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Saturday, May 03, 2003  

Around the blogosphere

•Soft money, hard times

Jimm at is Project For A New Century Of Freedom concerned about a Federal District Court's decision on campaign reform. The Court ruled in favor of soft money, i.e., contributions raised indirectly for political candidates, in some respects.

The three-judge panel invalidated part of a ban on unlimited ``soft money'' donations to political parties from companies, labor unions and wealthy individuals. The court also struck down a ban on direct contributions by children. The court upheld limits on broadcast ``issue'' advertisements by corporations and unions.

However, Jimm notes Common Cause sees some positive aspects to the mixed ruling.

The federal district court today upheld some key provisions of the McCain-Feingold law, including the ban on national and state parties using soft money to run ads about federal candidates. The court also upheld provisions of the law that restrict the use of corporate and labor funding for sham issue ads about federal candidates.

To the extent that the court struck down other portions of the ban on soft money, Common Cause considers today’s ruling to be disappointing, but ultimately unimportant.

I can't help but wonder if Common Cause is merely putting the best face possible on what could turn out to be an intermediate step in watering down the reforms to nothing. The group says it is placing its faith in SCOTUS. I have become wary of doing that when it comes to the current Court. We should know the outcome of this case sooner than most.

Today's ruling can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. A decision by the high court would be the most significant since 1976, when the justices upheld a $1,000 limit on individual donations to federal candidates while striking down caps on campaign spending.

•Farewell to a fine symbol

Alas! New Hampshire's naturally occurring symbol of Yankee sternness is no more.

FRANCONIA, New Hampshire (AP) -- New Hampshire awoke Saturday to find its stern granite symbol of independence and stubbornness, the Old Man of the Mountain, had collapsed into indistinguishable rubble.

The fall ended nearly a century of efforts to protect the 40-foot-tall landmark from the same natural forces that created it. Only stabilizing cables and epoxy remained Saturday where the famous ledges had clung.

The rock formation did resemble the visage of a stern New England oldster, perhaps a parson or a skinflint merchant. For some reason, I have a preference for these symbols that occur serendipitously. They pack a punch for me that is rarely present in an ersatz achievement of design and engineering, such as the Space Needle. The state, which counted on the Old Man to lure tourists, intends to try to restore the symbol in some contrived way. I don't think it should.

Richard Jay, a liberal blogger at a school known for funding of conservative student organizations by the far Right, laments his passing at Free Dartmouth.

Horrible News

The Old Man of the Mountain is no more. For those of you who never had the chance to visit him, you seriously missed out.

Goodbye, Old Man.

•Soyuz landing scares some

CNN reports people are concerned about the landing of a space craft for the first time since the most recent shuttle tragedy February 1.

MOSCOW (AP) -- Anxiety is high for this weekend's return of three international space station residents who will be making the first spacecraft landing since the Columbia disaster and NASA's first touchdown on another nation's soil.

. . .With the space shuttle fleet grounded indefinitely, the two American astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut will barrel back to Earth on Sunday (around 10 p.m. EDT Saturday) in a Soyuz capsule that is a throwback to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo days.

Having lived through two space shuttle breakdowns, I suspect I'm partly expecting a tragedy each time one of the crafts takes off or lands, the most dangerous parts of voyages. Not because I am gloomy, but because I am realistic. The problems with the shuttle's design and engineering, especially the tiles, are now well-known. We also know that much of the value of the shuttles is as propaganda. They help Americans feel we are the intergalactic cat's pajamas. (Yes, there is an intergalactic cat. Saw him on Star Trek: Next Generation once.)

The American astronauts on the Soyuz are playing their roles to the hilt.

Astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit consider it the experience of a lifetime to cap a stretched, five-month mission. There is no extraordinary angst, Pettit assured reporters this week.

Science and sci-fi buff Emily at Emily's Musings reminds us this will be an historical landing if all goes well.

The crew of the space station will make history when they land in Kazakhstan on Sunday. This is the first landing since Columbia and the first NASA landing in a country besides the US.

We will soon know if things go as planned.

•Tacoma cop scandal worsens

The story so far: Police Chief David Brame killed himself and shot his wife in the head in the view of their two small children last Saturday. Crystal Brame is still in a coma at Harborview Hospital in Seattle. City officials' response initially was to act as if Brame's behavior was an aberration, despite the allegations of domestic abuse in the couple's divorce file and other documents. Now we know:

*Brame was disqualified by a psychiatric exam but hired as a cop anyway.

*Brame was accused of rape in 1988.

*Brame's first marriage was also troubled.

*Brame refused to work with his police department's domestic abuse liason.

The latest developments include appointing and then replacing of an interim chief, a threatening letter sent to a reporter by a friend of Brame's who also happens to be head of the police union and an admission by the city manager he never read Brame's personnel fire despite his role in hiring him. Read the full analysis at Silver Rights. (Also, a segregated prom in 2003 and more trouble for accused spy Katrina Leung.)

3:18 AM