Saturday, July 30, 2005
NYT: 36 senators call Bolton liar
WASHINGTON - Charging that John R. Bolton, below right, was "not truthful" in answering questions about his record, 36 senators urged President Bush on Friday not to make a recess appointment of Mr. Bolton as United Nations ambassador after the Senate's failure to confirm him for that job.
But one Republican official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president has not announced his decision, said Mr. Bush would probably appoint Mr. Bolton next week.
In a letter to Mr. Bush, the senators cited the disclosure on Thursday that Mr. Bolton had been interviewed by the State Department's inspector general in an investigation of intelligence failures related to Iraq, even though he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March that he had not been involved in any such inquiry.
Mr. Bolton "did not recall this interview" when he assured the committee that he had not been questioned by any investigators, according to a letter sent Friday from the State Department to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the foreign relations panel.
The letter from the senators, all Democrats except for the Senate's sole independent, who usually votes with them, was the latest escalation of the battle over Mr. Bolton.
Source: NY Times.
.In a release late last night, Media Matters for America says "many more supporters than detractors noted Roberts's Catholicism." In their exhaustive way, they summarize 100 stories to support the quote above, and conclude thus:
By contrast, Media Matters' Nexis search uncovered 16 references to Democrats or Roberts's critics raising his Catholicism as a potential problem. The vast majority of these were news reports about allegations that Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) asked Roberts what he would do if the law came into conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Durbin has said that he was quoted inaccurately. [Durbin is shown meeting with Roberts, below left.]
Media Matters' Nexis search revealed only two other instances in which Roberts's critics seemed to suggest that his faith would interfere with his work as a Supreme Court justice:
On the July 20 edition of National Public Radio's (NPR) News & Notes with Ed Gordon, New York Daily News columnist E.R. Shipp said, "He's been on the record seeming to be against Roe v. Wade. He's very much a devout Catholic. He seems to have some concerns about flag-burning as a means of protest, and issues such as that. So I think if more of the replacement judges on the Supreme Court are of those views, there is something to worry about."
In a more ambiguous case, on July 23, CNN Saturday Morning anchor Betty Nguyen read an e-mail from "Cindy from Virginia," who wrote, "If being a devout Catholic would have an influence on any Roe v. Wade decisions, this is very important." Nguyen added, "She wants to know that from Roberts."
Full Media Matters for America story. D.H.: Of course, as usual, the piece is exhaustively footnoted.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Yahoo: Catholic group defends Roberts, accuses Dems of bigotry
WASHINGTON, July 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Catholic based advocacy group Fidelis has launched the first phase of an internet advertising campaign to prevent anti-religious bigotry in the confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts. The campaign which cites examples of anti-religious comments made by Democratic leaders Howard Dean, Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) (D-Nev.), and Sen. Tom Harkin (news, bio, voting record) (D-Iowa) was launched on the Web sites of National Review Online and Catholic Exchange will expand to other Web sites and blogs over the coming week.
Since President Bush nominated Judge Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court, both he and his wife have been subjected to harsh attacks and offensive questioning about their religious beliefs by the media, liberal groups, and even some members of the United States Senate, Fidelis's press release said.
"We warned the public that anti-religious bigotry would enter the confirmation process just as it has in the past. Less than twenty four hours after Judge Roberts' nomination, we began seeing these mean-spirited attacks surface, and we expect there is more to come," said Fidelis President Joseph Cella.
During an interview with Randi Rhodes on her Air America radio show on June 8, 2005, Sen. Tom Harkin, right, reportedly described Christian Broadcasters as follows: "They are sort of our own home grown Taliban.... if you don't tune into their line, then you're obviously on Satan's line."
Cella added: "By shining a bright light on these outrageously intolerant remarks, particularly those of Senator Harkin, we hope to put an end to them or at least deter others from embracing them during the confirmation of Judge John Roberts."
Roberts has faced inquiries about his 'personal views' and hypothetical questions involving his religious faith which he holds dearly, Cella said. Article VI, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution prohibits such religious tests saying: "(B)ut no religious test shall ever be required a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Full Yahoo News story.
AFP: Right wing says Frist betrays core belief
"If Senator Frist moves forward and votes to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research he is betraying his core belief that life begins at conception," said Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney today.
Mahoney is Director of the Christian Defense Coalition.
.Fox echoed conservative spin on "judicial activism" - by Media Matters for AmericaBush supporters claim that only conservative judges adhere to a doctrine of strict constitutional interpretation, while liberal judges "legislate from the bench," to use President Bush's oft-repeated phrase. But while Fox News and other media outlets have repeatedly failed to offer a substantive definition of judicial activism, a recent study by Yale law professor Paul Gewirtz and recent Yale Law School graduate Chad Golder (detailed in a July 6 New York Times op-ed, which DemLog blogged here) offers one standard by which judicial activism may be measured: a willingness to strike down legislation or restrict its application, thereby circumscribing congressional authority to enact laws in a variety of areas, including the environment, civil rights, and consumer protection.
By Gewirtz and Golder's standard, those Supreme Court justices often labeled strict constructionists -- or, more accurately, "originalists" or "textualists," who purport to discern and apply the original meaning of constitutional provisions -- are the real judicial activists. In fact, the study found that Justice Clarence Thomas was the most likely to strike down federal laws, while justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer -- the only two current justices appointed by a Democratic president -- were the least likely to do so.
Moreover, as an article by constitutional scholar Cass R. Sunstein illustrates, judicial activists come in all political stripes. In a November 9, 2002, New York Times op-ed titled "Taking Over the Courts," Sunstein argued that the sides advocating judicial activism or, conversely, judicial restraint have shifted back and forth between liberals and conservatives over the past century. He asserted that the current conservative federal judiciary has embarked on a "new program of judicial activism":
In the 1960's and 1970's, judicial restraint was the overriding conservative theme. Conservatives offered principled criticisms of the Warren Court and Roe v. Wade. In this period, the conservative heroes were Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Felix Frankfurter and John Marshall Harlan, all of whom greatly respected the powers of Congress and state governments. They argued, time and again, that the Supreme Court should not use vague provisions of the Constitution to strike down laws enacted by elected officials. For much of the 20th century, conservative thought was encapsulated in Holmes's claim that a constitution "is made for people of fundamentally differing views."
All this changed in the early 1980's. At that point, some conservatives started advocating an aggressive role for the Supreme Court. The most obvious reason is that once conservatives began to occupy the federal courts, the argument for judicial restraint suddenly seemed less appealing. (The change is precisely paralleled by the earlier shift on the liberal side; liberals were committed to judicial restraint between 1910 and 1950, but many switched in the 1960's in support of the aggressive role of the Warren Court.)
Despite these indications that ideological conservatives are the current judicial activists, Bush senior adviser Karl Rove and other conservatives have used phrases such as "liberal activist judges" to stoke political outrage across diverse groups of conservatives. A November 2004 Atlantic Monthly article explained this semantic strategy:
Among Rove's other innovations was a savvy use of language, developed for speaking to the conservative base about judicial races. Candidates were to attack "liberal activist judges" and to present themselves as "people who will strictly interpret the law and not rewrite it from the bench." A former Rove staffer explained to me that the term "activist judges" motivates all sorts of people for very different reasons. If you're a religious conservative, he said, it means judges who established abortion rights or who interpret Massachusetts's equal-protection clause as applying to gays. If you're a business conservative, it means those who allow exorbitant jury awards. And in Alabama especially, the term conjures up those who forced integration. "The attraction of calling yourself a 'strict constructionist,' " as Rove's candidates did, this staffer explained, "is that you can attract business conservatives, social conservatives, and moderates who simply want a reasonable standard of justice."
Full Media Matters for America article.
D.H.: I made the same point in an op-ed in January, that is, that it's not really "strict constructionism" that the "conservatives" want, in a piece entitled "'Conservative Strict-Constructionism' will backfire."
Burkett: Tricks worse than Watergate
By Bill Burkett, shown below right with his wife Nicki at the Abilene Democrats July 2 picnic
I'm not happy with the fact that my country - the same country others claim as their own seems to be so divided and partisan that hatred and lying seem to have overtaken ethics, morals and what is right.
I'm not happy that the President of the United States, George W. Bush would place politics over policy; or being 'loyal to friends' over being loyal to the integrity of his office or the people of this country.
I'm not happy that the White House seems to have become ground zero for dirty tricks, retaliation and retribution; character assassinations and violations of the people's right to both know completely what's going on and being able to openly comment about it even when that comment is in total disagreement with it.
All of this seems foreign to this nation's birth and nurturing for over 200 years. It seems foreign to me; a man who served in uniform under oath to protect the Constitution and this nation against all enemies; foreign and domestic for nearly three decades.
How could it have gotten so far out of balance and out of control.
It began with a single lie and deception. It began with hidden agendas. It began with hidden friends that would gain substantially from public policy; from a historical attitude of "to the victors go the spoils" and from a recent attitude and acceptance of "Survival".
It dissolved the principle of "WE, THE PEOPLE" "WE" rather than "ME"; the concept of equal rights responsibilities and access . . .which seem to have been replaced by the concepts of "influence peddling" and "favoritism" and "retaliation".
It has been eroded by the misuse of the word "War" by those who have no direct association or experience with what the term means.
It has been a change from the Thomas Paine patriotism of liberty or death to the current patriotism of "don't tread on me" or more modernly stated, "I've got mine so screw you."
We've forgotten what it means to fight on principle. We've done so regardless of party because our focus is on "what's in it for me" rather than "What's in the best interest of our nation".
So we fight no more. We compromise and back bite. We retaliate and snipe. We character assassinate anyone who speaks against us.
And we employ dirty tricks which deflect from the facts.
That art which used to be gutteral in nature has become admired in the "Survivial" standard. It is admired by journalists where only one generation ago it was abhorred.
Yet it was only one generation ago that actions like those of today were called Watergate and were exposed and rejected -- actions like the rat infestation currently exposed at the White House with the entire staff willingly invovled in outing an entire CIA mission in order to retaliate against someone who became outspoken on a controversial public policy.
And then we look back only fifteen years past Watergate and we discover that this very action was indeed a capitol offense, punishable by death until we adopted new rules that make national security and intelligence a political football.
Whether the President was Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, or Kennedy, does anyone really doubt that each of these individuals would have been fired, and preferred for criminal prosecution? All of them, wholesale.
And the pressure would have been placed squarely by the opposition party and the press and that pressure would have kept America honest and on the ethical and moral track.
The Republican Party can never more speak to me of the great moral standards when they fabricated talking points to protect criminal acts rather than demand resignations and prosecution. But neither can the Democrats seem so high and mighty when they have been unwilling to fall on their sword in defense of America; her standards and her integrity.
This is a fight for what is left of America.
It is not personal to me, though I know it first hand having received retaliation at the hand of these same individuals who then chose Ambassador Wilson or someone else. To them, the name, the family destroyed or the lives lost are just casualties. Their insensitivity is a reflection of a win at all cost mentality - forget the rules - rub out the lines.
That's not America. That's not the land I fought to keep free; to maintain a freedom of speech for the journalists; to retain the right to bear arms for the hunter; retain the right of assembly for the dissident.
That's not America.
America weeps. It weeps for strong minds and hearts to set her free again; to free her from the grip of fear and tyranny; to free her from the grasp of the corrupt and greedy. America weeps and waits as she weakens.
There is nothing 'cool' about America. Waiting until something "cool" happens to embrace her will let her die slowly of abuse. Bleeding and crying aren't "cool. Being willing to stand up against those that are cool for a wrong is not "cool".
This will have to be an UNCOOL response if America is to survive.
It will have to be a socially unacceptable response; one that will not bring positive headlines; or help your business or social circle. It means standing against the Oprah Club, the Rotary Club and the Good Old Boy Club; not in defiance of their right to exist, but in the irrelevance to what is really America.
It will have to be those willing to be blunt, candid, and take heat for it. It won't come from the charletains parading as independent voices; like Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, for their voice is nothing more than a for profit scheme to gain greed - not for the good of America. it will come from the little people who turn off their radio dial and turn on their research and their core values.
America is weeping. She's weeping for us all to stand for her and free her from her bondage.
America is crying for you.
Will Durst: Scoundrel City
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson
Okay, get this and get this straight. Criticizing our government is not the same as criticizing our armed forces. Okay? The same way that criticizing our government is not the same as criticizing our postal workers. Or criticizing our zookeepers or our ceramic mosaic tile grout installers. And let me make this clear, I am not in any way suggesting that any of these groups be criticized. Especially the postal workers.
Furthermore, telling the press that you are disgusted by reports of torture does not endanger our troops.
You're all so fired-up desperate to know what endangers our troops. I'll tell you what endangers our troops greedy, cretinous, toad leaders who send them 12,000 miles away to a desert to fight a war based on lies. Lies about the threat and lies about a phantom desire to negotiate. That is what is responsible for putting our troops in harm's way. The idiots who sent them into this - and yes, its time to say it out loud - this quagmire.
Quagmire, as in bottomless morass. Quagmire, as in Vietnam. A minor conflict that tore our country apart about three decades ago. Perhaps some of you patriotic Republicans remember? I know none of you bothered to serve over there, but you must have seen a History Channel special on it. Does the movie "Apocalypse Now" ring a bell? [Click here to see this cartoon big enough to read. Rummy says, "Quagmire? What quagmire? This is not a quagmire! Slog, maybe ... but not a quagmire....]
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calls the Iraq War a "grotesque mistake," and House Speaker Dennis Hastert reacts like she's funding secret poisonous kimchee research in North Korea. "Leader Pelosi and the Democratic leadership should support our troops instead of spreading inflammatory statements." Hey, Hastert! Pay attention. The lady said absolutely nothing about our troops. She was talking about you, you moron, and the rest of the majority leadership.
And trust me, I use the term "leadership" extremely loosely. For crum's sake, you pay enough for your polling, put the donut down and read some of it. Most of America agrees with Pelosi. Big, fat, enormous, monstrous, grotesque mistake. Repeat after me: "War - bad. Troops - good." See, it's possible to say and to mean it as well.
What bowling ball cajones you must have to scream at Senator Durbin, the anti-torture dude, instead of the idiots who keep sending our troops over there without the proper equipment.
You should be screaming at the over-inflated egos trying to take away benefits from those very same troops when they come home. It's like teaching the 9/11 terrorists a lesson by invading a country that had absolutely nothing to do with it. Oh, okay, I see. It's a pattern.
Are you saying it's treasonous to denounce torture? Or do you mean to imply torture comes with codicils?
"Torture is bad, unless it's us doing the torturing. In which case it is not torture, but rather 'results oriented questioning.'" Samuel Johnson was a piker.
With these scoundrels, patriotism is not the last, but the first, second and every other refuge. The Republicans need to learn: more strident does not make you more correct. If it did, Joan Rivers would be running things.
Will Durst is extremely happy that more strident does not mean more correct. Mostly because of the Joan Rivers thing.
Will Durst is a political comedian who has performed around the world. He is a familiar pundit on television. His two CDs are available at laugh.com. Look for Will's collection of columns "Raging Moderate" in a bookstore near you soon. Email Will at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2005 Will Durst. Source: Cagle. Submitted by Elizabeth & Roger Spier.
.By Terry BarhorstI'm just wondering why the economy is considered to be doing so well. Everything seems to have moved away from the hourly wage earner to the stockholders. Wage earners are as, or more, productive than they have ever been and have little or nothing to show for it as they become fewer and fewer making, relatively, less and less. Stockholders and speculators, on the other hand, are in Republican heaven with greater returns and fewer taxes. (BTW, our FIT went up last year and I'm on Social security and my COLA raise was eaten by the medicare payment raise.)
I ran a simple test that many will call invalid. I asked Walmart employees if they were making as much as they made ten years ago. Of the seven that would answer at all, 5 said they were making less and 2 said they were making less than half of their old salary before being laid off from their prior job. One woman was retired, but had a "huge" medical bill hanging over her head because the medical insurance she thought was permanent on retirement, disappeared. She was over 65 and actually grateful to Walmart for "letting her work," the bill collectors had been driving her "crazy."
BTW, the people that work for some collection firms make very small wages and get their money from a percentage of the money they harrass out of those in debt. There is a rising rate of employment in the collection industry, but that will never show up in the national media or some Republican politician's speech about the Bush administration "job market" except as a plus, but, unlabelled statistic.
-Terry Barhorst, Moderator, Lone_Star_Democrats
Click on the latest Abi-Demian, Democratic Party News:
.By Eric Umansky
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005, at 5:05 AM CT
The New York Times' lead announces that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, below left, will split with President Bush and support a bill to expand funding for embryonic stem-cell research. "I believe the president's policy should be modified," Frist will announce today, according to a draft of a speech that the senator's office handed the Times. The bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, has already passed the House. It's worth noting that the piece has no quotes from Frist or his draft speech explicitly supporting the bill in question, leaving open the possibility he wants a different one or significant changes to it. In fact, he's quoted as saying the bill has "serious shortcomings." The Washington Post leads with and others front the Irish Republican Army renouncing its 35-year-old campaign of violence and promising to disarm. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox and USA Today lead with the House, as expected, passing the final version of the porky energy bill. The Senate is scheduled to do the same today, after which President Bush will add his signature. The bill, which has tax breaks for hybrids but won't help conserve much energy, also has $14.5 billion in breaks for the energy industry (not as much as they wanted, notes USAT). The Los Angeles Times leads with Federated, parent of Macy's, announcing that when it purchases Robinsons-May it will close 68 total department stores. (If you're wondering why this is the lead: 21 of those stores are in Southern California.)
The IRA declared a ceasefire in 1997, but the peace process broke down a few years ago, partly over the organization's refusal to give up its weapons. Unionist Protestant politicians said they were skeptical of the IRA promises. But the hope is that the IRA will keep its word and that eventually the power-sharing government, which was suspended in 2002, will come back to life. As everybody notes, the IRA had ticked off even supporters recently over its apparent bank-robbing ways and connection to a murder.
As the NYT fronts -- complete with cool snapshot (right) -- the shuttle did a back-flip so NASA got a good look at the heat tiles on Discovery's belly; scientists concluded that there's not significant damage. "It's a very clean orbiter," said an agency official.
The LAT has today's must read explaining how institutional pressures helped blind NASA to the risks it was taking with the foam on the shuttle, right. "We had precious little faith that they could stop this stuff from coming off," said Adm. Harold Gehman, head of the independent board that reviewed the Columbia disaster. "And lo and behold, they couldn't." The story continues:
Gehman said neither his accident investigators nor NASA had any definitive explanation why foam even fell off the tank, let alone a proposal for how to stop it.
"At the time, we got mixed and inconsistent explanations why foam fell off," Gehman said. "When we went into the body of research, it was inconsistent and unpersuasive."
A piece inside the NYT says "driven by decades of momentum and many billions of dollars in contracts," chances are the shuttle program will carry on.
The WP notices -- on page A4 -- that among the "dozens of obscure special-interest provisions" stuffed into the energy bill is an amendment reversing the U.S.'s restrictions on exporting weapons-grade uranium. The Senate had rejected the move last month, but congressional negotiators tucked it back in during conference negotiations. The provision will benefit a Canadian company that uses the uranium for medical tests. The company once considered changing to lower-grade uranium but decided to instead lobby Congress for the loophole.
The WP goes Page One with the Senate getting ready to give gun-makers sweeping immunity for civil suits stemming from gun-related crimes. The bill is supported by most Republicans as well as a dozen Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The Post misses a bizarre -- and not widely reported -- angle of the story: GOP Senate leaders brought the gun bill to the floor as part of a (successful) maneuver to block a bipartisan effort to set standards for treatment of military detainees. The blockage also resulted in the Pentagon's whole appropriations bill being shelved for now.
The Post fronts two new government reports suggesting reconstruction in Iraq is not going swimmingly. About $6 billion has been "committed" for electricity generation, which is still below prewar levels. Nearly a third of the money is now going to security.
The east-side papers go inside with a new study concluding that the combo of global warming, over-fishing, and habitat destruction is causing a big decline in the variety of fish species being caught worldwide. Some spots have seen a 50 percent decline.
The NYT fronts word that John Negroponte, the administration's intel czar, seen below right, with FBI Director Robert Mueller, left, and CIA Director Porter Goss, center, has imposed regulations meant to ensure that top intel reports are, basically, not based on gossip. The new rules, for example, require each agency to vouch for the reliability of the sources it cites. The move comes a mere two years after it was clear that much of the intel community's assessment on Iraq was full of single-sourced piffle.
Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Source: Slate Magazine's Today's Papers column.
WashPost: Security hampers Iraq reconstruction
By Renae Merle and Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 29, 2005; Page A01
Efforts to rebuild water, electricity and health networks in Iraq are being shortchanged by higher-than-expected costs to provide security and by generous financial awards to contractors, according to a series of reports by government investigators released yesterday.
Taken together, the reports seem to run contrary to the Bush administration's upbeat assessment that reconstruction efforts are moving vigorously ahead and that the insurgency is dying down.
"It's quite clear that we've got massive amounts of taxpayer money funneled into Iraq, with very little oversight and a substantial amount of waste and abuse," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), below left. "These are very discouraging reports."
Dorgan said the high costs associated with providing security are particularly troubling.
The United States, Iraq and international donors have committed more than $60 billion to run Iraq and revive its damaged infrastructure. But security costs are eating away a substantial share of that total, up to 36 percent on some projects, the Government Accountability Office reported yesterday. The higher security costs are causing reconstruction authorities to scale back efforts in some areas and abandon projects in others.
For instance, in March, the U.S. Agency for International Development canceled two electric power generation programs to provide $15 million in additional security elsewhere. On another project to rehabilitate electric substations, the Army Corps of Engineers decided that securing 14 of the 23 facilities would be too expensive and limited the entire project to nine stations. And in February, USAID added $33 million to cover higher security costs on one project, which left it short of money to pay for construction oversight, quality assurance and administrative costs.
"If we didn't have a bunch of extremists running around trying to derail the progress of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people and the coalition, the amount of money spent on security would be far less," said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman. "It is a fact of life, one which cannot be wished away."
Heather Layman, spokeswoman for USAID, said security accounts for an average of 22 percent of a project's cost in Iraq. "We are making some really important and good progress in this challenging environment," Layman said. "Security is part of the cost. But we're doing things like providing clean water and power and building schools."
The new reports were released to Congress yesterday. They were compiled by the GAO and the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which was created to monitor the rebuilding process.
GAO investigators did find some bright spots: "The U.S. has completed projects in Iraq that have helped to restore basic services, such as rehabilitating oil wells and refineries, increasing electrical generation capacity, restoring water treatment plants, and reestablishing Iraqi basic health care services," the report's authors concluded.
In other areas, developments were less auspicious.
Despite $5.7 billion committed to restoring electricity service in Iraq, power generation was still at lower levels as of May than it had been before the U.S. invasion in 2003. In one case, the GAO reported, the United States led an overhaul of an Iraqi power plant but then did not adequately train the Iraqis how to operate it. A widespread power outage resulted.
Crude oil production has also dropped in the past two years, even with more than $5 billion in U.S. and Iraqi funds available for rebuilding. Oil export revenue is needed to fund more than 90 percent of the nascent Iraqi government's 2005 budget, the State Department has said.
Full Washington Post story.
MIAMI - An eccentric politician, recently accused of money laundering and soliciting male prostitutes, fatally shot himself Wednesday night in the lobby of The Miami Herald after an anguished phone conversation with a star columnist. The columnist, Jim DeFede, was fired hours later by the Herald for secretly taping his conversation with the distraught man - a possible violation of state law.
Jesús Díaz Jr., below right, publisher of The Miami Herald, appears with Tom Fiedler, executive editor, at a news conference Thursday.
In the news conference at The Herald, Mr. Díaz said: "We never said that this was not an issue, that this would be O.K. So there was no change. This was an issue from the moment we heard what Jim had done."
Mr. DeFede, who chronicles the surreal politics of South Florida, said his conversation with the man, Arthur Teele Jr., a former city commissioner recently indicted on federal charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, was so disturbing that he quietly began recording it "out of concern" for Mr. Teele.
"The idea that he might be thinking suicide was in my mind," Mr. DeFede, 42, said Thursday. "I wanted to get what he was saying down - to preserve what he was saying - so I pushed the record button."
Mr. Teele's suicide followed a police investigation into corruption that, together with his death on the polished terrazzo floor of The Herald building's lobby on Wednesday, provided yet another strange chapter in Miami's storied political history.
Because he made a recording without Mr. Teele's knowledge - possibly a crime in Florida, unlike many other states - and because he told his bosses he had done so, Mr. DeFede, a three-year employee of The Herald, was abruptly fired Wednesday night. Now many of his colleagues are stunned. Over 60 present and former Herald reporters and other media people have signed an open letter to the Herald management protesting the firing. The newspaper's management is staunchly defending its action, and Mr. DeFede's dismissal is making waves as a stark example of the extreme measures by newspapers to appear beyond ethical reproach.
Mr. DeFede and his former employer have differing accounts of how his dismissal unfolded in the fraught hours after Mr. Teele's death. Mr. DeFede, a muckraker with a knack for nailing wayward politicians, said Jesús Díaz Jr., The Herald's publisher, and Robert Beatty, its general counsel, were initially supportive when he told them about taping Mr. Teele.
"Robert said, 'There may be some liability here, but The Herald would defend you,' " Mr. DeFede said in a phone interview. "And Jesús said, 'Absolutely.' "
Several hours later, around 10:30 p.m., Mr. DeFede said, he was summoned to Mr. Díaz's office and told he was being fired.
Miami Police officers check on the condition of former city commissioner Art Teele, after he shot himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald Wednesday, left.
Mr. Teele's suicide came on the same day that another newspaper, Miami New Times, published a compilation of excerpts from a recent investigative report on him by the Miami-Dade Police Department. Among the many sordid details was a detective's interview with a male prostitute, now in jail, who said Mr. Teele had paid him for sex and used cocaine with him.
Mr. DeFede said Mr. Teele, 59, did not mention the article during their late-afternoon conversation but talked in anguish about the prostitute's accusations, saying he was especially worried about the impact on his adult son. Mr. DeFede said he had considered Mr. Teele a friend for most of the 14 years he had known him, and that it was not uncommon for Mr. Teele to "just call me out of the blue and want to talk and vent." But something was different this time, he said.
Full NY Times story.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Washington Post
, Los Angeles Times
, and NYT
all front -- and Wall Street Journal
goes high with -- the House narrowly approving the White House-supported Central American Free Trade Agreement
. The Senate has already approved CAFTA. As only the Post
emphasizes, last night legislators at first voted to defeat the bill
; then Republican leaders held the vote open for an hour. After the leaders made some members of Congress offers they couldn't refuse, the CAFTA bill finally passed at about midnight, 217 to 215.
Holding the vote open for so long goes against congressional tradition, but Republicans seem to be making a habit of it. They made the same move with the prescription drug bill.U.S. House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay (R-TX) is seen below right
as he speaks to the media after attending a Republican Conference with President George W. Bush and Republican Leadership in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., yesterday morning. DeLay said the vote on CAFTA would pass last night.
A provocative -- and thinly sourced -- front-page LAT
piece goes with allegations from Afghan officials that Pakistani troops are training and equipping Afghan militants
. The Afghan sources pointed out that militants have been using particularly sophisticated bombs in the past few months. They're the kind of devices, argued the Afghans, that militants could get only if they had, say, Pakistani military help. The Times
also says that one of its freelance reporters visited (nebulously described) "training camps" for militants in Pakistan that were once closed by the government and now seem to be thriving.
Everybody flags the top U.S. general in Iraq saying that if everything goes according to plans, a "fairly substantial" withdrawal of GIs could happen by next spring
. Meanwhile, SecDef Rumsfeld visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi prime minister, who also offered vague talk about his desire for the U.S. to get a move on.
A NYT piece on Rumsfeld focuses on his exhorting Iraqi leaders to move along with their constitution. Buried in the story is a mention by Rumsfeld that the U.S. is now holding 15,000 detainees. Last time this TPer checked -- about two months ago -- there were just over 10,000 prisoners.
Algeria confirmed that two of its diplomats in Iraq had been executed.
The NYT looks at newly released documents showing that in 2003 the military's top lawyers fought hard against the White House's arguments that the president had the authority to order torture of prisoners. One military lawyer argued that some of the contemplated interrogation techniques "amount to violations of domestic criminal law." The Times doesn't post the dissenting memos, but you can find them here. The Post recently detailed the lawyers' objections, though it didn't have the actual memos.
The Financial Times talks to Australia's environmental minister, who confirmed that his country is working on a regional global warming pact with the U.S.; the FT describes it as an attempt to "sideline" the Kyoto treaty. Australia and the U.S. are the only developed nations that have rejected Kyoto.
The NYT spent another day poring through early career papers of Judge John Roberts and concludes that they do show him quite the winger: "On almost every issue he dealt with where there were basically two sides, one more conservative than the other ... Judge Roberts advocated the more conservative course." The Times helpfully posts some of the documents.
The NYT mentions inside that the EPA was about to send out its annual report on vehicle fuel efficiency -- which details another step backward -- when it suddenly delayed the release until next week. That will probably be well after President Bush has signed the coming energy bill. The Times found out about the report because an EPA flack, apparently unaware of the last-minute change, handed it over.
So nosy ... Everybody mentions a big study concluding that Echinacea doesn't do jack for colds. The NYT described the study, which was published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, as particularly "rigorous." Subjects "were secluded in hotel rooms for five days while scientists examined them for symptoms and took nasal washings to look for the virus."Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full Slate Magazine Today's Papers column.
CAFTA passes after Bush cuts deals on textiles - July 28
WASHINGTON, Thursday, July 28 - The House of Representatives narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement early Thursday, allowing President Bush to put his signature to the nation's biggest reduction of trade barriers in more than 10 years.
Passage of the bill came only after intense pressure from Mr. Bush (shown below left with Speaker Hastert at the Capitol), who made a last-minute trip to the Capitol on Wednesday morning, and after deals with reluctant lawmakers from textile-producing states, sugar-growing areas and industrial states like Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The pact would eliminate most barriers to trade and investment between the United States, the Dominican Republic and the Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Brimming with confidence, House Republican leaders declared that the pact would benefit the United States as well as the impoverished countries of Central America.
"Tonight, we have the opportunity to be the progressive, aggressive good-neighbor party," said Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "We will not be the ones who say for 40 years that we want to help and then heel to the protectionist movement."
The immediate economic impact is likely to be small, at least for the United States, because the combined economies of the six countries are equivalent to about 1 percent of the United States economy or an economy about the size of Tampa, Fla., and its surrounding suburbs.
But the political impact is likely to loom much larger. To supporters and opponents alike, the pact became a political symbol over how best to respond to globalization, competition from low-wage countries and the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States.
The treaty has also been the focus of a power struggle between Mr. Bush, who championed it as a model for expanding free trade, and Democratic lawmakers who argued that it would encourage American companies to shift jobs out of this country while doing little to elevate the working standards of Central Americans.
All but a handful of Democrats, including many who voted in 1994 for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which covered the far bigger trading partners of Mexico and Canada, voted against the Central American agreement even though many issues are the same.
Democrats charged that Mr. Bush has missed an opportunity to elevate labor practices in Central American nations, predicting that the pact would encourage American companies to shift jobs out of the United States without prodding Central American countries to offer livable wages and basic protections for workers.
"As our manufacturing base erodes, as our industrial base erodes, we have a president who is contributing to the further erosion of that base," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, below right, the House Democratic leader.
In a crucial breakthrough, White House officials and Republican leaders were able to win support from about half of the Republican lawmakers from textile-producing states like Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
The trade deal has been unpopular in textile states, which have lost nearly 200,000 jobs in the industry in the last decade. But late last week, the administration announced that the Central American countries had agreed to several new restrictions that would benefit mills that export yarn and certain types of fabric.
One important concession, for instance, calls for the Central American countries to use American-made pockets and linings in pants they export to the United States.
Representative Gresham Barrett, Republican of South Carolina, was one of five Republicans who abandoned his opposition to the pact this week. On Wednesday, Mr. Barrett said that he was persuaded that with the new restrictions, the trade pact would prevent job loss to China.
But some textile industry groups, particularly those that represent producers of finished products rather than yarn or fabric, were furious and vowed to punish those who had changed their views.
Mr. Barrett said he was sanguine about the criticism. "Some of it bothers you," he said, "but I think in the long run a good Cafta agreement will help us keep jobs in South Carolina."
Full NY Times story, "House Approves Free Trade Pact."
.Dave Haigler is a Texas lawyer/mediator/arbitrator licensed in 1973. He became a Christian while serving as an Air Force officer in 1969. He became active as a Republican in 1980 because of Reagan & abortion. By 1989 he realized the Republicans were wrong on tort reform. He attended their state conventions to preserve the anti-abortion plank through 1992, when he served as county chair and supported a conservative pro-life primary challenger in a state legislature race. The pro-life movement supported the moderate incumbent, who won 75/25. In 1994, the moderates retaliated, voting him out as precinct chair, and he became broadly civic, believing that the religious right had been co-opted by the Gingrich takeover. He continued to vote Republican, though, thinking the abortion issue provided him no other choice, until 2000, when he voted for Bradley in the Democrat primary as a protest against Gore. The Democrats put him on the county resolutions committee, were cordial, and almost passed a pro-life resolution, which impressed him that there was hope there. By the end of 2003, he came to believe that his former hero, GWB, was lying about Iraq, and switched to supporting Dean. The local Dems recruited him as their county chair. He came to believe that the Republican plank on abortion was a fraud to co-opt the Christian right, thus there were two pro-choice parties, but only one was being honest about it. He also realized that if a daughter or step-daughter chose an abortion, he would not send her to prison for it, and so became pro-choice, yet still hoping to minimize abortions. As Democratic County Chair, he realized the importance of the internet for information, and started an online newsletter in September 2004, the Abi-Demian, at http://abi-demian.info, and a blog in February 2005, the DemLog, at http://demlog.blogspot.com. As such, he became more keenly aware of what's going on, particularly the pervasive frauds of the Bush Administration, such as Rove's treatment of Sen. McCain in the S.C. primary in 2000 and similar treatment of Sen. Kerry in 2004 through the Swift Boat Veterans. His main interest now is exposing the Republican power elite's attempt to gut the court system by:
* "court curbing,"
* alleged opposition to "activist judges,"
* supporting co-called "originalism," and
* co-opting the religious right to oppose Roe v. Wade
-- all such efforts by the Republican power elite having the effect of undermining the 3-part balance of powers so carefully crafted by our Founding Fathers.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
.Abilene, July 27 - Taylor County Democratic Chair Dave Haigler, below right, took issue today with KSLI-AM-1290 Co-Host Paul Serrell's saying U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "dropped a bombshell" yesterday on the Supreme Court's powers.Gonzales was quoted as saying lower federal courts have to follow precedent but the Supreme Court does not. Serrell said this was a "bombshell" indicating Gonzales would reverse the Supreme Court's abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, and President Bush's nominee for Supreme Court, John Roberts, was inclined that way as well.Haigler said Serrell was making too much of Gonzales' comment, that his statement was nothing new. Haigler said that the Supreme Court has, since a landmark decision in 1803, had the authority to interpret the constitution -- that the constitution says what the Supreme Court says it says.Serrell challenged Haigler, asking where the right to abortion is found in the wording of the constitution. Haigler said Serrell's beef was with the 1803 decision, Marbury v. Madison, and his position would throw out 202 years of constitutional history. Haigler asked Serrell, if you're an "originalist," how far do you go back -- like slavery being legal and not allowing women to vote? Their confrontation was interrupted by another caller, who said Haigler's position was ridiculous and violated democratic principles. Co-host Karen Wilkison disagreed, saying someone has to have the last word on what the constitution means. Serrell questioned being both pro-life and pro-choice, as Haigler had claimed he was. Co-host Karen Wilkison defended Haigler, saying he was pro-life, but respected women's privacy. She said President Bush is trying to get Roe v. Wade reversed, but that the 3 branches of government have to be independent. Serrell attacked the ACLU as being too liberal.Haigler called back and asked how the other caller's invocation of democracy applies, when recent polls say 2/3rds of the public support Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose, even if they're pro-life. He also explained an unpopular 1795 decision by the Supreme Court that resulted in the 11th Amendment reversing that decision, and said a constitutional amendment is the remedy for an unpopular Supreme Court decision.
This post is also available at Blogger News Network. -Dave Haigler, Taylor County Democratic Chair, andeditor, blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com & online newsletter: http://abi-demian.infolawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
.By Eric UmanskyPosted Wednesday, at 2:55 AM CT
The New York Times and USA Today lead with the successful launching of the shuttle Discovery. The Washington Post fronts the shuttle but leads with thousands of newly released documents from Judge John Roberts' early years in the Reagan-era Justice Department, papers that, according to the Post, show him "deeply engaged in the conservative restructuring of government that the new president had promised." The Los Angeles Times leads with an investigation into possible widespread misconduct by a California-based National Guard battalion in Iraq. Investigators are looking at reports of extortion of Iraqi shopkeepers and reportedly found video of one prisoner being tortured with a stun gun. The Wall Street Journal goes high with President Bush preparing to head to Capitol Hill to try to rustle up support among Republicans for the Central American Free Trade Treaty. A House vote could come as early as today.
The Post looks at the Roberts documents -- which include memos to his bosses -- and concludes he was something of a winger. In the rare instances he disagreed with his superiors, he advocated a more conservative position. In one case, says the Post, Roberts argued that the administration should support GOP-sponsored bills that would have stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over abortion and other key issues. (The Wall Street Journal suggests Roberts' position was actually unclear.) The NYT takes a look at the same documents and comes up with a different (though not mutually exclusive) take, saying Roberts (below, with U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tx, left) showed himself to be a supporter of judicial restraint.
Actually, the Journal wisely withholds its verdict on the Roberts papers and instead decides on something called honesty:
- [I]t will be days before reporters, congressional staff and interest groups can read all the documents, some of which weren't released until 9 p.m. yesterday.
The NYT says on Page One that British investigators wondering whether the July 7 bombers were duped and didn't know they were going to die along with the bombs. Among the hints: They left explosives in the truck of their car and bought a seven-day parking pass. According to early morning reports from Britain, police have arrested four men in connection with last week's attempted bombings.
The NYT goes above the fold with congressional negotiators agreeing on a final version of the long-delayed energy bill. That's the same bill that the Post noted yesterday is not only filled with goodies for the oil and gas industry but also will probably do bubkus in terms of reducing oil imports. The LAT says that as of 2:00 this morning negotiators were still adding on favors for their legislators' constituents and presumably buddies. (In the good-news department, the Sunshine Caucus appears to have won: Daylight-saving time will be extended by about a month -- starting in 2007.)
The WP mentions inside that nearly half the members of Congress who've left the job since 1998 have since become lobbyists, including 52 percent of Republicans and about 33 percent of Democrats. The study was done by a liberal watchdog group.
The LAT notices that the U.S.'s new ambassador to Iraq has begun speaking out against some of the provisions being proposed for Iraq's new constitution, such as the proposal to roll back women's rights.
Post columnist David Ignatius argues that today's jihadists aren't impoverished or necessarily disenfranchised, they're disaffected:
This is the revolt of the privileged, Islamic version. They have risen so far, so fast in the dizzying culture of the West that they have become enraged, disoriented and vulnerable to manipulation. Their spiritual leader is a Saudi billionaire's son who grew up with big ideas and too much money. He created a new identity for himself as a jihad leader, carrying the banner of a pristine Islam from the days of the Prophet Muhammad. ...
What will stop this revolt of privileged Muslims? One possibility is that it will be checked by the same process that derailed the revolt of the rich kids in America after the 1960s -- namely, the counter-revolt of the poor kids. Poor Muslims simply can't afford the rebellion of their wealthy brethren, and the havoc it has brought to the House of Islam. For make no mistake: The people suffering from jihadism are mostly Muslims.
Eric Umansky writes "Today's Papers" for Slate. He can be reached at
email@example.com. Source: Slate Magazine.
White House Effort To Discredit Critic Examined in Detail
By Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei - Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, Page A01
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, right, has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.
Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.
In doing so, the special prosecutor has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.
Most of the questioning of CIA and State Department officials took place in 2004, the sources said.
It remains unclear whether Fitzgerald uncovered any wrongdoing in this or any other portion of his nearly 18-month investigation. All that is known at this point are the names of some people he has interviewed, what questions he has asked and whom he has focused on.
Fitzgerald began his probe in December 2003 to determine whether any government official knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a CIA employee to the media. Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, below left, has said his wife's career was ruined in retaliation for his public criticism of Bush. In a 2002 trip to Niger at the request of the CIA, Wilson found no evidence to support allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium from that African country and reported back to the agency in February 2002. But nearly a year later, Bush asserted in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa, attributing it to British, not U.S., intelligence.
Fitzgerald has said in court that he had completed most of his investigation at a time when he was pressing for New York Times reporter Judith Miller, below right, to testify about any conversations she had with a specific administration official about Plame during the week before Plame's identity was revealed.
Miller, who never wrote a story about the matter, is in jail for refusing to comply with a court order to testify. Court records show Fitzgerald is seeking information about communications she had with the Bush official between July 6 and July 13, 2003, when the White House was attempting to discredit Wilson and his allegations.
Fitzgerald appears to believe that Miller's conversations may help him get to the bottom of the leak and the damage-control campaign undertaken by senior Bush officials that week.
Using background conversations with at least three journalists and other means, Bush officials attacked Wilson's credibility. They said that his 2002 trip to Niger was a boondoggle arranged by his wife, but CIA officials say that is incorrect.
Lawyers have confirmed that Novak discussed Plame with White House senior adviser Karl Rove four or more days before the column identifying her ran. But the identity of another "administration" source cited in the column is still unknown. Rove's attorney has said Rove did not identify Plame to Novak.
Full Washington Post story.
NYT: Roberts' 81-82 files-1400 pages in 14 months
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - As a young lawyer in the Justice Department at the beginning of Ronald Reagan's presidency, John G. Roberts (below left, as he visited yesterday with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, who criticized the administration's restriction on some of Roberts' records) advocated judicial restraint on the issues of the day, many of which are still topical, documents released Tuesday by the National Archives show.
He defended, for instance, the constitutionality of proposed legislation to restrict the ability of federal courts to order busing to desegregate schools.
On other civil rights issues, he encouraged a cautious approach by courts and federal agencies in enforcing laws against discrimination.
Judge Roberts, now on the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, also argued that Congress had the constitutional power "to divest the lower federal courts of jurisdiction over school prayer cases."
In another memorandum, he maintained that the Supreme Court, to which he is now nominated, overreached when it denied states the authority to impose residency requirements for welfare recipients.
This was an example, he wrote, of the court's tendency to find fundamental rights, like the right to travel between states, for which there was no explicit basis in the Constitution. "It's that very attitude which we are trying to resist," he wrote.
The documents released on Tuesday were the files, about 14,000 pages in all, that Judge Roberts kept from September 1981 to November 1982, when he was special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith. Judge Roberts was 26 when he took the position, his first job after working as a clerk for William H. Rehnquist, then an associate justice on the Supreme Court.
In a memorandum, Judge Roberts noted that he had spent his first day at the Justice Department helping Sandra Day O'Connor prepare for her confirmation hearings. In a line that will perhaps resonate as his own Supreme Court confirmation hearings draw near, he wrote: "The approach was to avoid giving specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the court, but demonstrating in the response a firm command of the subject area and awareness of the relevant precedents and arguments."
David J. Mengel, a supervisor at the Archives, said the Justice Department reviewed the files over the weekend and copied some but did not remove any. He said the archivists deleted some personal information like home addresses and removed two documents altogether to protect grand jury secrecy and personal privacy. These files were cleared for release by the Clinton administration, but had received little attention before Judge Roberts's nomination to the Supreme Court one week ago.
Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, received copies of the files from those years on Tuesday. Republicans and Democrats on the panel are at an impasse over the timetable for the confirmation hearings, and over access to other documents pertaining to Judge Roberts's government service.
Although Judge Roberts's stint at the Justice Department was brief, the new Republican administration was rethinking and changing many of the policies that had been established in the Carter administration and earlier. Judge Roberts then moved to the White House counsel's office, where he stayed until 1986. About 4,000 pages of Judge Roberts's files those years are available at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Judge Roberts's duties seemed to cut across many of the hottest matters before the Justice Department. He addressed a wide variety of issues in his memorandums and quoted the views of legal scholars ranging from Chief Justice John Marshall to Antonin Scalia, a law professor at the time who is now an associate justice on the Supreme Court.
Judge Roberts's views on abortion are not laid out in what he wrote in these years. But in October 1981, he attended a conference at the American Enterprise Institute on judicial power and observed that most of the participants "recognized a serious problem in the current exercise of judicial power" as illustrated "by what is broadly perceived to be the unprincipled jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade."
On civil rights laws, Judge Roberts recommended against an expansive approach to enforcement. In December 1981, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a report broadly defending affirmative action as a way to combat pervasive discrimination. Judge Roberts wrote a blistering critique, saying the "obvious reason" affirmative action programs had failed was that they "required the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."
In several memorandums, Judge Roberts displayed a shrewd understanding of how Washington works. Responding to a letter from the American Jewish Committee in 1981, he asked a supervisor, "Is this draft response O.K. - i.e., does it succeed in saying nothing at all?"
Full NY Times article, "Files From 80's Lay Out Stances of Bush Nominee."
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
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