Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Big news roundup

While I was sleeping:

  • Senate Vote Blocks Effort to Ban Gay-Marriage in Constitution
    The issue may still resurface in the House this year. A House panel was considering today a legislative proposal that its authors said could prevent federal judges from overturning the existing federal law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, though critics said they doubted the new proposal could survive a court test.
    How the hell do you get a law forbidding judges from overturning another law? I mean, short of a Constitutional amendment, which is what just got voted down!?
  • Bush Touts Conservative Values in Milwaukee Suburbs
    Defending his decision to invade Iraq, Bush said, "Although we haven't found the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction." Saddam Hussein "could have passed that capability to terrorists."
    An hour into his tour Bush's convoy came to a halt in West Bend, Wis., where he shook hands and then bounded into Mick's Candyman. "I'm looking for a few calories," said Bush, with daughter Barbara in tow. Bush paid $5.28 for four caramel bear claws. Asked about his vow to quit sweets several months ago Bush said "well, not when your [sic] confronted with such excellent sweets."
    Yeah, he makes it sound so funny. Wasn't that the vow about not eating sweets while our soldiers are in danger over in Iraq? Nothing important, just a little something to make light of while another car bomb goes off, another Iraqi governor is assassinated, and you're feeling a little peckish.
    "Members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them, and then brag about it," Bush said during Tuesday's trip to Marquette in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and to Duluth, Minn., two Midwest states that Bush lost to Gore in 2000.
    You mean like Bush is cutting all those veterans' benefits, and then boasting about how he's the soldiers' bestest friend? Oh, that's right, that's all different, because it's all better when you lie about it to their faces.
    Added: See also today's Daily Howler.
  • Bush Says His Re-Election Will Make America Safer
    President Bush asked Americans on Wednesday to give him four more years in November's election to finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan and make the world a safer place....
    "I need four more years to complete the work. There's more to do to make America a safer place. There's more work to do to make the world a more peaceful place. We will finish the work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush told a forum here.
    I guess he really is an optimist. He does think he can complete the subversion of democracy in just four years. I'm afraid I'm starting to lose my doubts on that point.
    Reflecting the tough stand he has taken in his war against international terrorism, he said he would not negotiate with Islamic militants, whom he called cold-blooded killers. "Therapy is not going to work with them," he said.
    Ha. Ha. Ha.
    If they don't respond to therapy, maybe you ought to file a lawsuit, Mr. Bush, since you keep telling us the intelligence was "actionable".
    "Although we haven't found the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq, and America is safer today because we did," Bush said.
    Yeah, yellow alerts, orange alerts, talk of postponing the election, watch out for people wearing "unseasonal clothing" over the Fourth of July weekend....
    Why, yes, of course I feel so much safer now.
  • EPA Staff Mulls Lawsuits Vs 22 Utilities -- EPA List
    A total of 22 U.S. electric utilities could be sued for harmful emissions from aging coal-fired plants if the Bush administration pursues cases recommended by Environmental Protection Agency staff, according to an internal EPA list obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
    The EPA has forwarded 14 cases to the U.S. Justice Department, and could send another eight cases within 30 days, the list said.
    The Justice Department has not yet committed to pursue the cases, many of which have likely sat idle since 2001, when the Clinton-era department finished filing cases against nine utilities for violating the Clean Air Act. Many of the original cases are still unresolved....
    The Justice Department has not filed the cases in court, but the action indicates EPA enforcement staff's intent to pursue the cases....
    "A case-by-case approach is more costly and less effective in reducing emissions," said Frank Maisano at the group. "A cap-and-trade approach would get reductions from all sites rather than this notoriously slow lawsuit-driven approach."
    Hey, bright boy, here's a proposition for you: Maybe you could try just complying before they get around to slapping a lawsuit on you? That might be even faster!
    No pun intended, but I wouldn't hold my breath on these things going to court. I suspect it's just to give W and his boys something they can point to and say "See? Look what good I'm doing for the environment! Why, we're actually thinking about taking someone to court!
  • U.S. Hopes to End Dispute, Provide Some Stem Cells
    Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the government stood firm on its policy that taxpayers who oppose destroying human embryos should not be forced to pay for it.
    Cool. Can I cite him on that when I ask for my Gulf War III tax refund, and my faith-based initiatives tax refund?
  • Jonathan Weisman Performs a Useful Service
    [Bush campaign policy director] Tim Adams, you will remember, is the guy who when asked why he hadn't mentioned that a low unemployment claims number was the result of a change in the timing of the auto model year changeover, responded with, "We're not an economic-reporting firm, we're a campaign." It violates truth-in-labeling laws to call it a policy shop. And there is not a single economist on board the Bush campaign whom Adams thinks important enough to get Weisman to print his or her name. The Bush campaign has no--or next to no--real economists visible....
    The stunning contrast between the enthusiasm with which economists--lots of economists--lots of very good economists--are donating their time to Kerry and the extraordinary silence on the Bush side is, to my way of thinking, the most interesting thing that emerges from Weisman's article. So, of course, it is not something he talks about. Weisman seems to think that there is something wrong with having lots of very smart and industrious people wanting to work for you for free: his lead paragraph closes by talking about how Kerry is finding it "difficult to manage" an "increasingly unwieldy policy apparatus...."
    John Kerry is not Bill Clinton, but John Kerry's economic policies could still be very good for America. It will be our job--Sarah Bianchi's and Jason Furman's, George Akerlof's and Lael Brainerd's, Harry Holzer's and David Cutler's, Alan Auerbach's and Ceci Rice's, Larry Katz's and Roger Altman's, Gene Sperling's and Alan Blinder's, Laura D'Andrea Tyson's and Bob Rubin's, and mine and all the rest of our's--to help him make it so. Who will George W. Bush have to help him? Tim Adams? John Snow?
    Why Are We Ruled by These Liars? (Budget Edition)
    The soft bigotry of low expectations strikes again. How Bush's administration seems fond of producing extra-pessimistic predictions, then when it's not quite as bad as that, but still worse than it had been, they can point out how the pResident's policies have "improved" things.
    Eschaton provides an interesting cross-reference for Brad's pretty graphs that I mentioned earlier.
  • Mary Beth Cahill to Ken Mehlman: Release the Bush Records
    A lovely letter to the Bush Cheney ’04 Campaign Manager, closing with these memorable lines:
    We also wanted to wish you a happy anniversary. As we are sure you and the attorneys representing the President, Vice-President and other White House officials are aware, today marks one year since Administration sources leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent to Bob Novak in an effort to retaliate against a critic of the Administration.
    In light of the fact that the Administration began gutting the laws protecting the nation’s forests yesterday, we hope you will accept the paper on which this letter is written as an anniversary gift. (The one year anniversary is known as the “paper anniversary.”)
    Warms my heart, it does.
  • House Panel Backs Bush Overtime Rules
    A divided U.S. House of Representatives committee on Wednesday backed the Bush administration's pending overtime rules for white-collar workers that a new report warned could cost at least six million Americans extra pay.
    On a party-line vote of 29-31, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee defeated a Democratic amendment to a Labor Department spending bill aimed at blocking implementation of the overtime rules, set to take effect on Aug. 23.
    "This is simply an amendment that tries to protect the 40-hour work week," said Rep. David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who introduced the measure....
    "Under the new rules, workers who earn as little as $23,660 per year -- about $5,000 above the poverty line for a family of four -- can expect to see their jobs reclassified as ineligible for overtime pay," the report said.
    Line up for your pay cuts now.
  • Bush camp could gain from a postponement
    Electoral news from the Sunshine State and elsewhere indicates that [Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission]Mr. Soaries and his commission haven't achieved much progress in their assigned task. Clearly they've had even bigger problems on their minds. Recently Mr. Soaries sent a letter to Tom Ridge, the Secretary of Homeland Security, expressing concern that no federal agency is empowered to cancel a national election in the event of a terrorist attack. According to Newsweek, Mr. Soaries asked Mr. Ridge to seek "emergency" legislation authorizing his bipartisan commission to make that decision.
    The reverend's qualifications for this heavy responsibility aren't immediately obvious. He is currently the pastor of a large Christian congregation, with a sideline in various other business enterprises. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 against Representative Rush Holt, the New Jersey Democrat who is seeking to require that computerized voting machines also create a paper record. (Yay for him!- ed.) He served as New Jersey's Secretary of State when Christie Whitman was Governor. He first won the admiration of Republican leaders when he co-chaired a group supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas.
    Serving on the four-member commission with Mr. Soaries are a pair of little-known Democrats and a conservative Republican named Paul DeGregorio, whose qualifications are perhaps too obvious. A Missourian who has long been associated politically with Attorney General John Ashcroft, he formerly served as an election commissioner in St. Louis. In November 2000, at the urgent behest of the Bush-Cheney campaign, Mr. DeGregorio rushed southward to help oversee the post-election recount in Broward County, Fla.
    Somehow, I don't like where this is going. At all.
  • Outage reports spur national security debate
    It's the telecom equivalent of post-game analysis. When a landline phone network suffers a serious outage, the company involved has to tell federal regulators what happened and how it can be avoided next time.
    The Federal Communications Commission believes the public outage reports, required since the early 1990s, have helped to dramatically improve network quality. But the rule applies only to landline companies, an anachronistic loophole in this age of wireless phones and voice service from the cable company.
    So it would make sense to expand the rule to other communications companies, right?
    Not so fast.
    The FCC's proposal to make that change has met with strong opposition, not only from phone companies but also from the Department of Homeland Security, which contends that the outage reports could serve as blueprints for terrorists bent on wrecking U.S. communications systems.
    Homeland Security wants future reports to be filed with one of its own infrastructure-monitoring bodies, the Information Sharing and Analysis Center in the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications, and kept from public analysis.
    That appears to put Homeland Security at odds with New York City's telecommunications department, the National League of Cities and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, which have endorsed the FCC's plan.
    Of course, Homeland Security's objections have been eagerly echoed by dozens of phone companies and industry groups that have multiple beefs with the outage reporting rules. The industry's main complaint is that the reports should be voluntary, not mandatory....
    "What 9/11 produced for them is a windfall opportunity to rebake all of their old bogus arguments as to why we shouldn't have any of these (outage reports)," Moir said. "They've morphed all of their comments into post-9/11-ese."
    Personal/professional note here: I know darn well they'd love to do away with those reporting requirements. Very often, when I've worked with a telco partner, I'd call up with a customer's problem, the telco partner worker would say, "we'll check it out," the problem *ahem* miraculously fixes itself, and the worker calls back and says they found no problems, and everything seems fine now.
    Thus, they don't have to make these reports, and they look better in the eyes of the regulatory bodies and reviews.
  • Odeon Orders Takedown Of Copycat Site
    "The Register reports that Odeon Cinemas, a British theater chain, has ordered a takedown of a copycat version of its site that was made by a disability activist. The original didn't work outside of IE on Windows and was in violation of the Disability Discrimination Act; the activist-recoded one worked on everything. Odeon has flip-flopped on the issue, too; they liked it when it was first up, and now they don't."
    By the way, I really hate sites that even claim to be IE only, much less the ones that actually are unreadable on other browsers. It's the Internet, not Bill Gates' personal playground, you hear?
  • Bishops' Attack on Pols Harms All U.S. Women
    Not listed here so much for the main thrust of the essay, as for this tidbit:
    The bishops' assault on pro-choice politicians--who say that abortion is a private and personal matter and not a matter for the state--fails to address the devastating consequences of government policies that adopt the church's religious position that life begins at conception. The case of Angela Carder is one example.
    In 1989 Carder, a Maryland resident, was 25 weeks pregnant, critically ill and in George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She and her family and her doctors all agreed to keep her alive for as long as possible. Echoing the Catholic argument that a fetus has a right to life, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ordered that Carder undergo a Caesarean section to save the fetus. Over the objections of the pregnant woman, her family and her attending physicians, the surgery was performed. The fetus was born alive but survived for only two hours. Carder died two days later with the C-section listed as a contributing factor.
    After Angela Carder's death, her Catholic family appealed the court's decision because they did not want any other family to suffer the same kind of brutal intrusion. (Courts often decline to hear moot cases, such as when it is too late to intervene, but this case was considered an exception because the order could influence treatment of other pregnant women at the same at hospital.)
    The Carder family had extraordinary support for reversing the decision. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Public Health Association, American Society of Law and Medicine and the United Church of Christ Office for Church in Society were among 118 groups and individuals who joined friend-of-the court briefs urging that the lower court decision be overturned.
    Only two groups defended the court ordered surgery that resulted in Angela Carder's death.: the Chicago-based Americans United for Life, and the D.C.-based United States Catholic Conference--now known as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the group that issued the statement on communion.

Whew. Not much left now....

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