Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Indicted

The House Republican leader, Texas Representative Tom DeLay, was indicted today on Texas felony conspiracy charge for his alleged involvement in campaign finance irregularities.
A copy of the indictment, including a copy of a check allegedly involved in the crime, can be found on the Smoking Gun web site.

DeLay temporarily stepped down from his leadership position which will be filled by Roy Blunt from Missouri.

The Washington Post has an editorial and analysis of the effect of the DeLay indictment.

Monday, September 26, 2005

CBS News: Michael Brown Hired as FEMA Consultant

According to the CBS news web site, correspondent Gloria Borger reported this evening that Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

This has not, as of the time of this post, been reported independently elsewhere. We hope it is not true. Certainly not even the current administration would hire a disgraced FEMA director to evaluate his own performance. But strange things happen.

If CBS retracts the story, we will report it. If the story is confirmed, it will be reported here. Stay tuned.

Note: The story has been confirmed by multiple news services. - 9/27/05

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Judge Roberts Should Be Confirmed, with Democratic Support

John Roberts appears to be very conservative, far to the right of the opinion of the majority of Americans and to the right of the majority of the already conservative court. He is not the person itismyopinion would select for Chief Justice of the United States, if we were given the choice.

However, we were not given the choice. The choice belongs to George Bush, who will appoint someone acceptable to his far right base. If the Senate does not confirm Roberts, Bush will simply appoint another conservative, and probably someone less desirable than Judge Roberts.

There are several important points to consider about Judge Roberts:

He will be replacing the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Because Rehnquist was one of the three most conservative justices, his replacement by Roberts will not move the court to the right. Roberts may even be more moderate than Rehnquist.

Roberts is very qualified. He has experience, from being a clerk to Justice Rehnquist, and writing many briefs and arguing many cases before the Supreme Court, and serving as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Roberts has told the Senate of his respect for precedent (stare decisis) and his belief that there is a constitutional right to privacy. This indicates that he might not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and destroy constitutional protection to the right to abortion. We don’t know how he will vote, but we do know that Chief Justice Rehnquist would favor overturning Roe. Most likely any other nominee by President Bush would favor destroying the right to abortion.

Unlike Justices Scalia and Thomas, Roberts is not an “originalist” who believes that the constitution should be interpreted just as the framers would interpret it.

Another reason for Democrats to vote to confirm Roberts is political. There is no question that Roberts will be confirmed; the Republicans are in the majority in the Senate, and it does not appear that 40 Democratic Senators will join a filibuster. However, confirmation is not the only issue. Both the President and the nominee would much prefer a strong vote for confirmation than a close vote. If the Democrats vote against confirmation, why should Bush nominate someone of Roberts’ quality when he could just as well nominate a less qualified but more right wing justice who will receive the same close Senate vote but will excite the president’s far right wing base.

see Washington Post editorial

Thursday, September 15, 2005

George Bush Addresses the Nation

So the president is going to spend billions rebuilding New Orleans. He didn’t say where the money is coming from. We still have a massive deficit, and are spending billions in Iraq. Does Bush just plan to borrow more money? He didn’t say anything about taxes. Will he continue to push for additional tax cuts or will he admit that we have to cancel some of the cuts to help pay for the rebuilding.

He made a pitch for home ownership, wanting more families to own rather than rent their houses. But to own your home you have to have a good job. However, Bush has suspended application of the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal law that would require government contractors to pay prevailing pay. The suspension will allow contractors to take advantage of the high unemployment and pay low wages, even for work on no-bid contracts. The contractors can save on wages and not pass the savings to the government.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do we need federal fast emergency response?

Is FEMA a quick responder in case of major emergencies? Or is mission one of training, long range planning, and funding recovery efforts (leaving the initial response to state and local officials)?

Following the Katrina disaster, the resignation of FEMA director Mike Brown, and the accusations of ineptitude and perhaps dishonesty on the part of the Brown, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff, there will surely be investigations of the bungling of the disaster.

In addition to fixing blame, there should be a discussion, and a decision on another more important issue: should there be a federal capability for fast response to a natural or manmade disaster.

Since 9/11, the consensus has been that there should be such capability. Ironically, the response to 9/11 may have played a role in the weakening of FEMA.

At one time, FEMA was not a fast responding agency. They would arrange, after the fact, to provide for temporary housing and relief funding for victims. After hurricane Andrew hit Florida, FEMA was criticized for its slow response. FEMA was placed under James L. Witt, who was given cabinet status in the Clinton administration. The new goals for FEMA included the ability to respond when needed.

Things changed under George W. Bush. Bush appointed his campaign manager Joe M. Allbaugh as director of FEMA. Allbaugh complained to a congressional committee that FEMA was an “oversized entitlement program” and planned to shift responsibility and funding onto state and local governments.

After 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA lost its cabinet status and became a part of DHS.

Certainly many emergencies can be handled by local and state authorities. However a major disaster, affecting multiple states, can overwhelm local authorities.

Should there be a federal quick response to major emergencies, particularly ones that affect small states with more limited capability?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cleanup Cash Goes to Familiar Faces

The Washington Post has a story about how tens of billions of dollars will be paid for Katrina related contracts. Many of these contracts are no-bid contracts given to contractors who have worked for the various federal agencies in the past.

This is certainly faster than requiring the usual bid process. However, we must be careful to see that the contract are awarded on the basis of proven success than on campaign contributions.