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What you shouldn’t miss from today’s progressive blogosphere. We read the top political blogs and give you our choice of the day’s best entries.

Darling, Schiavo And DeLay

By Jerome Armstrong, MyDD

April 07, 2005

From MyDD

Brian Darling, Republican Senator Martinez, and the Schiavo memo
by Jerome Armstrong

Howie, what's that? Speak up doubter.

Michelle Malkin can quit worrying about why wingnuts that dream up non-factual stories are ignored (well, we wish they were). As for "the boys at Powerline" (hey, that's what the winger gals call them), they really blew their brand new toaster on this one. You'll recall, Bowers wrote "Wrath of the Memo" last month. It's about a dreamed-up article by Hindrocker of Powerline that the "infamous" memo about Schiavo was actually a Democratic plant, and Fox News/Limbaugh and Howard Kurtz all jumped on the bandwagon, dreaming of a Rather-like scalp. Hindrocker at least got the ending right: "This is a case where the truth, as the old saying goes, is still lacing up its shoes."

Now comes the fact that the memo did in fact originate in Florida's Republican Senator Martinez's office. The WaPost says that Martinez is trying to find the staffer that wrote the memo.

The talking points first appeared in conjunction with a March 8th PR by Martinez. Second, Martinez has used the talking points himself, as has co-sponsor in the House, Dave Weldon, as has DeLay. It makes sense for Martinez to have talking points on hand that he could pass around to convince other Senators to sign on to the bill or for them to use to justify their support. When you sponsor a bill, you produce collateral materials, charts, graphs, presentations, talking points. It happens every day on the Hill.

Martinez handed out the talking points himself. Martinez handed a copy of the talking points to Senator Tom Harkin. Now, Martinez can go and find the dumb staffer that printed them up, but the buck stops here with Martinez.

Update: Brian Darling (The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group (this is the DeLay link) on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said. And Powerline? Hindrocker (shovel in hand and digging) is trying to pan it off on this staffer (who is hardly the small fry Hindrocker portrays him as). What, does he not realize that Martinez himself handed the memo out of his own pocket?

Martinez flat out lied to reporters (A survey by The Washington Times found that every Republican said the memo was not crafted or distributed by him or her.) last month. The staff of Martinez was lying about it yesterday, saying "we know we didn't produce it."

Update: (Chris) They wanted to make a big deal of this, so let's play along. Go to Yahoo and rate this story up. Surely the delicious irony alone is worth it.

Update: Now that Brian Darling of the Alexander Strategy Group has been penned as the author, it connects the dots to why Tom DeLay also used the talking points. The Alexander Strategy Group is a firm created by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham (and yet another place from where DeLay's wife has cashed checks). Tom DeLay used the talking points at least on three occasions:

TP #3: This is an important moral issue...

DeLay on 3/18: House Republicans knew we had a moral obligation to act, and we did just that.
DeLay on 3/20: The legal issues, I grant everyone, are complicated, but the moral ones are not.

TP #8: This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.

DeLay on 3/18: Well, what we're doing in the bill that passed the Hours and a bill that passed the Senate is exactly what we're we would do for death row inmates.

A copy of the Republican memo is in the extended entry.

United And Weak?

Nicole-Anne Boyer

April 06, 2005

From WoldChanging:

US Party politics: In search of big ideas

A friend of mine, a political science professor, forwarded an interesting editorial by the NYT's David Brooks, A House Divided, and Strong, as a follow up to our conversations about my earlier post on Investing in Intellectual Infrastructure.

As we've already established here, the thing is not to emulate the conservative pyramid structure, but to learn from it. Yet many, it appears, have learned the wrong things. To be fair, the metaphor of pyramid is a bit misleading. It's not a lock-step monolithic structure designed with the single-minded purpose of servicing the White House's messaging needs. Rather it's more organic and messy than that, with the bottom layers being relatively self-directed and independent -- and often feuding as Brooks points out. The success factor has not been in their cosy consensus, but in the vibrancy of their debates which have been going on for years: "...neocons arguing with theocons, the old right with the new right, internationalists versus isolationists, supply siders versus fiscal conservatives. The major conservative magazines - The Weekly Standard, National Review, Reason, The American Conservative, The National Interest, Commentary - agree on almost nothing."

The process is thus more like a group of similar species competing and cooperating for keystone dominance in a particular territory. Turns out this is a fruitful environment to develop, gestate and hone big and compelling ideas that stick. It doesn't matter that they are inconsistent at this lower level; that's the job of political operators like Rove to filter, select and frame as these varying ideas and agendas present themselves.

Being out of government for a long time also had an important galvanizing and freeing impact on the big idea creation process for the conservatives. It forced them to return to their intellectual forebears for direction and reexamine core assumptions about their public philosophy. As Brooks argues:

That turned out to be important: nobody joins a movement because of admiration for its entitlement reform plan. People join up because they think that movement's views about human nature and society are true.

Liberals have not had a comparable public philosophy debate. A year ago I
called the head of a prominent liberal think tank to ask him who his
favorite philosopher was. If I'd asked about health care, he could have
given me four hours of brilliant conversation, but on this subject he
stumbled and said he'd call me back. He never did.

Liberals are less conscious of public philosophy because modern liberalism
was formed in government, not away from it. In addition, liberal theorists
are more influenced by post-modernism, multiculturalism, relativism, value
pluralism and all the other influences that dissuade one from relying
heavily on dead white guys. As a result, liberals are good at talking about rights, but not as good at talking about a universal order.

If I were a liberal, which I used to be, I wouldn't want message
discipline. I'd take this opportunity to have a big debate about the
things Thomas Paine, Herbert Croly, Isaiah Berlin, R. H. Tawney and John
Dewey were writing about. I'd argue about human nature and the American
character. In disunity there is strength.

My friend believes that the Democrats need to spend more time in the wilderness to develop these big ideas. In the meantime, what I want to know is what other thinkers would you include in that list?

So You Support Usury, Senator?

David Sirota

April 05, 2005

From SirotaBlog:

The Loan Shark Prevention Act

As the House gets ready to debate the disgusting credit-card/banking-industry-backed bankrutpcy bill, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introducing "The Loan Shark Prevention Act" - a legislative package designed to prevent the worst abuses by credit card companies and commerical banks. The bill has three very simple provisions:

1. Cap interest rates at 8% above what the IRS charges income tax deadbeats. Currently, the cap would be 14%, the same level that the Senate approved by a 74-19 vote in an amendment offered by Sen. Al D’Amato in 1991.

2. Cap bank and credit card fees at $15, instead of the astronomical late fees that are now regularly assessed.

3. Ban the credit card interest rate bait and switch. Credit card companies are doubling or tripling the interest rates of consumers even though they always paid their credit card bills on-time. The reason? Maybe they were one day late on a student loan payment three years ago. Maybe they took out another loan for a medical emergency. Or maybe they did nothing wrong at all. Today, credit card companies can raise rates for any time for any reason. This bill would restrict that.

Sanders makes a good point: "Loan-sharking is an odious practice whether it is performed by street corner thugs or the CEOs of large banks. Charging economically vulnerable Americans outrageous interest rates and fees is simply not acceptable and, amid all of the recent political discussion over 'values,' this certainly does not constitute 'moral' behavior."

Here's the deal with this bill - people who oppose this legislation literally support usury. And that's fine - but they should have the guts to admit that, rather than pretend that their vote in support of the upcoming bankruptcy bill is about anything other than paying back an industry that regularly engages in consumer abuse.

The Pope's Intellectual Challenge

Max Sawicky

April 04, 2005

From MaxSpeak:


Whatever you think of his views, Karol Wojtyla was a remarkable person. The best show of respect for the Pope is to consider his intellectual output, which means taking it seriously, without patronization, criticizing vigorously where appropriate. I hope to do a bit of that this week.

Like scripture, there is something for almost everyone in the Pope's statements. Nobody except prix fixe Catholics -- as opposed to the cafeteria variety -- can really take ownership, though that is something ordinarily attempted with any renowned personage. Progressives could note his criticism of unregulated capitalism. Cultural conservatives point to his unreconstructed opposition to abortion and anything resembling euthanasia. Catholic traditionalists welcomed his opposition to the ordination of women and other possible modernist reforms within the Church. And democratic anti-communists of all stripes hail his role in liberating Poland and bringing down the Soviet Union.

On that last point, I'd like to note that the Pope himself did not credit outside pressure with the collapse of Communism. He insisted its internal, inherent weaknesses were its undoing. Perhaps he was being modest. I don't think you can discount his policital impact. I never bought the fables about Reagan and U.S. defense spending "bankrupting" the USSR. My own view, actually informed by some academic background, is that the communist systems functioned on a certain level, but failed in comparative terms to provide the mass consumption achieved in the West.

The viewpoint least congenial to the Pope's views happens to be the faux-libertarian/jingoist mindset prominent in Blogistan (the right-wing hemisphere of the blogosphere). After all, by their standards the Pope was quite the "idiotarian." He was wrong on their favorite issue -- the War on Terror. Not only did he oppose the Iraqi invasion, he also opposed the first Gulf War and the Clinton Administration's Serbian venture. Morever, this opposition was not founded on some Democratic 'realist' interpretation of the national interest, but of a more-or-less pacifist framework. Violence, bad.

Of course, insofar as the faux-libertarian view extends towards abortion, stem cell research, the Schiavo case, etc., the Pope was at odds there as well.

Why talk about the Encyclicals? Unlike some on the left, I've never bought the narrow, dismissive view of religion as some unbelievable fairy tale. Religious doctrine is philosophy, it's politics, it's literature, it's about the Meaning of Life. It's not about some bearded dude in the sky that can't exist because you've never seen him.

Of special interest in the case of the Catholic Church is the Social Gospel. How much does it matter? We hear a lot about the Church's involvement in abortion politics, and much less about its dedication to social welfare. John Paul II came down hard on "liberation theology" in Latin America, but this could have created space for the Church to press for liberal reform.

Even without the Social Gospel, the Church would be relevant. What business does a secularist or other person have to delve into Christian theology? To paraphrase an old saying, you may not be interested in Christianity, but Christianity is interested in you.

We look for insight from our favorite Catholic bloggers, or if they prefer, bloggers who happen to be Catholic -- Body and Soul and Rittenhouse Review -- who are co-religionists in other respects. We're also checking out Professor Bainbridge for a serious, traditionalist point of view.

Most inane comment so far was Glenn Reynolds (shocking, I know) -- "Ordinary Poles 2, German intellectuals 0." Intellectuals. The swine. It happens that the Pope was an intellectual -- a professor of philosophy -- and Reynolds is a professor. One of these days I need to cook up a post to explain how in modern jingoist discourse, "intellectual" and "cultural elite" refer to the Jews. But that has nothing to do with Karol Wojtyla.

The $2 Million Dollar Flip-Flop

March 31, 2005

From TalkingPointsMemo:

Several days ago, we linked to a post on the Center for American Progress blog that raised an important question for the 18 senators that voted for a 1991 amendment offered by former Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) to limit the interest rate credit companies can charge to 14 percent only to vote against an amendment offered by Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) to the current bankruptcy bill that would have limited that rate to 30 percent.

Thinkprogress asked:

Why would 18 Senators, including co-sponsors of the original measure, vote for a tougher pro-consumer measure in 1991, and then vote against a weaker measure in 2005? Could it be that the more than $2 million these Senators took from the credit card/banking industry in the interim made them change their mind?

We offer the following list of those senators in case our readers wish to get an answer for themselves:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
1991-1996 contributions from commercial banks: $88,900
1997-2002 contributions from commercial banks: $170,777

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
1991-1996 contributions from commercial banks: $73,575
1997-2002 contributions from commercial banks: $33,675

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MO)
1991-1996 Commercial Banks: $24,750
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $40,100

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)

Spoke in favor of D'Amato Amendment during floor debate
1991-1996 Commercial Banks: $89,120
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $66,290

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $123,300

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $183,102

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS)
1991-1996 Commercial Banks: $70,575
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $80,800

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $235,228

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
1991-1996 Commercial Banks: $84,800
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $55,800

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)
1991-1996 Commercial Banks: $246,533
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $215,600

Sen. Arlen Specter(R-PA)
Co-sponsored the 1991 D'Amato amendment
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $105,225

Sen. John Warner (R-VA)
1997-2002 Commercial Banks: $43,800

Other Senators who voted for the D'Amato amendment, but against the Dayton bill (data on contributions from commercial banks unavailable):

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Co-sponsored the 1991 D'Amato amendment

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)

Sen. Herb Kohl(D-WI)

Sen. Pat Leahy(D-VT)

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)

-- Michael Negron

Time To Pressure Chafee

Steve Clemons

March 31, 2005

From The Washington Note:

10-8 Bolton So Far: Lots of Progress Made and a Week Yet to Go

Paul Richter reports that Bolton's nomination will be far more contentious than originally expected and that the Democrats, for the first time, will most likely unanimously oppose a Bush administration diplomatic choice.

Richter reports:

Democrats are likely to vote unanimously against John Bolton when his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week, according to Democratic and Republican lawmakers and aides.

It would mark the first time committee Democrats unanimously opposed a Bush diplomatic nominee and would put the nomination in peril if Republicans defected to vote against him.

But Republicans say they believe the outspoken conservative will win solid GOP backing in the committee, including from moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who has voiced reservations about Bolton's nomination to be UN ambassador.

The split on the panel is one of several signs that the proceedings, set for April 7, will be acrimonious. Advocates have organized letter-writing and ad campaigns for and against Bolton.

For example, former Sen. James Sasser and two other retired American diplomats added their names to an anti-Bolton letter distributed Tuesday to Foreign Relations Committee members. Sasser is a Democrat who was former President Bill Clinton's ambassador to China.

The two other former diplomats who signed the letter, raising the total to 62, were Patricia Byrne, deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN under former President Ronald Reagan, and John Hirsch, ambassador to Sierra Leone in the Clinton administration.

The good news is that the Dems, including Feingold who still is not rock solid against Bolton, are united, and this was not the case three weeks ago.

The other good news is that the stakes are rising for Chafee. Patrick Kennedy announced yesterday that he was not going to challenge Chafee in the next Senate race. Now, Chafee needs to shore up his credentials with his Rhode Island Democratic Party supporters and a vote for Bolton may be more consequential than he thinks.

Chafee is weighing in his mind, I bet, judicial appointments vs. John Bolton. He'll probably vote against the most outrageous judicial nominees -- and feels inclined to support Bolton and give that one to the right-wingers in his state

But that is before we had the larger story (reported in passages below) on Bolton and his long-term role as Jesse Helms' attack dog, a person with an ethically-challenged record running or working in various think tanks, and his record defying demands of Congress.

I think Chafee, when confronted with the whole picture and not the gloss or the talking points handed to him by the White House and State Department, is going to have a hard time explaining WHY he would vote for such a person as one of our nation's most important emissaries to the rest of the world.

I think the same thing about Chuck Hagel -- who has already said that he wants to see more of the whole picture now -- and said that after his words of endorsement.

We have a week to go before the hearings -- and Senator Hagel and Senator Chafee need to hear from those of you who care.

Just ask them to read this material -- to look not only at Bolton's comments on the United Nations, but his entire record.



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