Thursday, April 26, 2007

First Democratic Debate...

I am currently watching the first Democratic Presidential debate from South Carolina. I'm going to post some of my thoughts as the debate goes on - although this will post when the debate is over...remember, these are quick hit thoughts, and written on the fly... (+ indicates that I noted it was a really top notch answer):

Round 1 - Iraq
Clinton - Steady; Looks authoritative; didn't answer the question (was Reid right in saying the war was lost); conceded to Obama on a rebutal - GREAT move, made her look deferential yet forceful

Edwards - Smooth; good answer on Iraq (foreign policy can be his weak spot)

Biden - very off the cuff; spontaneous

Obama - Slow start, but recovered well - good, but expected, position on Iraq

Kucinich - same old, same old on anti-war; he just doesn't seem Presidential

+ Richardson - Wow, made stronger impression on Iraq that I expected; no funding; leave by 31-Dec-07; specific three point plan on what to do when the soldiers came home on 31-Dec; only specific plan answers

Dodd - unremarkable

Gravel - "this fraudulent war was lost from the beginning;" old codger; law to make it a felony to stay in Iraq

Note: Clinton given two rebuttals - no one else

R2 - Perceptions in the Public
Obama - Corruption in Campaign - Smooth, in a tricky spot

Edwards - Haircut/Wealth - nice job of twisting this into running to give the same chances to all Americans as those he has had; Hedge Funds - markets are instrumental in getting rid of poverty

Clinton - Hedge Funds - we have an enterprising economy; basic answer

Richardson - AG AG, didn't call for resignation because he's hispanic - Took this right back to AG's failings

Dodd - Washinton insider - Proud of his pubic service; we've had 6 years of a President going through on-the-job-training, maybe we could use an insider

Kucinich - Anti-war candidate - Choppy answer; pushing his anti-war position genuinely

Biden - Gaffe-machine - Yes (first laugh-line)

Gravel - Doesn't matter if he gets elected - Scared of the rest of these guys; no nukes

+ Clinton - Unfavorable Republican view - ask them; Health Care, still have the scars from that battle; Republicans are worried, and that is why they are so vitriolic; promotes universal health care, energy independence, climate-change initiatives, corruption of Bush years, internatinoal alliances, not alienations; Serious - good answer

Notes: Clinton given two questions; Gravel is an utter embarrassment

R3 - Domestic Issues
Edwards - Abortion - This decision (the recent late-term abortion SCOTUS decision) shows just how important the Presidency and appointments to SCOTUS are; difficult decision that must be respected

Obama - Abortion (most of America agreed with decision) - would not agree; he would trust women to make the decision; then - really nicely - turned to prevention and other issues that would reduce abortions without bans

Biden - Litmus test on R v. W - no specific test, but nominees must share my values and understand there is a right to privacy; bad decision with dishonest reasoning; the late-term procedure itself is bad, but the decision was bad

Kucinich - Litmus test - yes, but the focus should be on other things: living wage, preventive care is support for life; listen to those opposed to abortion in order to be a healer on the issue; respect and protect women but listen to opposing views

Dodd - Regret voting for Roberts - No; disppointed but no - he didn't do what he said he'd do (respect precedent)

Richardson - Model SC Justice - Byron White (moderator says "alive") - Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Dodd - Model SC Justice - since Brennan is excluded (by moderator); Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Edwards - Model SC Justice - Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Stephen Breyer

Clinton - did govt fail at VT - YES; while respecting gun owners rights, improve gun regulation especially to mentally ill

Richardson - NRA favorite - Protection of gun rights is important in the west; moved to mental health and enforcing background checks

Show of Hands - who has had a gun in the house as an adult: Gravel; Biden; Dodd; Richardson; Kucinich(?!?)

Biden - what could federal govt have done for VT - (I owned a shotgun, not just a handgun); Assault weapons ban should not have been allowed to lapse; close the gun sho loophole; focus on mental illness

Notes: No one really hit a homerun; Obama's not standing out

R4 - Health Care (HC)
Edwards - What taxes will be raised to pay for your HC plan - Repeal the Bush tax cuts on anyone over 200k; I have a specific, different HC plan

Obama - How to pay for plan - (doesn't answer, just discusses plan); Pool to buy into like Congress; must control costs; preventive care; technology; catrostophic coverage

+ Clinton - Pay for plan - (doesn't answer) - Experience of fighting for a plan; Control and decrease costs for all, including those with insurance currently; save monies in the current system before we transform to a new system

Richardson - No taxes? - No - don't want to raise taxes to pay; as Governor deal with this issue every day: 1. Cut existing beuracracy; 2. Share savings throughout system; 3. Prevention; 4. clean up inefficiencies (insitute HC Info System); 5. reinstate Dr./Patient relationships

Biden - NAACP ban on SC due to flag - more important to show of the capabilities of the people of the host historic black college, than to avoid the state

Obama - Conf. flag - Confederate flag belongs in a museum; but there are bigger issues on the table to discuss tonight - black infant mortality rates/poverty; deferred to "Hillary"

Notes: Obama finally warming up; Clinton carries the air of a President; Richardson focusing on specifics all night

Rd5 - Serious Mistake in the Past 4 Years
Gravel - Wouldn't have held the youth of the other candidates againist them

Kucinich - Years ago, fired the Cleveland Police Chief live on local news

+ Clinton - not enough time to list all mistakes; HC message; believing the President was going to go to the UN and listen to inspectors

+ Obama - when first arrived in Senate; left after debate on a law re: Schaivo - should have stayed and had a full debate/vote

Biden - overestimating the competence and underestimating the arrogance of Bush administration

Edwards - Voting for the war; lesson = listen to own judgment

Dodd - Voting for war

Richardson - too impatient, has tried to force changes, including a minimum wage in NM when should have used diplomacy

Rd6 - Miscellaneous
+ Clinton - Amnesty for immigrants - Comprehensive immigration reform including additional enforcement, helping states pay for costs of illegals, get 12MM immigrants out of the shadows so we know who is here, give current residents a chance to pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and get in back of the line to become citizens

Biden - Tech degrees/brain drain - Change the way we educate our children; smaller class sizes and better pay for teacher to get better teachers

Dodd - Welfare drug tests - No; over-tested all over; addition is an illness; show respect and compassion

+ Edwards - Oil Comp. windfalls - much is due to demand, we need to focus on transforming that - climate change initiative, cap carbon emmissions, clean energy resources; let's ask America to be patriotic about something other than war

Kucinich - HC premiums - due to For Profit Insurance companies; non-profit HC

Richardson - 1st thing accomplished in office - 1. Get out of Iraq; 2. Energy independence plan like Apollo program; 3. Climate change initiative

Notes: Clinton cruising

Rd 7 - Non-Iraq Foreign Policy
Obama - 3 biggest allies - 1. EU/NATO; 2. Japan; 3. Emerging China; distraction of Iraq ---follow up question - what about Israel - covers on Palestinian quote; strong ally

+ Biden - 3 biggest threats - 1. N. Korea; 2. Iran; 3. Russian/Putin; we need a change in policy - jettison preemption & regime change - we don't need regime change, but conduct change

Gravel - 3 threats - No important enemies; treat the world as equals; not afraid of any nations; military industrial complex

Edwards - Russia, friend or for - they have moved from democracy to autocracy; how does America change the dynamics of the world? Set America as a force of good in the world; lead on education of children of the world; clean water; economic independence

Richardson - 4 time nominee for Nobel Peace Prize, what about Russia - Assess strategy interests: 1. contain the nukes; 2. Humane treatment in Chechnya; 3. develope Russia as a stable source of energy for US; 4. Promote democracy; stubborn is not a foreign policy; fight terrorism and nuclear proliferation

+ Clinton - Giuliani/Dem perception - Disconnect between rhetoric and reality; current administration hypes fear without delivering on promises; our foreign policy under Bush is less stable; this is a Myth they can put to rest

Dodd - Dem perception - Myth; not building international support; problem of stateless terrorism

Hands - Who does NOT believe there is a Global War on Terror - Kucinich/Gravel

Kucinich - move away from Bush's aggressive war; the world is waiting for US leadership

Obama - Terrorist attack 2 cities, what do you do? - 1. Effective emergency response (re: Katrina); 2. Intelligence - cannot allow the world community to be doubtful of our intelligence; 3. Talk to the international community

+ Edwards - Same question - 1. Act swiftly and strongly to hold the culprits responsible; 2. Assess what happened, address DHS; need to use more tools than bombs - work to get the next generation of potential-terrorists on our side

Clinton - Same question - Immediate retaliation - but do not look for other fights which are not ours

Hands - Who would support impeachment of VP Cheney? Kucinich alone

Kucinich - Constitution - Cheney must be held accountable for Iraq and ginning up a war agaisnt Iran; notes that he is the only candidate willing to impeach

Notes: Clinton stumbles for the first time; in both answers here, she is clearly thinking while speaking and not as commanding as previously; Obama's first answer here was poor

Rd 8 Miscellaneous
Dodd - Civil Union vs. Gay Marriage - Supports civil unions; consider what he would want for his own daughters - same rights; yet marriage is distinct due to the tradition

Biden - Hard choices on climate-change - Manhattan project for climate change; "Barak and I" proposal; Car emissions/ethanol/lithium battery technology/cap emmissions now, today; hard choices

Richardson - Cuba - goes back to question about an attack - retaliate mightily, then build coalition; on Cuba, beginning planning for a post-Castro cuba; bring in Cuban-Americans to develop a plan; change policy on family visits; re-evaluate the embargo

Gravel - Nuclear energy - maturation process; back to the war - there has been a mischaracterisation of terrorism - a war won't work; change in foreign policy

+ Obama - what have you done personally for environment - on Earth Day organized volunteers to plant trees (moderator - no, personally, like light bulbs); making an effort to use efficient light bulbs and teach his children of conservation; back to terrorism - terror networks must be hunted and demolished; build alliances (great answer - I didn't get too many notes because I was caught listening - his best of the night)

[Bit of back-and-forth between Kucinich/Obama/Gravel/Obama] - Obama looks Presidential others...not

Edwards - who is your moral leader - thoughtful; cannot identify one person; the Lord who I pray to for forgiveness and counsel; wife - who is my conscience; father - every person is of value

Clinton - Is Wal-Mart good or bad - mixed blessing; it allowed rural America to stretch its dollar; but now it is raising serious questions about corporate accountability - providing HC, discrimination in the work place, work place safety; Bush and Corporate America no longer even see Middle Class America

Biden - Is there a winner on the statge - YES, a bunch of winners; if anyone on the Republican side is wishing for Hillary, they are making a mistake; back to security - for security, specifically in Afghanistan, Darfur, Balkans, have to use force; all the "happy talk" (from Kucinich and Gravel) is unrealisic

Notes: Finally - Obama hits a home-run (about time) he got better and better as things went along; Clinton closed strong; Edwards limped to the finish

Overall Immediate Impressions:

Clinton did great - she was Presidential, composed, and articulate; she stumbled a bit toward the end, but was consistently the strongest candiate on the stage...but she also got the most opportunities

Edwards did well until the very end; he is substantive and charismatic

Richardson really proved himself to me this evening - specifics, strong, bold; the biggest winner of the 2d tier

Obama really warmed up as the debate moved along; started slowly but grew commanding by the end

Biden is just really off the cuff and unrehearsed; probably the funniest, and you can see depth, but it doesn't completely come through

Dodd was essentially invisible

Kucinich towed his standard line, and actually almost looked relatively mainstream due to the man on his political and physical left...

Gravel was a joke, simply did not belong

90 minutes simply isn't enough time for 8 candidates.

No Sen. Reid, We Won...

...but our soldiers should be coming home.

I don't think I have to specifically say it - but I entirely disagree with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried when he said the other day that the war in Iraq "is lost."* I think that I have been unequivocally clear on this blog in stating that I think that we have already won this war. (Four Years...; Motivations...)

Sen. Reid was simply wrong in making such a statement, and David Broder has an appropriately frank column today saying so - Democrats have their own embarrassment in Reid:
Here's a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: "As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats — a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance."

If you answered Harry Reid, give yourself an A. and join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to come to an end.

President Bush's highly developed tolerance for egregious incompetence in his administration may have met its supreme test in Attorney General Gonzales, who at various times has taken complete responsibility for the firing of eight U.S. attorneys and also professed complete ignorance of the reasons for their dismissal. This demonstration of serial obfuscation so impressed the president that he rushed out to declare that Gonzales had "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."

... Given the way the Constitution divides the war-making power between the president as commander in chief and Congress as the sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow from now until a new president takes office.

To say that Reid has sent conflicting signals of his readiness for such discussions is an understatement. It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out what ground Reid is prepared to defend — for more than 24 hours at a time.

Instead of reinforcing the important proposition — defined by the Iraq Study Group — that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

The Democrats deserve better and the country needs more than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

Well said. But saying that does NOT mean that the President should not be putting plans in place to bring our soldiers home. I'm not convinced the current bill that the Senate passed today (and the President promises to veto) is the best way to go about this. (As an aside, this ridiculous political pandering of the right-wing accusing the Democrats of delaying bullets and supplies to our troops, or putting our soldiers in danger by delaying this funding is beyond the pale. Such funding does no such thing - and additionally, the REPUBLICAN congress took almost TWICE as long to approve a similar supplemental spending bill last year. Such vitriolic ravings are merely straw-men being created by the Right.) My general thoughts are that we need to vote to fund the troops, and vote or simply pressure the President to change his failed policies separately. That negotiation process was commented on by a Houston Chronicle editorial today - War Powers:
Constitutional scholars teach that the Founders intended Congress and the president to tussle over the power to wage war. The president is commander in chief of the armed forces, yet Congress has the authority to declare war and the absolute power of the purse.

... Ronald Cass, dean emeritus of the Boston University Law School, usefully spoke on this subject Tuesday at a gathering of the Houston lawyers chapter of the Federalist Society. He noted Congress could cut off war-fighting funds on a date certain, but was unlikely to use this blunt club.

As for Congress' power to order redeployment of U.S. forces, Cass said that authority rested with the commander in chief. He compared the tactics of Democratic leaders to a young Catholic woman who confesses that she frequently looks at herself in the mirror and thinks herself pretty.

"Is this a sin, Father?" she asks.

"No," the priest replies. "It is only a mistake."

Is Congress wrong to try to hasten the end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq? No. Congress naturally wishes to affect the course of the war for the better, in this case cutting U.S. losses. Only its tactic of directing the disposition of U.S. forces is mistaken.

... Cass predicted Congress and the president eventually would negotiate the terms and amounts of continued appropriations for fighting the war. Given the Constitution's division of military powers and the troops' need for training, pay and equipment, a settlement is not only desirable, but essential.

Exactly. It's not wrong to try to end our involvement in Iraq - but this tactic does not seem be wise. We can all only hope that Congress finds the right way to negotiate with this administration - with the support of the American people as heavy pressure - to get our soldiers out of Iraq and back home. And they should come home as conquering heroes - because we've already won this war.

Because I believe that we have already won in Iraq, and it's time to bring our military home, I was opposed to Bush's Surge, and wrote so early this year. But once Bush decided to send more troops, I certainly was hoping that the Surge would work - so we could then bring our soldiers home. Initial reports from the administration seemed to be very positive about the impact of the Surge...which was encouraging. But recently, there has been a "counter-surge" in violent attacks in Iraq - and Tuesday, the administration made a disappointing disclosure - U.S. excludes bombs in touting drop in Iraq violence:
U.S. officials who say there has been a dramatic drop in sectarian violence in Iraq since President Bush began sending more American troops into Baghdad aren't counting one of the main killers of Iraqi civilians.

Car bombs and other explosive devices have killed thousands of Iraqis in the past three years, but the administration doesn't include them in the casualty counts it has been citing as evidence that the surge of additional U.S. forces is beginning to defuse tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

President Bush explained why in a television interview on Tuesday. "If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory," he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose.

Others, however, say that not counting bombing victims skews the evidence of how well the Baghdad security plan is protecting the civilian population — one of the surge's main goals.

"Since the administration keeps saying that failure is not an option, they are redefining success in a way that suits them," said James Denselow, an Iraq specialist at London-based Chatham House, a foreign policy think tank.

...U.S. officials have said that they don't expect the security plan to stop bombings.

"I don't think you're ever going to get rid of all the car bombs," Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said this week. "Iraq is going to have to learn as did, say, Northern Ireland, to live with some degree of sensational attacks."

Some think that approach could backfire, with Iraqis eventually blaming the U.S. for failing to stop bombings.

"To win, the insurgents just have to prove they are not losing," said Denselow, of London's Chatham House.

If we've already won, we don't need a surge. So what is its point? Is Bush attempting to clutch the threads of a legacy he see's slipping away? The lives of our soldiers are too important to spend them securing a legacy.

We have won this war - let's bring our soldiers home.

* - I do feel the need to note that in the same Broder piece linked above, the colunmnist points out that Sen. Chuck Schumer attempted to explain Reid's 'this war is lost' statement like this:
"What Harry Reid is saying is this war is lost — in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. We are not going to solve that problem. ... The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this — we Democrats believe it. ... So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win. But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win."

With the limited point that Schumer is making, I probably wouldn't disagree (although I'd want to see the context). But, in my opinion, that narrow point is more likely a valiant attempt to justify what Sen. Reid said, and it less likely what Sen. Reid actually meant.

AG AG...

My wife and I had a discussion this morning about one of the more recent scandals involving the Bush administration - the involvement, and involvement in the cover-up, of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (AG AG) in the firing of 8 US Attorneys.

We were discussing two primary issues:
1. The misrepresentations by the Mainstream Media that "Clinton did the same thing"
2. Was there a crime involved

I thought I would touch on my thoughts about this here.

First, Clinton did NOT do the same thing. Comparing the Clinton and Bush involvement with the US Attorneys is comparing apples and oranges.

Bill Clinton, upon entering office in 1992, fired 93 US Attorneys to replace them with his own appointments. As did Ronald Reagan in 1980. I don't think anyone attempts to argue that the President does not have the authority to fire and replace US Attorneys. That is not what Bush - through AG AG - did.

As it happens, midterm firings of US Attorneys are fairly rare - Midterm U.S. Attorney Firings Rare. As the Guardian article states:

Before the Bush administration, the Congressional Research Service found just five instances over 25 years in which U.S. attorneys were fired or resigned in the middle of a presidential term and before their four-year tenures were up following reports of questionable conduct.

A Reagan-era prosecutor was fired and later convicted in federal court in connection with charges that he leaked confidential information. A Clinton appointee resigned over allegations he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club following a loss in a big drug case. Another Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney resigned after being videotaped assaulting a TV reporter who was questioning him about recent decisions by his office.

There have been no allegations of such misconduct by any of the eight prosecutors forced out by Bush. Democrats charge that they were fired for political reasons.

There is evidence that Bush's team was considering disloyalty to the president as a criterion for replacements. As he planned the ousters, Gonzales' aide noted that the vast majority of federal prosecutors were ``loyal Bushies.''
What Clinton and Reagan did is simply not of in the same category as what Bush did - which leads me to the second point - firing these attorneys was likely not a crime.

I don't know that anyone I have read has suggested that the actual firings were a crime. Rather, it is simply an(other) example of the perfidious, incompetent, and quasi-ethical nature of this Presidential administration. It's not a simple matter of firing the attorneys - it's firing them for political purposes, then lying about that and attempting a cover up. As a Letter to the Editor (by Rick Schell) in the Houston Chronicle put it today:
IF anyone doubts that the Bush administration has turned the Justice Department into a branch of the Republican National Committee, all one needs to focus on are his comments about Alberto Gonzales' hearings.

After responding to more than 70 questions with some variation on the words, "I don't recall," he demonstrated he is either a gross incompetent, a party hack or a liar. The president (although he didn't see any of the proceedings) has proclaimed that Gonzales' testimony has "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job." Obviously, the president was not referring to administering justice, but his purging of U.S. attorneys who were not "loyal Bushies." At that, he was an expert.
So, no, the actual firings were likely not illegal. But the injection of petty politics into the Justice Department was ugly and tainted.

Yet, despite the ickiness of the firings, and the apparent cover-up in the aftermath, and AG AG's utterly embarrassing performance in front of the Senate Judiciary committee last week - Bush continues to back incompetence. I think everything else that needs to be said about this issue can be summed up by the Republicans themselves. Robert Novack (right-wing icon) excoriated the Bush administration's inconceivable backing of Gonzales in a blistering editorial today - So it's Bush behind the barricades with Al Gonzales:

Bush going out of his way to praise his beleaguered friend from Texas only confirmed signals sent this week. The president's improbable praise for Gonzales' pathetic performance as a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week was no mere gesture. The authoritative word from the White House was that Bush was adamant about retaining Gonzales as attorney general despite Republican demands that the president cut his losses with a new face at Justice.

... Bush, never entranced by life in Washington, detests dealing with a Democratic Congress. Reflecting annoyance and fatigue, he is unwilling to withstand incessant attacks from the likes of Reid and is ready to fight it out for the more than a year and a half remaining in his term. Retaining Gonzales means Bush has slipped behind the barricades.

All the Republicans in Congress who I have contacted view this posture by Bush to be pure folly. For the long term, they predict their president's intent to wage constant warfare against the majority Democrats will cast a pall on Republican chances of retaining the presidency in 2008. For the shorter term, they foresee nothing but trouble from Gonzales continuing in power. "I cannot imagine," said a House GOP leader, who would not be quoted by name, "how Bush thinks Gonzales can function effectively with no Republican support."

... While the current cliche is that Bush never should have named Gonzales as attorney general in the first place, the consensus in the administration was that he also was at sea in his first post as White House counsel.

Colin Powell, Bush's first-term secretary of state, was so appalled by Gonzales that he shunted contact with him off to Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, who in turn handed him down to lower levels along the State Department chain of command.

Such derision of Gonzales is viewed by Bush as the arrogance of Washington, and he seems determined not to appease that mindset. ...

Never would I have thought I would say this, but...I encourage you to go read the entire Novak column.

Ugh - that feels dirty; I'm going to go take a shower...

Best Show on TV...

The Philadelphia Inquirer carried a good feature on John Stewart and the Daily Show today - What's a funnyman to say of grim news?

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are both programmed on our DVR machine at home. I think that these are two of the best shows currently on TV because they are both somehow able to simultaneously be irreverent & hysterically funny and also thought provoking & provide actual information.

The Inquirer piece notes how Stewart and the show had to deal with the horrible events at Virginia Tech last week:
So what's a fake anchorman to do? Find something else to be funny about.

"I will do what I always do when faced with something that is that powerfully damaging to the emotional core," Stewart said at the top of Monday's show. "I will begin to repress it, and swallow it . . . so let's move on, as if the world was OK."

"The main thing is to overcome your own sense of gloom," Stewart said the next day from his Manhattan office. The New Jersey native brings his stand-up comedy act to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby for two shows Friday.

"Our saving grace is that we're not the news, so we have no obligation to be the news. Our job is comedy, though the foundation of a lot of what we do is not particularly lighthearted. And it's not that horrible situations cannot make for something satirical or absurd. It's just that in the middle of the immediacy of something like this, you're fighting your own nausea."

I'm anticipating that the Daily Show coverage of the 2008 Election will be appropriately over-the-top given the over-the-top personalities involved in the election...but, that will also mean that Stewart's regular spot-light upon the incompetence of the Bush administration will be coming to an end.
Though the sitting president is Stewart's most frequent comic target, the satirist says he won't miss Bush when he leaves office. "People used to say, 'When Clinton goes, what are you going to do without him?' I have complete faith in the continued absurdity of whatever's going on.

"And besides that, I look forward to deconstructing someone else's game. At a certain point there's no more surprises. You know [the Bush administration is] going to come out and say the opposite of what most people believe reality to be as adamantly as they possibly can. . . . And I'm pretty much done with that. I'm ready to move on to another form of deception."

Well, I guess I won't have to miss it after all...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

There's just too much evil...

Courtesy of Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 18-Apr-07.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don't Underrate Houston... has an interesting article up about the most underrated cities in America - Top 10 underrated U.S. cities; Sure, N.Y., Chicago, S.F. are nice, but don't forget these overlooked locales

The list includes a few that I would have expected (Pittsburgh, Portland) - and also includes my hometown. Here is the write up for #3 must underrated city - Houston, Texas:
Houston is proof that everything is indeed bigger in Texas. While better known for its big business and energy interests, this sprawling city also hosts top-notch orchestra, opera, and ballet companies, a dynamic theater scene, great museums, and the world-renowned NASA Space Center. Shopping reigns supreme here — you'll find a huge concentration of shops and above-par outlet malls — and its cosmopolitan restaurant scene expands upon the state's traditional Tex-Mex offerings. Bold and impressive architecture helps define the cityscape, too — including the mammoth Astrodome — making this fourth-largest U.S. city a true star in the Lone Star State.

Very nice.

And I'd just like to add that Dallas didn't make the list...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

MLS Predictions...

This weekend another year of MLS kicks off. The following is how I think the season standings will finish up. One new feature to note for 2007 is that only the top two teams in each conference are guaranteed to make the playoffs. The next four spots will be filled by the next four teams with most points, regardless of conference. Playoff qualifiers denoted by '*'.

Eastern Conference:
1. DC United*
I think this team will be the class of MLS in 2007 - and so do most observers. The 2006 Supporters’ Shield winners return without Alecko Eskandarian and Freddy Adu - but have added intriguing talent in the form of Fred, Yinka Casal, and Emilio. As long as the defense holds up, this team should play attractive soccer, and really run rough-shod over the league.

2. Chicago Fire*
There is an argument that the Fire have never reached their potential under coach Dave Sarachan, but I think this year they could be better than most people think. The addition of Cuauhtemoc Blanco in mid-season will be a massive draw to MLS - and will bring a creativity that MLS has rarely seen. But Chicago will succeed or fail this season based on their ability to play cohesively as a team. This team reminds me a little bit of last seasons Dynamo - not a whole lot of flash, but the job gets done.

3. Red Bull New York*
Maybe I overestimate the combined impact of Bruce Arena, Claudio Reyna, and Jozy Altidore - but I think that the Red Bulls could be a major surprise this season. I think they are going to have outstanding wide play from their outside backs and wingers (Dunivant, Wynne, van den Bergh, Schopp) - the questions are down the center. First, can Reyna stay healthy on that nasty turf of the Meadowlands? Second, is the central defense good enough? Finally, have they found a goal-scorer in Altiore? If the answers to those questions are even marginally positive, this team will be a nice surprise.

4. Columbus Crew
Due to a new rule in MLS, the top two teams in each league go to the playoffs, then the next four teams with highest point totals overall make take the remaining spots - so each league is no longer guaranteed four teams in the playoffs. That's too bad for Sigi Schmid and an improving Crew side. I think they will be better, but not sneak into the playoffs due to a considerably stronger Western Conference. Schmid is still in the midst of a rebuilding project - but I think he is on track and this team will be competitive - but lose or draw a lot of tough matches. Their going to have to find more goals than I think they will in order to secure that playoff spot.

5. New England Revolution
Consensus seems to be that this Revolution team will continue the teams recent successes - but I just don't see that happening. It seems to me this is a team in disarray - losing players, unhappy players, players trying to find roles, injury issues...the list goes on. Steve Nicol has been one of the most consistently successful coach's in MLS - but if he is able to keep this team - this year - toward the top of the MLS East, he may well have done the best job of his career. Twellman will get his goals, but unless Noonan and Ralston can stay healthy, Joseph can stay happy, this team will be a major disappointment.

6. Kansas City Wizards
There are very few certain things about the enigma that is Eddie Johnson, but one thing that appears clear is that to this point in his (still young) career, he has not reacted well to pressure. Well, the pressure is on this year. For this team to be successful, Johnson will have to be consistently putting the balls in the back of the net. This team is likely to be well organized at the back - with tons of experience in new keeper Kevin Hartman, backline of Conrad, Garcia, Burciaga Jr., and Jewsbury, and DM Zavagnin. But, creativity and width will be seriously lacking.

7. Toronto FC
On paper - this expansion team looks pretty good up front, and in the midfield. Strikers Buddle and Eskandarian have scored goals in MLS for years, and Casey is a fringe US international. Carl Robinson has lots of international, Premiership, and Championship experience, while Mulrooney, O'Brien, Cancela, and Nagamura have lots of MLS experience. But that experienced talent is thin - and the back line has zero MLS experience, and the keeper has only been a back-up. This team is going to allow tons of goals - and may have trouble finding the net if there are any injuries. 2007 is going to be a long, hard slog for the 14,000 season ticket holders in Toronto.

Western Conference
1. LA Galaxy*
Yes, they will add Beckham in July...but the Galaxy improved last year after Frank Yallop took the head coaching job. This team is young and improving, they have one of the best coaches in MLS (Yallop), one of the best players in MLS (Donovon), probably the best keeper in MLS (Cannon) - this team is primed to be better even before Beckham is added to the mix. The question may well be how the rest of the team reacts to the media and attention he will attract.

2. CD Chivas USA*
Chivas improved dramatically under Bob Bradley last year. Bradley is now gone on the the USMNT, but Preki was an able assistant - and I think the type of coash with a connection to the MLS game and the players that can really get the most out of these guys. Guzan is a real up-and-comer in goal, and the additions of Guevara and Mendoza will help replace Juan Pablo Garcia. I think that Maykel Galindo will prove to be an effective striking partner with Ante Razov, and this team will be even better in its third year in the league.

3. FC Dallas*
New coach Steve Morrow has blown the roster apart after two consecutive first round playoff losses - ditching some of the older, higher dollar veterans, and hanging his hat on the talented youth on this team. It may be a rocky-ride this year - but that will turn out to be a wise strategy. This team will surely score goals with the combination of attackers Ruiz, Cooper, and Nunez. The midfield looks like it will be creative and tough, especially with the additions of Toja and Oduro. The question will be can the young defense learn the ropes quickly enough - especially with Sala suspended at the beginning of the season.

4. Houston Dynamo*
The defending champions have a lot of folks on the bandwagon - and I obviously hope they are all right. But I just don't think this team will be as good this year. This team added no experienced talent to the team - yet the schedule will be very heavy - including international matches that will require several members of the team to be gone during the summer. The starting 11 is great...but the depth just doesn't appear to be there. Either Kinnear is truly sold on the young players he has on the roster already - or team management just isn't willing to spend the money to stay among the MLS elite. If the latter is true - fans in Houston are in for a long season.

5. Colorado Rapids*
I have always though Fernando Clavijo was an effective MLS coach - he just always seemed to be in tough situations. This may be his season to prove he can coach in this league. The talent on this team has improved - and with Terry Cooke providing all-star calibre service from the wing, Nico Hernandez, Roberto Brown and Jovan Kirovski should score plenty of goals. The defense is more seasoned, and Pablo Mastroeni is among the most talented players in MLS. The trade of Joe Cannon still has me concerned about this team - and at the end of the season, much of the success or failure of this side will be determined by Senegalese keeper Bouna Coundoul.

6. Real Salt Lake
This team really needs to make a run at the playoffs this year. John Ellinger should be under severe pressure to get the job done in Salt Lake this year - before interest in this new franchise begins to wane. The big addition is Freddy Adu - who should finally be given the freedom to attack he always lacked in D.C. The problem is that is the only major change from a team that finished dead last in the West last year. RSL has enticing young talent - Ballouchy, Seitz, and Adu - but I just don't see how this team has improved itself dramatically. Fans of MLS will be hoping that Adu, and this franchise, finally make "The Leap."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Good Timing...

Last September, I posted Environmental law and timing..., in which I discussed a Supreme Court case involving the regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Plaintiffs - including a number of environmental groups, 18 states, and two of the biggest power generators in the United States (Entergy and Calpine) - argue that the EPA should be regulating greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. (Entergy and Calpine are arguing FOR regulation for both environmental (secondary) and market certainty (primary) reasons. They're in the process of building the next generation of power plants, and are seeking to have certainty in the regulatory environment.) The Bush administration EPA disagrees, and argues that lawmakers did not intend the Clean Air Act to include regulation of greenhouse gasses.
The question of my original post was whether the merits of the case would be more impacted by timing, rather than the actual plain language of the Clean Air Act:
My question about this case is relatively simple - is the future of the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases contingent upon the timing of this lawsuit? What I mean by that is it appears to me that the current configuration of the Supreme Court is not going to be very friendly to the Plaintiffs here. The Court (driven by Justice Scalia) has tended to limit the EPA's regulation of areas (specifically waterways) that the EPA WANTED to regulate - why would they be open to forcing to the EPA to regulate in an area it (at least this current political configuration of the EPA) doesn't want to?

As it turns out, as is all to common, I was wrong.

Warming ruling squeezes Bush from both sides
The Supreme Court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to explain why it has refused to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from cars, putting the Bush administration under pressure from an unusual coalition of environmental groups and leaders of the auto industry to move quickly on global warming.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the court rejected the administration’s argument that it had no legal authority to limit carbon dioxide released from new cars. In a ruling described as a landmark victory for environmental activists, it decided that the EPA does have such authority and that it must give better reasons for not using it than the “laundry list” of “impermissible considerations” it has offered until now.
The court ruled that the plain language of the Clean Air Act allows the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant greenhouse gas.
In essence, the court handed the administration power it insisted it did not have and did not want. And the administration came under immediate pressure to use that power from an unlikely source as the nation’s biggest automakers joined the chorus of environmental groups and climate scientists calling for the EPA to get moving on greenhouse gases.

For the automakers [represented by an industry trade group representing General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and five others], the ruling means a shift in tactics. With the Bush administration having lost the argument that it could not regulate carbon dioxide emissions, automakers now hope that the EPA will enact an industrywide standard before the states enact a patchwork of differing regulations or before the Democratic-controlled Congress can revise the Clean Air Act to include even stronger restrictions.
The Bush administration had argued all along that Congress never gave it the power to decide whether carbon dioxide was a pollutant as defined in the federal Clean Air Act, but in an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the court said it did have such authority.

More important, Stevens sided in unusually strong language with scientists who say that U.S. car emissions do contribute to greenhouse gases, leading to global warming. In doing so, he rebutted the contention of some energy industry officials and Republicans in the administration and Congress that there is no proof of global warming.
Interesting - the timing was much better than I thought...

Prior post: Environmental law and timing...