Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

It Depends Which Side You're On

An interesting story in the NYTimes about the issue of John McCain's birth outside the continental United States, McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out.

Of course, the issue it raises is whether it could disqualify him from the presidency because he's not a "natural born citizen," as the constitution requires. Why do I think that the issue would be looked at differently if the candidate were a Democrat?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Jim Morin, Miami Herald

The Last Great Debate

video

So I hear there's a debate tonight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in what is being billed as the Last Great Debate.

In what is a preview of what to expect, here's a video of the debate, with stand-ins from SNL.

UPDATE (2/27): Little did I know how prescient I would be labeling this clip a preview of the debate. Clinton referenced the adoring press shown to her opponent, as portrayed in the recent Saturday Night Live "debate." As the NYTimes observed, 20th Debate: Reality Show or a Spinoff?:

Mrs. Clinton wanted the world to understand that the press is tougher on her than on Barack Obama. And she made her case by citing a sketch on last week’s “Saturday Night Live” that showed mock debate moderators grilling her stand-in, Ms. Poehler, but fawning over the Obama character. “Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I don’t mind, you know, I’ll be happy to field them. But I do find it curious. And if anybody saw ‘Saturday Night Live,’ maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.” (The pillow was her own flourish; on the show, the actors playing journalists asked the faux Obama if he was comfortable.)

And for the rest of the evening, the MSNBC debate did look a bit like the “S.N.L.” parody.

Closed Mouth Matches Mind

Two years and 144 cases have passed since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke up at oral arguments. It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court's unceasing inquiries.
This according to an AP article on the Supreme Court, No Questions in 2 Years. Contrary to Thomas' silence, the piece contrasts his demeanor with that of the rest of the Court:
Hardly a case goes by, including two appeals that were argued Monday, without eight justices peppering lawyers with questions. Oral arguments offer justices the chance to resolve nagging doubts about a case, probe its weaknesses or make a point to their colleagues.

* * * *
Leaning back in his leather chair, often looking up at the ceiling, Thomas takes it all in, but he never joins in.
As the article observes, the other justices grill the lawyers appearing before the court with questions. This is consistent with my experience clerking on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The cases that are argued before these courts often present unusual or novel questions of law, so questions on the issues raised are a natural part of the decision-making process.

Of course, this is not necessary if your mind is as closed as your mouth.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Swing Shift

This is a fascinating study in many ways regarding the religious preferences of Americans.

The NYTimes reports on a Pew study on faith, Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds:

More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

* * * *

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found.

* * * *

While the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s, Protestants accounted for about two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 51 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires.

“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

So, maybe we can form an "ex" religion for the those people formerly known as Catholic. It would be a larger group than the total of many other religions, such as Buddhist, Muslin or Jewish, which are all in the 1-2% range.

Similarly, even among Protestants, there is a reluctance to commit, as was noted in Survey: U.S. religious landscape in flux:
Many Americans have vague denominational ties at best. People who call themselves "just a Protestant," in fact, account for nearly 10 percent of all Protestants.
However, what is most interesting about the study is the fact that "unaffiliated" or no religious preference is growing -- at the same time that the extreme religious right is trying to impose the equivalent of governmental sanctioned religion.

Based upon the clear trends, at some point, no religion will be the majority non-religion and perhaps we could then again adopt the separation of Church and State as the law of the land. What a concept that would be.

UPDATE (2/26): For a chart showing the prominence of "None of the Above" as a religious choice, see Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which shows that Unaffiliated is the 4th choice (with 16.1%), after Evangelicals at 26.3%, Catholics at 23.9% and Mainline Protestants at 18.1%. Of course, when you consider that the Evangelicals comprise over a dozen different denominations (most of which only garner somewhere between 1-2%), it would seem that their influence should necessarily be diluted. After all, they can't speak with one voice, can they?

NPR's Morning Edition also carried a segment on the study this morning, Religion Survey Finds Many Americans Swap Faiths.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune

Bitch is the New Black


video

A don't miss video was SNL's Weekend Update, Women's News segment, with Tina Fey. Fey notes that women have come so far as feminists that they don't feel obligated to vote for Clinton just because she's a woman (ouch) and then she proceeds to provide a litany of reasons that we should support Hillary. It's fabulous.

As Rachel Sklar of Huffington Post put it:

But what bugged her most, said Fey, was when people said that Clinton was a bitch. "Yeah, she is," said Fey. "And so am I — and so is this one over here," gesturing at Amy Poehler. "Yeah, deal with it," said Poehler. Fey's point: Bitches got things done, yo, and that's why Hillary would be a good president. "So I'm sayin, it's not too late, Texas and Ohio, get on board! Bitch is the new black!"
See SNL's Campaign Trail: Fauxbama, Huckabee, And Tina Fey Endorsing Clinton.

As part of her bitch analogy, she even includes a hilarious reference to Catholic schools that I can totally relate to. Fey basically says that's why Catholic schools use nuns, not priests, to teach kids. Those nuns are mean old and they're allowed to hit you. At the end of the year, you may have hated those bitches, but you knew the capital of Vermont!

So now I know why I'm such a bitch (yeah, so deal with it) -- it's all the nuns' fault . . .

I may have to adopt this as my motto -- and I'm sure anyone that knows me will heartily endorse that.

For more SNL videos, see Saturday Night Live.

(Via onegoodmove)

UPDATE (3/16): The "bitching" Commentary by Tracy Morgan to Tina Fey's Editorial can be found at Back At You.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How about that John McCain?




I am no fan of John McCain. But it seems like he's been taking a real beating these past few days. It almost makes you sympathize with the guy.

Of course, there's the problems with his trying to do an end run around public financing with the FEC, McCain's FEC Problem, then there's the explosive NYTimes piece on the revelations of his close ties to lobbyists, For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk, including those who are running his campaign, The Anti-Lobbyist, Advised by Lobbyists.

On top of that, there are the follow up issues with his mendacity being on display, see When parts of McCain’s defense don’t add up and Oops ... And then of course, there's the bombshell about the blonde, It Depends on the Meaning of "Essentially".

So, to deflect from all the bad news, I thought that I'd focus on another aspect of McCain's persona. The video is a clip from a recent David Letterman skit on John McCain.

If that leaves you wanting more, try this:

"How about that John McCain? He looks like the guy at the movies whose wife has to repeat everything. He looks like the guy who has to always be told something is on his chin. He looks like a guy who still has a rotary phone. He looks like a guy who's backed over his own mailbox. He looks like a guy whose sweater is always mis-buttoned. He looks like the guy who always tells you he's 72 years young. He looks like the guy who's bragged that oatmeal has lowered his cholesterol. He looks like the guy who should be co-hosting with Kelly Ripa." –David Letterman
From Daniel Kurtzman's Political Humor blog, David Letterman Mocks 'Old Guy' John McCain

I suppose I should confess -- I didn't really mean it about the almost part. In fact, it merely makes me want to ask, what took so long?

(Video via The Huffington Post)

Cartoon of the Day


Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

The Trials of Terrible Tom

It was two years ago that the death sentence was overturned by the Delaware Supreme Court, No More Capano Capers, and nearly a dozen years since Anne Marie Fahey was murdered by lawyer Thomas Capano. And yet the case lives on in many ways.

The Delaware News Journal reports on the latest legal ruling on the matter, in Capano will get hearing on new trial bid:

A federal judge has agreed to hear arguments next month about why Tom Capano's 1999 conviction for the murder of Anne Marie Fahey should be overturned.

Such a hearing is unusual, said Professor Thomas J. Reed of Widener University School of Law. Most such "habeas corpus" petitions are resolved, and usually denied, without oral arguments. That the judge will hear arguments in this case indicates he must believe Capano has raised a significant issue, Reed said.

Still, Reed said, the standard Capano must overcome to win a new trial is "extremely high."

I hadn't realized there was a federal appeal of the trial pending until I saw this piece. Apparently, the appeal has been in limbo because of problems finding a judge to hear the case. In Two years later, Capano appeal in limbo, the New Journal reported:

Thomas Capano's federal appeal of his 1999 conviction in the murder of Anne Marie Fahey remains in limbo.

After nearly two years in the federal court system -- both sides have completed their arguments about whether or not Capano's conviction was flawed -- the appeal has no judge assigned to make a final ruling.

This month District Judge Sue L. Robinson recused herself from the case, so the final decision on the appeal will now likely come from a federal judge outside Delaware.

* * * *

His federal appeal of the conviction -- in which he argued, among other things, ineffective counsel and mistakes by the trial judge -- was filed Jan. 30, 2006.

The appeal was assigned to District Judge Kent A. Jordan, who oversaw several months of briefings but left the District Court in December 2006 to take a seat on the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was then assigned to "vacant judgeship" -- Jordan's unnamed replacement in the Delaware federal district.

As I observed in Honor Thy Father & Mother, the case is one of those that captures the imagination of the public, with several books and TV movies and documentaries about the case. Just last week, a special about the trial, A Deadly Affair, was shown on TV. See The Tom & Gerry Show, for highlights.

In contrast to the Fahey/Capano case, another local case seems to have dropped off the radar screen. It was a year ago that the body of the newborn son of then Drexel student Mia Sardella was discovered, see Momma Mia. First degree murder charges were dropped last October, Pretty Plea, and the trial on the remaining charges of third degree murder, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse was scheduled for the end of January in Delaware County court. Teen Expected In Court After Newborn Death. I'm certain that the fact that Sardella is the granddaughter of Albert E. Piscopo, chief executive of the Glenmede Trust Co., an elite Philadelphia-based investment firm, has nothing to do with the lack of news on the status of the case.

UPDATE (8/5/08): For the latest news on the Capano case, see Reflections of Life, reporting on the decision of the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied Capano's request for a new trial.


Most.Unpopular.Ever


With all of the attention on the upcoming primaries for the Presidential race, this little gem may have slipped by.

Daily News reporter/blogger Will Bunch highlights the milestone, Worse than Watergate: Bush scores lowest presidential approval rating EVER!, noting:

George W. Bush is now the most unpopular president in recorded American history. (h/t Atrios)

Worse than Richard Nixon in the days before he resigned in disgrace during Watergate, worse than Jimmy Carter during the Iran hostage crisis, much worse than Bill Clinton when he was impeached. Just as Roger Bannister raced through what once seemed the unreachable 4-minute mile, Bush has burst through a barrier once also thought impossible, below the 20-percent mark.

Citing a survey by The American Research Group, Inc:

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.
Bunch then considers these statistics and inquires:
How does it compare to other presidents? There's no comparison.

Nixon, as he was hounded out of office in August 1974, never dipped below the mid-20s.

Here's a pretty good compilation of poll numbers from Roper. To summarize the highlights:

Clinton low: 36 percent, May 1993 (early missteps like Zoe Baird)

George H.W. Bush low: 29 percent, August 1992 (recession)

Reagan low: 35 percent, January 1983 (recession)

Carter low: 28 percent, July 1979 (high gas prices)

Ford low: 37 percent, January 1975 (economy, Nixon pardon)

Nixon low: 23 percent, January 1974 (Watergate)

Johnson low: 35 percent, August 1968 (Vietnam)

Lowest ever? That would be Harry Truman during the Korean War, in February 1952, at 22 percent.

And so now George W. Bush has shattered a record that has stood for 55 long years, and there's not any one reason. It's everything, although I suspect that liberals would more likely say Iraq and torture, conservatives would say immigration and runaway spending, and everyone would now say the economy.

I've noted on several occasions that Bush is without a doubt the worst ever, see, e.g., It's No Contest, Without.A.Doubt, Worst. President. Ever. Last year Bill Maher devoted on of his best New Rules to why Bush is the worst. As I noted in an earlier post, he did some research on the presidents:

Maher then leads into his analysis of Bush, compared to other former Presidents. Maher says that while other President's have sucked in their own individual ways, Bush is like a smörgåsbord of suck. He combines the corruption of Warren G. Harding, the warmongering of James Polk and the abuse of power of Richard Nixon. It's brilliant -- and true.

Check it out at A Smorgasbord of Suck.

(Cartoon: Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Day for Peace





Peace Sign Turns 50

[T]he peace sign turns fifty years old today. Over the past five decades the peace sign has become one of the world’s enduring icons. The original peace sign was developed in 1958 by a British textile designer and conscientious objector named Gerald Holtom. He created the symbol by combining the semaphore letters N and D, for nuclear disarmament. On Feb. 21, 1958 the symbol was accepted by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War. The symbol soon began to be used in anti-nuclear protests across Britain and then spread across the globe.

Democracy Now!

Worth noting in these times. Also interesting to see its origin. I always assumed that it came out of the 60's peace movement.

(Via Crooks and Liars)

Cartoon of the Day


David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I Know a Republican

During my last year of law school and the summer after I graduated, I worked in the District Attorney's Office. After that, I clerked on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for a Judge who was a Nixon Appointee. Then, I spend the next five years working for a large, white shoe, conservative (Republican) law firm.

Based upon my resume, one who think (as many who don't know me well do) that I am rather conservative in my political beliefs. Despite all that, I was then -- and now -- an anti-death penalty, flaming liberal, Democrat. And although I disagreed (vehemently) with the politics of many of the people I met in those various jobs, I did like a good number of the people that I met there. Some (including the Judge) are still among the people that I still count as friends.

So, what's my point? It's the political equivalent to you can't judge a book by its cover.

That anyone could consider associations like this worth talking about, never mind wasting an article on, is the height of ridiculous. Such as this piece on the Politico, which caption says it all, Obama once visited '60s radicals. The article scandalously notes:

In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

While Ayers and Dohrn may be thought of in Hyde Park as local activists, they’re better known nationally as two of the most notorious — and unrepentant — figures from the violent fringe of the 1960s anti-war movement.
If I could list all of the deadly events that I've attended over the years, as a favor for one friend or another, in support of people I didn't like. Trust me, attendance doesn't turn you into a convert. Truth be told, it only serves to confirm that the view put forth is not for you.

All I can say is: Wow. Wow. Wow.

So Obama was once at an event that Ayers and Dohrn hosted and now he's one of them? If only.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Ode to Black History Month


Malcolm X
Assassinated on this day in 1965

As noted in BBC News, On this Day, Black nationalist leader shot dead:
Controversial black leader Malcolm X, who once called for a 'blacks-only' state in the US, has been assassinated.

He was shot several times as he began a speech to 400 of his followers at the Audubon Ballroom just outside the district of Harlem in New York.

Malcolm X, who was 39, was taken to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
Contemplating Malcolm X on this day, Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House ponders how Malcolm would view Barack Obama's candidacy, in What Would Malcom X Think?:
The answer depends upon which Malcolm X you are talking about, or perhaps identify with.

Malcolm X the angry father of Black Power? The closet conservative? The Pan-African socialist? The Black Muslim? The Sunni Muslim?

The question is probably unanswerable, but it is worth pondering on this the 43rd anniversary of his assassination because so much has changed in black America – and in some respects too little.

As a great orator himself, Malcom X certainly would have appreciated Obama’s speaking skills and power to motivate. Late in life he began reaching out to white people and inclusiveness is a theme of Obama’s campaign.

As Shaun says, it's impossible to know, but I like to think that the Malcolm that he was growing into before his death would have supported Obama.

My daughter did a research paper on Malcolm X last year, and we spent a good bit of time discussing his life and beliefs. I do believe that he would have had some serious reservations about Obama's commitment to the cause because of his moderate, conciliatory views, especially with respect to race. On the other hand, I also think that he was beginning to see that segregation and racial hatred (voluntary or imposed) were self destructive and was making progress in bridging that divide. He evolved from the fight for Black power to that of human rights.

Ultimately, I think he would have admired Obama's progress in being a serious, formidable candidate who may well end up in the White House. A respected, intelligent, passionate man who is able to inspire people to action. Isn't that what Malcolm X was about, after all?

~ ~ ~
Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.

From Malcolm Speaks

Jon Speak

video

In what I guess is turning into an annual event, see Are You Insane?, Jon Stewart appeared on Larry King Live, riffing on the presidential primary races -- the candidates, Democrats, Republicans and that the mood of the race reflects "a moment in time."

(Via onegoodmove)

It Depends on the Meaning of "Essentially"

This is certainly taking the phrase he's in bed with lobbyists to a whole new level. In a piece on the ethical issues of Mr. Ethics, the NYTimes reports that John McCain was having an affair during his last campaign run, For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

The best line in the piece is:
“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.” (Emphasis added)
I guess it depends on the meaning of "essentially." Of course McCain denies that there was any relationship. McCain's Ties To Lobbyist Worried Aides. And we should believe him why? Because he would never do that?

It seems that McCain, who had once revealed to fellow prisoners of war in Vietnam that he wanted to be president, was restless in 1979. As Navy liaison to the Senate, he didn't have the career momentum he had counted on to propel him into an admiralty and on to the White House. He was 42, mired in stifling ordinariness. (Civilians call it "midlife crisis.")

But McCain was making bold career moves on the home front, hotly pursuing a 25-year-old blond from a wealthy Arizona family -- while married. Carol, his wife at the time, had once been quite a babe herself apparently, until a near-fatal car accident (while her husband was in Vietnam) left her 4 inches shorter, overweight and on crutches. The couple had three children, whom Carol cared for alone while her husband was in Vietnamese prisons.

McCain's strategy worked perfectly: After chasing Cindy Hensley around the country for six months, he closed the deal late in the year, had a divorce by February and was married to Hensley shortly thereafter. Bingo! McCain was a candidate for Congress by early 1982, his coffers full, his home in the proper Arizona district purchased.

See Different hero, different war.

Oh, but I'm sure that was different. His wife was disabled after a terrible accident, while his new wife was (much) younger, prettier and rich. Vicki Iseman, the lobbyist, is only younger than the current model. Otherwise, they could be separated at birth.



I guess Cindy McCain's no longer too worried or focused on whether Michelle Obama "is really proud of the county" for the first time as an adult. See Like Manna From Heaven. Looks like she may have other things to worry about.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Spice of Life



When I read that the Spice Girls were coming to Philly, I had a major flashback. I almost hate to admit it, but I saw the SPICE GIRLS in concert at the Wachovia Centre -- 10 years ago, on June 27, 1998. The Spice Girls were probably the first group that my daughter fell in love with. She had all of their music, as well as all of the assorted accessories that they sold at the time. I managed to pull some strings with a close friend, who's at one of the big firms in Center City, to get Box Seats for the concert. My daughter and her best friend got to see those Spicey Girls, while I at least got to hang out with my friend, eating -- and drinking -- in comfort. Umm, I even think there was a concert going on.

Luckily, to make up for it, I also saw Bob James in concert on June 30th of that year.

Of course, she's past the days of the Spice Girls now, with an 18th birthday on the horizon next month. But we did have a few minutes of fun reminiscing about the Spice Girl days.

See TONITE: Here Come The Warm Spice MILFs and TOP FIVE REASONS WHY THE SPICE GIRLS WAS BETTER THAN WHATEVER 90’s PRE-FAB POP REUNION CONCERT YOU WERE AT LAST NIGHT.

Cartoon of the Day


Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

'Resolved' With Prejudice

So the lawsuit against a law firm by a female lawyer claiming prejudice is resolved -- with prejudice. Sounds about right. So does that mean if they weren't prejudiced against her before, they are now? Well, we'll never know, since part of "resolved with prejudice" is no doubt an agreement between the parties to keep the terms confidential.

Philadelphia's Legal Intelligencer reports, in Discrimination Lawsuit Against Cozen O'Connor Is Quietly 'Resolved':

The sex discrimination suit against Cozen O'Connor by a female partner who claimed she was ousted because of a political double standard has been quietly settled.

Court records in Biswanger v. Cozen O'Connor show that just one month after the firm filed its formal answer to Patricia Biswanger's suit, lawyers on both sides filed a stipulation of dismissal.

I wrote about the Biswanger case last year, see Legal Tales and Nobody Does It Better. Patricia Biswanger, a junior partner at Cozen O'Connor, claimed that Cozen fired her for her political activities because of her sex, since it permitted male attorneys to be politically active at the firm. Of course, as much as I love legal intrigue and lawyers squabbling against each other, the fact that she got involved in some nasty politics involving the President Judge on the bench in Delaware County no doubt factored into it. However, we'll never know the details of their legal truce. As the article provides:

Ordinarily, such one-page court filings note that the case is being dismissed under Local Rule 41.1(b), indicating that the case has "settled."

But in Biswanger's case, the filing made no mention of the local rule, and the two lawyers who signed it -- Michael J. Salmanson of Salmanson Goldshaw for the plaintiff and Howard R. Flaxman of Fox Rothschild for the defense -- said only that the case "has been resolved."

And while Rule 41.1(b) provides for cases to be dismissed "without prejudice," the filing in Biswanger's case said the agreed-upon dismissal was "with prejudice."

In interviews, both Salmanson and Flaxman made it clear that they would not use the word "settlement." Both repeatedly stated that the only comment they would have was that "the matter has been resolved."

Only lawyers could parse the distinction between the words "resolved" and "settled" so that they could possibly mean something other than the commonly understood definitions of the words. Isn't a settlement a resolution (and vice-versa)?

Leave it to lawyers to obfuscate and confuse to the end, including the ending of the lawsuit.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why Does He Care?




video

The Daily Show is back and Jon Stewart wasted no time zeroing in on the important news of the day. In the latest installment of his new feature, Torture Talk, see Tortured Logic, Stewart discusses the issue of the inquiry into the destroyed detainee interrogation tapes by the CIA.

Leading the way is our own Pennsylvania Senator, Arlen Specter, who is looking into a full investigation of the destruction of tapes. Oops, but not by the CIA, but the New England Patriots.

Stewart asks "Why Does He Care?"

Of course, the answer is that Arlen has been a fan of the Eagles and is concerned that the spying may have impacted the Super Bowl between the Eagles and the Patriots. See also, Is that a Cave?

Manila Ryce of The Largest Minority, explains the phenomenon:

Just as the Roman Colosseum served the political purpose of diverting the attention of citizens of the Roman Empire away from corruption and state-sponsored barbarism, so too do sports in the American Empire demand the full attention of citizens who live vicariously through their home team, and divide an otherwise unified populace against each other in symbolic warfare. Sports are meaningless. They don’t matter. Yet, more Americans are completely dedicated to these billion dollar diversions than to the unjust political processes which truly affect them.
Specter, like John McCain, are relics of what used to be the moderate wing of the Republican Party. In order to survive, they long ago had to debase themselves to the conservative base. Now, they spend a lot of time mouthing the words of moderation before they fall in line and vote in lockstep with the party wishes (demands). They rely on the fact that most people will only remember the words, not the actual vote, and still believe that they have an ounce of independence.

But the reality is, they gave it away long ago. As Jon Stewart says for us all:
I guess it's tough when an institution that you used to respect disappoints you, Senator.

Grumpy Old White Guys

After my recent essays on the downside of the Democratic primary and the undercurrent of racial issues, see here and here, I thought it was time to look again to the positives. And I do believe that the positives in this race have surpassed the remnants of the old ways. It's worth noting that Pennsylvania is a state with one of the older populations in this country and that youth and the changing demographic of our citizens is on the side of Obama.

Frank Rich of the NYTimes notes this dynamic in The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama, saying:

THE curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.

Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.

But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male. Such has been the inescapable Republican brand throughout this campaign, ever since David Letterman memorably pegged its lineup of presidential contenders last spring as “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”

* * * *

The 2008 primary campaign has been so fast and furious that we haven’t paused to register just how spectacular that change is. All the fretful debate about whether voters would turn out for a candidate who is a black or a woman seems a century ago. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama vanquished the Democratic field, including a presidential-looking Southern white man with an enthusiastic following, John Edwards. What was only months ago an exotic political experiment is now almost ho-hum.

Given that the American story has been so inextricable from the struggle over race, the Obama triumph has been the bigger surprise to many.

* * * *

Mr. Obama’s ascension hardly means that racism is kaput in America, or that the country is “postracial” or “transcending race.” But it’s impossible to deny that another barrier has been surmounted.

* * * *

Whatever the potency of his political skills and message, Mr. Obama is also riding a demographic wave. The authors of the new book “Millennial Makeover,” Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, point out that the so-called millennial generation (dating from 1982) is the largest in American history, boomers included, and that roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent. It’s this generation that is fueling the excitement and some of the record turnout of the Democratic primary campaign, and not just for Mr. Obama.

Even by the low standards of his party, Mr. McCain has underperformed at reaching millennials in the thriving culture where they live. His campaign’s effort to create a MySpace-like Web site flopped. His most-viewed appearances on YouTube are not viral videos extolling him or replaying his best speeches but are instead sendups of his most reckless foreign-policy improvisations — his threat to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his jokey warning (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”) that he will bomb Iran. In the vast arena of the Internet he has been shrunk to Grumpy Old White Guy, the G.O.P. brand incarnate.
So, notwithstanding Governor Ed Rendell's concerns about the segment of the conservative whites who aren't ready to vote for a black president, I do agree that the future is with Obama, not the haters here. Finally!

Cartoon of the Day


Bruce Plante, Tulsa World

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

In a speech to Missouri Republicans yesterday, former attorney general John Ashcroft defended President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and his record on civil liberties, declaring that Bush is “among the most respectful of all leaders ever” when it comes to “respecting the civil liberties and rights of individuals.” Bush “respects liberty so profoundly that he has protected it and has safeguarded civil liberties more than any other president in wartime that I know of,” Ashcroft said. Ashcroft’s comments come on the heels of Bush’s decision to allow the civil liberties oversight board to go vacant.
From: Think Progress

(Via Crooks and Liars)

The Contest

Race and sex. It seems like it's become a contest between the Obama/Clinton camps to see which candidate wins the "you think you got it bad" contest.

I wrote about Governor Ed Rendell's so-called racial comments regarding Obama the other day. See Ed the Rant-dell. The brouhaha hasn't died down. Rendell is still being pilloried for his comments about the state of race relations in the "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania" state. The Philadelphia Inquirer chastised him in a recent editorial, Rendell on Obama, which basically said that while Rendell may have been correct on the facts, he should have known better than to say them. This also seems to be the view of the NAACP, which likewise scolded Rendell for his comments. Rendell's had to spend a lot of time this week explaining himself, see Rendell defends race quote and Rendell offers his defense on Obama race remark.

During a session with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board, Rendell was asked to handicap the upcoming primary in the state, which he did. He speculated that some of the conservative white voters in this state might not be ready to vote for a black candidate. Interestingly, the latest poll shows Clinton leading Obama 52 to 36%, Clinton leading Obama in Ohio, Pennsylvania, which seems to lend support to his view. Gee, you think race may have something to do with it?

And the more I've read about Rendell's comments, the more I'm convinced that he spoke the truth -- a truth that is not pleasant or pretty, but is nonetheless correct. Frankly, I would have said the same thing. I've lived in Scranton, Harrisburg/York, Pittsburgh and Philly, so I've been exposed to a fair cross-section of the state in my life. That's not to say that a majority of voters here are racist, but we certainly do have our share. And they are not all Republicans either, much as it would be nice to put the bad guys in the bad guy party.

In fact, no one who knows the state denies that there are racists alive and kicking here, who would never vote for Obama or any other person who happens to be of another race. Yet we're supposed to pretend that it doesn't really exist? For some, it's better to imagine the world as how we'd like it to be, rather than how it is? But in the end, does that help us move forward? We can't work at changing something that we won't admit exists, can we? Yet, the message seems to be that denial is desirable over truth.

Tony Norman, who originally wrote the piece that caused the uproar, penned a follow-up column, Rendell's race problem -- and ours, stating:

Nobody feels sorrier for Gov. Ed Rendell than I do.

Thanks to an item in my column on Tuesday, Mr. Rendell has had to deal with a tsunami of unwanted and unflattering national attention. The column was picked up by political Web sites and quickly metastasized.

* * * *

Those of us who live in this state are painfully aware that there are many parts of Pennsylvania that will never be confused with a racial Shangri-la.

What little diversity there is in Pennsylvania is concentrated in Harrisburg and the two big cities that anchor both ends of the state. We should probably throw Erie into the mix for good measure while we're at it.

When Democratic campaign svengali James Carville famously described our peculiar political landscape -- it's Philadelphia on the east, Pittsburgh on the west and Alabama in the middle -- it resonated in our bones. It's one of the reasons I riffed on Alabama in that column.

Despite this acknowledgment, Norman still believes that Rendell should not have expressed his opinion. To me, it's like telling someone who's gay to stay in the closet -- life will be better so long as you don't recognize the "facts of life," so to speak. I'm not so sure. It doesn't change the fact that the person in the closet is still gay. Nor will it change the fact that the bigots won't vote for Obama. It's that sentiment that will lull us into a false sense of security. Greg Mitchell of Pressing Issues Racist voters, R.I.P.?, explains it best:
As I have pointed out for awhile, it amazes me that so many Obama backers, and fawning media, seem to act like racism ended in the U.S. at some point in the recent past. They have been carried away by Obama's strong showing so far -- while ignoring the evidence (as I have observed here a couple of times) that, indeed, some whites still are voting against him on the basis of race. I'm not saying that race is the major factor in this campaign but the extent that it is pooh-poohed surprises me. Rendell never said it was a large number -- but a number. Obama himself said in Virginia this week, 'Sure, there are some people who will not vote for me because I'm black and there are some people who will vote for me because I am black.'

Sometimes I even wonder if one reason so many conservative pundits, such as Bill Kristol, are saying so many nice things about Obama is that secret GOP polling shows that Obama will actually pose a weaker threat in November (for this reason) than Hillary. I feel there is a built-in 'ceiling' for each of them: Obama because of race, and Hillary as a woman and someone who is hated by so many.
In an NPR Radio Times discussion on the subject (audio available at Phawker), Norman implicitly recognized the reality of this when he noted that several years ago, Klansman David Duke received the largest percentage of contributions for his Louisiana race from Pennsylvanians. Likewise, last week, Wilkes Barre Blogger Gort42, observed of Obama: "If it comes down to PA I'm not optimistic. People that are circulating petitions are being met with the objection about the color of his skin or they got an email saying he he is a muslim." See also, In Pennsylvania, race is still a voter issue.

As former Inky columnist Clark DeLeon (miss you) said about the issue, in fast eddie, you got a biiiiiiggggg mouth:

Will everyone please grow up. Saying that some white people might not vote for Obama because he is black is like saying some Republicans won't vote for a Democrat. Are we supposed to act surprised? Do Republicans vote for Democratic candidates? Yes. Do Democrats vote for Republicans? Yes. But is that the way to bet on an election?

Rendell -- who got into trouble in 2004 while chairman of the Democratic National Committeee for suggesting that some people might not vote for a Jewish vice president -- got into trouble for that despite being Jewish himself. He also told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that he thought some voters wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. (Don't stand next to Fast Eddie in a lightning storm!) According to the radio report from NPR's WHYY-FM, the Post-Gazette columnist who wrote about Rendell's remark about people not voting for Obama because he's black didn't mention Rendell's remark about people not voting for Clinton because she's a woman because the columnist wasn't surprised by that.

Doh!!!

Right. Never thought to mention the bias against woman issue, because that was not a surprise.
Speaking of the "woman stuff," Barack Obama has been in hot water over his recent comments about Hillary Clinton, which some have claimed are sexist. He said:
This is, I understand Senator Clinton periodically when she is feeling down launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal. But I think this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for. What they are looking for is ways to actually help send their kids to college or find a job or get health care and that is what we have stayed focused on in this race. And I think that is one of the reasons we have been doing pretty well over the last several weeks.
According to of Talk Left,
In a campaign marked by news coverage unrelenting in its sexism and misogyny, especially from NBC, the last thing we can afford is sexism from the frontrunning candidate. Barack Obama needs to apologize for this remark.
Apparently, "feeling down" is supposed to mean that Clinton gets the vapors, like we women are wont to do and "periodically" is code for that time of the month.

Give me a break. Trust me -- I am not someone who would suffer a sexist fool gladly (or lightly). And I have been known to express my disdain for the sexist fool in appropriate situations, in no uncertain terms. However, I'm with Balloon Juice on this one:
Look, I believe there has been a good bit of sexism launched at Hillary this campaign, and have said as much. I haven’t seen any of it, however, from Obama and his campaign.

Pretending this is a sexist attack is as stupid as pretending that when Clinton called Obama a “kid” means he was calling him a “boy,” which of course means Clinton was actually calling Obama the n-bomb. That was stupid. This assertion is stupid.
See also, I Don’t Need a Dogwhistle.

Let's just call it a draw.

New New Rules

video

It's time for some Saturday Silliness.

The return of the Rules on Real Time with Bill Maher. And for the Rule deprived during the Writer's Strike, Maher provides an expanded edition -- or, as he put it, like a double album.


(Via onegoodmove)

Cartoon of the Day


Glenn McCoy, NYTimes

Friday, February 15, 2008

You Are a Liar, Mr. President

Once again, divine intervention intercedes to prevent the White House from getting its way on the FISA legislation. After the expected craven cave in by the Senate earlier this week, The Senate offers amnesty to the telecom companies, the House actually called Bush's bluff by refusing to acquiesce to his demands to expand warrantless wiretapping and provide immunity to the telecom industry. FISA Fight: This round to the Dems. For my recent discussion on the issues involved in this issue, see Free Pass?.

Predictably, President Bush is claiming that that the sky is falling, House Leaves Surveillance Law to Expire, which is just more of the same from our Liar-in-Chief. To the contrary, as Glenn Greenwald explains in FISA 101:

FISA and the Protect America Act both equally allow eavesdropping on the Terrorists Who Want to Kill Us. The material difference is that FISA requires warrants for eavesdropping on Americans (after the fact, if necessary) while the Protect America Act allows the President to eavesdrop on any Americans without having any oversight at all. The difference does not relate to the ability to eavesdrop on the Terrorists but on the nature and level of oversight from that eavsdropping. Moreover, the FISA Court is and always has been a rubber-stamping tribunal that does not ever block any surveillance on any suspected Terrorists.
Keith Olbermann also provided a scathing Special Comment, chastising Bush for callously playing the fear card:

video

(Transcript available at Crooks and Liars)

Steve Benen of Crooks & Liars puts the issues in perspective, in The FISA question the right can’t answer:

National Review’s Andy McCarthy:

“Well it looks like the unconscionable is about to occur. I am hearing from several sources that the House is planning to recess on Friday without taking up the Senate bill. That would mean the lapse of our surveillance authority at midnight…. President Bush has to keep pounding this, as does Sen. McCain. This is not politics, folks. For grown-ups, this is life and death.”

If the powers extended through the PPA were genuinely a matter of “life and death,” and the bill’s expiration were “unconscionable,” they why not drop telecom immunity?

Look, if it’s that important, there’s a simple answer: pass the bill without telecom immunity. Then come back and introduce immunity in a separate bill. If you’ve got the votes for it, fine. If not, too bad. I’m against immunity myself — though hardly hellbent on the subject — but whichever way the vote went, in the meantime we’d have the FISA extension and surveillance could continue normally.

But that’s not on the table. The supposed grownups in the GOP are, apparently, perfectly happy to play around with “life and death” if it’s in the service of a bit of demagogic brinksmanship over telecom immunity.

See also, Treating the Constitution as a Doormat.

(Video via OneGoodMove, The Fear Card)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day


Happy Valentine's Day
From your "favorite" legal blogger


From: The Billable Hour Co.

They're Baaacck!

video

It's The Daily Show -- "A" is All-gone . . . The writer's are back & so is the witty political humor they provide.

After a welcome back to the writers, Jon Stewart got back to the political scene. As TV Squad put it:

'Indecision 2008': The real big news was all about the 'Crabcake Primaries', in which Obama totally rocked, McCain was projected to rock, and Huckabee's rocking wasn't taken seriously. Poor Huckabee is never going to be able to get past all those religious remarks from pundits. At least he doesn't get -- what was it? -- 'White men can jump'. Jon's fake laugh was more than appropriate.

Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore stopped by to talk about the effect of Black History Month on Obama's victories.
And as long as Larry Wilmore is talking about Black History Month, let's not forget last year's tribute. See What's the Purpose?.

(Video via onegoodmove)

Cartoon of the Day


Mark Streeter, Savannah Morning News

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ed the Rant-dell


There he goes again. That was the topic of our lunch debate today at the office. Was PA Governor Ed Rendell's discussion of the impact of race in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania over the top?

As Brett Lieberman of Pennsyltucky Politics, Ed Rendell proves a little too colorful, put it:

Providing fresh evidence of why Ed Rendell may not be on anyone's shortlist for vice president or cabinet posts, the governor has opened his mouth and inserted his foot.

"You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate," Rendell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial board as he explained why Barack Obama may have trouble winning the white vote. "I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was -- well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."

On the bright side of things, the governor notes that Obama's been able to draw out new voters to the polls.

Will Bunch of Attytood called Rendell's remarks repulsive, Gov. Rendell celebrates Black History Month as only he can. Why?
It's repulsive because Rendell said it while he stumps for a candidate who is not black, Hillary Clinton. And Pennsylvania, while leaning more Democratic in recent years, remains a battleground state, so the message for voters in our now possibly relevant primary is that Obama might have a hard time winning the state, so maybe a vote for my white candidate will better help take back the White House.

This was also the majority view of the LLWL* gang, who argued that it was inappropriate for Rendell, as the Governor and a Clinton super-delegate, to introduce race as an impediment against Obama in the primary here. To them, it looks like it was done as a typical political smear. I, on the other hand, took the minority view. The truth is, he's only telling the truth about Pennsylvania. He certainly wasn't endorsing or condoning it. To the contrary, I think he was merely observing the reality of the political landscape in this state.

I've noted the rampant racism that exists in many parts of this state. The Commonwealth is the home of the Keystone State Skinheads, Raging Racists, and is a major rallying point for white supremacist activity. See also my piece on the Klan Rally in Gettysburg last year.

Rendell is definitely outspoken. It's something I like about him. I don't think it was done to inject race into the campaign here, it was voicing the fact that there is a faction who will never vote for Obama because of his race. He wasn't even saying that the haters were a substantial portion of the electorate, but in a close race, they certainly can make a difference. As I said, we criticize politicians all the time for never speaking the truth or taking a firm position on an issue. Yet, as soon as someone is honest about an issue, we immediately criticize them. No wonder politicians mouth words saying nothing -- it's the only safe course.

David Kurtz of TPM concurs with me, Rendell Probably Deserves a Pass, saying:

I'd have to say that whatever trouble Hillary backer and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell got himself into yesterday--over his reported comments that some whites in his state will not be willing to vote for a black candidate for President--was a result of his bumptious personality, and not a deliberate effort to cast doubt on Obama's electability or to otherwise inject race into the campaign.

As Talking Points Memo also noted, Obama himself has made similar remarks about the unacceptability of his race to some voters:

"Sure there are some people who will not vote for me because I'm black and there are some people who will vote for me because I am black," he said. "But I think most Americans are looking for a candidate who can get them affordable health care and less dependent on foreign oil."

Of course, the news of Ed's remarks got picked up on the national level. Here's his video/explanation of his remarks on MSNBC:



The video of his original remarks is available The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

* LLWL - Lady Lawyers Who Lunch (a/k/a, my officemates)

(UPDATED (2/14): to add cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News

Over & Out


This is one Strike out (and over) call that I'm sure glad to hear. As I noted in It's The Year of the Rat, I was in a real quandry about watching my favorite shows (Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert) during the Writer's Guild Association strike, so I'm happy that it has ended -- with or without Colbert's help.

The WGA writers are planning to continue their on-line efforts at United Hollywood, so check them out. I'll be happily watching their work on The Daily Show and Colbert Report and elsewhere.

Oh, and thankfully, the shows can now go back to featuring guests other than the overabundance of Republicans that have been on during the strike -- since they no doubt were the only ones willing to cross the picket line.

(Via The Huffington Post: 23/6)

Quote of the Day

Obama's extraordinary success is not merely because of Clinton's failure to excite, while his improbable drive to the nomination and perhaps becoming the first African-American to occupy the White House despite a deep national vein of racism is not occurring in a vacuum.

Large swaths of the public in all of its Gray's Anatomy Sport Utility Vehicle Oprah Winfrey Apple Pie Super Bowl quirkiness is embracing a freshman U.S. senator arguably short on experience but long on vision as their agent for an Extreme American Makeover.
From Shaun Mullen at Kiko's House, Obama's Avalanche Accelerates, Clinton's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy & So Much More

Cartoon of the Day


Holbert, Boston Herald

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Free Pass?

Today will no doubt be taken up with election news on the Presidential contest called the "Potomac Primary" in Virginia, Maryland & DC, so the timing is perfect for the Senate to quietly close the door on yet another of our privacy rights. As I framed the issue last week, Is that a Cave?: "The big issue is whether telecoms get retroactive immunity for spying on us, after all. This would ensure that we'll never know the truth about how far the Bush Administration went in trampling our constitutional rights. The likelihood is that they win (big surprise)." See also, A Fix for FISA?.

As Matt Browner Hamlin of Hold Fast (who provides an excellent description on the legislative posture on FISA) explains it, FISA Process, Unanimous Consent, & Dodd’s Filibuster:

Tomorrow looks to be the big day for FISA votes in the Senate. Senator Dodd’s amendment to strip retroactive immunity from the underlying SSCI bill will be given a vote - it will need 51 votes to pass. Other amendments pertaining to retroactive immunity will also be given votes - Whitehouse’s substitution amendment and Feinstein’s “good faith” amendment. The bad news is that these amendments are all likely to fail, though Feinstein’s might have the best chances of passing, even with a 60 vote threshold.

Following the votes on all remaining amendments - a number are still out there on Title I of the SSCI bill and would succeed in improving congressional oversight of domestic surveillance - there will be a cloture vote on the bill. If we have any hope to stopping retroactive immunity and a bad Intel bill in the Senate, this is it. Most likely, though, the Republican caucus will be joined by a significant number of conservative Democrats and cloture will pass. After cloture, Senator Dodd will have up to four hours to speak in opposition to the bill. He may share some of that time with Senators Feingold, Leahy, and Kennedy. No more than 30 hours after cloture passes, there will be a vote on final passage of the SSCI bill. That will probably pass and the Senate - thanks in large part to the diligent work of Jay Rockefeller and the decision-making of Harry Reid - will have given George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the big telecom companies what they wanted.

Despite Chris Dodd's best efforts, it looks like the fat lady is about to step up to the podium to sing. Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory agrees:
The probability is virtually zero that the Democratic-led Senate will do anything here other than what they always do: namely, ensure that enough Democratic Senators join with the unanimous GOP caucus to endorse whatever demands the Bush administration makes of them.
Greenwald describes the crux of the matter at issue:
As the Senate votes on amnesty tomorrow, the only real question is whether telecoms which broke our laws should be accountable in a court of law for their illegal behavior (the way things are supposed to work in a country that lives under the rule of law) or whether Congress, lavishly funded by this industry, will pass a law that has no purpose other than to give them the retroactive license to break our country's laws with impunity.
Either that or the terrorists win, as this Wall Street Journal Editorial would say, Wiretap Showdown:
The Senate takes up wiretapping of foreign terrorists this week, and the stakes couldn't be higher. Not only for the ability of our spooks to eavesdrop on al Qaeda, but also regarding Congressional and judicial intrusion into Presidential war powers. Some damage seems certain, but the issue is how much damage President Bush will accept.

The debate concerns an effort to revise the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to bless spying without a court order on terrorist communications that originate overseas but move through U.S. switching networks. We believe -- and appellate courts have stated -- that the President already has such authority under the Constitution. But the political left claims this is 'illegal' under FISA, and Mr. Bush has agreed to work with Congress on a compromise.
Which side of this controversy you come down on depends on your views of privacy and the unitary executive. As Greenwald observes:
The telecom amnesty debate is controversial but it is not complicated. The Government asked telecoms to break numerous federal laws in exchange for profit. Some telecoms refused to do so and others -- such as AT&T and Verizon -- agreed to break the law for years. Which behavior do we want to encourage and reward -- (a) telecoms which turned down the substantial government contracts to enable warrantless spying on Americans because doing so was illegal, or (b) the telecoms which purposely broke our laws by allowing illegal government spying on Americans? How can that even be a debatable question?

As the Senate votes on amnesty tomorrow, the only real question is whether telecoms which broke our laws should be accountable in a court of law for their illegal behavior (the way things are supposed to work in a country that lives under the rule of law) or whether Congress, lavishly funded by this industry, will pass a law that has no purpose other than to give them the retroactive license to break our country's laws with impunity.

And with all the secrecy that this Administration has imposed upon the operations of government, we'll never know the full scope of the abuses that have occurred.