Nick Kessler

Connecting the dots

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Thursday, July 03, 2003
The "Liberal Media" strikes again!

Here's The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, proclaiming that even "liberals" don't like Howard Dean:

"And in the liberal Web magazine Slate, columnist William Saletan observed: 'Every time Dean talks about foreign affairs, he gives off a whiff of hostility or indifference to American military power.'" (Washington Post, July 1, 2003)

What is Kurtz implying when he says that Saletan writes for "the liberal web magazine Slate"? Readers will assume that Saletan must be one of those liberal Democrats who supposedly dominate the media, and that Dean is such a poor candidate that his own party's stalwarts have turned against him. But what has Saletan actually said about his own political leanings?

"A couple of years ago I realized that I'm less a New Democrat than a liberal Republican. I mentioned in Slate that I'd voted in 2000 for Morella and John McCain. Last month I divulged that I'd been itching to vote for Ehrlich." (Slate, November 8, 2002, emphasis added)

Kurtz never manages to tell his readers that Saletan's criticism comes from a Republican, does he? That fact would better explain the agenda behind Saletan's shot at Dean.

Monday, June 16, 2003
An article today in the Virginian-Pilot discusses 17-year-old Christa Byker of Virginia Beach whose aunt, Barbara Grutter, is the plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court cases challenging affirmative action.

Christa's response to those who note Virginia's history of segregation?

"'It's 2003 -- get over it.'"

Christa's career goals?

"Christa aims to become a judge or a senator. That way, she could issue a ruling in a case similar to her aunt's -- or propose a real-life bill. 'I just want to be in the system to change the system,' she said." (Emphasis added)

Given the current administration's efforts to stack the federal courts with young conservative zealots who will serve for decades to come, they might as well nominate Christa to the federal bench right now. Why should they limit themselves to candidates in their 30s and 40s when teenagers are raring for the job? All Christa would have to do to get confirmed is learn to feign surprise and outrage when Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee accuse her of having plans to make rulings based on her own political leanings. Any purported evidence of her ideological bias would be more than adequately disproven by the earnest expression on her face when she testifies that she plans to simply follow the laws as they are written.

Sunday, June 01, 2003
Chickens coming home to roost

Mark Tate is running against state Senator H. Russell Potts Jr. of Winchester, Virginia, in the Republican primary. Tate is just one of several conservative zealots who are vigorously challenging incumbent Republicans in the Virginia legislature this year, largely on the issues of taxes and abortion. Here’s what Potts has to say about their goals:

"Theirs is a dark politics and a politics of destruction," he says. "I think they want to absolutely bleed all [state] funding. They want to say to every policeman, every schoolteacher, 'We're going to pay you less next year.' As far as I'm concerned, it's a trip down la-la land."

Potts also mentions that Tate and his cohorts make nonsensical arguments and baseless charges about taxes:

"It is the extremist wing of the party that is calling a tax referendum a tax increase," he said. "A tax referendum is when you trust the people. There is a world of difference."

Don’t feel bad for these Republicans. This is what they invited by signing onto Grover Norquist's agenda:

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform…."Bipartisanship is another name for date rape…."

Republicans like Potts were delighted when the right-wingers' crude and relentless attacks—lacking in factual basis but not in fervor—were directed at Democrats. Now they're finding out for themselves what it's like to be on the receiving end.

Voters, too, are making some discoveries. It turns out that the same people who promise them the lowest taxes are also extremists on abortion:

"Taxes here are high enough," Judy Morin tells Tate after he promises never to raise hers. But then she asks where he stands on abortion, and the 65-year-old doesn't like what she hears. "Under no circumstances? I have a problem with that...."

Overall, the stakes in this election are revealingly summarized by Mike Rothfield, another far-right challenger looking to unseat state Senate Finance Committee chairman John H. Chichester:

"This is a fundamental battle between those of us in the party who believe we must stand for smaller government, lower taxes and protection of the unborn, and those of us who want big government run only slightly better than the Democrats did...."

Monday, May 26, 2003
Those "moderates" again

By a 227-201 vote on May 22, the House of Representatives defeated Rep. Loretta Sanchez's bill to repeal the overseas abortion ban, which "bars women from using even personal funds to obtain abortions at military hospitals abroad except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life." The list of those favoring the ban includes Republican Thomas M. Davis of Fairfax. In 2002 that "liberally-biased" Washington Post endorsed Davis for re-election, deeming him an "effective moderate Republican" who can "forge bipartisan support for concerns in the District of Columbia as well as the suburbs." (Emphasis mine.)

Monday, April 28, 2003
The Majority's Still Emerging

Ruy Teixeira has an article in the Washington Monthly about the 2002 election results and why they don't disprove what he and Jon Judas wrote last year about long-term trends in The Emerging Democratic Majority:

"The GOP's midterm wins depended heavily on their advantages in five areas that are either unlikely to persist or were overrated to begin with: a reliance on white voters, the growth of exurban voters, heavy GOP turnout, the tax-cut issue, and war."

As Teixeira notes, the Republicans' success in 2002 came simply from mobilizing their traditional base, while minority voters remained just as strong a Democratic constituency as in 2000. Keep this in mind when you hear conservatives, such as the unabashed "GOP cheerleader" George Will, strenuously insisting that minority communities are turning to the Republicans.

Thursday, March 27, 2003
A Small Win For The Good Guys, And The Usual Big Stink From The Bad Guys

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, by a 5-4 vote (O'Connor joined the four moderates), upheld the use of Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts ("IOLTA") programs. PLA explained these programs very thoroughly (link via Atrios), but the short version is that lawyers often hold cash deposits from clients that are too small to earn interest in individual accounts. Under IOLTA, these small deposits are pooled into a big account, and the interest goes to legal representation for poor people. Conservatives went to court, claiming that the IOLTA programs were unfair because the interest belongs to the clients. But as PLA noted, this has nothing to do with money lost by lawyers' clients. It was driven by conservatives who want to "defund the left."

The case was brought by the conservative Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), which has a very explicit goal: to "deal a death blow to the single most important source of income for radical legal groups all across the country...groups dedicated to the homeless, to minorities, to gay and lesbian causes, and any other group that has drawn money from hard-working Americans like you and me to support its radical cause!"

Upholding IOLTA was the right thing to do, and good results from the Court are wonderful. But regardless of this decision, the right will keep fighting for the shameful agenda stated by WLF. And while it's great when O'Connor behaves like an actual judge, seeing one of the court's five disgraced conservatives cross over on a single decision isn't much reason to celebrate. Don't forget that she's going to retire soon. Recall her public display of rage when Florida was called for Gore on Election Night 2000, and how her husband helpfully explained to the press that she wants to have a Republican president in office so she can retire. Her vote for the Republicans in Bush v. Gore means that she'll be replaced by a right-wing Federalist Society zealot--someone who will reliably side with the ones who want to make IOLTA illegal.

Scalia's Rude, Pathetic Dissent

Even in this opinion, we see that the right isn't finished with IOLTA. Scalia's dissent is a clumsy exercise in dishonesty, pretending that IOLTA is "taking" something from individual clients even though IOLTA accounts create money that these clients could never earn themselves. Scalia's response to the majority's simple holding is typically obnoxious, and he refuses to genuinely address the facts of the case. Instead of reasonable argument, he gives us what we always get from conservatives--constant repetition of his massively flawed conclusion and a steady tone of triumphant arrogance.

Keeping in mind that this case is all about sticking it to the groups hated by the right, Scalia unsurprisingly drops in some obnoxious sarcasm and accuses the majority of basing its decision on a desire to fund liberal causes:

"Surely it cannot be that the Justices look more favorably upon a nationally emulated uncompensated taking of clients' funds to support (hurrah!) legal services to the indigent...."

He proceeds to ludicrously pretend that the majority simply wants to steal money from rich people:

"Perhaps we are witnessing today the emergence of a whole new concept in Compensation Clause jurisprudence: the Robin Hood Taking, in which the government's extraction of wealth from those who own it is so cleverly achieved, and the object of the government's larcenous beneficence is so highly favored by the courts (taking from the rich to give to indigent defendants) that the normal rules of the Constitution protecting private property are suspended." (Emphasis added.)

Scalia is insisting that IOLTA interest has been stolen from its rightful owners, and darkly warns that the decision has therefore freed liberals to steal whatever they want by passing laws that say "you can’t have this." As his conclusion becomes even more obviously unsupportable, it's plain that he's just out to scare wealthy conservatives.

Competing Footnotes: Reason v. Immature Posturing

The majority drops a footnote that patiently explains why Scalia's argument is silly and wrong:

"The first hypothetical posed by the Ninth Circuit dissenters illustrates the fundamental flaw in Justice Scalia's approach to this case. Under his view that just compensation should be measured by the gross amount of the interest taken by the State, the client should recover the $.55 of interest earned on a two-day deposit even when the transaction costs amount to $2.00. Thus, in this case, under Justice Scalia's approach, even if it is necessary to incur substantial legal and accounting fees to determine how many pennies of interest were earned while petitioners' funds remained in escrow and how much of that interest belonged to them rather than to the sellers, the Constitution would require that they be paid the gross amount of that interest, rather than an amount equal to their net loss (which, of course, is zero)." (Emphasis added.)

But Scalia uses his own footnote to posture like any conservative commentator. Once again, he responds to the majority by completely ignoring what they actually said, and blithely repeating his mantra:

"IOLTA funds can earn net interest for the client when placed in IOLTA accounts--because all interest earned by funds in IOLTA accounts is the client's property."

Scalia's not even arguing, but that doesn't matter when you're the big "thinker" on the right. He just keeps on saying "I'm right," knowing that in his conservative world his blind ideological comrades will always cheer his work no matter how poor it is.

Kennedy's Sore-Loser Dissent

Sure enough, Kennedy starts off his own dissent with embarrassing praise for Scalia: "The principal dissenting opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, sets forth a precise, complete, and convincing case for rejecting the holding and analysis of the Court." That's how conservatives on the Supreme Court say "megadittoes."

Kennedy also gets in his own little jab at the majority, bemoaning the unfairness of forcing clients to give up "their" money for the benefit of godless liberal groups (or as Kennedy puts it, "causes the justices of the Washington Supreme Court prefer"). He promises that these matters in IOLTA contain "the potential for a serious violation," and that they "may have to come before the Court in due course."

In other words, if you think conservatives will live with a victory for the homeless, minorities, gays and lesbians, just wait until next time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Cold, hard facts

Virginia Governor Mark Warner has vetoed the Republican-dominated state legislature's estate tax repeal. Republicans will now try to override the veto, not only because they're tax cut fanatics but also to deny Gov. Warner a legislative victory. However, it may be difficult for them to win this one. They only control the state Senate by a small margin, and one Democrat (Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller of Fairfax County) who previously supported the GOP bill now says she will not vote to override. She's had the chance to find out what estate tax repeal is designed to do:

"I've learned more about it, that most of the money goes to a very few people," Puller said."

Well said.


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