Friday, January 27, 2006
enough. Far too many of the party members are like Mary Landrieu:
"Because we have such a full plate of pressing issues before Congress, a filibuster at this time would be, in my view, very counterproductive."
Yes, because the future of human rights and the balance of power in the United States is less important than apportioning funds to some farmer in Iowa. What a sad state the Democratic Party is in.
John Kerry Calls for Filibuster of Alito
Kerry is trying to gather support for a filibuster of Alito's nomination.
Washington - Sen. John Kerry will attempt a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, CNN has learned.
Kerry, in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, was marshaling support in phone calls during the day, he told CNN.
Kerry said he told a group of Democratic senators Wednesday, and urged that they join him. Kerry said he has the support of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Some senior Democrats told CNN they are worried that the move could backfire.
Republicans would need 60 votes to overturn a filibuster - a procedural move that extends Senate debate indefinitely, effectively blocking a vote. Senior White House officials said the move would make the Democrats look bad, and that Republicans believe they have enough votes to overcome any filibuster attempt.
Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, scheduled a vote to end debate on the nomination - called a cloture vote - Monday at 4:30 p.m. If that vote is successful, the final vote would be Tuesday morning.
Nearly all 55 Republican senators have said they will vote for Alito. Only three Democrats - Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota - have said they will vote for the nominee. allowing relevant gay / lesbian / transgendered rights groups to have consultative status in order to find out what the state of discrimination against gays is in the world. By doing so, we join such enlightened luminaries as Iran (who sponsored the vote), Sudan, China, and Zimbabwe. How can anyone say that the Republican Party does not hold discrimination against sexual minorities as a core value when they are voting down the idea of even discussing human rights for homosexuals? This isn't gay marriage or gay adoption or anything that should ever be remotely controversial, this is "please don't execute people for being gay." How can people who claim to be "moral" belong to or otherwise support such a group as the GOP?
I've always suspected that homophobia in America was so predominant that it could affect international human rights issues, and now it's slapping me in the face. Great morning all around.
United Nations: U.S. Aligned With Iran in Anti-Gay Vote
Rice Must Explain Repressive UN Ban on LGBT Rights Groups
(Washington, D.C., January 25, 2006) - In a reversal of policy, the United States on Monday backed an Iranian initiative to deny United Nations consultative status to organizations working to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a coalition of 40 organizations, led by the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called for an explanation of the vote which aligned the United States with governments that have long repressed the rights of sexual minorities.
“This vote is an aggressive assault by the U.S. government on the right of sexual minorities to be heard,” said Scott Long, director of the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. “It is astonishing that the Bush administration would align itself with Sudan, China, Iran and Zimbabwe in a coalition of the homophobic.”
In May 2005, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, which is based in Brussels, and the Danish gay rights group Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske (LBL) applied for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Consultative status is the only official means by which non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world can influence and participate in discussions among member states at the United Nations. Nearly 3,000 groups enjoy this status.
States opposed to the two groups’ applications moved to have them summarily dismissed, an almost unprecedented move at the UN, where organizations are ordinarily allowed to state their cases. The U.S. abstained on a vote which would have allowed the debate to continue and the groups to be heard. It then voted to reject the applications.
“The United States recklessly ignored its own reporting proving the need for international support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The State Department’s ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices’ show severe human rights violations based on gender identity and sexual orientation occur around the world.”
As the U.S. government acknowledged in its 2004 country report on Iran, Iranian law punishes homosexual conduct between men with the death penalty. Human Rights Watch has documented four cases of arrests, flogging, or execution of gay men in Iran since 2003. In its 2004 country report on Zimbabwe, the U.S. government noted President Robert Mugabe’s public denouncement of homosexuals, blaming them for “Africa's ills.” In the past, Mugabe has called gays and lesbians “people without rights” and “worse than dogs and pigs.”
The U.S. has reversed position since 2002, when it voted to support the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s request to have its status reviewed. Officials gave no explanation for the change.
“It is deeply disturbing that, at the UN, the United States has shifted gears toward an aggressive stance against human rights for LGBT people,” said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “Unfortunately, denying LGBT groups a voice and a presence within the United Nations – the world's most important human rights institution – is fully in keeping with the U.S.’s assault on basic human rights principles worldwide.”
In voting against the applications to the NGO committee, the U.S. was joined by Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Votes in favor of consultative status came from Chile, France, Germany, Peru, and Romania. Colombia, India, and Turkey abstained, while Côte d'Ivoire was absent.
“It is an absolute outrage that the United States has chosen to align itself with oppressive governments – all in an effort to smother the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It is deeply disturbing that the self-proclaimed ‘leader of the free world’ will ally with bigots at the drop of a hat to advance the right wing’s anti-gay agenda.”
Thursday, January 26, 2006really ugly.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which has said it favors the destruction of Israel, won an apparent victory in Palestinian legislative elections, officials said Thursday, reshaping the political landscape of the Middle East.
"We have lost the elections; Hamas has won," said Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian lawmaker with the ruling Fatah Party. He said Fatah, which has held power since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, will now be the opposition.
During a White House news conference Thursday, President Bush -- whose Middle East policy includes support for emerging democracies -- said he would not deal with Hamas unless it renounced terrorism. (Watch Bush face tough questioning -- 5:37)
"We don't have a government yet, so you're asking me to speculate on what the government will look like," Bush told reporters. "I have made it very clear, however, that a political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal."
"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform." norrible policies, won't he?
Gonzales calls domestic spying 'both necessary and lawful'
The New York Times
WASHINGTON - Ramping up the administration's defense of its domestic eavesdropping program, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday invoked the lessons of George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt in justifying President Bush's broad power to wage war against terrorism.
Gonzales, a key architect of the surveillance program, said that the operation was ''both necessary and lawful'' and that he believed any president would have taken the steps Bush did.
''I think it would be irresponsible to do otherwise,'' he said in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center.
Gonzales' address, along with seven television appearances Monday night and Tuesday morning, was part of an orchestrated effort by the Bush administration to recast the debate on the National Security Agency program as one of national security rather than civil liberties. Gen. Michael Hayden, the nation's second-ranking intelligence official, made an unusual public speech about the program on Monday.
The president is also scheduled to visit the security agency in Fort Meade, Md., today to reassure employees whose normally secret activities have come under scrutiny.
With polls showing the public evenly split about the eavesdropping program, Gonzales - like Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney before him - said in his speech that he welcomed a ''worthy debate'' over the limits of presidential power.
More than two dozen students in the audience responded by turning their backs on Gonzales and standing stone-faced before live television cameras for the duration of his half-hour speech.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Virginia: Support HB 265, Will Allow Dog/Cat License Fee Increase
HB 265, in the House Agriculture Sub-Committee, will allow local jurisdictions the ability to increase dog and cat license fee. This bill could be heard in committee as early as Thursday, January 26th. Contact committee members and urge them to support HB 265.
Virginia: Support HB 1114, Encourages Dog and Cat Adoptions
Urge members of the House Finance Sub-Committee #3 to support HB 1114 which provides incentives for residents adopting dogs or cats from an animal shelter or non-profit organization. This bill could be heard in committee as early as Friday, January 27th.
Virginia: Support HB 835/1367, Offers Tax-Credit Incentives to Veterinarians
Support HB 835/1367 to support tax-credit incentives to veterinarians performing spay/neuter or euthanasia services for free. Contact committee members today. This bill could be heard in committee as early as Friday, January 27th.
Virginia: HB 606, Pet Dealer Requirements for Animal Examinations
Urge members of the House Agriculture Sub-Committee to support requiring pet dealers to have each pedigreed dog and cat they sell examined by a licensed veterinarian. This bill could be heard in committee as early as Thursday, January 26th. shock.
Seriously, this does go even lower than normal. How in God's name can you claim executive privilege on something like that? The only thing I can think of is that one of Bush's aides told him something to the effect of 'let them niggas die', to which Bush nodded his head. Seriously, there is really no other reason to invoke executive privilege.
Ugh, this administration is going to keep historians and conspiracy theorists gainfully employed for decades to come.
Senators: White House Stalls Katrina Probe
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The White House is crippling a Senate inquiry into the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina by barring administration officials from answering questions and failing to hand over documents, senators leading the investigation said Tuesday.
In some cases, staff at the White House and other federal agencies have refused to be interviewed by congressional investigators, said the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition, agency officials won't answer seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House, the senators said.
A White House spokesman said the administration is committed to working with separate Senate and House investigations of the Katrina response but wants to protect the confidentiality of presidential advisers.
"No one believes that the government responded adequately," said Sen.
Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. "And we can't put that story together if people feel they're under a gag order from the White House."
Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record) of Maine, the committee's Republican chair, said she respects the White House's reluctance to reveal advice to
President Bush from his top aides, which is generally covered by executive privilege.
Still, she criticized the dearth of information from agency officials about their contacts with the White House.
"We are entitled to know if someone from the Department of Homeland Security calls someone at the White House during this whole crisis period," Collins said. "So I think the White House has gone too far in restricting basic information about who called whom on what day."
She added, "It is completely inappropriate" for the White House to bar agency officials from talking to the Senate committee.
White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the administration's deputy homeland security adviser, Ken Rapuano, has briefed House and Senate lawmakers on the federal response. A "lessons learned" report from Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend also is expected in coming weeks, Duffy said.
But he defended the administration's decision to prohibit White House staffers or other presidential advisers from testifying before Congress.
"There is a deliberate process, and the White House has always said it wants to cooperate with the committee but preserve any president's ability to get advice from advisers on a confidential basis," Duffy said. "And that's a critical need for any U.S. president and that is continuing to influence how we cooperate with the committees."
Collins and Lieberman sidestepped questions about whether they plan to subpoena the White House to get the information they seek, though Collins said she does not believe subpoenaing the Homeland Security Department is necessary.
The Senate inquiry is scheduled to conclude in March with a report detailing steps the federal government took — and didn't take — to prepare for the Aug. 29 storm.
Investigators have interviewed about 260 witnesses from federal, state and local governments and the private sector. Additionally, the committee has received an estimated 500,000 documents — including e-mails, memos, supply orders and emergency operation plans — outlining Katrina-related communications among all levels of government.
But Lieberman said the Justice and Health and Human Services departments "have essentially ignored our document requests for months" while HHS has refused to allow interviews of its staff. He described the Homeland Security response as "too little, too late."
Collins offered a rosier view of Homeland Security's cooperation, noting that Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson and department chief of staff John Wood were scheduled to talk to investigators later this week.
A special House committee created to review the government's readiness for Katrina is to release its findings by Feb. 15. Although Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the panel's chairman, earlier considered subpoenaing the White House, the panel backed away after the Rapuano briefing.
The panel ultimately did subpoena the Pentagon for Katrina documents, but one lawmaker, Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., said he believes Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not handed over enough to fully comply with the legal order.
But in a letter to Melancon on Tuesday, Davis said he is satisfied the Pentagon has complied with the subpoena, which yielded "massive mounds of documents," including classified materials from Rumsfeld.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006Dammit, Democrats, what the hell is wrong with you?
Democrats unlikely to block full Senate vote on Supreme Court nominee
Tuesday, January 24, 2006; Posted: 12:34 p.m. EST (17:34 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Judiciary Committee favorably recommended Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote Tuesday, ensuring prospects the conservative jurist will join the high court bench.
All 10 Republicans voted for Alito, while all eight Democrats voted against him. The partisan vote was almost preordained, with 15 of the 18 senators announcing their votes even before the committee's session began.
The full Senate expects to take a final vote on Alito's nomination before the end of the week. That vote is also expected to follow along party lines, with only one Democrat -- Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- coming out so far in support of Alito. Republicans hold the balance of power in the Senate 55-44, with one independent.
Senate Republicans say Alito is a good choice for the nation's highest court.
"Like America's founders, Judge Alito clearly believes in self-government, that the people and not judges should make law, and that judges have an important role but must know and stay in their proper place," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. total, confusing clusterfuck. Hmm...what other venture by Bush might this apply to?
Jamie had a good point about the last line...who is this really intended to benefit?
Poll: Most find Medicare program puzzling
WASHINGTON - Most people, particularly senior citizens, say they are having a hard time understanding the new Medicare prescription drug program, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
The drug benefit requires people to choose from among dozens of competing private insurance plans. Along with senior citizens, those most likely to acknowledge difficulties live in rural areas or are college graduates.
"I pretty much completed a master's degree in psychology and I can't understand it," said Raymond Lloyd, a Republican-leaning retiree from Silt, Colo. "For the elderly who don't have their full faculties and the poor people who are not well educated, God help 'em."
More than half, 52 percent, of respondents say they think the program that began enrolling people on Jan. 1 is tough to understand.
Two-thirds of older people surveyed and two-thirds of those who have signed up say they are confused by the program, which is intended to help many save more on their prescription drugs.
A third said they had not decided what they think of the new program and 16 percent said they have little trouble figuring out the program.
One who finds it easy to understand is Kathy Herndon of Savannah, Ga., who has worked for three decades in a dentist's office.
"I'm sure it would be confusing unless you're used to dealing with it," she said.
The poorest people in the program have a specific plan chosen at first for them; those with higher incomes have to pick one. People who struggle with a selection often turn to their pharmacists.
Marlene Brantley, a pharmacist from Arnaudville, La., said that serving Hurricane Katrina evacuees seemed like "a walk in the park" when compared with helping Medicare beneficiaries in recent weeks.
She said there are too many plans and too many lists of available drugs, forcing pharmacists to spend a lot of time trying to determine if people are eligible for a particular plan.
"If we don't get help, I see us all throwing up our hands and quitting," Brantley said at a Capitol Hill hearing last week sponsored by Democrats.
Soon after enrollment opened, it became apparent there was widespread confusion, so the government increased from 150 to 4,000 the number of workers at a pharmacy help line. Questions also can go through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - 1-800-Medicare or http://www.cms.hhs.gov - or local aging agencies.
The public's understanding of the program is one of several problems that have plagued the Bush administration's initiative.
Tens of thousands of elderly poor people have had trouble getting their medicine after they were canceled from Medicaid prescription drug coverage but not properly listed as eligible in the new program.
"Most of these people are vulnerable and frail," said Jean Finberg of the National Senior Citizens Law Center. "Our government is not protecting these people, and the new plan is too complicated."
Medicare spokesman Gary Karr said millions of people are getting their prescription drugs through the new program, despite the glitches.
"We certainly acknowledge there have been some problems," Karr said. "This is a $30-$40 billion program. It's a big transition for many people."
About 3.6 million people have enrolled, in addition to the 6.4 million elderly poor shifted from Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, that had provided their drug coverage.
The government aims to have 28 million to 30 million - including the Medicaid transfers - enrolled in the Medicare drug program by the end of 2006, Karr said. He said people will like the program more as they realize it can save them money.
But the public has doubts about the savings now.
Of those people who have enrolled in the program or have family members enrolled, six in 10 in the poll said they have noticed no significant savings.
Half of the Republicans surveyed say the drug program is hard to understand while six in 10 Democrats say they feel that way.
For 63-year-old Democrat Glenda Bozeman of Blountstown, Fla., that confusion is compounded by her overall doubts about the program.
"A large number of people are upset about this," she said. "I'm really suspicious about who this is going to help."
Monday, January 23, 2006MSNBC:
CHICAGO - U.S. Sen. Barack Obama tried to end speculation that he could run for president in 2008 on a national talk show Sunday. Obama, who is from Chicago's South Side, appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press," and stated that he "will not" run for president in the next national election.
"I will serve out my full six-year term," Obama said. "When you get asked enough, you get weary, and you start looking for new ways to start saying things. But my thinking has not changed."
Obama also said Sunday that while the problem of money and politics is bipartisan, the corruption surrounding convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is a Republican scandal.
The Illinois Democrat called the Abramoff issue and the K Street Project, an initiative backed by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, that pressured lobbying firms to hire Republicans and fund GOP causes, a "Republican sin."
"The specific problem of inviting lobbyists in who have bundled huge sums of money to write legislation ... those are very particular problems of this administration and this Congress," he said.