Friday, February 27, 2004

Nobody is really talking about it -- yet -- but the President's pussyfooting around the 9/11 Commission is starting to raise hackles.

In yesterday's gaggle aboard Air Force One, Clare Buchan got grilled on why, if Bush feels so strongly about the commission being allowed to do its work, he wasn't haranguing Dennis Hastert for blocking a two-month extension for the commission.

In this morning's gaggle, though (linked through TPM) Scottie Mac got it with both barrels:

QUESTION: What the commission is asking for in that one hour is the entire commission, not just the chair and vice chair. Are you not agreeing to that --

McCLELLAN: The request came from the chairman and vice chairman, and the President looks forward to meeting privately with --

QUESTION: I know. But they followed up by saying that they want --

McCLELLAN: -- looks forward to meeting privately with the chairman and vice chairman to provide them with the necessary information.

QUESTION: Why not all of them? What's the problem?

McCLELLAN: Helen, we have great confidence that the chairman and vice chairman can share all that information with the rest of the commission.

QUESTION: Why do they have to share it? The others have ears.

McCLELLAN: They're going to have a public report. I talked about how this is extraordinary for a President to sit down with a legislative body such as the 9/11 Commission.

QUESTION: What's the President's problem, really, with meeting all of them?


QUESTION: First, where the idea of a precedent is concerned, President -- sitting President Gerald Ford went up to Capitol Hill and actually testified before the House Judiciary Committee, so there is a greater precedent than what you're referring to.

My question is, in every speech he gives, President Bush invokes --

McCLELLAN: Keep in mind there are separation of powers issues involved when you're talking about a legislatively created body.

QUESTION: I'm sure President Ford was aware of those. In every speech he gives, President Bush invokes the atrocities of 9/11 and he talks about how that event has impressed on him a determination to always honor the victims of those atrocities in his daily conduct of his office. And I wonder if you could explain with some serious Texan straight talk here, Scott, how it is honoring the victims of 9/11 to restrict the questioning of the President on this subject to one hour?

McCLELLAN: I hope you'll talk about the unprecedented cooperation that we're providing to the commission when you report this, James. Because if you look back at what we've done, it is unprecedented. We have provided more than 2 million pages of documents. We provided more than 60 compact discs of radar, flight and other information; more than 800 audio cassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100 briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; more than 560 interviews. So this administration is cooperating closely and in an unprecedented way with the 9/11 Commission, because their work is very important.

QUESTION: That would have been a very pertinent answer had I asked you about the administration. But, in fact, I asked you about the President’s cooperation.

McCLELLAN: And the President is pleased to sit down with the chairman and vice chairman to provide them with the information they need to do their job. And we believe …

QUESTION: Why only one hour? Why only one hour?

McCLELLAN: -- we believe that he can provide them the necessary information in this private meeting.

QUESTION: In 60 minutes, that’s all it will take?

Of course you can only guess what the tone of voice was for those questions, but they certainly don't read as very civil.

The real question is, will any reporters be this testy when Bush starts hiding behind 9/11 on the campaign trail?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Best line (and the only thing I'm going to say) about The Passion of the Mel, from CNN Thursday morning:

Woman waiting in the cold Wednesday morning to see the movie: I don't mind waiting. It's Lent -- I'm supposed to suffer!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Look who dissented in the theology scholarships Supreme Court case. Shocking.

I'm not sure how this case got to the Supreme Court anyway. If Davey was able to continue his studies without the scholarship, then he pretty clearly wasn't denied expression of his religion, just denied a check for a specific application of that expression. Which is exactly what the majority opinion states:

The Court rejects Davey’s contention that, under Lukumi, supra, the program is presumptively unconstitutional because it is not facially neutral with respect to religion. To accept this claim would extend the Lukumi line of cases well beyond not only their facts but their reasoning. Here, the State’s disfavor of religion (if it can be called that) is of a far milder kind than in Lukumi, where the ordinance criminalized the ritualistic animal sacrifices of the Santeria religion. Washington’s program imposes neither criminal nor civil sanctions on any type of religious service or rite. It neither denies to ministers the right to participate in community political affairs, see McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U. S. 618, nor requires students to choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a government benefit, see, e.g., Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm’n of Fla., 480 U. S. 136. The State has merely chosen not to fund a distinct category of instruction.

That Scalia and Thomas could somehow come to another conclusion is prima facie evidence of their unfitness for the bench, if you ask me. Scalia, in fact, in his dissenting opinion, makes the state's own case:

There are any number of ways it could respect both its unusually sensitive concern for the conscience of its taxpayers and the Federal Free Exercise Clause. It could make the scholarships redeemable only at public universities (where it sets the curriculum), or only for select courses of study.

Coulda sworn that's what they'd done, Tony. But Scalia seems to be conflating 'expression of religion' with 'training for a job that has religious aspects'. His later hypothetical of denying prescription benefits to nuns (!) would only be applicable if the nuns were attempting to acquire the drugs to use as a sacrament.

Can't let his next sentence go though:

Either option would replace a program that facially discriminates against religion with one that just happens not to subsidize it.

"Just happens not to subsidize it?" In other words, it's OK to discriminate, just so long as you're not obvious about it... I mean seriously, this guy is a Supreme Court justice? "It's not that we discriminate against the negroes, Your Honor, we just happened not to hire any for the last decade." "Oh, well, that's just fine, just fine." Scalia then cites Brown v. Board of Education a few paragraphs later, just to make the hypocrisy more transparent.

Thomas, also, misses the forest for the trees.

I write separately to note that, in my view, the study of theology does not necessarily implicate religious devotion or faith. The contested statute denies Promise Scholarships to students who pursue “a degree in theology.” See Wash. Admin. Code §250–80–020(12)(g) (2003) (defining an “ ‘eligible student,’ ” in part, as one who “[i]s not pursuing a degree in theology”); Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §28B.10.814 (West 1997) (“No aid shall be awarded to any student who is pursuing a degree in theology”). But the statute itself does not define “theology.” And the usual definition of the term “theology” is not limited to devotional studies. “Theology” is defined as “[t]he study of the nature of God and religious truth” and the “rational inquiry into religious questions.”

In other words, according to Justice Thomas, studying theology is not necessarily an expression of religion, therefore denying scholarships to theology students is discrimination against religious expression.

I'm starting to wonder how these two got their driver's licenses, much less passed the bar.
I just realized how utterly clueless the writers of the FMA were.

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.

Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

That runs headlong into the 14th Amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

So if the FMA says you can't give unmarried couples the 'legal incidents' of marriage, but the 14th Amendment says you can't deny committed, unmarried couples equal protection to married couples under the law, the ultimate result will be to get government out of the marriage business entirely. Marriage would become strictly a ceremonial affair, and governments would start granting 'legal incidents' to civil unions. It's the simplest way to resolve the apparent impasse of those two clauses.

So the ultimate result would be not to protect marriage from anything, but instead to gut it of any legal meaning.

Good job!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Andrew Sullivan wakes up.

What's been remarkable to me about the trend of the last few months (and Big Media's blindness to that trend) is how many people are essentially washing their hands of Bush. Add up the number of voters he's completely alienated already due to WMDs, the deficit, the anti-gay amendment... Bush may have already lost the election, no matter how many Osama bin Rabbits he pulls out of his hat.

PT Barnum said you can fool some of the people all the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time. The next eight months should be an object lesson on what happens when you try.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Kos is spot-on with this one... the quickest path to a Bush re-election is Big Media playing by Karl Rove's playbook.
Some interesting bobbing 'n' weaving on Scottie Mac's part this morning...

Q On the 9/11 Commission, why -- you've indicated that the President has agreed to a private meeting with the co-chairs of the commission. Why is the President unwilling to meet with the entire commission? And why, at this point, is he unwilling to provide public testimony? What's his position on this?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. One, let me get to the first part of your question. The chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission sent a letter requesting a private session with the President. The President agreed to the request. We believe that all the necessary information could be provided in that private meeting. In terms of the actual details, we are still discussing those details for that private session with the chairman and vice-chairman. That's where it stands at this point.

Q How is that going? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: It's ongoing; it's going.

Q It doesn't appear like he is willing to sit down to offer testimony to the entire commission, and I'm wondering why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President believes that all the necessary information they need can be provided in a private session.

Q Why --

Q Then why is he appearing?

Q Why -- hold on, Helen. What about -- why not a public session?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that he feels that everything can be provided in that private meeting, that's why.

Q Right, but they apparently feel differently, so --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not sure -- speaking for the entire commission, but the chairman and vice chairman requested the private meeting. And that's what we're moving forward on discussing with them right now.

Q Would it be inappropriate, in your view, in the President's view, for him to offer testimony under oath to this commission?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, the President will be pleased to talk to them in a private session. And that's where it stands right now.

Q So you're not answering the oath question?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q You're not -- does he think it's inappropriate to be under oath for something like this?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to share with them what information he knows, and he's pleased to do it.

Q So he'll do it under oath, if necessary?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if that's necessary. I think he can accomplish it all in private meeting, and provide the commission the necessary information in that format.

Q But he's -- but he's against anything being made public?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know that I said that. They will obviously have a private meeting with him and have an opportunity to discuss with the President information that is relevant to their work.

Q Can they share that testimony then?

MR. McCLELLAN: And we're working all the details. I don't know the specifics, David, of all the details that are involved in this. Obviously, we still are able -- we're still working to discuss those details with them. But, certainly, this is information that they would use in preparing their report to the American people. So I expect that they would share information.

So the gist seems to be that Bush is unwilling to testify in public before the whole commission, and unwilling to testify under oath, but is perfectly happy to sit down in private with the commission co-chairs in a meeting where the ground rules (and, presumably, what can and can't be asked) have been negotiated beforehand.

That Li'l Bushie, always going out of his way to be co-operative...
Some quick math for Ahmed Chabili and Dick Cheney:

$4 million divided by 544 deaths (as of Friday) = $7,352.94 per US casualty since the invasion

Partially as a result of Chabili's falsified intelligence, we invaded Iraq. Asa result of that needless invasion, 544 Americans have died. We are still going to pay Chabili's propaganda unit $4 million this year to deliver, presumably, more politicized, lying intel.

$7,500 per death.

Of course by the time the year is out we could be paying Chabili much less per casualty. But what's another thousand or so bodies between friends?

Never forget -- the US government created Saddam, supported Saddam and armed Saddam, to fight Iran. Point me to one shred of evidence that Chabili won't end up being exactly the same kind of "friend" Saddam was.

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss...

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