Tag Archives: government

FOIA in India

The world’s largest democracy has passed a revised FOIA bill [Times of India 5/22]. The new FOI requires even “notified intelligence and security agencies” to “provide information on questions of corruption and human rights violations”. The paper notes that “This is important for enforcing accountability on such agencies especially where misuse of laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act have alienated local populations.” A wise idea.

the protocols were followed

in the recent governmental panic attack about the cessna, White House Spokesperson Scott McClellan says that there was no need to notify Bush because “the protocols were followed”.

so … we get a glimpse into the fact that we don’t actually have a Glorious Leader. and it turns out that we don’t actually need a Glorious Leader, either — just “the protocols”, which were probably drafted by a functionary or perhaps a committee, and were carried out by “highly skilled professionals”.

derived from: editor & publisher 5/12 (hilarious) [linked from the light of reason] & sat a.m. news-in-bed with the semi-lawfully wedded


I’ve been driven into nihilistic insanity today by more filibuster news, and now I’ll break from leftist/liberal/Democrat orthodoxy. Take the “nuclear option” to a vote, already.

Apparently McCain says that Dems will allow confirmation votes on the 7 filibustered candidates blocked, so long as they can keep the filibuster. [AP by way of Salon.com Warroom]

What are the Democrats doing? This is nuts. I’ve seen the rumored numbers of “save the filibuster & the Ds will allow a vote on — judges” go from none to some to 4 and now to all 7. There is no point to having a filibuster if you don’t use it.

I like the filibuster, and think it’s a fine idea — it slows down the process which is almost always a good thing. But it’s ridiculous to keep giving up on all the substantive battles just to keep it. If the Ds cut this deal, Frist can always threaten them again with the “nuclear option”, or some variant thereof, any time the Ds threaten to actually use the filibuster in a significant way. (I note that Reid is already assuring the Republican Minions he won’t be too aggressive in using any parliamentary procedures they permit him.) Frist will certainly not back down when his Xtian Overlords are watching during the high stakes Supreme Court nomination process. Any Democratic attempts to use the filibuster or any other parliamentary moves during that process will create boatloads of pressure & publicity among the Xtian Right. (For some reason this seems to bother the Democrats as well as the Xtian Right’s Republican Minions. Yoo-hoo to Democrats! You will not lose any Xtian Right votes or dollars by sticking with the filibuster or by using it. If they’re not in the Republican camp now, they’re asleep or have some significant personal or policy reasons for not dancing with their Republican minions. And as for non-Xtian-Righters, I have yet to be convinced that mainstream America believes in or even cares about the Xtian Right’s vision for the judiciary.)

Take the “nuclear option” to a vote. What can happen?

  1. The nuclear option loses. Enough Rs break ranks because they realize that it’s a bad idea to slip the brakes on governmental processes for the sake of temporary partisan gain.
  2. Or,

  3. The nuclear option passes, and the (judicial) filibuster goes away. Short-term: This will suit Republicans and their Xtian Right Overlords just fine — for now. Without the (judicial) filibuster, the Republicans get the judges they want in lifetime appointments — including the Supreme Court, which I confess, does give me pause. Democrats will have the opportunity (although god knows they probably won’t take it) to bash the Republicans over the head with their procedural abuses. Polls show most folks don’t want the Republicans to get rid of the filibuster, and don’t trust party officials who want to loosen the brakes. With that point, and a few others, the Ds might even be able to make some progress in recovering one or more branches of US government.

    Middle- and Long-Term: Republicans will eventually lose the White House & the majority in the Senate. Democrats at that point will have the opportunity to make hay while the sun shines, claiming a mandate, and moving ahead with their judicial preferences. Republicans & their Xtian Right Overlords will rue the nuclear option & the filibuster (probably painting the filibuster as a Democratic scheme to expand government). A bit more credible in their position as “persecuted outsiders”, the Overlords / Minions will host “Justice Sunday”, a special day focused on protecting minority* rights and regaining the filibuster. [*Minority party rights, that is; certainly not the rights of actual minorities.]

    Federal Judiciary: Cynically, I suspect it won’t make a difference, because had the Democrats cut a deal to retain a filibuster, they would have just rested on their laurels, proud of their protection of a parliamentary procedure. Hey, if they wanted to, they could use the filibuster to protect us! They’re just waiting for, you know, the right moment. …

    Somewhat less cynically, I admit that I quail at the thought of the Bush Admin having a free hand to put whomever they want in. But you know what? The Rs have been pushing their authority to the limits already. Famous last words, I know, but how much further can they really go? They’ll move a bunch of judges through. Most of the Circuits are already Republican & conservative dominated, ensuring conservative majorities on most 3-judge panels and on most en banc panels. Yes, the District & Appellate Courts are breeding grounds for higher appointments, but there’s plenty of judges on both sides to provide fodder for higher appointments.

    Finally, the Supreme Court. Bush will probably succeed in finding someone more conservative than Rehnquist, but there’s not a lot of room there. And that replacement will affect very few case outcomes; Rehnquist is almost never the swing vote. Stevens, Ginsburg, and O’Connor are also all possible or likely retirements (or worse, if Pat Robertson’s prayers are answered) in the next few years. Bush would certainly appoint someone much more conservative than any one of those justices, and that’s a real loss. But the problem is, the Ds repeatedly demonstrate that they don’t effectively use parliamentary procedures as it is, and the Rs do — the latest set of offered “compromises” only demonstrates this further. So long-term, the loss of the filibuster actually hurts the Rs more than the Ds. And while the Bush Admin gets in a slew of appointments now, with very little minority say, so does the next Administration, and the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that …. The whole Supreme Court bench is going to be replaced in the next 20 years, and four out of nine justices will be replaced in the next five years at the outside.

On the other hand, if the Ds keep cutting these deals to preserve the filibuster, they win the battle but lose the war. When would the Ds feel confident & bold enough to actually use the damn thing? The Rs & their Xtian Overlords will certainly turn up the heat & the press pressure on any uses of the filibuster in the Supreme Court context. And we all know that nomination will be on the Bush Admin’s terms: a battle royale, if they choose, or a merely semi-controversial nominee in order to disarm the opposition for later battles.

So — let’s roll.(TM)

update 5/20: Over at salon.com, Tim Grieve analyzes the current state of the filibuster debate. Nothing too awfully notable, but one point just made me shake my head:

While interest groups on the left won’t be happy to see an Owen or a Rogers confirmed, they have their eyes on a bigger prize: keeping the filibuster around long enough to use it if Bush nominates a far-right judge to replace William Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court.

For God’s sake. Like Bush would nominate anybody to the left of Rehnquist? The Rehnquist seat is in strongly conservative hands for the next 20 years, regardless of the filibuster.

Grieve had this interesting point to make about a Byrd / Warner proposal to bring back “advise” into the mix:

With their proposed language, Byrd and Warner seem to have added an additional prong to the proposal — a focus not just on how the Senate treats the judges Bush nominates but on the way Bush chooses those nominees in the first place. Democrats contend that Bush has ignored the “advise” part of the clause of the Constitution that allows the president to appoint judges with the “advise and consent” of the Senate. Saying that he wanted the Senate involved in both the “takeoff and the landing” of judicial nominees, Byrd hinted that the Byrd-Warner language would suggest that the Senate Judiciary Committee create panels of academics and sitting judges that would identify “pools” of mainstream judicial nominees from which the president could choose. The proposal wouldn’t require the president to pick from those pre-selected nominees, Byrd said, but he’d have an easier time getting his judges confirmed if he did.

“Advise” has gotten short shrift, but it’s a pretty namby-pamby Senatorial role anyway. But “‘pools’ of mainstream judicial nominees” isn’t going to increase the quality of the nominees. If we wanted a “mainstream” judiciary then we should just program a computer to dispense justice, a la John Varley‘s “Eight Worlds” Universe. (See, e.g., The Golden Globe.)

Farhad Manjoo is more on the same page with me, looking beyond the current kerfuffle to a more free-wheeling judicial confirmation process.

Excellent question

“Why can’t I make my own decision?” A 13-year-old girl in Florida who has been making her own decisions about sex thinks she should also be able to make her own decisions about whether she ought to carry a pregnancy to term. The girl, in DCF custody, notes that “It would make no sense to have the baby. I don’t think I should have the baby because I’m 13, I’m in a shelter and I can’t get a job.” She also pointed out that young women are at higher risk from childbirth & pregnancy than abortion: “Since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then wouldn’t you all look at the fact that it’d be more dangerous for me to have the baby than to have an abortion?”

Why was this even in court? The girl is in DCF custody. The DCF, under the direction of the politically appointed DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi, has moved to seek a judge’s determination as to whether the abortion is permissible (or maybe to stop the abortion; it’s unclear from the different news articles I’ve read). This despite the fact that Florida has no parental consent law at the moment, and is one of the few states with the right to privacy enshrined in its state Constitution. Lucy Hadi ought to be ejected from office for illegally interfering with the young woman’s constitutional rights and endangering her health. (Hadi’s insistence on taking the girl to court set aside the work and decisions of adults who are on the ground with this case, such as the girl’s caseworker, who actually works with the girl and has intimate knowledge about her situation.) … J. Alvarez ruled in her favor today, saying that she would not be harmed by the procedure.

[See AP 5/3; palm beach post 4/30;
sun-sentinel 4/30; st. petersburg times editorial 4/29]

I can only conclude that this is yet another example of the craziness that is the Florida state & municipal government right now — inspired & led in large part by Jeb Bush. Let’s see: Schiavo; Florida’s ban on gay adoptive parents; the case from 2003 of Jeb Bush’s push to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a developmentally disabled woman who was pregnant as a result of rape. The Jeb Bush administration of Florida keeps pushing state interference with individuals’ and families’ private lives. This trend is not a good one.

I can’t help but note that it’s school officials in Florida who have been getting freaked out over, god forbid, Florida girls not wanting to adhere to gender-biased dress codes. Floridians, is this really what you want? If not, please get these wackos under control.

good job texas

Texas bans gay foster parents. now, if only they can figure out a way for people to know their own sexuality. [link from misc heathen 4/22]

update: ping analyzed the so-called research on ‘homosexual’ foster parents

and jon stewart’s The Daily Show aired the solution to knowing if you’re gay or not (or dangerously bisexual): Texas has initiated a quiz for prospective foster parents:

Fill in the last lines of this quote:

At first I was afraid; I was __________.

  1. petrified
  2. I don’t know.

florida high school yearbook insanity

This is at least the second such story out of Florida in the last couple of years. This year — 2005, not 1955 — high school principal Sam Ward at Fleming Island High School in Clay County, Florida, has decided that the high school yearbook will not publish the photo of a senior young woman who had her picture taken in a “tuxedo” top instead of a “drape” top.

The mind boggles at this guy’s stupidity. How is he 50 years behind? Why on earth are the students not rising up in protest? This kind of idiocy from adults, and apathy / “good soldier” behavior from students is why I will never, ever live in the South again.

that wacky 5th circuit


At times the federal appeals court has been unfathomable to its critics. Last December, for instance, it considered the last-minute appeal of Billy Frank Vickers, scheduled to die for the killing of a grocer in 1993. With the inmate already given his last meal, the judges deliberated until 9 p.m. and announced they were leaving, with no decision. Bewildered state prison officials allowed the death warrant to expire, granting Mr. Vickers a delay. He was executed six weeks later.

In October, a Houston federal judge granted a last-minute stay to Dominique Green, but the state appealed. The Fifth Circuit then gave defense lawyers less than half an hour to file their response, Professor Dow said. A rushed brief was e-mailed to the court and turned down. The Supreme Court also rejected a stay, and Mr. Green was executed that night.

— Adam Liptak & Ralph Blumenthal, Death Sentences in Texas Cases Try Supreme Court’s Patience [NYT 12/5]

christian organization thinks gays should be fired

right hook on salon.com covers the right-wing press so you don’t have to.

Writing in the Christian news outlet Agape Press this week, Pugh takes note of Christian activist Joe Glover’s directive that Evangelicals, flush with Republican wins from the White House to Capitol Hill, now have every right to demand that gays be booted the hell out of the Beltway.

“A pro-family activist from Virginia says voters who put Republicans in office should demand that politicians not employ key personnel who don’t hold the conservative views that the party promotes. That activist says the Capitol Hill office of Virginia Senator George Allen is a good example. Senator Allen is head of the Republican Senatorial Committee and was a key figure in the GOP’s big victories in November. But Joe Glover, president of the Virginia-based Family Policy Network, says something is very wrong. Glover says homosexual publications have outed at least six members of the senator’s office as homosexuals. He says one homosexual activist even went so far as to say Allen had the ‘gayest office on Capitol Hill.’ Pro-family conservatives, he says, need to make sure Senator Allen hears their voices.

“‘If someone is going to run the day-to-day operations for the Republican apparatus to elect U.S. senators across the country, then dog-gone-it, it better not be somebody who practices a lifestyle that is diametrically opposed to the Evangelical Christian base that delivered George W. Bush and the Republicans in the Senate the victory they saw in November,’ he says. Glover says Allen’s executive director recently resigned because he was outed as a homosexual.”

— Salon.com Right Hook, 2004-12-08

state of PA restricts cities from offering wireless

I’m sad. The state of PA passed, and the governor signed (12/1), a bill that prevents municipalities from offering wireless networks. Verizon lobbied for this legislation in response to Philadelphia’s plan to offer low or free wireless across the city. On the radio the other day, I heard an interview with a Verizon spokesperson who said they might let Philadelphia do it. How fucking kind of them.

Basically the bill lets Verizon get a right of first refusal if any municipality wants to offer its own service. Should Verizon say no, it then has to provide broadband to that community within 14 months. Of course at its own prices …

muniwireless.com has more.

alabama determined to drive itself into a deep, deep hole

god what a great state i come from. on nov 2 they — unbelievable — actually retained the state constitutional language mandating segregation. now this:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A lawmaker seeking to ban gay marriages also wants to prohibit state money from being spent on any materials or programs that “recognize” or “promote” homosexuality.

Republican Representative Gerald Allen says, quote, “We have a culture that’s in deep trouble.”

But Representative Alvin Holmes, a Democrat, says Allen’s measure was an unconstitutional form of censorship aimed at enhancing Allen’s standing with the right-wing conservatives.

If the bill became law, public school textbooks could not present homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle, college theater groups would not be able to perform plays like the Tennessee Williams classic “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” where homosexuality is a theme, and public school libraries could not display books that include lesbianism like Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.”

Allen says the method of weeding out objectionable material and programs was still to be determined. His bill has been prefiled for action in the 2005 session.

— AP, 2004-11-30 Bill Would Bar State Funds Used to Foster Homosexuality

great posts on this issue:

looming challenges to federalism

i’ll be interested to see how the conservative, pro-federalism, pro-states’ rights, GOP-run government (and the conservative intelligentsia which carries their theoretical water) handles some of the upcoming challenges to federalism:

  • medical marijuana laws
  • state & regional initiatives on global warming: for instance, California’s mandatory cap on greenhouse-gas emissions will have to be signed off on by the EPA before it goes into effect

separation of powers? checks & balances?

Walter Dellinger, “Why Americans Hate Democrats — A Dialogue: Maybe It’s Not As Bad As We Think”, Slate, 2004-11-05:

[T]here seems to be a flaw in how our governing system is working that is turning narrow victories into unearned dominance. By (at best) narrowly prevailing in two elections in which the nation was split down the middle, one party, with the support of barely half the electorate, is in position to control everything—House, Senate, presidency, Supreme Court and lower-court appointments, everything.

The purpose of separation of powers is not being fulfilled. The branches were designed as a check on each other. But the institutional divisions between legislative bodies and the executive, or between the House and Senate, are no longer salient. The ideological purification of our parties—a relatively new and unfortunate development—may have created an identity of partisan interest so strong that separate branches, when controlled by the same party, provide no check at all. Due in part to greatly enhanced partisanship, loyalty to the Senate or House as an institution is being replaced for legislators of the president’s party with loyalty to the president. The Framers thought they had produced a system that would ensure that a faction supported by a bare 51 percent of the people could not make the other party its dog. It’s not working.

Interesting. What do our elected “representatives” with their “constitutional duties” have to say? Let’s hear from Sen. Rick Santorum [freep, 11/04]:

Senate Republicans are committed to approving all of the President’s judicial nominations…

Quotes & Reading

A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

— James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

… and Protest Music! Protest song is back – with a vengeance | csmonitor.com