The ACLU is sponsoring an initiative to let members of Congress know just how many people care about the rule of law and other constitutional precepts. Take some time to sign their Constitution Voter pledge. Glenn did a great interview with Carolyn[...]
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Now that Republicans have called in their Top Guns, should Democrats leave the locals to handle Troopergate from the other side?
Here's one local Republican's perspective on what happens when you catch Palin red-handed, but let it slide:
"Executive abilities? She doesn't have any," said former Wasilla City Council member Nick Carney, who selected and groomed Palin for her first political race in 1992 and served with her after her election to the City Council.
Four years later, the ambitious Palin won the Wasilla mayor's office -- after scorching the "tax and spend mentality" of her incumbent opponent. But Carney, Palin's estranged former mentor, and others in city hall were astounded when they found out about a lavish expenditure of Palin's own after her 1996 election. According to Carney, the newly elected mayor spent more than $50,000 in city funds to redecorate her office, without the council's authorization.
Carney confronted Mayor Palin at a City Council hearing, and was shocked by her response.
"I braced her about it," he said. "I told her it was against the law to make such a large expenditure without the council taking a vote. She said, 'I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't.'"
"I'll never forget it -- it's one of the few times in my life I've been speechless," Carney added. "It would have been easier for her to finesse it. She had the votes on the council by then, she controlled it. But she just pushed forward. That's Sarah. She just has no respect for rules and regulations."
Definitely not someone to give an inch to. And definitely not someone whom we can afford to see installed in the recklessly expanded, super-secret "fourth branch" Cheney has created.
Do you imagine anyone thinks they can reopen an investigation into the office redecoration now? Of course not. That story's set in stone now. Palin said she was entitled to it, and no one said anything to challenge her when they could have. And it won't be any different with Troopergate. If she weasels out of this, don't imagine it can all be reopened later. It'll be a closed case, entirely whitewashed, and no longer "fair game." If the investigation is stonewalled and closed down, the record will show a big "L" and there won't be any changing it. And all future questions will be rubber stamped in red ink with, "There they go again!"
Alaskans have seen up close what Palin can do if you give her an inch. Is this really something we think will all come out in the wash if we just hang back and wait for Alaskans to rise up in opposition to the use of Republican Top Gun lawyers?
Because I'm thinking it ain't happening.
Some observations about Hurricane Ike and its impact on Houston and Galveston in the 31 minutes I have left on the computer at the Houston Downtown Public Library. Many people are at the terminals and others are waiting in line to use the computers. The wife and I are now at five days without power since Ike. The wife and I and hundreds of thousands of others [...]
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Some observations about Hurricane Ike in the 31 minutes I have left on the computer at the Houston Downtown Public Library. Many people are at the terminals and others are waiting in line to use the computers. The wife and I are now at five days without power since Ike. The wife and I and hundreds of thousands of others in and around Houston. While I [...]
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I feel pretty lucky to be involved in a conversation with sharp thinkers like Andy Rotherham, Alex Kotlowitz, and Amy Wilkins - let alone a conversation in which I get to refer (and link) to my book.
Both Alex and Andy wrote explicitly about the divide between the two camps in the Democratic Party on education today - a subject I've also written about on Slate recently. It's a fascinating and compelling question, for me. Sometimes this divide can seem fairly artificial, as Alex suggested, and sometimes it can seem pretty real, as Andy wrote. I'm hoping Andy can say a bit more about what he thinks is behind the schism.
Personally, I'm certainly sympathetic to the principles of the Education Equality Project. And it's not that I want to talk any of that manifesto's signers out of their focus on schools and accountability.
But I do think that the Broader, Bolder people are calling for something more specific and significant than just "good pre-natal, infant, and children's health care," as Andy put it. To me, the most important element in the BBA statement is the word "education-related" here: "There is solid evidence that policies aimed directly at education-related social and economic disadvantages can improve school performance and student achievement."
In other words, they're not promoting health care for health care's sake: they're promoting specific early-childhood interventions, targeted at poor children, that will help to narrow or eliminate the achievement gap before kindergarten. (At least I hope they are.)
In the Times Magazine earlier this month, I wrote about some specific interventions that Susan Neuman (a Broader, Bolder signatory) has identified as particularly effective: Early Head Start, the Nurse-Family Partnership, Avance, and Bright Beginnings. I'd add to that list three programs from the Harlem Children's Zone that I wrote about in my book: Baby College, the 3-year-old Journey and Harlem Gems, the pre-kindergarten.
To me, supporting the expansion of those programs is much different than vaguely calling for better health care for kids. It's about using government policy to promote specific interventions that counter the achievement gap between poor kids and middle-class kids. And so to me, anyway, it seems to go directly to the goals of the Education Equality Project.
What it sometimes seems that I'm hearing from the EEP side is: "Sure, we're in favor of early-childhood interventions, eventually. But teacher pay and accountability and school choice is what's important to deal with right now." And what I think I'm hearing from the BBA side is, "Sure, we're in favor of improving the public schools, eventually. But first, and more importantly, we need to improve all these social supports."
Whereas I want someone to say: What we need right now is an expansion of everything that has been demonstrated to reduce the achievement gap, from Baby College to Bright Beginnings to performance-based teacher pay to an elimination of state caps restricting the growth of charter schools. These measures are all equally important, and it doesn't make sense to do some of them without doing all of them simultaneously.
I know: that and $50,000 will get me my own full-page ad in the New York Times, right?
To me, though, that's the lesson of the Harlem Children's Zone (and, I hope, of my book): that we can and should do all of these things at once, and soon.
One place where I absolutely agree with Andy: it's very good news that Obama has indicated that he supports both accountability in schools and the expansion of comprehensive programs like the Harlem Children's Zone. That is a policy combination with a lot of promise.
A judge in Florida has ruled that a law banning saggy pants is unconstitutional. While it does look sloppy and it does imitate prison life ( inmates are not allowed belts so their pants sag ) I don’t think a law banning it is needed. But I do wonder how many of these young men [...]
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There's nothing that inspires confidence like the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the body that writes our tax laws -- submitting a financial disclosure form in which the value for one piece of property varies by as much as 10 times from one page to another. But that's the case with embattled New York Democrat Charlie Rangel.
We learned yesterday that, with crucial support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rangel will defy GOP calls for his resignation and stay on as chair of the powerhouse committee. So given that Rangel's going to be around for at least a while longer, we thought it was worth running down the allegations against the Harlem Congressman.
The trouble started for Rangel in July, when an investigation by the New York Times found that Rangel rents four rent-stabilized apartments -- one of which he uses as a campaign office -- in the same Harlem building, at well below market rates. City and state regulations prevent the use of rent-controlled apartments for purposes other than as a primary residence.
The more serious charge, first reported by the New York Post at the end of August, is that Rangel failed to disclose -- either on his tax returns or on Congressional disclosure forms -- over $75,000 in income from a rental villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. Rangel has called the disclosure failures an oversight, and has admitted that he owes around $10,000 in back taxes and penalties.
The Ways and Means Committee, which Rangel chairs, is in charge of writing federal tax laws, making the news particularly embarrassing for Rangel.
A few days after the Post's report, Bloomberg News reported that Rangel received an interest-free loan from the developers of the villa, when he bought it in 1990. But, according to the director of the complex that contains the villa, several other non-Dominican investors received similar breaks at the time, because the project wasn't producing sufficient income.
Rangel has asked the House Ethics Committee to look into both the rent-stabilized apartments issue and the Dominican villa issue, as well as a third matter -- that he used his Congressional office letterhead to solicit donors for an educational center named for himself, and run by the City College of New York. In addition, Rangel directed a forensic accounting expert to pore over his tax returns and financial disclosure statements to Congress, and to submit a report to the Ethics Committee.
On Monday, it was announced that the accountant had found additional discrepancies.
As summarized by the Associated Press:
-Rangel's papers over the past 10 years show no reference to the sale of a home he once owned on Colorado Avenue in Washington.
-The details of a property bought in Sunny Isles, Fla., are bewildering at best. The stated value changes significantly from year to year, and even page to page, from $50,000 to $100,000 all the way up to $500,000.
-Some of the entries for investment funds fluctuate strangely, suggesting that the person either didn't have accurate information or didn't fill out the paperwork correctly.
In a statement put out alongisde the announcement of the discrepencies, Rangel said:
"While over the years I delegated to my staff the completion of my annual House financial disclosure statements, I had the ultimate responsibility. I owed my colleagues and the public adherence to a higher standard of care not only as a member of Congress but even more as the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee," he said.
And it was reported today that Rangel has asked the Ethics Committe to allow him to use campaign contributions to pay for the forensic audit of his tax returns and disclosure forms -- which could end up costing more than $100,000.
Right now, the jury is still out on what this all adds up to. At best, Rangel has been irresponsibly lax in the management of his financial affairs. And he may have been deliberately mendacious. But as things currently stand, there's little evidence of a quo for the quid.
On the issue of the Harlem apartments, Rangel did have a 2005 meeting with a lobbyist for the Olnick Association, the company that owns the building in question, when Olnick was seeking government approval for two building projects in the Bronx and Harlem. But both Olnick and Rangel say the Congressman took no action on the company's behalf, and neither project advanced.
And as for the Dominican vila, there's no evidence whatsoever that Rangel took steps to help the company that owned the complex, or that his failure to pay taxes on the villa income, or make proper disclosures to Congress, was abetted by anyone seeking favors from him.
Still, at the very least, Rangel's inability to personally comply with the tax laws doesn't inspire much confidence that he's the best person to be writing those laws.
ABC shows how John McCain supported the very deregulation rules that companies like AIG exploited in order to get in to the economic mess they're in. That links McCain directly to the current crisis. Transcript after the video:
video details and more
CHARLIE GIBSON: And with apologies for our technical difficulties, we're going to turn back to the difficult economy, and the way the presidential candidates are dealing with it, particularly John McCain. Here's David Wright.
DAVID WRIGHT: John McCain was against the government bailout of AIG, before he was reluctantly for it. Here he was yesterday on "Today."
JOHN MCCAIN: We cannot bail AIG or anybody else. We have to work through it.
WRIGHT: Asked about the same topic today on "Good Morning America" -
MCCAIN: I don't think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investments, whose insurance were at risk here. And they were going to have their lives destroyed.
WRIGHT: Senator McCain appears to have changed his tune on regulation in a fundamental way. Today on the stump, he's a champion of reigning in Wall Street with tough regulations.
MCCAIN: We're going to put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption and greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street.
WRIGHT: But for more than 25 years in the Senate, McCain has fashioned himself as a champion of smaller government, less regulation.
MCCAIN: I am less government, less regulation, lower taxes, et cetera.
WRIGHT: In the mid 1990s, he supported a measure to ban all new government regulations. McCain supported legislation a decade ago that broke down the firewalls between commercial and investment banks and insurance companies -- the very rules companies like AIG exploited to get in the current mess. And as recently as March of this year, after the collapse of Bear Stearns, McCain was all for deregulating Wall Street.
MCCAIN: Our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital.
GEORGE WILL: When the deregulation was the wave through Washington, he surfed that wave. Now it's not, and the populist inside John McCain is out.
WRIGHT: Today, the Wall Street Journal accused McCain of selling out his free market ideals. Said today's top editorial -- "denouncing greed and Wall Street, isn't a growth agenda,"
GEORGE WILL: It's a conversion of convenience, some will say.
After the news of the crisis on Wall Street, McCain’s "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" stumble on Monday, the slip-ups yesterday by McCain’s two biggest economic surrogates (see below for more on that), and four days of sustained TV ad and email blasts by the Obama campaign and the DNC, the political worm seems to have turned a tad since the Palin bounce. Indeed, while we’re not crazy about focusing too much on those daily tracking polls, their needles have moved in Obama’s direction the past couple of days (and we bet that continues today). And guess what -- we’re not talking as much about Palin as we were last week, except for the latest developments in the Troopergate scandal in Alaska. The race has turned back into McCain vs. Obama, and it currently is sitting on turf (the economy) that should favor Democrats.
Don’t fucking question my Christianity you fucking idiot assholes. If you continue to have a problem, then talk to God about it, not me, you fucking racist homophobic misogynist fake Christian shitheads. God thinks it is funny that I swear so much. He said I could use his name in vain or whatever. He just wants me to use it. He loves me. So fuck you. And I guess he loves you too. Even though you are fake Christian assholes. If you were truly Christians, you would let gays get married, and send them fucking presents from Bed Bath and Beyond!
If you truly believed in Jesus, you would try to be like him and love us, fags and dykes and feminists all. God bless you, even you. You fucking fuckers.
In recognition of National Preparedness Month, please join us for a live discussion [on Sept 25, at 2 pm edt] to help families and individuals plan for an influenza pandemic.
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