Frist Implodes on Senate Floor

Think Progress

This morning on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer asked Majority Leader Bill Frist a simple question:

SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?

SEN. FRIST: The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination – we’ll come back and discuss this further. … Actually I’d like to, and it really brings to what I believe – a point – and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.

So, Frist is arguing that one filibuster is OK. His problem is that several Bush nominees have been filibustered. This position completely undercuts Frist’s argument that judicial filibusters are unconstitutional. (Which is, in turn, the justification for the nuclear option.) If judicial filibusters are unconstitutional there is no freebee. But Frist digs his hole even deeper:

SEN. FRIST: The issue is not cloture votes per se, it’s the partisan, leadership-led use of cloture votes to kill – to defeat – to assassinate these nominees. That’s the difference. Cloture has been used in the past on this floor to postpone, to get more info, to ask further questions.

When Frist voted to filibuster Paez’s nomination it had been pending for four years. It’s hard to believe he couldn’t get all the info he needed or ask all the questions he had during that time. Make no mistake about it: Bill Frist was trying to kill the Paez nomination. A press release issued the following day by former Sen. Bob Smith, who organized the filibuster effort, read “Smith Leads Effort to Block Activist Judges.” All the details about Frist’s hypocrisy here.

Bush EPA Official Admits Helping Developer Destroy Wetlands

In a move that places him squarely in the pantheon of Republican environmental “watchdogs,” Jimmy Palmer, chief of the southeastern region for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, testified against the agency and on behalf of a former client – a real estate developer – in a criminal trial. Under oath, Palmer, whose title is Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4 Office, admitted advising the client to ignore EPA cease and desist orders regarding a real estate development in a wetlands area.

According to information released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Palmer peppered his testimony with criticisms of the EPA. Meanwhile, his former client, an unscrupulous developer who bucked the EPA, Mississippi state government and even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was found guilty.

Palmer was selected by President Bush to oversee EPA operations in the eight-state Southeastern Region in October 2001 and was sworn in following Senate confirmation the following January. At the time of his selection, Palmer was the lawyer for a Mississippi developer named Robert Lucas who sought Palmer’s help in subdividing land and installing septic tanks in a 2600-acre development called Big Hills Acres.

In March 2005, after a jury trial, Lucas was convicted for misrepresenting the habitability of the lots and installing septic systems in saturated wetland soils at Big Hill Acres, despite warnings from the state Department of Health that doing so created a public health threat. Lucas also ignored numerous warnings, as well as cease and desist orders, from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA because the deteriorating systems threatened to contaminate the local drinking water aquifer.

At the trial, Lucas called Palmer as a defense witness. Palmer, testifying on his own time under subpoena, confirmed his role in advising Lucas in how to sell lots for development despite official cease and desist orders. Palmer also admitted that he regarded EPA staff as “unethical” and overzealous in enforcing the Clean Water Act and aggressively resisted earlier enforcement efforts.

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noted that during Palmer’s tenure the EPA has not vetoed a single development project for wetlands violations, or any other reason. There is little chance that trend will change in the southeastern region.

In his official capacity as EPA Regional Administrator, Palmer now has before him more than a score of questionable mega-projects that would destroy thousands of wetlands acres in endangered species habitat in order to build projects such as gated golf-course luxury condominium complexes. Palmer has signaled that he will greenlight every project, despite concerns about violations of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws that Palmer and his agency are supposed to be enforcing.

Read the trial transcript and supporting documents here.

Read Jimmy Palmer’s resume here.

Not the First Scandal for ‘Spikey’ Isikoff

If you are looking for definitive proof that the So-Called Liberal Media does not exist, you need look no further than the checkered career of Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, right.

Today, he’s known as one of the authors of the Newsweek item in which an unnamed Pentagon “media person” confirmed that charges that U.S. interogators defiled the Qu’ran were going to appear in an official report on abuse of Moslem prisoners at the Guantanamo internment camp. It turns out the unnamed source was playing Newsweek for the fools they are. This source in the Bush Administration recanted – and now the Bush Administration is laying blame for the deaths of rioters in Afghanistan at the feet of Newsweek and Isikoff.

(In light of the 100,000-plus deaths caused by Bush Administration lies about Iraq, the fact that they can lay this guilt trip on Newsweek – or anyone – seemingly without irony proves that the Bush high command suffers from a collective pathology.)

For many of us, however, Isikoff – who was nicknamed “Spikey” by either Luciane Goldberg or Linda Tripp (can’t remember and who cares) – played a key role in bringing about the impeachment of President Clinton in the late 1990’s.

MediaMatters, the website published by David Brock, who was then a part of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy but has since come back from the Dark Side, reminds us of Spikey’s water-bearing for the VRC back then :

If the news organizations that are spending so much time on Newsweek bothered to look at Isikoff’s background, they would find a reporter with a history of relying on unreliable sources — in addition to Paula Jones, there are such discredited Clinton accusers as Kathleen Willey, Linda Tripp, and Lucianne Goldberg…

Isikoff’s leading role in reporting sex stories relied heavily on his relationships with Tripp and Goldberg, who provided leads, testimony, and tapes of secretly recorded conversations. However, Tripp’s and Goldberg’s actions were motivated by their personal interests: specifically, animosity toward Clinton and financial windfall. As [Sydney] Blumenthal noted in The Clinton Wars, Goldberg had arranged to play for Isikoff taped conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky about Lewinsky’s relationship with Clinton, hoping that “playing the tapes would get Isikoff to write something that would provide publicity so that she could sell Tripp’s book.” Isikoff declined to listen to the tapes during the period when Tripp was continuing to record conversations with Lewinsky, but eventually quoted from them after the conversations ceased…

Isikoff also floated the claim, which later proved false, that the Clinton legal team had been involved in suborning perjury in the creation of a “talking points” document that Lewinsky gave Tripp in advance of her filing an affidavit in the Jones case. As journalist Joe Conason and political columnist Gene Lyons noted in their book, The Hunting of the President (Thomas Dunne Books, 2000), Isikoff later expressed regret at his role in advancing that story, claiming to have simply forgotten that the “talking points” closely mirrored a letter Tripp herself had written to Newsweek long before. [p. 356]…

As I used to tell my conservative friends (I say “used to tell” because I don’t know any conservatives at the moment) when we debated the “Librul Media” bugaboo, journalists have “liberal” views because they have chosen a profession in which a central objective is challenging orthodoxy. Propping up orthodoxy is what conservatives do. Poking and prodding the status quo is what liberals do.

But all that high-mindedness falls to the wayside for reporters who have lucked their way into the top tier of the national media – often referred to as “the Gang of 500.” These people would kill their mothers to get a story that would put them in the running for a Pulitzer. Whether the potential Pulitzer story might lead to negative fallout for Democrats or liberal causes is simply not a factor in pursuing it.

Isikoff is the poster child for this mindset.

In the 1990s, Michael Isikoff made a deal with Satan incarnated as a Rightwing cabal intent on bringing down the Clintons. That cozy arrangement has now become his likely downfall. He made a fatal error. He trusted Republicans. If they hang him for it, I, for one, won’t be sad.

Villaraigosa Landslide

Los Angeles Times:

Antonio Villaraigosa romped past incumbent James K. Hahn to make history Tuesday, winning election as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since the city’s pioneer days.

Riding a huge wave of voter discontent, the challenger avenged his 2001 loss to Hahn, who possessed an iconic family name but never connected strongly with voters during a rocky four-year term.

Villaraigosa’s landslide represented a crowning symbol of Latinos’ growing clout in California, after decades of population gains that failed to produce a commensurate rise in political power. L.A.’s last Latino mayor, Cristobal Aguilar, left office in 1872, when the now-sprawling metropolis was a frontier outpost of barely 6,000 people.

Hahn: 183,749 (41.34%) — Villaraigosa: 260,721 (58.66%)

The Blather Over Bloggers

(Disclaimer: I am not a paid political consultant and receive no remuneration from Pensito Review for my, ahem, contributions. Indeed, if my boss knew I was doing this at work, he’d probably DOCK MY PAY.)

A Forbes article by Steve McGookin explores the current quandry facing the Federal Elections Commission regarding the assumed power of Web logs to influence the political process. While the Internet consultancy Malchow Schlackman Hoppey and Cooper (which handled John Kerry’s on-line campaign) has submitted a letter calling for blogs to be granted the same exemption from election finance laws that “real” journalists enjoy, there remains the pesky issue of bloggers who are paid political advocates who do seem to influence election outcomes (not to mention journalists paid by the gubmint to promulgate policy, but that’s another matter).

While outlining the quagmire the FEC faces this summer, McGookin elucidates some of the questions the FEC is considering:

While a fundamental starting point, according to the FEC, is not to deter ordinary citizens from becoming involved in political activity, a big difficulty is placing any kind of accurate value on political activity conducted online. The Commission’s responsibility is to regulate only monetary exchanges, as opposed to intellectual, as well as deciding whether or not such activity even rises to a level where the FEC would be concerned in any case.

Most blog activity–political or otherwise–is carried out by individuals on what would charitably be described as a shoestring budget. But what about the increasing numbers of popular blogs that are using or adopting various structured business models?

Then there is the question of whether the FEC is limited to regulating only paid-for political advertising on blogs. Or is everything that supports or endorses a particular candidate appearing on a blog considered to fall under existing campaign contribution ceilings and, as such, subject to regulation?

To what extent are blogs–as distinct from mainstream media’s commercial online entities–protected, being primarily vehicles of individual personal opinion? Does the size of their audience make any difference?

Note that Pensito Review’s business plan consists of maybe someday hopefully getting a click-through deal with Amazon, and the estimated value of our combined “intellectual property” likely exempts us from any consideration of the “contribution” a PR endorsement would lend a hapless candidate. Size of audience? Let’s not go there.

That said, and the FEC’s concerns aside, there is other evidence that blogs just don’t matter that much, or at least no more than “real” media.

A Reuters article on a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project appears to suss out the fact that blogs just aren’t as powerful as the worry-worts at the FEC think they are.

Charting the discussion of issues during the 2004 presidential campaign, the study found political blogs — online opinion and information sites — played a similar, but not greater role, as the mainstream media in “creating buzz” around the candidates’ campaigns.

The study dispels the notion that blogs are replacing traditional media as the public’s primary source of information, said Michael Cornfield, a senior research consultant at Pew.

“Bloggers follow buzz as much as they make it,” said Cornfield. “Our research uncovered a complicated dynamic in which a hot topic of conversation could originate with the blogs or it could originate with the media or it could originate with the campaigns.

“We can say that if people still have that idea that the bloggers are the new fifth estate, that the bloggers are the new kingmakers, that’s not the case.”

Of course, the evidence is clear, if you follow Pew’s line of reasoning:

For example, it showed the Bush campaign paid more attention to an Osama bin Laden tape than did the blogs. At the same time, the Kerry campaign made more mention of missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than the blogs. The mainstream media made more mention of Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter than either the blogs or the campaigns.

Well, that should answer the questions for the FEC. Except the thought that perhaps the 40 out of 1.6 million blogs Pew examined were investigating more interesting issues than Osama, WMD or Ms. Cheney.

So please, FEC Director Scott Thompson, don’t treat blogs differently than mainstream press. According to Pew, Pensito Review is equally as irrelevant as the “New York Times.” Honest.