College Dems Eat Scrapple

I have a feeling this will end badly.

Today the College Democrats of America (CDA) announced the schedule for the 2009 CDA National Convention to be held at The George Washington University in Washington, DC from Thursday, July 23- Sunday, July 26.

Over 300 CDA members from colleges and universities across the country will attend this year’s convention. Students will participate in trainings, community service events, and will hear from elected officials and top Democratic activists.

"College Democrats have had an amazing few years. The youth vote has surged in recent elections and we don’t plan on slowing down," said Katie Naranjo, President of College Democrats of America. "At this year’s convention we’ll strategize on how to build on the last few years’ electoral successes and work to organize in support of President Obama’s agenda for change. Getting President Obama and Democrats elected to Congress was just the start, now we have to roll up our sleeves and begin the hard work to bring lasting change to Washington."

Speakers at the CDA Convention include DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, DNC Vice Chair and Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter.

Below is a list of events that are open to the press. To attend any of these events, please RSVP to Joanna Roshlom at [email protected] A valid press credential is required.

Thursday, July 23

Gavel in Convention and Opening Ceremonies

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)

DNC Vice Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
7:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. [my emphasis]

I mean, I get it. Arlen "Used to be Haggis but is now Scrapple" Specter has lost much of his lead against Joe Sestak in a still-hypothetical primary. So to boost Scrapple’s Dem cred–and help him recruit campaign workers–the party has convinced the CDA to give Scrapple a prominent role at today’s events.

Aside from the (lack of wisdom) of big-footing Scrapple in such a prominent way, though, do the powers that be really think Scrapple is the kind of guy who ought to serve as a model for young Dems? A guy whose top legislative moment involved harassing a victim of sexual harassment? A guy who represents, above all, the principle that in politics the only principle is self-promotion? A guy who spent the last eight years veering further and further right, largely endorsing the policies that got Republicans shellacked last year?

That’s the guy the party wants to push onto the future of the Read more

Steelworkers Don’t Like Scrapple

As it happens, I was hanging out with some steelworkers earlier this month. Among other things, we were talking about the field trip they’re planning for us blogger types during Netroots Nation to a spangly new steel factory in Pittsburgh. I suggested that the Senate race might be a really good way to focus some attention on the plight of American manufacturing.

At the time, they thought the presumed senate race between Arlen "Used to be Haggis but is now Scrapple" Specter and Joe Sestak wouldn’t be that big a deal–that Scrapple would embrace labor friendly policies to make sure it wasn’t. 

I guess not.

PA-Sen: Sestak Cheered By Steelworkers, Specter Disinvited

By Chris Bowers

At first glance, Joe Sestak reiterating that he is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act while speaking at a United Steelworkers conference doesn’t seem like much of a news story. As the title of this post implies, however, there is something that made it very interesting:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak keeps increasing the likelihood that he’ll challenge Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic Senate nomination next year.

On Sunday, he told the United States Steelworkers Legislative Conference in Atlantic City that he backs the Employee Free Choice Act, the proposed law that would make it easier for unions to organize.

The catch is that Senator Arlen Specter did not speak at this event. In fact, he was disinvited.

Here is the full story, courtesy of an email exchange with Jim Savage, who is President of a Steelworkers local here in Philadelphia:

  • "The Senator [Arlen Specter] was invited & confirmed as the keynote speaker."
  • "There was quite an uproar when we found out. He was uninvited because of the rank-and-file reaction."
  • "Also, it’s worth noting that the Senator was none too happy about it."
  • At that point, Sestak was then invited. Before he spoke, he was "introduced to the delegates as "our next Senator" to a rousing ovation."
  • The general sentiment toward Specter was "fuck’m." [my emphasis]

See? We’re not the only ones who can’t stomach Scrapple. Read more

Scrapple and Pelosi

Yes, I’m glad that Arlen "the Scrapple formerly known as Haggis" Specter has come out in support of Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that CIA misled her in her September 2002 briefing.

"The CIA has a very bad record when it comes to — I was about to say ‘candid’; that’s too mild — to honesty," Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a lunch address to the American Law Institute. He cited misleading information about the agency’s involvement in mining harbors in Nicaragua and the Iran-Contra affair."Director [Leon] Panetta says the agency does not make it a habit to misinform Congress. I believe that is true. It is not the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to misinform Congress," Specter said. "But that doesn’t mean that they’re all giving out the information."

Because of leaks that have come from Congress, Specter said, he understands the agency’s hesitancy to disclose all its information.

"The current controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and the CIA is very unfortunate, in my opinion, because it politicizes the issue and it takes away attention from … how does the Congress get accurate information from the CIA?" Specter said. "For political gain, people are making headlines."

But one thing should be mentioned about Specter’s comments. Note that Scrapple, unlike John Boehner and Crazy Pete Hoekstra and John McCain, doesn’t claim to know WTF Pelosi was briefed.

Rather, his statement is general (a sentiment Specter probably formed when he was on SSCI): Specter’s noting that CIA is less than forthcoming with Congress, and that that needs to change. (He’s also correctly suggesting that those making headlines are doing so for political spin.)

The distinction is important. This whole debate has largely been drummed up by people who have no fucking clue how CIA briefed Congress in 2002. It’d be nice if that kind of rank ignorance wasn’t making the headlines anymore. 

From “Haggis” to “Scrapple”–It’s Still Offal

With Arlen Specter coming over from the other side, I’m gonna try calling him "Scrapple" for a while, instead of "Scottish Haggis." It’s still offal–but it’s our offal now.

Like pretty much every Democrat outside of the incumbency protection racket in DC–particularly those who have long friendships with Haggis Scrapple–I’m utterly skeptical that Scrapple’s switch to the Democratic Party is going to work out all that well for us. He has already promised not to vote for EFCA. He really is unreliable–in the sense that his votes rarely match his stated values. And I’m dubious that those who encouraged this flip really thought through what it means for legislating effectively.

On that point, you really must read Kagro’s two posts on what’s going to happen organizationally:

 There are a million aspects of that worth examining. But here’s one for process nuts. Check out the Senate Judiciary Committee Rules:


The Chairman shall entertain a non-debatable motion to bring a matter before the Committee to a vote. If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a roll call vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority.

In other words, Scrapple’s flip just created a ginormous bottleneck right in the middle of the Judiciary Committee, behind which every judge, every new reform of the judicial system, and Obama’s lingering appointments to DOJ may be stuck.

Though Kagro has a short-term solution.

Memo to GOP: Seat Franken or we’ll keep Specter’s committee seats

That’s the bottom line.

Seat Al Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or we’ll block a new organizing resolution that would let you reassign Specter’s previously Republican committee seats to one of your own.

Until a new organizing resolution is adopted, Specter’s committee seats (Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans’ Affairs, Environment & Public Works, Special Aging) are locked in. He’ll be caucusing and (sometimes, anyway) voting as a Democrat, but will be occupying Republican seats.

Democrats should demand Republican agreement to seat Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or they’ll just block a new organizing resolution until he arrives, and change it as they see fit later on. Read more

Call for the Senate to Vote for Process at OLC–and Dawn Johnsen

Update: Predictably, Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter put a one-week hold on Dawn Johnsen. Call Specter at (202) 224-4254 and tell him to stop obstructing Obama’s nominees. It’s time we cleaned up OLC and Specter’s just ensuring the Cheneyesque abuse of power will continue for a few more weeks.

In short time, the Office of Professional Responsibility will release a report on the abuses of John Yoo at OLC. The report will describe a process which Yoo used to "analyze" law that looks something like this:

  1. David Addington calls Yoo and tells him what program Cheney wants to do–or has already started doing
  2. An official request for a memo comes from Alberto Gonzales or Jim Haynes, presenting that desired program as a hypothetical–"what if we wanted to do X"–rather than the fait accompli Addington presented it as over phone or email
  3. Yoo drafts a memo authorizing that program
  4. Yoo eliminates or otherwise frivolously dismisses references to key precedents like Youngstown or Milligan
  5. Yoo scours obscure documents–like insurance legislation or TV series–to find standards for torture and domestic surveillance that allows him to stretch the limits of legality well beyond belief
  6. Yoo finalizes draft and sends it to Addington
  7. Addington corrects it with a big red pen
  8. Yoo makes Addington’s final changes and distributes memo to about 3 people
  9. All 3 people receiving the memo put it into a drawer, a briefcase, or a man-sized safe, to make sure those implementing this program will never see it
  10. When Congress or the ACLU or some other do-gooder asks for a copy, tell them it’s unclassified, but they still can’t have it "so there"

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will finally consider Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head up OLC (it should be on the committee stream at 10–though she’s the last thing on the agenda). You’ll hear a lot of Republicans–Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter and Tom Coburn, among others–claiming that Dawn Johnsen is a radical who eats babies and loves terrorists.

But compare how Dawn Johnsen–that soon to be accused-baby eater–has promised to craft OLC memos to how we know Yoo did (what Johnsen calls the advocacy model).

1. When providing legal advice to guide contemplated executive branch action, OLC should provide an accurate and honest appraisal of applicable law, even if that advice will constrain the administration’s pursuit of desired policies. The advocacy model of lawyering, in which lawyers craft merely plausible legal arguments to support their clients’ desired actions, inadequately promotes the President’s constitutional obligation to ensure the legality of executive action.

2. OLC’s advice should be thorough and forthright, and it should reflect all legal constraints, including the constitutional authorities of the coordinate branches of the federal government—the courts and Congress—and constitutional limits on the exercise of governmental power.

Read more

Spanking Spak and Spec

Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter–whose political obituary was written yesterday in the form of a dismal poll result and a renewed threat from Pat Toomeysays we don’t need a truth commission because all the details on Bush era crimes are contained in some file cabinets that we need only waltz up to and empty out.

And in case you were wondering, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Presumably because he believes we need only waltz up to those file cabinets and take out the Cheney indictment, the sole contribution Scottish Haggis made in today’s Truth Commission Hearing was to enter this Hans von Spakovsky column into the record. Given that Hans von Spak accused Leahy of pitching a House Un-American Activities Commission, I can only interpret Haggis’ action as a profoundly cowardly attempt to get back in the good graces of the Club for Growth. 

The column itself shows the depths to which the Heritage Foundation has stooped in these, the declining years of the Conservative Movement. Even setting aside the horrible optics of having someone under investigation for abridging minority civil rights for political gain squawking about "political prosecutions," the column is just of pathetically bad quality.

Hans von Spak begins by exactly repeating (the Heritage Foundation, defender of private property, apparently doesn’t even require original work anymore) an error the WSJ made in January, claiming that nothing resulted from Carl Levin’s 18 month investigation into torture in DOD.

Moreover, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) held hearings, under oath, over a 2½- year period looking into many of the same issues. His report, though predictably partisan, found no criminal violations.

Aside from this apparent inability to even count (18? 30? no difference to today’s conservative), Hans von Spak apparently believes that the Committee’s findings–that Bush’s dismissal of Article Three and Rummy’s approval of aggressive technique were the "direct cause of detainee abuse" in Gitmo–doesn’t amount to a criminal violation.

And of course, Hans von Spak, like the WSJ, basically endorsed Levin’s approach while ignoring his call for "an outside commission appointed to take this out of politics, that … would have the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this which are not yet clear, and that is the role of the CIA." Hans von Spak and WSJ try to fight the idea of a Truth Commission by pointing to the good work of someone effectively supporting a Truth Commission.

Read more

Senate Judiciary Hearing on Truth Commission Liveblog

Will be on CSPAN3 and the Committee stream.

Meteor Blades has a great roundup of today’s witnesses (actually, his entire post is worth a read, as always with him).

They are:

Thomas-Pickering-140_23908t.jpgThomas Pickering is a career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Jordan (1974–1978), Nigeria (1981–1983), El Salvador (1983–1985), Israel (1985–1988), the United Nations (1989-1992), India (1992–1993) and Russia (1993–1996). He is now vice chairman of Hills & Company, and is co-chair of the 14-year-old International Crisis Group. Three weeks ago Pickering signed a letter  to President Obama seeking a commission to look into the detention, treatment, and transfer of captives after September 11.

gunn.jpgVice Admiral Lee Gunn (Ret.), who served in the final three years of his 35-year military career as Inspector General of the Department of the Navy, is now president of the Institute of Public Research at the CNA Corporation, and president of the 2-year-old American Security Project, which sees its mission as "promoting debate about the appropriate use of American power, and cultivating strategic responses to 21st century challenges."

Farmer.jpgJohn J. Farmer Jr., the former attorney general of New Jersey was Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission. He is a partner at Arsenault, Whipple, Farmer, Fasset and Azzarello, L.L.P. and an adjunct professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. He wrote "The Rule of Law in an Age of Terror" for the Rutgers University Law Review (2005).

schwarz.jpgFrederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr. Chief Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice and chief counsel for  Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity (1975-1976), widely known as the Church Committee for its chairman, Idaho Senator Frank Church. His latest book, written with Aziz Z. Huq, is Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror

Photo_06c45eaa5e2d481dbf2a4cf3513a6.jpgDavid B. Rivkin, Jr. is a partner with Baker & Hostetler, L.L.P. He was chief counsel of the President’s Council on Competitiveness at the White House under George H.W. Bush, where he was in charge of a review of government regulations. He later coordinated the development and implementation of the first Bush’s deregulation efforts. He has argued that the United States has not violated the Geneva Conventions with its captured prisoner policy and that it was a few "bad apples" and not policy that was responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and opposed appointment of a special prosecutor in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby affair.

rabkin.jpgJeremy Rabkin, a renowned scholar of internationalaw, is a professor at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va. A member of the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace and author, most recently, of the Law without Nations?: Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States. He has argued that all Presidents stretch the law in times of war, but that the U.S. always regains its balance afterward.

Read more

People Might LIKE Haggis, But They Don’t Want to Eat It

Normally, I leave the off-season Senate race tracking to the Senate Guru. But he points to a wacky poll on Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter that I thought worth sharing.

Pennsylvania voters approve 56 – 30 percent of the job Sen. Arlen Specter is doing, with Democratic approval at 62 – 26 percent, higher than the Republican support of 55 – 33 percent and 49 – 35 percent backing from independent voters.

But by a narrow 43 – 40 percent margin, voters say Sen. Specter does not deserve to be reelected. Republicans split 42 – 42 percent, as do Democrats 41 – 42 percent, while independent voters say no 45 – 36 percent.

"Pennsylvania voters are sharply divided over whether Sen. Arlen Specter should be reelected next year, with Republicans almost as negative as Democrats, probably because the GOP Senator is one of only three from the party supporting President Barack Obama’s Stimulus Package," Richards said.

"But Specter always has been politically controversial and has needed votes from both parties to stay in office."

So Pennsylvanians like their "offal" Senator (I just know I’m going to catch heat from my PA relatives for that), but they don’t necessarily want him re-elected. Specifically, Democrats approve of Specter, as do Republicans (but much less so).

Most interesting, though, this archetypal representative of the mushy middle really doesn’t excite Independents–precisely the group that such mushy middle-dom is supposed to entice. 

What would David Broder say?

The Senate State Secrets Bill

I linked earlier to the House version of the State Secrets Bill. Here’s Leahy’s announcement about the Senate version.

Leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined together to introduce the State Secrets Protection Act, a bill that provides guidance to federal courts considering cases in which the government has asserted the state secrets privilege. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Committee Member Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) joined with former Committee Chairman and Member Edward Kennedy (D-Ma.) to introduce the bill Wednesday.

The legislation was initially proposed in the 110th Congress in response to the government’s assertions of the state secrets privilege in cases challenging the constitutionally of several of the Bush administration’s national security programs, including the warrantless wiretapping, rendition and interrogation programs.

Leahy said, "The State Secrets Protection Act will help guide the courts to balance the government’s interests in secrecy with accountability and the rights of citizens to seek judicial redress. The bill does not restrict the Government’s ability to assert the privilege in appropriate cases. In light of the pending cases where this privilege has been invoked, involving issues including torture, rendition and warrantless wiretapping, we can ill-afford to delay consideration of this important legislation. I hope all Senators will join us in supporting this bill."

Specter said, "While national security must be protected, there must also be meaningful oversight by the courts and Congress to ensure the Executive branch does not misuse the privilege," Senator Specter said. "This bipartisan legislation provides guidance to the federal courts in handling assertions of the privilege. It is designed to protect state secrets from disclosure, while preventing misuse of the privilege and enabling litigants to achieve justice in court, regardless of which party occupies the White House."

Feingold said, "A country where the government need not answer to allegations of wrongdoing is a country that has strayed dangerously far from the rule of law. We must ensure that the state secrets privilege does not become a license for the government to evade the laws that we pass. This bill accomplishes that goal, while simultaneously providing the strongest of protections to those items of evidence that truly qualify as state secrets."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are also cosponsors of the legislation. The Leahy-Specter-Feingold-Kennedy legislation would:

Wanted: An Ask for Phone Calls

I just got this email:

Marcy —

President Obama recorded a video to speak directly to you about his economic recovery plan.

America is facing an urgent and unprecedented challenge. The economic crisis requires bold and immediate action.

Watch President Obama’s video and share it with your friends and family:

And I’ve also gotten friends inviting me in the last week to watch some other Obama videos together–that is, I’ve been invited to House Parties to discuss this. That means people are doing just as Obama (or David Plouffe) asks in their email alerts.

But I still haven’t been invited to call my Senators or Congressman (all of whom, granted, have voted for stimulus, but Debbie Stabenow voted for a stupid Tom Coburn amendment forbidding any stimulus money being used for musems and parks–I do plan on chatting with her about that and if you’re a Michigander, you should too!). Nor have I been invited by Barack Obama to call Sanctimonious Joe’s latest gang–Joe, Haggis, the Bad Nelson, and Susan Collins–to ask why they’re opposed to funds that will help states avoid cutting back necessary services, or why they’re opposed to constructing schools.

Mobilizing the millions of people on Obama’s email list is great. But isn’t it better to mobilize them to do the same thing the wingnuts are mobilizing their people to do–talk to members of Congress? Wouldn’t it be better to use that list to press for a more progressive (and effective) stimulus package?