Saturday, July 30, 2005

Labor pains

Two major unions have departed the AFL-CIO. The Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union have decided to band with fifve other smaller unions to form a coalition focused on improving lives for union members instead of simply gaining political power, as they accused the AFL-CIO of doing. The food and commercial workers' union joined the Teamsters and SEIU later in the week.

It's a good opportunity to reflect on the role and position of the American labor union today. Membership in unions today is declining with fewer union households than ever. The Teamsters and SEIU say they want to focus more on their members and improving the quality of those members' lives. That can be done through political power — lobbying and get-out-the-vote efforts that result in elected officials who make decisions favorable to the unions' members.

As a proud member of a powerful national union, I recognize and value the efforts my union makes on a national, state and local level. Of course, I generally agree with the decisions made by the union leadership, and I acknowledge that these are often made with my best interests in mind. What is troubling is that fewer people today share the value of a collective union. They want what unions can negotiate, but they're unwilling to participate in the organizing or make the sacrifices necessary in order to see gains at the bargaining table.

My dad is a good example of this. He worked in sales and finance for a car dealership in Tacoma, Wash., for much of the 1990s. This dealership was the only one in the city whose workers were unionized and affiliated with the food and commercial workers union. This union required dues, which my dad, an ardent big-business conservative Republican, griped about frequently. That's a bit understandable since the union did little in the way of regulating job site conditions -- my dad was quasi-management and regularly worked 10- to 12-hour days. But this union had also negotiated excellent benefits, especially health care. The health care plan paid for a necessary but not life-threatening surgery for my stepmom as well as paid for medical needs after car collision. Without the union bargaining, my folks would have faced tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

Powerful buisness interests, outsourced jobs and elected officials who side with business instead of workers all have hurt unions. While Republicans are mostly the cause of pinching off unions, Democrats have done their part to hurt unions, too. This week's vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement is an example of the dwindling influence of unions and the willingness of politicians to side with corporate interests. That agreement passed the U.S. House of Representatives with just two votes, and several Republicans, to their credit and most from textile-producing states, voted against approval.

So I wonder: Does the move by these unions show that the American labor union is on its last legs? Will this be the shot in the arm union organizers need in order to regain strength in membership and in influence? Do we still need unions today? If unions go away, what will replace them?

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Travelin' governor

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire visited Wenatchee twice this week. Tuesday she made a side trip from a visit to Ellensburg in order to visit a fire that started in Badger Mountain wheat field. Although the fire did potentially threaten some homes to the south, early reports erroniously reported that 50 homes had been evacuated. Nonetheless, it was nice to have Gov. Gregoire here to draw attention to the dry conditions that can and have made summers tense in rural forest and mountain areas. This has been an abnormal year in that no major wildfires have started in the area.

The governor returned Thursday for a previously scheduled visit to address a Rotary club, the Labor Council and a Latino adult education program at Wenatchee Valley College. I think Gov. Gregoire has done a fine job of spending time in Eastern Washington to show she is the governor of the entire state, not just the Puget Sound area where she earned the most votes. She had been in Ellensburg to approve a wind farm for electrical power generation, something that may only be approved by the governor. Gov. Gregoire understands the issues important to Eastern Washington and rural residents (especially transportation concerns), and I think she's had a fine first half year in office.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Baby got backpack

That's it. I've had it. I can't stand it any more.

Cease and desist, Target. Please do something original, Applebee's. I am annoyed by the overuse of popular music to promote a product that is completely unrelated. There have been several notably annoying examples of this trend, but two stand out.

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar has a new selection of bowl dinners. To promote the "irresista-bowl" entrees, the restaurant chain has turned to Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistable" song from the 1980s. Sadly, Palmer is probably turning over in his grave at the use of his music to sell rice-and-chicken dinners.

In probably the worst case I have heard recently, Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" from the early 1990s is being used to hawk all sorts of back-to-school products at Target stores. What sounds like a celebrity impersonator raps new lyrics to the song, lyrics that help sell such items as backpacks.

These new uses are shameful and disappointing. Of course, artists should be free to sell their work to an advertiser, and often the song is heard in its original form. Yet, changing lyrics and using hard rap to sell backpacks at Target, is just plain grating. It just makes me want to avoid Target altogether.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Political digest

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity in politics as Congress crammed to finish business before leaving for the August recess. Some notable activities and my thoughts:

Energy and Transportation bills: The Congress passed major legislation regarding energy, which, thankfully, did not include protections for manufacturers of certain fuel additives that have been linked to cancer. That's a win for Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who is hammering all things energy in preparation for her re-election campaign next year. The energy bill also has attracted a lot of notice because it would add a month to daylight-saving time beginning in 2007. Studies say that this could save as much as 100,000 barrels of oil each day, mainly because people would use less electricity in the evening because there would be ore daylight. Nevermind that it would be offset by an increase in morning use. Critics point out that schoolshildren would be forced to wait for the bus in the dark. The transportation bill also contains $220 million for the Alaskan Way viaduct in Seattle, courtesy of the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee for transportation: Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

Meanwhile, the president's Social Security reform measure seems to be broken down along the side of the road. We have heard nothing of this for months, and the president's name has been prefaced by the term "lame duck" with increasing frequency.

Probably one of the biggest snubs to the lame-duck president came from the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee. He did a complete about-face July 29 when he announced his support for federal funding for stem cell research. This is a major departure for Frist, who advocated from the Senate floor the kind of protection for the unborn and the barely living such as Terry Schiavo. This is a significant break with the White House, and Frist undoubtedly lost some conservative support. He's making a bit of an appeal to the center with this, knowing the religious right will come back if he can win the nomination.

With the senators out of town, sources close to President Bush have indicated he will suddenly discover there is an emergency and send John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations by using a recess appointment. Such an appointment would only be effective through 2007 but would get around the blocks placed on Bolton's nomination placed by senators concerned about his record.

As Bolton is stalled, the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court seems to be progressing well. Committee hearings should begin after the August recess, and Democrats will have had a chance to comb through mountains of papers Roberts authored while working in the Justice Department for the Reagan Administration. However, Dems really want to see the internal memos Roberts wrote when he was deputy solicitor general during the George H.W. Bush Administration. Republicans say that the work was contracted for a client -- namely the president -- but Dems say that the client was actually the people of the United States, so the documents should be released.

Ahhh, the August recess. President Bush heads to his Crawford, Texas, ranch to clear some brush and have a "working vacation" at what is shamefully called the "Western White House." All aspiring presidential candidates head to Iowa and New Hampshire to address any Rotary chapter who will listen.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Election '08 update: Pataki, Santorum

New York Governor George Pataki has announced he will not seek a fourth term in 2006. He said he sought new paths and new challenges. He did not rule out a run for the White House in 2008.

This frees Pataki from the restraints of elected office during what will be a battle royale for the Republican nomination. Pataki has surprised before. The protege of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, Pataki stunned many in 1994 by upsetting Mario Cuomo in the "Contract for America" year. Of course, in 2008, Pataki will have to contend with two Empire State stars that shine brighter than he does: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Pataki could easily make a play for moderates, but he is far less engaging than Giuliani.

Of course, Pataki will also not have the platform of the governor's office to keep his name in the news. Neither does Giuliani, but more people know and like the former mayor, I think. Plus, Pataki evades a bruising re-election fight and the prospect of even losing to the Democrat candidate. Polls apparently show Pataki trailing state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer has made a national reputation after his aggressive prosections of Wall Street corporate criminals. That alone should be enough to attract the attention of a national fundraising crowd. And you know the Dems want the NY governor's mansion back. Keep an eye on Spitzer. His star is rising.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has said he is not considering a bid for 2008, but just today now has said he would not rule it out. His new book has kept him in the media spotlight, and I think he'll have some on the religious right calling for him to enter the campaign -- if nothing else than to carry the banner for religious conservatives. I maintain, as I have for months, that Santorum is a strong candidate on that side, and don't be surprised if he ends up on the ticket. First, though, Santorum must get through what is shaping up to be a tough re-election campaign in 2006. And, if Pennsylvania's other senator, Arlen Specter, has a worsening of his health, Santorum would be in a position to dominate the media from the Keystone State -- also in the major media markets of the tri-state area.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Return to space

The space shuttle has returned to space!

I just finished watching the launch of the space shuttle Discovery. It has been two and a half years since American astronauts were lost as Columbia ignited on atmospheric re-entry.

It has been a long time since I watched a launch of the space shuttle. When I was a kid, it was a thrill, and I remember that every launch and return was covered live in TV. Admittedly, I was a bit casual about seeing the launch. I only turned on the TV this morning to see if the shuttle had actually made it off the pad. Instead, I saw the actual launch live, and I confess that it is a thrill to watch.

I'll save all the sentmentality about American destiny and exploration and the "can-do" spirit. Simply put, watching the solid-fuel boosters blast the shuttle into orbit is amazing. I imagine the thrill is significantly amplified when witnessing the event live.

I wish the best to the Discovery crew. Space exploration is important, not because of what we think we might learn but because of what we don't know what we will learn.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New Business Item 40

At the annual Representative Assembly of the National Education Association July 5, members approved the following new business item:

New Business Item 40
That the NEA investigate and report in its publications the present status of student freedom of speech in light of the 1986 Hazelwood decision and State constitutions, and inform members of available resources such as the Student Press Law Center that can assist in protecting students' free speech rights.

This is fantastic. Journalism educators and First Amendment advocates have become hoarse after spending so much effort to get the attention for the decline in freedoms for students, and this Supreme Court decision is one main reason. One error in the passage above: Hazelwood was decided in 1988. I hope that is just a typo and not an indication of how NEA will handle research on this matter.

The case deals with administrative censorship of a school newspaper and basically gave school officials the authority to regulate content of school media if they could demonstrate a legitimate pedagogical concern and if the media was school-sponsored (published as part of a class, for example). The effect has been widespread conflict at many schools. Administrators wrongly believe they can control all content -- even content that is protected opinion. Schools tighten a budget and eliminate training for journalism teachers or the program as a class, resulting in students who don't know their rights and who are more likely to be irresponsible.

The reality is that when students are advised and taught by a well-trained and educated professional, they know their rights and have a better educational experience than if those rights are restricted or trampled on by zealous administrators who are more concerned with avoiding ruffled feathers than with whether students learn and grow.

More of our fellow Association members need to be aware of the laws and rights, so the journalism professional is not left alone to defend this position singularly. While sometimes the journalism teacher has a solid foundation in this area, more often he or she is just as ignorant as the students. Thanks, NEA, for taking leadership in this area. Thanks members for working hard for passage.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Reporters Committee releases summary of Roberts' free-press cases

From a press release:

Reporters Committee releases summary of Roberts' free-press cases

July 21, 2005

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has prepared a summary of the First Amendment and media-related cases handled by U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.

"The Reporters Committee continues its tradition of preparing summaries of media-related cases in the portfolio of Supreme Court nominees," said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. "We hope newsrooms and media litigators find this summary a useful tool in the days leading to Judge Roberts' confirmation hearing."

It is not easy to discern Judge Roberts' thoughts on First Amendment, free press and freedom of information issues, the summary concludes. This confusion stems mainly from the fact that so much of his writing was done in the service of clients, most notably the U.S. government. During the first Bush administration, he served as deputy solicitor general. The solicitor general, who answers to the attorney general, is responsible for litigating U.S. Supreme Court cases on behalf of the federal government.

But Roberts' position of the last two years as a judge on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has given him an opportunity to speak in his own voice, although only a few of the more than 40 opinions he authored touch on media issues.

As deputy attorney general during George H.W. Bush's administration, Roberts became very familiar with Freedom of Information issues, which are litigated by the Department of Justice, according to a Justice Department attorney.

Still, Roberts' collected works leave cause for concern among free press advocates. One of the early briefs he coauthored at the Solicitor General's office, in urging the Court to deny review of a prior restraint against CNN, argued, "The critical point is that the First Amendment is part of the rule of law, not above it." And a decision he wrote earlier this year stripped newsletter publishers of an attorney fees award because, he held, the government was justified in defending a rule requiring the publishers to register as commodities traders.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty beams up

James Doohan, the burly veteran of the original "Star Trek" television series, has died at his Redmond, Wash., home, according to The Seattle Times. He was 85.

We all knew this day would come; Doohan had been ill for a while now. Doohan played the resourceful Scottish chief engineer Montgomery Scott, known for his ability to milk just a bit more energy from the Enterprise engine's dilithium crystals or to use the transporter to extract crew members in peril just in the nick of time.

Interestingly, despite the popularity of the phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" it was never uttered on the original series.

Favorite Scotty episode: "Trouble with Tribbles."
Best Scotty acting scenes: In "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" when the engine room is targeted by Khan, then in control of the comandeered starship Reliant. The phasers blast through the engine room, and Scotty's nephew, an ensign, is killed. Scotty also played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes for Spock's funeral at the end of the movie. Also, in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," the crew leaves Vulcan with the rejuvenated Spock but must travel back in time to get humpback whales in order to save the Earth of the future. When Scotty grans a computer mouse and talks into it, there is high comedy. A worker suggests the keyboard, and he replies: "A keyboard. How quaint." Dorky jokes but fun.

Godspeed, James Doohan. Full speed ahead.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A possible Cantwell opponent

The CEO of Safeco Insurance has announced he will step down as head of the company effective Aug. 31. Mike McGavick has been widely rumored to be the target of numerous Republican recruiting pitches to be a candidate for a number of offices, notably for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Maria Cantwell.

The News Tribune of Tacoma carried a report of McGavick's courting by the state GOP. That report also mentioned three other possible cantwell contenders: Rep Rick White, who unseated Cantwell when she represented the state's First Congressional District from 1993 to 1995; former federal prosecutor Diane Tebelius, who was herself an unsuccessful candidate for Congress; and state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee, who is most likely a longshot. Dino Rossi had announced last week that he would not be a Senate candidate, and White followed suit Monday. With Republican heavyweights lining up behind McGavick, it seems all but assured that he will not only enter the race but would be the favorite, especially in fundraising.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Underground Web site has been discussing this race, and at least one contributor to the discussion board shares my views that Sen. Cantwell is going to whip the Enron horse as hard as she can next year. Those policies toward energy use and abuse of the electricity market back in 2001 is a huge issue in counties that rely on public power, namely Snohomish County and those in central Washington (Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Benton and Franklin). Keep in mind that these are all counties where Dino Rossi won slim to decisive victories in 2004, but where a Senator who has a record of helping constituents could prove to be popular.

Also, Sen. Cantwell will be at a Chelan County reception on Aug. 12 in Leavenworth. This follows an adress by Gov. Christine Gregoire in Wenatchee July 28 to the state labor council. Chelan Democrats have shown they are a presence here in this "red" county, and they could be enough to tip a balance in a close race.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Justice Roberts?

On Oct. 3, a new associate justice of the Supreme Court will take the most junior seat. President Bush wants it to be John G. Roberts, currently of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a position to which Bush himself appointed Roberts in 2003. He is known for his sharp legal mind and he has argued 39 times before the Supreme Court. Roberts is also just 50 years old, and he potentially could serve on the high court for over 30 years. The CNN report.

The spin is that this is an exceptionally well-qualified jurist. His credentials sparkle. Plus, he was confirmed just a couple years ago. It will be hard for the Democrats to simultaneously criticize his record with the knowledge that they supported him just a few years ago.

This is clearly a legacy pick for President Bush. Yet it is also likely to be a political win, too. If the Dems don't filibuster, Roberts is set because the Republicans have 55 solid votes.

Yet there are some openings for Democrats and interest groups to make some points. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking member on the subcommittee for courts, has some unanswered questions from 2003, and he will expect an answer. Also, while President Bush praised Roberts' legal record and the fact that he was confirmed with ease recently, he left out the fact that President George H. W. Bush had also nominated ROberts for a federal judgeship, but Democrats did not even give him a vote. Also, Roberts' connections to Bush and Republican legal circles. In fact, Roberts and his law firm were instrumental in arguing to the court in Bush v. Gore in 2000. There is a long record of court cases and legal opinions for the liberals to scour, and I expect they will.

My prediction is that, barring some sort of damning evidence, Roberts will take a seat at the Supreme Court. He will get a few Democrat votes, and I doubt the Dems will filibuster. Democrat senators looking to 2008 will need to chart a careful course to avoid being seen as obstructionist yet also maintaining liberal credentials.

All in all, it could have been worse, but it could have been better. I take comfort, if there is any, in the idea that Roberts is at least a smart legal mind, and that gives me hope that in some of the more complicated cases there would be room for a dissent from a solid conservative majority. The coming months have a court docket that includes an Oregon right-to-die case, really a case about states' vs. federal rights to regulate drugs, a case about the ability for college campuses to ban military recruiters from campus because of discrimination against homosexuals, and a case of parental notification for minor children to have abortions. Those three alone are some hefty issues.

An interesting note: Slate magazine had earlier published a "short list" ordered by likelihood of being nominated. Roberts was second after Michael Luttig.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

SCOTUS Watch '05: A nominee is imminent

News outlets are reporting that President Bush will announce from the East Room of the White House at 9 p.m., Eastern time, who he intends to appoint to the Supreme Court of the United States. This nominee, if confirmed by the U. S. Senate, will fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.Apparently up to eight candidates were interviewed, and the president said he knew some people well enough to avoid an interview. News reports point to Judge Edith Brown Clement from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but who knows?

Side note: Is this the president taking heat away from the CIA leak investigation? Intentional or not, it effectively bumps all of that news to Page 24 and SCOTUS and nice star-spangled pictures to Page 1.
The timing is interesting -- it is after the local news cycle yet allows morning dailies to make their deadlines. Effectively, the White House controls the news for a few hours at least. Though the announcement is at 9 p.m., expect a hand to be tipped a few hours before as a courtesy.

The nominee will first face the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here's a rundown of who get to grill:

The Republicans:
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania, chair
Orrin Hatch, Utah
Charles Grassley, Iowa
John Kyl, Arizona
Mike DeWine, Ohio
Jeff Sessions, Alabama
Lindsay Graham, South Carolina
John Cornyn, Texas
Sam Brownback, Kansas
Tom Coburn, Oklahoma

The Republican side has some real veterans, including Hatch, a former chair who was around for the last SCOTUS confirmations and even Clarence Thomas'. Yet, some of the faces are new to the Senate and are very conservative, such as Tom Coburn. Look to the moderates like Mike DeWine and Lindsey Graham for some indications. Also, John Cornyn served on the Texas Supreme Court. Sam Brownback is in the White House hunt, so watch his questions to see how he can use this experience as a feather in his cap and also one that doesn't come back to bite him in the Republican primaries.

The Democrats:
Patrick Leahy, Vermont, ranking minority member
Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts
Joseph Biden, Delaware
Herbert Kohl, Wisconsin
Dianne Feinstein, California
Russell Feingold, Wisconsin
Charles Schumer, New York
Richard Durbin, New York

This is a deep bench for the Democrats. These are veteran, die-hard, yellow-dog Democrats. At least one, Joe Biden, has presidential plans for 2008. Look to Pat Leahy to lead the charge and to farm out various grilling assignments among the very capable evisceration team of Kennedy, Feinstein, Schumer and Durbin, the minority whip. These are people known for their fiery speeches on the Senate floor, so I would expect to see some fireworks regardless of how cordial the proceedings start out. Depending on the nominee, I'd expect the Dems to unload with both barrels.

Stay tuned.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

He died doing what?

My mouth dropped, contorting to different looks of astonishment with each paragraph I read.

The Seattle Times reported July 15:

King County sheriff's detectives are investigating the owners of an Enumclaw-area farm after a Seattle man died from injuries sustained while having sex with a horse boarded on the property.

Investigators first learned of the farm after the man died at Enumclaw Community Hospital July 2. The county Medical Examiner's Office ruled that the death was accidental and the result of having sex with a horse.

A horse, you say? No way. How is that even possible?

Apparently, it is, though, and I imagine people who want something badly enough will find a way to get it. Another report says it turns out there are a bunch of video tapes, too.

And apparently, it is not against the law. Who would think we needed a law to ban such acts? I guess we do. Protect the animals from people. Protect people from themselves. That's exactly what state Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn plans to do. She's on it.

Nicole Brodeur wrote a column about it, and she matched my astonishment. It's enough to make you raise an eyebrow and wonder.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

It's %#@&ing wrong

There is something seriously wrong with education when a schoolteacher -- a 35-year veteran -- is reassigned new classes based on something his students did. But that's exactly what happened in the Shoreline School District when a teacher, also adviser to the school's literary magazine, was reassigned after a student's poem was published with profanity in its title in the literary magazine.

The Seattle Times published a lengthy report on the font page of the local section of its July 18 edition. Update July 20: Susan Paynter, a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, chimed in, too, adding some clarifying details to the situation.

Now, the school district snatched up all remaining copies of the magazine and shredded the page in question and dumped its instructor. Nevermind that there had been profanity in past magazines or that there was profanity on other pages of this same volume. Nevermind that the students' learning experiences in making the content decisions is as close to the real world as possible. Nevermind that the students had a valuable forum for expression, an outlet for the confusion and uncertainty that troubles many teens regarding their bodies and lives.

It might have been an excellent opportunity for the school to teach about the impact of the written word. Maybe to help guide students into a more tasteful decision in the future. No, the district shredded thousands of pages and dumped a veteran teacher because of a few complaints.

It's just not right to punish an educator, someone whose advice was likely to let students make decisions after consideringthe outcome, in this harsh way. The message to students is that they need not take responsibility because someone else will. They really don't have freedom of expression, at least not if someone calls the school. Instead, the school missed a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the value of ideas and how mature people can differ and then reach a compromise without flexing administrative muscle.

These days in schools, that administrative muscle is an all-too-common appearance, something turned to before it should be. The teacher has filed a grievance with his teachers association, and I hope he will be successful in overturning his reassignment.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Scooter Libby: A primer

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He's the vice president's chief of staff, the gatekeeper. He's a neoconservative whose relationship with Vice President Cheney dates back to Cheney's days as Defense Secretary in the George H. W.
Bush Administration. You know that group: Cheney, Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle.

He has an official government Web site bio.

Right Web has a profile.

Here's an excerpt from the Center for American Progress, a progressive Web site:

When historians finally lift the curtain on the Bush administration, they will discover that Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby was one of the most important men pulling the levers. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, has been center stage for every one of the administration's national security scandals – the Iraq intelligence debacle, secret meetings about Halliburton contracts in Iraq, and the leaking of a CIA's agent's identity to the press – and doubtless others we have not heard of yet.

The dossier goes on to say that Libby is "Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney." That says it all. But wait, there's more in this article from July 8, 2004:

There is speculation that Libby has already faced questioning by a special prosecutor in what may turn out to be the most damaging Bush scandal – the White House's leaking of a CIA operative's name. The operative – the wife of Joe Wilson, a former ambassador and Bush administration critic – was outed to journalists in an attempt to intimidate her husband, who had offered proof that the President was inflating evidence about Iraq search for nuclear materials.

Numerous press reports hold that Libby was closely involved in the incident (either as the leaker or someone who knew about and authorized the leak). And the New York Times has revealed that Cheney was specifically asked about Libby when prosecutors grilled him. A grand jury is currently investigating the case, which could carry a prison sentence of 10 years.

Oh yes, that's right. Libby is also the new eye of the storm surrounding whether a White House official leaked the name of a CIA covert operative. Attention has shifted from Karl Rove to someone far more insidious, Libby. And a liberal Web site puts the pieces together.

The American people are about to get to know Lewis "Scooter" Libby really well in the next few weeks, I suspect.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

On being lazy

There is a lot to be said for relaxing. Sometimes the best way to accomplish something is to do nothing. I am usually someone who tries to do multiple tasks simultaneously -- often called "multitasking." I will read the newspaper while I "watch" television, or I will type some e-mails while I cook dinner. Sometimes, though, I think everyone needs to just do nothing. I don't mean do nothing which really is something, such as watch a TV program or reading a book. I mean literally doing nothing. Then, after a bit of that, you can do something -- but that something should relax you.

I have spent a good part of this weekend doing nothing and then relaxing. In fact, the weather in Wenatchee today has been so glorious that I hardly accomplished anything. Well, I read the entire Sunday paper, I laid out in the sun on the chaise for a while thinking, I surfed around for a bit online, I watched some TV, and then, I did the relaxing something. I went back out to the chaise around 5 p.m., when the back yard is mostly shady but it is still pleasant out, and I read a magazine, one of several that have piled up recently. I normally would not spend so much time reading this, but that is what lazy summer days are for, right?

I have plenty of things to keep me busy, so it's not like I have nothing to do. I am not bored. Simply put, everyone needs to just be lazy every now and again. I've had the better part of a weekend being lazy, and I feel fantastic.

Now, as I head into a couple-week stretch that demands progress on a number of fronts, I think I am ready. I'll have been lazy recently. But the fine line between laziness and apathy must be avoided.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

I know what happened to Judy

It didn't take long, using Google of course, to find out what happened to one of my favorite anchors on television, CNN's Judy Woodruff. Turns out she has left CNN and the daily broadcast grind after 30 years to work on some long term projects and consult and teach.

The E network had a story online, as did a blog, which reported an April 28, 2005, internal CNN e-mail from Woodruff.

So that explains why one of my favorite CNN shows, "Inside Politics," has been hosted by a rotating member of the CNN Washington and Capitol Hill staff. Woodruff was its host for 12 years. There has also been a stable full of contributors to the "Daily Briefing" segment, which analyzes a handful of top stories beyond just the talking points. I really like Paul Begala, formerly of the "Crossfire," and Tori Clarke, the former Pentagon spokesperson -- she's a keeper.

Woodruff is married to Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal, who hosts the CNN weekend roundtable "The Capital Gang." I like him, too; he is a fair journalist and not a shouter.

I hope CNN can elevate some of its current talent, especially the wonderful Andrea Koppel, or draw some folks from other networks. I'd love to see Mara Liasson of NPR jump ship as a Fox News contributor to join CNN.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Evergreen state politics

Lots of political news in the paper today in our Washington. So much for a boring summer in an off-year.

Dino Rossi has told the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that he won't be Washington's Republican candidate to unseat incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell next year. In a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, the committee's chair, Rossi said that he intends to work to improve Washington state from home and that if he won it would be difficult to move his family, which includes four children 4 to 14.

State party chair Chris Vance apparently declined to handicap the field. Perhaps that is because there have been numerous reports that Vance is eyeing the seat himself. Meanwhile, Cantwell continues to raise more money, and every court decision this week against Enron helps Cantwell because she picked up on the case from the Snohomish County PUD. Enron had been accused of creating circumstances where electricity would be in short supply so that the available megawatts could be sold for higher prices.

I would not close the door entirely on the Rossi for Senate idea. One never knows how convincing the back-room dealings can be, and Air Force One makes a big sound when it screams into the area for a rally. Cantwell may have some good friends, but she doesn't have that.

A federal district court judge declared Washington's new primary system, approved just last year by citizens as Initiative 872, unconstitutional. That means voters will again have to declare a party preference, at least for voting purposes. This is actually a victory for the First Amendment in that political parties clearly have the right to freedom of assembly -- association with other like-minded people -- and that the parties cannot be forced to have nonmembers determine the candidates being nominated in a primary election. Washington voters had for a long time the ability to cross party lines when voting in a primary, and as someone who usually votes a straight "D" ticket, it doesn't bother me in the least to be forced to declare affiliation for primary elections.

In a national new item, a federal appeals court has ruled constitutional the Bush Administration's plan to create a special military tribunal to try the terrorism suspects currently held captive at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It would be the first time since World War II that such a tribunal has been held. This is a victory not only for the administration but particularly for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose legal opinion as White House Counsel helped shape the plan. If Gonzales is Bush;s nominee for the Supreme Court, expect this to be an even bigger issue now.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Thanks, Judge

My court appearance today lasted all of two minutes, where I explained the situation of accelerating uphill, which is why I was exceeding the speed limit. Judge Thomas Warren reduced my fee to $110, and I paid before I left the courthouse.

All in all, a short day in court.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Election '08 update: Brownback, Allen, Bayh

More from my earlier post about those who are possible preisdential contenders in 2008.

Also, check out Oval Office 2008, which gives a rundown of the Oval Office seekers. Honestly, there aren't any names mentioned that I have not already listed (which makes me feel pretty good), but there is a ton of information and commentary. OK, the site does mention Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, a complete and utter longshot, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the Clinton impeachment managers when he was in the House and who now is looking like a Southern moderate. He's probably a longshot, too, especially with the star power and charisma of some fellow Republican candidates like Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and George Allen (see below).

CNN is reporting that Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas has made a trip to South Carolina as part of the groundwork-laying stage of a presidential campaign. South Carolina is the site of the first Southern presidential primary. It's also where George W. Bush decimated John McCain in 2000 usng despicable push-polling tactics. Brownback came to the U.S. Senate to completethe unexpired term of Bob Dole, who retired to run for president.
Brownback's Senate Web site
Brownback's campaign Web site -- still says U.S. Senate, but I imagine there will be one for president soon enough

Other presidential tidbits:
The Washington Post and columnists have reported that an attractive candidate is Sen. George Allen of Virginia. He is an attractive candidate with football roots, whose conservative catch phrases are well received in the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire. So, Virginia could be a battleground -- a contrast of traditional Southern values with the high-tech and increasingly urban values of suburban Fairfax and Arlington counties.

My money still sits on the spot of Sen. Evan Bayh. Really, he is worth checking out. My goodness, a moderate Democrat from the reddest part of the Midwest who even looks like a presidential candidate with his pretty wife and twin boys (not that it matters). The son of U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, he was Indiana's secretary of state for two years and a two-term governor, elected at age 33.
Bayh's Senate Web site
Bayh's campaign Web site
Americans for Bayh, an unofficial presidential campaign Web site.
Bloggers for Bayh, self-explanatory
The Democrat Leadership Council, which Bayh chaired until recently

I am not a New Democrat -- I am a good ol' liberal Democrat -- but I like Bayh's odds and what he stands for. Honestly, if Bill Richardson gets in, I might have a tough choice.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Bushies need to wag the dog

Karl Rove is twisting slowly in the wind -- and I am loving it!

This transcript of the July 11 White House press briefing is dang interesting. It is about time that the White House Press Corps went after this issue. I don't think it will be proven that Karl Rove actually committed a crime because there are some areas of the law that are very specific, and the info that has been reported indicates that he did speak with at least one reporter, but he may not have broken a law. Knowledge of the CIA operative's status is a key element.

No matter what, the White House is caught in a big ol' lie of Clinton proportions, the harsh lights have gone from the reporters not testifying back to the White House staff sputtering inconsistencies and to tepid support for Rove, the president's deputy chief of staff, and there is no other news to fill the cycle. Heck, even Fox News and CNN's Lou Dobbs are on this like stink on poo. It is gonna be a long, hot summer in Washington.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Stuff I Like: TV Edition

So my television consumption goes up dramatically in the summer for obvious reasons, namelay the fact that I am home to watch. Still, I have not been watching much because of my master's classes. But I have found a few gems recently.

"I Want To Be a Hilton" -- Dude, who doesn't? Kathy Hilton is a bad TV personality, but this show is so campy it is funny. Basically, she takes a bunch of uncouth bumpkins and tries to clean them up and get them ready for high society. Of course the contests have little to do with high society; really only a lifetime of being spoiled can prepare you for that. Things are just heating up, though. My money is on Jaret -- likeable, enthusiastic, starting to get the whole society thing. He is a kindergarten teacher, so you gotta support that. It's Tusdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

NBC also has some interesting series for the fall: Martha Stewart's version of "The Apprentice" and "E-Ring," with Dennis Hopper and Benjamin Bratt as Pentagon experts. ABC has this week's "Brat Camp," which looks interesting, and "Commander in Chief" a show about Geena Davis as the vice president who ascends to the presidency. Donald Sutherland co-stars. I caught one episode of "Empire," and it was all right, too.

The "Ellen" show, even in reruns, is swell. I love Ellen DeGeneres. She makes me laugh, and I like the easy feeling about the show. Plus she is fun. Way better than the super-syrupy Rosie O'Donnell Show, which got old fast.

CNN's "Inside Politics" -- I love a show dedicated to politics. It's better during an election year. It was also better with Judt Woodruff, and I am not sure what has happened to her. I aim to find out. I'll post a comment when I do. It's on at 12: 30 p.m. Pacific time, if you're interested.

Have I also mentioned I love CNN's "NewsNight with Aaron Brown"? I love it. Brown is a great newsman (was a Seattle anchor for a long time), and I like his mix of hard questions, the questions I would ask, and the kind of common sense that an average person brings to an interview. Sometimes, he just looks at a person he is interviewing witha look that says, "Oh, come on." And then he actually says, "Oh, come on." Gotta love the honesty. Stick around for Segment Seven at the end, usually a brite feature and often with Jeannie Moos (hilarious reporter), and for Morning Papers, a roundup of the next day's headlines from newspapers as they are put to bed, which always ends with the Chicago Sun-Times and its pithy description of the days's weather forecast. The show airs at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. out here. Try it.

I also watched a bevy of home improvement shows while I was in Phoenix. My folks love 'em. My dad also made me watch some NASCAR. The race was delayed for like three hours, and it was obvious they were filling time. People actually watch that live -- I don't know why. My dad is a fan, and, shockingly, my stepmom is too. Weird. At least they don't by much memoribilia. Much.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Oyez, oyez! Commence CJW -- Chief Justice Watch

The Chief Justice of the United States, William Rehnquist, already suffering from thyroid cancer since last fall, has been hospitalized for a fever. He is 80. This has fueled even more speculation that he will announce his retirement from SCOTUS; rumors to that effect have reached, ahem, fever pitch in the last week or so.

So, you can count on me to post any updates on the condition of the CJ. I'll offer my analysis, too.

First up: If Rehnquist does pack it in for any reason, I would bet good money that President Bush would appoint Antonin Scalia as Chief Justice. You can take that to the bank. Scalia is well-regarded and only has the slight blemish of the duck-hunting-with-Dick scandal. He would be confirmed easily, especially since Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrat leader, has said just this byear that he respects Scalia and thinks he is a good associate justice. Sen. Arlen Specter, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed on a rumor that Bush might ask Sandra Day O'Connor to stay and elevate her to Chief. That ain't gonna happen. Period. She's done.

Next: That leaves Bush two associates to appoint. I would bet on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and one of the Ediths from the 5th Circuit. Conservatives and moderates each get something, Bush avoids a fight and he has tilted the court just a bit to the right.

But: If Rehnquist stays -- even in poor health, which could cause all sorts of mid-term problems -- Bush probably won't nominate Gonzales. Bush is on record as supporting justices like Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Gonzales is no Scalia or Thomas. Also, Dems should stop acting like Gonzales is the best hope for moderates and liberals. Remember he wrote an opinion as White House Counsel that said torture was OK and thatthe Geneva Conventions can be ignored in this new type of war. With the possibility of Guantanamo cases headed for SCOTUS, do you think he should be on he court? We can do better, so let's stop acting like he is as good as we can get. Thanks, by the way, to Slate for helping me articulate the thoughts I had already been feeling.

Watch this space for your CJW news, updated daily -- more frequently as the news occurs. Do you think Vegas betting parlors have odds on whether Rehnquist will kick off? Tacky, yes, but I bet they do.

UPDATE July 14, 2005, 1 p.m. PDT: I saw a report that Rehnquist was released and went home. No comments were given on his condition.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Road Trip '05: Stage 4

Reno was a big disappointment. Honestly, if I had known just how lame that city is, I would have stayed the night two hours down the road in Winnemucca, where the room would have been cheaper (maybe not as nice -- but I did not really need two queen-size beds) and I would have been closer to getting home the next day. The one nice thing I did in Reno was to see a casino show. It was "Smokey Joe's Cafe," which is a great musical revue, and it was a decent 90-minute show for $30. But my time in town was so windy and the downtown was so filthy that I was completely unimpressed -- especially compared to Las Vegas.

I had made it to Reno in good time. I had a slight delay in Carson City, just about 35 miles south of Reno, when my engine light came on. After all my car troubles, I stopped at a dealership and had it checked. A hose was loose, the worker plugged it back in, and 10 minutes later I was on my way. No problem. Whew!

The rest of my trip back to Wenatchee was mostly uneventful as well. It took me about 13 hours to make the drive from Reno, which included several gas and pit stops and very slow travel through the mountains of southern Oregon with their windy roads and steep climbs. I also hit a bird. It was flying. I looked back to see that it was a bird and kept going. I am sure it was dead. Sorry, bird.

I have spent the four days since returning home trying to dig out of the pile of tasks that had accumulated while I was away. Mainly these included work for the summer journalism workshop for which I am the co-director and registrar, as well as major projects for my online classes. So, despite the fact that I have spent about 30 hours at this computer since returning to Wenatchee, I have not felt motivated to compose any entries. However, as of tonight, I am officially caught up.

I'll spend some time in the next couple days alternating with maintaining the yard, this Weblog and my projects. That is what summer should be like, not cooped up in a small town with nowhere to go or furiously working on a class project for hours at a time. The upside is that I am practically an expert on legal issues regarding students using Web sites to criticize their schools and being punished by the school for it, which was the topic of my 15-page research paper.

I can't wait until next summer when I am done with my master's degree and all the work. Ten months and counting.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Lone Pine Digest

LONE PINE, Calif., July 6 -- Being stuck in a small town motel room with no car and the hot summer sun beating down on the main strip, I have had quite a bit of time on my hands to think and watch cable television. And, since I got a remote control for the TV, things are looking OK.

Judith Miller is a hero: After refusing again to testify in the investigation to who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, Judith Miller of The New York Times is headed to jail for civil contempt of court. She will stay there until she testifies or until the end of the grand jury four months from now. She has said she will not name the source. Meanwhile, Matthew Cooper, whose notes were turned over by his employer, Time magazine, to the special prosecutor and who spoke to the grand jury after receiving permission from his source, is not headed to jail. Neither he nor Miller actually wrote stories about Plame and the unveiling of her as an operative. However, Bob Novak, who initially disclosed the identity in his column two years ago, has an unknown role in this investigation. It seems to me that the person who actually disclosed the information should pay a higher price than people who just have information yet refuse to testify. Miller is a shining example of honor in the journalism profession.

The case also is an example of why the nation needs a federal shield law to protect journalists when they have sources needing protection. All but one state (Wyoming) have enacted state shield laws, so clearly the citizens value such rights. Congress is considering such legislation, and members should act immediately to enact the law.

Fred Thompson to be a “handler”: The White House announced that it has not yet decided on a nominee for the Supreme Court but that former Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican who has since returned to acting roles in television crime dramas, would shepherd the president’s nominee through the confirmation process. It’s a fairly common practice. Thompson seems a good fir for the job with his experience as a senator as well as counsel to the Watergate committee in the 1970s. He also served as a federal prosecutor and attorney in private practice. Most of all, he is well regarded in the halls of Congress and he is articulate and unflappable in television. Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie was designated to head the nomination process from the White House end.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has announced that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is qualified for SCOTUS but that he would not have an easy time getting through the Senate. Reid also criticized conservative groups for attacking W. on the right while he was abroad. Seems like Reid is trying to make the Dems look good while the conservatives rip each other apart. Gonzales would be acceptable, and it appears he is on the short-short list.

Wild card: Is it too far-fetched to think that the nominee could be Thompson himself? Think about how George W. Bush selected his running mate in 2000.

London 2012: There was jubilation in Trafalgar Square when it was announced that London would host the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Games of the 30th Olympiad. The French, Russians, Spaniards and Americans all go home disappointed. New York City had been doomed since the state refused to pony up funds for a new stadium. Let’s hope that the London Olympics will showcase the best of Great Britain and the world. In just three years, the summer Olympics will take place in Beijing, which will mark China’s entry to the world sporting stage. That experience will also likely bring intense scrutiny to China. Britain should expect less scrutinizing as we already know most of the kingdom’s warts and ugly side.

Adios, Admiral Stockdale: Admiral James Stockdale, who was vice presidential running mate with Ross Perot in 1992, has died. Who will forget the aged man who turned down his hearing aid during the vice presidential debate that year?

“Digital Roam”: I have generally not had a problem with cell phone service when I have traveled. Of course when I need to make a bunch of calls from Lone Pine, Calif., I am in a zone designated as “digital roam.” Who knows how much all these calls are costing me, and I am not too concerned, either. Still, it would be nice to know that in addition to the unanticipated bills for towing, car repair and motel I would not have a huge bill from Sprint. We’ll see in a few weeks.

Premium Chicken: Generally I like to sample local restaurants — or at least different restaurants — when I travel. However, the new premium chicken sandwiches at McDonald’s looked pretty good. I had the club version, and it was good. It starts with a sturdy honey wheat bun. In addition to the crispy breaded chicken breast patty, it comes with thick-cut bacon and a slice of real Swiss cheese, tomato and leaf lettuce. Overall, it’s a good eat.

-- Posted from Reno, July 8

Road Trip ’05: Stage 3

LONE PINE, Calif., July 5 — Today started as a great day. It had clear weather, I was up and loaded by 6 a.m. Light traffic headed out of the Valley of the Sun, and good speed. It started as a great day.

I made a small driving error — missed an exit by a quarter-mile — and actually took a 10-minute detour in Redlands, Calif., when it turns out I could have been back on the right road with just about a mile and a half of surface-street travel. I knew my toughest navigation would be around San Bernadino, Calif., and I was right.

Then I had a couple delays. I stopped for lunch and a restroom break near Hesperia, Calif., just as I turned onto U.S. 395. I did not know how far it would be between services available, and I was a bit ahead of schedule, I thought. That did not last long as it took 20 minutes to get in and out of the pit stop. However, I continued excellent travel across the desert, noting that the trip was progressing well and that my car was in good condition.

Then I decided to stop to use a rest area, knowing I could not make it to the next town of size, Bishop, some 90 miles away. Just a few miles down the road, I joined dozens of other cars stopped on the highway. Advancing a few feet every few minutes, I saw that a tractor-trailer truck had overturned and that a SUV or mini-van was crashed along the opposite side of the road. As I say on the highway, I noticed the temperature gauge of my car had moved dangerously close to the “hot zone” and I began to worry. I shut off all accessories and shut off the engine. Big mistake. If the engine was not already cooked when I stopped at the rest area, turning it off when the car was stopped on the hot pavement and not moving to create a breeze probably did the damage. A couple frantic phone calls with my dad did not comfort me.

I approached a California Highway Patrol officer, who was nice to connect me with the tow truck operator who was just about to leave the scene and come back later with different equipment. The operator drove over and hooked up my car and towed me the 22 miles to a nice small town of Lone Pine.

After first declaring that I absolutely would not get any help until tomorrow — all the garage crew was out at the crash to the south — the garage manager started to help me and to identify if the car would need repairs or just some water and coolant. We looked at the car and added some water and coolant. I took it out for a short drive, and returned worried when the temperature gauge did not move at all from the cold position.

So here I am, in the Don Villa motel along U.S. 395, about 261 miles short of Reno. It’s a decent and reasonably priced place with cable TV, air conditioning and a 24-hour pool. Up and down the main street Western-themed restaurants and sporting goods stores declare their wares for sale.

I’ll know by about 10 a.m. the status of my car repairs. At this point, I hope to be able to make it to Reno by late afternoon or evening and then continue home to Wenatchee Thursday.

-- Posted from Reno, July 8

Monday, July 04, 2005

229 and counting!

July 4, 1776, a bunch of the greatest Americans ever worked on giving King George and the British a big old "Buzz off!" in a genteel and calligraphic way. They even used parchment. The Brits, of course, were peeved and sent some soldiers to put down the colonial uprising. Well, it didn't work, and a few years later, America became the land of the free and the home of the brave. Still later, these same men penned one of the finest pieces of writing and philosophy ever crafted. They were truly the "greatest generation."

Today, some 229 years later, we celebrate the founding of our nation. We celebrate the freedoms and values that unite us as Americans. We honor those who came before us. We display the symbols of our nation. We use fireworks to symbolize the battles that our ancestors fought for independence and also to boldly declare our happiness about freedom and independence. Oh man, do I love fireworks. Someday, I'll be on the Mall in Washington watching A Capitol Fourth or on the Esplanade in Boston listening to the Boston Pops at the bandshell. Even the most partly-cloudy of patriots, the biggest cynics, can't help but to swell with a bit of nationalism at the great music accompanied by our nation's finests symphonies. Gotta love that!

But increasingly, we use this day, July 4, as a reason to take a day off, to have a furniture or half-yearly appparel sale. I've been listening to many commercials, reading many newspaper pages, and I have seen very little that refers to the day by its actual name: Independence Day. I am a quiet and personal patriot, but frankly, it kind of bugs me to hear people say "Happy Fourth of July!" I sing along with the national anthem when the band plays it, my hand covering my heart respectfully. I don't like using the flag on ties or paper napkins. You shouldn't wipe your mouth on the flag. Don't get me wrong -- I'll defend your right to do it, but I don't think it's right.

One e-mail from a distribution I subscribe to asked us to remember the people who serve to preserve our freedoms. Man, how many holidays do we use to honor the servicepeople? Veterans Day, Memorial Day and now also Independence Day? We didn't even have much of a military when we declared independence. Independence Day covers so much more than people in military service.

So forgive me if I ask people to put down that hot dog and Bud. Before you light up that sparkler, remember that this is a day to celebrate independence and freedom; for truth, justice and the American way; of We the People. It's a day when we should pay attention to the words of President Bill Clinton from his first inaugural address: "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what is right with America."

I'll wave the flag to that.

-- Peoria, Ariz.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Buckling to pressure at Time

Welp, my blog pal over at Cyphering has again beat me to the punch (I was out floating in the pool in the hot Arizona sun instead) on the issue of freedom of the press. Read her entry here. She calls for the real culprit in starting all this, columnist Robert Novak, a mean-spirited man who has carried a lot of water for the conservatives.

Basically what has happened is that SCOTUS declined to hear a case on whether reporters had to reveal sources when federal authorities subpoenaed them. Two reporters, Matthew Cooper for Time and Judith Miller for The New York Times, both resisted and were willing to do the federal prison time of about four months. Time, though, this week said it was clear that reporters also have to follow the laws like everyone else and is forcing its reporter to turn over the notes. Meanwhile, Novak gets off scott-free.

Among all the seedy reasons that this is scary, one is that is prime is the idea that a corporate media organization can force its reporters in the field to turn over their notes. That is unprecedented, and it should not be seen as a model.

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" had good coverage Thursday afternoon. From the Web site, you can also read and listen to an interview with the Editor in Chief of Time.

-- Peoria, Ariz.

SCOTUS Watch '05

Well, we are in for a long, hot summer. Wow! Sandra Day O'Connor set the nation's capital on end when she announced her retirement from the United States Supreme Court, effective when her successor is nominated and confirmed. That could be a while.

President Bush has a chance to do something that has not been done in 11 years and could have an impact well into the 2030s, if the length of service of current Justices is an indicator, which, of course, it is.

There is a whole lot of SCOTUS news that summarizes the situation far better than I could ever hope to do. Try the Blog synthesis at Slate or The Washington Post. Slate also has good stuff on the possible "short list" to replace a retiring Justice. In typical Slate fashion, there is also an edition of The Explainer that, well, explains how this process will work. That is the best feature of Slate, I think.

OK, so some of the hot points on the SCOTUS (I like writing that) appointment:
  • How conservative will the nominee be? A year ago, everyone thought Bush would appoint Alberto Gonzales if he had a chance. Gonzales was a justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and has been exceptionally loyal to W. But the hard-core righties don't like Gonzales, who is moderate on some social issues, including abortion. If Bush wants a Hispanic, he might have better luck with the base, which expects a payback for granting him a second term, by appointing Emilio Garza, who has served on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals since 1991. Listen for the catchy phrase (also racist) that the neo-cons have been using: "Gonzales is Spanish for Souter". Basically, David Souter, whom President George H. W. Bush appointed to the court in 1990, was a moderate who all the conservatives thought was with them. Really, he has turned out to be on the moderate three and often with the liberals.
  • What are the issues? Abortion. Duh. But also, gay rights (marriage, etc.), affirmative action, parental notification for minors to get abortions. If Gonzales is the pick, expect the USA PATRIOT Act and Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be prime attack points for the Democrats. Also, depending on the nominee, any cases he or she decided will be scrutinized for fodder by the minority party.
  • When will this happen? Sounds like the president will wait at least a week until he returns from the G8 summit abroad. It has also been reported that Bush will try to put a name out there before Congress adjourns for the summer, which is in just a few weeks. It will be the top item for the Justice Committee after the break in September because the Court begins its term the first Monday in October.
  • Who's playing? The pressure will be on Sen. Arlen Specter, the Judiciary Committee chair from Pennsylvania and a moderate, to shepherd the president's nominee through the process with the least amount of bruising. Look to Judiciary vets Pat Leahy of Vermont and John Kerry of Massachusetts for some fireworks. Barbara Boxer of California fired with both barrels at Gonzales during his attorney general hearings, and she will pull no punches, I imagine, on any Bush SCOTUS nominee.

Bottom line, my prediction: I think President Bush will pick a true conservative, probably not Gonzales (which would also require new hearings for an attorney general). This nominee will be confirmed by the full Senate and there will be wild hearings and a full-court press of a media campaign by all sorts of advocacy groups and quasi-politicians. Also, it is quite likely that Bush will soon also appoint a replacement for 80-year-old Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He won't hang on until the next presidential term in 2009, so it's a Bush appointment. That could prove to be a tough fight, but not as tough as this one since he is a conservative and would be replaced with a conservative. O'Connor's moderation could be replaced by a conservative, effectively tilting the court to the right.

Jeffrey Toobin and Jeff Greenfield quoted on CNN's NewsNight Friday that one person had said this nomination battle is the best thing that could happen to President Bush this week. His approval rating is down, but, they said, he stands up for what he believes and appointing a justice who is a true conservative will energize people and remind them why they voted for Bush. As an example, look at what has happened in the wake of the filibuster "truce": All of the blocked appointees have been confirmed.

In the end, it takes 51 votes, that's all. Sandra Day O'Connor was confirmed 99-0, but that is not about to happen for any Bush appointee. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and the rest of the Senate Republican leadership will ensure that, barring some sort of self-destruction with personal pecadilloes, the initial nominee will be confirmed.

-- Peoria, Ariz.

I like type

If you've read me for a while, you know that I like type. I like a good ligature. I swoon over serifs. I'm cukoo for kerning. And you know I hate Hobo and Comic Sans, as we all should.

So, when my blog bud Uniongrrl over at Cyphering sent me a link to TypeCon2005, I almost lost it. In fact, I long to go. Type Week in New York City is coming soon.

From the Media Bistro Web site:
Mayor Bloomberg has declared July 18-24 to be "Type Week" in Manhattan! This is, in our opinion, quite a coup for the design community—we don't recall ever seeing "Grammar & Spelling Week" for copy editors or "Lede & Nut Graf Week" for reporters or "Optimized Workflow Week" for the IT department.

Just one more reason to adore type.

-- Peoria, Ariz.

Hastings' hot seat

I received this press release, which came from the Washington State Democrat Party:
Today, a copy of a letter drafted by Rep. Richard "Doc" Hastings, Chair of the House Ethics Committee, was leaked to the press. In this letter, Hastings retreats from attempts to install his Chief of Staff into the head position of the Tom DeLay investigation. (A copy of this letter can be viewed at here.)

In the past weeks, we have repeatedly called upon Hastings to stop his inethical behavior. Monday, Hastings‚ constituents picketed his district offices in Tri-Cities and Yakima. Two weeks ago, Washington State Party Chairman Paul Berendt made a tour of south central Washington with press conferences asking Hastings to recuse himself from the DeLay investigation.

Our efforts are making an impact! Now, he is feeling the pressure and has been forced to abandon his partisan tactics, which have brought the committee to a standstill.

However, this is only the first step in enabling the Ethics Committee to do its job. The Ethics Committee will be able to properly investigate the scandals surrounding DeLay only when Hastings recuses himself, as we have demanded.
Hastings had tried to install his chief of staff of 10 years as the Ethics Committee's chief, a traditionally nonpartisan position. Hastings has been the most loyal of footsoldiers to the "Contract With Americ" coalition since winningelection in 1994. That paid off with a seat on the Rules Committee and Ethics. He is the only Member to serve on both, and that is irregular. Elevated to Ethics chair earlier this year, he is obviously playing the patsy for Speaker Dennis Hastert, himself a puppet for Majority Leader DeLay. I read a Washington Post story a couple years ago that explained that DeLay orchestrated Hastert's selection as Speaker in 1999 when Newt Gingrich resigned and designee Bob Livingston resigned after revelations of sexual improprieties. Hastert was seen as a safe choice and as a person whom DeLay could control. DeLay was Majority Whip at the time, but he was consolidating power for when Leader Dick Armey retired a couple years later.

Now, it's obvious DeLay is still calling the shots with Hastings, a DeLay loyalist, at Ethics. It is hard to imagine what Hastings will reap as reward for his loyalty -- as ineffective as it has proven to be so far since DeLay has not been immune as planned.

-- Peoria, Ariz.