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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Students cannot be assigned to public schools because of their race, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a significant civil rights decision that casts doubt on integration efforts adopted across the country.
By a 5-4 vote on the last day of its term, the court’s conservative majority struck down voluntary programs adopted in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, to attain racial diversity in public school classrooms.
The ruling added to a string of decisions this term in which President George W. Bush’s two appointees — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — have shifted the court sharply to the right on divisive social issues like abortion.
It also fueled vows by Democratic presidential candidates to change the court’s direction and reduce racial inequality in schools.

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I used to live in a country in which a handful of men and women, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, had the courage to stand up in order to protect the interests of those for whom the promise of America was being undermined by public policy. In Brown v Board of Education the court held that public policy that separated young people on the basis of the color of their skin could no longer stand in the United States. Legal segregation based on Plessy v Ferguson, the decision that created the “separate but equal” standard, was no longer acceptable in the land of the free and the home of the brave.Effectively, the court is returning to Plessy. Reuters reports, “Roberts said in writing for the court majority that racial balancing was not permitted. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said.” Roberts’ logic is flawed. By eliminating policy designed to attain racial diversity from the mix, the court is opening to door to an implied standard of “separate but equal” found in Plessy.

This court is not about courage, justice, or equity. This court is about forcing a radical return to a period in our history that many Americans are pleased to have behind us. As the court undercuts the decisions of the past 50 years I am fearful that the America I have known will rapidly disappear and we will return to a society in which racial. religious, gender, and sexual orientation will not only be “legally” acceptable, it will become an ugly reality. We will return to segregated schools, religious persecution, back alley abortions, and homophobic discrimination. What kind of an example for the world will America be then?

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ANYONE who follows an election campaign too closely will sometimes get the feeling that politicians think voters are idiots. But voters may not be idiots just irrational thinkers. This article presents a nice breakdown of voter biases with economic lessons integrated. The American voter biases are anti-market, anti-foreign, make-work, and pessimism…

THIS IS A FANTASTIC PIECE. Click on the link below to read the whole article.

Read the Whole Article –Click Here | digg story

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Yesterday Education Week reported the results of a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that calls into question the efficacy of state educational assessments required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. In part, Education Week wrote:

Many of the states that claim to have large shares of their students
reaching proficiency in reading and mathematics under the No Child Left
Behind Act have set less stringent standards for meeting that threshold than lower-performing states, a new federal study finds.

The
study drew an immediate and strong reaction from many public officials
and education advocates, who said it laid bare states’ vastly divergent
standards for testing students.

The report judges states’ reading and math tests against a common yardstick: the proficiency standards used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.”

Released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics,
the analysis appears to back up the suspicions of those who have cast a
skeptical eye on state data showing high percentages of students
reaching the “proficient” level in reading and math.

But researchers who were asked by the Council of Chief State School Officers
to review the study’s methodology cited what they see as flaws in
comparing two dissimilar sets of exams: NAEP and those administered by
states.

Even so, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings called it “sobering news” as the nation seeks to raise
academic demands on students.

States “must do their part by
setting high standards and expectations,” she said in a statement. “I
hope this report will be a catalyst for positive change.”

The
study was issued June 7, two days after a separate report by an
education policy group showing that student scores on state tests have
risen since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, which
President Bush signed into law in January 2002. (“State Tests Show Gains Since NCLB,” June 6, 2007.)

There are many reasons that state testing shows greater gains than that of the NAEP scores, not the least is mentioned above, that the tests are dissimilar and therefore do not measure similar things. That, however, is a straw man when it comes to practical significance. Policy makers and both liberal and conservative think tanks have used comparisons of state testing and NAEP over and over to make their case that NCLB is flawed or is working just fine (it all depends on one’s political lens). What is clear, however, is that there is a discrepancy between NAEP scores, which remain flat and state tests, which show an increase in student performance since 2002, the year NCLB went into effect.

The emphasis in NCLB policy on annual performance growth has altered the face of educational practice in the United States. School children and their teachers now spend more time in preparation for testing where they learn formulas for appropriate performance on testing instruments designed by state boards of education. In some estimations, in a 180 day school year, students and teachers spend between 80 and 100 full days preparing for testing. This amounts to fully half of the school year spent in preparing for the state tests. Even of this estimate is on the high side (let’s reduce it by 1/2) the fact still remains that children are spending 25% of their academic year learning formulas for passing the test so the school’s AYP passes the muster of NCLB.

Because schools spend so much of their time engaged in test preparation, little time is left for rigorous academic inquiry. Students no longer study the arts, engage in social studies education and science instruction is somewhere on or near the back burner. What counts is reading and mathematics. But, reading about what? Math in relationship to what? Teaching reading and math (by the way it is not really mathematics that is being taught rather it is arithmetic) in isolation does nothing to provide a context for either reading or math. These subjects become tasks to do, something like doing the laundry. They get done because one must do them but one does not necessarily have to like doing them.

High-stakes testing provides a climate in which students and teachers must focus on the testing and not on instruction or learning. In a recent conversation with a focus group of high school juniors that I recorded as part of a study I am currently working on, I asked the students about their recent performance on a written take-home exam. The results of the papers that the students turned in was disappointing. The writing was formulaic, showing no creative thinking but sticking closely to conventions and structural components that are appropriate on state mandated tests. One of the students said, “I really don’t know how to write any other way. That’s all I’ve ever been taught. All my life I learned the 5 paragraph essay and now, sadly, i have to learn a whole new way to write.” Another member of the focus group wondered, “Why do you teach us this style for so long and then tell us we have to go beyond. I’m confused.” My point is simply that these students clearly can and, when given a chance, do articulate significant problems with high-stakes testing and NCLB.

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Reuters reports this afternoon that:

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday responded to the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history by passing legislation to help keep guns out of hands of the mentally ill.On a voice vote, the House sent the measure — which would be the first major gun control bill enacted since 1994 and bolster background checks for gun buyers — to the Democratic-led Senate for needed concurrence.

The bill was drafted in consultation with the 4 million-member National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun-rights group, after a deranged gunman killed himself and 32 others in April at Virginia Tech university.

“I think the chances are very strong that we can get this passed in the Senate,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, provided the legislation is not laden with amendments that gun rights backers find objectionable.

It is a start. Interestingly the NRA apparently participated in the drafting of this bill–has the leadership of the NRA finally come to their senses. Gun control does not mean depriving Americans of the right to own weapons. It does not mean that Americans cannot hunt or participate in the infantile sport of shooting at paper targets. Gun control doesn’t even mean that one is deprived of the right to join the militia. As I have blogged many times before, making it more difficult to place weapons in the hands of those that are likely to to harm to themselves and others reduces the probability that another Virginia Tech is imminent. Hooray for the courage of the House. Now will the Senate follow suit? Will the lame duck sign legislation that limits placing guns in the hands of the mentally incompetent? All I know is that it is a beginning. I for one will be watching for the outcome.

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Education Week reported on June 8th:

House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

“This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.

Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”

This should come as no surprise given the recent questions about how the DoED administered the Reading First program. Surrounded by questions of improper ethics and outright fraud when it came to forcing DIBLES on school districts large and small, draining much needed funds away from the classroom, the bipartisan support of this spending cut makes a great deal of sense.

The DoED, like other embattled Bush administration departments, is keeping a stiff upper lip claiming no ethical violations and that the Democrats are undermining the ability of the urban poor to learn. What they forget is that this legislation will most likely leave the committee with full bipartisan support. Republicans as well as Democrats have simply had enough of this scandal ridden White House. Of course, it is easy to take a stand when those directly effected by that stand are not voters.

Where is this kind of bipartisanship when it comes to the blatantly political Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales? But that is for another post…

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FactCheck.org summarized the latest Republican hopefuls debate writing

Pollsters will inform
us whether the third time was the charm for any of these candidates in
the eyes of potential voters. All we can do is remind you not to
believe everything you hear.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney committed the biggest factual fouls of the night, misleadingly asserting:


  • That we went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to allow weapons inspectors to come in
  • That
    there’s an ocean of difference between his Massachusetts health plan
    and those “government takeover” plans of “every Democrat” running for
    president and
  • That Russia’s income from oil exports is vastly larger than it actually is.

Other candidates committed factual trespass, too. Sen.
John McCain of Arizona ignored the waste disposal issue when he praised
nuclear power for being green, for instance, and Kansas Sen. Sam
Brownback exaggerated the number of illegal immigrants living in the
United States.

So things are getting better. Mitt Romney needs to do more research before he opens his mouth as he works to spin his future as President of the United States–I mean, we deserve better from presidential candidates than misleading statements and exaggeration of facts that are easily checked. While the others misspoke a bit there was nothing there that cannot be attributed to bombast and zeal.

I keep making the point that the American people deserve more from those that would seek positions of extreme leadership. Both the Democratic and Republican candidates seem to think that telling any old kind of story is appropriate because the folks that will be voting for them will not care enough to dig beyond the spin. We are all at fault because we have let politicians get away with campaigning on spin rather than on ideas and truth. The press fails to call political candidates on their gross errors. The politicians feel the need to out-perform one another as if running for president was nothing more than a long running series like American Idol.

One way to eliminate the problem might be to shorten the campaign season. Two years of running for president is far too long and far too costly to produce anything more than mediocrity in the long term.

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clipped from www.factcheck.org
Amid barbs on Iraq, there were exaggerations on energy, insurance and other issues in the second debate of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Among those we found:
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware wrongly cast Iran as a nation running out of oil.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina talked about gas price manipulation by Big Oil where investigators have found none.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd used old figures that are almost 2 million too high when stating the number of uninsured.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton lumped all the Republican Presidential candidates together when it came to their support for the war. That’s not quite right.

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FactCheck.org found no whoppers but the Democrats were not without their own version of spin. The entire article can be read by clicking on the clipped from www,factcheck.org above.While I support one of the Democrats, it is important that they be called on their own spin.

Sometimes spin arises from confusion.

FairCheck, pointing to confusion by Senator Obama, said:Did Sen. Barack Obama confuse people and cars when discussing auto insurance in California?

Obama: And, in fact, if you look at auto insurance, in California, there’s mandatory auto insurance – 25 percent of the folks don’t have it. The reason is because they can’t afford it.

The Insurance Research Council, a research firm funded by insurance companies, does indeed place the number of uninsured drivers at 25 percent. However, according to a study commissioned by the California Department of Insurance, between 25.5 and 30.9 percent of vehicles in that state don’t have insurance. The department estimates that approximately 10 percent of vehicle owners own at least one uninsured vehicle, and of those, only about 42 percent have no insured vehicles. That translates into approximately 4 percent of drivers who do not have auto insurance. Obama is correct to say that of the pure uninsured, most cite cost as their reason for not carrying auto insurance.

The simple truth is that spin and slogans ru(i)n American politics. The political process is reduced to sloganism, to a Madison Avenue mentality. It is the sincere hope of the politician that his or her message of hope through blame will convince enough voters to assure their ascension to the seat of power.

Are we that stupid? Can we not be trusted with the truth absent of all spin? Can we not make decisions based on the merit of one;s argument rather than the cleverness of one’s rhetoric? Do our leaders and potential leaders, in their lust for political power and their sanctimonious desire to define what is right for everyone, not owe us more respect? I think they do. Stop the hype and tell the truth for a change. You may like the way it fits.

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clipped from www.boston.com
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is writing a new plan to maintain governmental control in the wake of an apocalyptic terrorist attack or overwhelming natural disaster, moving such doomsday planning for the first time from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to officials inside the White House.
The policy replaces a Clinton-era “continuity in government” post-disaster plan. The old plan is classified;
the new policy centralizes control of such planning in the White House and puts a greater emphasis on terrorism spurring the catastrophe.
The policy requires all government agencies to have clear lines of succession if top officials are killed and be prepared to operate from a new headquarters within 12 hours of a catastrophe. They must be prepared “to lead and sustain the nation during a crisis” — a charge ranging from “providing leadership visible to the nation and the world” to “bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes or attacks.”

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Kind of makes one wonder. In the face of a massive, apocalyptic disaster, why it is so important to put a face on national unity? If the disaster is so great that new a HQ must be formed within 12 hours–apparently somewhere away from the White House–then I wonder who might be left to really care about the face of America in the world or “bringing to justice” any perpetrators of attacks.

Boston.com further said:The new policy focuses on a worst-case scenario in which a terrorist nuclear bomb explodes without warning and wipes out much of the nation’s top leadership. Older plans were instead premised on a Cold War-era long-range missile attack, presuming it would be detected in enough time to evacuate the president and other top government officials.

I suppose those in power need to feel like they are doing something but this sounds like something scripted out of a Hollywood disaster film. What is it they say–Life imitates art?

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FactCheck.org does it again. In their analysis of the Fair Tax proposal they pay close attention to the numbers and the spin placed on those numbers by Huckabee, Tancredo and Hunter. Some of what they have to say is reprinted below:

Americans for Fair Taxation offers the following plain-language interpretation of H.R. 25:

Americans for Fair Taxation: A 23-percent (of the tax-inclusive sales price) sales tax is imposed on all retail sales for personal consumption of new goods and services.

It is the parenthetical that is important, for it hides the real truth of the tax rate.

First consider the way in which sales tax is normally figured. A consumer good that carries a $100 price tag might be subject to a 5 percent sales tax. That means that the final bill for the item is $105. The 5 percent figure is the amount of tax that is charged on the original purchase price. But now suppose that instead of pricing the item at $100, the shop owner simply priced the item at $105, then sent $5 directly to the state. The $105 price would be a tax-inclusive sales price. But $5 is just 4.8 percent of $105. That 4.8 percent number, however, is relatively meaningless. You are still paying exactly the same 5 percent tax on the item.

The 23 percent number in H.R. 25 is the equivalent of the 4.8 percent in the previous example. To calculate the real rate of the sales tax, we have to determine the original purchase price of an item. We can begin with the same $100 item, keeping in mind that a price tag that reads $100 has sales tax already built in. If our tax rate is 23 percent of the tax-inclusive sales price, then of the $100 final price, $23 of those dollars will be for taxes, meaning that the original pre-tax price of the item is $77. To get $23 in taxes on a $77 item, one must impose a 30 percent tax. In other words, a 23 percent sales tax on the tax-inclusive sales price is equivalent to a 30 percent tax on the actual price of the item.

FairTax proponents object to the 30 percent number, claiming that critics use the larger number to frighten people. Americans for Fair Taxation claims that it uses the tax-inclusive number to make it easier to compare the FairTax to the income tax that it will replace (since most of us think of income tax rates on an inclusive basis). But we are not accustomed to thinking of sales taxes inclusively. The result is that many FairTax supporters (about 15 percent of those who wrote to us, for example) do not understand that the 23 percent figure is tax inclusive.

Our analysis of the FairTax used a figure of 34 percent as the basic exclusive tax rate. One e-mailer complained that our number was at least 10 percentage points “higher than [the FairTax] is” because we calculated it as an addition to retail prices. But our 34 percent number is not 10 percentage points higher than the legislation. A 34 percent exclusive number is equivalent to a 25 percent tax inclusive rate – only 2 percentage points higher than the FairTax bill. We think that, intentional or not, the use of the tax-inclusive 23 percent rate has misled a lot of FairTax proponents.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
In our recent article on the second GOP debate, we called out Gov. Mike Huckabee as well as Reps. Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter for their support of the FairTax. We wrote that the bipartisan Advisory Panel on Tax Reform had “calculated that a sales tax would have to be set at 34 percent of retail sales prices to bring in the same revenue as the taxes it would replace, meaning that an automobile with a retail price of $10,000 would cost $13,400 including the new sales tax.” A number of readers pointed out that H.R. 25, the specific bill mentioned by Gov. Huckabee, calls for a 23 percent retail sales tax and not the 34 percent used by the Advisory Panel on Tax Reform. That 23 percent number, however, is misleading and based on some extremely optimistic assumptions. We found that while there are several good economic arguments for the FairTax, unless you earn more than $200,000 per year, fairness is not one of them.

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Not that the Democrats are any better, but FactCheck.org happened to address claims made by the Republican hopefuls during their last debate. I think Lincoln got it right when he remarked that “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Perhaps we should start holding those that seek political office to a higher standard. Tell the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t cherry pick your facts. Don’t spin. All you do when you do these things is create cynicism, distrust and eventually anger.

clipped from www.factcheck.org
Claims, facts and figures flew at the second GOP presidential debate of 2008. Not all were true. For example:
Mitt Romney claimed he didn’t raise taxes when he was governor of Massachusetts, failing to note that he increased government fees by hundreds of millions of dollars and shifted some of the state tax burden to the local level.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado claimed scientific reports on whether humans are responsible for global warming are split 50-50, which isn’t close to being true.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee praised a “fair tax” but failed to note that it would ease the burden on the richest Americans while imposing a stiff retail sales tax of perhaps 34 percent.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani used more statistical dexterity to manipulate statistics, claiming adoptions increased 133 percent when he was mayor. Actually, they peaked and started a continuing decline.

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The Supremes led by Justice Alito writing for the majority found in favor of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company on a narrow interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 disallowing years of gender discrimination in which the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company underpaid one Lilly Ledbetter on average around $6000 per year less than her male counterparts doing the same work.The fascist majority on the court (fascism being defined as the seamless merging of government and corporate interests) ignore the human consequences of their actions as they support the corporate ethics that seem to say screw the workers just line my pockets with silver and gold.

The Supremes had an opportunity to do the right thing, to send the right message to corporate greed mongers that they let slip right through their fingers.

Even more egregious was the joining of this decision by Justice Thomas, the least ethical of the fascist majority and one who allegedly engaged in sexual harassment himself, as he flip flopped on his own decision to support the employee position when the discrimination lasted for periods of months or years as it did in this case. I guess Mr. Justice Thomas finally found a place where harassment and abuse have found a home. Bully for you Mr. Justice. Or should I say Mr. Injustice?

This decision, while not unexpected given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, is ugly. By supporting greed over people, narrow interpretation over ethical concerns, I fear for the future of this nation.

Just as an aside, and I am only speculating on this one, but it is highly possible that Ms. Ledbetter, a southerner, has been voting Republican (if she votes at all) and, by doing so, simply dug her own grave in this case. Wouldn’t that be ironic. Since 1980 the electorate has made it a practice to vote against its own economic interests–another proof for the fact that there is no intelligent design in the universe or, perhaps just no intelligence.

So now we can live with the consequences of the influence of the far right wing, the perfect marriage of government and corporate interests, for some time to come.

clipped from news.findlaw.com
(AP) – WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday limited workers’ ability to sue employers for pay discrimination that results from decisions made years earlier.
The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that employers would otherwise find it difficult to defend against claims “arising from employment decisions that are long past.”
The case concerned how to apply a 180-day deadline for complaining about discriminatory pay decisions under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming that after 19 years at a company plant, she was making $6,000 (�‚�4,440) a year less than the lowest-paid man doing the same work.
Ledbetter claimed the disparity existed for years and was primarily a result of her gender. A jury agreed, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because she had waited too long to begin her lawsuit.
The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s four liberal justices dissenting.

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Clipped from Atlantic Online, this story references Alberto Gonzales’ sinister involvement in the March 2004 warrantless eavesdropping program even after the program was declared unlawful by then AG John Ashcroft, himself no constitutional bargain.The whole article is worth the time to read as it outlines the hubris of the Bush administration as they flaunt the law and the constitution for their own gain.

The bonus is that this administration has a mere 606 days left to spread its brand of authority. Of course, what I fear most, given the recent saber rattling at Iran, including sending a large Navy task force to the Persian Gulf to intimidate the Iranians into giving up their nuclear program. As Bush readies for one more military incursion in the Middle East we must ask how much more war can we take before we lose all that makes America the envy of the world? We are rapidly sliding down the path to isolation from the rest of the world, and to what purpose? The mythical enemy is not Osama Bin Laden, although I have no doubts that he is a really bad guy, rather, the enemy, as Pogo (the comic strip character central to the old Walt Kelly daily strip) once remarked “is us!”

clipped from www.theatlantic.com

E very day that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is allowed to remain in office is corrosive to constitutional governance and an invitation to further politicization of the Justice Department.

That is the main lesson of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s astonishing revelations on May 15 about Gonzales’s sinister involvement in a March 2004 effort to continue a then-secret warrantless eavesdropping program after it had been declared unlawful by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his subordinates.
Meanwhile, the May 14 resignation of Paul McNulty, Comey’s successor as deputy attorney general, further depleted the ranks of principled professionals in the demoralized department, which Gonzales has been filling with inexperienced political hacks. In the words of Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, as long as Gonzales is in charge, “it’s embarrassing for a professional to work for the Department of Justice.”

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Originally posted by Eric Kleefeld | bio at TPC’s Election Central I thought it deserved re-presentation on my blog. Hope I don’t offend you Eric.

Wow, what a guy! Mitt Romney is going up on the air tomorrow in Iowa and New Hampshire with a new attack ad. The target? The state of Massachusetts, whose citizens extended him the honor of choosing him to to be their Governor for one term. “In the most liberal state in the country,” a sinister-sounding narrator intones over the obligatory backdrop over the obligatory backdrop of photos of John Kerry and Mike Dukakis, “one Republican stood up, and cut spending instead of raising taxes. He enforced immigration laws, stood up for traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life.

Just as an additional thought: Aside from being far brighter than George II, Romney (or any other Republican for that matter) will merely be a continuation of the failed politics of the radical right and we don’t need that anymore.

read more | digg story

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Wolfowitz resigns, can Gonzales be far behind? While the White House continues to stand solidly behind Bush’s friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the storm swells that surround the AG continue to deepen.Since the White House position of backing Gonzales in the face of the fully developed scandal surrounding the procedures that led to the firing of eight federal prosecutors is politically untenable, the White House resorts to ad homenim attacks on Senator Charles Schumer (D. NY),

White House spokesperson, Tony Fratto said:

I think the attorney general is not affected by it. I think the media seems to be focused on it, which I think for some of the members who are instigating these kinds of questions, like Senator Schumer, (this) is exactly what they want,

Ad homenim attacks generally are used when there is little of substance one can argue. Substance is replaced by an all out attack on an individual or individuals rather than argue from specifics; in this case, focusing attention on Schumer and the media (whatever that might be). Tony Fratto, speaking for the president, demonstrates the desperation of the White House as it struggles to regain whatever confidence it has lost.

Desperate measures signify desperate times. What bothers me the most is that the nation is left to drift in roiling seas while Bush and his administration must pay far too much attention to self-protection and survival.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee predicted on Sunday Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might step down in the face of a substantial Senate “no-confidence” vote on his performance.
The White House said it was unclear whether there would be such a vote and criticized those Democrats pushing for it, singling out New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer in particular.
“As for no-confidence votes, maybe senators need a refresher course on American civics,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. “What I mean is I think you find no-confidence votes in parliamentary systems, not the American system of government.”
Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether many Republicans would join the majority Democrats in voting against Gonzales possibly as early as this week, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said, “I think so.”
“You already have six Republicans calling for his resignation,” he said.

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I thought I would blog about the oxymoron of intelligent design for a while. What better place to start than with the remarks of President Bush on the subject. While Bush made these remarks in August of 2005, I am certain his position has not changed one iota–mostly because he has demonstrated a stubborn streak many times over when it comes to changing his mind.Mr. Bush argues that one must teach both sides of the controversy between evolution and intelligent design. So what could be wrong with that?

First, there is no controversy. Declaring something a controversy does not make it so. Simply declaring that a controversy exists (over fill in the blank) creates a straw man that allows the proponents of intelligent design to have talking points rather than to address the issues advanced by the FACT of evolution. The straw man argument is one of the deadly fallacies in logical argumentation.

Teaching the controversy is a favorite of Michael Behe who claims that evolution must not be taught unless one also teaches the controversy that surrounds it. There are two points I wish to make regarding this claim:

1. Regarding the fundamental tenets of evolution, the facts of common descent and natural selection there is NO SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY. To argue otherwise is an attempt to teach either pseudoscience in classrooms or to introduce a particular religious interpretation of creation into the classroom. Since it appears that the attempt to teach the controversy is based on not teaching bad science, the same standards that the ID proponents wish to apply to evolution should also be applied to ID. If that is the case then ID fails the test.

2. While there are controversies over details of how evolution proceeds, there is NO SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSY over the foundational positions taken by evolutionary science. The controversies that do exist are not appropriate for beginning level science but, rather, are appropriate for debate among advanced students in biology or related subjects. The only controversy that exists regarding evolution is in the precise details of how relative contributions of sympatric versus allopatric speciation. The scientific controversy is not between differing creation myths versus observable science which is what the ID proponents would have us believe.

Once again the president fails to articulate a clear understanding of a fundamental issue relying, instead, on the Michael Behe straw man. the manufactured controversy, to make his case.

clipped from www.washingtonpost.com
President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about “intelligent design,” a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.
“Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about,” he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: “Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”
These comments drew sharp criticism yesterday from opponents of the theory, who said there is no scientific evidence to support it and no educational basis for teaching it.

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Okay, so I support Barak Obama. That being said, my bias out in the open, I believe he is the only viable candidate that makes sense on ending the Iraq War. With a White House out of control, refusing compromise with the loyal opposition on matters of the war, and with the death toll of American soldiers ever rising, a voice of reason is needed. Obama’s tack is to garner enough votes to override any presidential veto since compromise on a bill is not likely.The power shift in Congress came as a result of the American voter’s disenchantment with the war. The time has come to put an end to this mismanaged fiasco. But this White House looks and acts more and more like the Nixon White House in its efforts to “end” the war by waging even more war. Enough is enough. Support Obama’s “16 vote” campaign and help us get out of Iraq.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The volunteers were wearing Barack Obama buttons and handing out literature about the Democratic candidate for president, but the explicit message the canvassers were peddling Saturday as they went door-to-door here was about ending the war in Iraq.
First, they asked that voters sign a petition to end the war, specifically calling on their U.S. senators to part ways with the president and move for the withdrawal of troops.
Only after that did they hand out fliers promoting Obama, whom some volunteers went on to describe as the strongest anti-war candidate in the Democratic field—a mantle the other candidates aren’t ready to concede.
Obama has taken his war opposition to a new level in recent days, launching what some are calling his “16 votes” campaign urging that number of senators to vote to override President Bush’s recent veto of a bill to re-deploy troops.
Obama’s anti-war message fused so much with his presidential campaign that it was hard to differentiate

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Idaho and guns seem not to mix well. I don’t think my next vacation will be planned for Idaho. Need I say more?

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – At least four people were shot by a sniper in the town of Moscow, Idaho, CNN and local media reported on Sunday.
Moscow police confirmed there had been a shooting but declined to give any details on the phone.
CNN said two officers and two civilians were shot at around 1 a.m. PDT (0800 GMT) but their condition was not known.
At least 75 shots were fired and up to seven blocks were cordoned off, it added.
Local radio station KXLY said the shots, believed to be from a high-powered rifle, were shot from a Presbyterian church and targeted the town’s courthouse. It said on its Web site no more shots had been heard since 1 a.m.

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No wonder Bush stands so steadfastly behind his AG. The guy just can’t say no to his boss.

Paul Rothstein, a professor at Georgetown Law School said:This intertwining of the political with the running of the Justice Department has gone on in other administrations, both Republican and Democrat. But I think it’s being carried to a fine art by this president. They leave no stone unturned to politicize where they think the law will permit it. And they push the line very far.

The Bush administration, under the political influence of Karl Rove (the man who understands ethical behavior much in the same way that Chuck Colson, special counsel to Richard Nixon during the Watergate years, did; If you must run over your grandmother to get what you want, then go ahead and leave her for dead) will stoop to any depths to get what it wants. Having an old friend, one that is likely not to challenge the legality of anything you intend to do is, it seems to me, important, even necessary, in order to accomplish your goals.
The hubris of this White House is stunning. There has never been, and with any degree of luck, there will never be again, a president as arrogant and as stupid as this one is. Arrogance and ignorance is a potent mixture for evil.

The Yahoo.com article said:Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, too, had obvious close ties to President John F. Kennedy, his brother. But critics say Gonzales’ relationship with Bush rivals that between former Attorney General John Mitchell and his former law partner, President Nixon.

Mitchell left the Justice Department in 1972 to run Nixon’s re-election campaign. He served 19 months in prison after conviction on conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice charges for his role in the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters.

Reacting to Watergate abuses, Carter administration Attorney General Griffin Bell instituted reforms to help maintain the department’s independence. Among the changes: a ban on lawmakers and the White House directly contacting prosecutors about specific investigations.

That ban was violated last year when New Mexico GOP Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record) and Rep. Heather Wilson (news, bio, voting record) called former U.S. attorney David Iglesias in Albuquerque to ask about the status of public corruption cases. Iglesias later said they wanted to know whether he was going to indict Democrats before the looming election. The incident is cited by Democrats who argue the U.S. attorney firings were politically motivated.

No one has accused Gonzales, personally, of breaking the law to put Bush’s stamp on the Justice Department. The attorney general maintains he is working to not only fix mistakes that his aides made in hiring and firing prosecutors, but also to secure the public’s confidence in the beleaguered department.

Whether he can salvage his own reputation remains to be seen.

Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor who worked at the Justice Department under several Democratic presidents, said the White House is using the law “almost exclusively as a form of protection and a form of armor, if you can get the Justice Department to say it’s fine.”

“I think they wanted a loyal attorney general, not somebody who would say ‘no’ when they very badly wanted them to say ‘yes,'” Heymann said. “And now they’ve got that.”

clipped from news.yahoo.com
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says his long friendship with
President Bush
makes it easier to say “no” to him on sticky legal issues. His critics, however, say Gonzales is far more likely to say “yes” — leaving the Justice Department vulnerable to a politically determined White House.
Probably not since Watergate has an attorney general been so closely bound to the White House’s bidding. In pushing counterterror programs that courts found unconstitutional and in stacking the ranks of federal prosecutors with Republican loyalists, Gonzales has put Bush’s stamp on an institution that is supposed to operate largely free of the White House and beyond the reach of politics.
Gonzales, facing a no-confidence vote in the Senate, is resisting lawmakers’ demands to resign and says he will remain as attorney general until he no longer has the president’s support. The White House is steadfastly backing its man.

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