Over at The Next Hurrah, Emptywheel and his highly knowledgeable commenters are debating a refusal by 13 congressmen to answer to subpoenas in the trial of alleged Duke Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes.
Emptywheel argues that the refusal is because Wilkes' lawyer - serial defender of corrupt Republicans, Mark Geragos - is simply on a fishing expedition and is trampling on Congressional privilege thereby.
Congressional subpoenas are the new graymail. Recall that the goal of graymail is not to actually win a trial. It is to force the government into deciding between actually holding the trial or dismissing the charges against the defendant.Emptywheel makes a compelling argument - if you accept that each congressman who has previously been exposed as corrupt in the network of cases that includes Cunningham and DeLay was basically "corrupt on his own". That is, if you accept that there likely isn't a far larger and as yet unopened can of worms where various congressfolk either conspired with contractors or were played by those contractors in a larger bipartisan web of corrupt activities.
The reason I said this appears to be similar to a graymail attempt is because Geragos subpoenaed testimony that is, arguably at least, protected. If Judge Burns determines that the subpoenaed testimony is relevant to Wilkes' defense, Congress' invocation of "speech and debate" and House rules will then be weighed. Given the recent Jefferson decision ruling the FBI's raid on Jefferson's office illegal, the speech and debate clause may well be interpreted broadly. Which might--and this is Mark Geragos, mind you, so I say might--mean Congress would be given the choice whether to testify in the trial. And if they don't, Burns might--again, I say might--have to dismiss the charges.
I doubt it'll work (not least because there's only about 3 Congressmen who really have directly relevant testimony, plus that one report), but it's a novel stunt.
Yesterday, the Federal Reserve cut the discount rate and the fed funds rate by 50 basis points each. The move, meant to stave off a potential recession caused by the so-called credit crunch, was greeted with elation by the stock market, where the prevailing sentiment was that the rate cut would be only 25 basis points. The Dow jumped immediately, and ended the day with a gain of 335 points.
The rate cut should help ordinary Americans, by limiting the amount of increase on their adjustable rate mortgages, and generally decreasing the interest rates consumers pay on everything from credit card payments to car loans. Hopefully it will stem the tide of home foreclosures washing over the country.
The Fed's move indicates that their primary concern right now was recession rather than inflation, and a rate cut is designed to stimulate the economy. However, inflation is a real issue right now for the average American family, and there are some rumblings in economic circles that we may be headed for the dreaded stagflation of the 1970's.
The government, in true Newspeak, generally reports "core inflation," a measure which excludes energy and food. As anyone who tries to put "food on their family" knows, the price of groceries has been going up seemingly almost weekly. The official rate of inflation for food is 4.2%, but the price for many staples has gone up much more than that in the last year.
The Labor Department's most recent inflation data showed that U.S. food prices rose by 4.2 percent for the 12 months ending in July, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that the price of milk, eggs and other essentials in the American diet are actually rising by double digits.
Meeting with economic writers last week, President Bush dismissed several polls that show Americans are down on the economy. He expressed surprise that inflation is one of the stated concerns.
"They cite inflation?" Bush asked, adding that, "I happen to believe the war has clouded a lot of people's sense of optimism."
In other short-term bad news for the average consumer yesterday oil hit a new record high and the dollar set a historic low against the Euro. The dollar's weakness, caused in part by the Fed's massive injections of liquidity into the markets this summer, makes imported products more expensive for Americans. Because our economy is built on consuming, the average lower to middle income person whose investment portfolio is principally made up of canned goods will see little immediate benefit from yesterday's gain in the market. That big screen Sony television they've had their eye on may cost more this Christmas, although the interest rate their credit card company will charge them on the purchase may decrease.
For most of us, the benefit from yesterday's move will come from the Fed's action, not from Wall Street's euphoric reaction to it. While some CEO's probably saw more in paper profits yesterday than many of us take home in a year, there were gains with broader benefit as well. One of the richest men in the world is also one of the most generous. Warren Buffet has given away much of his fortune to charity over the last few years. One of his largest gifts was a donation of 10 million B shares of Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. Yesterday, the value of the B shares closed at $3950 a share, up $4.50 per share. That's a one-day gain of $45 million for the charity, assuming the Foundation is still holding the stock.
Sorry to disappoint any of you who clicked the link looking for pictures of naked women. Hopefully the economics lesson bored the voyeurs into moving on to another website and the rest of you haven't fallen asleep waiting for me to get around to asking the question.
What would you do if you had $45 million? How much of it would you need to keep in order to feel rich, or at least set for life? What would you buy for yourself and your family? What favorite causes would you support? Would you give to an existing charity, donate it to your alma mater to get a building named after you, start a foundation of your own, or walk around handing out $100 bills to every panhandler you see until the funds ran out?
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll says 59% of Americans believe we should set a timetable for getting the hell out of Iraq, and stick to it regardless of what happens on the ground. Independent Pew Research and CBS Polls came up with similar results. Check this from CNN:
There were two high-profile media events about Iraq last week: The topU.S. commander testified before Congress and President Bush delivered aprime-time speech. What impact did they have?
Very little, according to two polls taken at the end of the week.
Before the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and the President's speech,26 percent of Americans polled by CBS News approved of President Bush'shandling of Iraq. After the speech, 25 percent approved.
Beforethe testimony and the speech, 41 percent of Americans believed theUnited States did the right thing to take military action in Iraq.After the speech, 39 percent said it was the right thing. ...
Does the public believe the U.S. troop build-up is making the situationin Iraq better? Before last week, 35 percent of Americans said yes inthe CBS News poll. At the end of the week, 31 percent said yes.
Petraeus PR Produces Pittle in the Polls
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I live less than a block away from Ballston's Mosaic Park. Should be one of my favorite spots, right?
In the three years I've lived here, I've used Mosaic Park twice. Maybe three times.
Why? Mosaic Park is a lot closer to a parking lot than an actual park. Grass doesn't do well in DC's blistering summer sun unless it's watered, so the park is only green for parts of spring and fall. Without grass to slow the ball, you can't play soccer or toss a baseball -- in either case, any errant ball keeps rolling straight into traffic.
Plain and simple, the park looks like no one cares about it. Small trees were planted but never watered, and at least half are now little more than vertical sticks. As you can see in the picture, litter accumulates around the edge of the park, especially cigarette butts. In the winter, the County doesn't bother shoveling the adjacent sidewalk.
A jungle gym and small climbing wall were added to one end of the park a couple of years ago, so toddlers get some use out of that. But when we first moved in back in 2004, the Arlington Parks Department told us a basketball court would soon be going in. Since my roommate and I love to play (even though our combined vertical leap is approximately 13 inches), we were psyched. But 2004 came and went with no court, and in early 2005 we were told there was no money to build it.
Now there's talk of the park being part of a huge mixed-use redevelopment of the neighboring Metro bus yard. Which would be cool, although Ballston's version of "mixed-use" tends to be "a boring rectangular condo or office tower with a Blimpee on the first floor." And a quick net search shows this isn't the first time a redevelopment of that spot has been planned. Others have fallen through before and so far, the sometimes-leaky bus yard remains.
A little depressing? At least for The Green Miles' style? You're probably right. Let's balance it out with Mission Sqwerlpossible (via cuteoverload.com).
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Robin is a long-time lesbian activist. She joined me as a co-founder of StopDrLaura.com, among other ventures.
For Immediate Release
Robin Tyler, plaintiff, California same-gender marriage case, email@example.com
A CALL FOR SUSAN KENNEDY, LESBIAN, CHIEF OF STAFF TO GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, TO RESIGN
GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER said today, that he will veto the bill legalizing same-gender civil marriage because 61% percent of California voters favored Proposition 22 in March 2000. Ms. Kennedy agreed with the Governor's decision using Prop 22 (which only bars California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside California), when he used the same excuse to veto the bill in 2005. He says he will never sign this bill. In 1948, if California voters had been allowed to vote on inter-racial marriage when the California Supreme Court struck down the anti-miscegenation law and found in favor of inter-racial marriage, over 72% of the voters would have voted against it.
Even though I, a plaintiff, am going to the California Supreme Court next year, (and the Governor has said he will "abide" by the CA Supreme Court's decision), I am not only extremely disappointed in the Governor's lack of courage, but am especially disappointed in Susan Kennedy, his chief of staff, whose "same gender wedding" I attended in Hawaii several years ago.
Since I attended Susan's wedding, why is she so against attending mine? Both Arnold and Susan know that it is unconstitutional for the majority to deny a minority equal protection under the law. To hide behind that [Prop 22] as an excuse, is cowardly and unforgivable, for both the Governor and especially for Ms. Kennedy, a lesbian. Rather then backing the Governor's decision with unacceptable excuses, I ask that Ms. Kennedy resign as Chief of Staff. If not, shame on you Susan, to side against your community, and deny civil marriage to your friends.
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Some good news out of Washington, or so it seems, as reported by the New York Times: Senate Passes Mental Health Parity Bill The Senate unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday night that would require equal health insurance coverage for mental and physical illnesses when policies cover both. The bill builds on 1996 legislation that lifted major restrictions on [...]
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Despite what the Post says, Phil English is not a moderate-- not in his politics or in his lifestyle
I'm not certain if the Senate is going to wind up voting today on the Webb Amendment or not. I just saw Senator Webb on CNN rip into John McCain's craven and love the war/hate the troops stand. In a way it was kind of embarrassing because it highlighted McCain's incipient senility and unfitness for office-- not just for the presidency he craves to desperately, but for the Senate as well. The poor old geezer really needs to retire and get some rest and sunshine into his dark, dark life. He called Webb's amendment unconstitutional, claiming "The Constitution of the United States gives no authority for the Congress of the United States to set lengths of tour or lengths of duty in the military." It's probably been a while since he's bothered to read it-- especially since his party has completely abandoned it. But, as Webb pointed out a few minutes ago:
Well, first of all, Sen. McCain, who I?ve known for 30 years, needs to read the Constitution. There is a provision in Article I, Section 8, which clearly gives the Congress the authority to make rules with respect to the ground and naval forces. There?s precedent for this.
With a difficult war debate looming and presidential vetoes for a host of popular legislation threatened, moderate Republicans in Congress are facing a tough choice: Stand by President Bush or run for their political lives.
Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), who has been exploring bipartisan accommodations, especially on Iraq, complained yesterday that, for all their talk of bipartisanship, the "House Democratic leadership has not reached out to us at all."