Friday, July 17, 2009

Midday Update: Buchanan Falsely Suggests Sotomayor Has "Never Written" Law Review Articles

Midday Update: Buchanan Falsely Suggests Sotomayor Has "Never Written" Law Review Articles

46 minutes ago

What Would Pat Buchanan Have To Say To Get Himself Fired From MSNBC?

Buchanan On Why He Doesn't "Understand" "The Argument" For Affirmative Action For Hispanics: "They Were Never Enslaved"

Maddow Slams "Uncle Pat" Buchanan For "Stoking... White People's Racial Animus" On Sotomayor

Buchanan On Sotomayor's Intellect: "That Lady Up There Is A Scalia? Come On!"

Buchanan Declares Sotomayor A "Militant Liberal Latina," Matthews And Robinson Push Back

Daily Show Mocks Limbaugh, Beck Claims That Sotomayor Is A Racist

SUMMARY: Pat Buchanan claimed that Sonia Sotomayor has "never written anything that I've read in terms of a law review article or a major book or something like that on the law." In fact, Sotomayor has published several law review articles.

Asserting that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is not qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan claimed during the July 16 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show that Sotomayor has "never written anything that I've read in terms of a law review article or a major book or something like that on the law." In fact, according to her Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Sotomayor has published several law review articles, including a note she wrote while a student at Yale Law School and a law review article adapted from a speech she gave.

Moreover, in response to host Rachel Maddow's question, "Why do you think it is that of the 110 Supreme Court justices we've had in this country, 108 of them have been white?" Buchanan againfalsely claimed that "100 percent of the people who died at Gettysburg" were white men. He added: "This has been a country built, basically, by white folks in this country." However, at least one African-American and one woman disguised as a male soldier reportedly died in the Gettysburg campaign.

According to PBS, during the Civil War, "More than 200,000 blacks fought for the Union, and 38,000 died, the majority of disease." In The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg's Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War's Defining Battle (Basic Books, 2004), Bates College professor of history Margaret Creighton writes that an unnamed African-American was the third Union soldier killed in "the Gettysburg campaign":

Most African American men in Pennsylvania were denied the opportunity to fight the Confederates with weapons. But not all of them. One company of black men helped hold back invading soldiers, and their efforts, considered one of the first military engagements in the war by men of color, is still overlooked. The site of the action was the Columbia-Wrightsville bridge, a span a mile and a quarter long over the Susquehanna River. Before word had come of the Army of the Potomac's move north from Virginia, General Lee and corps commander Richard Ewell had envisioned taking Harrisburg from the east and south. The bridge over the Susquehanna River -- twenty-five miles southest of the capital -- was key. On June 28th, and emergency Pennsylvania militia unit and a company of African American men recruited form the area -- numbering at least fifty -- attempted to hold the bridge against 2500 seasoned Confederate troops (including artillery), until the bridge could be destroyed. "The negros," commented one observer, "did nobly." The officer in command of the milita had even more to say. "When the fight commenced," he reported, the black company "took their guns and stood up to their work bravely. They fell back only when ordered to do so." One of the black volunteers paid the ultimate price for his work: His head was "taken off by a shell." As one historian has pointed out, this man -- no one knows his name -- was only the third Northern soldier killed in the Gettysburg campaign. [emphasis added] (Pages 134-135)

Moreover, according to historian Jane Peters Estes, as quoted in a presentation at the Camden Country (NJ) Historical Society, women, too, died in the Civil War, including at least one woman in the Battle of Gettysburg. Estes also noted that on the Union side, "Marie Tepe was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where she took a ball in her ankle, and she served under fire in 13 battles, including Gettysburg." On November 16, 2002, a 7-foot bronze sculpture of Elizabeth Thorn (1832-1907) was dedicated in Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The statue, titled "The Gettysburg Civil War Women's Memorial," honors all the women who served in various capacities before, during, and following the Battle of Gettysburg.

Buchanan also claimed that "probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy" were white men. He previously falsely claimed that "all the dead at Normandy" were white males. Buchanan's comments again denigrated the service that minorities played at Normandy or in World War II. According to a History Channel documentary, "1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II, and although largely forgotten by history, nearly 2,000 of them stormed the beaches of Normandy." According to a May 5, 2004, Scripps Howard News Service report, "[B]lacks were among the assault troops that June 6 [1944], and one unit was responsible for maintaining barrage balloons over the beachhead that protected troops landing. The Stars and Stripes newspaper in 1944 reported that the unit suffered casualties setting up the balloons, which were floated across the English Channel on invasion day. ... The Army didn't record racial or ethnic differences when counting the dead. [Photographer Samuel LeBon] Wooten said he knows of at least three blacks buried in the American cemetery on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach at Coleville-sur-Mer." In an interview broadcast on NPR on February 21, 2007, filmmaker Doug Cohen stated that at least two soldiers from all-African-American units died on June 6, 1944, and are buried at a cemetery in Normandy.

On June 14, 2004, posted a story from BET documenting the experiences of some African-American veterans who served in World War II, including from some who served at Normandy.

Buchanan's remark also ignored the contributions of other non-whites who served in World War II, including Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans.

From the July 16 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:

BUCHANAN: Well, I think I would vote "no" on Sonia Sotomayor, the same way I would've voted "no" on Harriet Miers; and I said so the first day she was nominated. I don't think Judge Sotomayor is qualified for the United States Supreme Court. She has not shown any great intellect here or any great depth of knowledge of the Constitution. She's never written anything that I've read in terms of a law review article or a major book or something like that on the law.

And I do believe she's an affirmative action appointment by the president of the United States. He eliminated everyone but four women and then he picked the Hispanic. So I think this is an affirmative action appointment and I would vote "no."


MADDOW: Why do you think it is that of the 110 Supreme Court justices we've had in this country, 108 of them have been white?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think white men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy.

This has been a country built, basically, by white folks in this country who were 90 percent of the entire nation in 1960 when I was growing up, Rachel, and the other 10 percent were African-Americans who had been discriminated against -- that's why.

JFK said the CIA should be shattered into a thousand pieces and scattered to the four winds. An intense and comprehensive investigation of the CIA would expose the horrific impact it has had on America and the world. If the American people don't demand that, if we don't end this horror, if we don't prosecute the war criminals and torturers who have inflicted so much suffering and death, the horror will go on, the consequences will intensify and escalate. If the CIA isn't shattered into a thousand pieces and scattered to the four winds, America will be. “

Cheney Told CIA Not To Discuss Counterterrorism Program Soon After It Was
| PAMELA HESS | Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA eight years ago not to inform Congress about a nascent counterterrorism program that CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated in June, officials with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Subsequent CIA directors did not inform Congress because the intelligence-gathering effort had not developed to the point that they believed merited a congressional briefing, said a former intelligence official and another government official familiar with Panetta's June 24 briefing to the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Panetta did not agree. Upon learning of the program June 23 from within the CIA, Panetta terminated it and the next day called an emergency meeting with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to inform them of the program and that it was canceled….

Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence committees claim that a proposed Central Intelligence Agency program -- never implemented -- to "assassinate" terrorist group leaders is illegal and that it was kept secret from the US Congress.

But most clear thinking Americans would be surprised to learn that such a program had NOT been implemented in order to protect this nation from a repeat of September 11, 2001. They'd also be surprised if the CIA actually told members of Congress about such a program since there is a history of leaks emanating from certain politicians in both houses of the US Congress who oppose US anti-terrorism actions.

In fact, several Democrats believe Congress should launch an investigation into this and other covert programs, arguing that it is an example of how the CIA has repeatedly misled Congress. A growing number of observers believe that this sudden enthusiasm for investigating the CIA stems from a desire to "change the subject" regarding comments made by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in which she denigrated the CIA.

For example, Rep. Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-MO) said Democrats have shown "no reluctance to tar the CIA" to give political cover to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said in May that Congress had been misled.

Covert actions (as distinguished from the covert collection of information) are used to influence political, military, or economic conditions or situations abroad, where it is intended that the role of the US Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly. These might consist of propaganda activities, support to political or military factions within a particular country, technical and logistical assistance to other governments to deal with problems within their countries, or actions undertaken to disrupt illicit activities that threaten US interests, e.g. terrorism or narcotics trafficking.

Such actions complement and supplement parallel overt measures such as diplomacy, trade sanctions, or military activities undertaken by the Executive branch. By law, covert actions can be undertaken only in support of an "identifiable" foreign policy objective.

Responsibility for carrying out covert actions rests with the CIA, whose Director is charged by the National Security Act of 1947 to "perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the President or the National Security Council may direct." By Executive Order, the CIA alone is specifically authorized to undertake covert actions that are individually authorized by the President , although other departments and agencies may also be directed to undertake or support covert actions as the President may authorize.

Since the end of the Cold War, the number and size of covert action programs have shrunk substantially, reflecting the extent to which they were prompted by the superpower struggle. Nonetheless since the war on terrorism, these programs continue to be undertaken to support ongoing policy needs.

When the US Congress addressed whether the United States should undertake covert action at all, some lawmakers expressed the view that there is no longer a need for covert action, and that, on balance, it has caused more problems for the United States than it has solved. The government, they argue, has been frequently embarrassed by such operations and been criticized domestically and abroad as a result. Also, it is argued, covert actions comprise a minute part of the intelligence budget, but require a disproportionate share of management and oversight.

Most Washington insiders, including all of the former cabinet-level officials who addressed the subject, believe it is essential for the President to maintain covert action as an option. Citing examples such as the need to disrupt the activities of a terrorist group, hamper the efforts of a rogue state to develop weapons of mass destruction, or prevent narcotics traffickers from manufacturing drugs for shipment into the United States, the proponents argue that the United States should maintain a capability short of military action to achieve its objectives when diplomacy alone cannot do the job.

Some intelligence experts have continued to recommend that paramilitary covert actions -- which typically involve arming, training and/or advising foreign forces -- be conducted by the Department of Defense rather than the CIA. These individuals argued that the military is better equipped than the CIA to carry out such operations. Others argued that it is neither feasible nor desirable for US military personnel to undertake such covert activities.

Experts conclude that responsibility for paramilitary covert actions should remain with the CIA. CIA has extraordinary legal authorities and an existing infrastructure that permit the secure conduct of clandestine operations, whereas the military does not. Giving this function to the military would also involve it in a controversial role that would divert attention from other important responsibilities. The military should provide support to paramilitary covert actions as needed but should not be given responsibility for them.

With respect to any changes needed to improve the existing capability, the US Congress notes only that covert action programs of the future are apt increasingly to involve technologies and skills that do not appear to exist within the current infrastructure. More attention should be given to these deficiencies.

Sources: Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US State Department, US Congressional Record, National Security Institute, National Association of Chiefs of Police

It takes brains, temperament and really good timing to become a Supreme Court Justice. The legal landscape is littered with the careers of brilliant jurists who weren't the right person in the right place at the right time. And the Supreme Court has been littered with yahoos who lucked out and squeaked through.

What it takes to "pass" modern-day, post-Bork confirmation hearings, however, is a completely different matter. You don't need candor. You don't need courage. You don't need to be right. You don't even have to pretend that you have all the answers. All you really need is patience, a large bladder, thick skin, and the unwavering strength to sit upright and awake, hour after hour, and speak at great length and in serious, sonorous tones without saying anything at all.

John G. Roberts, Jr. accomplished this arduous if fairly mindless feat in 2005 and is now chief justice of the United States. Samuel A. Alito, Jr. did it in 2006 and he's now an associate justice. And Sonia Sotomayor, a wise Latina woman if there ever were one, has just managed to match the boys. She is on her way to getting, oh, I'd say 70 or so votes for confirmation to become only the third woman in American history to land the law's big prize.

With the main part of the Sotomayor confirmation hearing now complete, with the judge finally off the hot seat, it's fair to say she did everything her compulsive White House handlers had hoped she would. She talked at length to her critics on the Senate Judiciary Committee about her "motivational" speeches. If some of her explanations didn't really make sense? and often they didn’t? there isn't anything Senate can do about it anyway. What's left to say after you've said sorry about your many "rhetorical flourishes" that fell flat?

Indeed, the lawmakers couldn't shut Sotomayor up when it came to her explanations about "Wise Latina" women and how judges don't really make policy and the Ricci firefighters ruling and all the rest of the third-rate faux controversies her enemies had ginned up against her. That none of these matters were remotely material to determining whether she's capable of handling the job?there were no high crimes or misdemeanors alleged, after all?was irrelevant. In the absent of any legitimate concerns the tribunes of politics churned up phony ones and the questions from earnest senators poured in.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again thinking that you'll reach a different result. This didn't stop committee members from asking Sotomayor, over and over again, if she'd allow cameras into the court, or if she agrees that the court ought to accept more cases, or if she concedes that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms blocks state regulations, or if she believes there ought to be more (or fewer) restrictions on abortion. Over two and a half days the questions were nearly identical and so were the non-answer answers.

When it came to her core judicial beliefs, when it came to what she really thinks about the major substantive issues of the day, Sotomayor pulled a Roberts, an Alito, a Breyer and a Ginsburg. In fact, she may have out-Ginsburged Ginsburg, who first started this disappointing trend of nominees stoically and earnestly refusing to shed any light in their confirmation hearings about issues the American people care about most. In this way, all of us are paying the price for the sins (on both sides) of the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas hearings, which are now a generation old.

The White House hopes that the Congress, and the American people, will judge the judge upon what she has done over 17 years on the bench and not what she has said in a few decades off of it. Indeed, that is going to happen. And, indeed, it probably should. We like to say: "Do as I say and not as I do" but in reality the only thing that matters about judging is how a judge votes in a particular case. And despite Sotomayor's inflammatory words, her record as a centrist, moderate, practical, cautious judge is very, very deep. She talks smack. She judges carefully. It's not the worst combination. Better that than those soft-spoken judges who issue wing-nut opinions, right?

Committee members soon will start scratching each other's backs with praise about having performed the "advise and consent" function given to them in the Constitution. And perhaps that solemn (if ambiguous and unworkable) duty is what pushes these windy lawmakers, hour after hour, to ask hundreds of questions to which they know they won't get an answer from the nominee. Either that or it's the cameras, and the free air-time, and the opportunity to pretend that the rare exercise is meaningfully insightful when we all know it isn't.

What did Sotomayor prove this week? That she is smart and controlled and patient and indefatigable; that she can say the same thing over and over again, using slightly different words, to avoid direct answers to questions; that she can stare down inquisitors; that her ability to dodge and duck was greater than was the ability of committee members to pin her down; and that she really didn't want to tell us what we really wanted to know. She'll make a fine justice and if that doesn't work out clearly she'd make a really good player at the World Series of Poker, too.

Franken Out-Wonks His New Colleagues

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor about the issue of Net Neutrality at her Senate confirmation hearing. He asked the judge about the 2005 Supreme Court's Brand X decision and if the American public has "a compelling First Amendment interest" in ensuring that the Internet stays open and accessible.

Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

Franken Highlights Net Neutrality at Sotomayor Hearing

At Sonia Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the judge both acknowledged that the Internet is undeniably essential to building our nation's future. Building a 21st-century democracy is not possible without the free-flowing exchange of ideas. As our newest senator said, our legislators have some work to do.

Israeli Navy In Suez Canal Prepares For Potential Attack On Iran

Two Israeli missile class warships have sailed through the Suez Canal ten days after a submarine capable of launching a nuclear missile strike, in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The deployment into the Red Sea, confirmed by Israeli officials, was a clear signal that Israel was able to put its strike force within range of Iran at short notice. It came before long-range exercises by the Israeli air force in America later this month and the test of a missile defense shield at a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean.

Israel has strengthened ties with Arab nations who also fear a nuclear-armed Iran. In particular, relations with Egypt have grown increasingly strong this year over the “shared mutual distrust of Iran”, according to one Israeli diplomat. Israeli naval vessels would likely pass through the Suez Canal for an Iranian strike.

“This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats,” an Israeli defense official said.

It is believed that Israel’s missile-equipped submarines, and its fleet of advanced aircraft, could be used to strike at in excess of a dozen nuclear-related targets more than 800 miles from Israel.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said that his Government explicitly allowed passage of Israeli vessels, and an Israeli admiral said that the drills were “run regularly with the full co-operation of the Egyptians.”

Two Israeli Saar class missile boats and a Dolphin class submarine have passed through Suez. Israel has six Dolphin-class submarines, three of which are widely believed to carry nuclear missiles.

Israel will also soon test an Arrow interceptor missile on a US missile range in the Pacific Ocean. The system is designed to defend Israel from ballistic missile attacks by Iran and Syria. Lieutenant-General Patrick O’Reilly, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said that Israel would test against a target with a range of more than 630 miles (1,000km) — too long for previous Arrow test sites in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Israeli air force, meanwhile, will send F16C fighter jets to participate in exercises at Nellis Air Force base in Nevada this month. Israeli C130 Hercules transport aircraft will also compete in the Rodeo 2009 competition at McChord Air Force base in Washington.

“It is not by chance that Israel is drilling long-range maneuvers in a public way. This is not a secret operation. This is something that has been published and which will showcase Israel’s abilities,” said an Israeli defense official.

He added that in the past, Israel had run a number of covert long-range drills. A year ago, Israeli jets flew over Greece in one such drill, while in May, reports surfaced that Israeli air force aircraft were staging exercises over Gibraltar. An Israeli attack on a weapons convoy in Sudan bound for militants in the Gaza Strip earlier this year was also seen as a rehearsal for hitting moving convoys.

The exercises come at a time when Western diplomats are offering support for an Israeli strike on Iran in return for Israeli concessions on the formation of a Palestinian state.

If agreed it would make an Israeli strike on Iran realistic “within the year” said one British official.

Diplomats said that Israel had offered concessions on settlement policy, Palestinian land claims and issues with neighboring Arab states, to facilitate a possible strike on Iran.

“Israel has chosen to place the Iranian threat over its settlements,” said a senior European diplomat.

WASHINGTONIsrael carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Times Topics: Iran's Nuclear Program

Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said.

The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.

Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country’s air force “regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel.”

But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies. A senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on the exercise, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the matter, said the exercise appeared to serve multiple purposes.

One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles.

A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter.

“They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know,” the Pentagon official said. “There’s a lot of signaling going on at different levels.”

Several American officials said they did not believe that the Israeli government had concluded that it must attack Iran and did not think that such a strike was imminent.

Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister who is now a deputy prime minister, warned in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel might have no choice but to attack. “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack,” Mr. Mofaz said in the interview published on June 6, the day after the unpublicized exercise ended. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.”

But Mr. Mofaz was criticized by other Israeli politicians as seeking to enhance his own standing as questions mount about whether the embattled Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, can hang on to power.

Israeli officials have told their American counterparts that Mr. Mofaz’s statement does not represent official policy. But American officials were also told that Israel had prepared plans for striking nuclear targets in Iran and could carry them out if needed.

Iran has shown signs that it is taking the Israeli warnings seriously, by beefing up its air defenses in recent weeks, including increasing air patrols. In one instance, Iran scrambled F-4 jets to double-check an Iraqi civilian flight from Baghdad to Tehran.

“They are clearly nervous about this and have their air defense on guard,” a Bush administration official said of the Iranians.

Any Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities would confront a number of challenges. Many American experts say they believe that such an attack could delay but not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. Much of the program’s infrastructure is buried under earth and concrete and installed in long tunnels or hallways, making precise targeting difficult. There is also concern that not all of the facilities have been detected. To inflict maximum damage, multiple attacks might be necessary, which many analysts say is beyond Israel’s ability at this time.

But waiting also entails risks for the Israelis. Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed fears that Iran will soon master the technology it needs to produce substantial quantities of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

Iran is also taking steps to better defend its nuclear facilities. Two sets of advance Russian-made radar systems were recently delivered to Iran. The radar will enhance Iran’s ability to detect planes flying at low altitude.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said in February that Iran was close to acquiring Russian-produced SA-20 surface-to-air missiles. American military officials said that the deployment of such systems would hamper Israel’s attack planning, putting pressure on Israel to act before the missiles are fielded.

For both the United States and Israel, Iran’s nuclear program has been a persistent worry. A National Intelligence Estimate that was issued in December by American intelligence agencies asserted that Iran had suspended work on weapons design in late 2003. The report stated that it was unclear if that work had resumed. It also noted that Iran’s work on uranium enrichment and on missiles, two steps that Iran would need to take to field a nuclear weapon, had continued.

In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran’s suspected work on nuclear matters was a “matter of serious concern” and that the Iranians owed the agency “substantial explanations.”

Over the past three decades, Israel has carried out two unilateral attacks against suspected nuclear sites in the Middle East. In 1981, Israeli jets conducted a raid against Iraq’s nuclear plant at Osirak after concluding that it was part of Saddam Hussein’s program to develop nuclear weapons. In September, Israeli aircraft bombed a structure in Syria that American officials said housed a nuclear reactor built with the aid of North Korea.

The United States protested the Israeli strike against Iraq in 1981, but its comments in recent months have amounted to an implicit endorsement of the Israeli strike in Syria.

Pentagon officials said that Israel’s air forces usually conducted a major early summer training exercise, often flying over the Mediterranean or training ranges in Turkey where they practice bombing runs and aerial refueling. But the exercise this month involved a larger number of aircraft than had been previously observed, and included a lengthy combat rescue mission.

Much of the planning appears to reflect a commitment by Israel’s military leaders to ensure that its armed forces are adequately equipped and trained, an imperative driven home by the difficulties the Israeli military encountered in its Lebanon operation againstHezbollah.

“They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so if they actually have to do it, they’re ready,” the Pentagon official said. “They’re not taking any options off the table.”

Goldman Sachs is a Problem and the Symptom of a Worse Problem - Goldman is a problem, but more than that it is a symptom of the deeper malaise in the U.S., where the system works for connected rich insiders and doesn't work for ordinary people.

Oh Noes! Senate Bill Not Bipartisan. How Did It Ever Pass?!

Senate health committee passes public plan option. Insurance lobby cries. W. Post: "President Obama's ambitious drive to overhaul the nation's $2.3 trillion health-care system cleared a key Senate committee yesterday. But the administration was promptly buffeted by criticism from some of the industry players and moderate Democrats it has courted for months, calling into question the prospects for a bipartisan landmark bill ... From one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, lawmakers, lobbyists and the president himself all moved quickly to position themselves for the intensifying battle. In the House, a mini-rebellion was erupting over cost controls in its $1.2 trillion bill, while several influential industry groups broke their polite silence and issued pointed attacks on core elements of the legislation."

LA Times reports special interest talking points falling flat: "...the National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative small-business group that is influential in the House, sent a letter to lawmakers saying that the bill 'threatens the viability of our nation's job creators . . . , destroys choice and competition for private insurance and fails to address the core challenge facing small business -- cost.' But the dire predictions were contradicted by a preliminary Congressional Budget Office assessment of the public insurance option contained in the House bill. The CBO estimated that by 2019, just 9 million people would get their insurance from the government plan, while more than 175 million people would get their coverage from private insurers."

CQ explains how surtax on wealthiest would barely affect small biz: "...69.7 percent of the taxpayers who would pay the surtax have some business income. However, those numbers can be misleading ... because a family with some income from a small business may still get the vast majority of its money from wages or investments. A better measure, experts say, is looking at taxpayers who get more than half their adjusted gross income from businesses. Using that metric, 493,000, or 22.8 percent, of the households affected by the surtax are small-business owners, according to the Tax Policy Center. But most of the income subject to the surtax in those households would come from sources other than the business. Only 28.3 percent of their total income is derived from small business. That’s a much different picture than if the Democrats had chosen to finance the health care bill with a more traditional income tax boost. Instead, they chose a surtax on adjusted gross income, which includes long-term capital gains and dividends, spreading the burden to investors in addition to business owners and wage earners ... 'The jobs effect, if there is one, is it makes it cheaper to hire people if we get health care costs under control,' said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal research group."'s Tim Foley contrasts the Senate health committee bill with the House draft bill: "The employer pay (contribute to a fund) or play (give your employees benefits) is weaker than what’s in the House: Wall Street Journal did some estimations and found that a 50-person company with a $2.5 million payroll would pay $200,000 as part of the employer mandate in the House bill, but only $37,500 in the HELP bill. The cost of premiums in the Gateway/Exchange for families at 400% of poverty is a little higher than the House. The cap on how much you spend out-of-pocket is higher, too. The eligibility for people to get their insurance through the Gateway/Exchange would be more closed (the Congressional Budget Office thinks we’d be talking 20 million+ in the Gateways instead of the 30 million + for the House, with those extra millions staying in employer-provided insurance). The 'community health insurance option' would need to negotiate rates with providers from the get-go, meaning it’d take longer to set-up and would have less of an immediate effect on costs – although hey, the Senate HELP bill doesn’t suggest that it will push off creating a public plan until 2013, so it may be faster after all. All true. But considering that the Senate is traditionally the place where a good reform goes to get crushed or die, it’s remarkable all the same that we’re really talking about degrees rather than a fundamentally different or even a gutted plan."

Wonk Room's Igor Volsky on the GOP reaction to the Senate bill: "Republicans Respond To HELP Bill Passage By Lying About The Bill"

NYT on the diminishing appetite for empty bipartisanship: "Senators said the White House had been sending mixed signals. For months, they said, it emphasized the need for a bipartisan bill. But in the last 10 days, one Democrat said, the message has been: 'Hurry up. If you have to go without Republicans, it’s not the end of the world.'"

House progressives playing hardball. HuffPost's Ryan Grim: "Progressive Democrats are taking a hard stand on health care reform, with a majority committing to oppose any health care reform package that doesn't include a robust public option ... [A] whip list was obtained by Joan McCarter, a DailyKos contributing editor. It names fifty members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) who have firmly pledged to oppose any bill that doesn't meet the group's standards. Without those fifty votes, Democrats would be unable to pass the reform effort without Republican support."

NYT editorial board sounds the call for the House health care bill: "This is a bill worth fighting for."

Roger Hickey and Diane Archer tout House bill as benchmark in video:

A Strong Health Reform Bill - House Democratic leaders have unveiled a bill that would go a long way toward solving the nation's health insurance problems without driving up the deficit. It is already drawing fierce opposition from business groups and many Republicans. This is a bill worth fighting for.

While the Senate continues to struggle over its approach to health care reform, House Democratic leaders have unveiled a bill that would go a long way toward solving the nation’s health insurance problems without driving up the deficit. It is already drawing fierce opposition from business groups and many Republicans. This is a bill worth fighting for.

The bill would require virtually all Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. And it would require all but the smallest businesses to provide health insurance for their workers or pay a substantial fee. It would also expand Medicaid to cover many more poor people, and it would create new exchanges through which millions of middle-class Americans could buy health insurance with the help of government subsidies. The result would be near-universal coverage at a surprisingly manageable cost to the federal government.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2015, 97 percent of all residents, excluding illegal immigrants, would have health insurance. The price tag for this near-universal coverage was pegged by the budget office at just more than $1 trillion over 10 years — at the low-end of the estimates we’ve heard in recent weeks.

The legislation would pay for half that cost by reducing spending on Medicare, a staple of all reform plans. It would pay for the other half by raising $544 billion over the next decade with a graduated income surtax on the wealthiest Americans: families with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $350,000 and individuals making more than $280,000.

Predictably, the idea of raising taxes this way has critics outraged, with some charging that it is unfair to require a small sliver of the population to bear the brunt of the cost.

The wealthy have benefited greatly from Bush-era tax cuts, and their incomes have risen disproportionately in recent years. It seems proper that they should contribute heavily to an effort that is vital to hard-pressed Americans and to the long-term health of the economy.

The legislation also includes some sound ideas for slowing the inexorable rise in health care costs. Such savings are also essential for the nation’s economic health. It adjusts Medicare reimbursements to encourage health care providers to improve productivity, reduce costly hospital readmissions and spend more time on primary care that can head off the need for costly specialists. It expands prevention and wellness activities.

And it establishes a center to compare the effectiveness of various drugs, devices and procedures. Unfortunately, it prohibits the government from requiring public or private insurers to set reimbursement policies based on the findings. These steps may not produce big savings quickly but could lower costs in future years.

The bill makes a mockery of Republican claims that the Democrats are pushing a hugely costly government takeover of medicine.

This bill is clearly not hugely costly. It would expand the government’s role in financing and regulating coverage but would also bolster private coverage. It would increase employer-based coverage, mostly by requiring employers to participate. And it would send more clients to the private insurance industry. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that perhaps 10 million people might enroll in a new public plan, while twice that number might enroll in competing private policies.

The Senate health committee has approved, by a party-line vote, a bill that in many respects parallels the House bill. The Senate Finance Committee, hoping to win over Republicans and conservative Democrats, is balking at a public plan and raising taxes on the wealthy. If there is a deal to be had, it is worth discussing. But the House has set a clear standard for health care reform: It must cover all Americans without driving up the deficit.


Posted: Friday, July 17, 2009 9:19 AM by Domenico Montanaro
Filed Under: First Thoughts

From Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Changing nothing: In the Sotomayor hearings, there were four days of statements and questioning, several witnesses, wall-to-wall coverage, and it changed … absolutely nothing. Truth is, there hasn't been a real Supreme Court fight since Clarence Thomas (in '91) and Robert Bork (in '87). Folks, that's 18 to 22 years ago, and since Thomas we've seen four justices confirmed quite easily -- Ginsburg, Breyer, Roberts, Alito -- and Sotomayor is about to make it five. Per the Washington Post, Republicans don’t intend to filibuster Sotomayor. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to consider her nomination on Tuesday, but the committee vote will likely take place the following week, clearing the way for a full Senate vote by Aug. 7. After Bork and Thomas, there's been an easy formula to acing your hearings: smile, be courteous and, most important, make no news. Indeed, it's unlikely we'll see a true SCOTUS fight again, unless the nominee breaks those rules or represents truly changing the ideological composition of the court (e.g., President Obama getting to appoint Anthony Kennedy’s replacement).

Video: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings wrapped up Thursday with more questions about her past speeches, but Republicans acknowledged they won't filibuster the confirmation vote. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Slow ride, take it easy: Yesterday, here was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on health care: “We need to slow down and let the American people see what they’d be getting into with these so-called reforms. We all want reform. But we want the right reform.” And Olympia Snowe said this to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC: “This is a mighty endeavor… So I think it’s more important to get it right, and a thoughtful process will engender greater support.” Coincidence? Well, GOP message guru Alex Castellanos sent a memo to Republicans last week that contained this message advice: “Slow down, Mr. President. We can’t afford to get health care wrong. President Obama is experimenting with America too much, too soon, and too fast.” But it’s not only Republicans who want to slow things down. After meeting yesterday with Obama, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson released a statement saying he suggested to the president that “we not impose an arbitrary deadline to get something done.”

Dem vs. Dem? Nelson, of course, is one of a handful of Democratic senators who is seeing the DNC run TV ads on health care in his backyard. Yesterday, responding to those ads, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, "It's a waste of money to have Democrats running ads against Democrats." But his office later clarified his remarks. "Sen. Reid was led to believe by the question posed to him that the DNC was attacking members of his caucus. In fact, the DNC is running non-specific call to action ads in states with both Democratic and Republican senators, an effort he has no problem with." Even though he doesn’t have a problem with the ads, they’re pretty remarkable. We don’t remember the RNC running TV ads in states represented by GOP senators during the Social Security and immigration fights. Then again, those initiatives didn’t make it through Congress…

Video: NBC's David Gregory joins Morning Joe to talk about the trillion dollar 'massive overhaul' that is Obama's health care plan, and whether it will save America money in the long run.

The Great American Health Care Fight:Here are other developments from yesterday: The Congressional Budget Office cast doubts whether the House Democratic and Senate HELP bills would end up lowering health-care costs… The American Medical Association says it backs the House Democratic bill… The House Ways and Means Committee passed that billby a 23-18 vote late last night… And the Senate Finance Committee seems set to produce its bill next week.

Biography is destiny: Since becoming president, Obama has sometimes talked about his biography with powerful effect. He referred to it in Turkey when stressing the need for minority rights there (“I say this as the president of a country that not too long ago made it hard for someone who looks like me to vote”). He mentioned it in Ghana (“I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story”). And he talked about it last night in his speech to the NAACP -- his first as president to a mostly African-American audience. “I know what can happen to a child who doesn't have that chance. But I also know what can happen to a child who does,” he said. “I was raised by a single mother. I don't come from a lot of wealth. I got into my share of trouble as a kid. My life could easily have taken a turn for the worse. But that mother of mine gave me love; she pushed me, and cared about my education; she took no lip and taught me right from wrong. Because of her, I had a chance to make the most of my abilities. I had the chance to make the most of my opportunities. I had the chance to make the most of life.”

Potential backlash at Wall Street? First there was Goldman Sach’s huge quarterly profit. Now this, per the New York Times: “Bank of America, one of the nation’s largest and most troubled banks, announced on Friday a $3.2 billion second-quarter profit, a figure that exceeded analyst expectations.” Argues Paul Krugman about Goldman Sach’s profits: “The bottom line is that Goldman’s blowout quarter is good news for Goldman and the people who work there. It’s good news for financial superstars in general, whose paychecks are rapidly climbing back to precrisis levels. But it’s bad news for almost everyone else."

Summers day: Obama today has no public events. The administration official in the spotlight today is chief White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who speaks about the economy at 11:00 am ET in DC.

End of card check? The New York Times front-pages that Democrats have shelved organized labor’s key wish -- a law recognizing unions if a majority of workers sign cards saying they want one -- and instead are pushing for shorter unionization campaigns and other labor law reforms. “While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders argued this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing. Some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.”

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