AUSTIN, Texas -- Hang in there, Texas Eleven. You are not
Gov. Goodhair Perry says the AWOL senators are holding up
"issues of great importance to the people of Texas." That's funny. There has
been one and only one item of business on the agenda for both special
sessions called by the guv (at a cost of $1.7 million each): the crass
rejiggering of congressional distric lines in order to elect more
Republicans out of Texas. Using taxpayer money for partisan political
Really Bad Idea of the Week: Attorney General John Ashcroft is
now investigating judges. He is requiring prosecutors to report cases where
the judge hands down sentences that are less than the federal guidelines
suggest. This is part of a concerted effort by both Congress and the Justice
Department (part of the executive branch) to pressure judges to follow rigid
sentencing guidelines. When last consulted, the Constitution still said
there are three co-equal branches of government -- the executive is not
assigned to intimidate the judiciary.
Federal guidelines establish a range of sentences for particular
crimes, but they also permit judges discretion to impose a more lenient
sentence if the circumstances warrant. In addition to Ashcroft's rating
list, the House Judiciary Committee has taken the extraordinary step of
threatening to subpoena the records of Judge James Rosenbaum, chief judge of
Minnesota, because he testified against a bill that would have reinstated
mandatory 10-year sentences for first-time drug offenders. Not only are
mandatory minimums a terrible idea, so is humiliating a federal judge.
Rosenbaum, a Reagan appointee, turns out to have only three
instances of "leniency" on his record (two in a matter of 120 months, rather
than 121) -- unlike Bush's nominee for the Fifth Circuit, Charles Pickering.
Pickering, as his Republican defenders have been proudly pointing out, has
given "lenient" (i.e., less than the guidelines recommend) sentences to
several African-Americans charged with drug offenses. Of course, Pickering,
that bleeding-heart liberal, also worked actively to get the sentence of a
convicted white cross-burner reduced, lobbying prosecutors to drop some
charges even after the convictions.
Still on the general theme of the country going to hell in a
handbasket, what happy effect do you suppose President Bush's tax cut on
dividends is already having? If you guessed the rich are getting richer,
right you are, to an eye-popping extent. Time magazine reports, "Since May,
more than 200 firms have raised their payouts to shareholders and -- in a
time of scrutiny over pay packages -- the increases are minting riches for
bosses who own a lot of company stock."
Sandy Weill of Citigroup will get $27 million a year in
after-tax income, up from $11 million. Bill Gates will get an after-tax
windfall of $82 million a year, just what he needs. Of course, that's $82
million less for a treasury that's now running a $455 billion deficit. Iraq
is turning to manure in our hands because we aren't putting enough money
into that endeavor. Veterans are getting shafted, Ashcroft is taking names,
and anyone who complains gets accused of treason. Boy, these Republicans
really know how to ruin a country, don't they?
If it weren't for Bill O'Reilly, we wouldn't be having any fun
at all. In one of the most hilarious lawsuits ever filed, Fox News is suing
the satirist Al Franken over his new book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who
Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." One of the photos on the
cover is of O'Reilly.
Fox is actually claiming that the words "fair and balanced"
belong to Fox as part of its trademark. Franken in turn is threatening to
trademark the word "funny." I think I'll trademark "insightful."
The lawsuit accuses Franken of being "deranged," "a parasite,"
"sophomoric" and lacking "any serious depth or insight." That certainly
proves O'Reilly doesn't lie like a rug. I got caught in a verbal slugfest
between the two of them recently in Los Angeles. The high point was when
O'Reilly cleverly riposted Franken's account of his lies by screaming: "Shut
up! Shut up!" A particularly sound argument, I thought.
Franken, in turn, said, "Bill, we're not on Fox News."
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
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