I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Items of interest

A few noteworthy matters:

(1) QandO, one of the more intelligent and interesting conservative-ish blogs, has an informative post regarding the McCain-Coburn legislation to require up-or-down votes on "earmark" spending - i.e., pork projects. Aside from the symbolic whiff of corruption which these sorts of wasteful, politically self-serving expenditures create, they also now account for billions of dollars in deficit spending.

Unsurprisingly, most Senators in both parties are highly resistant to this legislation, because virtually all of them use earmarks as thinly disguised bribes, abusing public money to buy votes in exchange for gifts to their constituents. This resistance reflects quite poorly on both parties, but it reflects particularly poorly on Republicans, who have long touted themselves as the party of fiscal discipline and spending restraints and yet have presided over a truly astounding and wildly irresponsible explosion in deficit spending ever since they have controlled all branches of the Government.

(2) Chuck Hagel joins the chorus of Republican and conservative voices expressing opposition to the NSA eavesdropping program. And as ReddHedd details, this superb article from Newsweek documents that substantial numbers of highly conservative appointees in the Justice Department were extremely disturbed by, and relentlessly fought against, the President-as-Monarch legal theories promoted by John Yoo and Dick Cheney aide David Addington.

A major part of this NSA story that has thus far been quite under-reported is the widespread and pervasive dissatisfaction among many, many conservatives with the Administration’s theories of unchecked presidential power.

(3) John Cole discusses another in the endless hypocrisies and unwarranted legislative intrusions by the Religious Right – this time trying to promote legislation to prevent employers from discharging health care workers who refuse to perform required services based on their religious beliefs and/or banning health care regulatory agencies from requiring that such services be performed. As the Washington Post reports:

About half of the proposals would shield pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and "morning-after" pills because they believe the drugs cause abortions. But many are far broader measures that would shelter a doctor, nurse, aide, technician or other employee who objects to any therapy. That might include in-vitro fertilization, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem cells and perhaps even providing treatment to gays and lesbians.

I thought conservatives believed in the free market and the right of employers to make their own personnel decisions without interference from the Government. John’s sentiments seem pretty much on point:

There is little room for nuance in my opinion on this. If your religious beliefs interfere with your job providing any and all desired or required care for a patient, you have several options- change your job, change your religion, suck it up and hope yours is a forgiving God.

Denying people care because it upsets your sensibilities should not be allowed, and those who choose to do so should not be protected by legislation, they should have their licenses revoked. People who refuse to provide mainstream and accepted medical treatment to patients because of their own religious beliefs should no longer be considered doctors- they can hang a plaque outside their door that says the

"Joe Schmoe- Unlicensed Faith Healer."

(4) For those who haven’t seen it already, there is an ongoing attempt to induce the advertisers on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC show to stop advertising due to some plainly inappropriate, offensive and just plain stupid comments Matthews has made in the recent past. He added to that list last night when he asked The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller -- before any hearings have been held and with no basis whatsoever – "How is the president turning the NSA surveillance question into a winner politically?" It's difficult to choose the worst Matthews comment (guffawing with the painfully unfunny Don Imus about "Bareback Mountain" comes close for me), but if I had to choose, I think it would be this:

"Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs."

What makes Matthews a particularly deserving target is that MSNBC holds him out as an objective journalist, not an opinion commentator, and yet his views are so routinely and baselessly biased and so clearly journalistically inappropriate.

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