Read it for youself. [PDF Document]
This is important. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) during the press conference:
Some of you who are looking at the language may wonder what some of the clauses mean. The understanding is — and we don’t think this will happen — but if an individual senator believes in the future that a filibuster is taking place under something that’s not extraordinary circumstances, we of course reserve the right to do what we could have done tomorrow which is to cast a yes vote for the constitutional option.
McCain describes the details:
We’re here, 14 Republicans and Democrats, seven on each side, to announce that we have reached an agreement to try to avert a crisis in the United States Senate and pull the institution back from a precipice that would have had, in the view of all 14 of us, lasting impact, damaging impact on the institution.
I’m grateful for the efforts of Senator Frist and Senator Reid to come to an agreement on this issue. We appreciate very much their leadership. And we all appreciate each other’s involvement, but probably the two that I’d like to point out here that provided us with a beacon of where we should go is Senator Byrd, our distinguished senior Democrat leader, and Senator Warner who both were vital to this process.
You have before you the agreement and I won’t go in the details of it. But basically, all 14 of us have pledged to vote for cloture for the judicial nominees Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor and Priscilla Owen.
The signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on two judges, William Myers and Henry Saad. Future nominations will — the signatories will exercise their responsibilities and the nominees should only be filibusters under extraordinary circumstances.
And in light of this commitment and a continuing commitment, we will try to do everything in our power to prevent filibusters in the future.
After the intial allocation of tens of billions of dollars to state and local governments following the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has reduced several states’ financing by significant levels. New Jersey, for example, lost about $39 million in federal funding even though it contains “the most dangerous two miles in America.” A former Coast Guard commander, Stephen Flynn summed it up: “We put more resources into securing the average large bank in Manhattan than we do for the entire security of Port Newark. That’s just irresponsible.”
It seems ridiculous that the Bush Administration, who modeled its entire “war on terror” on the idea of preemption, is not properly funding state and local agencies. If this administration is so concerned with acting before the terrorists act on us, shouldn’t securing our own soil be a top priority? And though Congress has repeatedly voted on increasing our budget in Iraq, our own homland security budgets are cut.
An attack on a chemical plant in Northern New Jersey could easily cause 100 times more destruction to Manhattan and the surrounding areas than 9/11. Across the country there are more than 100 chemical plants that pose a risk to 1 million people or more. It is inexcusable that the political impediments that exist — a clear result of lobbying from the chemical industry — now outweigh the safety of our nation’s citizens.
– Jay Heidbrink
Today, President Bush was asked about the growing casualty numbers in Iraq:
Question: “Mr. President, as you know, the casualties of Iraq is again high today — 50 more people dying. Do you think that insurgence is getting harder now to defeat militarily? Thank you.”
Bush: “No, I don’t think so. I think they’re being defeated. And that’s why they continue to fight.” [Bush, 5/23/05]
Over the past couple of years, Bush and his advisors have consistently argued that increases in violence is evidence that the insurgency is losing. As a result, the administration has failed to acknowledge, much less address, fundamental problems in the fight against the insurgency. Here are a few more examples:
Bush: “As election day approaches, we can expect further violence from the terrorists. You see, the terrorist understand what is at stake. They know they have no future in a free Iraq, because free people will never choose their own enslavement.” [Bush, 12/7/04]
Andy Card: “They’re attacking, but they’re not attacking all of the people all of the time. They’re kind of running timid campaigns to try to intimidate people from participating in democracy.” [ABC This Week, 12/19/04]
The Transfer of Sovereignty
Condi Rice: “Obviously there is a difficult security situation. They’re making an appeal to Iraqi citizens not to let the foreign terrorists and the rejectionists, who have no future in a free Iraq, not to let those people derail the political transition that is taking place, and I think they’re being quite successful with the Iraqi people.” [ABC This Week, 6/27/04]
McClellan: “Well, we’ve said that as Iraq moves forward on holding elections, that you can expect the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists to continue to seek to derail that transition, because they know it will be a significant blow to their vision.” [WH Press Gaggle, 7/16/04]
Bremer: “The dead-enders can see that all this, plus the fact that the Iraqi people will get their sovereignty back, spells trouble for them,” Bremer said. “So I think we will see a phase now when we will actually see increased attacks,” he said. [AP, 12/5/03]
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security “awarded one of the most ambitious technology contracts in the war on terror — a 10-year deal estimated at up to $10 billion — to the global consulting firm Accenture.” After giving DHS advice on how to run the bidding process, Accenture won the contract; the firm “promised to create a ‘virtual border’ that would electronically screen millions of foreign travelers.” The project is under an “indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract,” which means that Accenture will be “paid for specific tasks along the way, even if the overall system ultimately doesn’t work.” Now homeland security experts worry that “[t]here’s no question we could end up spending billions of dollars and end up with nothing. It creates an illusion of security that doesn’t exist.”
The power handover from the government to a contractor has a disturbing sense of dƒ©jƒ vu to it, maybe because of its interesting connection back to Accenture. Read more
On the eve of the Senate majority’s crass political ploy to overturn 217 years of tradition and rules that have maintained a balance of power, here’s a rundown of traditional conservatives/interest groups who are urging Bill Frist to employ some common sense:
Former Republican Sen. Bill Armstrong: “Nobody ever accused Bill Armstrong of being an ideological squish. Or a liberal. Maybe that’s why it’s so noteworthy that the former two-term United States Senator from Colorado — who was about as conservative as any Member during his 18 years in Congress — says that he is ‘deeply skeptical’ about the Republican effort to eliminate the filibuster during the process of confirming judges.” [Roll Call, 4/25/05]
Former Republican Sens. Jim McClure of Idaho and Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming: “At this point, no one knows how the ‘nuclear option’ drama will play out, but we would respectfully offer to senators, both Republican and Democratic, a bit of back-country wisdom: When you find a bear in your cabin, it’s not smart to try to burn him out.” [Op-Ed, WSJ, 3/15/05]
Former Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger: “Today’s rules allow a screening of judges by the Senate. Most presidential nominees are confirmed, but there are always a few instances where the nominee is unable to obtain the Senate’s approval. We think this process has been good for the judiciary and good for the country. This Senate rule has led to a stronger, less partisan, truly independent court.” [Durenberger and Mondale Op-Ed, Star Tribune, 5/5/05]
National Right to Work and Gun Owners of America: “Two groups normally allied with Republicans have bolted from the party’s effort to ban judicial filibusters — the first major defections from a conservative push to prevent Senate Democrats from blocking President Bush’s judicial nominees.” The National Right to Work Committee, “a 2.2 million-member group critical of unions,” and the Gun Owners of America, “with 300,000 members, say they fear eliminating judicial filibusters could eventually lead to doing away with filibusters altogether.” [AP, 4/13/05]
Corporate Lobbyists/Business Leaders: “Worried that their agenda will come to a screeching halt, business leaders are urging Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) not to exercise a bold parliamentary tactic known as the ‘nuclear option’ on judicial nominees. [The Hill, 4/5/05]
Production workers and delivery drivers for Coca-Cola Enterprises can’t afford higher health care costs on their salaries but that’s what Coke is asking them to do. Over 2,000 workers — 400 in Connecticut and 1,700 in Los Angeles — are on strike. Union leaders say the workers have been arguing with management over health care costs since last fall. David White of Teamsters Brewery & Soft Drink Conference says:
These are folks that live paycheck to paycheck, many of them. They’re not well-to-do people. And you have the company giving out huge consulting contracts and lifetime health care coverage for departing executives and that doesn’t seem to bother them.
What makes it even worse is that the current CEO, E. Neville Isdell, got over $17 million in compensation in 2004. Even as excessive compensation goes, this is pretty bad: well above the average $9 million in compensation given to CEOs in 2004. Indeed, it seems that Coke has a tradition of bending over backwards to help out the guys at the top:
As part of his severance agreement, Coca-Cola’s former chairman of the board and CEO, M. Douglas Ivester, received a six-year consulting agreement worth $675,000, office space, furniture, supplies, a company car, home security service and club dues. In total, Ivester’s retirement package was reportedly worth $119 million.
Coke got a bit of bad press in late 2003 and early 2004 because — as one generous journalist put it: “Coca-Cola’s human resources staff was so busy with layoffs and restructuring this year that the company didn’t meet its diversity goals.”
Kudos to the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus for writing a piece this weekend on a subject that few journalists seem to truly want to explore. Pincus uses the Downing Street memo as an opportunity to summarize some of the facts which strongly indicate that the Bush White House intentionally used false or weak evidence to convince an unwilling public to go to war with Iraq.
Despite the formation of a variety of commissions that have looked at the pre-war intelligence, not a single one has had the primary purpose of answering to the question of whether the White House knowingly manipulated intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee was supposed to have explored that question, but an agreement was reached between Pat Roberts and John Rockefeller to release their findings in two stages: the first would detail the shortcomings of the intelligence community (and was to be released prior to the 2004 campaign); the second part examining the White House’s pressure and manipulation of evidence was left for a later date.
When the first part of the Senate Intelligence Committee report was released in July 2004, Sen. Rockefeller acknowledged that it “fail[ed] to fully explain the environment of intense pressure in which the intelligence community officials were asked to render judgments on matters relating to Iraq….”
When Tim Russert asked Roberts whether he could produce the second part of the report before the election, Roberts said: “I don’t know if we can get it done before the election. It is more important to get it right.” It took Roberts approximately eight months to go back on his word, when upon release of the President’s Intelligence Commission report (which did not look specifically at administration pressure), he said: “I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to re-plow this ground any further.”
Hopefully, reporters will continue to find that it is not and should not be a waste of their time to get to the heart of whether the Bush White House knowingly deceived the American public into a war about which they had (and continue to have) deep reservations.
In this week’s Economist there is a lengthy article criticizing Sarbanes-Oxley, the corporate accountability law passed in the wake of the Enron scandals. It’s likely to be cited frequently by business interests working to weaken the law.
The article includes many passages carping about implementation costs like this one:
A survey by the FEI, an association of top financial executives, found that companies paid an average of $2.4m more for their audits last year than they had anticipated (and far more than the statute’s designers had envisaged). Deloitte, a big accounting firm, has said that large firms have on average spent nearly 70,000 additional man-hours complying with the new law.
1. In 2004, corporate profits were at the highest level ever recorded by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. So these costs aren’t preventing companies from making a lot of money.
2. Sarbanes-Oxley was designed to impose additional costs on businesses, in exchange for less risk to investors. It’s always cheaper to not have to worry about the rules.