Monday, December 25, 2006

Drunk Driving: The gift cons keep giving liberal bloggers

http://// Taking a semi break from my break, I finally managed to pull away from the holiday good times to read the top ten cons idiots from this past Monday and I had to post this, if you have already read the list when it was fresh be prepare for a flashback if you haven't you will enjoy this. If you can stomach the opinion section of the Detroit "News" you notice the cartoon entitled "Mallard Fillmore" by Bruce Tinsley Fillmore is supposed to be the conservative answer to "Doomsbury" the problem for Millard Fillmore is that he's not funny and he repeats the same crap you read in political chatrooms by right wing bullies. Someone needs to tell Mr. Tinsley if you're going to stand on a soapbox make sure your blood alcohol level isn't 0.14. Bruce Tinsley Bruce who? You know. Bruce Tinsley Still not ringing any bells? Let me help you out. Bruce Tinsley is the guy who writes the terribly unfunny comservative comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" which, somewhat unbelievably, appears in almost 400 American newspapers.If you're wondering why he doesn't look too happy in the photo above, it's because Mr. Tinsley was arrested last week in Columbus, Indiana, on drunk driving charges - his second such arrest in four months. The photo was taken by Bartholomew County's finest when Tinsley's blood-alcohol level was allegedly 0.14 (nearly twice the legal limit in Indiana).So it's another fine mess that some drunk-ass conservative moralizer has gotten himself into. What a surprise.Mind you, I have discovered that slapping Mr. Tinsley's mugshot at the end of Mallard Fillmore makes it a lot more entertaining.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back in 07

Hey everyone in Michigan liberal blogsphere, I've been slacking for the past couple weeks not because there's nothing going on in the state and the country I've been relaxing from final weeks over at Oakland U. , having my girlfriend home during the holiday break and on top of older laptop it makes updating during the break tough. But believe me I'll be up and running next month.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A change do you good? Group calls for changes to Michigan constitution By CHRIS CHRISTOFFFREE PRESS STAFF WRITER December 12, 2006 Michigan’s constitution should be revised to lengthen term limits for state elected officials, give the governor power to appoint Supreme Court justices and university trustees and forbid non-Michigan residents from collecting petition signatures for ballot proposals. Those are among 63 recommendations by a self-appointed, volunteer group that’s calling for a constitutional convention to rewrite the 1963 constitution. The group, Citizens for Michigan, calls for maximum 12-year terms for legislators, the governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Currently, they can serve a maximum eight years except for the state House, where six years is the limit. Others recommendations in the study include allowing cities to raise local taxes to fix roads, and a statewide tax to pay strictly for building or renovating school facilities. The complete report can be read at <>. “We’re not dictating anything to anybody,” said former attorney general Frank Kelley, a member of the Citizens for Michigan, which has met quietly for three years and which includes former legislators, legal experts, business people and lobbyists.Rather, he said, the study is meant to promote good public policy, and to give the governor, Legislature and the public time to consider possible constitutional changes before 2010. That’s the next year the constitution requires a public vote to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention.“This is an attempt to get a discussion started,” said John Axe, chairman of the group and an expert in municipal finance and an instructor at the Wayne State University School of Law.

One more for the race: Dodd joins the race Sen. Dodd to decide on joining 2008 race By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press WriterTue Dec 12, 9:29 PM ET Sen. Chris Dodd said Tuesday he plans to have "a conversation with the mirror" over the Christmas holidays to decide whether he'll join a growing field of Democratic presidential contenders. But Dodd, a 25-year Senate veteran, added, "If I had to make a decision in the next thirty seconds, I'd say, 'Let's go.'" In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, the 62-year-old Dodd called himself a dark horse in a crowded field dominated by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Neither Clinton nor Obama has announced they will seek the presidency, but both lead every national poll of Democratic contenders. Yet with the early nominating contests still 13 months away, the Connecticut senator insisted he still has a chance to break through. "People don't want to be told this race is over, or that it's down to a couple of people and everyone else is wasting their time," he said. And while not mentioning Obama — the field's charismatic newcomer — by name, Dodd said, "the idea that someone could come to this race and bring little or no experience and still connect is going to be hard." Dodd is little known outside Washington and his home state, despite a long Senate career and a two year stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995-96, where he traveled the country raising money for candidates. He frames his relative anonymity as an advantage, calling himself "a fresh face with experience" who understands voters' concerns. "Before they make a decision about a cluster of issues, people what to know if you're paying attention to them," Dodd said. "Do you know who I am? Are you listening to me?" A first-time presidential candidate, Dodd said he would run to improve the world for his young daughters, ages 5 and 2. He's spent much of the last year traveling to states with early nominating contests, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and says he's received favorable attention from voters. He plans to stress domestic issues in the race, including education, health care, and rebuilding the nation's manufacturing base. Dodd voted in favor of the 2002 resolution authorizing military invasion in Iraq, a vote he now calls "a mistake." He leaves Friday for a weeklong tour of several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq. And while he doesn't believe the Iraq conflict will be the central issue in the 2008 presidential contest, he said it was no time to elect a leader untested in foreign affairs. "This is a time where international relations are going to be a big deal, and having something to say rather than 'I'll be a quick learner.' There's no time for training wheels on this stuff," Dodd said. As incoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd has broad support in the financial arena which could prove lucrative to him as a candidate. He hinted his fundraising was going well and that people would be "surprised" by his campaign finance report early next year. Dodd had about $1.8 million in his campaign account at the end of September. By contrast, Clinton has about $14.4 million to spend.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street

Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street - Impact of police being sent to Iraq felt on street By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY WASHINGTON — The deployment of thousands of police officers to Iraq, Afghanistan and other military reserve posts is costing local law enforcement agencies up to $1.2 billion per year, according to a new analysis of Justice Department data. The review, prepared for a law enforcement trade journal by Justice Department statistician Matthew Hickman, found that the number of military call-ups is outstripping the pace of new hires at a time when agencies are struggling to find new recruits, and as crime is ticking upward after several years of historically low crime rates. AFTER DUTY: Reserve troops face job woes The problem is particularly acute in small police agencies, which often have struggled to fill gaps in patrol coverage left by cops who have been called to military duty, according to Hickman's analysis, just published in Police Chief magazine. "This is a serious problem since (police executives) cannot place quotas on the number of reservists in their agencies," according to the analysis, which said that about 2.2% of the estimated 683,600 full-time police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers across the nation are in the military reserves. For his analysis, Hickman reviewed personnel in 3,000 of the nearly 16,000 police agencies across the nation for a 12-month period that ended June 30, 2003. The findings then were projected across all of the agencies as estimates of continuing annual costs to local law enforcement. Hickman estimated that 11,380 law enforcement officers were called for military reserve service from all agencies during the time period studied, compared with gains of about 2,600 new hires. At least 23% of all police agencies had officers called for reserve duty during that time, according to Hickman. There is no official count of how many reservists are police officers, but Hickman says the trends in military call-ups and police hiring appear to have been consistent since the period he examined. Police chiefs say overtime paid to other officers to fill patrol shift gaps accounted for the bulk of the deployment costs. Hickman's analysis does not directly link the reservist call-ups to recent increases in violent crime in many cities. However, police chiefs such as Houston's Harold Hurtt say the impact of call-ups is being felt on the street — even in large departments such as his that are able to absorb losses in officers more easily than smaller police agencies. "Everybody understands the necessity to do their part for the country," says Hurtt, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a group of about 60 police agencies in the USA and Canada. "But this responsibility is having a noticeable impact on our ability to provide basic services. A lot of these (reservists) were people who answer calls for service." Hurtt says many of the 25-30 Houston cops called to military duty have been notified that their service likely will be extended beyond a year. The numbers represent a tiny portion of the city's 4,800-officer force, but the call-ups have come as the department is trying to fill hundreds of vacancies caused by the retirements of 700 officers in the past two years, Hurtt says. Police staffing is a particularly urgent issue in Houston, which took in about 200,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina last year. Hurtt says the surge in population contributed to a jump in violent crime, including a 20% increase in homicides this year. This year, the U.S. government gave Houston about $20 million to help pay police overtime and other costs related to the influx of Katrina evacuees. Reservist call-ups have had more impact on smaller police agencies. In Pottsville, Pa., Police Chief Joseph Murton says the department lost three of its 28 officers to prolonged reserve duty during the past three years. The deployments, which will require two of the officers to serve two years each, triggered a department-wide restructuring of patrol shifts and undisclosed overtime costs to cover the manpower shortfall. "We understand the value of freedom; we support the service they are providing our country," Murton says. "But it has been difficult. This has affected everybody in the department." Murton says his community of about 16,500 residents, 100 miles north of Philadelphia, was making do with a decreasing police force before military call-ups. A tightening local budget has forced Pottsville's police department to cut its number of patrol officers from 35 to 28 during the past several years, Murton says. "If I'm a manufacturing company, I can go to a temp service to fill slots I'm losing to call-ups," he says. "You can't do that in law enforcement. Our employees are required to undergo 22 weeks of training. The average employer doesn't have to face that."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Buh bye GOP

GOP's Capitol control winds down - Yahoo! News GOP's Capitol control winds down By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer 41 minutes ago It has not been a pretty sight on Capitol Hill in the waning hours of Republican control. Once-powerful lawmakers have been shown the door at their own offices, forced to crowd in a basement or other nooks to finish their work, if not their careers. The usual backslapping has given way to back pats as colleagues try to comfort losers who will soon be going home. Historic hallways are jammed with desks, leather sofas, chairs, lamps, metal file cabinets and cardboard file boxes, part of a massive office shuffle that will continue when the lame-duck Congress finishes, probably Friday. Rubbermaid trash bins holding office garbage bear signs saying "Do Not Remove." Happy Democrats are trying not to gloat too much, although their giddiness is not always well concealed. Witness Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), the Senate Democrats' campaign chief, strolling onto the floor with a gleeful call to a colleague and both fists pumped in the air. Their time will come in January, when Democrats take control and settle into comfier digs. To the victors go the suites, or at least the sweetest spaces, with some exceptions. Republicans who will be back in January are adjusting to life in the minority, a rude shock for many who were part of the rising class of 1994 and have only known what it is like to be on top. Ruder still, of course, is the adjustment by dozens to personal defeat and the uncertainty of life after Washington, the place they disparaged in campaigns but enjoyed for its power and perks. Defeated Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, bore arguably the longest face in the Senate when members returned for their first vote since the election. With his characteristic pile of folders under one arm, DeWine entered the chamber through the center doors and headed down the aisle. His gait slowed, then stopped, as he looked into the well. All around him, colleagues were giving sympathetic pats to the backs of others turned out of office — George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania among them. As if carrying the weight of all the defeated, DeWine paused in midaisle. Someone put an arm around him. DeWine looked down and shook his head. "There is no question that when an elected official loses an election, no matter what the circumstances were or no matter how difficult the district is, there is some kind of feeling of rejection," said former GOP Rep. Bill Frenzel of Minnesota. "In some cases it's quite strong. In some cases they rise above it fairly quickly." The reverberations go beyond lawmakers and encompass staff. In elevators, they whisper about job searches. Around Capitol Hill, quick seating can be found at lunch spots that are ordinarily packed — the buzz of routine now diminished, to return in the new year. Democrats picked up more than 30 seats in the House and Senate, knocking off committee chairmen and congressional veterans and newcomers alike. Other members gave up their seats to run for governor or the Senate, or because under GOP-imposed term limits they could not have continued to serve as a committee chairman even if Republicans had retained control. Thanks to the election, the Senate will have a new candy man or woman next year. The defeated Santorum was keeper of the desk that is traditionally the source of sweets for senators coming into the chamber. He stocked it with Hershey chocolates from his state as well as jellybeans and candy corn. Come the new year, the Democratic rise to power will be reflected in the agenda. Right now, it is most evident in the office shuffle. About 180 offices in the House will be moved over 21 days, with workers — some on staff, others brought in from the outside — laboring six days a week and aiming to swap 10 offices a day. The goal is to finish by Christmas. Congress reconvenes Jan. 4. Election losses make new offices available every two years. First dibs on that space went to House members with designs on more spacious settings and according to their seniority. Newly elected members chose offices by lottery on Nov. 17. A similar seniority system is at work in the Senate, where the shuffle is expected to spill over into January. Some of the best real estate in the House is going to the speaker. The incoming speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, is breaking with longstanding tradition by moving herself and staff into plush offices that her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., occupied. The Capitol suite includes a balcony with grand views of the National Mall and the monuments to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Over the years, previous Democratic leaders were content in offices that faced the Supreme Court, leaving the Mall vista for Republican leaders past and present. But the view of the court has been overtaken by a construction zone. Those leaving because of defeat or retirement worked from temporary quarters in the Rayburn office building or found other space, such as in committee staff offices. Retiring Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, lost his longtime office in Rayburn even while trying to finish work on a tax extension bill that was the main obstacle to bringing the 109th Congress to an end. That frustration aside, Thomas was finishing on a high note. On Wednesday, red, white and blue balloons bobbed around the room where he held his last monthly meeting with committee members, and chocolate frosted cake was served. It was his 65th birthday.

House GOP wants to vote on fetal "pain"

House GOP to vote on 'fetal pain' bill - House GOP to vote on 'fetal pain' bill WASHINGTON (AP) — The last days of Republican congressional rule are shaping up to be symbolic and brief, with GOP leaders hawking an abortion restriction with no chance of becoming law, loading up tax breaks with unrelated matters and dumping an unfinished budget on Democrats. "It's appropriate that the do-nothing Congress is ending by doing nothing," said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the next House majority leader. That's not exactly true. Congress on Tuesday sent President Bush legislation to spend $38 million to preserve the notorious internment camps where the government kept Japanese-Americans behind barbed wire during World War II — a stark reminder of how the United States turned on some of its citizens in a time of fear. And the Senate passed a bill to improve the government's preparedness and performance standards in the event of a pandemic or biological attack. Meanwhile, House and Senate negotiators were working out final details on a package of tax breaks, many which expired at the beginning of the year, aimed at helping middle class taxpayers and businesses. But Republicans about to lose their thrones are doing nothing not blessed by President Bush before the 109th Congress shuts down after a final, four-day work week. Late Tuesday, Republicans killed a $4.8 billion drought relief package under threat of a presidential veto. They are punting nine unfinished spending bills until next year, forcing newly minted Democrats to untangle next year's federal budget. And the House postponed a showdown vote on opening 8 million more acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, worried about achieving the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass the measure under special rules. But those same rules did not hold House GOP leaders back from setting a vote Wednesday on a bill to limit fetal pain during late-term abortions, a measure GOP leaders shied away from offering before the November midterm elections and which stands no chance of passing the Senate even under GOP control. Proponents, however, said bringing it up has educational and symbolic value. Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the bill would require abortion providers to tell women seeking abortions after 20 weeks of gestation that such a process will cause the fetus pain, a statement that some scientists dispute. The woman would then be required to either accept or reject fetal anesthesia in writing. Bringing up the bill is a final jab at Democrats who have professed to favor informed consent laws, according to the measure's sponsors. Smith also said its very floor debate, short though it would be under special rules, has educational value to anyone who might hear it. And Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a possible presidential contender, has said he would try to bring it up in the Senate this week if the measure gets the required two-thirds majority House rules require. Since any senator can halt legislation, any such move by Brownback would be almost guaranteed to be blocked by abortion rights senators. Still, Smith's bill isn't as controversial as it sounds. NARAL-Pro Choice America, an abortion rights group, doesn't oppose it. And House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was not planning a floor speech on the bill. In other congressional action: •House and Senate negotiators were working out final details on a package of tax breaks, many which expired at the beginning of the year, aimed at helping middle class taxpayers and businesses. The provisions include deductions for research and development initiatives and for higher education costs. There are also tax breaks for teachers who personally buy classroom supplies and state and local sales tax deductions for taxpayers in states with no state income tax. The tax measure enjoys wide bipartisan support, a reason that lawmakers were considering combining it with other more difficult bills. Among the additions could be the bill to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, trade benefits for developing countries and a bill to prevent cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. •The House was poised to pass a temporary spending bill for 13 Cabinet departments whose budgets are long overdue. The measure will keep domestic agencies on autopilot at or just below current levels through Feb. 15. The action would kick decisions on more than $460 billion in unfinished budget business to incoming Democratic leaders, subtracting from the new majority's time for their own agenda. It's likely that Democrats will jam all of the unfinished budget work into a mammoth "omnibus" spending bill. Republicans "forfeit any right to complain about any action that we are forced to take on appropriations bills next year to clean up their chaotic mess," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis. I wonder why are the Republicans doing their damnest to get this bill passed? I can see the GOP still being pissed about getting their butts kicked so they decided to take a dump in the punch bowl.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My view on the 06 elections

I had to add my two cents on last month election for one I'm pretty amazed on the outcome nationally I knew the Dems will win the house and come within striking distance of the Republicans in the senate but I didn't see this sweeping out of the GOP you saw last month. Almost every Republican incumbent was knocked out of office, every Democrat office holder held on to their seat. Now taking a look at the state level I have to admit I thought the Amway Dick would make the race a lot closer, not because he had this ground swell of support I knew he didn't have but the amount of money he dumped in the race. He out spent Granholm 40 million to Granholm what 12 to 14 million dollars she had despite the money he spent, and right wing rags like the Detroit News echoing his talking points daily Granholm beat Dick "Amway" DeVos by 14 points. And for the senate race between Debbie Stabenow and Mike Bouchard I knew Bouchard chances of un seating Stabenow were slim and none once he got the nod over Keith Bulter in early August. The best word that would sum up the race Bouchard ran was multiple personalities in his first couple of ads he ranted and rave about the waste in Washington nevermind at the time his party ran Washington for six years. Then he remembers which political party he's a part of and start attacking Stabenow and in the closing days of the race he had ads paid by the RNC that didn't make any sense one ad they fired against Debbie was she haven't done anything in her six years anyone with common sense would know yeah Debbie hasn't done anything because she had a right wing Republican majority to deal with and the last ad the weekend before the election when the RNC attacks themselves. The only downsize of the election was Uncle Ward, Simple Jennifer Gratz and her right wing sugar daddies managed to get prop 2 passed. I have mixed feelings about it one hand I felt people that voted yes thought they was voting to save affirmative action because of the yes on 2 signs and of course there were people that voted yes because they're a bunch of racists ass people. And if you're a right winger thinking this election was a one time thing guess what cupcake it's not. You have an new Republican president ticket putting distance between them and the Bush White House and you're going to many Republicans up for re-election ducking and dodging Bush. Could you image the Republicans having their convention where they act like the last six years didn't happen? That's what Bush has done to the Republican party he turned off moderates, he turned off true Republicans and he turned the Republicans into a regional party where the south is their only strong hold.

Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aid

Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aid - Audit: FEMA continues to squander millions in Katrina aidUpdated 12/6/2006 10:27 AM ET WASHINGTON (AP) — One year after Katrina, the government is still squandering tens of millions of dollars in wasted disaster aid, including $17 million in bogus rental payments to people who had already received free trailers and apartments, federal investigators said Wednesday. At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recovered less than 1% of the $1 billion it wasted on fraudulent hurricane assistance after the August 2005 storm, highlighting a need for stronger controls the next time a major hurricane strikes. ON DEADLINE: Link to the government report and your comments The report by the Government Accountability Office paints a picture of an agency still struggling — at substantial taxpayer expense — to find the balance between distributing quick aid to those in need while guarding against substantial abuse. Last week, a federal judge in Washington ordered the Bush administration to resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Katrina, criticizing FEMA for a convoluted application process. FEMA is appealing that ruling. The GAO audit found that numerous aid applicants received duplicate rental aid, with FEMA in one case providing free apartments to 10 people in Plano, Texas, while sending them $46,000 to cover out-of-pocket housing expenses. Another $20 million was wasted on thousands of individuals who claimed the same property damage from both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA also paid at least $3 million to more than 500 ineligible foreign students in the stricken Gulf Coast, the report said. "Ineffective preventive controls have resulted in substantial fraudulent and improper payments," said GAO investigator Gregory Kutz. "The additional examples of potentially fraudulent and improper payments in our testimony today show that our estimate of $1 billion in improper and/or fraudulent payments is likely understated." Responding to the audit, FEMA spokesman Pat Philbin said the agency has sought to eliminate waste in the past year by upgrading the registration process to prevent duplicate payments and strengthening the process for verifying names and addresses. "FEMA continues to focus our rebuilding efforts to greatly improve our reliability, accuracy and response in providing aid to disaster victims," Philbin said. "The agency will consider and evaluate any new findings that can assist in improving our processes and procedures." Among the audit's findings: •Fraud detection is inadequate. Even though GAO found at least $1 billion in disaster aid waste, FEMA has identified about $290 million in improper payments and recouped just $7 million. •Control procedures remain weak. FEMA was unable to locate dozens of laptops, printers and other items that federal employees purchased with government-issued credit cards for Katrina disaster work. In one case, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats, but could not find two of them and lacked titles to any of them. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who requested the report, said she is hopeful that her legislation seeking to empower FEMA by giving director David Paulison direct access to the president in a crisis might offer some relief. Still, FEMA must do more to revamp its disaster aid procedures, said Collins, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee. "The American people are generous and willingly open their hearts and their wallets to the victims of disasters," she said. "But they expect that their tax dollars will be spent carefully to help storm victims, not be lost to a hurricane of waste, fraud and abuse." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who will become committee chairman when Democrats take control of the Senate in January, said the panel will continue to closely watch FEMA so that it improves its practices. "The record is clear that, going forward, FEMA has much work to do before we can be confident that it is providing assistance to those who are eligible and who need it, while denying it to those who do not," he said.

$4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal

$4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal 4,000 grant for students is almost a done deal House lame ducks are final hurdle in Granholm's plan BY CHRIS CHRISTOFFFREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU CHIEF December 6, 2006 Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to increase the Michigan Merit Award scholarship to $4,000 for students who complete at least two years of college cleared a big hurdle Tuesday and was headed for final approval in the state House. The bigger scholarship would be available to high school seniors who will graduate in 2007. The plan, which Granholm called the most important issue before lawmakers, could be snagged in political deal-making as the lame-duck Legislature wraps up its final days before Dec. 31. After that, the bill would have to be re-introduced. But its near-unanimous approval Tuesday by the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee signaled its likely passage. The bill has already passed the Senate. House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, said there could be a House vote on the bill this week, but said it's not a done deal yet. "There are some kinks and bugs we're concerned about," DeRoche said. He added, "We're examining it in the context of everything we intend to act on in the next five days." During her re-election campaign this year, Granholm called repeatedly for revamping the scholarship, saying it would help propel Michigan's economy with more college graduates. The plan would increase, from a maximum of $3,000 to $4,000, the Michigan Merit Award scholarship to help students attend any Michigan university or community college or technical training school. The full $4,000 would be paid only to students who complete either two years of a four-year degree program, or earn a two-year associates degree at a community college. The first $2,000 would be given during the first two years. Granholm has said that paying half of the scholarship after two years of college will discourage students from dropping out. The scholarship would also be available to students who don't score well on the state high school graduation test but who maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average in college. Currently, the Merit Award goes only to those who pass the high school MEAP test, which is soon to be replaced by a four-part state test. About half of high school students do not receive the scholarship, Granholm said Tuesday. Like the current Merit Award scholarship, the new grant program would be funded by money from the state's 1999 court settlement with tobacco companies over the ill effects of smoking. One legislative analysis showed that the new plan will cost the state $64 million a year more than the current plan within three years. Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, is a member of the House committee that approved Granholm's plan. He said that as a father with four children in college, he understands the significance of a $4,000 grant for students. He said the state could easily cover the extra cost. "That's a walk in the park," he said. At Seaholm High School in Birmingham on Tuesday, Granholm touted her plan to about 300 students, parents and teachers, noting that community colleges prepare students for skilled service jobs that can't be outsourced to other countries, such as nursing and auto mechanics. Only one-third of Michigan's adults have college degrees, Granholm said. She said increasing that percentage is key to attracting high-tech jobs. Chuck Wilbur, Granholm's chief education adviser, said the revised scholarship will send a message that young people need at least two years of college for economic success. "I don't think there's any question it will get more people into college and more will earn a degree," Wilbur said.

Panel: Bush Iraq "plan" isn't working

Panel: Bush Iraq policy 'not working' - Yahoo! News Panel: Bush Iraq policy 'not working' By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers 16 minutes ago President Bush's policy in Iraq "is not working," a high-level commission said Wednesday in a blunt, bleak assessment that urged the administration to embrace diplomacy to stabilize the country and allow withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008. After nearly four years of war and the deaths of more than 2,900 U.S. troops, the situation is "grave and deteriorating" and the United States' ability "to influence events within Iraq is diminishing," the commission warned. It recommended the U.S. reduce "political, military or economic support" for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress toward providing for its own security. The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq's future, and urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace. Barring a significant change, it warned of a "slide toward chaos." On the highly emotional issue of troop withdrawals, the commission warned against either a precipitous pullback or an open-ended commitment to a large deployment. "Military priorities must change," the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces. "We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the end of the first quarter of 2008." The report intensifies pressure on Bush to change direction, but he is under no obligation to follow its recommendations. Still to come are options being developed in separate studies by the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council. Bush could pick and choose among the proposals of all the reports. The White House says he will make decisions within weeks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases

Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases Detroit eyes Supreme Court cases Activists fear return to inequality in schools December 4, 2006 BY CHASTITY PRATT FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER Activists, teachers and union members left Detroit for Washington, D.C., on Sunday to rally against two cases involving segregation in public schools that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear today. The cases involve parents in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., who say their children didn't get into the public schools of their choice because they are white. Those making the trek to Washington say they fear that if these parents win their cases, the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which outlawed segregation in public schools, will be reversed, leading to more segregation and inequality nationwide. Michelle Gibson, a parent and organizer with the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said people in her group already fear the repercussions of last month's vote to end affirmative-action programs in Michigan's government contracts, hiring and higher education admissions. About 55 of them plan to rally and march at the Supreme Court and the Lincoln Memorial to support efforts toward desegregation. "What they're doing is trying to reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and if they do that, we go back to separate but unequal schools," Gibson said of the lawsuits. "It's necessary to uphold Brown." The Center for American Progress, a think tank based in Washington, released a report last week stating that minority students perform better in integrated schools. In the Seattle case, a high school student sought to attend a school that used race as a tie-breaker when too many students applied -- a system that ensured that the student population reflected the city's racial makeup. In Jefferson County, Ky., the school district established an enrollment plan in 2001 to ensure that schools would continue to be diverse after a judge dissolved a 30-year-old, court-ordered desegregation plan. The Supreme Court's nine justices are being asked to rule that programs using students' race as a factor in assigning them to a school violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equality. It will be the first time the court weighs in on racial policies since Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the court. Both are former government lawyers who have not favored government-sponsored race-based policies. Alito's stance will be significant because he replaced retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In 2003, her vote in the affirmative-action lawsuit involving the University of Michigan ensured that colleges attempting to achieve a diverse student body could consider an applicant's race. The Bush administration filed a court brief that supports the parents in the cases, stating that "the solution to addressing racial imbalance in communities ... is not to adopt race-conscious measures." Heather Miller, an organizer with the civil rights group By Any Means Necessary, said five buses of about 250 people -- mostly high school students -- left for Washington on Sunday night. "We have a unique perspective in Detroit, because we are living in the most segregated area in the country and we see the future of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of these," she said. "In the spirit of the 1950s and '60s, we're going to march through the streets and demand equality."

Bolton resigns from U.N.

Bush accepts Bolton's U.N. resignation - Yahoo! News Bush accepts Bolton's U.N. resignation By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House CorrespondentMon Dec 4, 11:48 AM ET Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday. Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record), a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton. Critics have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective public servant who could help bring reform to the U.N. President Bush, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate." "They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, said Bolton's departure could be a turning point for the administration. "With the Middle East on the verge of chaos and the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea increasing, we need a United Nations ambassador who has the full support of Congress and can help rally the international community to tackle the serious threats we face," Kerry said. He said it was an opportunity for Bush to nominate an ambassador "who enjoys the support necessary to unite our country and the world and who can put results ahead of ideology." Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January. The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again." While Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment, the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton informed the White House he intended to leave when his current appointment expires, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. Bush planned to meet with Bolton and his wife later Monday in the Oval Office. Bush said he accepted Bolton's decision with deep regret. "He served his country with extraordinary dedication and skill, assembling coalitions that addressed some of the most consequential issues facing the international community," the president said. "During his tenure, he articulately advocated the positions and values of the United States and advanced the expansion of democracy and liberty. "Ambassador Bolton led the successful negotiations that resulted in unanimous Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea's military and nuclear activities. He built consensus among our allies on the need for Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium," Bush added. "His efforts to promote the cause of peace in Darfur resulted in a peacekeeping commitment by the United Nations. He made the case for United Nations reform because he cares about the institution, and wants it to become more credible and effective." Bolton, who pushed strongly for U.N. reform, has had strained relations with many in the U.N. Secretariat, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and has repeatedly called for all top U.N. officials to leave when Annan steps down as U.N. chief on Dec. 31 and is replaced by Ban Ki-moon. "I think Ambassador Bolton did the job he was expected to do," Annan said Monday morning when asked about Bolton's resignation. "He came at a time when we had lots of tough issues from reform to issues on Iran and North Korea. I think as a representative of the U.S, government, he pressed ahead with the instructions he had been given and tried to work as effectively as he could." As late as last month, Bush, through his top aides, said he would not relent in his defense of Bolton, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy. In a letter to Bush, dated last Friday, Bolton offered no reason for his decision. "After careful consideration, I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appoint expires," Bolton wrote.

Bush: worst ever?

He's The Worst Ever - He's The Worst Ever erBy Eric FonerSunday, December 3, 2006; Ever since 1948, when Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger Sr. asked 55 historians to rank U.S. presidents on a scale from "great" to "failure," such polls have been a favorite pastime for those of us who study the American past. Changes in presidential rankings reflect shifts in how we view history. When the first poll was taken, the Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War was regarded as a time of corruption and misgovernment caused by granting black men the right to vote. As a result, President Andrew Johnson, a fervent white supremacist who opposed efforts to extend basic rights to former slaves, was rated "near great." Today, by contrast, scholars consider Reconstruction a flawed but noble attempt to build an interracial democracy from the ashes of slavery -- and Johnson a flat failure. More often, however, the rankings display a remarkable year-to-year uniformity. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt always figure in the "great" category. Most presidents are ranked "average" or, to put it less charitably, mediocre. Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now President Bush is a leading contender to join them. A look at history, as well as Bush's policies, explains why. At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces (in that era, pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind. Harding and Coolidge are best remembered for the corruption of their years in office (1921-23 and 1923-29, respectively) and for channeling money and favors to big business. They slashed income and corporate taxes and supported employers' campaigns to eliminate unions. Members of their administrations received kickbacks and bribes from lobbyists and businessmen. "Never before, here or anywhere else," declared the Wall Street Journal, "has a government been so completely fused with business." The Journal could hardly have anticipated the even worse cronyism, corruption and pro-business bias of the Bush administration. Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law. Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court's unprecedented rebukes of Bush's policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law. One other president bears comparison to Bush: James K. Polk. Some historians admire him, in part because he made their job easier by keeping a detailed diary during his administration, which spanned the years of the Mexican-American War. But Polk should be remembered primarily for launching that unprovoked attack on Mexico and seizing one-third of its territory for the United States. Lincoln, then a member of Congress from Illinois, condemned Polk for misleading Congress and the public about the cause of the war -- an alleged Mexican incursion into the United States. Accepting the president's right to attack another country "whenever he shall deem it necessary," Lincoln observed, would make it impossible to "fix any limit" to his power to make war. Today, one wishes that the country had heeded Lincoln's warning. Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Conservative media lost it

"War on Penguins" rages on in Medved's USA Today op-ed In a November 29 USA Today op-ed, conservative radio host Michael Medved continued his attacks on the animated children's movie Happy Feet (Warner Bros., November 2006), claiming that the movie, which features tap-dancing penguins, contains "unmistakably alarming, discomfiting and politically potent elements," and that penguins themselves have "become targets and instruments of powerful propaganda." As Media Matters for America noted, in a November 17 weblog post on, Medved referred to the film as "Crappy Feet" and claimed that it was the "darkest, most disturbing feature length animated film ever offered by a major studio." Medved is just one of several media conservatives to attack Happy Feet for its alleged pro-environmentalist content, claiming that the movie is intended to indoctrinate children. In his USA Today op-ed, Medved also attacked as propaganda the children's book And Tango Makes Three (Simon & Schuster, June 2005), which is based on the true story of two male penguins at New York City's Central Park Zoo that hatched and raised a penguin chick named "Tango." Man have the mighty has fallen, they spent the majority of the spring and the summer protecting the GOP and now the Republicans lost power they're attacking kiddie films for their liberal "agenda"

Webb exchange words with Bush over Iraq

Webb, Bush have terse exchange over Iraq - Yahoo! News Webb, Bush have terse exchange over Iraq By BOB LEWIS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 46 minutes ago Democratic Sen.-elect Jim Webb avoided the receiving line during a recent White House reception for new members of Congress and had a chilly exchange with President Bush over the Iraq war and his Marine son. "How's your boy?" Webb, in an interview Wednesday, recalled Bush asking during the reception two weeks ago. "I told him I'd like to get them out of Iraq," Webb said. "That's not what I asked. How's your boy?" the president replied, according to Webb. At that point, Webb said, Bush got a response similar to what reporters and others who had asked Webb about Lance Cpl. Jimmy Webb, 24, have received since the young man left for Iraq around Labor Day: "I told him that was between my boy and me." Webb, a leading critic of the Iraq war, said that he had avoided the receiving line and photo op with Bush, but that the president found him. The White House had no comment on the reception. But it did not dispute an account of the exchange in Wednesday's Washington Post. Webb, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War and Navy secretary under President Reagan, defeated Republican Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record) by 9,329 votes out of 2.37 million cast, giving the Democrats control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994. Webb left the GOP, in part over the Iraq war. He warned against the invasion, and criticized Bush over Iraq during the Senate campaign. He said he meant no disrespect to the presidency during the reception, but "I've always made a distinction about not speaking personally about my son." In interviews during the campaign, Webb said it was wrong to elevate the role of one Marine over others. Webb also expressed concern that a high profile could subject a Marine to greater peril. He wore his son's buff-colored desert boots throughout the campaign, but refused to speak extensively about his son's service or allow it to be used in campaign ads.

GOP lame final attempt to please the wing nut base

Republicans want vote on abortion bill - Yahoo! News Republicans want vote on abortion bill By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 32 minutes ago While they still can, House Republicans are looking at scheduling a vote next week on a fetal pain abortion bill in a parting shot at incoming majority Democrats and a last bid for loyalty from the GOP's base of social conservatives. The measure is tentatively on House GOP leaders' list of bills to be considered in a lame-duck session before Democrats assume control of Congress. It has no chance of passing the Senate during the waning days of Republican control. But, with Democrats ascending to agenda-setting roles, passage isn't the point, said one conservative leader. "Next year, the leadership of the House will be hardcore pro-abortion loyalists," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. "They will block votes on even modest pro-life measures like this one." The vote would be the first on the measure, which was introduced in September and referred to a health subcommittee, where no action on it was taken. Johnson said his group wants a House vote to test support for the measure. The bill, by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., defines a 20-week-old fetus as a "pain-capable unborn child" — a highly controversial threshold among scientists. It also directs the Health and Human Service Department to develop a brochure stating "that there is substantial evidence that the process of being killed in an abortion will cause the unborn child pain." Abortion providers would be required to inform the mothers that evidence exists that the procedure would cause pain to the child and offer the mothers anesthesia for the baby. The mothers would accept or reject the anesthesia by signing a form. The bill allows for an exception for certified medical emergencies. When fetuses can feel pain — versus a reflexive drawing back from stimuli — has been the subject of heated debate. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco last year reviewed dozens of studies and medical reports and said that fetuses likely are incapable of feeling pain until around the seventh month of pregnancy, when they are about 28 weeks old. That report hardly settled the issue for Johnson's group. The legislation would enshrine other evidence that fetuses "would experience great pain during abortions by 20 weeks," the Right to Life Committee said in a letter this week to House members. ___

wars wear down army gear at the cost of 2 billion a month

Wars wearing down military gear at cost of about $2 billion a month - Wars wearing down military gear at cost of about $2 billion a month By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY WASHINGTON — About $2 billion worth of Army and Marine Corps equipment — from rifles to tanks — is wearing out or being destroyed every month in Iraq and Afghanistan, military leaders and outside experts say. That's equal to about a quarter of the $8 billion per month in military war costs. The wear and tear may lead to future equipment shortages and cutbacks in more advanced weapons, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being developed with allies around the world and the Army's new, high-tech family of weapons and equipment, says William Cohen, secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001. Pressure to keep spending under control can lead to cuts in both current maintenance and future weapons, Cohen says, but "the longer we defer on that, the more expensive it's going to be." The Pentagon needs $50 billion to $60 billion to re-equip and restore units returning from Iraq, says Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff and member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. On Monday, the Pentagon said it had issued more than $1.7 billion in equipment repair and replacement contracts during November alone. This summer, the leaders of the Army and Marine Corps said their services rack up a combined $23 billion a year in repair costs. Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker and Marine Gen. James Conway told Congress that repair money comes only in special requests for war funding, not in annual budgets. That, they said, makes it hard to plan for future needs. "They've been falling badly behind," says Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional budget analyst now at the independent Center for Defense Information. The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests for war funding next year. Vehicles and other equipment are far more complex now than they were in previous conflicts such as Vietnam, making repairs and replacements even more expensive, Wheeler says. The Congressional Research Service says the entire Vietnam War cost an estimated $650 billion in today's money, while the global war on terrorism, including Iraq, has cost more than $500 billion so far. The Army and Marines have reported using about 40% of their ground combat equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Units departing Iraq leave much of their heavy equipment behind, which further delays major maintenance and leaves holes in training for future missions, the report says. A separate GAO report this month urged the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress to investigate the Pentagon's planning for repair, maintenance and replacement of war equipment. If the United States entered another war, "it would be difficult for us to accomplish anything," says retired lieutenant general Donald Kerrick, who served on the National Security Council under presidents Clinton and Bush. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged the problem and said he is working with the White House to get more money for repairs. "I think we have some reasonable understandings about the coming year and the importance of not having a two- or three-year lag," Rumsfeld said last month. •Charities such as Bake Sales for Body Armor, Soldiers' Angels and Operation Helmet, a favorite of singer Cher, have sprung up to provide some gear, though not heavy equipment.

Monday, November 27, 2006

NBC calls a spade a spade Iraq is in a civil war

NBC brands Iraq conflict 'civil war' - Conflict in Iraq - NBC brands Iraq conflict 'civil war' Pronouncement to increase public dismay over troop presence, analysts say WASHINGTON - NBC News Monday branded the Iraq conflict a civil war — a decision that put it at odds with the White House and that analysts said would increase public disillusionment with the U.S. troop presence there. NBC said the Iraqi government's inability to stop spiraling violence between rival factions fit its definition of civil war. The Bush administration has for months declined to call the violence a civil war — although the U.S. general overseeing the Iraq operation said in August there was a risk — and a White House official Monday disputed NBC's assessment. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said while the situation on the ground is serious, neither President Bush nor Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki believe it is a civil war. Democrats used NBC's decision to accuse the White House of "splitting hairs." "The American people want their leaders in Washington to tell the truth and find a solution to the problems in Iraq," said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton. "No amount of spin on the part of the Bush White House can prevent news organizations and independent observers from calling the war ... what it is: a civil war." Several analysts said NBC's decision was important as the administration would face more pressure to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq if the U.S. public comes to view the conflict as a civil war. The decision "certainly is a major milestone," said Ted Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. "That does change the terminology and is likely to change the perspective of viewers, and one suspects other media outlets will sooner or later follow suit." Public weariness with the conflict — which has has now lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II — helped Democrats take control of Congress from Bush's Republican Party in Nov. 7 elections. Americans killed 'accidentally,' Iraqis 'on purpose'Analysts said Americans would not tolerate U.S. troops being used as referees between warring Iraqi factions. "It almost looks as if the Americans who are getting killed are getting killed almost accidentally, while the Iraqis are getting killed on purpose," said Stephen Hess, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. Sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq has increased dramatically in the past week. Multiple bombings in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad on Thursday killed more than 200 people and drew reprisal attacks in Sunni neighborhoods. Jordan's King Abdullah said on Sunday that civil war was looming in Iraq and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Monday that the country was nearly in civil war. Bush and Maliki are scheduled to meet in Jordan this week to discuss ways to stem the violence. Experts differ on how to define a civil war and which conflicts fall into that category. While Shiites and Sunnis are not organized into formal armies, the rising level of sectarian violence has led many to conclude that a de facto civil war is under way. "It's getting silly for the administration or anyone else to deny there's a civil war," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who said the February bombing of a Shiite shrine marked the transition from an anti-American insurgency to civil war. Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, said he does not believe the country has yet descended into civil war because most of the population is not involved in the violence. But he said: "The bottom line on the American role is it will leave if it feels it has to take sides in order to continue operating in Iraq." Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told Congress in August that "the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." The heads at GE probably know their days of profiting from the war is pretty much done after next month when the Democratic majority takes over so they're finally decided to do what they supposed to do report the truth.

Approval of Bush Iraq policy drops even more

Americans' approval of Bush's Iraq policy drops to lowest level yet - Americans' approval of Bush's Iraq policy drops to lowest level yet Updated 11/17/2006 4:34 PM ET WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans' approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq has dropped to the lowest level ever, increasing the pressure on the commander in chief to find a way out after nearly four years of war. The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found just 31% approval for Bush's handling of Iraq, days after voters registered their displeasure at the polls by defeating Republicans and handing control of Congress to the Democrats. The previous low in AP-Ipsos polling was 33% in both June and August. Erosion of support for Bush's Iraq policy was most pronounced among conservatives and Republican men — critical supporters who propelled Bush to the White House and a second term in 2004. A month ago, approval of the president on the issue certain to define his presidency was 36%. ON DEADLINE: Ratings dip "I'm completely frustrated," Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., said this week during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Hayes' district includes part of Fort Bragg, and he supports the U.S. effort but favors pushing Iraqi troops to take more responsibility for the fighting. Bush's low numbers underscore the high expectations for the report by the Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and one-time Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton. The demand for an exit strategy comes as the number of U.S. dead from the conflict exceeds 2,850. Violence in Iraq, much of it between religious sects, continues unabated. Dozens of employees at Iraq's Higher Education Ministry were kidnapped this week and some were reportedly tortured before they were released; bombings and shootings claim Iraqi lives daily. "Hopefully the Baker-Hamilton commission can offer a face-saving measure for the White House that can put the beginning of the end in sight," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who is in line to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Two options under discussion — greater cooperation with Iran and Syria, and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops — would require a major policy shift by the Bush administration Almost by default, the poll showed Bush approval on handling the economy his strongest issue — at 43%, according to the poll of 1,000 adults taken Monday through Wednesday. The poll, which has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, also found: •34% think the country is headed in the right direction; Democrats are more optimistic while Republicans are more pessimistic since the election. •36% approve of the job being done by the president; this is close to the results in early October. •26% approve of the job being done by Congress, also close to approval levels in early October. The decline in support on Iraq was the most notable change. Anger about Iraq also was a strong theme for voters, according to exit polls taken for The Associated Press and the television networks on Election Day. BUSH: Be patient A majority of voters disapproved of the war in Iraq, thought the war had not made the United States more secure and wanted to see troops start coming home, those exit polls found. "The president recognizes that the American people are understandably concerned about the violence in Iraq," said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. "He shares their concerns but believes that our policy in Iraq must be determined by victory in the war on terror, not public opinion polls." Some people question whether victory is achievable. "Now it's a total mess and I don't have the faintest idea how they're going to get out," said Arthur Thurston, a Democratic-leaning independent from Medina, Ohio. "Iraqis are fighting each other now. But the U.S. troops can't just walk out." Bush has met with Democratic leaders since the election, though Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada says he thinks the president will need to be pushed to change his stance on Iraq. "I agree that we need to stay over there and finish what we started. I don't like that our people are over there dying. But if we don't finish it, it will come back over here," said Kelly Mangel, an independent from Sedalia, Mo. The public divisions over the war have left the Iraq Study Group with a difficult job. "If there's any hope," said a Democratic member of the blue-ribbon panel, Leon Panetta, "it's that our recommendations can help pull the country together — if Republicans and Democrats can agree on a common strategy." Panetta said the group hopes to offer recommendations in December but "that will depend on when we reach consensus." "We've certainly covered a great deal of territory," he said. "And now we're getting down to the hard work of looking at options."

Dem pledges array of investigations

Democrat pledges array of investigations - Yahoo! News Democrat pledges array of investigations By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press WriterSun Nov 26, 5:10 PM ET The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is promising an array of oversight investigations that could provoke sharp disagreement with Republicans and the White House. Rep. John Dingell D-Mich., pledged that Democrats, swept to power in the Nov. 7 elections, would govern "in the middle" next year. But the veteran lawmaker has a reputation as one who has never avoided a fight and he did not back away from that reputation on Sunday. Among the investigations he said he wants the committee to undertake: _The new Medicare drug benefit. "There are lots and lots and lots of scandals," he said, without citing specifics. _Spending on government contractors in Iraq, including Halliburton Co., the Texas-based oil services conglomerate once led by Vice President Dick Cheney. _An energy task force overseen by Cheney. It "was carefully cooked to provide only participation by oil companies and energy companies," Dingell said. _A review of food and drug safety, particularly in the area of nutritional supplements. Meanwhile, the incoming chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee said his committee would not take on contentious issues, such as extending expiring tax cuts or overhauling Social Security, at the beginning of the year. Rep. Charles Rangel D-N.Y., said Democrats do not want a fight with President Bush and want to prove they can govern. "The first thing we're going to do is try to work together on things we know we can accomplish," Rangel said. "Rather than have the committee against the president, it's not going to happen," Rangel said. Rep. Barney Frank, set to lead the House Financial Services Committee, said issues such as raising the minimum wage will be popular, even thought the idea has been identified with liberals. "In my own committee, the biggest difference you're going to see is we're going to return to try to help deal with the housing crisis that blights so many parts of our country socially and economically," said Frank, D-Mass. Frank, who in 1987 became the first member of Congress to voluntarily make his homosexuality public, also said he wants to modify the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The current policy prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay. "One of things I do want to address, yes, is discrimination based on sexual orientation," Frank said. "In fact, what we have is a shortfall in the military. I think when you have people being fired who can read Arabic and understand Arabic, because of what they do when they're off duty, that that's a grave error. But that's not what we're going to begin with." A report in 2005 by the investigative arm of Congress estimated it cost the Pentagon nearly $200 million to recruit and train replacements for the nearly 9,500 troops that had to leave the military because of the policy. The losses included hundreds of highly skilled troops, including translators, between 1994 through 2003. Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott(R-racist) who will become the Senate's second-ranking GOP leader, said Republicans still have enough clout to block legislation "if it's really bad, not in the country's best interest." But he also said he wanted to find areas where the two sides can compromise. "The people, I think, sent us a message. I think we've got it," Lott said. "We're going to be working hard together." The lawmakers appeared on "Fox News Sunday."

Wing nut blocks judge over the issue of gay marriage

Michigan judicial nominee in limbo over gay marriage issue Michigan judicial nominee in limbo over gay marriage issue ASSOCIATED PRESS November 27, 2006 WASHINGTON — A conservative Republican lawmaker is considering whether to stop blocking a judicial nominee over concerns her appearance at a lesbian commitment ceremony betrayed her legal views on gay marriage.Sen. Sam Brownback(R-loon), a potential presidential candidate in 2008, said Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet T. Neff should not be disqualified automatically for having attended the ceremony. But Brownback, R-Kan., made clear it raised doubts in his mind.“But what I want to know is what does it do to her look at the law? What does she consider the law on same-sex marriage, on civil unions, and I’d want to consider that,” Brownback said Sunday.President Bush nominated Neff, who has a liberal reputation, to be a U.S. District Court judge as part of a compromise struck with Democrats.Neff’s nomination is pending before the full Senate; Brownback has stalled it because of her attendance at the 2002 ceremony in Massachusetts.“I’m still looking at the Neff situation, and I will in the future,” Brownback said.Neff has said she attended as a friend of one of the two women, a longtime neighbor.Neff has declined to answer Brownback’s queries on whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage or civil unions, saying it would be improper to address questions that might come before her as a federal judge.Brownback called gay marriage a developing area of the law best not left to the judiciary anyway.“To me these issues should be decided by the legislative bodies, not by the judicial bodies, and it seems to me this may indicate some view of hers on the legal issue. And that’s what I’m concerned about here, is her view of the legal issue involving same-sex marriage,” Brownback said.Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged taking a step back, away from “the political agenda,” in considering judicial appointees.“You know, these are important lifetime appointments. These men and women who serve on the bench, we really trust their judgment and their wisdom and giving these political litmus tests I don’t think is in the best interest of justice in America,” said Durbin, who will be the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.In an Oct. 12 letter to Brownback, Neff said a minister presided over the ceremony and she insisted her attendance would not affect her ability to act fairly as a federal judge.“The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect,” Neff wrote.Brownback and Durbin appeared on “This Week” on ABC.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Kissinger: victory in Iraq no longer-possible

Kissinger: Victory in Iraq no longer possible - Kissinger: Victory in Iraq no longer possible WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. victory in Iraq is no longer possible under the conditions the Bush administration hopes to achieve, but a quick withdrawal of American troops would have "disastrous consequences," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday. President Bush has said the United States will remain in Iraq until the country's government "can sustain itself and defend itself," and a top Iraqi official disputed Kissinger's assessment of the three-year-old war in an interview with CNN. But in a BBC interview Sunday morning, Kissinger said the U.S. course needs to be redefined -- and the breakup of Iraq could be the eventual outcome. Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations and has advised the Bush administration on Iraq. In August 2005, he wrote in The Washington Post that "victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." But on Sunday he said a military victory in Iraq was no longer in the cards. "If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he said. His comments come as a commission led by another former top diplomat, James Baker, prepares to offer its recommendations for a change of strategy in the war. The conflict has become increasingly unpopular in the United States as the American death toll nears 2,900, while waves of sectarian violence over the past nine months have left thousands of Iraqis dead. However, a premature withdrawal of all 140,000 American troops now in the country risks bringing about a "dramatic collapse" of Iraq and eventually require U.S. forces to return to the region, Kissinger said. Iraqi ambassador disputes Kissinger's conclusions Instead, he recommended an international conference with Iraq's neighbors, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and countries he said have a "major interest" in the outcome -- such as south Asian nuclear rivals India and Pakistan -- to craft a settlement. "I think we need to separate ourselves from the civil war, and we have to move at some early point to some international definition of what a legitimate outcome is," Kissinger told the BBC. "By legitimate, I mean something that can be supported by the surrounding states and by ourselves and our allies." The partition of Iraq on ethnic lines "might be an outcome," he acknowledged, "but it might be better not to organize it that way on a formal basis." Samir al-Sumaidie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, disputed Kissinger's conclusions. He said his government still could prevail over the chaos of a largely Sunni Arab insurgency, sectarian militias and Islamic fighters who swear loyalty to the al Qaeda terrorist network. "I think a lot of people in Iraq, the members of the government and the members of the policy council for national security all believe that the situation is retrievable," he told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "It's doable, but we need to have support of the right kind," al-Sumaidie said. "Now we have a lot of pressure on us, not only from our regional neighbors who are interfering, but pressures from our own friends." Voters' dismay over Iraq contributed to the Democratic takeover of Congress in the November 7 midterm elections. The incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, has called for a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops as a way of pressuring Iraq's government to make the political compromises needed to end the violence. "You want to make the point to the Iraqis that, folks, you've got to take responsibility for your own country," said Levin, a Michigan Democrat. "We cannot do it for you." But Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, repeated his argument Sunday that more U.S. troops, not fewer, are needed in Iraq. He told ABC's "This Week" that such an increase would put "a terrible strain" on the Army and Marines. "But there's only one thing worse, and that is defeat," he said. McCain is expected to be the ranking Republican on Levin's committee in the new Congress and took the first step toward a possible presidential bid in 2008 last week. He said the United States has been losing the war in Iraq and that American troops have been "fighting and dying for a failed policy." "There's no good options," he said. "But the consequences of failure are severe, and I believe that we must do what's necessary to prevail. And I understand how terrible this is. The young men and women who are in the military today, and God bless them, they'll respond if called upon to."

GOP fundraiser gets 18 years in the cooler

GOP fundraiser gets 18 years in prison - Yahoo! News GOP fundraiser gets 18 years in prison By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press WriterMon Nov 20, 3:19 PM ET A GOP fundraiser who embezzled from a state investment in rare coins was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison in a scandal that helped bring down Ohio's ruling Republican Party on Election Day. Tom Noe, 52, was also fined $139,000. Noe spent money as if he had "a bottomless cup of wealth and luxury" at his disposal, "when in fact it was at the state's expense," Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik said. The sentence handed out to the politically connected coin dealer will be on top of the more than two years he was ordered to serve after pleading guilty earlier this year to illegally funneling $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign. Noe was the central figure in a scandal that dogged the Ohio Republican Party for more than a year. On Election Day, the Democrats won the governor's office, a Senate seat and other major offices after 12 years of GOP rule. Up until Monday, prosecutors did not say whether Noe used any of the money to make campaign contributions. But after the sentencing, Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said, "You can make those inferences." Also for the first time, prosecutors calculated that Noe stole $13.7 million in all. Noe was hired by the state workers' compensation agency and given $50 million to invest in an unorthodox and risky attempt by a state government to make money buying and selling rare coins. A furor erupted when the rare-coin investment became public and when it was learned that millions of dollars were missing. Democrats charged that Noe got the job because of his GOP ties. He was a top fundraiser who gave more than $105,000 to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Robert Taft in 2004. The resulting investigations led to ethics charges against Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. Four former Taft aides pleaded no contest to similar charges. Noe was convicted last week of theft, corrupt activity and other offenses, and faced a minimum of 10 years in prison on the corrupt-activity charge alone. Prosecutors said he used the money to pay off business loans, renovate his Florida Keys home and otherwise live in high style. Noe declined to make a statement before sentencing and stared blankly, his upper lip twitching, as his punishment was handed down. Defense attorney John Mitchell had asked for the minimum 10-year sentence, saying that other high-profile criminals had received less time for taking more money. The lawyer also assured the judge that Noe's offense "was a one-time crime."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

After win some Dems are asking for Dean's head

After Win, Democrats Revert to Finger-Pointing - New York Times November 16, 2006 Political Memo After Win, Democrats Revert to Finger-Pointing By ADAM NAGOURNEY WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 — One would think that after their biggest electoral triumph in about a decade, Democrats would finally break their usual postelection syndrome — a November loss followed by recriminations, finger-pointing and infighting. Well, think again. The Democrats are celebrating their big victory of Nov. 7 with recriminations, finger-pointing and infighting, no matter that they won control of the Senate and the House for the first time since 1994. State Democratic leaders are saying Howard Dean, the party chairman, is not receiving the credit he deserves for the triumph. Offering a rather different view, two leading party strategists rebuked Mr. Dean on Wednesday, saying the Democrats could have captured 40 House seats rather than 29 had Mr. Dean bowed to demands by Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, leader of the effort to recapture the House, to put more money into Congressional races. “I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its incompetence,” one strategist, James Carville, said of Mr. Dean. Liberal bloggers say they are not receiving the credit they deserve and are chafing at how what they call the mainstream media has showered too much credit on Mr. Emanuel and his Senate counterpart, Charles E. Schumer of New York, for the sweep. “Rahm won everything” was the headline on a sarcastic post on MyDD, a liberal Web site. On Capitol Hill, soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has waded into a leadership fight that has divided her caucus, providing the public — in its first glimpse of the incoming Congress — with a reminder of just how much Democrats like to rumble. Democrats, if grimacing, sought to put the best face on the latest episode of that familiar Washington series, Democrats in Disarray. “We are a diverse party,” said Donald Fowler, a veteran South Carolina Democratic leader. “We have different people from different backgrounds, and we see things differently both in terms of style and issues.” Mr. Fowler sighed before letting out: “We’re nuts! We’re all nuts!” Larry Gates, the Democratic chairman in Kansas, where Democrats stunned Republicans by capturing a once very-red seat, said: “This is what we Democrats do. A little bit of success, and we start to fight.” So it was that Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, and Mr. Carville used the forum of a Monitor Breakfast, a gathering of newsmakers and reporters, to say Mr. Dean wasted an opportunity to make historic gains by refusing to take resources out of his effort to build up parties in all 50 states and put them into Congressional races. Mr. Greenberg said that Republicans held 14 seats by a single percentage point and that a small investment by Mr. Dean could have put Democrats into a commanding position for the rest of the decade. “There was a missed opportunity here,” he said. “I’ve sat down with Republican pollsters to discuss this race: They believe we left 10 to 20 seats on the table.” Mr. Carville, whose close ties to former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York have prompted speculation that he is attacking Mr. Dean on their behalf, said the Democratic National Committee had taken out a $10 million line of credit and used barely half of it. “They left money on the table,” he said. Asked whether Mr. Dean should step down, he responded, loudly, in the affirmative. “He should be held accountable,” Mr. Carville said. In an interview later, he asked, “Do we want to go into ’08 with a C minus general at the D.N.C.?” Aides to Mr. and Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Carville had not cleared his attacks on Mr. Dean with them. The attacks set off recriminations in Mr. Dean’s base, state parties that have benefited from his decision to channel millions of dollars to them. “Asking Dean to step down now, after last week, is equivalent to asking Eisenhower to resign after the Normandy invasion,” Mr. Fowler said. “It’s just nonsense. “Carville and Greenberg — those people are my friends — they are just dead wrong. They wanted all that money to go to Washington consultants and speechwriters and pollsters. This kind of nonsense is destructive of the party.” The Democratic chairman in Michigan, Mark Brewer, said party money had allowed Michigan to re-elect its Democratic governor and senator. “This is a zero-sum game,” Mr. Brewer said. “That money would have had to come from somewhere. We should be looking forward to future endeavors, and not attacking at this moment of great triumph.” Mr. Dean was traveling and not available for comment, aides said. At Democratic National Committee headquarters, the communications director, Karen Finney, insisted that Mr. Dean had spent money on House races through the final hours, notwithstanding his announcement in the campaign that his top priority was rebuilding state parties, even in longtime Republican states. Ms. Finney expressed incredulity that Democrats would be going after Democrats in this of all weeks. “Did he not see that we won?” she said of Mr. Carville. “Did he not read the results? If James and Stan are interested in knowing what the D.N.C. is doing and has done, they can pick up the telephone and give me a call.” Mr. Emanuel warred with Mr. Dean over his refusal to provide as much money as Mr. Emanuel said he needed. He said Wednesday that a favored candidate, Tammy Duckworth, the severely injured Iraq war veteran running for an open Republican seat in Illinois, had lost because the Republicans had spent $1 million on negative advertisements against her in the final weekend and that he did not have the money to respond. Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenberg have been close to Mr. Emanuel since they worked in the Clinton White House in 1992. Asked about the criticism of the two, Mr. Emanuel said he would offer precisely these two sentences: “More resources brings more seats into play. Full stop.” There was also some lesser blame passing. Mr. Emanuel suggested that Democrats had fallen just short of picking up the seat held by Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, because Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a registered Democrat, had sought re-election on an independent line after losing the Democratic primary. That brought out more Republican votes. Mr. Greenberg fumbled when asked in a two-part question whether he agreed with some Democrats that a botched joke by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and the White House attack on it might have made the difference in very close races where Democrats lost, like the effort to defeat Representative Heather A. Wilson in New Mexico. “Bah-bah-bah-bah, let me go to the first question,” Mr. Greenberg said haltingly before returning, with prompting, to the original question, allowing that the Kerry episode might have “moved the needle a little bit.”

House Dems name Pelosi speaker

House Democrats name Pelosi speaker - Yahoo! News House Democrats name Pelosi speaker By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer 42 minutes ago Nancy Pelosi was unanimously named speaker-elect by House Democrats Thursday, the first woman to be ensured the post that constitutionally is second in line of succession to the presidency. Even as Pelosi was enjoying her finest hour politically, her fellow Democrats remained divided by a family feud over whom to select as her top lieutenant. Pelosi officially takes the post in January, succeeding Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, when the House convenes in formally elects her in the next session of Congress. Pelosi was elevated by her party caucus not long after Democrats went behind closed doors for secret balloting at the Capitol. The history of the moment notwithstanding, there actually was more intrigue surrounding the contest for the No. 2 job — majority leader. Pelosi had passed over Rep. Steny Hoyer (news, bio, voting record) of Maryland, now the assistant minority leader, and endorsed longtime ally John Murtha of Pennsylvania to take the majority leader spot, the powerful No. 2 party post. Hoyer, a Pelosi rival, was battling to hold onto the lead in the race with Murtha, and both candidates were predicting victory via a secret ballot, which allows lawmakers to be evasive when asked about their intentions. The Hoyer-Murtha battle was a no-win situation for Pelosi, who had hoped to avoid the fight. Murtha was a problematic candidate because of his penchant for trading votes for pork projects and his ties to the Abscam bribery sting in 1980, the only lawmaker involved who wasn't charged. A Murtha victory could create hard feelings among Hoyer allies, especially moderate Democrats. On the other hand, a Hoyer victory could be seen as a defeat for Pelosi in her first major move since Election Day. Either way, the race has roiled a Democratic caucus that will need maximum unity in order to effectively rule the fractious House come January. The race dredged up Murtha's involvement in the Abscam scandal. FBI agents pretending to represent an Arab sheik wanting to reside in the United States and seeking investment opportunities offered bribes to several lawmakers. When offered $50,000, Murtha was recorded as saying, "I'm not interested ... at this point." A grand jury declined to indict Murtha, and the House ethics committee issued no findings against him. "I told them I wanted investment in my district," Murtha told MSNBC's "Hardball" on Wednesday. "They put $50,000 on the table and I said, 'I'm not interested.'" Pelosi allies, including confidant George Miller of California, were aggressively courting votes for Murtha. Meanwhile, House Republicans, soon to be in the minority for the first time since 1994, met in private Thursday to hear presentations from candidates for their leadership posts. Their election was scheduled for Friday. Finding a replacement for Hastert, R-Ill., as the caucus leader turned into a two-man race between Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and conservative challenger Rep. Mike Pence (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana after Rep. Joe Barton (news, bio, voting record) of Texas dropped out and endorsed Boehner. Hoyer entered the Democratic leadership race with a substantial lead by most counts, but he has been scrambling to hold onto supporters since Pelosi's surprise intervention on Sunday. He appeared to carry a lead into Thursday's secret ballot despite Pelosi's opposition. "I think we're in very good shape. I expect to win," Hoyer said Wednesday. "I expect that we will bring the party together and become unified and move on from this." With characteristic gruffness, Murtha said the opposite was true. "We're going to win. We got the votes," he said on MSNBC. Allies such as Miller have been working this week to peel away votes from Hoyer. Pelosi also has intervened more directly, making the case for Murtha in one-on-one meetings with Democratic freshmen, sessions in which the incoming lawmakers ask for all-important committee assignments. Murtha, a former Marine who generally has supported U.S. military efforts, has gained considerable attention for his criticism of the administration's Iraq war policies. He steered Pelosi's winning campaign in 2001 against Hoyer for the No. 2 Democratic leadership post, and his supporters say Pelosi deserves a more loyal wingman. Murtha has a record of not always being a leadership loyalist, frequently supplying votes to GOP leaders who were struggling to pass bills. The none-too-subtle trade-off: Murtha and his allies would do better when home-state projects were doled out by the Republicans. He has been criticized by ethics watchdogs such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who have said he exemplifies a "pay-to-play" culture of Washington. The group says Murtha has steered defense projects to clients of KSA Consulting, a lobbying firm that until recently employed his brother Kit. Clients of the firm are generous with campaign contributions. Hoyer claims considerable support from some liberals made uncomfortable by Murtha's opposition to abortion, gun control and changes to House ethics rules. He also is a leadership contact for many moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats. Hoyer's backers say he has been an able lieutenant to Pelosi and has done nothing to disqualify himself from holding the same position in the majority. He has been aggressive in lining up supporters, most of whom are sticking with him. "One of the first things I learned around here is that when you give your commitment you honor it," said Rep. Rick Boucher (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, a Hoyer supporter.