The Wind And The Lion: Ted Kennedy Mans Up To Mortality

images.thumbnail.jpegThe question has gone unasked out of respect, or murmured only quietly in back rooms: What about Teddy’s health? Nobody wanted to be the one to say it in public. Nobody had to; once again Ted Kennedy is ahead of us. In a posting late Wednesday at the Boston Globe, comes news that Senator Edward M. Kennedy has authored a letter to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Congressional leaders requesting that provisions be made for his successor.

Literally generations of politically active American citizens have been motivated to study and participate in the political process by the men–and women–of the Kennedy family (I am one). Since the tragedies of the 60s however, the Old Lion of the family, and, indeed, the US Senate (and Democratic politics as a whole), has been Edward M. Kennedy. The sturm and drang of the current health care fight? That has been his battle cry for decades. Barack Obama? Likely still a Senator if Ted Kennedy had endorsed Hillary Clinton instead. Name an important piece of social legislation passed in the last four plus decades and his fingerprints are on it.

So the question of "what if" about his health is an unpleasant, emotional and difficult one. But recent events have made the question undeniably germane. Senator Kennedy wasn’t present for the Judiciary Committee consideration of Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination; you knew he wanted to be there, but his absence was understandable. When he also was absent from the Senate floor for the historic confirmation vote for Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American elevated to the Court, you had a feeling he was seriously ill. A week later, when he could not attend the presentation when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Barack Obama, a man he likens to his brother John, you knew it was bad. And then he was absent from the funeral for his sister Eunice. Ted Kennedy always gave the eulogies for Kennedy family members; he always had to, and he was always there. Always. Until now.

From The Globe:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in a poignant acknowledgment of his mortality at a critical time in the national health care debate, has privately asked the governor and legislative leaders to change the succession law to guarantee that Massachusetts will not lack a Senate vote when his seat becomes vacant.

In a personal, sometimes wistful letter sent Tuesday to Governor Deval L. Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Read more

Live-Blogging Scrapple for Breakfast


(Hot photo credit to Spencer Ackerman)

Ari Melber starts by asking Scrapple who is he and why he is here.

Scrapple starts by raising choice.

Apparently now if you vote for saving the American economy it makes you a "de facto Democrat."

Specter is filibustering. Ari just broke in: "We’re not in the Senate, we’re not going to filibuster."

You should trust me because I have a record of being a boy scout. Okay. He didn’t say that.

Shorter Scrapple: You should trust me because the elite of your party asked me to flip-flop.

Susie rocks the house: You whine and then vote for things.

Scrapple now trying to justify his military commisison vote. Time for Ari to break in to prevent the filibuster again.

Last question, Scrapple tried to argue he didn’t quaver on bills. Now, he’s not answering the question but he’s demonstrating the certified quaver perfectly.

Scrapple doesn’t know from Nate Silver.

Scrapple’s one campaign slogan: I voted for stimulus.

Scrapple pitches stimulus again.

Scrapple says he’s comfortable looking over his right shoulder. Um, Scrapple? That’s your left shoulder.

Scrapple: Data = generalization.

Scrapple: No one in the Democratic caucus has done four town halls.

Um, Scrapple? You’re in the Democratic caucus, remember.

Come on Susie, now’s the time for the Clarence Thomas smack-down.

Scrapple: I think Grassley’s wrong on his granny comments. I’ll call him and tell him.

Call him now, we say.

Specter tried Grassley, but did not get him on the phone. Says he’ll call back in half and hour.

McCain Is A Clunker, Can I Trade Him In?

graphic by twolf

graphic by twolf

John Sidney McCain III, the blue blooded husband of a beer heiress, has decided he will be the Republican face of opposition to continuance of the wildly successful Cash For Clunkers program. The man who cannot remember how many houses he owns is going to kill the program helping regular people put a decent and efficient new car in front of their humble middle class homes. From FOX News:

Fox has learned that Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, will oppose any move to take up the House bill. Around here, we call that a filibuster.

McCain told Fox earlier today, "I not only wouldn’t vote for the extra two billion, I was opposed to the initial billion. "

McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee who ran as a deficit hawk, said, "Within a few weeks we will see that this process was abused by speculators and people who took advantage of what is basically a huge government subsidy of corporations that they already own. "I can’t imagine that any taxpayer of America would have thought that the TARP, the financial recovery money, would be used now to subsidize the sale of automobiles in America."

This is a pile of bunk; John McCain is not a deficit hawk, he is a narcissistic publicity hawk and he hasn’t had enough lately and saw an opening. What is really rotten, however, is he is trying to take down the one program that has demonstrated immediate and tangible systemic benefits. In other words, the precise stimulus the economy is dying for.

Wildly successful is almost an understatement for the Cash For Clunkers program as Marcy indicated in this post. Quoting from the official website:

According to, 79% of clunkers being traded in so far are SUVs, trucks and vans with over 100,000 miles and most are being replaced with new passenger vehicles. The average age of a trade-in model is almost 13 years old, and the average odometer reading is approximately 138,000 miles. The most popular clunker trades are Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge and 84 percent of the new vehicles purchased are passenger cars.

This is economic stimulus at its finest. Customers are flocking to dealerships, dealerships are selling cars, service bays are active, manufacturers are moving inventory, financing shops are making loans, accessories are being sold, manufacturing suppliers are being paid and kept in business – it is one heck of an economic spur to a major sector of the economy and a fantastic lead in to the critical opening of the traditional new model year that annually starts in Read more

Dodd and Conrad: The Appearance Of Impropriety

Both Connecticut’s Chris Dodd and North Dakota’s Kent Conrad steadfastly deny any knowledge or fact of preferential treatment in their real estate loans from Countrywide Mortgage, but the fact the story keeps hanging around is disquieting. And apparently it has been doing quite a bit more than hanging around, there have been hearings and testimony. From MSNBC:

Despite their denials, influential Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation’s largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony.

The next day, Feinberg testified before the Senate Ethics Committee, an indication the panel is actively investigating two of the chamber’s more powerful members

Both senators were VIP borrowers in the program known as "friends" of Angelo. Angelo Mozilo was chief executive of Countrywide, which played a big part in the foreclosure crisis triggered by defaults on subprime loans. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company was bought last July by Bank of America Corp. for about $2.5 billion.

Countrywide VIPs, Feinberg told the committees, received discounts on rates, fees and points. Dodd received a break when Countrywide counted both his Connecticut and Washington homes as primary owner-occupied residences — a fiction, according to Feinberg. Conrad received a type of commercial loan that he was told Countrywide didn’t offer.

Two internal Countrywide documents in Dodd’s case and one in Conrad’s appear to contradict their statements about what they knew about their VIP loans.

First off, let’s be clear, there has been no finding of wrongdoing as to either Dodd or Conrad. Secondly, even if it were to be all true, it does not look like the benefits were particularly valuable monetarily. Still, it is tiring seeing the constant privileged status our elected officials in Washington claim for themselves.

These are two critical Senators for the Democratic majority, and here we are in the biggest legislative struggle perhaps in decades over healthcare reform talking about their ethical propriety. It is not helpful. I don’t care if the two Senators’ gain was penny ante in the long run, it is the fact they were brazen enough to think it okay to take a little cut. Because as members of Read more

Senate Hate Crimes Bill Threatens First Amendment

There are inherent First Amendment and equal protection issues with any "hate crime" legislation as I pointed out when Eric Holder started aggressively pushing Congress for passage of a new bill. That said, if you are going to enact such laws, they must be targeted, rational and designed to effect the result desired and not any other. Such laws should not be vague and expansive, should not be able to be wielded by prosecutors as selective bludgeons and should not infringe on First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Late Thursday night, the Senate passed a Hate Crimes Bill that arguably violates all of the above.

People attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender would receive federal protections under a Senate-approved measure that significantly expands the reach of hate crimes law.

The Senate bill also would make it easier for federal prosecutors to step in when state or local authorities are unable or unwilling to pursue hate crimes.

"The Senate made a strong statement this evening that hate crimes have no place in America," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the chamber voted Thursday to attach the legislation as an amendment to a $680 billion defense spending bill expected to be completed next week.

The House in April approved a similar bill and President Barack Obama has urged Congress to send him hate crimes legislation, presenting the best scenario for the measure to become law since Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., first introduced it more than a decade ago.

According to the ACLU however, the Senate botched the job:

The Senate late Thursday passed an amendment as part of the Department of Defense Authorization bill that would give the federal government new authority to prosecute certain violent acts based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. However, the Senate version of the hate crimes bill lacks the strong protections for speech and association included in legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that without the speech and association protections included in the House bill, the Senate hate crimes legislation could have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech and membership.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“It has been our experience that the fight for better and stronger civil rights protections is more successful when free speech and association are protected along the way. Fierce protection of free speech rights Read more

What Pelosi, Rockefeller & Harman Could Have Done

There has been an ongoing discussion for the last two weeks or so about the briefings that congressional leaders were allegedly given regarding the Bush/Cheney torture program (See for instance here, here, here, here and here) and what Congressmembers like Pelosi, Rockefeller, Harman and Graham could have done to fight the malfeasance of Bush and Cheney. This post will explain what they could have done.

I promised a discussion on the speech and debate clause and what was possible, at least theoretically, for Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Jay Rockefeller, Bob Graham, or any Congressmember that had knowledge, to have done about the wrongs of the Bush Cheney Administration, even in relation to national security level topics.

The speech and debate clause is found in Article I, section 6 of the Constitution and reads as follows:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

The key wording is the last part "…and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place." The down and dirty is that congressmembers (and in certain cases key staff) cannot be questioned or held to answer in any forum, civil, criminal or otherwise, for speech and/or discussion regarding legitimate interests and business of Congress; such conduct occurring on the floor or in committee is absolutely privileged.

Let’s have a look at the history of the Speech and Debate Clause. In United States v. Gillock, 445 U.S. 360 (1980), the Supreme Court stated, "The Framers viewed the speech or debate privilege as fundamental to the system of checks and balances." Indeed, it was framed by the founders as one of the seminal checks and balances against the power and greed of the Executive Branch. You know, exactly what Congress was staring at, and cowering from, with the Bush/Cheney crew. The Congressional privilege has been discussed and upheld in a Read more

Pelosi’s Advisory On Abu Zubaydah And Torture

As Marcy noted back on April 29th, the issue of Nancy Pelosi’s briefing back in 2002 on the Bush/Cheney torture program, whether or not it was being applied to Abu Zubaydah and, if so, to what extent, has really turned into a he said-she said game. (See also here regarding the Porter Goss offensive against Pelosi and Harman).

So, it should not come as any surprise that yet another missive has been launched in this little passion play. Today’s strike comes courtesy of Rick Klein at ABC News:

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah in September 2002, according to a report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence’s office and obtained by ABC News.

The report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, appears to contradict Pelosi’s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics. Instead, she has said, she was told only that the Bush administration had legal opinions that would have supported the use of such techniques.

MadDog has slithered into the depths of Human to find what they claim is "the report". He has also given us a hand glossary for the abbreviations. The Washington Post seems to think it is "the report" as well, for what it is worth:

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress briefed on the tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House intelligence committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Pelosi has already, of course, issued a denial through a spokesman. More he said-she said. Quite frankly, without more, today’s play should be taken with a grain of salt. Multiple major news organizations have this hot off the press info right after Congress receives it and right wing hit rag Human Events (Jed Babbin) is pitching it as a slam on Pelosi. How very convenient. As further evidence of the need for grains Read more

Is This Healthcare Reform Or Just Assistance To Health Corps?

I have a busy morning here, but want to draw attention to an article this morning in the New York Times by Robert Pear on the ongoing discussions of healthcare reform for the United States:

Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.

“There seems to be a sense of the room that some form of tax penalty is an effective means to enforce such an obligation, though only on those for whom affordable coverage is available,” said the memorandum, prepared by David C. Bowen, a neurobiologist who is director of the health staff at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The proposal for an individual mandate was one of the few policy disagreements between Mr. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in their fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. She wanted to require everyone to have and maintain insurance. He said he wanted to “ensure affordable coverage for all,” but would initially apply the mandate only to children.

The 20 people who regularly attend the meetings on Capitol Hill include lobbyists for AARP, Aetna, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Business Roundtable, Easter Seals, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the United States Chamber Read more

Steele and Boehner Go Gangsta

Well, you just knew that the GOP wouldn’t take the bonecrushing loss in last November’s elections to Rico Suave Obama and the too cool for school Dems lightly. They were, like an octogenarian on Viagra, going to get hip. Or a hip replacement. Whatever.

They started by electing the rootin tootin slick dick midnight mustache Michael Steele as RNC Chairman. When coupled with Boner John Boehner, their ultra- tanned sensitive Minority Leader, this is a clear cut recipe for the GOP surgarific return to power. Let’s check in on their street cred. From today’s CNN Political Ticker:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone — off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don’t do ‘cutting-edge,’” he said. “That’s what Democrats are doing. We’re going beyond cutting-edge.”

Booyah. Get down James Brown and Fitty Cent take a backseat. Now let’s look in on the Steeley One’s partner in vice, Boner Boehner. Oooh, here he is jawing up the GOP stimulus position (yeah, okay, bad imagery) and his homeboy. What a twofer:

The stimulus has passed. In addition to voting against it, Republicans are all over the airwaves trashing it.

The leader of their pack is John Boehner, the man with a tan. According to him, the stimulus will not create jobs. According to Michael Steele, the new RNC Chair, if you work and earn money, you do not necessarily have a job. According to all Republicans who voted no, this bill, with terrible ideas such as helping states pay for Medicare, assisting our elders and our children, is a disaster for our country.

That’s right; the Tan With a Plan. Wow. What a dynamic duo. Crockett and Tubbs roll in DC. Oh yeah, and Sistah McKracka is going to take the toobz by storm. What could possibly go wrong?

BREAKING: Burris Fesses Up

rolandburris-1thumbnail.thumbnail.jpgChicago tenor Roland Burris is singing a new tune:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.

Burris’ latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

In comments to reporters after appearing at a Democratic dinner, the senator several times contradicted his latest under-oath affidavit that he quietly filed with the Illinois House impeachment panel earlier this month. That affidavit was itself an attempt to clean up his live, sworn testimony to the panel Jan. 8, when he omitted his contacts with several Blagojevich insiders.

Now this is something that Marcy (see: here and here) predicted, as did many of you. So, it is not exactly a shocking Captain Renault moment. That said, it is still extremely damning and is going to lead to a justified uproar. Already Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is calling for a deeper investigation, although she has held short of claiming perjury by Burris.

It is just the bundling efforts that Marcy predicted may be in play that appear to be in issue:

Burris said Robert Blagojevich told him, “‘We need to raise some funds. We hope that you could probably get some of your friends together.’ I said, ‘What type of money we looking for?’ He says, ‘Can you raise us 10-or-15 thousand dollars?’

Here are the new details Burris has copped to as of last night:

“So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called,” Burris said last night of Robert Blagojevich. “And now in the meantime, I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was—they said we aren’t giving money to the governor. And I said, ‘OK, you know, I can’t tell them what to do with their money.’”

“So when the (governor’s) brother called me back, I said, ‘Well, look Rob…I can’t raise any money from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some Read more