributed to providing "a relevant measure of contemporary standards." If Bradbury had concluded that extended sleep deprivation did "shock the conscience," the technique would have been illegal under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which applied constitutional standards to the treatment of CIA detainees.
The U.S. State Department has long characterized extended sleep deprivation by foreign countries as a form of torture, though Bradbury in his memo dismissed this fact as not providing "controlling evidence" on the issue of contemporary standards. The U.S. Army Field Manual, which regulates military interrogations, also prohibits extended sleep deprivation, but Bradbury dismissed this standard as failing to provide "dispositive evidence" of the government behavior.
In late 2007, after a presidential campaign event in Iowa, McCain said that he supported the prosecutions of any government employee who violated laws governing detainee treatment after October of 2006, when the Military Commissions Act was passed. "After we passed the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act, then obviously anybody who violated any law of the United States would have to be held responsible," McCain told reporters.
I get that a lot of people are hoping that Massachusetts changes their rules to allow Governor Deval Patrick to quickly name a place holder for Senator Kennedy's seat in case they need that 60th vote for cloture. But honestly I think that the truth is having that seat open helps the cause of health care reform.
The truth is I am not at all confident that even if we have 60 bodies in the Senate that claim to be Democrats that all of them will vote for cloture on the kind of a health care reform bill than any self respecting liberal or progressive would find acceptable. And its a pipe dream to believe that some how because Senator Kennedy passed that a few Republicans will find their honor and sanity. So THE avenue for getting a health care reform bill through Congress this year that actually represents change and reform is going to have to come through the reconcilliation process in the Senate.
Now the one thing that the media has been really terrible at is being realistic and honest about the Democrats' so called "Super Majority" in the Senate anyway. With Senator Kennedy having terminal cancer and Senator Robert Byrd being very old and, of late, sickly, it was always a Super Majority only on paper. For that reason we would have always needed at least one or two Republicans to vote for cloture and that's not even taking into account needing to do the humongous job of cat herding every single one of the Democrats to do the same. In short it never looked good for that.
However now the prospect of a Super Majority is gone and the realization is that cloture might as well be 10 votes away as it is one with the understanding that that one vote will have to come from a Republican bucking their whole party. In essence even if we could buy off one or two Republicans to vote for cloture on a health care bill it would probably be at such a high cost for our side that the bill would suck and such a high cost for them personally that they would HAVE to change parties. I don't see that happening.
But what I can see now is Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin being able to make a much stronger case to the Democratic caucus for why we should and must use reconciliation to get this done. And at this point I would say that the media is at a point where they would also be inclined to keep making the case that reconcilliation is the way to go since there is no 60th vote for cloture. Bigger than that if Republicans continue to be obstinant about not even attempting to work with Democrats on the bill I think this is a moment in time where the media will finally call them out in the wake of Ted Kennedy's passing.
The talk in Washington is that Senate Democrats are preparing to push through health care reforms using parliamentary procedures that will allow a simple majority to prevail in their chamber, as it does in the House, instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster that Senate Republicans are sure to mount.
With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democrats do not have the votes just among their 57 members (and the two independents) to break a filibuster, and not all of these can be counted on to vote in lock step. If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy.
We say this with considerable regret because a bipartisan compromise would be the surest way to achieve comprehensive reforms with broad public support. But the ideological split between the parties is too wide — and the animosities too deep — for that to be possible.
In recent weeks, it has become inescapably clear that Republicans are unlikely to vote for substantial reform this year. Many seem bent on scuttling President Obama’s signature domestic issue no matter the cost. As Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, so infamously put it: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
Superficially seductive calls to scale down the effort until the recession ends or to take time for further deliberations should be ignored. There has been more than enough debate and the recession will almost certainly be over before the major features of reform kick in several years from now. Those who fear that a trillion-dollar reform will add to the nation’s deficit burden should remember that these changes are intended to be deficit-neutral over the next decade.
Delay would be foolish politically. The Democrats have substantial majorities in the House and the Senate this year. Next year, as the midterm elections approach, it will be even harder for legislators to take controversial stands. After the elections, if history is any guide, the Democratic majorities could be smaller.
The Democrats are thus well advised to start preparing to use an arcane parliamentary tactic known as “budget reconciliation” that would let them sidestep a Republican filibuster and approve reform proposals by a simple majority.
The approach is risky. Reconciliation bills are primarily intended to deal with budget items that affect the deficit, not with substantive legislation like health care reform. Senators could challenge as “extraneous” any provisions that do not change spending or revenues over the next five years, or would have a budget impact that is “merely incidental” to some broader policy purpose, or would increase the deficit in Year 6 and beyond.
So how much of the proposed health care reforms could plausibly fit into a reconciliation bill? The answer seems to be: quite a lot, though nobody knows for sure.
Knowledgeable analysts from both parties believe that these important elements of reform will probably pass muster because of their budgetary impact: expansion of Medicaid for the poor; subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance; new taxes to pay for the trillion-dollar program; Medicare cuts to help finance the program; mandates on individuals to buy insurance and on employers to offer coverage; and tax credits to help small businesses provide insurance.
Even the public plan so reviled by Republicans could probably qualify, especially if it is given greater power than currently planned to dictate the prices it will pay to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other providers, thus saving the government lots of money in subsidies.
At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.
The 93-page document, which is publicly available at the Regent University library, culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families -- a vision that he started to put into action soon after he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.
In his run for governor, McDonnell, 55, makes little mention of his conservative beliefs and has said throughout his campaign that he should be judged by what he has done in office, including efforts to lower taxes, stiffen criminal penalties and reform mental health laws. He reiterated that position Saturday in a statement responding to questions about his thesis.
One controversy that drew wide attention was an effort in the General Assembly in 2003 to end the judicial career of Verbena M. Askew, a Circuit Court judge from Newport News who had been accused of sexual harassment by a woman who worked for her. As chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, McDonnell led the effort in the House. He said he was opposed to Askew's reappointment because she didn't disclose, as required, that she was a party to a legal proceeding.
McDonnell was widely quoted at the time as saying that homosexual activity raised questions about a person's qualifications to be a judge. Spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell was misquoted and does not consider homosexuality a disqualifying factor for judgeships or other jobs.
Askew, who was not reappointed, denied any wrongdoing and was never found by a court to have harassed the employee.
Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States Senator. I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything that I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country.
This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I'll continue to advocate for it, as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator Kerry, there already is a big debate over what would Teddy do. I mean, I think a lot of liberals and progressives saying he would fight for this public health insurance option and, you know, if that -- if you didn’t have that, it wasn’t worth doing.
Others look at it, and I think you may be one of them who say, no, the lesson of Senator is that he got what he could get, the perfect couldn’t be the enemy of the good.
KERRY: Well, Ted would put facts on the table and he would put the reality of life for a lot of Americans on the table. And the reality of life is that we have over 87 million Americans every year during some portion of the year who don’t have insurance. And almost 50 million who all of the time don’t have insurance.
It costs them and costs America an enormous amount of money. We are not managing an efficient health care system. And so we are delivering worse health care for more money than many other nations in the world.
Now Orrin knows that. We know we can do a better job of providing health care to Americans. And what Teddy would do is he would fight for that public option, because he believes -- believed that the public option, as I do, is an effective -- the best way possible to be able to reduce the...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he could count votes as well...
KERRY: Now let me just finish...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... and the votes don’t seem to be there.
KERRY: Let me just finish. Let me finish. He would fight for it, and he would do everything in his power to get it, just like he did for the minimum wage or like he did for children’s health care, et cetera. But if he didn’t see the ability to be able to get it done, he would not throw the baby out with the bathwater. He would not say no to anything because we have to reduce the cost. We have to make these changes. And he would find the best way forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he wouldn’t agree with those like Howard Dean who say it’s not worth doing if you don’t have the public health insurance option?
KERRY: I think there is an enormous amount, George -- oh, here is what Teddy would do. He would say, I’m going to fight the fight, and if and when we get to the point that we can’t get there, we’ll see whether or not we can do enough to make good happen out of this.
And you can’t make that measurement today. We have to go down that road.
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Eulogy for Edward Kennedy
Mrs. Kennedy, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran, Caroline, members of the Kennedy family, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate – a man whose name graces nearly one thousand laws, and who penned more than three hundred himself.
But those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese." I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend.
Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch; the restless dreamer who became its rock. He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers’ teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off. When they tossed him off a boat because he didn’t know what a jib was, six-year-old Teddy got back in and learned to sail. When a photographer asked the newly-elected Bobby to step back at a press conference because he was casting a shadow on his younger brother, Teddy quipped, "It’ll be the same in Washington."
This spirit of resilience and good humor would see Ted Kennedy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. He lost two siblings by the age of sixteen. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.
It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Teddy to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that.
But that was not Ted Kennedy. As he told us, "...[I]ndividual faults and frailties are no excuse to give in – and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves." Indeed, Ted was the "Happy Warrior" that the poet William Wordsworth spoke of when he wrote:
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and suffering of others – the sick child who could not see a doctor; the young soldier sent to battle without armor; the citizen denied her rights because of what she looks like or who she loves or where she comes from. The landmark laws that he championed -- the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act –all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.
We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights. And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect – a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.
And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor. There was the time he courted Orrin Hatch’s support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program by having his Chief of Staff serenade the Senator with a song Orrin had written himself; the time he delivered shamrock cookies on a china plate to sweeten up a crusty Republican colleague; and the famous story of how he won the support of a Texas Committee Chairman on an immigration bill. Teddy walked into a meeting with a plain manila envelope, and showed only the Chairman that it was filled with the Texan’s favorite cigars. When the negotiations were going well, he would inch the envelope closer to the Chairman. When they weren’t, he would pull it back. Before long, the deal was done.
It was only a few years ago, on St. Patrick's Day, when Teddy buttonholed me on the floor of the Senate for my support on a certain piece of legislation that was coming up for vote. I gave him my pledge, but expressed my skepticism that it would pass. But when the roll call was over, the bill garnered the votes it needed, and then some. I looked at Teddy with astonishment and asked how he had pulled it off. He just patted me on the back, and said "Luck of the Irish!"
Of course, luck had little to do with Ted Kennedy’s legislative success, and he knew that. A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, "What did Webster do?"
But though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss. It was the friend and colleague who was always the first to pick up the phone and say, "I’m sorry for your loss," or "I hope you feel better," or "What can I do to help?" It was the boss who was so adored by his staff that over five hundred spanning five decades showed up for his 75th birthday party. It was the man who sent birthday wishes and thank you notes and even his own paintings to so many who never imagined that a U.S. Senator would take the time to think about someone like them. I have one of those paintings in my private study – a Cape Cod seascape that was a gift to a freshman legislator who happened to admire it when Ted Kennedy welcomed him into his office the first week he arrived in Washington; by the way, that’s my second favorite gift from Teddy and Vicki after our dog Bo. And it seems like everyone has one of those stories – the ones that often start with "You wouldn’t believe who called me today."
Ted Kennedy was the father who looked after not only his own three children, but John’s and Bobby’s as well. He took them camping and taught them to sail. He laughed and danced with them at birthdays and weddings; cried and mourned with them through hardship and tragedy; and passed on that same sense of service and selflessness that his parents had instilled in him. Shortly after Ted walked Caroline down the aisle and gave her away at the altar, he received a note from Jackie that read, "On you the carefree youngest brother fell a burden a hero would have begged to be spared. We are all going to make it because you were always there with your love."
Not only did the Kennedy family make it because of Ted’s love – he made it because of theirs; and especially because of the love and the life he found in Vicki. After so much loss and so much sorrow, it could not have been easy for Ted Kennedy to risk his heart again. That he did is a testament to how deeply he loved this remarkable woman from Louisiana. And she didn’t just love him back. As Ted would often acknowledge, Vicki saved him. She gave him strength and purpose; joy and friendship; and stood by him always, especially in those last, hardest days.
We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us.
What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well; that we made a difference; that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of other human beings.
This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy. He once said of his brother Bobby that he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, and I imagine he would say the same about himself. The greatest expectations were placed upon Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became. We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy – not for the sake of ambition or vanity; not for wealth or power; but only for the people and the country he loved.
In the days after September 11th, Teddy made it a point to personally call each one of the 177 families of this state who lost a loved one in the attack. But he didn’t stop there. He kept calling and checking up on them. He fought through red tape to get them assistance and grief counseling. He invited them sailing, played with their children, and would write each family a letter whenever the anniversary of that terrible day came along. To one widow, he wrote the following:
"As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss, but we carry on, because we have to, because our loved one would want us to, and because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us."
We carry on.
Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image – the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon. May God Bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.
During a tele-townhall with constituents today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he supports a public option...but then he added an extremely important caveat. Reid said he doesn't think the public option ought to be a government run program like Medicare, but instead favors a "private entity that has direction from the federal government so people that don't fall within the parameters of being able to get insurance from their employers, they would have a place to go. "
That sounds suspiciously like Reid would prefer a so-called co-op system, which almost all reformers regard with suspicion, and many regard as a non-starter. Reid is ultimately more than just one vote, too. If the Senate passes a health care bill through the regular legislative process, he'll be the one marrying two different pieces of legislation: one which creates a public option, and one which creates co-ops.
"From the moment Senator Martinez announced his retirement, Governor Crist placed his ambitions over Florida's needs. Floridians require a Senator working to ease their economic pain and achieve comprehensive health insurance reform, not a political appointee who serves the monied special interests.
"The Governor added another addition to his campaign team at taxpayers' expense. George LeMieux doesn't represent Floridians facing economic challenges - he represents privileged clients with expense accounts far removed from the realities Floridians are facing.
"Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers' expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience from Congressman Clay Shaw to Mayor John Delaney to various Hispanic leaders were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent.
"By appointing George LeMieux, Governor Crist's inner circle was rewarded with a U.S. Senate seat and Floridians are left lacking the representation they deserve."
But it's some of the stances LeMieux took on gay adoption and gay benefits way back in 1998 when he ran unsuccessfully for the state House that could really rankle the conservative base.
In 1998, when LeMieux was challenging Democratic state Rep. Tracy Stafford for a Broward Congressional seat, he sought to siphon off votes from the district's gay community in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manor.
LeMieux told Steve Bousquet (back then of the Herald, now of the Times/Herald) in September 1998 that gay couples in Florida should be allowed to adopt children. He also said he favored domestic partnership laws to extend health care and other benefits enjoyed by married couples. He said unmarried partners should be permitted to be listed as beneficiaries on insurance policies.
The Death of U.S Health Care: From Dick Morris' column, "When all of America's top health insurers and providers met at the White House this week and pledged to save $2 trillion over the next decade in health costs, they were pledging to sabotage our medical care. The blunt truth, which everybody agreed to keep quiet, is that the only way to reduce these costs is to ration healthcare, thereby destroying our system." Click here to read more
Topic 2: Cat Fund:-No Help From the Feds?
With Hurricane Season just around the corner, Florida's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is short on cash. The Cat fund sells reinsurance, insurance for insurance companies, to private companies who can draw on the fund to bridge the gap between the funding they have on hand, and the amount they need to cover claims in the event of a major disaster.
If a serious hurricane or other natural disaster hits Florida, the Cat Fund could be responsible for covering up to $29 billion in damages. Currently, the fund has resources to cover only $11 billion.
Last year, Florida paid Warren Buffet $224 million to secure a $4 billion line of credit in the event claims against the Cat Fund surpassed available funding. This year, Florida asked the U.S Treasury for a line of credit, but last week the U.S Treasury denied that request. Members of the Florida Cabinet are now faced with the task of exploring alternative means to bridge the gap.
Florida isn't the only state facing this problem, which underscores the need for federal lawmakers to act. President Obama supported a National Cat Fund on the campaign trail. It's time to fulfill that campaign promise now before hurricane season starts.
Topic 5: Education Funding: Possible Sales Tax Hike?
How do you maintain the current level of education funding and implement the Class Size Amendment during an economic recession? That is the question Florida lawmakers in both the House and Senate faced last week as they mulled over the education budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10.
So far the three suggested avenues for maintaining Florida's current level of education funding have surfaced: 1) accepting federal stimulus dollars; 2) ratification of the Seminole Gaming Compact; and 3) a constitutional amendment creating a penny increase in the statewide sales tax.
The Senate's budget maintains the current funding level, $6,860 per student, by incorporating both federal stimulus dollars and funding from the Seminole Gaming Compact. The House plan includes federal stimulus dollars, but no gaming funds, and results in a 10 percent reduction in education spending.
The Senate has also suggested a constitutional amendment for a penny increase in the statewide sales tax to bridge the gap in education funding. Within that amendment is a provision to ease the class size limit voters previously approved in 2002. House leaders oppose the amendment, while education interest groups have yet to take a side.
Flexibility, rather than tax increases, is the solution to this problem. Both chambers should incorporate federal stimulus dollars and funding from the Seminole Compact. The federal dollars serve as a bridge to better times, while ratification of the Seminole Gaming Compact will produce billions in funding over the twenty-five year term of the Compact.
Topic 1: Stimulus Part II - What it means for Florida
According to state-by-state employment data released by the White House last week, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will create over 200,000 jobs in the Sunshine State. Florida is set to receive over $12 billion from the nearly $789 billion package.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce, leader of the statewide organization of 193 local chambers, has joined with The Florida Council of 100 and Enterprise Florida in requesting that the Legislature target stimulus funds toward more than 250 job creation proposals. The Chamber also noted that Florida is home to 6.5 percent of the nation's population, but is slated to receive only 1.5 percent of the Federal Stimulus Package.
On Friday, Governor Crist released his 2009-10 recommended budget. (See Topic 2) The budget proposal includes recommendations for investing $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars during the current fiscal year, and $4.7 billion in 2009-10. $1.4 billion will go toward shovel-ready projects that can be initiated within 180 days, creating or retaining an estimated 24,200 additional Florida jobs.
BOTTOM LINE: Without the federal stimulus funds, Florida's 2009-10 budget would have dropped to $61.8 billion and required drastic reductions and deep cuts to important programs and projects. We all can think what might have been with the spending of nearly 800 billion in revenues:
*raise the salary of every public school teacher in America by 20% for five years for $150 billion;
*allocate $100 billion to alternative energy research, implementation, and commercialization to free us from foreign oil;
*spend $250 billion to build regional high speed rail projects nationwide (Los Angeles to San Francisco, Boston to New York to Philadelphia to D.C., Miami to Orlando to Atlanta to Charlotte, Dallas to Houston to San Antonio, etc.);
*invest $100 billion to cure cancer, Alzheimer's, and other diseases;
*divide $200 billion between the states on a proportionate basis to shore up their budgets and fund transportation and infrastructure programs.
Whatever might have been, the national economy needs a stimulus to put Americans back to work. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Topic 1: Is the Media Making the Economy Worse?
Are we really in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? It depends on who you talk to. The national economy has slowed, unemployment is rising and the financial crisis of last fall, even with TARP 1 and 2, has frozen credit for many. However, for my money it is not as bad as the late 70s/early 80s. The April 21, 1980 cover of Time magazine carried the stark headline: "Is Capitalism Working?" The American economy was in crisis after years of stagflation (inflation and economic stagnation occurring simultaneously). The story recounted the ills: mortgage rates were 17%, business loans carried 20% interest rates and productivity had collapsed.
Since that "Great Recession" we have had several economic downturns. What makes this cycle different? This is the first economic decline since the saturation of 24-hour cable news, widespread use of the Internet, PDAs and social media that allow folks to track and analyze in explicit detail every single up and down the economy takes throughout the day. Media outlets competing for your attention take the same "if it bleeds it leads" approach to the economy as they do to crime stories and hurricane coverage. Media pressure moves markets as evidenced by the one ubiquitous appliance in every stock trader's office-a television.
Is it possible that while these are tough economic times, the media is making it worse by jamming down on the accelerator as the car approaches the cliff? Eight percent unemployment is troubling, but 92 percent are still working, and many of the restaurants, theme parks, hotels and attractions in Florida are still doing well.
So what should business leaders and entrepreneurs do? Make the most of a down economy. To that end, the St. Petersburg Times ran an interesting story on the upside to the down economy. The story notes that with inventories down, some small businesses are weathering the storm and rising to the top as lean mean fighting machines, bettered equipped for future shifts in the marketplace. For would-be homebuyers and investors, both homes and stocks are selling at a significant discount. The market may be down now, but it will rise again as it always does, so those willing to take the risk could reap substantial benefits down the road.
There is no doubt that the economy is in a tough place, but don't be fooled by the media into believing that that situation is worse than it actually is. And when the market recovers, expect the media to act accordingly by exaggerating the upside (look for the Time Magazine cover "America is Back!"). The truth is that it is never as bad or as good as it seems.
BOISE -- Rex Rammell, Republican candidate for Idaho governor, says his comments about "Obama tags" are not a big deal, but he apologizes if people think he wants the president assassinated.
The Twin Falls Times News reports that during during a discussion on wolves Tuesday night at a local Republican party event, an audience member shouted a question about "Obama tags."
According to the newspaper, Rammell responded: "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."
Rammell, a veterinarian and former elk rancher from Rexburg, told Times News reporter Jared Hopkins his comment was a joke and he would never seriously talk about President Obama that way, although he doesn't support anything Obama's done as president.
"I was just being sarcastic. That was just a joke," Rammell told the paper. "I would never support him being assassinated. "She kind of caught me off guard, to be honest with you."
Nobody we talked to found kidding about hunting tags for the president of The United States very humorous, and Rammell told CBS 2: "If people read into my comments I would want him assassinated then I apologize for that. That was not the intent of my comment."
Mike Enzi, one of three Republicans ostensibly negotiating health care reform as part of the Senate's "Gang of Six," told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions.
"It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out," Enzi said Monday, according to the Billings Gazette.
Enzi found himself under attack at the town hall simply for sitting in the same room as the three Finance Committee Democrats. Republicans in the crowd called for him to exit the talks. He assured conservatives that his presence was delaying health care reform.
"If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," he said.
The Topeka Capitol-Journal reports that freshman Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) told a town hall meeting a week ago that the GOP still had to find a "great white hope."
"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," said Jenkins. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington." As examples, Jenkins mentioned Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Statement from President Obama:
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.
And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.
Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
"One of the Commonwealth's brightest lights went out last night. Ted Kennedy was a compassionate, effective, visionary statesman, family man and friend. Diane and I were blessed by his company, support and many kindnesses, and miss him profoundly. We pray for comfort for his beloved wife and partner Vicki and his entire family."
On the issue of end-of-life care, Steele was uncompromising: In a Republican world, no government funds could be used to pay doctors to provide information about living wills, hospices or palliative care, whether seniors and their families ask for it or not.
"Government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but," Steele explained in articulating the new philosophy. Once back in power, look for Republicans to apply the same approach to issues such as flu vaccinations, disaster relief and air traffic control.
According to Steele, Republicans will also seek to outlaw "any effort to ration health care based on age." You don't have to be a lawyer like Steele to understand that would effectively make it a federal crime for any hospital to refuse a heart transplant to a 95-year-old, or for any doctor to refuse to prescribe Viagra to a sexually precocious seventh-grader. Although Steele did not indicate what the penalty would be, he did not rule out the death penalty.
Indeed, Republicans seem determined to preserve the uniquely American system under which health care is rationed today -- on the basis of employment status and ability to pay. According to the respected Institute of Medicine, this market-based approach to rationing has held the number of untimely deaths each year to a mere 18,000 uninsured souls. Thanks to Medicare, all of those victims are younger than 65, but apparently that is the kind of age-based rationing that real Republicans can embrace.
After reading his broadside, one is left wondering exactly what health reform plan Steele thought he was attacking. At one point, Steele claims that Democrats would prevent Americans from keeping their doctors or an insurance plan they like. Later, he warns that government will soon be setting caps on how many heart surgeries could be performed in the United States each year. Where is he getting this stuff? Has the chairman of the Republican Party somehow gotten hold of a top-secret plan for a government takeover of the health-care system that GOP operatives snatched during a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters?
If all that sounds spurious and unsubstantiated, it is. And like many of the overstated claims in this column, its purpose is to highlight the lies, distortions and political scare tactics that Steele and other Republicans have used to poison the national debate over health reform.
Have you no shame, sir? Have you no shame?
In the August 1, 2002 memo written by Bybee and Yoo, the lawyers summarize and refer repeatedly to what the CIA told them about how the “enhanced interrogation techniques” are supposed to work, as well as to assurances that the lawyers then consider material for whether the proposed actions violate U.S. laws. For instance, discussing waterboarding, they write, that water would be applied “in a controlled manner,” and that the CIA orally informed them that “this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is in fact not drowning.”
Just one problem: CIA medical personal objected to the description that OTS gave to the Justice Department as factually inaccurate.
Addressing the discrepancies between how waterboarding worked in the SERE school and how it worked at CIA and other torture techniques that changed between on-paper justification and in-the-field practice, a footnote to the inspector general’s 2004 report reads:According to the Chief, Medical Services, OMS [the CIA's Office of Medical Services] was neither consulted nor involved in the initial analysis of the risk and benefits of EITs [”enhanced interrogation techniques,” nor provided with the OTS report cited in the OLC opinion. In retrospect, based on the OLC extracts of the OTS report, OMS contends that the reported sophistication of the preliminary EIT review was probably exaggerated, at least as it related to the waterboard, and that the power of this EIT was appreciably overstated in the report. Furthermore, OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogators on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe.
A major problem is that it is ineffective. Al Qaeda terrorists are trained to resist torture. As shocking as these techniques are to us, the al Qaeda training prepares them for much worse – the torture they would expect to receive if caught by dictatorships for example.
This is why, as we see from the recently released Department of Justice memos on interrogation, the contractors had to keep getting authorization to use harsher and harsher methods, until they reached waterboarding and then there was nothing they could do but use that technique again and again. Abu Zubaydah had to be waterboarded 83 times and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times. In a democracy there is a glass ceiling of harsh techniques the interrogator cannot breach, and a detainee can eventually call the interrogator's bluff.
In addition the harsh techniques only serves to reinforce what the detainee has been prepared to expect if captured. This gives him a greater sense of control and predictability about his experience, and strengthens his will to resist.
A second major problem with this technique is that evidence gained from it is unreliable. There is no way to know whether the detainee is being truthful, or just speaking to either mitigate his discomfort or to deliberately provide false information. As the interrogator isn't an expert on the detainee or the subject matter, nor has he spent time going over the details of the case, the interrogator cannot easily know if the detainee is telling the truth. This unfortunately has happened and we have had problems ranging from agents chasing false leads to the disastrous case of Ibn Sheikh al-Libby who gave false information on Iraq, al Qaeda, and WMD.
A third major problem with this technique is that it is slow. It takes place over a long period of time, for example preventing the detainee from sleeping for 180 hours as the memos detail, or waterboarding 183 times in the case of KSM. When we have an alleged "ticking timebomb" scenario and need to get information quickly, we can't afford to wait that long.