Thursday, June 30, 2005

Send It Back to the Drawing Board

The latest design for the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero may look sleek from New Jersey, but it will present a massive blank wall at street level.

Photo: Vincent Laforet/The New York Times
NYT architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff describes the "pedestal" the tower will sit on:
Designed to withstand a major bomb blast, the base will be virtually windowless. In an effort to animate its exterior, the architects say they intend to decorate it in a grid of shimmering metal panels. A few narrow slots will be cut into the concrete to allow slivers of natural light into the lobby.
One of the fundamental rules of creating lively streetscapes is to place windows, doors and other signs of human activity at ground level. It's even written into Wilmington's zoning code:
Sec. 48-217. Ground floor level transparent windows ("transparency").
(a) C-3 and C-4 district requirements. For new construction only, in C-3, and C-4 zoning districts, not less than 50 percent of the building frontage facing any public street on the ground floor level shall consist of transparent windows... "Transparency" means open or enclosed by clear and non-reflecting glass or other material that provides pedestrians on adjacent sidewalks an unobstructed view extending at least five feet into the interior of the building.

Why Is Robert Novak Still at Large?

Time magazine has decided to hand over notes on the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent rather than have its reporter Matthew Cooper go to jail. One of the mysteries of this affair is why Cooper and Judith Miller of The New York Times are facing jail while Robert Novak, who published her name, remains at large:
"If anyone thinks they're going to jail because of me, it's madness," said Mr. Novak, a columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times and a CNN contributor. "Some people seem to think that."
Novak wrote the story outing Plame after her husband Joseph Wilson published an oped in the Times disputing the Bush administration's assertion that Iraq had sought uranium ore from Niger.

Bank of America Buys MBNA

The big news in Delaware is the announced acquisition of MBNA by Bank of America for $35 billion. According to the press release, 6,000 jobs will be eliminated between the two companies. MBNA will become a business unit of Bank of America and retain it's headquarters in Wilmington:
Bruce L. Hammonds, 57, CEO and president of MBNA Corporation, will become CEO and president of Bank of America Card Services and report to Liam E. McGee, 50, president, Bank of America Global Consumer and Small Business Banking. Hammonds will remain in Wilmington, Del., and be part of Bank of America's Risk & Capital Committee, which guides the company's strategic direction.
MBNA had eclipsed DuPont as Delaware's corporate leader in hiring and in visibility in the community. According to the release, MBNA levels of contributions to the community will continue:
Bank of America, a leader in corporate citizenship and philanthropy, intends to build upon its previously announced 10-year, $750 billion community development goal to include a specific community development lending and investment goal for Delaware. The specifics of this goal will be determined based on future dialogue with Delaware community and civic leaders. With MBNA's $60 million annual charitable giving, Bank of America, a worldwide leader in corporate philanthropy, expects to provide more than $200 million in annual giving as a result of this combination.
MBNA's stock is up 25% today on the news.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

ExxonMobil and the White House

According to RAW STORY, the GAO has been asked to look into the redaction of a report on climate change by the White House environmental advisor who subsequently left to join ExxonMobil:
After reviewing federal laws that prohibit obstruction of Congress and false statements, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine the legality of actions taken by a former top Bush administration official who altered government scientific reports on global warming, RAW STORY has learned.
They have also called on the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to retract the report until an investigation is completed.
Bush hired Philip Cooney, a onetime lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API), to be Chief of Staff of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in 2001. He resigned his post to join ExxonMobil Corporation after an expose in the New York Times revealed he had hacked apart government reports to remove references to climate change.
At a time when CEOs such as GE's Jeffrey Immelt and Cinergy's Jim Rogers are talking about the need to act in the face of climate change, ExxonMobil is dragging it's feet and funding research that purports to rebut scientific research on global warming. This is the kind of company that hires BushCo's environmental advisor, and no wonder: other industry leaders are defecting to the side of the environmental extemists.
In other news,
AlterNet reports that ExxonMobil has yet to pay the court-ordered damages relating to the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989:
The Alaska Daily News reported that Exxon's delays are paying off handsomely. While awaiting a final judicial decision, Exxon has earned enough in interest alone to pay the initial five billion award.
"Each year Exxon delays payment of its obligation," the National Association of Attorneys General wrote in a 1999 letter to Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, "it earns an estimated $400 million from the difference between the statutory interest rate on judgments of 6 percent and the company's internal rate of return of about 14 percent."

Headlines Around the World

Want to know what's going on around the world? It's easy! Via Kos, here's a really cool site from The Newseum that allows you to view the front pages of 423 newspapers from 44 countries with just a click.
Here's how it works: Go to the map of Asia, click on a red dot for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and up pops the front page where we see the top stories:
Groups clamor for President's resignation

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's confession on Monday night that it was she who was talking with an election official in wiretapped phone conversations suggesting fraud in the 2004 polls has failed to result in her expressed wish that the controversy be ended to allow her to "move on with the business of governing."
Bishops vow to carry on Sin's fight for truth, integrity
JAIME Cardinal Sin was buried yesterday in rites befitting a prince of the Church and hero of EDSA, and attended by two women he helped catapult to power.
Here we see two big stories from the Philippines that may hardly make it to the U.S. media. This site is going to become part of my daily reading, starting now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Grover Norquist: What I Meant to Say about John McCain

Given the state of political discourse these days, it's worth noting when a political figure acknowledges that his rhetoric may have gotten a little overheated. Conservative activist and uber-fundraiser Grover Norquist evidently thought he should reconsider his remarks from last week when he called John McCain "that nut-job from Arizona" and referred to Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as "the two girls from Maine." According to the Washington Post:
Norquist backed away from his "girls" comment yesterday, telling The Post's Brian Faler that he did not mean to be derisive. "It was not meant that way. We were talking to a bunch of college kids," he said.
In other words, when talking to college Republicans, one should act like a college Republican. Norquist also retracted his "nut-job" comment:
As for McCain, Norquist said he "misspoke" and added, "I meant to say gun-grabbing, tax-increasing Bolshevik."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Shredding Our Future

Josh Marshall reports on the latest hijinks of young Republicans who don't seem to like Social Security:
As we told you back on Friday, a group of anti-Social Security twenty-somethings who call themselves 'Fix Our Future' got together today on Capitol Hill for a rally-cum-ceremony to proclaim their support for abolishing Social Security.
Calling the event the 'Storm for Reform', these fresh-faced Storm Troopers converged on Taft Memorial Park with mobile paper-shredders in tow to shred their own Social Security statements for all the world to see.
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Did any of them stop to think that this might not make the best visual for the news?

GOP to Bush: Have You Considered Actually, You Know, Governing?

In our continuing series, In Need of Adult Supervision: Washington Edition, we note that the NYT reports that a number of Republicans are complaining that Bush has been long on "base energizing" political rhetoric and short on, well, actually governing. Newt Gingrich, who knows a thing or two about partisan politics, had this advice for the White House:
"The tone has been too much of a permanent campaign," said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker. "When you're the minority, you need to fight. When you're the governing majority, you need to produce."
Some people believe in campaigning as a means to send a message. I believe the purpose of campaigning is to win and to govern. Evidently, Rove and company believe that the purpose of winning elections is to keep campaigning.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

HB 1698 and Philadelphia's Quality of Life

HB 1698, introduced by State Representative Mark Cohen, would repeal the provision in HB 1954 (aka the "Stealth Bill") which narrows the definition of standing for Philly residents to make it harder to even qualify to bring an appeal a zoning decision.
As if appealling a zoning decision wasn't hard enough. I would know.
I was part of an effort to appeal a ZBA decision against a powerful developer (Bart Blatstein) who chose to blow off the Northern Liberties Zoning Committee on one of the city's biggest development projects. The appeal never went to trial, but it did bring Blatstein to the negotiating table, resulting in an agreement with the community. The discussions also led him to scrap a rather ugly design (I called it Disney Italianate) and hire Erdy McHenry, a cutting-edge Philly architecture firm, which came back with a really cool design. This might never have happened if he thought it was possible to argue that the neighborhood didn't have standing to bring the appeal.

Reforming the Philadelphia Judiciary

Here's an encouraging story in yesterday's Inquirer:
Two state senators on Monday plan to introduce a measure that they and others hope will mark the beginning of the end of how Philadelphia judges now make it to the bench.
[State Sen. Vincent] Fumo and Sen. Anthony Williams (D., Phila.) announced at a news conference yesterday that they are pushing legislation to amend the state constitution by requiring the governor to appoint judges who are recommended by a judicial nominating commission.
Philadelphia judges now are elected, which results in more emphasis on fund-raising and political endorsements than on qualifications. For instance, candidates seeking the backing of the Democratic City Committee in the May primary had to pay the committee $35,000 apiece to cover, as candidates were told, expenses such as printing ballots.

Joe Biden's Criticism of the Iraq War

Last week Joe Biden spoke on the war in Iraq at the Brookings Institution:
"The disconnect between the administration's rhetoric and the reality on the ground has opened not just a credibility gap, but a credibility chasm. Standing right in the middle of that chasm are 139,000 American troops - some in their third rotations."
Biden isn't alone in his assessment:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, complained that the White House was "completely disconnected from reality." Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), another supporter of the war, charged that Bush had opened not just a credibility gap, but a "credibility chasm."
Joe Biden did not come easily to the decision to back the war in Iraq. At the time he said he supported the resolution, in part because he felt reassured by a speech Bush gave in October 2002:
He [Bush] said that war is neither imminent nor inevitable.
I also believe that we have time to deal with that problem in a way that isolates Saddam, not the United States, that makes the use of force the final option not the first one that produces the desired results, not unintended consequences.
Just as many onetime supporters turned against the Vietnam War in 1967-68, we are seeing more and more supporters turn against the war in Iraq.
I believe Biden felt conflicted over going to war in Iraq (as did many Americans) and his pungent criticism of the war reflects the frustration of a large number of citizens who were inclined to support the war but have lost confidence in President Bush. Opponents of the war tend to dismiss Biden's credibility on Iraq because of his support of the war resolution. However his early support gives him credibilty of a different sort: that of one who supported the use of force and has since been disillusioned by Bush's mismanagement and lack of candor, and who can point to his warnings about unintended consequences.
How will this erosion of support plays out in the campaign for 2008? The Democrats will face a choice between candidates
who were critics from the beginning and those who initially supported the war and then turned against it. This difference should not and will not divide Democrats in 2008.
The Republicans will face a similar but more difficult choice between those who like Hagel have lost confidence in the war and those who will support the war to the bitter end. This division will be very hard to overcome. Given the current state of the GOP, I cannot imagine a critic of the war gaining the nomination.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Biden: Bolton Documents Today or No Vote Next Week

Steve Clemons reports that this really could be it. Bill Frist and Joe Biden have been talking about the review of the sensitive NSA documents. Earlier this week Biden pledged -- as he had before -- that if the administratino came through with the requested documents, Senate Democrats would not block an up-or-down vote. But if not:
Biden's declaration that all document requests must be satisfied by close of business today -- or all deals are off -- is more the Senator's "assessment that the window for confirming Bolton is closing fast," according to an official familiar with Biden's stance.
The July Fourth recess is coming fast:

Biden's comment last night is that the clock is ticking. As one staffer told TWN, "time is awasting. . ."
Today is Friday -- and if the materials are not received today, or at the latest on Monday, there will be no time for Senators to be able to interpret and assess the materials so that a vote can be held next week.

Stay tuned for the next episode...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Girard Avenue Trolley Will Finally Roll

The long-awaited revival of the Girard Avenue trolley has emerged from political limbo. Ward leader and Democratic City Committee Secretary Carol Campbell had stalled the project because it would eliminate a handful of illegal parking spots in her neighborhood:
A SURPRISE burst of good sense appears to have seized Philadelphia's Democratic Party leaders.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, who is also chairman of the Democratic City Committee, called a closed-door meeting on Monday over the stalled Route 15 trolley - and came out with a plan to get the $84 million public-works project running.
My goal is to have the trolley operational by the end of the summer," said SEPTA Board Chairman Pat Deon, who was at the meeting.
The trolley is a central piece of a plan to revive the Girard Avenue corridor. The plan is the result of a collaborative effort of hundreds of community leaders, business owners, planners and city officials. There's nothing like shining a little light on the subject to motivate public servants to act in the public interest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."

This aphorism from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is quoted by his daughter, Maura Moynihan, who emphatically disputes the slander that Hillary Clinton didn't get along with her predecessor, Senator Moynihan. Ms. Moynihan, writing in the New York Observer, calls the The Truth About Hillary "a tawdry new book that hits a new low in Hillary-bashing" and points out that "Mr. Klein has an established record of slandering Democrats and using dead people as sources." (See my previous post on the author spinning fiction from a photograph.)
Ms. Moynihan finishes her piece by voicing her admiration for Senator Clinton and suggesting that journalists do their homework:
She [Senator Clinton] has endured years of personal attacks on herself and her family, and has somehow managed to bear herself with dignity and grace throughout. A lesser person would have abandoned politics and retired to the Gulf of Siam years ago. Fabricating stories about Mrs. Clinton’s relationship with Senator Moynihan is an offense to New Yorkers, an insult to my deceased father and a sad commentary on the state of "journalism." Let the woman do her work, for God’s sake, and if you want to know what Senator Moynihan said or thought about anything, visit his papers in the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Frist Twisting Slowly in the Wind

How has Bill Frist fared this year? Over at TPM, Josh Marshall ponders:
A) Who is the last Senate Majority Leader to have as bad a six months as Bill Frist has just had?
B) Has Frist's utter fealty to every direction of the White House now become an embarrassment even to members of his own caucus? Just out of some sense of residual institutional prerogative?
C) What does it say about Bush/Rove's opinion of Frist that they are now happy to humiliate him publicly on something close to a weekly basis?
One rule of politics I've learned is to not let your friends look stupid. But hey, what do I know? Karl Rove is a genius, and I just write a blog.

White House Wants Frist to Try Again on Bolton

Bill Frist, having said that's it for Bolton, has changed his mind:
WASHINGTON -- Reversing field after a meeting with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he will continue pushing for a floor vote on John R. Bolton for U.N. ambassador. Frist switched his position after initially saying today that negotiations with Democrats to get a vote on Bolton had been exhausted.
Talking to reporters in the White House driveway after he joined other GOP lawmakers for a luncheon with Bush, Frist said: "The president made it very clear that he expects an up or down vote."
What's going on? Why try again if it's a foregone conclusion as long as the White House keeps stonewalling on the document requests? Steve Clemons has one suggestion:
So many people are surprised by the White House's intransigence on the documents that they believe that something seriously damaging must be in them.

Clark Finishes Well Ahead in Straw Polls at MyDD and Kos

Retired General Wesley Clark showed suprising strength in straw polls at Kos and MyDD, outpacing Senator Clinton by significant margins in both:
Candidate MyDD DailyKos
Evan Bayh 2% 2%
Joe Biden n/a 3%
Wesley Clark 27% 26%
Hillary Clinton 14% 10%
John Edwards 10% 8%
John Kerry 2% 2%
Bill Richardson 5% 4%
Tom Vilsack 0% 0%
Mark Warner 9% 5%

Other 14% 7%

Undecided 10% 17%

Monday, June 20, 2005

Some Guys Have All the Luck

On the left, a photo from Drudge (or is it Sludge), with the headline, "Hillary Humiliated as Bill has new Affairs." Drudge published this photo saying, "The book presents a photo of the former president 'mouth-kissing' an unidentfied woman."
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On the right, a photo from Philly of Bill Clinton at the John Kerry rally in Philadelphia on October 25, 2004. (The side-by-side comparison comes courtesy of Crooks and Liars.)
Bill Clinton may not have lost all of his charisma, but a kiss along the rope line with 100,000 intimate friends hardly qualifies as evidence that Bill Clinton "is flagrantly cheating" on Hillary, as claimed in the odorous The Truth about Hillary, which goes on to assert that Clinton "started a torrid affair with a stunning divorcee in her early forties, who lived near the Clintons in Chappaqua."
By the way, I was doing work in Philadelphia at the time but missed out on meeting any available divorcees from Chappaqua, or any upstate New York community, through plain bad luck I suppose. If anyone recognizes the woman in the baseball cap, or knows any stunning divorcees in her early forties -- even if she was not at the rally or doesn't come from Chappaqua -- please let me know. I'm not busy.

54 - 38, the Motion Fails

The cloture motion on the Bolton nomination failed 54 - 38, short of the necessary 3/5 needed to close debate. The White House stubbornly rejected all overtures to provide the requested documents that, if provided, would have cleared the way for an up-or-down vote.
The only way left for the White House is to send Bolton to the UN via a recess appointment. In the meanwhile, head over to TWN to commend Steve Clemons for a job very well done.

Wes Clark Leading the Straw Poll at Kos

Kos is running a straw poll:
Who would you like to see as our '08 nominee?
Evan Bayh: 216 votes - 2 %
Joe Biden: 288 votes - 3 %
Wesley Clark: 2245 votes - 27 %
Hillary Clinton: 855 votes - 10 %
John Edwards: 662 votes - 7 %
Russ Feingold: 925 votes - 11 %
John Kerry: 214 votes - 2 %
Bill Richardson: 410 votes - 4 %
Mark Warner: 455 votes - 5 %
Tom Vilsack: 61 votes - 0 %
Other: 622 votes - 7 %
No Frickin' Clue: 1336 votes - 16 %
8289 total votes
Updated June 20 at 7:34 PM.
That's two straw polls Clark is leading. We're updating this as well as the poll at MyDD.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

There Goes Joe

Joe Biden announces his intent:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden said on Sunday he intends to run for president in 2008, two decades after he dropped out of the race amid charges he plagiarized a British politician's speech.
"My intention now is to seek the nomination," Biden, of Delaware, said on CBS television's "Face the Nation." He said he would explore his support and decide by the end of this year -- a sign the race may get off to an early and competitive start.
"If in fact I think I have a clear shot at winning the nomination, by this November or December, then I'm going to seek the nomination," he said.
Biden is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.

Photoshop of Horrors displays Photoshop projects by graphic designers with too much time on their hands:

Without Restraint: House of Representatives Edition

It's more fun and games with the federal courts. Via Kos and the NYT, we learn that the theocons have decided to take it on themselves to decide which court orders can and cannot be enforced:
During consideration of an appropriations bill for the Departments of State, Justice and Commerce, Representative John Hostettler, Republican of Indiana, introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds from being used to enforce Russelburg v. Gibson County. In that case, a federal court ruled that a courthouse Ten Commandments display violated the First Amendment and had to be removed. Mr. Hostettler declared that the ruling was unconstitutional, and inconsistent with "the Christian heritage of the United States."
Have any of them stopped to ponder why it is that, of those polled, only
19% believe that Congress shares their priorities?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Even Worse for Congress

As bad as the NYT/CBS poll is for Bush, it's even worse for Congress:
19% of respondents think Congress shares their priorities for the country.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Clark Leads Straw Poll over at MyDD

Head over to MyDD and tell the blogoshere who you like in 2008:

Who would you support for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2008?

· Evan Bayh 3%
· Wesley Clark 27%
· Hillary Clinton 14%
· John Edwards 14%
· John Kerry 2%
· Bill Richardson 5%
· Tom Vilsack 0%
· Mark Warner 9%
· Other 14%
· Undecided 10%
Votes: 1969
Updated June 20 at 7:42 PM.

"We claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth."

Former Republican Senator and Episcopal priest John Danforth writes eloquently of his beliefs as a moderate Christian in today's NYT:
Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings.
Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.
When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.
When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.
We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.
Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

It's Getting Worse for Bush

The NYT/CBS poll has more bad news for Bush:
Two-thirds said they were uneasy about Mr. Bush's ability to make sound decisions on Social Security. Only 25 percent said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling Social Security, down slightly from what the poll found in March.
Moreover, 45 percent said the more they heard about the Bush plan, the less they liked it.
The Times also reports that Bush is being forced to postpone his plans for changing the tax code, which could include a flat tax. Bush may complain about "obstuctionism," but what's wrong with opposing wrongheaded and unpopular policies? A bad idea is a bad idea, period.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Stem Cell Bill Passes Delaware Senate

On Tuesday, the Delaware Senate passed SB 80, which would encourage stem cell research in Delaware, as in this excerpt:

§3002D. Human embryonic stem cell research.

(a) Human embryonic stem cells shall be eligible for use in research in the State of Delaware if the cells meet each of the following:

(1) The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment;

(2) Prior to the consideration of the embryo donation and through consultation with the individuals seeking fertility treatment, it was determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded; and

(3) The individuals seeking fertility treatment donated the embryos with written informed consent and without receiving any financial or other inducements to make the donation.

Delaware Grapevine reports that the debate did not break along the state's usual political fault lines:

The prime sponsor was Sen. Robert L. Venables, a Sussex County Democrat so conservative he could not move more rightward without supposing the earth is flat.
Congressman Mike Castle, whose stem cell bill passed the U.S. House despite a veto threat from President Bush, is following the bill's progress:
Delaware's decision-making on the bill is significant enough that Castle sent two of his top staff members -- Jeffrey A. Dayton, his district director, and Elizabeth B. Wenk, his deputy chief of staff -- to Dover to watch the Senate 's floor action.
Legislative Hall is not known for its absorbing debates. They tend to have the depth and decorum of a hot dog eating contest, but this one was different. The Senate took more than two and a half hours for a discussion that was thoughtful and civil.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dr. Frist's Erroneous Diagnosis

The story is so sad, I hate to even bring it up:
LARGO, Fla. (AP) -- An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday.
He [Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin] also said she was blind, because the ''vision centers of her brain were dead,'' and that her brain was about half of its expected size when she died 13 days following the feeding tube's removal.
Dr. Frist came to a very different conclusion last March:
"I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."
His comments raised eyebrows in medical and political circles alike. It is not every day that a high-profile physician relies on family videotapes to challenge the diagnosis of doctors who examined a severely brain-damaged patient in person.

Happy Ending for Bush Environmental Advisor

Remember the White House environmental adviser who quit last week? Don't worry, he'll be alright:
Philip A. Cooney, the former White House staff member who repeatedly revised government scientific reports on global warming, will go to work for Exxon Mobil this fall, the oil company said yesterday.
Mr. Cooney resigned as chief of staff for President Bush's environmental policy council on Friday, two days after documents obtained by The New York Times revealed that he had edited the reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between the emission of greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.
While some energy executives have joined the ranks of environmental extremists by suggesting that they may have to change the way they do business, Exxon Mobil has been a stalwart opponent of any effort to limit greenhouse gas emmissions.

Bush Jokes about the Full Faith and Credit of the United States

TPM points out this nugget in the NYT story on Bush's visit to Pennsylvania yesterday:
The president drew a laugh when, in arguing that big changes are needed, he spoke disparagingly of "the paper i.o.u.'s in a file cabinet in West Virginia" that make up the $1.7 trillion Social Security trust fund. He did not point out those i.o.u.'s are Treasury securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, and that the government has never defaulted on its obligations.
Two months ago, Bush made the same point while standing in front of the building that holds the Treasury obligations that provide the assets for SS. Perhaps he slept through class the day the finance professor told students to never talk down your own securities.

Plans for Elevated Park Progressing in NYC

A unique urban park proposal in NYC has overcome an important regulatory hurdle:
Plans for the city's first elevated park - a singular ribbon of green space stretching a mile and a half along an abandoned railroad viaduct 30 feet above the streets of Chelsea - have taken a major step forward with a favorable ruling by a federal transportation board.

The High Line is a stretch of overgrown elevated railway that has been rusting since the 1960s. Plans for the park include natural landscaping, an elevated pond, seating, lighting above and below and a new way of experiencing New York's Chelsea district:
This is one of the most unique open spaces in the world," said Amanda M. Burden, chairwoman of the New York City Planning Commission and an outspoken advocate of the High Line project. "You will be able to walk 22 blocks in the city of New York without ever coming in contact with a vehicle. People will see the city from a completely unique perspective."

You will find more on this unique project at Friends of The High Line. Plans are on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art until July 18.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bill Frist Wants Another Bolton Vote on Thursday

The Washington Note reports that the next cloture vote on John Bolton may come Thursday. The White House has not come forward with a single scrap of paper in response to requests for evidence that go back to the month of April.
Bill Frist, standing with John McCain, said this morning that the Democrats "keep moving the goal posts" when it comes to evidence requests. Steve Clemons reports that Frist's complaint was met with scepticism:
Several senior journalists at the meeting expressed their surprise to McCain that Frist had lodged such a complaint as nearly every journalist there was aware of the number of times that the bar on evidence requests had been lowered by the Democrats.
I have a hard time seeing how a protracted standoff benefits conservative Republicans. Support for Bolton has gone down as his name recognition has gone up. Right now, Bush doesn't have the political leverage to win this fight. Support for the Iraq war is eroding. Gitmo has become an embarrassment to the U.S. The Downing Street Memo has reopened debate over the deceptions used to march us into war. Bush's poll numbers on Iraq are bad and getting worse. The White House can complain about obstruction all they like, but the longer this story runs, the worse it gets, not just for Bolton himself, but for the entire neocon foreign policy apparatus.

"Give MDL a break"

In Part 7 of our ongoing series, In Need of Adult Supervision, Ohio Edition, we learn, via the Toledo Blade, that pressure was applied to keep a fund manager that had lost millions in hedges gone badly wrong:
COLUMBUS — As multimillion-dollar losses by a Pittsburgh investment firm mounted last year, the chief financial officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation told another top agency official that he had been told to “give MDL a break,’’ according to records released yesterday by Gov. Bob Taft.
The records stated that Terrence Gasper, removed from his post after the bureau lost $215 million in the hedge fund managed by MDL Capital Management, told a fellow official that the instructions had come from the former administrator of the bureau, James Conrad, who had been asked by George Forbes, a member of the bureau’s Oversight Commision, to go easy on MDL.

Mr. Forbes daughter, Mildred “Mimi” Forbes, is an executive with the investment firm.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bolo Ties and Flatops

Now, I'm not a bolo tie kind of guy; I've always lived on the East Coast. But I have to applaud Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer who spoke up to say that a bolo tie is as dressed up as any piece of silk from Brooks Brothers. Here's the story via Bull Moose about a high school senior who was barred from his graduation for sartorial reasons:
A Charles County high school's decision to deny a diploma to a senior who wore a bolo tie to graduation didn't offend just the student and his family. Montana's governor is mighty annoyed, too.
"To have some high school say that a bolo tie is not a tie is an outrage," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who called The Washington Post yesterday after reading an article about 17-year-old Thomas Benya.
"In Montana and anyplace in Indian country, a bolo tie is dressed up," he said. "A tie is a tie."
Schweitzer, who has a collection of more than 30 string ties, called to encourage Benya yesterday and is sending him a Montana state bolo.

I like these Montana Dems. State Senate Majority Leader John Tester kicked off his campaign for the U.S. Senate with Pearl Jam bassist and Montana native Jeff Ament, touring the state in a big rig that reads, "You're behind the right guy" on the back.

Here's an enthusiastic blurb from New West Missoula:
He's a tall, old farmer who thinks progressively, but acts traditionally. He's got a farmer's flatop and a farmer's belly, but he's refined enough and savvy enough to play ball with the big boys in D.C. without looking like a hick. He looks you in the eye when he tells you he knows how to represent all of Montana in the U.S. Senate and you believe him -- and he rarely spits out a canned quote.

A New Flag for Flag Day

Via the All Spin Zone, we learn that The 700 Club will be celebrating Flag Day on Tuesday by selling a new flag. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, Marcia Thompson Eldreth has designed a Christian flag for the U.S.:

In her rendition, the eagle soars in a sky-blue field encircled by a band of red, representing the blood of Christ, encircled by another band of blue representing Christ's bruises. Flying on a ribbon in the eagle's beak is a quote from Matthew 24: "Take heed that no man deceive you." A blue border tracing the rectangle of the flag is salted with 50 stars, representing, Eldreth said, "American Christians in each of the 50 states."
There's a new Pledge of Allegiance to go with it:
I pledge allegiance, to the Christian Flag,

of the United States of America,

and to the Lord, who made us great and free.

I purpose, to band together, with all believers,

to protect the truth and liberty of God.

Dissent Leads to Resignation of Morgan Stanley CEO

Dissent from Morgan Stanley shareholders and departures from top executives have claimed the head of CEO Phillip Purcell. Purcell announced his resignation in a letter this morning:
It has become clear that in light of the continuing personal attacks on me, and the unprecedented level of negative attention our Firm -- and each of you -- has had to endure, that this is the best thing I can do for you, our clients and our shareholders.
The merger of Morgan Stanley with Dean Witter led to protracted infighting between executives of the two firms. Purcell, who came from Main Street retail brokerage house Dean Witter, has been accused of purging the Wall Street investment banking execs from Morgan. Dissatisfication with Purcell's leadership has led to a series of high-level defections from the investment banking side to rivals such as Citigroup, J.P Morgan Chase and Wachovia.

"I wish it had never happened."

Via Kos, we read that Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), who led the push to change french fries to freedom fries in congressional dining rooms, now regrets the idea and has turned against the war:
Asked by a reporter for the North Carolina News and Observer about the name-change campaign - an idea Mr Jones said at the time came to him by a combination of God's hand and a constituent's request - he replied: "I wish it had never happened."
Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the "faces of the fallen".

"If we were given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration, to commit the authority to send boys, and in some instances girls, to go into Iraq, that is wrong," he told the newspaper. "Congress must be told the truth."
Jones has been thinking about the dead and wounded in the light of the failure to find any WMDs:
Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, has written more than 1,300 letters of condolence to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and will introduce legislation this week calling for a firm timetable on the withdrawal of US troops, ABC's "This Week" said Sunday.
Meanwhile, two U.S. Senators have joined notorious human rights softie Jimmy Carter in calling for the closing of Gitmo:
KEY WEST - U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez said Friday that the Bush administration should consider Sen. Joseph Biden's suggestion to shut down the U.S. military's prison camp on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Joe Biden yesterday created a stir by daring to utter the "D" word:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States will "have to face" a painful dilemma on restoring the military draft as rising casualties result in persistent shortfalls in US army recruitment, a top US senator warned.
Biden, who travelled to Iraq last week, has been pushing the administration to come clean about the war:
"No foreign policy can be undertaken without the informed consent of the American people," Delaware's Biden said Thursday after a recent visit to the war zone. "Right now, there is no information. There is a giant disconnect between what is happening on the ground and what we're being told."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Obama on Self and Nation

Ivo Daalder at TPM Cafe highlights Barack Obama's commencment speech at Knox College as part of a post on american exceptionalism:

And then America happened: A place where destiny was not a destination, but a journey to be shared and shaped and remade by people who had the gall, the temerity to believe that, against all odds, they could form “a more perfect union” on this new frontier.
Obama turns from our past to our future and to the importance of participation in public life:

Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. You need to take up the challenges that we face as a nation and make them your own. Not because you have a debt to those who helped you get here, although you do have that debt. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate than you, although I do think you do have that obligation. It’s primarily because you have an obligation to yourself. Because individual salvation has always depended on collective salvation. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.
Obama's vision is of a nation continually reaching towards an ideal, where citizens enjoy autonomy in their own lives while they strive to improve the common good.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Oil Lobbyist Quits as White House Environmental Advisor

The oil industry lobbyist who edited government reports to weaken or remove language linking greenhouse gas emissions and global warming has resigned:
Philip A. Cooney, the chief of staff to President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, resigned yesterday, White House officials said.
Mr. Cooney’s resignation came two days after documents revealed that he had repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between building greenhouse-gas emissions and rising temperatures.
Mr. Cooney has no scientific training.
Before becoming an environmental advisor in the White House, Cooney was a lawyer for the American Petroluem Institute.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I Paid for this Microphone, Mr. Chairman

If you're the chairman of a congressional committee and you don't like what you're hearing, what do you do? If you're Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), you just shut off the microphones and leave with the gavel in hand.
(AP) WASHINGTON Jun 10, 2005 — The Republican chairman walked off with the gavel, leaving Democrats shouting into turned-off microphones at a raucous hearing Friday on the Patriot Act.
That's right, it was a hearing on the Patriot Act.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, speaking immediately after Sensenbrenner left, voiced dismay over the proceedings. "I'm troubled about what kind of lesson this gives" to the rest of the world, he told the Democrats remaining in the room.

Bolton Looking Weaker

After the cloture vote on the Bolton nomination failed to muster 60 votes, Joe Biden said that the Democrats were ready to vote, just as soon as the Bush administration came through with the requested documents and transcripts:
We're ready to vote the day we get back, the moment we get back..if the administration is more forthcoming in meeting us halfway.
Well, Congress came back from recess and no vote was called. No vote has been scheduled. Steve Clemons is saying out loud what others are too timid to contemplate: the John Bolton nomination is looking weaker and weaker. Those in Washington who are used to the BushCheney Corp. getting its way have trouble comprehending that Bolton may never get to the UN.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

When it Comes to Choice, Outcomes Matter

Kos writes that Senator Chafee (R-RI) who was endorsed by NARAL over two Democrats, voted to confirm Janice Rogers Brown to the DC Circuit. Kos challenges those such as Martha Burk who don't see a difference between the parties in Senate races in PA and RI:
Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said the women's groups plan to meet with Pennacchio and could support him to send party leaders a message.
She and other women's leaders said Democrats might be better off losing the race than electing Casey.
In terms of women's lives, what difference does it make whether we have a pro-life Democrat and a pro-life Republican?" Burk asked.
Kos answers that there is a difference between the parties on pro-life issues:
Yet anti-abortion senator Harry Reid voted against Brown. As would've [RI pro-life Democrat] Jim Langevin had he been serving in the Senate right now. As would both of Chafee's current pro-choice opponents -- Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse.
It's something to remember as Choice groups debate Casey's probable nomination in Pennsylvania.

Is This a Hint?

Steve Clemons highlighted this interesting comment from Arlen Specter on the confirmation of Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said Brown "has made undiplomatic statements, but she's not in the State Department."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pete and Newt

Former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont is hosting former House Speaker Newt Gingerich for a $1,000 and up fundraiser at (where else?) the Hotel duPont in Wilmington Thursday night. Can you match the following quotes with Bomb-thrower Newt and Gentleman Pete?
  1. "The government's Social Security system is socialism's last redoubt."
  2. "Gore Carries the Porn Belt"
  3. "Liberals, of course, on principle oppose any reduction in any taxes at any time, because someone might actually benefit."
  4. "_______ went over to the dark side long ago."
The answers (with links) below:
  1. Pete du Pont, February 16, 2005
  2. Pete du Pont, November 10, 2000
  3. Pete du Pont, August 14, 2002
  4. Pete, acccording to News Journal editor John Taylor, May 9, 2005

Casey Building a Lead over Santorum in PA

MyDD has an analysis of the polling in the PA Senate race in 2006 and it doesn't look good for Rick Santorum. Bob Casey has increased his lead over the incumbent in two polls due to a significant drop in Santorum's support:
Trial Heats  Santorum  Casey
Keystone 6/5 37 44
Keystone 3/20 43 44
Q-poll 4/18 35 49
Q-poll 2/14 41 46

"Much, much, much more money"

David Cay Johnson of the NYT wrote an excellent analysis headlined, "Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind" as part of the paper's series on class and income disparities in the U.S.
For those such as Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw (I have one of his textbooks), a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bush, who believe that the rich getting richer is necessary for economic growth, here's an important graph via Brad DeLong:

If increases in the top 1% income share were correlated with economic growth, we would see the dots lined up from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. The graph (click for larger image) shows no discernible correlation.

How to Lose $215 Million

In Part 6 of our continuing series, In Need of Adult Supervision: Ohio Edition, we examine the hedge fund strategy that lost $215 million last year:
In September, 2003, guessing like many others on Wall Street at the time that interest rates were about to rise, the managers of the $22 billion state fund began taking "short positions" on long-term U.S. treasury bonds.
The state, acting through Pittsburgh-based MDL Capital Management, an outside investment adviser, began selling the bonds on the belief that it would be able to repurchase them at a steep discount later as bond prices fell.

There are two reasons why such a hedge is inappropriate for many investors. First, this kind of a hedge requires detailed monitoring of the risks on a daily basis. An investor that doesn't have the ability to understand the workings of the hedge should stay away. There are far less hazardous ways to moderate investment rate risk. In other words, don't try this at home.
The second reason is that Wall Street's conventional wisdom has a short memory:

Had markets behaved as normal, the gains from the hedge fund, dubbed the Active Duration Fund, would have helped offset losses in the state's traditional bond fund, which bought and held bonds, and once was worth $355 million.
Instead, the value of those types of bond funds rose. But because many of those bonds were sold off in the state's hedging strategy, the benefit was diminished.
The problem is Wall Street defines normal market behavior as what happened in the last business cycle. Any event beyond that is characterized as the proverbial hundred-year storm, which is another way of saying, "We didn't think it could happen based on our lack of long-term memory."
Standard financial theories are seriously flawed in underestimating financial risk. The wizards at Long-Term Capital Management -- who invented much of modern financial theory -- couldn't believe that their models weren't working as they went belly up in 1998.
Benoit Mandelbrot, in The (mis)Behavior of Markets, cites a 2002 Citigroup survey to point out just how off the mark standard theories are:
But the biggest fall [in the currency markets] was a heart-stopping 7.92 percent, or 10.7 [standard deviations]. The normal odds of that: Not if Citigroup had been trading dollars and yen every day since the Big Bang 15 billion years ago should it have happened, not once.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


In Part 5 of our continuing series, In Need of Adult Supervision: Ohio Edition, the Toledo Blade reports that another bundle of money has been flushed down the toilet at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation:
COLUMBUS - The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation admitted today that it lost $215 million in a high-risk fund that few people knew about.
The bureau had invested $355 million with a Pittsburgh investment firm, MDL Capital Management, beginning in 1998.

But last year, after diverting $225 million into a fund that works like a hedge fund, the fund lost $215 million.
Although the bureau has known about the loss since last year, Gov. Bob Taft was notified about it today.

Bush: Don't Give Peace a Chance

The Downing Street Memo, notes of a July 23, 2002 meeting of Tony Blair and his top advisors, pretty well makes it clear that, 8 months before the actual invasion, Bush was looking for reasons to go after Saddam Hussein:
C [Director of SIS (aka MI6) Sir Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
No decisions had been taken, but he [British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon] thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The [British] Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.

"He did not want me to budge on the tanker lease proposal."

The Pentagon's inspector general released a scathing report on the bogus $30 billion air tanker lease deal with Boeing, according to The Washington Post:
After interviewing 88 people and reading hundreds of thousands of pages of e-mails, the inspector general's office concluded that four top Air Force officials and one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's former top aides, Undersecretary of Defense Edward C. "Pete" Aldridge, violated Pentagon and government-wide procurement rules, failed to use "best business practices," ignored a legal requirement for weapons testing and failed to ensure that the tankers would meet the military's requirements.
The report also connects Rumsfeld to policymaking on the lease, recounting a statement by former Air Force secretary James G. Roche that Rumsfeld had called him in Newport, R.I., in July 2003 to say "he did not want me to budge on the tanker lease proposal," despite criticism.
In most procurement negotiations, "he did not want me to budge" means getting the best deal for the government. In this case, it means giving Boeing a sweetheart deal that makes no economic sense. So far, former Air Force principal deputy assistant secretary Darlene A. Druyun and former Boeing CFO Michael M. Sears have been sent to prison because of the deal.

The Air Force has long maintained that any defects in the lease proposal were attributable solely to Druyun, who is serving a nine-month sentence in federal prison for illegally negotiating a lucrative job with Boeing as she supervised the lease negotiations.
The inspector general's report makes it clear that the Air Force's aggressive pursuit of the lease over a three-year period was actually a team effort, and that shortly after Druyun agreed to the concept ... other top officials fell into lock step with her.
What is most intriquing about the report is what we still don't know:

In the copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post, 45 sections were deleted by the White House counsel's office to obscure what several sources described as references to White House involvement in the lease negotiations and its interaction with Boeing. The Pentagon separately blacked out 64 names and many e-mails. It also omitted the names of members of Congress, including some who pressured the Pentagon to back the deal.