Daniel Stone

Stories by Daniel Stone

  • Obama Picks Kagan, Sets Up for Smooth Confirmation

    As the White House prepares to introduce its Supreme Court nominee tomorrow, NBC News reports that Obama has chosen Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general. Speculation had centered on Kagan since John Paul Stevens announced in April that he’d be leaving the Court next month, primarily because of Kagan’s clean legal record and personal ties to Obama as both a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and as dean of Harvard Law. She was also appointed by Obama last year to be the country’s top advocate in court, suggesting a clear vote of confidence in her experience....
  • Tea Partiers Can't Be 'Screaming Meemies' Anymore

    Since its debut as a ragtag protest group, the Tea Party has cohered into a formidable voice in the GOP primaries. Now, with a slew of statewide ballot measures, the movement is pivoting again—this time into the unglamorous world of knocking on doors and gathering signatures in an effort to shape local policy.
  • Today in Questionable Sourcing: New York Times Misfires on Oil-Spill Assessment

    The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is bad, but hey, relax, people, it’s not that bad. That’s according to a story in The New York Times this morning trying to assess the damage. The piece quotes a fellow named Quenton R. Dokken, identified as a “marine biologist” and head of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, described as a conservation group. Except that describing the Gulf of Mexico Foundation as a conservation group would be like describing Focus on the Family as a pro-choice organization.Dokken may be a marine biologist, but the foundation he leads is clearly and directly an arm of the oil industry. Its Web site lists 10 oil companies—including Shell, ConocoPhillips, and, yep, BP—as its funders. In fact, the site notes that in 2005, BP donated $30,000 to fund the foundation's efforts. And a year later the company chipped in $25,000 more.But it gets even murkier. On the foundation’s board of directors is a man named Ian Hudson, who happens to be the head of corporate responsibility...
  • How Will Gulf Spill Affect Energy Debate? A Chat With Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter

    Politics is nothing but the art of timing and opportunity. Opponents of drilling are hoping that now, in the wake of a worsening environmental catastrophe, might be their best opening to make a credible and convincing case that the time to shift to renewable energy is now, and there are 200,000 barrels' worth of reasons currently spewing in the Gulf of Mexico. The White House said late last week that it would be reevaluating its drilling policy articulated last month with a potential pivot to be announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In the meantime, the Blue Green Alliance, a top Washington environmental advocacy group, hopes to make the case at a conference on green energy (coincidentally timed) that the spill underscores the imperative of moving quickly.Kicking off the conference was Bill Ritter, Colorado's cowboy-boot-clad governor, who says his state's recent investments in clean natural gas and renewables could be—and should be—the model for the country. And that while...
  • Cape Wind Gets the Green Light, Enviros (Finally) Revel

    America's first, and most promising, offshore wind project was finally given the go-ahead this morning by Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The project includes 130 turbines over 24 square miles off historic Nantucket Sound with a public and private price tag of $1 billion. Salazar just gave this statement in the Massachusetts State House in Boston:“After careful consideration of all the concerns expressed during the lengthy review and consultation process and thorough analyses of the many factors involved, I find that the public benefits weigh in favor of approving the Cape Wind project at the Horseshoe Shoal location. With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind-energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”The U.S. lags far behind other countries in Western Europe and Asia on offshore wind, many of which have robust development off their coasts. But the...
  • After Banking Reform, Energy Still Sits on Ice

    From sound policy to gimmicks. The prospect of an energy bill making its way to the floor of the Senate has gone from almost a sure thing to life support over the past two weeks as Democratic leaders have scrambled to fill in their calendar of legislative priorities. After health care, financial reform was the likely successor with energy presumed to follow, but the wild-card issue of immigration seemingly jumped the queue after party leaders did a calculus of what they needed to accomplish to fortify support before the November elections, and after Arizona's governor signed an immigration law last week that activists as well as some lawmakers think could unfairly lead to racial profiling....
  • Financial Reform Doesn't Get Cloture: What That Means

    The final vote tally this afternoon was 57 to 41, repudiation not of the Democrats' financial-reform package but of the period of debate that would precede an actual vote. This means that debate can extend endlessly, or until a collection of 60 members agree to cut it off. In reality, however, it just means that party leaders will return to negotiations to iron out several components of the legislation to craft it as bipartisan....
  • Financial Reform’s Day of Reckoning Might Not Be

    The politics of health care were easy. You were either for it or against it, and no one questioned the lines of disagreement. Financial reform is harder, and as the vote is called later today, no one knows exactly how things will shake out. This morning on Good Morning America, Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said a deal is unlikely. If that happens, it could lead to an actual filibuster (although the Republicans would actually have to do it, and not just make threats). But despite Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s feverish efforts to hold his bloc of 41 together, Shelby also said that within several hours, leaders would “have the votes,” signaling the package would move ahead.The good folks at Talking Points Memo have devised five distinct scenarios we could see before the day is out. Perhaps the Republicans will blink first and give the green light for a vote (which will almost certainly pass). Or maybe the Dems will blink and stall...
  • White House Fires at ‘Unconscionable’ Insurers

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made the practice of denying coverage for preexisting conditions illegal as soon as the Department of Health and Human Services begins to phase in the law. But until that happens, there’s public opinion to be won and lost.Having caught wind from a Reuters article that one Indiana-based insurer is not just denying but revoking coverage from women with breast cancer, the Obama administration decided to make an example out of someone and hit back at the company, called WellPoint, with a strongly worded letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Here’s an excerpt:"As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact."WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women...
  • Montana vs. the Justice Department

    State lawmakers have done a lot since President Obama's election to shake off Uncle Sam, passing "sovereignty" resolutions and a record number of laws that specifically defy Congress on issues such as legalized marijuana and health-care reform. Most make the same claim: that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to regulate commerce between states but doesn't permit interference in purely local affairs. Later this year, the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which proclaims that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in state are not subject to federal rules such as background checks, is slated to become the first of these Obama-era commerce challenges tested in court. But the case, which originated when a gun-rights group sued the Justice Department for threatening a crackdown, shouldn't give separatists hope: it's doomed to fail, as will similar rebukes.That's because no state is an island (Hawaii included), and Congress can regulate anything that could jump state...
  • Earth Day Happy Hour: Biz Markie Edition

    We here at the Gaggle aren’t so steeped in politics that we don’t take notice of pop culture from time to time. So we took a long look—and you should, too—at this fantastic Earth Day remix from the folks at Repower America paying homage to hip-hop master DJ Biz Markie, featuring a cameo of the man himself. The message? Clean energy now, yo. (Our favorite part comes at 1:08)
  • How to Beat Republicans? Keep Slamming Them.

    It’s no secret on Capitol Hill that Democrats are on the defensive heading toward midterm elections that are considered a referendum on their majorities in Congress and their man in the White House. Part of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s job is to minimize losses however possible. With just over six months until the voting, Hoyer and colleagues are trying desperately to switch to offense, and keep Republicans from driving the conversation like they did on health care—a debate that almost proved crippling to his party’s survival.At a breakfast this morning in Washington hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Hoyer talked with reporters, taking time to slam Republicans at every turn. When asked to make an opening statement, Hoyer quipped that he’d be brief and try “not to filibuster the opportunity,” a clear jab at the filibustering party du jour.The slams continued. Taking a page from history, Hoyer noted that ...
  • Death to the Kittens: Supreme Court Defends Animal Cruelty Videos as Expression of Free Speech

    Is it morally reprehensible to torture and kill animals and document it on video? Maybe so. But that wasn’t the issue the Supreme Court was considering in its latest ruling published this morning. In U.S. v. Stevens, a case that tested the constitutionality of a law banning animal-cruelty videos, justices classified it as a First Amendment question, and ruled with significant unity—8 to 1—to strike down the law, which has been on the books since 1999.Animal cruelty in most forms is illegal—just look at Michael Vick and his wardrobe of orange jumpsuits. But some forms aren’t, like hunting or bullfighting, which creates a gray area in deciding just what crosses the line. The law's defenders argued that depictions of women in stiletto heels crushing hamsters was akin to child pornography. But it was a wobbly argument. One of the more concerning aspects of child molestation is often considered the long-term effect psychological effect on the child, long after scars heal. There’s...
  • Race for the Robe: Windy City Edition

    Bill Clinton's advice aside, three of the enduring frontrunners on the White House's shortlist for a Supreme Court nominee are still Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland—legal scholars and jurists with their own unique qualifications. But there's one thing they all share, and something that could be a contributing factor in President Obama's interest in them. Namely, their ties to Chicago....
  • Bill Clinton's Supreme Court Advice: Pick a Wild Card

    If you ask Bill Clinton what he thinks, President Obama should throw a curveball with his next nominee to the Supreme Court. The qualities he’d like? Someone young, energetic, and someone who’s not a jurist. That rules out virtually all of the names on the White House’s reported shortlist—led, at the moment, by Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Two other top contenders, Merrick Garland and Diane Wood, have two of Clinton’s strikes against them; both are appellate justices and are pushing 60. Speaking over the weekend with ABC’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Luke Russert, Clinton quoted the late high-court justice Hugo Black, who said that people from small towns—sheriffs and county judges—would be better equipped to know “how the lofty decisions of the Supreme Court affect the ordinary lives of Americans."So who would he appoint? Clinton wouldn’t talk names. But he did firmly remove two from the list: his and his wife’s. "[Hillary] would be good at it, and at one point in her life,...
  • More on Elena Kagan’s Recusal Realities

    Yesterday, we took a look at Elena Kagan, currently on the shortlist of shortlisters to replace John Paul Stevens. One potential downside for Kagan, we suggested, is her current job. As solicitor general, history indicates that Kagan would have to recuse herself from any case she either argued or submitted a brief for, which some legal analysts have suggested could be as high as 70 percent of cases in her first year on the bench. We cited Thurgood Marshall, Kagan’s former boss and a former SG himself, who recused himself from 57 percent of cases in his first year, as a mold for what a Kagan appointment could look like.But history, as if often does, dives deeper. While Marshall’s example may indeed be a mark against Kagan, plenty of others took the bench with seeming conflicts and ended up being rather decent, even historic, members of the court. Stanley Reed had a stellar record as solicitor general when he was appointed to the high court in 1938. In his first year he penned a major...
  • Elena Kagan's Achilles Heel: Incessant Recusal

    Solicitor General Elena Kagan remains high on the list to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official admitted earlier in the week. An excellent legal résumé and experience arguing before the Supreme Court qualifies her over other candidates, some of whom have too little bench experience, others with too many declared positions. But it’s precisely Kagan’s strength that is also her weakness. Kagan has taken part in dozens of cases (either in oral argument or in briefs) since taking office last January. That means that over the next two to three years, Kagan would have to recuse herself from as many as half of the cases heard by the court—a number extraordinarily higher than normal for freshmen top jurists. The court's majority, then, would shift to 5-3—a tough hurdle to mount, especially for the left wing of the court, which will have lost its most consistent member. The best example of what Kagan's appointment would look like is her former boss, Thurgood Marshall, f...
  • Obama Doubles His Income, Rakes In $5.6 Million Last Year

    The president's annual salary is $400,000 (which was actually raised from half that amount in 2001). So it was all the more surprising this morning when the White House released President Obama's tax return, showing the family made $5.6 million last year. How? "The vast majority of the family’s 2009 income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books," said the White House, seemingly bracing for the impact of "elitism" catcalls. Earnings from the previous year were just under $2.5 million, but the book sales have indeed been dramatic—scooped up, it's safe to say, by the president's adoring supporters and the critics doing oppo research about Obama's past.The more dramatic numbers, however, are what the first family paid in taxes: just under $1.8 million in federal taxes and $163,303 on the state return (which was filed in Illinois). Also, a large chunk of the president's windfall—$1.4 million—came from his Nobel Prize...
  • Obama and Biden Reach Out to Poland

    Just one week after visiting Europe to sign a treaty, it's now official that President Obama will head to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska, who were killed in a plane crash a week ago. The rationale for the trip seems clear: it's just the right thing to do for a fallen head of state. But in a grander sense, the White House may have in mind one of Obama's more unverifiable campaign promises: to reintroduce the world to a more compassionate U.S. after anti-American sentiments rose over the past decade. (See Obama's other promises, and his progress, here.) Back in Washington, Joe Biden visited the Polish Embassy late Wednesday to pay his respects and to sign a condolence book for Kaczynski and the 94 other victims. Here was his inscription:
  • Michelle Obama Makes First Solo Trip—and First Surprise Visit—on the Same Day

    En route to her first solo diplomatic mission in Mexico this week, Michelle Obama made a surprise visit today to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, to survey the recovery efforts in the island country hit with a massive 7.0 earthquake in January. Along with Jill Biden, Obama took a helicopter tour of the city and met with top government officials in the capital city, where more than a million people remain homeless. ...
  • Nuclear Summit: What Success Will Look Like

    For two days, the Washington press corps has been inundated with news of all the big names in town and the staged photo ops that are customary between visiting leaders and their host. Usually, the conversation is a cursory exchange of issues important in the relationship of both leaders. Rarely do bilateral handshakes get terribly deep.But the reason for everyone in town this week is a fairly deep topic: keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. In what is the biggest collection of world leaders since the 1945 conference that founded the United Nations, top officials from 47 countries—all with nuclear arsenals or some sort of access to fissile material—will sit around tables late Monday and Tuesday to discuss securing their stocks. On that point, there’s general agreement. Most world leaders understand the imperative of preventing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons. But there are still some rifts, like who will monitor the international effort, and...
  • Nuclear Security Summit: The Guest List

    The White House is eager to tout more than 47 international leaders in Washington this week for the president's summit on nuclear-weapon security. As anybody who works in downtown D.C. can tell you, so many heads of state in town is highly unusual. Not even the 2008 inauguration, the last time the city was truly crippled, included so many motorcades....
  • The Shortlist to Replace Stevens

    After a month of announcing that he “might be” retiring, the liberal stalwart Justice John Paul Stevens made it official this morning. Effective at the end of the Supreme Court’s term this summer, Stevens told President Obama in a letter this morning that he would be stepping down, keen to the timing requisite for Obama to appoint another, and ideologically similar, jurist....
  • The Problem With Politics? Apparently, It’s Media.

    After months of highly publicized and well-funded lobby battles over health-care and student-loan reform, it was becoming easy to diagnose money as the leading evil responsible for polarizing American politics. But a new Rasmussen poll reports the contrary. New numbers out this week show that a majority of voters (55 percent) lay the blame on media bias over money (32 percent)—suggesting that they’re more frustrated with the pundits inside their TVs and newspapers (and, OK, magazines too) than the fat checkbooks in Washington.It’s somewhat obvious that increasingly ideological programming on the cable channels has contributed to polarization. The sheer fact that Glenn Beck made $32 million last year illuminates just how big of a business opinion journalism can be. (It’s also a factor of why CNN, the most centrist of the three cable power hitters during prime-time programming, has seen its ratings slump over the past year.) But it’s a big deal, and certainly worth noting, when media...