Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Last Call

Looks like Joe Sestak is indeed getting into the PA Senate race, meaning Arlen Specter has a primary challenge on his hands anyway.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) is privately telling supporters that he intends to run for Senate, TPMDC has confirmed.

"He intends to get in the race," says Meg Infantino, the Congressman's sister, who works at Sestak for Congress. "In the not too distant future, he will sit down with his wife and daughter to make the final decision."

The move would constitute a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who intends to run for re-election in 2010, after having switched parties earlier this year.

Things just got a whole lot more interesting for old Arlen there. Sestak's certainly a solid progressive, but can he win in 2010? I think so. Question is, can he beat Arlen?

I still think he can.

Double Shot Of S'Truth

Andy Serwer serves up a pair of smoking posts over at Tapped on just how badly the conservatives are already losing the Sotomayor fight. First, some food for thought:

David Kurtz catches this article in The Hill that cites Curt Levey suggesting that Sonia Sotomayor's love of Puerto Rican food may be part of what conservatives will allege is racial bias.

Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ tongue and ears — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.

Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative-leaning advocacy group, said he wasn’t certain whether Sotomayor had claimed her palate would color her view of legal facts but he said that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee clearly touts her subjective approach to the law.

“It’s pretty disturbing,” said Levey. “It’s one thing to say that occasionally a judge will despite his or her best efforts to be impartial ... allow occasional biases to cloud impartiality.

I'm leaning towards Kurtz' conclusion, this has to be a joke. Pigs' feet and chick peas = activist judge? The shark is not visible from this altitude.
If it was a joke, it's one that about as a funny as this:

Secondly, it's nice to see ol Pat Buchanan and Stuart Taylor prove the need for affirmative action in 2009.

I've already responded to some of Taylor's assertions, so I won't do that here. I merely want to point out this passage from Samuel Alito's confirmation, highlighted by Glenn Greenwald:

Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.


When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

This is Samuel Alito, arguing that his experience of being the son of Italian immigrants, his knowledge of discrimination, gives him empathy that offers insight into such cases. How is this qualitatively different from Sotomayor saying that her knowledge of such things might maker her a better judge? It isn't--in fact, Alito is arguing the same thing, that his life experience gives him insight into the way laws affect people in real life, the exact quality Obama said he was looking for in a nominee. Like Sotomayor, Alito was merely commenting on the way life experience shapes one's vision of the law.

The conservative freakout over Sotomayor's remarks, as opposed to the way Alito's were marketed as a selling point for him as a judge, makes a remarkably salient case for why we still need affirmative action. Two judges made similar points--one was an Italian American man, the other was a Latino woman, both accomplished on the bench--but what was sold as a strength for Alito makes Sotomayor a racist. Taylor and Buchanan, while attacking Sotomayor, have inadvertently made the case for a policy they'd like to see eliminated, by proving that all things being equal, a minority woman is held to a different standard than the white man of similar background and experience.
And it's that different standard that exists because...surprise...the levers of power have been controlled by white men for the better part of centuries. Effort to remedy that are automatically somehow "racist" and yet as Serwer says, Buchanan and Taylor's differing standards and responses to the life experience question coloring judicial decisions for Alito versus Sotomayor has to be based on either race or gender (or both)...there is no other logical conclusion.

Do conservatives not have any idea how much damage has already been done in just 36 hours on this issue? Clearly not, and yet if they wanted to remind people why women, minorities and younger Americans have been abandoning the GOP in droves, there you are.

We're All Out Of Order

Newt's Daily To Do List:
  1. Get up.
  2. Shower.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Have breakfast.
  5. Go on TV.
  6. Proclaim somebody he doesn't like should resign.
Repeat as necessary. This passes for Serious Washington Discourse, as he's basically been allowed to do this for the last two months straight by the Village.

Dear America:

"You know, Obama fellow is just not interested in rule of law like Republicans are."

--Liz Cheney

Honestly, Liz Cheney lecturing the Obama administration on rule of law is without a doubt the single most ridiculously laughable thing I've seen in months.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Jonah Goldberg: still a douchebag.
More important, who says conservatives are against judicial empathy? I, for one, am all for it. I'm for empathy for the party most deserving of justice before the Supreme Court, within the bounds of the law and Constitution. If that means siding with a poor black man, great. If that means siding with a rich white one, that's great too. The same holds for gays and gun owners, single mothers and media conglomerates. We should all rejoice when justices fulfill their oaths and give everyone a fair hearing, even if that's now out of fashion in the age of Obama.
This from a guy who believes that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the President...

The Social Program Terminator

Ahnold has made good on his promise to cut billions from California's state budget since voters resoundingly rejected paying for social programs.

Now, these programs will get...terminated.

Faced with a ballooning deficit and a clear signal that voters won't pay more to fix it, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a budget plan Tuesday that would eliminate welfare, drop 1 million poor children from health insurance, cut off new grants for college students and shut down 80 percent of state parks.

In a state that long has prided itself on its social safety net, it could well go down in history as the most drastic reduction in social programs ever. And billions in further cuts will be unveiled later this week.

The governor's proposal to whack an additional $5.5 billion from state programs stunned even longtime Capitol-watchers with its blunt force. Ending cash assistance for 1.3 million impoverished state residents, for example, would make California the only state with no welfare program.

"Every single first-world nation has a safety net program for children," said Will Lightbourne, Santa Clara County's social services director. "This would return us to the era of Dickens — you'd have to go back to the 19th century to find a comparable proposal."

The governor's office reiterated that the cuts were painful but unavoidable, with the proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year already outdated before lawmakers even begin debate. Schwarzenegger's finance team now says the deficit will grow to $24.3 billion by July 1, up from the previous $21.3 billion projected shortfall.

Not any more. California's welfare program? About to be terminated. State parks? Hasta la vista, baby! Health care for kids? Blown away.

But that's how Republicans do things Cali style...making increasing revenue impossible and even making dipping into the state's rainy day fund out of bounds.

So now, Ahnold has to take a chainsaw to the state's safety net. He hasn't hit K-12 education yet. He will have to go there. More cuts are coming...$24.3 billion worth.

But then again, this is exactly how the shock doctrine Republicans want it to work: draconian across the board spending cuts that will brutally affect millions. Government spending is the enemy...unless it's for war.

Guess what this is going to do for the Republican brand?

A VAT Of Trouble

You didn't think universal health care would be free, did you?
With budget deficits soaring and President Obama pushing a trillion-dollar-plus expansion of health coverage, some Washington policymakers are taking a fresh look at a money-making idea long considered politically taboo: a national sales tax.

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax -- called a value-added tax, or VAT -- has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity.

At a White House conference earlier this year on the government's budget problems, a roomful of tax experts pleaded with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to consider a VAT. A recent flurry of books and papers on the subject is attracting genuine, if furtive, interest in Congress. And last month, after wrestling with the White House over the massive deficits projected under Obama's policies, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee declared that a VAT should be part of the debate.

"There is a growing awareness of the need for fundamental tax reform," Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said in an interview. "I think a VAT and a high-end income tax have got to be on the table."

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything, from a carton of eggs to a visit with a lawyer. It is also hugely regressive, falling heavily on the poor. But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American -- a tangible benefit that would be highly valuable to low-income families.

Liberals dispute that notion. "You could pay for it regressively and have people at the bottom come out better off -- maybe. Or you could pay for it progressively and they'd come out a lot better off," said Bob McIntyre, director of the nonprofit Citizens for Tax Justice, which has a health financing plan that targets corporations and the rich.

A White House official said a VAT is "unlikely to be in the mix" as a means to pay for health-care reform. "While we do not want to rule any credible idea in or out as we discuss the way forward with Congress, the VAT tax, in particular, is popular with academics but highly controversial with policymakers," said Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for White House Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Still, Orszag has hired a prominent VAT advocate to advise him on health care: Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and author of the 2008 book "Health Care, Guaranteed." Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, chairman of a task force Obama assigned to study the tax system, has expressed at least tentative support for a VAT.

"Everybody who understands our long-term budget problems understands we're going to need a new source of revenue, and a VAT is an obvious candidate," said Leonard Burman, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, who testified on Capitol Hill this month about his own VAT plan. "It's common to the rest of the world, and we don't have it."
I was waiting for something like this to leak out as a trial balloon. Republicans are going to go insane over this, but the reality is that taxes will have to be raised somewhere to cover our massive deficits.

Revenue has to come from somewhere to cover spending. But to see this out there in the WaPo in just four months of Obama's term is shows just how dire the debt situation is.

Obama will have to raise taxes on somebody eventually. Republicans are convinced it won't be rich people, and they have the lobbyists to prove it.

North Korea Looks Back

Technically, the Korean War never ended. In fact, today it may have just restarted itself.
North Korea threatened a military response to South Korean participation in a U.S.-led program to seize weapons of mass destruction, and said it will no longer abide by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

“The Korean People’s Army will not be bound to the Armistice Agreement any longer,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement today. Any attempt to inspect North Korean vessels will be countered with “prompt and strong military strikes.” South Korea’s military said it will “deal sternly with any provocation” from the North.

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak ordered his government to take “calm” measures on the threats, his office said in a statement today. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Takeo Kawamura, echoed those remarks and called on North Korea to “refrain from taking actions that would elevate tensions in Asia.”

The threats are the strongest since North Korea tested a nuclear weapon on May 25, drawing international condemnation and the prospect of increased sanctions against the communist nation. South Korea dispatched a warship to its maritime border and is prepared to deploy aircraft, Yonhap News reported, citing military officials it didn’t identify.

“This rapid-fire provocation indicates a more aggressive shift in the Kim Jong Il regime,” said Ryoo Kihl Jae, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “Kim is obviously using a strategy of maximum force.”

Needless to say, this is one of those Big Ass Problems that Presidents have to face. If the North Koreans are serious about this, this could get out of control in 24 hours. China could do something, but they won't. I'm not sure what Obama can do.

But in the end, it's still China's ball game. Without China, North Korea falls. If Kim Jong Il pushes too hard, China will have to get it back into line.

Still, breaking the armistice is a serious matter. Getting China to cooperate is the key, and even China has to see how bad this is.

Case In Point

Wingers need to be careful about the arguments they choose.

MacRanger complains bitterly about the federal lawsuit filed to overturn California's Prop 8, for example, asking:
How many times do Californians need to go to the polls, vote in favor of banning same sex marriage, before proponents get the message that it’s the will of the people - not the whim of the court - that rules in this country?
Really, Mac? You're against judicial activism and for the will of the people?

You mean like Al Franken's win over Norm Coleman?


Judicial activism means "Any judicial decision that doesn't benefit conservatives is invalid."

Still Don't Get It

Conservatives continue to play the "Obama only picked Sotomayor because she's a Latina, not because she graduated summa cum laude from Yale Law School!" card with such reckless abandon and echoing volume I honestly don't know if they're even aware of the fact they've already lost the battle in the long run. The Village too seems to think anyone Obama picked that wasn't a white male on a Supreme Court dominated by white males would be an example of "identity politics".

This may play in parts of the South, but to be honest, the GOP is about to piss off a good 70% of America if they keep attacking her by implying strongly that only white males have what it takes to be on the Supreme Court.

What continues to amaze me is that the Village is making the same mistake. "She can't possibly be qualified because she's a Latina" strikes me as the largest single screw-up the GOP has made since McCain's "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" quote cost him the election.

Something May Be Amiss Here, But I Can't Put My Finger On It

Call it a hunch, but there's just something about this article that bothers me.
The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.
Nobody cares about Iraq anymore with the economy, which is a shame.

If you're worried about the government's lack of fiscal responsibility, the first thing we should be pointing out should be the trillions spent to "win" a war we never should have fought in the first place, and to continue to lose a war we may never be able to win.

Honestly, are we going to be able to afford another 10 years in Iraq?


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