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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Breaking News: Most immigrants in Georgia are here illegally

From the AJC:

Most of the 953,000 immigrants living in Georgia are in the country illegally, according to an analysis for the Center for Immigration Studies released Thursday.

Basing its findings on Census Bureau data, the analysis said Georgia has one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations of any state. It calculated that 53 percent of the state's foreign-born population — 504,000 people — are illegal immigrants. Only the estimates for Arizona, at 65 percent, and North Carolina, at 58 percent, were higher.

Overall, one in eight people living in the United States is an immigrant, the analysis found, for a total of 37.9 million people — the highest level since the 1920s. The nation's immigrant population — legal and illegal — reached a record of 37.9 million in 2007, it said.

"The last seven years have been the highest period of immigration in American history," it concluded. "Immigrants and their young children [under 18] now account for one-fifth of the school-age population, one-fourth of those in poverty and nearly one-third of those without health insurance."

Also see article on the study in The New York Times.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I am glad I did not write that resolution -- Governor & lawmakers balk at terms committing to extra state funds; board members deny making demands.

From the AJC:

On a day when Grady supporters should have been triumphantly plotting a bright future for the rescued hospital, Grady board members instead deflected angry blowback on Tuesday from the people whose support they need most.

With Gov. Sonny Perdue joining the chorus of criticism, the board members' ambitious $500 million plan to create a nonprofit governing board and save the hospital appeared to be badly damaged by the language of the resolution they passed Monday.

State and county officials whose financial support is crucial attacked the plan, which some view as demanding money from them.

Board leaders stressed Tuesday that they are making requests, not demands, and that not all the conditions in the resolution must be fulfilled to move forward.

Most of the public conversation has focused on a Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce proposal to shift operating control of the hospital to a private nonprofit corporation, accompanied by promises of an influx of private funding. And that's the focus of the resolution.

But the language of the document conditioned the change on commitments of money. Again and again, the resolution requests and, in some cases, demands more money from county, state and business leaders.

"To throw out conditions without advanced discussion is presumptuous," Fulton County Commissioner Lynne Riley said. She added that it creates an "adversarial relationship, not a collaborative one."

So some Grady board members spent Tuesday trying to smooth ruffled feathers and get the plan back on track. Board leaders tried to soften their message.

"We do need to sit down and have further discussions with members of the state Legislature, so they can come to a better understanding of what the resolution says," said the Grady board's vice chairman, Dr. Christopher Edwards. "I think there are some clarifications that are ongoing."

Board Chairwoman Pam Stephenson, who also supports creating a nonprofit management board for Grady, added, "We don't take what we said as demands."

The angry responses marked a shift in what had been a conciliatory tone among Grady leaders and these political leaders. Grady has been under pressure for months to create a new governing body, and the positive vote Monday was expected to be a coming together of the medical community, Atlanta business leaders and state officials who favored such a change.

As Sen. Trent Lott Leaves the Senate, Compromise Appears to Be a Lost Art

From The Washington Post:

Lott's departure from Capitol Hill in the coming weeks after 34 years in Congress -- 16 in the House, 18 in the Senate -- is further evidence that bonhomie and cross-party negotiating are losing their currency, even in the backslapping Senate. With the Senate populated by a record number of former House members, the rules of the Old Boys' Club are giving way to the partisan trench warfare and party-line votes that prevail in the House. States once represented by common-ground dealmakers, including John Breaux (D-La.), David L. Boren (D-Okla.), James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), are now electing ideological stalwarts, such as David Vitter (R-La.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

It is a statement in and of itself when you have officials from 49 nations gather for a one-day conference on Middle East peace.

From The New York Times:

[Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas,] shook hands with [Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel] and Mr. Bush and then pointedly and emotionally put all of the most divisive issues squarely at the center of the talks that are scheduled to begin on Dec. 12.

“I am not making an overstatement, Mr. President, if I say that our region stands at a crossroad that separates two historical phases: pre-Annapolis phase and post-Annapolis phase,” Mr. Abbas said. “I say that this opportunity might not be repeated. And if it were to be repeated, it might not enjoy the same unanimity and impetus.”

When Mr. Olmert spoke, he too was emotional and highly personal. “We want peace,” he said. “We demand an end to terror, an end to incitement and to hatred. We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is this hat in hand? Grady, to be in a $-0- cash position the 3rd week in Dec., makes demands of Legislature. Go figure . . . .

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Dick Pettys reports that the Grady Hospital Board adopted a six-page resolution which charts the course for the creation of a 501(c)(3) corporation to manage the hospital if certain conditions are met. If the conditions are not met, a board member said, there will be no conversion.

Among the conditions, according to Pettys:

"The governor, lieutenant governor and Speaker of the House must each provide written confirmation of their intent to support additional direct financial assistance from the state of not less than $30 million a year, along with necessary budget measures to implement and fund a statewide trauma network to provide additional support and a commitment to further support medical education in the state by at least $30 million."

Pettys continues:

Predictably, top legislative leaders weren't enthralled with the conditions the resolution attempts to impose on the state.

"I don't think the Legislature responds well to blackmail," Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson told the AJC. . . .

Clelia Davis, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Glenn Richardson, told the newspaper: "Today's attempt by the board of Grady [Memorial] Hospital to control the Legislature is simply unacceptable. This is not a negotiation."

Monday, November 26, 2007

I love it: Thompson accuses Fox News of trying to "take down" his campaign. (Thinking it & saying it on national TV are two very different things.)

From The Washington Post:

[Former senator Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), appearing on "Fox News Sunday,"] accused Fox News of trying to "take down" his presidential campaign.

Fox host Chris Wallace ended the interview with Thompson by asking him to respond to short videotaped comments about his chances by columnists Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer, two regular Fox News commentators.

"It's the wrong message and a weak messenger. Other than those two things, it's a great campaign," Barnes said. Krauthammer added: "There's not anything there. And in the absence of something, he can't win."

When the camera returned to Thompson, he was visibly angry. "This has been a constant mantra of Fox, to tell you the truth," he said.

Wallace tried to defend his network: "Well, I don't know that -- I mean, I don't know that Fox has been going after you, and I certainly don't think Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes . . ."

"From Day One, they said I got in too late, I couldn't do it," Thompson interrupted.

He later blasted Fox for running criticism from "your own guys, who have been predicting for four months, really, that I couldn't do it. [It] kind of skews things a little bit."

"I understand the game of buildup and I understand the game of takedown. And we all go through it," Thompson said.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Administration will suspend defense of rule to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants & try again -- Thanks AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce & ACLU.

From The New York Times:

The Bush administration will suspend its legal defense of a new rule issued in August to punish employers who hire illegal immigrants, conceding a hard-fought opening round in a court battle over a central measure in its strategy to curb illegal immigration, according to government papers filed late Friday in federal court.

Instead, the administration plans to revise the rule to try to meet concerns raised by a federal judge and issue it again by late March, hoping to pass court scrutiny on the second try. The rule would have forced employers to fire workers within 90 days if their Social Security information could not be verified.

The legal challenge was brought by an odd-fellow alliance of labor unions and business groups, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the San Francisco Labor Council as well as the United States Chamber of Commerce [and the American Civil Liberties Union].

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hispanics now comprise one-third of Hall County student body

From the Gainesville Times:

Hispanics have long dominated the student population in Gainesville city schools, but the ethnic group is quickly becoming a predominant group in Hall County schools as well.

The group makes up nearly 34 percent of Hall's overall enrollment . . . . Just six years ago, Hispanics made up 22 percent, or little more than a fifth, of students in the system.

Democrats Rework the Rhetoric -- A Notion of the 'Common Good'

From The Wall Street Journal:

The latest tussle in the world of political rhetoric is pitting Aristotle and Augustine against political pollsters and a raft of Democratic presidential candidates.

At stake is the notion of "common good," which many Democrats are embracing as a new framework for expressing their vision of broader opportunity and equality.

They see it as an effective way to talk about economic fairness -- and reduce the Republicans' big advantage in the linguistic arms race.

For much of the last decade or so, many Democrats complain, conservative strategists have been running rhetorical circles around Democrats with focus-grouped phrases such as "death tax" and "ownership society" that buttress Republicans' probusiness, free-market views. Meanwhile, Democrats' populist-style attacks on big business during the last two presidential elections -- for instance, by Al Gore and John Kerry -- have come across to many voters as shrill and outmoded.

Based on ancient philosophy and Roman Catholic social teaching, "common good" is becoming a poll-tested mainstay of Democratic rhetoric. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are using the phrase frequently in stump speeches and position papers.

One little problem: No one agrees on exactly what it means, potentially compromising its effectiveness as a rallying cry for the Democratic Party.

Mr. Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, is using it in progressive fashion, to refer to leveling the economic playing field and backing strong unions and universal health care. Sen. Obama of Illinois uses it in a more centrist sense, to mean shared duties and responsibilities, not only among classes but between the two parties. Sen. Clinton of New York uses it in both ways.

As campaign strategists seized on the "common good" as a rhetorical weapon over the last couple of years, the phrase became reduced to "a slogan," complains George Lakoff, a University of California at Berkeley linguist and sometime Democratic adviser who was an early advocate of the message.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Barrow wants to secure borders, crack down on employers, deny benefits to illegals

Larry Peterson writes in the Savannah Morning News:

Back from touring border areas in Arizona and Texas, U.S. Rep. John Barrow says he is more determined than ever to "stop the invasion."
The Savannah Democrat and half a dozen other congressmen spent two days near Tucson, Ariz., and El Paso, Texas. They saw border station facilities, met with border patrol and immigration officials and visited traffic checkpoints and border-crossing sites.

Barrow said Wednesday that he is committed to securing the borders before considering any so-called "comprehensive" immigration policies.
He has voted against so-called "amnesty" measures to let illegal immigrants stay in the country.

Nationally, both parties are divided on the issue.

But Barrow's position "is a winning one in Georgia," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

Earlier this year, Bullock noted, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans from Georgia, leaned toward a measure that included amnesty provisions.

"But they got caught in the firestorm of controversy and backed off," he said.

"What's going on at the border is not a photo-op," Barrow said. "It's the real thing. There is an invasion going on."

Barrow said more than half a million illegal immigrants a year enter the United States, and that depresses the wages of citizens as well as immigrants here legally.

"This is not a victimless crime," Barrow said. "The victims are workers who have a right to be here.

He said more fences, walls, detection equipment and - most of all, more border patrol agents - are needed at or near the border.

Facilities such as walls don't stop illegal immigrants but slow them down and extend the reach of patrol agents, Barrow said.

Moreover, Barrow said, employers must be required not only to ask workers for identification, but also check with the federal government to determine whether it is valid. That can be done by e-mail or by telephone, he said.

Barrow is backing a bill that would require employers to do so, but he doesn't expect a vote soon.

Lastly, he said, no federal benefits should go to illegal immigrants.

He dismissed a recent Krieble Foundation poll that found most Americans doubt that the border can be secured without a temporary worker program.
A general willingness to hire illegals - rather than a need for temporary immigrant labor - is driving the influx from across the border, Barrow said.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Polls show most resigned to legalizing immigrants if balanced by improved border & workplace enforcement, but outraged about government benefits.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The debate over how to deal with illegal immigrants split the Republican Party two years ago, infuriating its social-conservative base and driving away Hispanic voters. It could be even more perilous for Democrats.

Democratic strategists believe that Hispanic voters could swing a decisive handful of states -- including Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada -- to the Democrats in 2008, ensuring the election of a Democratic president and cementing a Democratic majority for years to come. But the party's blue-collar, middle-income and African-American supporters are increasingly angry about illegal immigration, much of it Hispanic.

Democrats "are pretty jumpy on the issue," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who pushed for immigration overhaul in the House. "They would prefer to allow the Republicans to shepherd the Hispanic votes into the Democratic column without having to scare away a single other voter themselves," he says.

"That's not likely to happen. "This election could turn on this issue if we don't handle it intelligently," says Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democratic presidential candidate. . . .

In a Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 11% of adults -- and 4% of Democratic voters -- said illegal immigration is their top priority. But members of that minority, organized on the Internet, have created political turmoil by flooding lawmakers' offices with faxes and regularly raising the issue on the campaign trail.

Hispanics made up 8% of the national vote in 2006, but their growing numbers and anger with the Republicans over such talk could mean electoral gold for the Democrats. NDN, a nonprofit Democratic think tank, predicts "there is no reasonable [Republican] road map to victory in 2008" if growing Hispanic populations tip several key states into the Democratic column.

But a pro-immigration policy risks alienating other Democratic constituencies. Rep. Gutierrez blames the weakening U.S. economy for fanning immigration anger among working-class voters. "It's easy because people are afraid" about wages, mortgages and jobs, he says.

[In Chariton, Iowa,] where the Census Bureau reports there are only 40 foreign-born residents, "Joe Blow Citizen knows what's going on," a middle-aged man [said]. Schools crowded with Spanish-speaking children and the lawlessness of illegal immigration seem to anger campaign audiences almost as much.

"A heck of a lot of middle-class Democrats feel they're being overwhelmed [by illegal immigrants] and they're reacting the same as Republicans, only they're more ashamed to say so," says University of Virginia political scientist James Ceaser.

Democrats also risk setting off a "rivalry between the minorities" if they tilt toward Hispanics with their immigration policy, says the University of Virginia's Mr. Ceaser. The rise of Hispanic political power has come largely at the expense of African Americans, and Hispanic immigrants have largely replaced blacks in some industries, including construction.

Miami Urban League president T. Willard Fair, among the few black leaders who speak openly about the effects of illegal immigration on African-Americans, says "there is an undercurrent" of resentment in his community. Blacks aren't likely to leave the Democratic party over it, he says, and they're reluctant to publicly oppose immigration because of their own civil rights history. But "all you have to do is take a walk to the neighborhood bar to hear the talk," he says.

The Democrats' problem is that they raised immigration to a national issue by promoting an overhaul plan. Then, while it was left bubbling, they failed to pass a bill, despite having a majority in Congress, says Democratic strategist Peter Brodnitz who isn't affiliated with a presidential candidate.

Democrats further angered many voters by proposing some benefits for illegal immigrants before producing any economic relief for worried middle-class voters, adds Mr. Brodnitz.

Polls regularly show a majority of Americans resigned to legalizing immigrants if the process includes penalties and is balanced by improved border and workplace enforcement. But polls also show that Americans are outraged about government benefits for illegal immigrants, which makes framing a campaign message tricky for the Democrats.

In a new Quinnipiac University poll of voters in Ohio, a toss-up state, 55% favored legalizing unlawful immigrants. But only 11% said they should be allowed a driver's license and just 35% said their children should be allowed to attend public school.

Republicans, meanwhile, see illegal immigration as a campaign bonanza because it motivates their base voters while diverting attention from the Iraq war and sowing discord among the Democrats. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 38% of Republicans said illegal immigration is their first or second priority.

That has turned immigration from a one-time fringe issue into mainstream politics. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who while they were in office advocated plans to help legalize unlawful immigrants, now pound away at plans to deny them jobs and benefits.

And Republicans see value in linking illegal immigration to terrorism and national security, two issues where polls show they have an edge over Democrats. In a new campaign ad, Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who is running for president as an immigration opponent, warns that U.S. "open borders" policies invite another terrorist attack.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

There was a time in the U.S. Senate where you had both sides sit down in a room and see what you could do to work things out.

From The New York Times:

Congress departed on Friday for a two-week break, leaving behind a stack of unfinished work as a major farm bill became the latest victim of a stalemate that has bedeviled Congress all year.

Typically a bipartisan bonanza for rural America, the agriculture policy measure was stalled by a Republican filibuster that summed up the dismal state of relations in Congress. The bill joined an income-tax repair, a children’s health insurance program, energy measures, terrorist surveillance and Pentagon policy — not to mention financing for every agency except the Pentagon — as issues needing attention next month.

“The atmosphere is so partisan, so polarizing and so poisonous that it’s impeding our ability to solve the problems of our nation at a monumental, consequential time,” said Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine.

The Senate spent much of the last two weeks essentially paralyzed because of a dispute over whether Republicans would be allowed to offer politically tinged amendments on immigration and taxes in the farm bill debate. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, used a procedural tactic to bar such amendments. Republicans balked, refusing to allow progress on the bill even though it is a crucial measure to many farm state Republicans.

Democrats said they intended to make the case to rural Americans that the Republicans had abandoned them, and they promised to paint Republicans as obstructionists for routinely filibustering consensus bills.

Republicans who have been calling for a repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which threatens to ensnare millions of new taxpayers this year, blocked a Democratic effort on Thursday night to allow a series of votes on the tax. Democrats fume that Republicans demand action only to block it and then accuse Democrats of not acting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Just so you would know about something I don't like: A last-minute loophole.

From The New York Times:

DESPITE news coverage of the lobbying reform law passed in September, one change to Senate rules has gone unnoticed, one that makes it easier for last-minute proposals to be inserted into legislation behind closed doors.

Because the House and Senate must pass identical language before a bill can become law, members of the two chambers often meet in “conference” to negotiate a compromise, which Congress then votes on. These compromise bills typically are approved, especially when they concern must-pass legislation.

The Senate has long recognized the temptation by conferees to insert unrelated items into the compromise bill. So the rules included a strong deterrent to this practice: A single senator could object that the conferees had included an irrelevant provision, and if the presiding officer sustained the objection, it would kill the entire bill. Conference committees added irrelevant provisions only when it was clear that no one would object.

With this new law, the Senate can vote to waive objections; if 60 senators agree, irrelevant provisions stay in. A vote can waive objections to all extraneous items at once, so members can add multiple and far-reaching extraneous provisions.

For a conferencing senator, there is now little downside to including an unrelated provision, even if it has been subject to no hearings, debate or study. If another senator objects and the provision falls short of 60 votes, the material comes out. The compromise is not put at risk, as it was under the old rule.

No longer can a dissident senator prevent members from inserting irrelevant material in conference. Now, the threat carries force only if that senator can garner 41 votes; if the size of the Senate minority, now at 49, edges downward, its ability to police conference reports will edge downward as well. Last-minute, partisan additions may become ever more common in must-pass legislation.

Buried in a law intended to promote transparent government is a tool for those who wish to push bills through Congress, and a new problem for those who rely on the Senate to slow or halt problematic legislation.

Whether one appreciates or regrets this may depend on whether one’s party is in the majority or minority.

McCain Finds Sympathy on Torture Issue

From The New York Times:

“One of the things that kept us going when I was in prison in North Vietnam was that we knew that if the situation were reversed, that we would not be doing to our captors what they were doing to us,” [Sen. John McCain] said.

When Mr. McCain brings up the issue of torture, he is often met by a complex response. Many of the Republican voters he courts do not agree with his opposition to aggressive interrogation techniques that many have condemned as torture. But they are often captivated by his discussion of the issue, in some cases even moved to tears . . . .

On the campaign trail, Mr. McCain does not dwell on the personal details of his five and a half years as a prisoner of war, the “torture ropes” in which he was bound day and night, or the beatings he endured. But as he speaks, the physical reminders of his wounds are there for all to see, from the stiffness of his arms, which to this day he can only painfully raise above his head, to the shortness of his stride, a result of injury and subsequent beatings.

Mr. McCain has been speaking out more forcefully about the issue as it has bubbled up recently on the campaign trail and in debates.

Democrats are largely opposed to torture, and while the Bush administration has said it does not engage in torture, it had previously reserved the right to use aggressive interrogation techniques in questioning terrorism suspects. And the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Mr. McCain, are refusing to rule out certain techniques that others would deem as torture.

“I want to tell you. Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney all think it is O.K.,” Mr. McCain told the diners in Boone [, Iowa]. “They have one thing in common. They don’t understand the military and the culture of this nation. If they did, they could never condone such behavior.”

The issue has taken on particular resonance over the last few weeks as lawmakers argued over the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general, with Democrats angered over his refusal to call waterboarding torture and therefore illegal. And it has led to some of the most pointed exchanges of the Republican campaign so far. When Mr. McCain faulted his Republican opponents’ lack of wartime experience, Mr. Giuliani shot back against his old political ally, Mr. McCain, saying he “has never run a city, never run a state, never run a government.”

From public forums in Iowa to the living rooms of New Hampshire and the military towns in South Carolina, Mr. McCain’s message is simple: what America does to its enemies defines America itself.

Sometimes, he does not even have to say anything himself, leaving the task to those who introduce him.

At a Veterans Day ceremony at Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina, Mayor William Rauch of Beaufort introduced Mr. McCain by recalling how as a prisoner, Mr. McCain had once refused to be filmed for propaganda purposes, “uplifting his center finger” when the guard entered his cell and uttering “the oath that is commonly associated with that gesture.”

The act of defiance, Mr. Rauch said, led to another month or so of beatings.

At many events, the campaign often shows grainy black-and-white film of a young Mr. McCain soon after his capture in North Vietnam, obviously in pain and confined to a bed, telling his captors his name and rank as he smokes a cigarette.

While Mr. McCain refrains from discussing his own experiences, he lets others address the issue. At a celebration Saturday of the 232nd birthday of the Marine Corps, in Bedford, N.H., as veterans from five wars over the last century looked on, Mr. McCain said that any candidate who joked about sleep deprivation, as Mr. Giuliani had done several days earlier, should talk to his fellow prisoner of war and supporter, Orson G. Swindle.

Mr. McCain described how Mr. Swindle was “chained to a stool for 10 days, then let off that stool for one day, and then chained to that stool again for 10 more days.”

Mr. McCain believes that the United States’ war on terrorism has been defined for much of the world by its failure to forthrightly reject torture, as well as its continuing the practice of rendition, in which terrorism suspects are spirited off to countries that may engage in torture, and the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without trials. He portrays his Republican opponents’ position on the torture issue as reflective of “macho” or “tough-guy” poses.

Mr. McCain said he had no idea how the issue of torture would affect the primaries and caucuses. As he traveled across Iowa one day last week, he reviewed a new CNN poll that found 69 percent of Americans believed waterboarding was torture. But only 58 percent thought it should not be used on terrorism suspects.

Aware that many people might not even know what the technique involves, Mr. McCain often outlines its details.

“You incline someone’s head and stuff a rag in their mouth and pour water and give one the total sensation of drowning,” he told the breakfast diners in Boone. “It was invented in the Spanish inquisition and was used by Pol Pot. It is now being used on Burmese monks by this military junta in Burma.”

“I know how evil this enemy is,” Mr. McCain told the Boone audience. But the issue is about more than one technique, he said. “This is really fundamentally about what kind of nation the United States of America is.”

But Milt Mattson, standing outside the cafe after Mr. McCain left, said he thought the United States needed to take any measure it deemed necessary.

“This is a war for our life,” Mr. Mattson said. “These are people that chop heads off. I don’t care what we have to do to stop them.”

Oh my God! This is so terrible: 2003 manual for operating the Guantánamo detention center shows that military officials denied access to the Koran.

Today's issue of The New York Times reports that a confidential 2003 manual for operating the Guantánamo detention center shows that military officials denied access to the Koran to newly arrived detainees.

Yawn, yawn, yawn.

The courts and the law are catching up with climate change -- A seismic change moment in terms of environmental regulation of all kinds in America.

From The New York Times:

A federal appeals court here rejected the Bush administration’s year-old fuel-economy standards for light trucks and sport utility vehicles on Thursday, saying that they were not tough enough because regulators had failed to thoroughly assess the economic impact of tailpipe emissions that contribute to climate change.

The ruling, which is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, represents a major setback for both the auto industry and the White House at a time of growing public concern over the rising price of gasoline and the issue of climate change.

It was the third federal court ruling in seven months pressing regulators to take the risk of climate change into consideration as they set standards for industries that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases produced when oil, coal and natural gas are burned to produce energy.

In each case, starting with the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling this year that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate heat-trapping emissions, courts have found that federal officials must either grapple with the consequences of climate change or explain why they chose not to.

Illegal Immigration Issue is an Iceberg Ahead for the Democrats.

David Broder writes in The Washington Post:

As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, [an issue is] becoming paramount. . . .

That is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteran of the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key part of any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's ability to respond.

I think he has good reason to worry. The failure of the Democratic Congress, like its Republican predecessor, to enact comprehensive immigration reform, including improved border security, has left individual states and local communities to struggle with the problem. Some are showing a high degree of tolerance and flexibility. Others are being more punitive. But all of them are running into controversy.

I noticed a new Siena College Research Institute poll of registered voters in New York. It found heavy opposition to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal to permit undocumented aliens to obtain driver's licenses; nearly two-thirds opposed the latest version.

That is New York, home state of both Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Margaret Thatcher and Hilliary Clinton

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Margaret Thatcher would no more have identified herself as a woman, or claimed special pleading that she was a mere frail girl, or asked you to sympathize with her because of her sex, than she would have called up the Kremlin and asked how quickly she could surrender.

She represented a movement. She was its head. She was great figure, a person in history, and she was a woman. She was in it for serious reasons, not to advance the claims of a gender but to reclaim for England its economic freedom, and return its political culture to common sense. Her rise wasn't symbolic but actual.

When Hillary Clinton suggested that debate criticism of her came under the heading of men bullying a defenseless lass, an interesting thing happened. First Kate Michelman, the former head of NARAL and an Edwards supporter, hit her hard. "When unchallenged, in a comfortable, controlled situation, Sen. Clinton embraces her elevation into the 'boys club.'" But when "legitimate questions" are asked, "she is quick to raise the white flag and look for a change in the rules."

A real battle is brewing in Congress over the AMT. This much is for sure: Both parties risk the fury of voters if they don't pass a patch this year.

From The Hill:

Senate Republicans will launch a coordinated campaign next week to attack Democrats for dithering on legislation to shield millions of middle-class families from an unexpected tax hike and to convey stiff GOP resistance to raising taxes to pay for the relief, Senate GOP aides said.

Republicans already began the assault on Friday, hours before House Democrats approved legislation to stave off the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for one year, voting to pay for the relief partly by raising taxes on investment managers in the private equity, hedge fund and real estate industries. The Senate has not yet acted to patch the AMT.

“The reality is that Republicans are not only blocking attempts to provide AMT relief but, audaciously, many are demanding additional tax breaks for the wealthy as a price for passing AMT relief. This is cynical politics at its worst,” [said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley].

Republicans and Democrats both risk the fury of voters if they do not pass an AMT patch this year. Currently, only 4 million taxpayers pay the AMT, which Congress originally passed to ensure that the wealthy paid income taxes. But because the tax was never indexed to inflation, it is set to steadily swallow more and more middle-class victims. Unless Congress passes a patch, up to 25 million taxpayers could get hit by the tax next spring.

Is John Edwards Losing Ground?

By Richard Wolffe in Newsweek:

Is John Edwards in trouble in Iowa? Peg Dunbar thinks so. She signed up as a county chair for Edwards in the northeastern town of Waverly earlier this year, after backing the former senator's campaign in 2004. Now she has changed her mind and switched to Hillary Clinton. "John Edwards has been in Iowa for four and a half years and he's in third place," she says. "He should be in first place. Granted, it's very, very close. But I don't see him going anywhere and I don't go with a loser."

Polling in Iowa is imprecise, but most show Edwards losing ground of late. No poll has put him in front since August. In the last month he's been either tied with Obama for second place, or several points behind him in third. Campaigns can always replace individual supporters—but reversing a trend is much harder.

Obama makes hay at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Iowa.

From the The Des Moines Register:

The leading Democratic presidential candidates showed up for the Iowa Democratic Party’s big Jefferson Jackson Dinner Saturday night.

Five of them gave really good speeches.

Barack Obama’s was excellent.

It was one of the best of his campaign. The passion he showed should help him close the gap on Hillary Clinton by tipping some undecided caucus-goers his way. His oratory was moving and he successfully contrasted himself with the others - especially Clinton - without being snide or nasty about it.

Historically, the Iowa party’s “JJ” dinner is a landmark event in Democratic presidential caucus campaigns. All the key party activists, donors and players from the state are present. . . .

A candidate who does well at a JJ is quickly in the political buzz around Iowa. A candidate who does poorly can be quickly written off by some important players in the party. Candidates also know the event provides them with an opportunity to sound new themes, launch new attacks or mount a defense of their weaknesses. Local and national observers show up to chronicle the changes.

Obama was particularly impressive Saturday night. Should he win the Iowa caucuses, Saturday’s dinner will be remembered as one of the turning points in his campaign in here, a point where he laid down the marker and began closing on Clinton, the national frontrunner.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good Job Mr. Chairman: Tax Proposal From Rangel Could Benefit His Donors

The New York Times has an article detailing how Representative Charles B. Rangel -- the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- has proposed legislation that would effectively halt some current tax audits of people who get a tax break for living and operating a business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with many beneficiaries of the tax break being campaign contributors to the lawmaker.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones tried to make whites quit, attorney tells 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

From the AJC:

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and his top aides created a hostile work environment through intimidation and humiliation to bring a "darker administration" to the county, a lawyer told a federal appeals court Friday.

The executives decided they would not fire white managers and replace them with blacks because that would be blatantly illegal, attorney Chris Anulewicz said. Instead, he said, Jones and his top aides did "whatever else it takes to make them quit."

Anulewicz asked a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a judge's ruling a year ago that allowed a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit to go to trial. . . . The court is expected to issue its ruling next year.

Even if the court were to assume Jones's actions rose to the level of a constitutional violation, [Jones's lawyer] argued, the CEO should be shielded by qualified immunity. This doctrine protects public officials from liability unless it is shown they violated clearly established laws or rights that a reasonable person should have known.

There is no way the defense of qualified immunity will prevail in this action. What is of utmost interest is whether there is any way the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals -- that sits in Atlanta and reviews federal district court cases from Georgia, Florida and Alabama -- will rule on this appeal early enough for the lower federal court to have a trial prior to the November 2008 election (although I am still not 100% convinced that Jones will qualify to run for the U.S. Senate).

A plan for water conservation that has been proposed by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) may not be good for South Georgia.

From the Cordele Dispatch:

Crisp County Commissioner Brad Faircloth said he is concerned that “we who have been good stewards of our water resources will be penalized for a lack of planning in the metro Atlanta area.”

Atlanta has a serious problem, Faircloth concedes, but he says the rest of the state is now being asked to give up control of its water resources so that the metro area will have adequate supplies.

The EPD plan, he says, calls for regional planning boards to inventory water resources in each region. Then they would budget for expected use in the area and report what’s left over.

“My question,” Faircloth asks, “is ‘what happens to what’s left over?’”

Faircloth expects the EPD plan to be introduced in the 2008 Legislature. “It will be too late to contact senators and representatives after the session convenes,” he stressed. “Now is the time to let them know how you feel.”

If the EPD plan is approved, . . . it will give the state agency “unlimited, massive power over control of the state’s water resources,” he insisted.

Mike Huckabee might be man to watch in GOP presidential nomination race

My friend Larry Peterson writes in the Savannah Morning News that Mike Huckabee might be man to watch in GOP presidential nomination race. I agree with this assessment 100%.

The Issue the Democrats Dread

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post:

[There is a deep] worry among Democrats that Republicans are ready to use impatience with illegal immigration to win back voters dissatisfied with the broader status quo.

The issue is especially problematic because efforts to appease voters upset about immigration -- including a share of the African American community -- threaten to undercut the Democrats' large and growing advantage among Latino voters. For Republicans, the issue is both a way of changing the political subject from Iraq, the economy and the failures of the Bush presidency and a means of sowing discord in the Democratic coalition.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, has risked the ire of Latino groups by warning that the party must deal with concerns about illegal immigration.

"The debate to date has been a debate about corporate interests, [agriculture], the tourist industry and advocates of immigrants," he said in a telephone interview yesterday. "This is a debate in which the rest of America is left out. This is a values issue: How does a superpower not have control over its border? You have to enforce the rule of law as it relates to the border, and you have to enforce the rule of law as it relates to benefits. Then the American people will be open to resolving the issue as it relates to what industry needs and what immigrant advocates need."

Even Cut 50 Percent, Earmarks Clog a Military Bill

From The New York Times:

Even though members of Congress cut back their pork barrel spending this year, House lawmakers still tacked on to the military appropriations bill $1.8 billion to pay 580 private companies for projects the Pentagon did not request.

As promised when they took control of Congress in January, House Democratic leaders cut in half from last year the value of earmarks in the bill, as they did in the other 11 agency spending measures. But some lawmakers complained that the leadership failed to address what it had called a “culture of corruption” in which members seek earmarks to benefit corporate donors. Earmarks have been a recurring issue in recent Congressional scandals, most recently the 2005 conviction of Representative Randy Cunningham, Republican of California, for accepting bribes from defense contractors.

“Pork hasn’t gone away at all,” said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, an earmark critic who cites the “circular fund-raising” surrounding many of them. “It would be wonderful if this was a partisan issue, with Republicans on the right side, but it is really not. Many of these companies use money appropriated through earmarks to turn around and lobby for more money. Some of them are just there to receive earmarks.”