Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In America, Healthcare for Kids should be No-Brainer

Forty-five million. That’s a pretty large number, especially when it refers to human lives. It’s more than seven-times the number of people in our state. And sadly, it’s the number of Americans in this country without any kind of health insurance. There is, without a single doubt, a major healthcare crisis in this country.

Recent reports show that there are an estimated 9 million children without health coverage living in the United States of America. This embarrassing statistic makes it hard to believe that we live in the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Missouri alone some 117,000 children are uninsured – enough children to fill 2,200 yellow school busses. Fortunately, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is up for renewal in the Senate this week, and we have the chance to make real progress for kids. Additional funding included in the proposal would allow Missouri (through MC+ for Kids) to continue covering those enrolled, while also expanding the program to cover many more still in need.

CHIP has proven to be an excellent investment of public resources. Health insurance leads to healthier kids, of course, but it pays dividends in other ways as well. One study found that children from low-income families did better in school after they'd received CHIP coverage. Covering children also saves money in the long-term by providing regular health care and prompt treatment that can prevent serious, chronic health problems.

While I’m optimistic about the possibility of expanding coverage to the millions of American children in need, I’m also extremely concerned that my Republican colleagues in the Senate will try to stop this bill in its tracks. Americans have witnessed the Republican tactics over the last several months as they tried to block almost every piece of legislation Democrats have introduced. They believe that their success is our failure, and, quite frankly, I’m getting tired of this partisan attitude. When this bill hits the floor of the Senate this week I sincerely hope that we can put politics aside and take a necessary step toward ending the healthcare crisis in this country.

Harpers On Bush

Here is a great summery of W from this month's Harpers:

"As repugnant as George W. Bushes's brand of social conservatism has been, it is not ideology that is at the heart of his administration's failure but his personality, for in the post-ideological world the politics of personality is all that remains. The worst excesses of the Bush regime have stemmed directly from its leader's character -- that is, its rampant cronyism; its arrogance and egotism; its peremptory, bullying tone and methods; its refusal to brook criticism from within or without; its frighteningly authoritarian impulses; its need to create enemies as a means of governing; its impulsiveness and naivete; its outright contempt for the law; and its truly staggering ability to substitute its own versions of what it wishes the world to be for any recognition of objective reality. ..."

Kevin Baker "A Fate Worse Than Bush"

Harpers On Bush

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Governor Asks Commission Members to Violate Supreme Court Rules

Apparently not content to let Jeff Roe and the other concoction of right wing political operatives who are behind ongoing attempts to bring back Pendergast Era politics to the process of selecting Missouri's appellate judges, Governor Blunt has decided to begin his own campaign to undermine Missouri's Non-Partisan Court Plan. Through his chief counsel, Henry Herschel, the Governor has requested that the members of the Judicial Commission that sent him three eminently qualified candidates for the Supreme Court violate Supreme Court rules by providing him:

  • Any transcripts and/or audio recordings and notes from every interview with every applicant
  • Information on meeting and interview times, locations and length
  • Details of notice provided regarding all commission meetings and interviews
  • Insight into the questions presented to the applicants including whether they were standardized and what questions were included or given priority


Amazingly, the Governor's office requests he be provided information from the Commission members for not only the three nominees, but for ALL 30 of the applicants interviewed for the position; action that, if taken, would be in direct violation of Supreme Court Rule 10.28 which provides that such matters are to be kept confidential -- for obvious reasons. The non-partisan court plan creates a check on the Governor's ability (or anyone else's) to try to unduly influence the work of the Commission or politicize its efforts.

Not satisfied to let the Commission do its job, and to then do his, the Governor has painted his request that the Commission members violate Rule 10.28 as simply a call for assistance and for more "transparency" in the process. Sorry, but the request for notes and other "insight" on the interviews of all the applicants clearly reveals the Governor's true purpose -- to second guess why the Commission didn't send him three candidates who might be more in line with his political views, and to later call for the abolishment of the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan. What the Governor needs to remember is that it's not the Commission's JOB to send him three candidates it thinks he'll be ideologically in line with -- it's the Commission's job to send him the three people it believes will be the most exceptional judges.

Call Governor Blunt, and tell him to stop meddling in the Commission's work by asking its members to break the law. It did its job and sent him three well-regarded and qualified candidates for our Supreme Court. Now it's time for him to do his -- stop whining and pick one of them.

Group to Protect Judges from Jeff Roe

Jeff Roe is committed to attacking judges. Thank goodness someone is standing up to him.

A new group was formed, Missourians for Fair and Impartial Courts. They are stepping up to ensure that the 3rd Branch of Government is not composed of partisan hacks, but intelligent folks who want to follow the law. This isn't about frivolous lawsuits (which everyone hates). It’s about, in part, protecting businesses (the lion's share of civil suits are filed by corporations).

Business know that fair and impartial courts are an important part of Missouri's economic engine. Trade partners from other states or countries are more likely to partner with Missouri companies if they know the courts are beyond the influence of politics and will apply the law fairly and consistently. Businesses expect courts to not be swayed by public opinion or interest groups.

So, at least there is an alternative to the Jeff Roe "put your judge up for sale" approach. The Missouri Plan worked for Ashcroft, it worked for Bond. Somehow, when gay marriage and abortion got old, beating up on judges became cool with some of the Republicans. Enough already.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jeff Roe Breaks Missouri Supreme Court Rules

We teach our kids to follow the rules. Jeff Roe must not have picked up on this idea.

Jeff Roe's blog, the Source, "leaked" the names of folks who applied for the Supreme Court. He knows it violated Missouri Supreme Court rules because Roe refuses to identify "VERY RELIABLE SOURCE." To make it even more embarrassing, he has reduce the highest court in Missouri to a sweet 16 bracket and encouraged betting on the outcome - complete with a $50 prize. Is this what we want our state to look like? Is this what the lawyer/Republican politicians who employ Jeff Roe envision for our state?

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 10.28 bars revealing the names of lawyers who have applied for the Supreme Court. Why - "No publicity shall be given by the commission of the names of persons under consideration for nomination for the reason that such publicity would tend to keep well qualified lawyers from permitting themselves to be considered and might encourage unqualified persons to enter their names to obtain public notice." We don't want publicity hounds to throw their name in the hat. We do want highly qualified candidates to apply without fear of their legal practice being shut down because they might make the Supreme Court.

Applying to the Supreme Court is not a zoo, it is a big deal. President Bush doesn't reveal everyone he considered for the Supreme Court, because this is a highly dignified office. Turning it into a betting pool is not what we teach our children in civics classes.

Jeff Roe works at or rents from the law firm of Lathrop & Gage. They share the address of 2345 Grand. Jeff Roe has an internal phone number with Lathrop & Gage. Roe’s role there is unclear, but he has use of the L & G postage meter. On Congressman Sam Graves’ financial disclosure, he reimburses L & G for phone charges. Sam Graves for Congress is headquartered at L & G and has the same address. The treasurer for Graves is a L & G lawyer.

Lathrop & Gage is a proud firm with an impressive list of clients. One of the members of the Missouri Supreme Court was Lathrop partner appointed by then Governor Ashcroft. One of the Jackson County Circuit judges was a Lathrop attorney appointed by a Democratic governor.
Jeff Roe doesn't want a neutral judiciary, he wants one where he can get paid to run a million dollar campaign like they do in Texas and Illinois. This is embarrassing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Edwards Leads in Iowa

Sen. John Edwards, according to a poll by the DesMoines Register, leads the Democratic presidential pack in Iowa.

I have mixed feelings about the early primaries that decide who our candidate will be in November. Iowa does represent the Midwest, New Hampshire the East, South Carolina the South and Nevada the West. I know the caucus voters in Iowa very much want to pick a great candidate that can win. Democrats are highly motivated to put a D in the White House. I don't really care if it is Edwards, Obama or Clinton; they are all qualified and a million times better than the "current occupant."

Assume that the states Kerry won could be won by any Democrat. Assume that you really only need Ohio or Missouri or Florida AND any one Southern state (South Carolina or Arkansas or Tennessee). If you get Ohio and Arkansas - a Democrat is in the White House. Among the Democratic big 3 who is most likely to achieve the electoral college votes? I think this poll indicates that it is Sen. John Edwards.

Monday, July 23, 2007

UMKC Law Professor Engaging in Misleading Right-Wing Attack

With that headline, you'd expect to be reading about Kris "K" Kobach, but, this time, it's Bill Eckhardt. Bill's a gentlemanly, intelligent, rational person. That's why I was so surprised to see this article in the Southeast Missourian by Bill and a corporate lawyer/Republican donor from St. Louis. The article is illogical, misleading and a sneaky attempt by the right wing to give political hacks like Jeff Roe a major role in making our court system just as dysfunctional as our General Assembly.

First, a little background. Missouri has a system for selecting judges that is a model for the United States. It applies to urban trial judges, all appellate judges, and the Missouri Supreme Court. Rather than having elections, those judges are selected by the Governor from a panel of three chosen by a commission composed of lawyers and lay people, based on merit. After the judge is appointed, he or she stands for retention by the voters in the following general election, and every dozen years thereafter. Simply stated, the system works well. Missouri has one of the best state benches in the nation.

Bill Eckhardt wants Missouri to throw out this elegant blend of democracy and merit in favor of PACs, smear campaigns, and attack dogs like Jeff Roe. He would rather have a Supreme Court that functions like the General Assembly cesspool than a courtroom.

His article in favor of this foolish position is a curious blend of deceptive logic and outright factual mistakes. It would be disappointing to see such debased work from a first-year law student - it is shocking to see it from someone who is supposed to be teaching those students.

Perhaps the silliest and most glaring instance of sloppiness is Eckhardt's flawed assertion that:
The commission has seven unelected members: three lawyers chosen by the Missouri Bar Association, three nonlawyers chosen by a governor (past or present, depending on the expiration of a commission member's term) and the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court (also usually a member of the Missouri Bar Association).
First off, there is no "Missouri Bar Association". The Missouri Bar is not a voluntary association - it is the quasi-governmental organization composed of ALL practicing attorneys in the state of Missouri. It is not some politically-biased interest group, and Professor Eckhardt ought to have enough familiarity with the governance of Missouri lawyers to know better.

The foolishness of this decidedly non-professorial mistake is illustrated by the claim that the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court is "usually" a member of the "Association". Usually? Professor Eckhardt, please name a single Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court since the Missouri Plan has been in effect who was not a member of the Missouri Bar.

The flawed facts are nothing, though, compared to the flawed logic. Eckhardt claims that the fact that only two judges have lost retention elections demonstrates that the system isn't working. Instead, it is clear proof that the system is working brilliantly. If we were getting bad judges through the Missouri Plan, voter discontent would show itself, wouldn't it?

Any sharp-eyed law student would catch the fallacy in Eckhardt's next weak argument:
The people of Missouri no longer support the plan. A recent survey reveals that most (two-thirds) of Missourians do not know how the plan works. A stunning 87 percent are unaware that the Missouri Bar Association (sic) helps pick the appellate judicial commission. A majority disagree with the retention election model and believe voters should have the greatest input on who serves on the Supreme Court.
Anybody want to bet who paid for that poll, or who carefully phrased the questions to support the attack? Eckhardt would have us toss out our Missouri Plan based on an obscure poll of voters who do not know how the system works. Notice that Eckhardt is silent about what those who do know about the Missouri Plan think. Those who do know about it support it with a rare degree of agreement - whether Republican or Democrat, lawyers support the plan.

As stated above, it is disappointing to see any lawyers attack one of Missouri's greatest contributions to jurisprudence. If an attack were to be made, though, it's not surprising that it would come from a St. Louis corporate attorney (who never goes to court) and from a law professor on his ivory tower. It is surprising, though, how sloppy and illogical their attack turned out.

We are blessed to have a system that works. Do you really want to trade it in for a bunch of politician/judges winning your votes with robo-calls and smear ads? Do you really think that would be better?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How The Democrats Got Religion

I don't normally read Time magazine, but they have a great article entitled "How The Democrats Got Religion."

Democrats have figured out that social justice Catholics care about issues other than abortion. D candidates have finally figured out that Methodists, Christian Church - Disciples of Christ and even some Baptists believe that Jesus never mentioned the word "gay marriage." Main line Protestants focus on hunger, poverty and the environment as issues of faith. An op-ed piece was recently written in the Wednesday Newspaper about Country Club Christian Church conducting mission trips to South Africa and Nicaragua and developing lasting relationships; concluding that "Those who give receive best gifts of all." There is even a Democratic strategy group called Common Good, which focuses on helping Dems connect with faith communities. Heck, the only ordained minister in D.C. is our own Congressman Cleaver. In the 47th Missouri House District (Lee's Summit), Rev. Tom Haley ran against Rep. Grisamore and only lost by 190 votes. Rev. Haley would have been the only ordained minister in Jefferson City.

As a liberal, I don't want God jammed down my throat. I don't want the R's to act like God elected Matt Blunt (I heard the preacher from 2nd Baptist Church in Springfield say "God elected Matt Blunt") and I don't want the D's to start acting like Christians are just a source of new votes. The Time article quoted Howard Dean on the 700 Club as saying that Democrats "have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community." I would think so - BECAUSE I AM BOTH, you knucklehead. A political party should not hold God hostage; rather people of faith should work to achieve results focused on loving your neighbor.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cleaver celebrates increase in Minimum Wage

Congressman Cleaver is celebrating a promise kept to the American people; an increased minimum wage.

The rally will take place on Monday, July 23rd at 10:30 at Mill Creek, by the J.C. Nichols fountain. That's the big fountain on the Plaza at the corner of 47th and Broadway.

Several unions, ministers and working men and women from Missouri will be there to celbrate the Democratic majorities in Congress following up on a promise to increase the federal minimum wage.

Amy Coffman for the 44th

Before anyone makes a decision about whom to support in next year's election for Jenee Lowe's House Seat in the 44th District, I urge you to meet Amy Coffman. Amy will formally announce her candidacy soon, but I wanted to get the word out about her sooner than that. Amy graduated from Blue Springs High School, and obtained her bachelor's degree from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Amy has gained invaluable legislative experience that will serve the 44th District well, both through her service to a representative in the Alaska legislature and as lead minority caucus staff, and through her work with the Missouri legislature on behalf of Missouri seniors as the Advocacy Program Coordinator for AARP Missouri.

I was so impressed with Amy's public service background and her enthusiasm for the possibility of working for Missourians in the Missouri General Assembly that I agreed to serve as her treasurer. Please take some time over the next few months to learn more about Amy, her impressive background, and her vision for Missouri -- you'll be glad you did.

Modest Proposal for Contest

W is about to have a colonoscopy. Let's have a contest to come up with the best headline for the event. Here's a start:

"Bush To Have Colonoscopy.
Brain Damage Feared!"

"Bush Has Colonoscopy.
WMD's Finally Found!"

"Bush Under Anesthetic For Colonoscopy.
Acting President Chaney Dissolves Congress,
Invades ____________!"

Notes from the Gulag


Sen. Leahy has included questions concerning the appointment of our own Bradley Schlozman in his list of questions that he expects AG Gonzales to develop a memory on. Bet's, anyone?

And the President has announced that he has instructed the Justice Department NOT to prosecute those held in contempt of Congress for asserting Executive Privilege -- thus moving one step closer to making Nixon appear an honorable man devoted to the Constitution by comparison. Of course, Congress does have the option of trial in the House & locking Harriet up in the basement, but....

Seriously, remember when W first met exKGB boy Putin and said he had "look into his soul"? What he saw was a spiritual brother.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Washington Post Calls Mayor Barnes a Winner

The Washington Post did an article on the winners and losers in the recent fundraising quarter.

The bi-partisan group of winners included former Congressman and runner Jim Ryun (R) running against Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (D). Our own Mayor Kay Barnes - a member of the CCP back when she ran for the Jackson County Legislature - is also a winner. Congrats Kay!!

I guess if Barnes is a winner in the fundraising race, that makes Congressman Grave and his hatchet man, Jeff Roe, losers. What surprises me is that Jeff Roe extracts money from his other clients (Bartle, Koster, etc.) to support the losing bids of his current clients (Chris Byrd for City Council and the failed mayoral bid of Becky Nace). Chris Byrd’s campaign address was identical to Jeff Roe’s company’s (Axiom) address (which is 2345 Grand), according to Koster’s MEC filing when he gave $500. Where's the love for Sam Graves? Is it because Jeff Roe's attack politics on the independent & neutral judiciary and universal good guy Rev. Cleaver have gone too far?

Nolte (33rd) has "Limited Acitivity"

I guess we all knew it was true, but Rep. Jerry Nolte(R) from Gladstone filed his Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) report yesterday and fessed up to his role in Jefferson City - "Limited Activity"

What the heck does "Limited Activity" mean? It means that Nolte has been so consumed with filing pro-voucher bills and pro-open enrollment bills - which hurt public schools in the Northland - that he is not taking care of his campaign. It means, according to the MEC instructions that Nolte has had "little or no financial activity." That mirrors Nolte's impressive showing in Jefferson City.

Rep. Nolte (R) won this traditionally Democratic seat in 2006 by a landslide victory of 50.5% to 49.5% - challenger Terry Stone (D) only needed 74 more votes to win. This is a race that Missouri Democrats can rally around. Between Rep. Scott Lakin and Rev. Phil Willoughby, this seat was solidly held by Democrats for a decade. The district voted for Claire McCaskill, it will vote for another D to help us take back the state house.

Grisamore (47th) Dead in the Water

Let's say you win your first election by a huge margin of 378 votes. Let's say you are the incumbent and your party has the majority. Then, let's say that your party abandoned the will of the people and removed caps on contributions - effectively putting Missouri goverment up for sale to the highest bidder. Don't you think you would raise some cash?

Well, Rep. Grisamore (R) from Lee's Summit is so well liked in his community that he has garnered a whopping $250 in support from his constiutents, according to the Missouri Ethic Commission report filed on July 16, 2007. Not that cash is king, but it tells you a little bit. Grisamore carried the Republican party line, which is not how this district votes. He has not been a leader in Jefferson City, just a follower.

The 47th House District is calling out for progressive leadership. All the D candidate needs is 190 more votes and we are one step closer to taking back the Missouri House.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Barnes Has Lots of Friends

Mayor Barnes can sure raise the money!

In only one half quarter, or just six weeks since her May 14 announcement in St. Joseph, Barnes raised $328,763.00. With minimal expenses, the Barnes campaign ended the quarter with $315,571.00 in the bank.

Compare that to the political machine of Graves/Roe. Barnes and Graves are in a dead heat in money raising race, but Congressman Sam Graves has been in DC since January 1, 2007. We know Graves has been busy passing special legislation to get him paid for his private airplane. We know Graves/Roe are ticking off Speaker of the House Rod Jetton (R) and US Senator Kit Bond (R) (who have all but endorsed Barnes). Barnes race for Congress wasn't a big secret - speculation has been around for years.

So, what is wrong with the Graves/Roe machine; one too many defeats? Stepped on one too many senior US Senators from Missouri? Senator Bond has tried mightily to show respect for Mayor Barnes and Mayor Cleaver. Jeff Roe has or is running the nastiness campaigns know to man against both of these great elected representatives. No wonder Bond is running as fast as he can from Graves/Roe.

Why were 711 Bush staffers talking to Justice?

Check our the new Harpers:

Harpers' List: Number of White House officials authorized to discuss "pending criminal cases" with Justice under Clinton? 4. Under Bush? 711! Bet we know what they were talking about -- or will if those RNC account e-mails ever get delivered.

Also, good article on Guilani, the non-hero of 9/11.

Ike Skelton - the End of Moderation?

Isaac Newton "Ike" Skelton is as old-school as they get. He's been involved in public life since the President was known as Ike, and he's been in Congress for three decades. He's a Democrat, but opposes abortion and gun control. As a conservative Democrat, he is a throw-back to pre-Kos, "silent majority" days, when liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats overlapped in the spectrum of American political thought.

Lately, though, Ike Skelton has emerged from the sleepy world of quiet moderation and started to make a few waves. Recently, his press office contacted a gaggle of Missouri bloggers and started to send us press releases. He's been getting his voice heard more often, and is even showing his dry sense of humor. Note the book he is featuring in his National Library Day promotion - a poster that could otherwise be taken off the set of Pleasantville, except for the presence of Fiasco. a book which chronicles the blunders of the Bush Administration's mishandling of the Iraq war.

Last week, Ike Skelton found himself at the forefront of the debate over Iraq when his bill requiring U.S. forces to begin a troop withdrawal within 120 days and move to a "limited presence" by April 1 passed by a margin of 223-201 in the US House of Representatives.

When I first noted Ike Skelton's increased visibility and assertiveness, I thought for a second he might be setting himself up for some larger role in government. Perhaps he could be going after the seat Kit Bond is unlikely to retain in 2010? Perhaps he's positioning himself for a vice presidential nomination? Either Clinton or Obama could benefit from having a swing-state, moderately conservative, unabashedly pro-military, anti-war voice on the ticket.

A look at his bio, though, shows that such speculation is unlikely. Ike Skelton is 75 years old, and is unlikely to be seeking such long-term commitments.

Instead, I see two reasons for Ike's recent higher profile. First, I note that in 2005, he lost his wife of 44 years, and, later in that same year, was injured during an official visit to Iraq. What I know of aging and what I've seen of it suggests that Ike has seen the eternal footman hold his coat, and doesn't want to hear him snicker.

Less dramatically, but just as likely, Ike Skelton hasn't changed, but the world has changed around him. He has always supported the military, but this is a time when supporting them does not mean supporting their misguided and unwinnable mission. Supporting them means bringing them home and making college affordable for them.

In times like these, even traditional voices of moderation and conservatism are finding it necessary to oppose this administration's policies. Whatever his reasons, I am glad to see Ike Skelton letting himself be heard.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bartle for What??

One of the most anticipated financial reports due out next week is from the hero of the Religious Right, Sen. Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit.

In April of 2007 (8 days after the last reporting period), Matt switched his Missouri Ethic Commission designation from his senate seat to statewide office. http://www.mec.mo.gov/Scanned/PDF/2007/50789.pdf

What statewide office does Matt have in mind? What does his advisor, Jeff Roe, have cooking? Jeff Roe squeezed $1,275 out of Matt Bartle for Becky Nace's failed mayorial campaign. http://www.mec.mo.gov/CampaignFinanceReports/CFFilerPDFs/FullReport/FullReport.aspx?CDRCP_id=3127&MyYear=2007 Contact the dots on that one. Matt Bartle and the unions hate each other. The unions were backing Becky Nace. Becky Nace hired Jeff Roe. Jeff Roe worked with the unions on Backy Nace's campaign. How does that work?

Pope, Church & State

The Pope's recent re-affirmation of the Vatican II principles that there is but "one church"- the Holy Catholic Church- has been the subject of lots of talk this week. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2056515.ece

As an active Protestant, it is easy to get excited by these kinds of faith issues. It is even easier to get excited (mad, frustrated, pissed, etc.) about either political party high-jacking God. One of the most interesting books written about this topic is "God's Politics, Why the Right is Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it" by Rev. Jim Wallis, a self-professed evangelical. Wallis has been lipping off on social justice issues for decades, but only after the Religious Right has sickened the swing voters, the big business funders of the Republican Party have gotten stung by the religious extremists (i.e. Sen. Matt Bartle's position on stem cell) and Wallis appeared with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=special.display&item=050111_godspolitics, did anyone take notice of Wallis’ ranting and raving.

One thing that I see missing from the religious right wing's family values debate is how does abortion and gay marriage warrant the #1 & #2 (with no #3) positions. Women have been having abortions since Jesus was around. Seems like when the religious scholars were quizzing Jesus about the most important commandments, Jesus told them to 1) love your God; and 2) love your neighbor. How about a little love, food, clothing and healthcare for your neighbor?

Christians, Jews and Muslims don’t have a monopoly on values; we all come to our values from different directions, according to Wallis. So, why do we allow the Republicans to say we Democrats don’t have values? I think that when there is a choice between healthcare for the poor and tax cuts for corporations, the value voter will pick healthcare every time.

OK, enough preaching, but it is Sunday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jason Kander Well Situated for Mo-44

Jenee Low is retiring from the General Assembly next year, and Jason Kander has raised over $66,000 in preparation for his race to keep her seat in progressive hands. Beyond that, Jason has been pounding the pavement, introducing himself to people and letting them know that he is interested, informed, and ready to make a difference in Jefferson City.

My personal opinion on the race may be found here, but I think I can speak for the entire CCP membership in saying that the 44th District, composed of Waldo, Brookside, and the Ward Parkway corridor, is a seat that should always be held by a strong, progressive Democrat. Thanks to Jenee Low for serving us well, and we are eager to make certain that her replacement does an effective job of representing our values in Jefferson City.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Something Stinks in the 47th (Grisamore)

Something doesn't smell quite right in Rep. Grisamore's (R) campaign filings (47th - Eastern Jackson County).

Rep. Grisamore reported $1,500 on hand in April of 2007. That is horrible for an incumbent of the party in the majority. Grisamore voted to remove the caps, effectively putting his vote up for sale to the highest bidder. http://www.mec.mo.gov/CampaignFinanceReports/CFFilerPDFs/FullReport/FullReport.aspx?CDRCP_id=3802&MyYear=2007

On January 25, 2007, Rep. Jane Cunningham (R - Chesterfield) donated $325 (the old cap) to Grisamore. Less than two months later, on March 13, 2007, Rep. Cunningham asked for her money back. Grisamore's MEC filing lists it as "requested return." Must be that Cunningham is in tough financial straights to take back $325 from a guy with only $1,500 in his account?

Guess again, Rep. Cunningham reports $122,243.77 on hand at the end of April 2007. Somehow, Cunningham reports getting the check on the exact same date that Grisamore sent it. Amazing! http://www.mec.mo.gov/CampaignFinanceReports/CFFilerPDFs/FullReport/FullReport.aspx?CDRCP_id=191&MyYear=2007

So what is up with a state rep from Chesterfield having so much dough? The Missouri National Educational Association calls Cunningham "misinformed." http://mnea.org/publications/legislative/06/lu06-April7.htm
Retired Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ann Covington (who was appointed by a Republican) and the Missouri Bar have described Cunningham's bills as an "assault" on an independant judiciary. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4181/is_20070309/ai_n18712938 Firedupmissouri.com calls her "Queen of Bad Ideas" for her attacks on universities and affirmative action for recruiting conservatives to college campuses. http://www.firedupmissouri.com/cunningham_sponsors_wingnut_welfare

Where does Cunningham get this kind of cash? America's Home Place gave her $15,000!! That's right, thanks to Grisamore and other Republicans, campaign contribution limits are gone and Cunningham can take $15,000 from a contributor in Georgia. A police officer accuses America's Home Place of fraud. http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/147/RipOff0147701.htm America's Home Place builds homes in the Southeast. Conner is also a huge supporter of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State and states "I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education." Firedupmissouri.com has reported on the highly "wingnuttery" relationship between Cunningham and Conner. http://www.firedupmissouri.com/cunningham_conner_schools

So what is up, Rep. Grisamore and Rep. Cunningham. Which one of you are more off the charts? Why would Grisamore take money from such a nut ball as Rep. Cunningham? Why would crazy Cunningham ask for her money back if Grismore wasn't twice as weird? I sure hope someone can spread some light on this one.

Harris for AG reports $300,000

The reporting period for the first six months of 2007 is coming due and some early birds are reporting they got the worm.

Jeff Harris, the only declared candidate for the Democratic nod for Missouri Attorney General, is reporting $300,000 on hand at the end of the 2nd quarter of 2007. There are at least 3 Republicans (Koster, Hanaway & Gibbons) going for the Republican nomination. The Republicans will have to spend every penny destorying each other before running against Jeff Harris. Jeff currently serves as a state representative from Boone County and is the minority leader in the Missouri House. The $300,000 represents that Democrats from around the state are excited about Jeff's campaign.

Check out www.mec.mo.gov to track who is supporting your favorite (or least favorite) candidates.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gonzales is a LIAR

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a liar.

Gonzales went before Congress in April of 2005, swore to tell the truth, and said that the FBI had not abused our civil liberties and the law. "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse." http://www.kansascity.com/444/story/183640.html The Washington Post made a Freedom of Information Act request and discovered that prior to the 2005 testimony that the FBI had sent Gonzales a letter detailing how it had violated the law. Gonzales folks said that they don't know if he read the FBI memo. Come on - how many freaking memos has the FBI sent to the U.S. Attorney saying they violated the law? I bet they don't send too darn many. Well, according to the Post, Gonzales actually was told by the FBI at least six times that they violated the Patriot Act. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/10/AR2007071000044.html

Clinton got impeached for lying under oath - what should we do to Gonzales and the President who supports him? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Republican Family Values = Prostiution

Republicans love to talk about family values. Well, I strongly believe that most Americans have the same values - work hard, play by the rules, love your neighbor. So, when the religious right is in love with Republicans because they stand for family values, the hypocrisy of the down fall of Republican politicians is wildly amusing.

U.S. Senator David Vitter (R) from LA had his name appear on a D.C. Escort service phone list. Sen. Vitter admitted that he had "a very serious sin in my past." The first Republican senator elected in Louisiana since reconstruction was hiring prostitutes! Read more about the story at http://www.kansascity.com/449/story/183399.html Vitter says he had made peace with his God and his wife. Thank goodness God is a loving, forgiving, graceful god, not the angry vengeful god feared and worshipped by the religious right.

The best part of the story is his poor wife, responding to inquires about Bill Clinton and Rep. Robert Livingston (R - La) cheating on their wives, threatened to go "Lorena Bobbitt" on her husband if he ever cheated. Maybe someone should ask Vitter if he is singing soprana or bass now.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sam Graves - HIgh On Taxpayer Money

Graves has taken special legislation to an all time low (or high, as it may be). Check out the link to firedupmissouri.com http://www.firedupmissouri.com/graves_is_the_red_baron

The article reports on how Congressman Graves inserted special legislation to benefit not the tax payers, not Missouri farmers, but Sam Graves!!! Graves likes to fly his plane around. He got a law passed that allowed him to be reimbursed at twice the rate of congresspeople who drive cars.

I have no problem with him getting reimbursed at car rates, what is strange to me is why the taxpayers should pay for him to have the privilege of flying around his district. Graves just doesn't get it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Besides, when the Plame leak was announced, Bush did say that if the leak came from within the administration, "...that person will be taken care of."

Forget Scooter, Focus on Real Scandal

OK. Let's compare the way Scooter was treated withthe way the former (Dem.) governor of Alabama was treated: Guess which one had to report to prison (thus making his "right to appeal" meaningless) on a charge that is a real stretch of the federal law (rewarding a political ally with an appointment to a commission allegedly because he contributed to an issues committee supporting legal gaming, something the Gov. also supported -- but from which he never personally profited)? (Check out the NY Times Ed. on this one.) Of course, he is only one of many Dem. officials and former officials singled out for such novel prosecutions.

I would like to believe that Scooter's prosecution had anything to do with Mr. Fitzgerald wanting to expose the Administration's criminal misconduct in selling a war that led to the deaths of 3500 American servicemembers. I fear it has more to do with running for Governor of Illinois.

Personally, I think Bush should pardon Scooter (and ultimately will) because the Bush Machine has always taken care of its own. And Scooter was only following orders, you know. A pardon will place the responsibility where it really belongs: The most corrupt and incompetent (at governing) and dangerous (to our rights, our military and other countries' citizens) administration in the history of the Republic. In an odd way, pardoning Scooter would be the most ethical act of W's administration.

Of course, the arrogance that has allowed torture, repealed Habeas Corpus and dismissed the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" is only the culmination of a quarter century of attacks on our rights and the independence of the courts. In the name of "law and order", there has been a real shift of power in this nation that has led to an "imperial prosecutor" mentality. Sentencing guidelines gutted judicial control and "bail reform" made the right to appeal meaningless. When was the last time anyone heard of a Court punishing a federal prosecutor or federal agent, or in any way sanctioning one in a meaningful way? Yet we all know of cases where their behavior would make Mike Nifong blush.

Nor are the scandals of the Gonzales administration likely to change that. The movie SiCKO has a telling line: Asked why there is universal health care in every western democracy except the USA, a French citizen replies, "It is simple. In Europe, the governments are afraid of the people. In America, the people are afraid of the government."

Ken Starr had the ability to cripple a President over a sexual laison and a six year "investigation" into a non-scandal over Arkansas land. Those same powers -- and the threat of their abuse -- hangs over every elected official. Do we seriously think any member of Congress is free to legislate controls on "law enforcement" when those who contribute to his next fundraiser -- or any issue committee he supports -- could find themselves visited by the FBI, subpoenaed to a Grand Jury to explain their "relationship", their businesses and families investigated? How can they twist the law and the facts in the secrecy of a Grand Jury to make lawful behavior appear unlawful, trivial behavior appear significant? News of an "investigation" of Congressman Sonandso carefully leaked can ruin a career -- or, at least, fuel a primary challenge. As for activist judges? Ask Harry Claybourn and Alcie Hastings. Waaay better not to rock that boat!

It is not that the Bush/Gonzales Justice Department has been different from previous Administrations in this march towards fascism -- just greatly empowered by the mantra of "9/11" to be more arrogant and more open. In control of all three branches of government -- with a compliant press (Remember the real contribution of Fitzgerald was to break the reporters into giving up their sources -- not good news for those few 1st Amendment fans left) -- the Bushies went after the only base for opposition: Local Democrats. Especially pesky liberal ones who raised money for other Dems & raised issues like health care and the environment, off the "law & order" "9/11" "Live in Fear" message. Or who can get elected governor of a red state like Alabama.

We have removed most of the historic checks on prosecutorial power. What the Gonzales scandal (locally known as the Schlozman scandal, at least in the NY Times) has has shown is what happens when that unchecked power is directly and politically focused. That should be scarry. Either it doesn't scare people like it should or they are too scared to speak out. Which is more depressing?

On the other hand, at least Scooter has been spared the hell Paris endured!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blunt and Pratt (55th) Interferes with Non-Partisan Court Plan

Missouri is known throughout the Country as having a wonderful, non-partisan plan to pick judges. The Missouri Plan is simple - three lawyers are elected by their peers (1 from KC, 1 from Cardinal Country and 1 from out-state). Three non-lawyers are selected the governor (same division from around the state). The chief judge of the MO Supreme Court also sits on the commission. Those 7 folks on the commission pick three folks who are extremely qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, Gov. Matt Blunt then picks one of them.

Gov. Blunt apparently does not want neutral judges, he wants partisan folks. It's not just me who thinks so, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks so, too. "Blunt Pushes Panel on Judge Pick." http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/missouristatenews/story/293C31C05DE687698625730C000C1802?OpenDocument Gov. Blunt, according to the Post, is commanding the commission to give him "a slate of nominees who would dutifully interpret Missouri law without regard to their own policy preferences." Ed Martin, the governor's chief of staff, cleared up what that means. "Hopefully, we get a panel that includes people the governor can feel comfortable with and who share viewpoints he espouses." Which viewpoints of stem cell? Abortion? Death penalty? 7th Amendment Right to Trial by Jury? 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms? Clearly, Blunt wants a Supreme Court judge who plays favorites, not one devoted to following the rule of law. Is that what we teach our kids about a neutral, independent judiciary? Is that who you want deciding a case? I don't want someone who has been pre-screened as being right on Blunt's issues, which means the judge has made up his or her mind.

The last time a Republican governor appointed a Supreme Court judge, Matt Blunt couldn't even buy a drink. Ashcroft (now a moderate thanks to Rove/Bush/Gonzalez) did a very good job appointing judges to the Supreme Court. Ashcroft appointed ALL 7 judges to the Supreme Court during his term as governor. Ashcroft's appointments were very smart lawyers. I didn't always agree with the decisions, but they were at least based on case law and reason. If the Missouri Plan worked for Ashcroft, why is it broken for Matt Blunt?

Jackson County's own Rep. Bryan Pratt, a Republican who represents Shook Hardy & Bacon and Blue Springs, is also critical of the process of selecting judges in Missouri. For an interesting read about how Pratt represents Shook's clients in Jefferson City, check out "The Devil's Advocates" http://www.pitch.com/2007-04-05/news/devil-s-advocates/ Rep. Pratt carries a big stick in judicial worlds, he's the chair of the Judiciary Committee for the Missouri House. Pratt says in the Post article "If the governor gets three very liberal Democrats, I think it's going to expose that the process just isn't working."

Here's a question or two - The Missouri Plan worked for Shook Hardy & Bacon to get several of their partners appointed to the Supreme Court. Judge Elwood Thomas - a Shook partner - was an intellectual giant. Lawyers still use the books he wrote. Right now, Judge Laura Denvir Stitt is on the Supreme Court. Again, a Shook partner and very, very smart. She served with distinction, not partisanship, on the Court of Appeals and was elevated to the Supreme Court by Gov. Bob Holden. Judge Stitt told the Post that the Missouri Plan takes politics out of the nomination process. Why is it that Rep. Pratt thinks that a system that could put his former partner on the bench is broken? Is Rep. Pratt committed to good government and an independant judiciary or just putting partisan hacks (like his partners?!?!) on the Supreme Court?

Judicial Issues -- Educated Debate, Not Soundbites

The next year is going to be a challenging one for the judiciary. "Activist" judges (who largely don't have the ability to defend themselves from unfair attacks because of ethical restrictions)are being blamed for -- well -- pretty much everything. Did you have a flat tire today? I'm sure it's the fault of some "activist judge" "legislating from the bench" -- most likely one from California or the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A good friend of mine recently demanded that I explain to him how any judge who is reversed often can be called anything but an "activist" judge. My effort to talk about how there are any number of other factors that can explain why a judge or court is frequently reversed was lost on him. Too complicated. Too much thinking. Simply decrying "activist judges who legislate from the bench" is much easier.

In Missouri, one of the consequences of letting soundbites displace real debate is that it encourages legislators (at least one of whom actually believes that the role of judges in our system of government is simply to "do the will of the people" -- uh, wrong) to propose fundamentally bad pieces of legislation. Most of these bills are designed to eliminate or undercut Missouri's plan for selecting trial judges in our largest counties and our appellate courts (a model for 37 other states) and replace it with a variety of other procedures that would inject MORE partisan politics into the process of selecting our judges. If you want to see examples of how bad an idea that is, do some digging into recent judicial elections in Illinois and Texas.

Last legislative session we saw a variety of bills introduced that, if passed, would have had a detrimental impact on our system of justice in Missouri -- a system that the vast majority of citizens believes works pretty well. We can expect more of the same next year. The impact of our justice system on our society and how it should and should not work is a serious issue that merits serious discussion. Don't let people who can name three "American Idol" finalists but who can't list the three branches of government drive the debate. . . .