Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Overseeing the administration and the media

WaPo April 25, 2007
"Oversight is just as important, if not more important, than legislation," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The new investigations illustrate just how many questions went unanswered in the six years when Democrats "couldn't hold hearings, we couldn't compel information . . . all we could do was ask for it," he said.
Tom Davis (R-VA) used his Committee chairmanship for 12 years to cover up administration scandals and blackmail campaign contributions for himself and his wife. Now Davis is in the passenger seat. Entrenched incumbents had continued their law breaking, and honest politicians fell by the wayside, forced to compete with the crooks by joining them or leaving public service. Now Waxman is issuing subpoenas.

See the latest on the connection between the media and the cover ups on PBS tonight.

Since Democrats assumed control of Congress in January, they have hired more than 200 investigative staffers for key watchdog committees. They include lawyers, former reporters and congressional staffers who left oversight committees that had all but atrophied during the six years that the GOP controlled Congress and the White House. They have already begun a series of inquiries on subjects ranging from allegations of administration meddling in federal scientists' work on global warming and the General Services Administration's alleged work for Republican campaigns to how disproved claims that Iraq had purchased nuclear material from Niger evolved into a case for war.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

If pregnant women have rights to bodily integrity, will everyone want some?

Right to Lifers killed Angela Carder: the sad story of pregnant Maryland resident Angela Stoner Carder, who died from a forcible delivery of her premature fetus, is detailed well here and on Wikipedia here.

"No party should be the mere instrument of another. In shared decision-making, the act of informed consent or informed refusal affirms and protects patient autonomy while acknowledging the physician's commitment to professional standards. We strongly believe that difficult medical decisions should be made within the doctor-patient relationship and not by the courts."
Do you agree? Do you think you have a right to bodily integrity? To marital privacy? To a prescription for birth control if a pregnancy could kill you? The ACLU's timeline of reproductive rights here describes state efforts to deny these self-evident rights.

The Supreme Court decided yesterday to officially pile on the attacks on decisions by pregnant women that increasingly include coerced cesarean sections and blood transfusions.

The law in question criminalizes "partial birth abortion." Despite the fact that "partial birth abortion," however distastefully described and rarely used, is not a true medical procedure, and is not defined in the law as to what true medical procedure might be the crime, the court said it was not vague. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists not only said the procedure could be medically necessary, but pointed out how the specially invited anti-choice witnesses who testified on the Nebraska statue lied in their testimony.

The most curious rationalization in this opinion is that the safety of patients need not be addressed at all in the ban. Nevertheless, Justice Kennedy does inject his concern by saying the State is just demonstrating concern for their mental health by protecting them from the "severe depression and loss of self-esteem" because of the choice. According to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
"When a statute burdens constitutional rights and all that can be said on its behalf is that it is the vehicle that legislators have chosen for expressing their hostility to those rights, the burden is undue.”
From the Department of Theology, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC:

...[B]ecause a [medical intervention for a fetus, in this case, a] cesarean section, unless there is a threat to her life [by the pregnancy], is not of any clear benefit to the woman, it is wrong to insist that a dying woman must always endure burdensome treatment for the sake of a viable fetus. Should the mother decide to take on such burdens, it is important also to recognize that a cesarean section is not always in the interest of the fetus simply because it is viable. Given the ambiguity of the prognosis for survival and the risks of significant handicaps for the preterm or low birth weight fetus, it may be ethically appropriate to omit an act on behalf of the fetus. Finally, the fact that the fetus' only chance of survival is a preterm delivery does not make the delivery ethically mandatory. The issue is not whether a [medical intervention] is the fetus' only hope, but whether [it] is in the interest of the fetus.

Good NYT story here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Making government more effective AND embarrassing the administration

As reported by this Boston Globe expose, the Government Oversight and Reform Committee did little reform and no oversight. In fact, Chairman Tom Davis went so far as to remove the word "oversight" from the committee name.

Now that Henry Waxman is the Chair, according to today's Politico, "already, GOP aides have begun circulating opposition research on him, trying to paint him as an overzealous liberal whose investigations are little more than a partisan scheme."

I'll acknowledge some credit to Tom Davis (any time he deserves it, but so far just this once): "Over the years, [Waxman] worked closely with Rep. Tom Davis when the Virginia Republican was the committee's chairman. And Davis, now the committee's ranking member, has refrained from publicly criticizing Waxman since Democrats took power."

However, Davis does take a snide shot trying to undermine Waxman's catch up on years of neglect. His spokesman David Marin states:

"The overriding question will be: Is this about making government more effective, or is this about embarrassing the administration?"

Do we have to choose? As champions of the self-proclaimed Party of Individual Responsibility, members of the administration should be embarrassed. Or did they lose their individual responsibility when they became Bushies?

The next hearing is on the lies surrounding Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire. According to the uniformed services, they reported the truth about his tragic loss all the way up to the White House. When did the story change? Karl? Rummy?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

FBI to trespassers: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Democratic Party?

FBI detains and interrogates trespassers on their party affiliation. Again. This time on video.

The FBI did the same thing to NYC protesters at the Republican convention in 2004.

If you don't object due to the rights violations, object for the waste of FBI
resources and your Homeland Security tax dollars.

Here's a photo of the dangerous protestors threatening national security in April 2002 in Washington, DC.

WaPo: A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs, newly uncovered documents and interviews show.

* * * *

Similar intelligence-gathering operations have been reported in New York, where a local police intelligence unit tried to infiltrate groups planning to protest at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and in Colorado, where records surfaced showing that the FBI collected names and license plates of people protesting timber industry practices at a 2002 industry convention.

Several federal courts have ruled that intelligence agencies can monitor domestic groups only when there is reason to believe the group is engaged in criminal activity. Experts in police conduct say it is hard to imagine how asking questions about a person's political views would be appropriate in a trespassing case.

The Washington case centers on activities that took place April 20, 2002 -- a day of three cacophonic but generally orderly rallies that drew an estimated 75,000 people to the Mall. They included groups demonstrating against the prospect of war in Iraq, numerous supporters of the war, and Palestinians and others rallying for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and for peace in the Middle East.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

People will say anything when they're detained and coerced

Washington Post says administration's use of federal employees to manipulate elections is a bad idea

Republican incumbents should release their 2006 schedule, to show if they received this illegal GSA help.

Playing Politics at the GSA: Lurita Doan's willful disregard of the Hatch Act

Tuesday, April 3, 2007; Page A22

LURITA DOAN, the troubled and troubling administrator of the General Services Administration, wants us to "honestly and absolutely" believe that she has no recollection of a meeting she hosted for political appointees with a White House official that had all the feel of a Republican pep rally. There was a PowerPoint presentation on the 2006 elections and talk of using the agency to help GOP candidates in the next election cycle. Yet the Republican fundraiser, who's been in her post for only 10 months, would have us think she forgot.

* * * *
All this -- the PowerPoint presentation, the high-level official from the White House who did the presentation, the go-team cheerleading of Ms. Doan -- leads us to an important question: Who else in the federal government has seen this show? House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asked that question and more in a letter to Mr. Rove on March 29. He, and we, are eager for a response.