Friday, July 08, 2005

Tort reform? How about some insurance reform...

I have been arguing for quite sometime that f one steps back and looks at the data on Medical Malpractive insurance it becomes quite obvious that the real reason for skyrcoketing rates are greedy insurance companies. Juries really aren't handing out bigger awards, they aren't ruling for plaintiff's more frequently. In short our civil justice system isn't the lottery that Republican's would like you to believe that it is, by all objective standards our civil justice system is quite fair.

A study from Missouri was just released today which found that insurance companies were indeed bilking their customers. If only the doctors would stand up to the real insurance companies instead of grandstanding against lawyers perhaps they could get something done.

Some highlights,

"His study found that medical malpractice insurers paid out just 30 cents of every dollar that doctors paid in premiums last year."

"He found that insurers paid out just 40 cents of every dollar they expected to pay out in the future."

"Collectively, the 15 insurers increased their earned premiums by 9.3 percent, although the amount they estimated they would pay out in the future declined by more than 21 percent."

"The study used financial statements the insurers filed under oath with state regulators."

Perhaps now Jeb will quit grandstanding...

"TALLAHASSEE, July 7 -- Florida's state attorney said there was no evidence Terri Schiavo's collapse 15 years ago involved criminal activity, and Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday declared an end to the state's inquiry."

Perhaps now Jeb Bush will end his callous political grandstanding on the Schiavo case. He should also issue an apology to Michael Schiavo for needlessly prolonging his wife's death and for dragging his name through the mud with absolutely no evidence.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quote of the day

I found this on Andrew Sullivan's site, I must say it sums up my feelings on today's cowardly attack perfectly.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing? This is London. We've dealt with your sort before. You don't try and pull this on us. Do you have any idea how many times our city has been attacked? Whatever you're trying to do, it's not going to work. All you've done is end some of our lives, and ruin some more. How is that going to help you? You don't get rewarded for this kind of crap.

And if, as your MO indicates, you're an al-Qaeda group, then you're out of your tiny minds.
Because if this is a message to Tony Blair, we've got news for you. We don't much like our government ourselves, or what they do in our name. But, listen very clearly. We'll deal with that ourselves. We're London, and we've got our own way of doing things, and it doesn't involve tossing bombs around where innocent people are going about their lives.

And that's because we're better than you. Everyone is better than you. Our city works. We rather like it. And we're going to go about our lives. We're going to take care of the lives you ruined. And then we're going to work. And we're going down the pub.
So you can pack up your bombs, put them in your arseholes, and get the fuck out of our city." - London News Review.

The Judy Miller - Patrick Fitzgerald back story

Josh Marshall details the history of NY Times reporter Judy Miller and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, apparently this isn't the first leak investigation where these two have crossed paths...

"A little more than a year ago, I reported on TPM how Fitzgerald had quite aggressively investigated another Bush White House leak in late 2001 and early 2002. Fitzgerald had been investigating three Islamic charities accused of supporting terrorism -- the Holy Land Foundation, the Global Relief Foundation, and the Benevolence International Foundation. But just before his investigators could swoop in with warrants, two of the charities in question got wind of what was coming and, apparently, were able to destroy a good deal of evidence.

What tipped them off were calls from two reporters at the New York Times who'd been leaked information about the investigation by folks at the White House."

The entire column is worth a read

America, I present to you the party of "morals" and "values"

The hits keep coming for the GOP,

from the great state of Kentucky,

"A special grand jury indicted three of [Kentucky] Gov. Ernie Fletcher's subordinates Wednesday, including his deputy chief of staff, on various misdemeanor charges, including criminal conspiracy and political discrimination."
article here

from the state of Ohio we present Coingate, where a couple of hundred million dollars of state money seems to have been flused down the toilet. The Nation has a nice summation of the case...

Of course there is also Tom Delay and his House of Scandal

Can't forget about our good friend Duke Cunningham out in California either, his house was raided by the FBI last week

And of course the ongoing Valerie Plame investigation has the potential to wreak havoc within the White House with a Rove indictment expected sometime next week..

Of course Congressional Dems are still unwilling to file ethics charges against any of these jokers but hopefully Howard Dean and grassroots Democrats can turn up the heat on our Congressmen and Senators and have some action taken. The Democratic consultant establishment cannot fail to pounce on these scandals and make them the campaign issue of 2006.It's time to start stoking the fire and priming the electorate for a backlash like 1994.

Looks like the Judge in the Plame investigation agrees with me...

Okay, so perhaps he doesn't agree with me specifically but it appears that we both feel the same way about Judith Miller and her counterpart's cries about the chilling-effect on anonymous sources that will result from her incarceration....

You'll recall my post from Tuesday, "Reporters and confidential sources..."

Well in yesterday's proceedings Judge Hogan said the following,

"This is not a case of a whistle-blower revealing secret information to Miller about dangers at a nuclear power plant. It's a case in which the information she was given and her potential use of it was a crime. . . . This is very different than a whistle-blower outing government misconduct."

here's the full article from today's Washington Post

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Quick thought on C&D and the '04 elections here in Colorado

While I think it is imperative that C&D pass this fall from what I gather proponents are nervous at this point about their chances for success. I myself have not actually seen any polling on the issue but common wisdom is that there is that public support is not yet at 50%.

Now in Peter Blake's Rocky Mountain News column today he was discussing the race for Colorado Senate Minority leader between Andy McElhany and Steve Johnson. In discussing Johnson Blake writes,

Johnson is proud to have worked with the Democrats on the issue, but admits that hurts him with those who did not. Failure to address budget problems in 2003-2004 is what cost Republicans legislative control, he argues.

I've heard that argument put forward quite frequently in the last 8 or 9 months and it always seemed reasonable to me. There was a budget crisis, the Republican's diddled around with social issues for 2 sessions, the public got fed up and voted the bums out.... seemed logical and reasonable. As Speaker Romanoff said during this session in response to a bizarre comments from Rep. Welker, "We're talking about the budget and they're talking about beastiality." The state GOP was out of touch and Coloradans wanted the budget issue solved.

But if that was really the case wouldn't we see more confidence from the Yes On C&D crowd? Wouldn't there be more public support for this bi-partisan measure? Why then did the Republican's lose control of the legislature if the public isn't clamoring for a reprieve from TABOR?

Congressional Dems still don't get it...

Apparently Congressional Dems are still trying to play nice with their GOP counterparts and they're being put in an uncomfortable spot by Howard Dean

Indeed, at the DNC's executive committee meeting in Washington in early June, Dean publicly acknowledged that some congressional Democrats had urged him to tone down his "culture of corruption" rhetoric because they did not want to get caught up in the same ethics probe as DeLay. But Dean said he would not hold back.

"We have not spoken about moral values in this party for a long time," Dean said. "The truth is, we're Democrats because of our moral values. It's a moral value to make sure that kids don't go to bed hungry at night. ... It is a moral value not to go out on golf trips paid for by lobbyists."

How is it possible that the Congressional Dems still don't get it? How? The American people think that the Democratic Party stands for nothing and while they may not agree with the Republican's on every issue at least the GOP appears to have a backbone and some convictions. The Democrats grew complacent and corrupt during their 40 year run of power and were rightfully sweppt from power in 1994 by Republican's promising reform. In the last 11 years those same Republican's have become complacent and corrupt themselves and it's about time the Dems stood up and said so. The Congressional Dems need to stop being so concerned about ruffling feathers and start being concerned about losing every election of the last decade.

Read the whole article, it's a good demonstration of the disconnect between the Democratic Congressional delegation and the party loyalists.

Who's an activist?

The New York Times has an excellent Op/Ed piece today from a Yale law school Professor and a recent Yale law grad that took a unique approach to the issue of "judicial activism". The problem that most serious students of the law, on both the left and the right, have with the cries of judicial activism is that there is no clear cut definition of what an "activist" decision is.... indeed the entire concept is very amorphous, even those who are staunchly advocate the removal of "activist" judges often have a tough time defining judicial activism.

Frankly I find the entire argument to be a bit ridiculous and become highly suspect of anyone who relies on judicial activism arguments. Rarely can they support their position with any sort of facts or insight, instead they disagree with a court's opinion and immediatley label it as activist. I just find the entire thing to be intellectually lazy, and I have little tolerance for that.

The NY Times piece attempts to assign some sort of normative measurement stick to the term activist.

In order to move beyond this labeling game, we've identified one reasonably objective and quantifiable measure of a judge's activism, and we've used it to assess the records of the justices on the current Supreme Court.

Here is the question we asked: How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?

Now the fascinating part, look who are the most activist judges on the Supreme Court....

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

Great article, nicely done Professor Gerwitz and Mr. Golder!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Theo-cons are flexing their muscle...

The religous right has been waiting over a decade for this moment, the chance to replace a social moderate on the Supreme Court with a far right idealogue. Evangelical Christians made a commitment to the GOP over the last 20 years, in election cycle after election cycle they came out and supported Republican candidates and were really the electoral catalyst for the dominance of the GOP on the national level in the last decade. Once elected though for the most part the moderates of the party still controlled the legislative direction of the party and all of the promises on social issues were quickly forgotten. At some point something has to give, either the party is going to have to do something on the social issues (specifically THE social issue - abortion) or they risk losing that Evangelical electoral support that has become so vital for the party. The Evangelicals put Bush in the White House and, to borrow a phrase from the President, they now feel that they have political capital and the intend to spend it.

To the theo-cons there is no greater threat to our nation than a percieved "activist" judiciary (nevermind that one of the most "activist" decisions in Supreme Courthistory was Bush v. Gore), many truly believe the threat posed by the Supreme Court is greater than the threat we face from Islamic terrorism. The theo-cons will not be able to turn the other cheek this time, they are calling in their debts and if Bush turns his back on them there will be a significant backlash.

So the Evangelical's have been making quite a bit of noise about potential SCOTUS nominee and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. They are challenging the President, Gonzalez is a close personal friend but he is relatively moderate on key social iussues - specifically abortion. The President pushed back a little bit today, telling USA Today "Al Gonzalez is a great friend of mine. When a friend gets attacked, I don't like it" Bush is a stubborn man but I don't think he'll nominate Gonzalez just to prove a point, given his history I believe the nominee will most certainly be a hard-liner.

Here's the NY Times take on the fiesty Evangelicals and the Congressional and White House reaction.

Who am I? What am I doing here?

RIP Admiral Stockdale

He'll be best remembered for his truky bizarre opening remarks in the 1992 Vice Presidential debate but the man was a true hero for his actions as a POW in Vietnam.

Stem cell debate within the GOP

There is a nice piece in today's Washinton Post about the internal debate within the GOP regarding stem-cell research, it also just happens to focus on a man from my hometown, St. Louis. The article points out, I think correctly, that the debate about stem-cell research is really a microcosm of the larger debate about the direction and future of the Republican Party. It has been my belief for quite some time now that the developing schism within the GOP is one that is so fundamental it very well could tear the Republican Party apart. On one hand you have the moderate Republican's, those of limited government and fiscal responsibility and on the other hand you have the Theo-Cons, who seem to have a firm grip on the party and its policies today.

The battle between Mahoney and his cohort of old-school Republicans -- typified by the business elite and the country club crowd -- and the new guard -- typified by rural and suburban social conservatives in the vast swath between the state's two major metropolitan areas -- underscores the emerging schism in the party.

Much in the same way that free trade splinters the Democratic Party, stem cell research exposes ideological cracks in the GOP. Those cracks are giving Democrats hope of regaining power in states such as Missouri that have trended Republican of late.

If MTV were trying to highlight the issue, it could do a "Celebrity Death Match" between two of Missouri's favorite sons: socially moderate former senator and U.N. ambassador John Danforth and socially conservative former senator and U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft.

Mahoney comes down squarely in the Danforth corner. Danforth urges moderate Christians to take a more active role in his party, and he advocates stem cell research.

"Do I think a lot of Republicans are going to go out and vote for Democrats because of this?" Mahoney said rhetorically last week. "No. But if the independents start leaving, this could be the thing that pushes them to do that."

I disagree with the free-trade analogy as I think the issues facing the Republican Party are much more fundametal, that schism resonates downto the very core principles of the Republican Party, other than that though I think the article is excellent.

Even though he despises the characterization, Mahoney, who retired from Monsanto a decade ago, epitomizes the old-school, country club, Rockefeller Republican. His type long dominated the party. They were wealthier than average, conservative economically but often quite moderate on social issues.

But the party has increasingly come to be dominated by low- and middle-class, religious voters. After helping the party rise to dominance in recent years, these groups have expected their party to repay them in kind by focusing on their issues. Too often, the party's elite courted their votes, and then forgot their issues once they came to power, focusing almost exclusively on taxation and regulation issues.

Save the 1st Amendment from Karl Rove

No sooner do I finish posting my previous entry than I find this article at Editor & Publisher from a Texas journalist who taught a class on politics and the media with Rove in the late 1990's. This guy gets it....

The problem, as always, in dealing with Rove, is establishing a clear chain of culpability. Rove once described himself as a die-hard Nixonite; he is, like the former president, both student and master of plausible deniability. (This past weekend, in confirming that Rove was indeed a source for Matthew Cooper, Rove's lawyer said his client "never knowingly disclosed classified information.") That is precisely why prosecutor Fitzgerald in this case must document the pattern of Rove’s behavior, whether journalists published, or not.

For in this case, Rove, improving on Macchiavelli, has bet that reporters won’t rat their relationship with the administration’s most important political source. How better for him to operate without constraint, or to camouflage breaking the law, than under the cover of journalists and journalism, protected by the First Amendment?

Reporters and confidential sources...

So I flipped on MSNBC tonight and caught a little bit of "Hardball" with guest host Andrea Mitchell, she had a few journalists on who were discussing the possible jailing of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper for refusing to reveal their sources. Since the guests were all journalists I was hardly suprised that they all were upset about the possible jailing of their colleagues. I thought Chicken Little was going to make an appearance the way they talked about the end of confidential sources.

Perhaps it is the lawyer in me coming through but I have absolutely no sympathy for these two journalists. This is a criminal investigation of a possible Federal crime, the two journalists are witnesses who have information vital to the investigation. There is no federal protection for journalists and their sources, it's really that simple. These two are impeding a criminal investigation and any other person in the position would be hauled off to jail, the fact that they are journalists is of no legal consequence.

I am not unsympathetic to the value of confidential sources but at the very least this leaker is a coward who jeopardized a covert CIA operative, all of her contacts through her many years at the CIA, and a CIA cover company that was doing intel work in Iran and North Korea. In addition he or she's actions were most likely criminal as well. These two journalists are not covering for some whistle-blower who uncovered corporate or government corruption, they are protecting a criminal.

The reverse domino effect...

Excellent op-ed piece in the LA Times about the application of the Cold War "Domino Effect" theory to the current war on terror, you know the whole fight them abroad or we'll have to fight them here rationalization...

From the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush has systematically sought to parlay the public's shock over a singular, if devastating, terrorist assault by a small coterie of extremists into what amounted to a call for World War III against a supposed "axis of evil." But these countries — Iran, Iraq and North Korea — shared only a clear hostility to the United States, rather than any real alliance or ties to 9/11 itself.

In the process, Bush has justified an enormous military buildup, spent tens of billions of dollars in Iraq, reorganized the federal government, driven the nation's budget far into the red and assaulted the civil liberties of Americans and people around the world, all without bothering to seriously examine the origins of the 9/11 attacks or compose a coherent strategy to prevent similar ones in the future. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden remains at large, as do his financial and political backers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

But why has the White House pursued this nonsensical approach over the loud objections of the country's most experienced counterterrorism and Islamic experts? Because it allows the administration all the political benefits the Cold War afforded its predecessors: political capital, pork-barrel defense contracts and a grandiose sense of purpose.

And because the war on terror has no standard of victory, it can never end — thus neatly replacing the Cold War as a black-and-white, us-against-them worldview that generations of American (and Soviet) politicians found so useful for keeping the plebes in line. It's a one-size-fits-all bludgeon.

The terrible, unspoken truth of the war on terror is that the tragedy of 9/11 has been exploited as a political opportunity by George W. Bush, Halliburton, the Pentagon and the other pillars of what President Eisenhower dubbed the "military-industrial complex" in his final speech as president.

The full text can be found here

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tip of the iceberg...

Karl Rove's outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame was a petty political stunt motivated out of revenge. He most likely violated the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act of 1982 by blowing Plame's cover but the damage he caused, and the crimes he may have committed, go much farther than that...

This 2003 article from the Washington Post details the damage Rove's little stunt caused to a longtime CIA front company...

The inadvertent disclosure of the name of a business affiliated with the CIA underscores the potential damage to the agency and its operatives caused by the leak of Plame's identity. Intelligence officials have said that once Plame's job as an undercover operative was revealed, other agency secrets could be unraveled and her sources might be compromised or endangered.

A former diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said yesterday that every foreign intelligence service would run Plame's name through its databases within hours of its publication to determine if she had visited their country and to reconstruct her activities.

"That's why the agency is so sensitive about just publishing her name," the former diplomat said.

Rove's little stunt endangered countless lives and compromised an longstanding and ongoing CIA operation.... anyone care to guess how many other espionage laws Karl Rove may have broken?

The longer the investigation continues and the broader the scope the worse for the Administration, it's the cover up that will bring down members of the Administration. They can all thank Karl Rove for leaving the proverbial barn door W I D E open..

Colorado Pols ventures cautiously into the Rove-Plame scandal

The good people over at Colorado Pols have posted about the Rove-Plame scandal but I have to question their choice of language a bit....

There's some buzz that the Valerie Plame scandal is about to get red-hot for the Bush administration and Karl Rove in particular. Colorado's left-wing blogs pounced on it Friday night.

If it's a scandal at all (there's some debate about this).

For those of you deep in some Chafee County ravine joining us for your monthly sit-down at a Leadville internet cafe, there's been an issue brewing for some time about the possible exposure of a covert CIA agent's identity by the White House to discredit a prominent Iraq war critic (married to the agent). Read this for a relatively impartial summary. emphasis added

If it's a scandal? If? Lets be clear, at the very least Rove may have violated the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act of 1982. Beyond that Rove has already testified at least twice and possibly 3 times in front of a grand jury about his knowledge of the leak, so a perjury charge is a distinct possibility. If the story ends there, and I am skeptical that it will, it is already a full blown scandal.

And what is this about the "possible exposure" of a CIA operative by the White House? She was an operative and her identity was exposed by senior administration officials. This is all very clear and not open for interpretation, those are the facts.... why do you think there has been a Special Prosecutor appointed and an ongoing Grand Jury investigation?

They have a great site over there at Colorado Pols but I think they might be trying a bit to hard to present a "fair and balanced" perspective on this one...

The firm grip of the Christian right on today's Republican Party...

I was in Louisville this spring to catch the Kentucky Derby with some old friends from law school. One of those friends is a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and we had a pretty long talk about the current state of his party. He was concerned about the marginalization of moderates within the GOP and agreed with my statement that the Republican Party has been, in essence, hijacked by the far right social conservatives.

In today's Washington Post there are two articles, one about Bill Frist and another about Supreme Court nominees which really demonstrate just how important other Republican's feel the religous right is to their success and how influential the religous right has become.

From the Frist article,
"If he wants the Republican nomination, he may be worried that coming out for embryonic stem cell research funding would make conservatives angry, especially if it involves disagreeing with President Bush," said Harvard political scientist Michael J. Sandel. If stem cell legislation becomes Bush's first veto, "it would be a symbolic issue in the Republican primaries."

Sandel is dead on with is analysis, social moderates need not apply for the Republican national ticket. I often wonder what the people who think Rudy Guilianni will be the 2008 nominee are paying attention to...

The SCOTUS article is a good companion piece for this post from Ed Kilgore over at tpmcafe

Does Portland prove Bush was wrong on Kyoto?

Nicholas Kristoff seems to think so....

I'm not sure that I am entirely comfortable in projecting the success of 1 US city (Portland) to the entire nation but now other US cities have an actual working model which conclusively demonstrates that curbing carbon emissions does not have to spell economic doom.

Interesting piece, and especially pertinent given the fact that Earth Day's founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson, passed away earlier today.

Vote Yes on C & D

Locally here in Colorado it looks like we've got quite a fight on our hands over Referendums C&D, a few thoughts.....

First off, I am a strong believer in the absolute necessity of passing "C" and getting this state a time-out from the choke-hold that TABOR has placed upon it.

Now that that's out in the open lets talk about strategy.....

To me the $175 million that "D" earmarks for Police and Firefighter Pension funds is pure electoral gold. The Vote Yes folks need to have the policemen and firefighters in their radio and television spots and, though I hate the conotation of this word, they need to exploit the pension angle. Make the pensions an issue, make John Caldera and Dick Armey come out against funding police and fire pensions.

My other thought came to me while I was watching a bit of the Bill Owens - Dick Armey debate the other night and I desperatley wanted to see Owens call Armey to the carpet and expose him for what he is.... an anti-tax idealogue from Texas who does not have to live with the ramifications of TABOR. Now of course Bill Owens isn't going to go after a fellow party member like that but why not have Romanoff or Joan Fitz-Gerald call this guy out and make an issue of the fact that the forces lined up in opposition to this common sense measure are all from out of state. To me it's an obvious way to discredit the pro-TABOR faction before any debate on the merits of C&D begins.

Tell me it wouldn't bring a smile to your face to see Romanoff calmly ask the honorable Mr. Armey where he pays his taxes? Make Dick Armey go on the defensive about his carpet bagger status. Make Dick Armey admit that he pays his taxes in the state of Texas.

Did Karl commit treason?

One aspect of the Rove - Plame leak story that has bothered me has been the buzz that somehow Rove may very well face treason charges. Now don't get wrong, what Karl did was despicable and he deserves to have the full weight of the DOJ brought down on him. However I just don't see how what Karl did fulfills the elements of treason.

Treason is defined in Article III, clause 1 of our Constitution...
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

This definition is very restrictive and the Supreme Court's Treason jurisprudence is similiarly narrow in focus. Mr. Rove leaked the name of a covert CIA operative to members of the American press corps, a vile act but hardly treason. If Karl had outed Ms. Plame to the Tehran Times or the Damascus Dispatch or even Al-Jazeera you could at least try and make the argument that Rove was levying war against the United States.

What about "aid and comfort"? Here the Court has ruled that an "overt act" of assistance to the enemy must have occurred. The "acts" of Rove that are at question here are his phone calls to members of the American press. Are those "overt acts" of aid to the enemy? Again, remember that the Supreme Court has taken a very restrictive view of what constitutes treason.

Anyway there's some good information about treason and the relevant Supreme Court jurisprudence here and here. Read up and tell me why I'm wrong! For that matter I would like to see a cogent argument for treason, all I have seen thus far are general rantings in the blogosphere.

Lets get this started...

I guess as a first posting and a bit of a test I'll just go ahead and say that I am in no way affiliated with the website

Do you think this will work as a logo? Looks pretty good to me!