Big mergers: Distinguishing the public interest from special interests

Washington will almost certainly have to deal with a host of proposed mergers in the next few years as markets respond to accelerating forces of technological change and global competition. At the top of the list right now is the ATT/T-Mobile deal, which generated a lot of heat at a House Judiciary Committee meeting just last week.

Herewith, a few observations gleaned from watching the merger scene over the last two decades...


Drug policies must be rooted in science

Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report calling for the decriminalization of illicit drugs based on the notion that global efforts to reduce drug use have been a failure. Certainly, given the stature of the Commission and the long-term challenge of drug policies both nationally and internationally, the Commission’s message may appear compelling at first. But there are serious flaws with both the report’s conclusion and its proposed remedy. 


Why the Senate should reject Goodwin Liu

Sen. McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

Over the past two years, our nation has been engaged in a great debate about the kind of country we want America to be — a place of maximum liberty and limited government, or a place where no problem is too big or too small for the government to get involved.

This debate arose because of a president who made no apologies about wanting to move America to the left; and it continues today, despite widespread opposition to the president’s policies, because of the president’s clear determination to forge ahead.


Goodwin Liu deserves to serve on the 9th Circuit Court

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the United States. From laborers who were vital to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1860s to leaders such as Michelle Kwan (world champion figure skater) and retired U.S. Army Four Star Gen. Eric Shinseki (current secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs), Asian Pacific Americans have contributed to almost all aspects of American life.

But despite their achievements in the social, legal and economic sphere of American life, Asian Pacific Americans are rarely chosen for the federal judiciary. Among the approximately 875 federal judges with lifetime tenure in the U.S., only 14 are Asian Pacific American. The percentage is even lower among active federal appellate court judges, where only one out of 175 is Asian Pacific American. In U.S. history, there have been only five Asian Pacific American federal appellate court judges.


Lamar Smith, you are wrong on immigration

Lamar, where did you go wrong? You were such a sensitive fellow when we worked together 30 years ago.

You’ve always been an anti-immigration advocate but as you gain power in congress, you seem to be getting crankier and more self-righteous, not (as you say) more American. Now, you add insult to injury by opposing the Dream Act.

Whatever your motivation, your position strikes me, and many other loyal Latino Republicans like me, as needlessly harsh and insensitive. It doesn’t help the image of the Republican Party in the eyes of the growing Latino electorate who will either make us or break in the upcoming elections.

What you’re doing is defending a bad law that punishes good people.


Judges delayed, justice denied in nation’s courts

Nine hundred days: that’s enough time for a newborn to grow ready for nursery school, and significantly longer than a term of Congress. It’s also the length of time that a number of seats on the federal judiciary have been vacant, due to the gridlock in Washington.
It’s getting to the point where there are so many judicial emergencies, it’s hard to know where the crisis is even focused. Alarm bells are going off everywhere: New York to Arizona, Illinois to California, Florida to Wisconsin. Many states are affected.
What’s the big deal? The remaining judges can work a little harder, cases can move a little slower, right? But, at this point, the problem grows ever-larger and has crippling effects on the justice system. With vacancies routinely hovering in the low to high 90s, civil dockets in many districts are grinding to a halt.


Standing up to Chevron

This Op Ed is a crime.

Over a 30-year career, I've worn the hat of journalist, press secretary to a U.S. Congressman and cabinet member, and public affairs professional. I recently acquired a new title, courtesy of Chevron: a co-conspirator in a massive global scheme to extort money from the oil giant.
What exactly did I do? Pretty much what PR types and lobbyists do daily in Washington, D.C.: tell my client's story.
The clients are residents of the Ecuadorian rainforest who are in an 18-year legal battle with Chevron over the intentional dumping of toxic oil into the pristine waterways and nutrient soil of the planet’s largest oxygen bank, known as the “Lungs of the World.”


Prison rape must be taken seriously

Attorney General Eric Holder proposes to seriously weaken standards intended to hold prison officials accountable for eliminating rape in their prisons. 

It isn’t often that we hear much about prison rape - except in jokes on late night TV. However, it is not a laughing matter. It is the horrid reality faced by hundreds of prisoners each day in American jails and prisons. That’s right – hundreds of victims every day of the year. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in a year’s time there were 216,000 sexual assaults on inmates. 

This high incidence of rape in our prisons is a blot on the character of the nation. Yet, for years many prison officials have scoffed at the notion that rapes were taking place in our prisons. Others shrugged it off as an expected part of prison life. When asked about prison rape, one spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Correction said, "Well, that's prison...I don't know what to tell you." In that offhand remark, he was expressing what many feel in their hearts but are loath to admit: "They deserve it."


Justice in jeopardy

The words “equal justice under law” are so fundamental to our culture they’re carved in stone above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court. But today, the opportunity to access justice in our courts is becoming as much a luxury as a Louis Vuitton bag.

Funding of the justice system is an uneven patchwork that leads to unequal delivery of justice and is highly vulnerable during hard economic times. Legal aid to the poor, already anemic, is threatened with huge new federal cuts. And the justice gap is trickling up to the middle class and small business.


A demoralizing consensus on free speech and family grieving

Isn’t it nice when the right-leaning and left-leaning Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court can agree on a decision, rather than battling it out in a 5-4 split? Consensus seems especially happy where political passions are running high, as in the funeral-picketing case Snyder v. Phelps. And so Wednesday’s 8-1 decision in favor of the picketers would appear to be – as the Times Editorial called it – “admirable.” One might even think this is a step toward the much discussed aspiration for a political culture in which decency and mutual respect transcend malice and rancorous distrust.

Alas, nothing could be further from the truth. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion elevates raw liberty over the duty to take others’ needs and vulnerabilities seriously. Albert Snyder, a private citizen mourning the loss of his son in Iraq, was forced to endure the decision of total strangers to turn his son’s funeral into a media event of national proportions. 

Fred Phelps and his one-family religious sect have a message for America: homosexuality is evil and God kills American soldiers to punish America for tolerating homosexuality.