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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Economists Say the Darndest Things

Just how far do you have to go to come up with 'reasons' to love-your-debt? :

And let us give credit where credit is due. The Bush administration’s decision to borrow massively, over a period where global long-term interest rates fell massively, was not a bad market call. -Ken Rogoff, writing in the FT
This might make a shred of sense if the U.S. were ever going to pay off any of its borrowings, rather than just refinance them at the prevailing rates.

I think it smacks of arrogance to think that the U.S. is always going to have willing lenders at its doors. Niall Ferguson makes a persuasive case for U.S. decline, for one. It's not necessarily decay, it's just that others will have a proportionately larger place at the table.

Under such circumstances and the vast uncertainties over time-periods ranging twenty to seventy years down the road, a declining debt-to-GDP ratio is prudent and advisable, not even a stable one (i.e. declining / less financial risk).

Martin Wolf is always a good read, but how it is that he ignores the current fiscal failure to fund future liabilities as a trend that is "not serious", but warns that folks ought to shift consideration to "long-run commitments" instead is baffling.

"Dow Jones Industrial Average" to be Renamed "Murdoch's Angels"

... they just keep coming.

Johnson & Johnson and Disney are going to be 'kicked out' of the index. Too progressive and too pro-gay ...

Dissent of the Day

AS writes, >The Brilliance Of The Term "Islamophobia", citing Denis Prager.

I have to dissent. Why? Not to carp against Prager, et. al., at all, but it has to do with the education branch of fighting extremism. One has to at least try to understand what is going on in various places before running around with night goggles in them ...

The term was coined by Islamists, to characterize the Islamic moderates who wanted to keep the clerics out of direct political power and more. (Check out Fred Halliday).

Teaching Economics

Most economists have long advocated that the 'dismal science' ought to be included, somehow, in high schools. Why not settle for just the basics of the National Income and Product Accounts and the basic outlines of how and on what money is spent, both public and private?

Anyway, since Mankiw is pushing his own textbook, most likely, for the job, Edmund S. Phelp's "Political Economy: An Introductory Text" is like a breath of fresh air compared to the staid stuff that often passes for economics education.

For a great laugh (I mean apart from the IEEE humor I posted), try this:

Mankiw's "Principles of Economics", translated

"Journal" to be renamed "Wall Street Advocate"


Murdoch wins his bid. Next stop, the Financial Times?


"What's News --" to be replaced by "Culture Warriors in the News"
"World News" to be replaced by today's-most-shocking-example-of-moral-decay-and-crime

"Personal Journal" to be replaced by upcoming episode tidbits of "24" and Gay "Wife Swap", which will un-coarsen the culture.

"Law" to be replaced with ... FOX FAITH

and last

the "liberal mainstream media" to be replace with ... an even BIGGER fiction of the liberal "mainstream" media.

Gonzales has FBI raid Stevens Home In Political Intimidation Tactic

Well, after the U.S. Attorney General Bush-Cheney Attorney General likely accepted the political will to fire some people who didn't measure-up, one has to at least wonder ... you know you're thinking it too, right?

Mormonism or Money or Both?

Pam has a thoughtful post on whether Americans are conducive to Presidential Mormonism.

Here's another angle.

Have a look at the money (click under Romney). Notice anything?

Yup, it's Utah.

Now, should a President who has such a huge financial backing from a state that doesn't follow the Nation on so many issues (including hate-crimes, as recently documented on this blog) get widespread support?

NY will finance both sides of the campaign. So will California, which is hallowed "Reagan" ground, still, to some. But Utah ... Let's just say that Romney will be beholden to them, if he wins....

Dean "The Poodle" Barnett: Iraq = Endless Springtime


AS is right to take "Dean Barnett" to task. Dean is in the "We're Making Progress in Iraq" crowd.(I still don't know who "Dean" is - can't find any biographical data, so I just think of him like Hewitt's poodle, I guess. I wouldn't care except that "Townhall", a Heritage spinoff as best I recall, is ... a masthead publication and all that).

Seriously, the record shows that, when it comes to sizing up and implementing a large-scale peace-keeping/stabilization effort, the GOP have been nothing short of dressed-up truants.
There are two things to add to AS's list. One is the cost of the war, which so few seem to mention. In the comments, someone pegs it at "upwards of $340 billion dollars", which just makes me laugh in comparison to the charts on this page.

What's more, on Dean's calculus, maybe someday "the Left" can engage in a Nation Building Exercise without end at $10 billion a month, appoint a "superb general" and call it "national security", thereby avoiding any critique of the raid on the public finances when it is all "paid for" with ... a tax cut!

Oh, and let's not forget that OIF has cost more than all - all - of welfare, for the entire history of the program in the United "Welfare" States. ALL, Federal and State expenditures.


The second is related to this:

Since David Petraeus came to command in Iraq, unanimously confirmed by our prescient and wise senators, have you noticed what we haven’t heard? We haven’t heard any stories of operational stumbling. We haven’t heard any stories of strategic cluelessness. We haven’t heard anything that resembles the breakdowns at Abu Ghraib or the temporizing in Fallujah. In short, General Petraeus is running things superbly in Iraq. - Dean Barnett

First, Petreaus is not in charge of "the war". Bush-Cheney still are, with Gates a distant third, by most estimates. Why should we continue to give time and money to people who have squandered both with military incompetence, fiscal profligacy, and ineffectual banter in the place of public diplomacy? Because they are all we've got? LOL. No, their days of benefit of the doubt are long past, "Dean", no matter whether things are improving in Iraq on the ground for a while or not.

Second, Petreaus has said that the fight has no military solution, so why we keep asking the generals about how things are going is beyond me.


Last, I'm reading that there is a grand strategy document on the way (a Campaign Book) in the next weeks. Gosh, that's got to be a bitter pill for Ambassador/Regent Bremer, who wanted to write a comprehensive plan himself, but was told to do it quick-and-dirty instead because we were leaving and didn't have time for a 'big plan'.

There are the folks that Dean wants to continue to fund. Seriously, the record shows that, when it comes to sizing up and implementing a large-scale peace-keeping/stabilization effort, the GOP have been nothing short of dressed-up truants.

Live Earth: The Weeks After, The 50 Dirtiest Power Plants

Is it true that the least efficient are also the biggest polluters? Yes, in ALL cases where technology exists to clean things up but regulators have been slow to force adoption, "dirty-twice-over" energy-producers continue to be allowed to operate.
Well, the good folks at the Environmental Integrity Project have released their updated report on the 50 dirtiest power plants. This caught my eye because of recent testimony of the magnitude of professed efficiency gains California power has achieved over the years.

Here's a brief summary for time-pressed blog-readers:

Coal plants are the dirtiest (although I'm not certain if coal energy is considered more dirty than, say, oil). Of note, coal plants:
  • Generate the most waste per kilowatt-hr (least efficient) as a group
  • Coal plants contribute more than any other source to mercury waste / poison / toxin at 40% of all
  • Throw more tons of carbon dioxide into the air than any other plants.

The report says that more coal plants are on the way (investments already being undertaken), possibly further dirtying the US's energy-source mix.


Is it true that the least efficient are also the biggest polluters? Yes, in ALL cases where technology exists to clean things up but regulators have been slow to force adoption, "dirty-twice-over" energy-producers continue to be allowed to operate.

  • Yes, for mercury emissions. The worst plants, about 18% of all energy, generated 30% of all mercury toxins. Technology exists to capture 90% of mercury waste.
  • Yes, for sulfur-dioxide. Years after trying to end the "acid raid", dirty plants, accounting for just under 14% of all energy, generated 40% of all SO-2 emissions. Technology exists (via sulfur "scrubbers") to capture 98% of SO-2 emissions. [n.b. some plants have scrubbers 'scheduled' ...]
  • Yes, for nitrogen oxides. Again, years after trying to end the "acid raid", the dirty plants, about 12% of all energy produced, threw off 25% of all NOx emissions. Technology exits (types of catalytic reduction) that can remove upwards of 75% of all NOx emissions.
  • No, for carbon-dioxide. The big plants have similar efficiency, as a group. Efficiency of small plants varies enormously. So-called carbon-sequestration technology is ... not in use at any large plant in the US (or in the World, that I know).

Is necessity the mother of invention?

You make the call. Have a look at the national energy-source mix and see if states that are energy rich have gotten efficient or not:


To date, I know of no power company that has voluntarily reduced emissions. (Let me know if you've heard of one).

oh, if you like playing with databases, here's the EPA's file (although it's not clear whether this or the one used in the study if more current, to me).

Milestone in "Beachfront" Auction of Public Spectrum Today


FCC looks likely to vote rules for an auction of the coveted 700 MHz spectrum today.

The value of beachfront in pictures: o.k. coverage compared to other bandwidths, less cost to build out.
This is the spectrum that folks are looking to that might provide a national - nearly complete geographic coverage is proposed - Wi-Fi network and also handle the vexing issues of interoperability for first-responders, a task which most cities haven't handled yet.

Senate hearings didn't show too well the pros and cons for the most recent proposal, which has the government auctioning off the spectrum to a private "developer(s)" / "reseller(s) cum wholesaler(s)" who might then "leaseback" -for profit! - the spectrum that the government needs, both on an ongoing (low) and emergency (full) basis based on some complex legal agreement to be written into a "trust document".


This says it all. "Open Access" is a way to prevent quasi-monopoly behavior on the public airwaves:

Harold Feld, who studies spectrum issues for the Media Access Project, a nonprofit public interest group, said chances of a wholesale provision passing are virtually nil.

`Politics both inside and outside (the agency) make it a thousand-to-one against a wholesale open-access provision,'' he said.


Of course, these "plans" ought not to be confused with Homeland Security disarray and attendant pork-fest.

A quick view of section 301 of the recently passed HS Funding Bill, which includes grants for districts to study, report, and 'work on' on their interoperability needs:

    `(i) Prohibited Uses- Grants awarded under this section may not be used for recreational or social purposes.
    `(j) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated for grants under this section--
      `(1) $400,000,000 for fiscal year 2008;
      `(2) $500,000,000 for fiscal year 2009;
      `(3) $600,000,000 for fiscal year 2010;
      `(4) $800,000,000 for fiscal year 2011;
      `(5) $1,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2012; and
      `(6) such sums as necessary for each fiscal year thereafter.

Maybe there is a good reason for this (local flexibility?), but it seems like a somewhat costly lack of direction and coordination.

Oh, if you wanted the "Big Picture" (apart from going as big as 'white noise'), there is this:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How to Ride Herd on Voters


Last time, in 2004, voter caging.

This time, "walk-around-money":

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is distributing numerous payments, primarily to religious and social conservatives, most of them in Iowa, for what he calls "GOTV Consulting." "GOTV" is political shorthand for get-out-the-vote - just what walk-around payments financed.

"We pay the consultants to help organize and grow our volunteer base," Romney political director Carl Forti told the Huffington Post.

The payments start at $500 a month, the base rate for student leaders, many of whom are chairs in the "Iowa Students for Romney" campaign organization. At a higher level, Joe Earle, former director of the Iowa Christian Alliance (the successor to the Iowa Christian Coalition) gets $4,000 a month, and Gary Marx, a top-level member on the Romney for President National Faith And Values Steering Committee, gets $8,000 a month.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What's the Matter with ... Locking Down Kansas !

You won't believe it until you read it, but part of the Republican party is demanding loyalty oaths in Kansas, to stem the Blue Tide Rising ...

For those who don't remember, "In God We Trust" is meant to forestall people from putting party - or even country - ahead of all else.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How much does popular "economic thinking" just mean "raise taxes or not"?


Can the GOP ever be asked to be accountable for their debt-spending ways? Will the Dems move firmly ahead on economic issues, including on taxes?

It's hard to say, but the opportunity is available, of the once-in-a-lifetime variety. People always say that, but this one is for real.

Still, many may not be ready to seize the day. At the youTube debate, there was just one question about the economy, maybe two, if you throw in China. Of course, it was about taxes, a meme that the Republicans have been driving home a long time, now. You'd think that running the economy was all about taxes, so powerful has the GOP controlled the debate on the issue.

Debt spending in these large amounts is really just hidden taxes or welched obligations, including pension, health, and military benefits.
Two days ago, Kos posted this table, taken from a Rasmussen poll. It shows progress, but maybe not consolidated gains. For instance, I cannot believe that the GOP rank as high as they do on taxes. (Iraq is till a wild card, truly.)

Which party do voters trust on these issues?

Dem GOP Dem advantage

Nat. Security 42 40 +2
Taxes 43 41 +2
Education 41 37 +4
Abortion 42 37 +5
Immigration 40 30 +10
Economy 47 38 +9
War in Iraq 47 35 +12
Soc. Security 47 34 +13
Ethics 38 25 +13
Healthcare 50 33 +17


Reagan popularized a variant of that question, but it's time to change the frame. The debt-spending has been enormous under the GOP's latest run.

Debt spending in these large amounts is really just hidden taxes or welched obligations, including pension, health, and military benefits.

How are the GOP doing? Well, just listen to how much their candidates want to keep spending on defense. (Romney is still on his permanent plus-up of 100,000 troops ...).


Don't cry. The GOP always puts families first. Mitt Romney said so, too. We can borrow and borrow and there is no increased risk and you'll never have to pay any more taxes.
Here are the figures:

By the end of FY2009, Bush will have run up the National debt by 3.98 Trillion. Not even big debt-spender Reagan got away with that much. It's almost three times Clinton and just over twice Regan's tally.

How much is that an additional tax burden on families? Well, the Republicans will have cost American families some $33,289 in deferred taxes, in the same time period. The number of families grows each year, so that is a reasonable way to scale the figures for the economic impact on the average Joe.

Worried that's not "fair" because it's not adjusted for inflation? Well, adjusting for inflation shows that Republicans under Bush-the-younger spent more money, some $26,311 per household, than Bush-the-elder, just not quite as fast (which is a dubious achievement, I guess, since Bush-41 at least tried to do something about the revenue problem).


Sure, the economy has been growing, but you can build a house over a sink-hole, too.
Sure, the economy has been growing, but you can build a house over a future sink-hole, too.

The Republican's will have raided more of the Trust Fund's current surpluses than ever before. This is like stealing from the pantry. (If you argue that Bush isn't responsible for the 'mandatory' benefits accruals, then o.k. This is the conservative estimate of what he is at least responsible for, namely, not spending what cash there is on hand to fund those accruals in huge quantities).

In anticipation of the changing demographics, we should be building the Nation's debt capacity, not raiding its savings. Reagan was bad enough, he got only about $1,000 dollars per household away from the Trust Funds (in constant, 2000 dollars). The Republican's, always mindful of Reagan, will soar - soar - past that with a cumulative raid of the trust funds more than $12,000 per household, under Bush-43.

If the tax-cuts were supposed to trickle down into increased revenues, it's been five years, and they haven't yet even come close to breaking even, it doesn't appear. The expansion has been stimulated by wartime debt-spending. Cutting the estate taxes appears now to have simply been a crass effort that capped one of the fastest growing sources of revenue for the Federal government.


Some have openly wondered whether certain Republicans aren't quite happy to hobble the Federal government with debt, to force cuts in benefits, etc.

Cutting taxes may be a popular way to 'stick it' to the Dems, but it doesn't make America strong.

Debt-spending may be a way to 'dump' the Nation's fiscal problems, especially huge ones, at the next election, but doesn't that just make you an untrustworthy, big cheat?
Cutting taxes may be a popular way to 'stick it' to the Dems, but it doesn't make America strong. When you know there is not enough money on hand, it's like passing out candy. Debt-spending may be a way to 'dump' the Nation's fiscal problems, especially huge ones, at the next election, but doesn't that just make you an untrustworthy, big cheat?


The next Executive will face a 'fiscalamity', including the costs to redeploy troops and a budget that has made no strides in reducing reliance on an ever-growing social security surplus. In the '80s, when the Trust Funds were in deficit to the tune of just several billions, a bi-partisan effort brought the situation back into balance, including raising taxes. Now, when the Trust Funds are in surplus to the tune of $300 billion per year, nothing can get done.

The debt ceiling is coming up, as are more hearings on the cost of the war. Let's hope that the Republicans are called to account. It might be nice if they were forced to propose some new taxes, before the next election, even if it is some misdirected gasoline tax (as if $72 per barrel oil and no windfall profits tax isn't enough of one ...).

Big Debt SpenderCumulative Total Debt Per PresidentPer HouseholdPer Household - 2000$
NEXT EXEC1,304,000,000,00010,3437,552

Big Debt SpenderCumulative Trust Fund RaidPer HouseholdPer Household - 2000$
NEXT EXEC1,260,000,000,0009,9947,297

source: CBO Annual Budget Outlook, Bureau of the Public Debt; BEA; Bureau of the Census Population Estimates; "Next Exec" is based on CBO projections of the Federal Debt for four years (i.e. one term only).

It's Brown from Ohio, who takes the lead:

Hate Crimes: George W. Bush Legacy of Failure

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Prosecuting 'Hate Crimes', Ending Disparity of Treatment

Chapter 3 [unfinished], Prominent Political Hypocrites

Texas takes Federal money to prosecute, while George W. Bush is Governor.

1998 — James Byrd, Jr., a black man, is chained to the back of a pickup truck by three men in the east Texas town of Jasper and dragged for several miles until his body is ripped apart.

1999 — As Governor, George Bush does nothing to support the Hate Crimes bill in Texas legislature. However, the prosecution receives somewhere between $200,000 - $300,000 in Federal (DOJ) money to assist in the three prosecutions, ending November, 1999, money possible only because of the provisions dating from the 1968 laws.

You don't have to be big to be a watchdog of the fifth estate.
2000 — During the Presidential campaign, Bush and Gore spar over Hate Crimes, and Bush gets the details of the Byrd case wrong, despite its prominence, and does not mention the Federal assistance that his State enjoyed. (Nor has he paid it back.)

2001 - May, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Republican, signs the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law, allowing for penalty enhanced sentences, but limiting 'hate crime' to a finding of fact by the Judge, as follows:

(a) In the trial of an offense under Title 5,
Penal Code, or Section 28.02, 28.03, or 28.08, Penal Code, the judge
shall make an affirmative finding of fact and enter the affirmative
finding in the judgment of the case if at the guilt or innocence
phase of the trial, the judge or the jury, whichever is the trier of
fact, determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant
intentionally selected the person against whom the offense was
committed or intentionally selected property damaged or affected as
a result of the offense because of the defendant's bias or prejudice
against a group identified by race, color, disability, religion,
national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.
(b) The sentencing judge may, as a condition of punishment,
require attendance in an educational program to further tolerance
and acceptance of others.
(c) In this article, "sexual preference" has the following
meaning only: a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 987, Sec. 5, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.
Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 318, Sec. 50, eff. Sept. 1,
1995; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 85, Sec. 1.02, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

2007 - May, LGBT Advocacy group Equality Texas call for support for a Bill in the State House (HB2612) that would study the effectiveness of of the James Byrd Act, citing the statistic that 8 of 1,500+ reported hate crimes have been prosecuted as such.

Notes (from the then Past to the now Future?):

In 1994, Bush pledged to veto any effort to repeal an anti-sodomy law, calling it "a symbolic gesture of traditional values." (Salon, 2000). By 2003, the Supreme Court itself erased Bush's pledge, although his politics of "symbolic gestures of traditional values" continued, arguably, into his Presidency, on any number of issues, including curbs on stem cell research, which was The Great National Priority in the months before 9/11 and with his direct and backhand support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

The Salon piece is notable, too, because it foreshadows in small, local terms Bush's sometimes political incomprehension of 'victims', as might be seen from the inadequacies that became apparent in the aftermath of Katrina, whether you believe in an expansive role for the Federal government in such things or not.

President's Commission on Vet Care Doesn't Recommend More Private Insurance, Even as a 'Fix It'

The feel-good President's Commission, headed up by Dole and Shalala following another chapter in the Bush-Rumsfeld mismanagement of war and wartime, came out with recommendations this week.

Not surprisingly, NONE - none, none! - of the commissioners have come out recommending that we develop a short, medium or long-term plan to get veterans into private hospitals, on private health plans, and covered by those angels who sell private health insurance as a way to improve the way we "serve" patients, "support" their families, and "simplify" a system full of options, programs, and benefits types/categories/requirements.

Instead, there are quotes like this:

"Returnees tell me, 'It's like drinking from a fire hose', when all these programs are described to them." -transition coordinator, Ft. Bragg

No one wants to short-change or play severe politics with caring for veterans. It's amazing that "free" veterans health-care is so "third-rail" now that it was possible to call John Kerry, for instance, 'no supporter of the military', despite his long track-record of fighting for the enlisted.

However, while Bush-43 is fighting the expansion of S-CHIP, it's worth noting that his own Commission is recommending - you guessed it - expanding benefits. Here is a sample, the full table is below:
  • Provide six months leave for family members, under the Family Medical Leave Act (I wonder if Justice Alito will be hostile to that, too ...)
  • Lifetime TRICARE for some (have a look at TriCare Eligibility - families are covered)
  • Expand TRICARE coverage
The Commission has had nothing to say about the capital plans of the VA. I saw one comment about inadequate load balancing among facilities. Therefore, we don't know anything more about the costs of "modernizing" the VA, really, from them.


Two 'action steps' that didn't make it to the front page ... bizarre, given their content:
  • "DoD should intensify its efforts to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD."
  • "DoD should address its acute shortage of mental health clinicians."


They did publish this table.

2,200,000Number of deployments
1,500,000Number of service members deployed
37,851Air evacuated for illness or injuries [20/day on my calcs from 10/7/2001 start of OEF]
28,000Wounded in action
23,270Treated and returned to duty within 72 hours
3,082Seriously injured (TSGLI recipients)7
2,726Traumatic Brain Injuries
598Serious burns
94Spinal cord injuries

The 1,500,000, such an obvious guesstimate for a figure that ought to be known to the man, arguably, is in line with those used for the medical health cost estimate in the war costs table on this page. Just to refresh, those estimates use 1.4M unique, a 2010 end date, 44% claim rate; and an 87% approval rate (see hyperlink next to figure in the table for reference).

One of the problems with the direct-cost methodology used in that estimate may be that it doesn't capture the marginal cost of a soldier in the system, because it doesn't model utilization rates, for hospitals, etc. However, to be ultra-conservative, we could cut average benefit cost in half and still end up with a hefty projected medical cost associated with the "GWOT". Of course, if we start extending and expanding benefits, which would not have been done without the conflict, most likely, we can maybe add back all that was subtracted ...

The President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors / July 2007
Recommendation Action StepsCongressDoDVA
1. Implement comprehensive Recovery Plans
• Develop integrated care teams
• Create Recovery Plans
• Develop corps of Recovery Coordinators (with Public Health Service)
2. Restructure disability and compensation systems
• Clarify the objectives of DoD and VA disability programs X

• Create a single, comprehensive medical exam
• Provide lifetime TRICARE benefits for combat-injured X

• Restructure VA disability payments X

• Determine appropriate length and amounts of transition payments

• Update and keep current the disability rating schedule

• Develop flexibility within Vocational Rehabilitation and Education (VRE) program

3. Improve care for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• Enable all Iraq & Afghanistan veterans who need PTSD care to receive it from the VA X

• Address shortage in mental health professionals
• Establish and expand networks of experts in PTSD and TBI
• Expand training regarding PTSD and TBI
• Develop or disseminate clinical practice guidelines
4. Strengthen support for families
• Expand eligibility for TRICARE respite care and aide and attendant care X

• Expand caregiver training for families
• Cover family members under the Family Medical Leave Act X

5. Transfer patient information across systems
• Make patient information available to all personnel who need it, initially in readable form
• Continue efforts for fully interoperable information system
• Develop a user-friendly single web portal for service members and veterans
6. Support Walter Reed until closure
• Assure adequate resources
• Strengthen recruitment and retention of needed administrative and clinical staff


Gates writes Hillary to "rest assured".

Is anyone, these days, resting, safe and mind-at-ease with the assurances of the Bush Administration?

Accordingly, in an indication of how dry the well of Bush-Cheney has become, Clinton-Kerry pledge to move ahead with legislating mandating ... briefings! *sigh*

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rally 'Round

Dems aren't really good at rally-round-the-leader, so much, in the way that it is almost knee-jerk for most GOPers, but I'm all for Harry Reid keeping the pressure on, no matter what the WaPo editorial board is mucking up.

Sure, maybe Senator Reid ought not to have used the word "lost" way back then, but did he effectively say anything different than what Newt Gingrich said when he called the second phase of the war a "failure", loudly, stridently, repeatedly?

Here's one date/time, but there are plenty of others:

"If the military, White House, and State Department continue to avoid the word 'failure,' how can you bring about a third stage?" Gingrich said

Things that make a crappy day sizzle:

They are here! And it's not even August.
(It's been a superb growing season, this year, all around.)

The Race is On .. To Fit

This is a 1500 meters run. We're at the first lap and it's fine for Clinton to stay in the lead for a while. -AS

No, it's more like a game of tetris. Think about it.

State Hate Crime Provisions: The Deadbeats


Despite ample time and occasion, since 1999, there are nineteen (19) states that have failed to update their laws to criminalize bias-motivated violence based on sexual orientation or to provide enhanced penalties for the same, covering seventy-seven million people, or about a quarter of the population.

Of these, only one state, Michigan, has statutory provision for collecting hate-crime data based on sexual orientation. The rest aren't looking, for whatever reasons. If that were not bad enough, there are a notable eleven states that make no express statutory provision for training their law enforcement personnel. This is particularly heinous for bias-motivated or hate crimes, in which self-reporting victims can face being re-victimized by the system.

This list of deadbeats includes nine of the thirteen states that had pre-2003 sodomy law statues, including Oklahoma, which had one directed at homosexuals only.


Amazingly, fourteen (14) of these deadbeat states have provisions 'protecting' property against bias-motivated violence in some form or another. (Does that seem un-Christian to you?). The icing on that dubious cake is that all but one of the states with no hate crimes statues - nothing, nada - DO have statutes dealing with "assaulting property", to coin a phrase, in untoward ways.


Oddities abound when comparing the criminal codes across states. (If ever there were an argument agianst "State's Rights" it would be the myriad criminal nonsense that the USA has produced, perhaps.) For instance, Arkansas (AR), with nothing except its property protection statute, stands in stark contrast to its Louisiana (LA) neighbor, which has a full set of hate crime provisions that includes sexual orientation.


Fifteen (15) of the thirty-three (33) Senators - nearly half - that voted against the much delayed national hate crimes legislation came from these nineteen states.


I wanted to see if any states had taken time to update their hate crime statutes since 1999, but who had expressly left out 'sexual orientation.' This check is very hard to do, since few of the sources show the dates in which States enacted what protections they have Comparing the ADL's 1999 report to their 2006 report, showed many states had added vandalism to their lists, but I couldn't confirm this with my third source/listing, so it is possible that the change represented an update/correction of the ADL's incomplete 1999 list, rather than legislative activity. I've listed just three that *may* have enacted changes to their statutes, but did nothing at the same time for gays and lesbians. It's also more complex than most tables let on. Some states have express categories, but others do not.

source: ADL's 1999, 2006 State Hate Crime Provisions; HRC's State HC Law's, 2007; 2000 U.S. Census Bureau


Other States have been more active that these nineteen. However, their own Senators are not always among them.

In fact, twelve States had provisions for sexual orientation but their representatives in the Senate were voting a different agenda.

Most notably is Senator McCain, consistent voter against in the Senate, who comes from a State that has a full complement of hate crimes laws, now including sexual orientation. Another key contrast is with Kentucky and its Senator, McConnell.

The contrast couldn't be starker than it is for Kansas, New Hampshire (Sununu) and especially New Mexico (Domenici).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2006 Man of the Year, Mr. youTube, Takes National Stage


The most significant finding from CNN's youTube Democratic Candidate expose is non-partisan.

It will take at least a year to redeploy 160,000+ troops, associated 'protected persons' from Iraq, and the huge army of contractors, without extraordinary measures. A brigade maybe a brigade-and-a-half a month, according to Hillary.

To me, this means that the April, 2008, hit-the-wall on consecutive deployments is a myth. The military under Bush-Cheney must be expecting additional tours, if not extended tours. Frankly,

Accordingly, I think it is highly probable that Bush has an ipso facto wartime authorization until the end of his term.

With no way around, the Dems will have to get over that bitter pill, in all probability.

The GOP are into what appears to be a well planned endgame to dump the Iraqi Stabilization Effort on the next executive, 'mission unfinished and outcome uncertain', at a minimum.
without it, there would be no way to conduct an orderly withdrawal, even. It's no wonder, also, that the GOP's R-ubberstamp Senators campaigned so forcefully against Senator Webb's amendment to require homestays, or "downtime", between deployments.

Accordingly, I think it is highly probable that Bush has an ipso facto wartime authorization until the end of his term. With no way around it, the Dems will have to get over that bitter pill, in all probability. The GOP are into what appears to be a well planned endgame to dump the Iraqi Stabilization Effort on the next executive, 'mission unfinished and outcome uncertain', at a minimum.

Signals that the will-to-war is coming to an end in America - with the price paid, high enough; the chances given, sufficient to the day; the work uncompleted, but filled with honor - can probably shape the political battlefield to advantage in Iraq, but not 'end the war' abruptly or obviate other troop configurations, in which ongoing engagement is savvy (such as containing Iran during an Iraqi civil conflict, etc.).

This suggests that the redeployment costs will equal about what we are paying on an annual basis now, about $10 billion a month, or $120 billion for a year-long tidfib, give or take, at current surge levels (latest CRS figures).

The ongoing bill for the war is something the next President will also have to deal with. If it is a Democrat, there will have to be taxes and the GOP will be back to its old saw on that, even though they created the ongoing fiscal problem and have done nothing to boost net national savings.


...er, "Not Hilliary". (AS puts her as winner, but that's probably just his Simon Cowell way of pushing her forward so that folks vote against her ... Whatever the case, few would believe anything he says about her, at this point, and you know why ...)

As the frontrunner, she has everything to lose. Obama is clearly making strides as the truer agent of change, the outsider of Washington stalemate, as well as making a subtle play for African American voters (CNN handed him the questions to do it). Edwards picked off her support among women, with his "I'm good on women's issues too". Kucinich and Obama took firmly placed swipes at her positioning on Iraq, to which she didn't get to respond. Gravel painted her as a captive of PAC money and Wall Street.

It's a fair battle, though. She did come across as Presidential in a control-the-conversation way, prepared and competent to hit-the-ground-running.


Richardson's debating skills have not improved, sadly, despite his having some interesting opinions and viewpoints to share.

On the other hand, Obama is getting much, much better at controlling his message (I can see the political calculus shining through more clearly in his statements). Unfortunately, he has a way to go with his oratory. His style makes him look smart-but-green, still, as he strings together long, sometimes halting sentences with "uh's" and "and's". That won't do against Giuiliani, who always comes across as short, direct, and firm, even if often acerbic and haughty. Or, perhaps even Romney, who is a virtual ice-cream machine, when it comes to talky-talk.


I had a twinge when Senator Clinton, in commenting on redeployment, stated that she 'had looked at this a lot'. She used similar language in her floor speech on the vote on authorizing Bush-Cheney to eventually let SecDef Don Rumsfeld loose on the world, without serious plans to get in-and-out quickly. I'm not sure what is at work, whether it is Hilliary herself or a contemporary sense of 'lost faith' in attestations of adequate considerations from politicians in general, but it's probably a fair dose of both.

Shopping for candidates, this year, is like shopping for shoes - what you want exactly is not on the market. I wish I could mush Edward's views (and passion - he was one of the few to actually get visibly angry on the stage) onto Obama's intellect and viability.


Shooter (2007) (Director - Antoine Fuqua, Screenplay - Jonathan Lemkin)

Bob Lee Swagger [Mark Wahlberg]: "Welcome to Tennessee, patron state of shootin' stuff up."

rest, here.

All-American, Only American:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dangerous Ideas and Memorable Movie Lines

AS asks Are Some Ideas Too Dangerous To Discuss?

Of course, it seems that we've always had ideas too dangerous to discuss. Never forget that the world's greatest thinker, arguably, was sent to kill himself with hemlock tea for corrupting the youth with ideas... It wasn't even heresy, strictly speaking.

For instance, I dare Andrew to open up an ongoing thread on the merits of Marxism and the finer points of Communism on his blog, and, then, afterwards, provide an honest assessment, in retrospect, if it was a good idea. Which raises the question if there aren't some places that we designate to have discussions. You might be able to 'get away with' such a discussion in academia, for instance. But, not if the roving Malkins and O'Reilly's have their way - they are policing academia more than ever, it seems. (Heck, I'll bet that someone would be willing to cast aspersions on me, simply because I just used the words, "Marxism" and "Communism", in passing).

Here's another that is topical. You'd think that gathering statistics would be more or less neutral, the core of an empirical approach, right? If someone didn't want 'the numbers', it would be about the same as being 'against the facts', yes?

Check out Section 2 of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 (during the heyday of the Reagan Devolution, with the nation deep in the throws, still, of the AIDS crisis in governance and the Treatment Action Group heydays), of which four Senators voted against, including dear 'ol Senator Trent Lott, who is back in GOP Leadership:

“Sec. 2. (a) Congress finds that—

“(1) the American family life is the foundation of American Society,

“(2) Federal policy should encourage the well-being, financial security, and health of the American family,

“(3) schools should not de-emphasize the critical value of American family life.

“(b) Nothing in this Act shall be construed, nor shall any funds appropriated to carry out the purpose of the Act be used, to promote or encourage homosexuality.

Which brings us to todays Memorable Movie Lines:

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Three, Episode 23, Distant Origin (with clip)

[Minister Odala]: "Professor Gagen, you stand accused of heresy against doctrine. So, let me ask you one last time. Regarding the Distant Origin Theory, c-o-u-l-d y-o-u b-e m-i-s-t-a-k-e-n?"

oh, p.s., AS, human trafficking and prostitution.

The Empire Strikes Back: The Opening Salvo

The first signs that the bloated healthcare bureaucracy supporting the 'Nanny Corporation' has mobilized its minions, to fight Michael Moore and "Sicko". Recalling,

I can just hear the thousands of private health insurance boosters - recall that there are three to four times as many health industry lobbyists in Washington than there are members of Congress, all of whose Blackberrys are working overtime this weekend! -- who are secreted away, probably this very moment ...

systematic problems dismissed (as always) as "mistakes" and "cracks", deaths contrasted with smiling children, and a slew of PR to make insurance industry executives look like Mother Theresa, working hard to provide 'affordability', with "Big Government" regulation the real culprit and, of course, those horrible, nasty trial lawyers who inject even a shred of accountability into the system portrayed as the bane of everything patriotic and 'American'.

We know the drill. At least some of us.

Even if they paid away just one year of profits over the course of the upcoming fight, they would outspend poor Mr. Moore something like a gazillion-to-one.

Anyway, the first step appears to be to assert that the U.S. does not rank as number 37 in healthcare afterall, because Americans are 'happy hobbits in health' (if you remember the reference to that snarky movie review AS posted).

Let's see, in the upcoming months, whether those who see Moore as a 'studied liar' and a 'propagandist' are willing to say the same about the likes of ads that show lines like this (pictured below. more: ThinkProgress). Will CNN do a "fact-check"?

"Fight Early. Fight Dirty. Concede Nothing." Could be the motto of the upcoming Insurance Industry fight for the perpetuation of the failed 'Nanncy Corporation' model of healthcare.


An important note to regular readers: The post, 'National Hate Crimes, Short Legislative History', has been updated / edited. A typo has been fixed whereby "disability" replaced "sexual orientation". I've also added information on votes that were held in 2004, which were not included before, along with associated references. References to the Violence Against Women act have been included. A link to NGLTF's timeline has been included. Although it is incidental to the text, I expect to change the information on Utah, after some more research including whether anything has ever been successfully prosecuted under the law (let alone anything LGBT related), as the state does have a so-called 'bias crime' statute, although it has been viewed as constructed to exclude gays by some.

Part Two is almost ready.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Michael Moore is not a "Gay Issue"

Dale Carpenter, who often has incisive commentary, wades into non 'gay forum' material, in order to take a largely gratuitous swipe at Michael Moore. (If he opened the floor up to comments, he might get some viewpoints on his posed and unanswered questions about gay men and health.)

Dale might also consider holding his fire. Moore has intimated that his next film might be about gay rights or some such. That ought to set those guys with the cute little flame icon on fire, over there, eh?

Congressional Democrats Say "No" to Open Ended Deployment

I hope the Democrats aren't overreaching with this.

No matter how the stabilization efforts turn out - even if Iraq were to "turn the corner" in the next nine months, the President's effort to lead the mission to conclusion has been a spectacular disaster alongside his R-ubberstamp Senate.

"July 20, 2007

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to inform you that we will only support appropriating additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq during Fiscal Year 2008 and beyond for the protection and safe redeployment of all our troops out of Iraq before you leave office.


[long list of Congressmen .. & Full Monty (.pdf) here]

A Brief History of National Hate Crimes Legislation for Gays


1998 hearings in which Orin Hatch stated, "I believe that the Federal government can play a valuable role in eliminating hate crime." He's voted for gathering statistics, federally funding the protection of women, and federal penalties for damaging churches, but never for gays and lesbians. Testimony and statements.

Hate crimes bills amending existing legislation to include "sexual orientation" go back at least as far as 1997, when Senator Kennedy (D-MA) introduced S1529 in November, eventually gathering 33 co-sponsors, at least three of whom were Republicans, Jeffords (R-VT, until 2001), Chaffee (R-RI), and Specter (R-PA). (Charles Schumer, D-NY, introduced the bill in the House.) Hearings were held in July of 1998. The tragedy of Matthew Wayne Shepherd on the high plains in Wyoming didn't occur until October, 1998. It's possible to assume that Specter's name appeared on the bill as one of the courtesies of the Senate, since Specter was among the first sponsors but didn't obviously support the legislation later. No votes were held on the legislation.

In March, 1999, Senator Kennedy again introduced the legislation, S622, with impressive testimony and unequivocal police endorsement. This time, however, Orin Hatch (R-UT) had his own bill, S1406, requiring a study to be completed. Hatch, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, got his study.

In May, 2000, the legislation was attached to the end of the FY2001 Defense Appropriate Bill (see Title XV), apparently rather than handled as an amendment. The bill went to conference by unanimous consent (no drill-down, roll-call vote available, therefore), but the hate crimes Title XV apparently got snagged, there, as the GOP controlled House version of the Appropriation did not include similar language.

In March of 2001, Senator Kennedy again introduced the legislation, S625. By May of the next year, 2002, the study/report was ready. The new Chairman of the Judiciary, Senator Leahy, got the bill out of committee, by unanimous consent vote, and onto the senator floor. A GOP filibuster on June 11, 2002, caused the legislation to get killed at 11:55 a.m, on a 54-43-3 vote.

Among the notable "nays" was Senator ... Arlen Specter (R-PA). Specter's own state's Senate was just voting to pass one of the nation's most comprehensive, state hate-crimes laws, following the tragic and astoundingly violent case of Michael Auker, who had been beaten into a coma in Middleberg, PA, the year before. Other notable "nays" include McCain, both of Wyoming's Senators, Judd Gregg (NH), John Warner (VA), and Mitch McConnell (KY).

For the next five years, under the GOP leadership, the bill would go nowhere, despite having a majority in the Senate in favor of adoption. Senator Kennedy reintroduced the bill in 2003, S966, but the Judiciary was, by then, back under the clenched fist of Senator Orin Hatch. (Utah, even today, is one of about four states that either provide no express criminal or civil statutory redress of any 'hate crime', including for race, religion, or ethnicity or effectively no redress. Utah has a ineffectual (unenforceable) criminal statute and nothing civil - see ACLU here and update in 2006, adding comparatively very weak penalty provisions to the code. For a taste of kabuki, Utah's own Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, has been lobbying against anti-gay sentiment for years to get a better State statute).

In 2004, months into Operation Iraqi Freedom, Smith (R-OR)/Kennedy attached the legislation to the Defense Authorization Bill as an amendment (S.AMDT.3183) and it passed, both in the House (213-186, albeit just on motion to instruct conferees) and in the Senate (65-33, on direct amendment vote). Notable "Nays" included McCain, McConnell, Sununu, and Domenici. Notable "Yeas" included the two Republican senators from Virginia, Warner and Allen; Voinovich (Ohio), and ... Judd Gregg and Arlen Specter. Stevens (AK) appears to have been favorably influenced ...

Bush-43 objected to its inclusion and got his way:
... the House instructed its conferees to support it in the conference report on the bill. Unfortunately, House leaders insisted that the provision be dropped in conference. - Kennedy, May, 2005 (cited above).

Kennedy reintroduced the bill in 2005, S1145, but this time it was Senator Arlen Specter as Judiciary Chairman. The bill died in committee. [I have no 'negative activity report' for 2006, so I cannot say if a bill was introduced or not].

In 2005, an interesting conflict arose along the way, as a GOP controlled Senate voted to pass a measure, S39, by acclamation, rather than expose some people as hypocrites for not being willing to submit to a roll-call vote apologizing for the Senate not enacting anti-lynching legislation sooner. Among some not signing on to S.39, both Republican senators from New Hampshire, Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu; both Republican senators from Mississippi, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott; both Republican senators from Wyoming, Enzi and Thomas. Also Republicans Richard "Dick" Shelby from Alabama, Jon Kyle of Arizona, and Bob Bennett of Utah. All of these also voted against extending hate crimes legislation to gays in 2002, save Sununu who was not a Senator at the time.

In 2006, Chairman Arlen Specter allowed the profoundly anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment out of committee, in order for there to be a floor vote in June of 2006, ahead of the fall of '06 elections. (Specter voted against the measure on the floor...as did oddball Judd Gregg.)

In 2007, with the "Contract on America" canceled at last, the now Democratically controlled House passed HR 1592, on May 3, the day after it was introduced. The Republican's President threatened to veto the bill the same day, issuing a statement from the OMB, of all places, declaring the bill too narrow, unnecessary, and constitutionally dubious. Distinguishing himself with a motion to recommit, the last gasp to kill a measure in the house, was one Texas Representative, Lamar S. Smith, Republican. One contributor to the SF Bay Times sums up Mr. Smith gone-to-Washington-to-extend-and-expand-the-Reagan-Devolution in this way:

Both of my senators here in Texas where I write this column have a “zero” rating from [LGBT Washington advocacy group] HRC. My congressman, in turn, one Lamar Smith, spent the last weekend in Boston at the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, where he observed that the American judicial system was undergoing a “crisis.” The 200 people at that conference, I read in the Washington Post, don’t simply want to remove the judges who refused to plug Terri Schiavo back into her glucose drip, they want all branches of the government to adhere to a biblical worldview based on a literal reading of the nonsensical and contradictory mixed bag that falls into the definition of “scripture.” They are nuts, and my very own congressman is right in the thick of things, cracked shell and all.

The current bill in the Senate, S1105, has 43 co-sponsors, ten more than in 1997. The list includes ... Arlen Specter. (No, I didn't just make that up). Judd Gregg is not a co-sponsor (to date).


[other, various sources]

The first federal law to combat hate crimes, in Title VII in the Civil Rights Act, 18 USC Section 245, passed in 1968. (Attacked in this year's session of the Supreme Court under Alito and Roberts, this is the legislation that followed the successful prosecution in the so-called "Mississippi Burning" case in which three voter registration guys were killed). Among the so-called federally protected activities are most anything related to voting, being a juror, enrolling in or attending public schools, receiving benefits or services from the Federal government or anyone getting Federal financial assistance, and applying to or working for the Federal government.

The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA, H.R. 1048) mandates the Justice Department to collect data from law enforcement agencies about crimes. The final bill, but not the original house draft, used the words "sexual orientation", as follows: "acquire data, for the calendar year 1990 and each of the succeeding 4 calendar years, about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation; arson; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property." It was amended to include 'disability' via the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of September, 1994; but data wasn't systematically compiled until 1997. The Act was 'permanently reauthorized' in 1996. Among four (4) Senators voting against the bill in 1990 were Senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms ...

The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, enacted as a section of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (H.R. 3131 as introduced), Title XVII (as enacted H.R. 4092), defines hate crimes as "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person."

Reference, QuickLinks:

  • The 2002 Senate vote (motion to invoke cloture) that killed the bill
  • What was going on in PA, while Arlen Specter (and Rick Santorum) were "Partying" with their votes, rather than representing the people of their State, arguably ...
  • Senator Orin Hatch's "we must study this" report, completed even though hate crimes legislation for non-gays has been on the books since 1968, in various forms. See also comments from report contributor Marty Lederman, from the Balkinzation blogologolog, specifically about the apparent hypocrisy of a Bush-43 objection that the current bill expands Federal authority, rather than just amend the existing legislation, on the grounds that they have accepted such expansion in related context (commerce clause authority) - if I understood that right.
  • The 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act, created ... er, 'special rights' (?) for religious property (S. 1890), with considerable Republican support, including Senator Orin Hatch as a co-sponsor, even. The Act "prohibits intentionally defacing, damaging, or destroying religious real property (or attempting to do so) because of the race, color, religious, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with such property."
  • A timeline from long-involved National Gay and Lesbian Task Force includes this legislatively related tidbit (if Bush-43 has done anything on hate crimes similarly, let me know.):
    "Finally, on June 8, 1997, President Bill Clinton spoke out against hate crimes that targeted victims based on skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, physical ability and sexual orientation. Clinton announced that he would convene a special White House Summit on Hate Crimes on November 10, 1997. Task Force Executive Director Kerry Lobel launched a nine-city tour through heartland America in summer 1997 to hear stories of hate violence perpetrated against LGBT people and to gather hundreds of signatures on petitions urging the president to take action against hate violence. Nearly 1,000 signatures were presented at the White House Summit on Hate Crimes, which resulted in the introduction of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that adds sexual orientation, gender and disability to existing federal hate crimes law."
    In 1997, the FBI divided its Civil Rights Unit into a Color of Law Unit and a Hate Crime Unit.
  • In 1998, The Violence Against Women Act "II" (S 2110/H.R. 3514) was passed and signed (as H.AMDT.683 of H.R.3494). The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 was passed against heavy Republican filibuster (H.R. 3355 as voted, Title IV). Notable "yeas", Warner and Specter. Notable "nays", Hatch, Gregg, McConnell, McCain, Stevens, Domenici. Notably, HR 3494, arguably created a federal 'special class' out of children (or expanded it) for the purposes of penalty assignments and enhancements.

Other notable dates:

1979 — Massachusetts enacts first state law aimed at hate crime (following riots that broke out over court-ordered busing).

1982 —In a watershed moment for Chinese-Americans, an unemployed Michigan autoworker and his stepson attack and beat Vincent Chin to death with a baseball bat to his head, thinking that he is Japanese.

1983 — U.S. Civil Rights Commission issues a report calling for study of bias-motivated crimes, although it is soon to be “morning in America” for the head-in-the-sand, ostrich GOP.

1985 — First Congressional hearing on hate crime is held, focusing on race, religion, and ethnicity. [Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader, Routledge (2003), p. 262]

1986 —First Congressional hearings on anti-gay violence held [ibid.].

1988 —ADL adds sexual orientation to model legislation

1992/1993 — Scope of Constitutionality decided, clearing the way for many states to adopt additional protections:

June 1992, a cross-burning case, R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul [505 U.S. 377 (1992)], was taken up by the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority (with a set of three other written, concurring opinions, as well) rejected the “fighting words” interpretation of the Minnesota court in favor of broad free speech protections, making restrictions on such things as cross-burning and bias-motivated speech unconstitutional. (This means that the oft-warned “chilling effect on free speech” of hate crimes laws is a red herring, for a long time now …)

June 1993, the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of penalty-enhancement hate crimes statutes, in Wisconsin v. Mitchell [508 U.S. 476 (1993)]

1996 — the Anti-Defamation League adds gender to its model hate crimes legislation. [*note: a second source says the date for this is 1990]

— Sodomy "obstacle" removed

June 2003, the United States Supreme Court strikes down remaining thirteen (13) State sodomy laws, in Lawrence v. Texas [539 U.S. 558] overturning its chilling Bowers v. Hardwick ruling [478 U.S. 186] from seventeen years earlier, 1986. This removes an obstacle seen by some to hate crimes protections for sexual orientation, although some States continue to have sodomy laws on their books.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Senator Hagel's Burn Notice

GOP out to eat their own.

LINCOLN – According to campaign finance reports filed last week, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning nearly doubled Senator Chuck Hagel’s total receipts for the second quarter, raising $728,000 to Hagel’s $387,000.

Rethinking War in America

While Kagan has everyone mis-directed in an effort to rescue Bush's serious over reach in Iraq, here is a tidbit that ought to give Constitutional scholars pause for thought.

Why should Senators have to pass legislation in order to get a simple answer about contingency planning within the Pentagon?

At a minimum, I hope it means that we will never have anything like the AUMF, such as was drafted last time around.

More broadly and however "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" turn out, the nation has a serious, serious need to rethink the Constitutional approach to waging war.

(A) Fighting "classified wars", or just how much authority the President has to carry on with a CIA that has morphed, under Bush-Cheney, to include what some have called paramilitary operations and detention

(B) Fighting "long wars", perhaps wars of attrition or long-term, limited scale warfare (like Afghanistan); supporting peacekeeping or stabilization efforts; or handling long-term efforts in which the mission changes dramatically or escalates (such as the current 'curbing Iranian influence' or even attack Iran directly to protect troops, or such as the old Cambodia and Laos escalations).

It's not clear (to me) that the framers had these extended notions of "war" in mind, when they crafted the crude separation of powers related to capping an Imperial wartime authority.

The GOP: From the "Do Nothing" 109th to "No, Nothing" 110th - Part I

Ever since Claire McCaskill's floor speech during the overnight debate on Iraq, I've been wanting to catalog the GOP's growing obstructionism.

Coupled with the Republican overrepresentation in the current Senate, we start to have some ideas, possibly, of why the Congress enjoys such low ratings. Frankly, I'm not sure that some of the Imperialists within the GOP don't like it that way ...

(hat tip: ThinkProgress)

Anti HRC Update

Almost six months after we were told that Gill Action was the savvy man's answer to some undefined notion of 'gay rights', we can put down the dipstick on AS's recommendation, as follows:

NOTHING to report, so far... It must be taking a long time to decorate some spanky new offices? Who knows...

but, hey, who's keeping score, except AS himself.

Six months after decrying the group as being filled by Hilliary bots, Hilliary looks more viable than ever, and the time when one gets the maximum political capital from an endorsement has likely gone by ...

[That doesn't mean I'm for 'doing endorsements', but at least I understand and respect the viewpoint of some who are.]

Is this story even believable?

THIEVES have stolen nearly $300 million from a bank in Baghdad, police and a bank official said yesterday, in what is probably one of the biggest thefts in Iraq since the 2003 war to topple Saddam Hussein.

It was not clear why the bank had so much cash on hand, ... - The New Scottsman

Wanted: Geeks who can fly UAVs

I'd bet dollars that, behind the scenes, our "classified" government decided to simply move its permanent bases from Saudi Arabia to Iraq. Insupportable.

[To accommodate its new UAV,] The US air force is building a 400,000 sq ft expansion of a concrete-ramp area now used for existing Predator UAV drones at Balad, the biggest US air base in Iraq, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

It is another sign that the air force is planning for an extended stay in Iraq, supporting Iraqi government forces in any continuing conflict, even if US ground troops are withdrawn in the coming years.

India Has First Female President

Meet Pratibha Patil.

There is a group that keeps track of women's progress in electoral politics worldwide. I cannot recall lit offhand, but here is an interesting contrast:

"In 2005, women were legally barred from running for president in Iran. One of the only countries where a woman has run for head of state is in Algeria with the 2004 presidential candidacy of Louisa Hanoun, leader of the left-wing Algeria's Worker's Party. Hanoun, however, only placed fifth out of a six-person race. Moreover, only 51 percent of those participants in the Arab Human Development Report poll said that women have the right to become head of state."

Federalist Destiny

A while back, the folks at PostGlobal asked what readers thought Iraq would look like in ten years. I guessed that it has a good chance of ending up as a seriously devolved, federalist entity.

On that point, check out this great piece of writing (Brian Brivati, Guardian Unlimited):

"So the Iraq Commission ends in the final broadcast at the LWT office on the South Bank. Jon Snow does his stuff. A studio audience listens in silence. Lee Hamilton is beamed in from the USA to say how splendid it all is and then we all go home to watch it on TV and wake the next morning to a new project. Iraqis, on the other hand, wake up the next morning in a land of infinite contrasts. In the north, in the Kurdistan region, they take a shower, have breakfast, watch the news and go to work. In Baghdad, their water may or may not be running. Their electricity probably does not work. There is a body in the road outside their house. In the south it depends where they are but many will have no job to go to so they will listen to whatever Iranian mullah is preaching hate that morning. And then, somewhere, a terrorist of one of the many, many groups will let off a bomb that kills his fellow Iraqis. Will our commission make any difference to this situation? Well, it will if the British government takes the most important of our recommendations seriously."

and, this, a propos of the Senate's tete-a-tete with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, recently:

Iraqi parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman cautions that many Iraqis still do not understand the concept of federalism. He also wonders if it might be too soon to try to get them to embrace it.

"Somebody who gets up in the morning he has no gas, no electricity, no safety, no food, unemployed, do you think he will listen to you when you talk about federalism or our constitution? It is nonsense. They have been working in the wrong way in this country," said Othman