It's odd looking up and not seeing anything besides a few birds up in the sky. The ash isn't exactly noticeable because there were few clouds in the sky yesterday. It's not a strong blue but that's often the case due to pollution.
Our friend at least has been ticketed for Monday so provided they fly, he's in luck. Yesterday as he phoned his airline (American) he had an amusing problem with their voice activated system. He was doing OK with the initial questions and the system could give out that "18 April" was the same as "April 18." Fine. Then it asked for his name. Our friend has a bit of a London accent so the way he pronounces his name wasn't the way the voice automated system thought it should sound. After three attempts and him getting a bit worked up about it, I stopped him and pronounced it with my American accent. Bingo. I came back a few hours later and he was back on the phone with the airline voice automated system and had a laugh because he was now speaking with his attempt at a Texan accent. It worked.
Another story and here, lots of satellite maps and images of the ash clouds. BBC:
Millions of stranded travellers face further air chaos as the volcanic ash from Iceland that has closed most of Europe's airspace continues to spread.
An estimated three-quarters of flights were cancelled on Saturday. About 20 countries closed their airspace - some have extended flight bans into Monday.
Disruption is now said to be greater than that after 9/11 and the volcanic activity shows no sign of abating.
Two airlines have carried out test flights to see if it is safe to fly.
The Netherlands' KLM said one of its planes, a Boeing 737, had reached its maximum operating altitude of about 13km in the skies over the Netherlands, and there had been no problems during the flight.
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In some of the more polite precincts of the Internet, which I typically avoid, there has been quite the debate raging over whether or not 21st-century conservatism is marked by “epistemic closure,” meaning essentially that conservatives have[...]
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Title: Mighty, MightyArtist: Earth Wind and Fire (Soul Train Line Dance, 1974)
video details and more
Just in case you needed more proof that the '70s were the most awesome decade ever: 1974 just as I remember it. And the E, W&F jams weren't bad either.
For even more 70's, our sister site Newstalgia has for its Saturday night concert, Roxy Music, live at the Hammersmith Odeon, May 1979.
What's making you dance tonight?
Could a little-known city councilman score an upset and flip a Senate seat to the Dems? Rasmussen thinks so, if the GOP nominee is conservative insurgent J.D. Hayworth. Don't worry, though, the Ras-ster returns to form elsewhere.
Also, you'll be surprised by the incumbent Senator who got outraised by his challenger this quarter, and one other incumbent Senator is fighting a pollster, which is rarely a good idea. All this and more, in the weekend edition of the Wrap.
GA-Sen: Good News for Dems As They Get Solid Challenger for Isakson
In what sure looks to be a challenging year for Democrats, they are still managing to land some solid recruits to go after Republican incumbents. The latest example is in Georgia, where state labor commissioner Michael Thurmond is going to announce next week that he will challenge freshman Republican Senator Johnny Isakson. Thurmond gives Democrats a statewide elected official in the race, albeit one that will have to overcome fairly low name recognition, if a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll in the state is any indication.
IA-Sen: Conlin Narrowly Outraises Grassley In Hawkeye State
This will come as a bit of a surprise to a lot of folks, and is a particularly pleasant one in a time when good news for Democrats in electoral politics is a touch hard to come by. Leading Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin actually beat Charles Grassley in the money chase in the 1st quarter. Conlin raised $ 629K, which edged out Grassley, who reported $ 613K for the quarter. Grassley, as a long-time incumbent, still retains one structural advantage to be expected: he has a five-to-one cash on hand edge over the challenger.
KY-Sen: Bunning-McConnell Feud Comes to 2010 Senate Race
Was this week's surprising endorsement of insurgent candidate Rand Paul by outgoing Republican Senator Jim Bunning a shot at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Reid Wilson at the National Journal thinks so, and he brings some pretty compelling evidence. For example, Bunning's claim that Paul's primary rival, Trey Grayson, was insufficiently conservative is somewhat rebutted by the fact that it was Bunning who encouraged Grayson to get into the race after his retirement. The sudden animus, therefore, could be more properly directed at McConnell, who earned Bunning's unyielding animosity for very overtly encouraging the retirement of his Senate mate.
The endorsement was a brutal slap at Grayson, who loses a key argument for his primary. Grayson had been making excellent hay out of the argument that Paul was endeavoring to be a national political figure, and had no real support in-state.
NV-Sen: Reid Fights The Polls (...and the Polls Won)
Apparently, the campaign of Senator Harry Reid forgot the maxim about not getting into fights with people who buy their ink by the barrel, because this one is just brutal to witness. You might recall that on Monday's edition of the Wrap, we noted a new Mason Dixon poll, taken for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had Reid trailing leading Republican Sue Lowden by high single digits. The Reid campaign pounced on the poll, dismissing its findings on the logic that the poll did not list all of the available options listed to voters in the Fall, including the state's famous "None of the Above" option.
Inspired by the critique of the Reid campaign, Mason Dixon and the LVRJ simply...released another poll. With all of the options. Showing Reid losing this time by ten points (47-37). That led team Reid to criticize this poll as invalid, as well, saying that it was not of likely voters. The Reid campaign argued likely voter screens were particularly important in Nevada, a state they claim has chronically low voter turnout.
Not only did the newspaper dispute the charge, they were joined by Pollster writer Charles Franklin, who pointed out that random-digit dialing of registered voters is a perfectly valid polling method.
In other Nevada Senate news, Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian, despite his mountain of legal woes, got one piece of good legal news this week. A Nevada State Court ruled that he could remain on the ballot, after his candidacy was challenged by a conservative lawsuit which stated that he could not stay on the ballot because he was still a registered Republican when he ran under the Tea Party banner.
NY-Sen: Schumer Might Finally Draw a Candidate
In a week where the GOP lost their top candidate to take on Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, they might have found a candidate to take on the other U.S. Senator in New York up for election this year: Chuck Schumer. The candidate is Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. Maragos is a political newcomer of sorts, he has only served as county comptroller for about four months. Schumer is heavily favored to be re-elected to his third term in the Senate.
PA-12: Dems Get Serious About Holding Murtha Seat in Special Elex
Pulling together what the National Journal's Reid Wilson referred to as a "wartime budget", the DCCC has reserved almost a million bucks in ad time between now and the May 18th special election in southwestern Pennsylvania to replace the late John Murtha. The first ad hits Republican Tim Burns on favoring a national sales tax, saying that it will raise the costs on food, gas, and medicine. Burns squares off against Democrat Mark Critz in the election. The GOP released an internal poll last week showing Burns up narrowly.
NH-Gov: Democratic Incumbent Announces Bid for 4th Term
This will come as a surprise to virtually no one, but Democratic Governor John Lynch announced that he will be seeking a fourth term as Governor of New Hampshire. Lynch was first elected in 2004 (NH Governors serve two-year terms) by defeating then-incumbent Republican Craig Benson. His main challenger this time around is likely to be Republican John Stephen. A recent Rasmussen poll had Lynch, routinely re-elected by huge margins, leading Stephen by double-digits, though below the 50% threshold.
OR-Gov: Great Moments in Debating, With John Kitzhaber
This sounds like something that only happens in really overproduced television political dramas, but it actually occurred Wednesday night at a Democratic gubernatorial debate. In the midst of a student-run debate at the University of Oregon between candidates John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury, someone in the audience screamed for a doctor for an elderly man having a seizure. Kitzhaber, who was an ER doctor before his foray into politics, left the stage and administered first aid to the man until paramedics arrived. After a twenty-minute delay, the debate resumed. Bradbury, to his credit, was fulsome in his praise for Kitzhaber's handling of the incident, as well as his ability to resume debating after dealing with such an event. A raw video of the event is available here.
Ras stays out West to close out the week, hitting three states in the Intermountain West: Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. Could Rodney Glassman pull off the upset of 2010 if J.D. Hayworth finds a way to knock off John McCain? Ras has it closer than you might think. Other than that, this edition of the Ras-A-Palooza is just Ras being Ras.
AZ-Gov (R): Gov. Jan Brewer 26%, Buz Mills 18%, John Munger 14%, Dean Martin (R) 12%
AZ-Sen (R): Sen. John McCain 47%, J.D. Hayworth 42%
AZ-Sen: Sen. John McCain (R) 54%, Rodney Glassman (D) 32%
AZ-Sen: J.D. Hayworth (R) 48%, Rodney Glassman (D) 39%
CO-Gov: Scott McInnis (R) 48%, John Hickenlooper (D) 42%
UT-Gov: Gov. Gary Herbert (R) 57%, Peter Corroon (D) 29%
UT-Sen (R): Sen. Robert Bennett 37%, Tim Bridgewater 14%, Mike Lee 14%, Merrill Cook 6%, Cherilyn Eagar 4%
"...Well, it's, it's because we didn't have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn't have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq..." - Senator Claire McCaskill (D)
Somebody should have told that to Donald Rumsfeld. Oh, wait...
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) was a guest on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, discussing contractor oversight in Afghanistan. The transcript:
Rachel Maddow: ....Joining us now after way too long an absence is Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri, chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Contracting. Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. Good to see you.
Senator Claire McCaskill: Thanks, Rachel, good to be with you.
Rachel Maddow: After all of these years and all of these billions paid to contractors to do this, did they have any explanation for why they haven't done something as simple as, as telling people what the sights on their guns are for?
Senator McCaskill: Well frankly, I mean, it's been like the wild west because nobody's been watching them. This is a textbook example of complete lack of oversight on contracting. And it wouldn't be so frustrating if this wasn't a story that we've heard over and over again. If you look at this contract it's been bounced around, from, uh, Defense to State, uh, now they're trying to take it back to Defense. And here's the saddest part of the story, this is a key mission of what we're doing in Afghanistan. Training these police departments is one leg of a three legged stool that is going to dictate whether or not we succeed or whether we fail. So contracting oversight of the police training mission is incredibly important and it has been an abject failure...
...Rachel Maddow: General William Caldwell is in charge of training Afghan forces. He says publicly that he would rather work with people like the real Italian police or any real police other than working with contractors. Uh, General McChrystal today said that we're too reliant on contractors and said they don't save money. He says he wants fewer of them in Afghanistan. Who is actually in favor of these contractors still being there? Why can't we seem to free ourselves of them?
Senator McCaskill: Well, it's, it's because we didn't have enough people when we went into Iraq. Truth be known, we didn't have the size of force necessary to do what we were trying to do in Iraq, so the logistic support went to contractors. The, um, training of police went to contractors. Now we're repeating that in Afghanistan. Now, hopefully, uh, I was in Afghanistan not too long ago, met with both General McChrystal and General Caldwell. I will tell you, General Caldwell gets it. He understands how badly this has been done before. He understands that he's got to get this under his command and get control of it. But just to give you another example of what, what nonsense there is here, guess who they're hiring to oversee the contractors that are training the police in Afghanistan? Contractors. [laugh] So, we've got to get people in the country that work for our military, that are watching the way these people are being trained because it's not just training, it's also mentoring. There's rampant corruption in these police departments. Uh, and you're not gonna establish a rule of law unless you work on the mentoring part so they realize there's a different way to police besides saying what can you pay me to let you go.
Rachel Maddow: I worry about the oversight of, of contracts themselves being, uh, uh, contracted out. Contractors overseeing contractors. I also worry about the fact that we think this is something that can only be done by contractors in terms of devel, uh, delivering this, this service. I mean, Blackwater is up for this police training contract in Afghanistan now, despite Nisour, uh, Nisour Square, despite the State Department investigations, despite this indictment against their former employees. I mean, how badly does a company have to behave before we stop hiring them and just have our troops and our government employees do this stuff?
Senator McCaskill: Part of the problem is that our military wants what they want when they want it. And contracting is a quicker way to get there. Um, we've got to realize that that is a luxury we can no longer afford. 'Cause it hasn't, hasn't been a good investment for our taxpayers. And it hasn't been the kind of support our military needs. So we have to begin to realize that especially training local police for rule of law in a counterinsurgency effort, which is going to be a core competency of our military forever, we've got to bring that in house. We've got to make sure we've got the oversight of the contracts that are in the military chain of command so we know who to fire when it goes badly. That's part of the problem with this mess, is you don't even know who to hold accountable, because it's such a cluster. You've got NATO in there, you've got the military, you've got the State Department. Meanwhile these contractors, they're not really sure who the boss is, so they do what they feel like.
Rachel Maddow: Do you feel like you have support in the administration and at the Pentagon for the views that you've expressed here and the way that you've approached this issue?
Senator McCaskill: I do, um, you know now, what, what, this is not something you can turn a switch and accomplish. Part of the problem, Rachel, is the area of contracting is not exactly sexy. And you might have noticed that folks around the Capitol kind of like the stuff that's getting headlines that day. So part of it is attention span. Um, that's why I'm happy about this committee. We can stay on this even though there may not be a full hearing room, there may, may not be cameras or people covering it in the newspaper. But these agencies are gonna know somebody is paying attention to the way they're contracting. And I think over time we're gonna be able to make a real difference, 'cause nobody's been paying this kind of attention to contracting in the federal government before.
Rachel Maddow: You keep doing these hearings and I promise we will keep covering it. At least at our little show here at nine o'clock. [laugh] Uh, I have one last question [crosstalk] senator.
Senator McCaskill: It's a deal.
Rachel Maddow: All right, it's a deal. Uh, [crosstalk]...
Senator McCaskill: Sure.
Rachel Maddow: Uh, one last question, is, and I know that you won't answer it directly, but I'm just gonna ask anyway. Wouldn't being a Supreme Court justice be an awesome job?
Senator McCaskill: Honestly, for me, I would get way too restless. Um, you know, I, I love, I'm an intellectually curious person and I do love to read, but it's an isolating job and I kinda need to be out there mixing it up a little bit more than you can do as a Supreme Court justice. So, it's not something that I, honestly I don't think I 'd even be considered, uh, but if I were I'd have to say I, I don't think I'm the right personality to be a Supreme Court justice.
Rachel Maddow: Senator Claire McCaskill of the great State of Missouri answering that with way more detail than I 'd ever thought I'd get. Uh, thank you so much for your time today. [laughter] And good luck to the Cardinals tonight.
Senator McCaskill: Thank you very much.
Rachel Maddow: All right....
Give 'em hell, Harry.
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Police Labor Unions (That’s Right, Left-Wing UNION Folks In Uniform) Praise Governor Jan Brewer, Citing The Armed Law-Abiding Citizen Is The Law Enforcement Officer’s Best Friend On The Streets…”Right ON. Congratulations to all Arizonans for joining Vermont and Alaska in...
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Economic malfeasance, militia groups and Iceland's volcanic ash seem to be dominating the news. President Obama and several other world leaders canceled plans to attend the funeral of Polish president Leah Kacyznski.
Amanda Knox's lawyers have filed a 220 page brief in her appeal. The case continues to generate attention. DNA evidence seems to be a big issue. The former Blackwater president and four other senior officials have been indicted on weapons and false statement charges.
Prosecutors in the Roman Polanski case, are still at it. Now they are arguing the victim's wishes can't affect the proceedings.
This is an open thread, all topics welcome.
Conservatives appear ready to attack anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court as suggested by a New York Times article that quoted conservative activist Richard Viguerie signaling that he will affix the "radical" label to anyone Obama nominates. Furthermore, the specific attacks on potential nominees cited by the Times do not hold up to scrutiny.
Conservative activistViguerie signals that conservatives will paint any nominee as "radical." The New YorkTimes reported in an April 16 held2-1 in FAIR v. Rumsfeld that the Reaganappointee, joined the majority opinion in the case. Stapleton hadpreviously been appointed to a federal district court judgeship by PresidentNixon. Kagan subsequently reinstated the ban against military recruitmentthrough OCS for one semester in 2005 after the 3rd Circuit held that the lawwas unconstitutional. As Kagan explained in a September 2005 letterto her colleagues:
TheLaw School's anti-discrimination policy,adopted in 1979, provides that any employer that uses the services of OCS torecruit at the school must sign a statement indicating that that it does notdiscriminate on various bases, including sexual orientation. As a result ofthis policy, the military was barred for many years from using the services ofOCS. The military retained full access to our students (and vice versa) throughthe good offices of the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, whichessentially took the place of OCS in enabling interviews to occur.
Ireinstated the application of our anti-discrimination policy to the military(after appropriate consultation with University officials) in the wake of theThird Circuit's decision; as a result, the military did not receive OCSassistance during our spring 2005 recruiting season.
Reality: Dozens ofother law professors, other law schools, and the Cato Institute argued againstthe government's interpretation of the Solomon Amendment. As Media Matters for America has detailingtheir law schools' attempts to restrict military recruiters' access to careerservices offices. Following the 3rd Circuit's decision, in addition to Harvard,Yale and New York Law Schoolalso reportedly reinstitutedtheir restrictions against military recruiters. In addition, at least one otherschool had a more restrictive policy than Harvard. According to the FAIR v. Rumsfeld complaint,from 1989-2002, at Whittier Law School, "[m]ilitary recruiters were notpermitted to post recruiting information, speak at school-sponsored events, sitat tables, access student/alumni addresses, leave material visible in anylibrary area, or interview on campus. If a student expressed interest in amilitary JAG [Judge Advocate General] career, the director of career serviceswould refer the student to a recruiting office."
Conservative claim:It's "alarming" that Garlandcalled the release of Blackmun's papers a "great gift to the country." The Times reported that "while [D.C. Circuit] Judge[Merrick] Garlandhas not often dealt with social issues, at a 2005 book event, he reportedlydescribed the release of the papers of the late Justice Harry Blackmun -- the author of the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rightsdecision -- as a 'greatgift to the country.' Phillip Jauregui, thepresident of the conservative Judicial Action Group, said that remark sent analarming signal to social conservatives. 'Thefact that he would use those words to describe Harry Blackmun's papers is causefor concern,' he said."
Reality: People from across the spectrum have used the "greatgift" of justices' papers in their research. The National Right to Life Committee has used reportson Blackmun's papers toattack the Roe decision and thedoctrine of a constitutional right to abortion. In addition, news outlets haveused the Blackmunpapers to shed light on the Roe decision and on the Supreme Court as awhole. Furthermore, abortion rights opponentand law professor Douglas Kmiec reported that he had researched some of formerJustice Thurgood Marshall's papers and used his research to attack Roe v.Wade.
Conservative claim: Garland often votes touphold the decisions of federal agencies. The Times reported: "Because the District of Columbia Circuithears all challenges to federal agency regulations, Judge Garland also has along record of voting to uphold such federal authorities - an issue that couldresonate with the libertarian sentiment on display in the Tea Party movement."
Reality: Based on adecision by Stevens, Supreme Court requires courts to give great deference toagency decisions. In the 1984 caseof Chevron, USA, Inc. v. National Resources Defense Counsel, the SupremeCourt held in a decision written by Justice Stevens that federal courts shouldgive great deference to agency regulations. Stevens wrotein a 6-0 decision (with three justices recused):
IfCongress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, there is an expressdelegation of authority to the agency to elucidate a specific provision of thestatute by regulation. Such legislative regulations are given controllingweight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to thestatute. Sometimes the legislative delegation to an agency on a particularquestion is implicit rather than explicit. In such a case, a court may notsubstitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonableinterpretation made by the administrator of an agency.
Reality: JusticeScalia has argued for strong judicial deferenceto agency decisions. Scalia has beena staunch supporter of the doctrine that federal courts must give greatdeference to agency decisions. Indeed, in UnitedStates v. Mead, a case decided 8-1, Scalia was the lone dissenter froma decision finding that an agency decision was not entitled to "Chevrondeference." Scalia argued that the federal courts should enforce a "generalpresumption of authority in agencies to resolve ambiguity in the statutes theyhave been authorized to enforce."
Conservative claim:It's potentially problematic that Garlandhas "several times side with the rights of detainees." Finally, the Times identified as a potential conservative line of attack against Garland the fact that he "has also severaltimes sided with the rights of detainees. He voted to overturn the military'sdetermination that a Chinese Muslim detainee at GuantánamoBay prison in Cuba was an 'enemy combatant.' Healso voted to allow former detainees who had been held at the Abu Ghraib prisonin Iraqto sue private contractors accused of being involved in abuses."
Reality: Supreme Courtrepeatedly overturned Bush detainee policies, including on decision by Garland. The Supreme Court has repeatedly overturned Bushadministration policies relating to "enemy combatants" and Guantanamo Bay,including in the 2004 cases of Hamdi v.Rumsfeld and Rasul v. Bush,the 2006 case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,and the 2008 case of Boumediene v. Bush.In each of these cases Stevens was in the majority, except for Hamdi, acase in which Stevens and Scalia argued that the Court had not gone far enoughin striking down the government's policy. Furthermore, in Rasul, theSupreme Court actually overturned a decision by Garland in favor ofthe government and against the detainees.
Stories like this are everywhere at the moment. My friend who is trying to get to the US for a conference said others were driving to Spain in hopes of catching a flight out since there have not been as many disruptions there. A few years ago I had to get to an appointment so I hired a taxi out of London and spent nearly $400 because of a British rail strike. The things we do to keep our appointments.
He's more famous for a sketch about a Norwegian blue parrot than a Norwegian taxi, but John Cleese may have to change his routine. The actor and comedian reportedly took a cab from Oslo to Brussels on Friday costing 30,000 kroner (£3,300) after he was stranded, along with thousands of others, in the Norwegian capital by the volcanic ash plume from Iceland.
Cleese was in Norway to appear on the Scandinavian talkshow Skavlan when the cloud descended, closing airspace around the city. "We checked every option, but there were no boat and no train tickets available," he told Norwegian TV2 in a telephone interview posted on the network's website. "That's when my fabulous assistant determined that the easiest thing would be to take a taxi."