Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas to Take the Reigns

Well, I certainly hope that this will give pause to those who believe that democracy is the magic bullet that will solve all the problems in the middle east. Just because there is democracy does not, will not, and never will ensure that friendly, peaceful governments will inhabit the earth.

This election puts Bush in a corner. One the one hand, he touts the importance of democracy and the freedom that it brings with it. On the other hand, he is saying that he will not deal with a popularly elected government that advocates the destruction of another. He is also threatening to cut off aid to the PA due to the election. While the election results are not Bush's "fault" per se, but he did push for them contrary to the position of the PA who wanted to postpone the elections.

And what the neo-cons in Washington failed to see coming is the causes of the stunning upset. Hamas, a terrorist organization, is also the salvation for many Palestinians. They provide vital social services that the people want. Money that was meant to be spent on hospitals and schools by the PA, instead was siphoned off to personal bank accounts. Filling the void was Hamas.

So, Bush is in a position where he will refuse to deal with the elected government, but at the same time cannot deny the legitimacy of the elections and the will of the people.

Disengagement will not work, but nor will dealing with a violent political party in control. Of course, there is the slim possibility that Hamas will decide to become legitimate now that it sees that the political process can work to their advantage, but I won't be holding my breath. Overall, though, I don't think Bush has much of an option but to deal with Hamas as long as the cease fire holds and to pressure Israel to do the same. This appears to be the only leverage that the US and Israel can hold over Hamas to remain peaceful, at least for the time being.

As for the treat to cut off aid, Bush is in another lose-lose situation. If Bush continues aid, he is giving money to a government formed by Hamas. If he cuts off aid, he only cements Hamas's position in power since they will be the only group with the funding (Iran, Syria, etc) that can continue the social projects that vaulted Hamas into power in the first place.

Hamas Sweeps Palestinian Poll

More Stonewalling

As I noted in my last post, Bush is only hurting himself and his party by stonewalling the press on his ties with convicted felon, Jack Abramoff. The latest polls show that this is not a mediacentric issue.

A full 76% of the American public believe that Bush should release all information relating to his ties with the former lobbyist. Only 18% believe that he should not. I don't think Bush has come to realize yet that the people do not trust him the same way they used to. Two thirds of those responding yes will probably believe that Bush is guilty of corruption regardless of disclosure. They are not the people Bush has to worry about. Most likely, at least a third of the Americans responding yes to the question about disclosure believe that he is most likely clean. But they are no longer willing to take a "just trust me" as a viable answer. For that segment, he is only cementing the opinion that Bush is not as trustworthy as he claims.

What is also interesting about the polls is that 46%-26%, Americans believe that Democrats are more able to stand up to the lobbyists.

additionally, 43% of the American people feel that ethics have fallen since his inauguration, while only 24% felt that ethics had fallen under Clinton.

While polls of this type are unreliable in predicting who will win the next election, it is certainly going to be giving many GOP congressmen ulcers.

So, I certainly hope that Bush continues to withhold the information.

Majority Believe White House Should Release Abramoff Records

Washington Post-ABC News Poll

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bush just keeps Piling It Higher and Deeper

Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! Bush is so full of bullshit, it boggles the mind.

I watched him give comments after his pep talk to the NSA (Bush Thanks NSA Employees). He says that two of the hijackers were in communication with a known al Qaeda agent overseas (true). In the speech, he claimed that 9/11 could have been prevented if the current illegal NSA spying program had been going on before 9/11.


FISA would have no - I repeat no impact on the U.S.'s ability to intercept communications between the 9/11 hijackers and al Qaeda agents overseas. FISA only requires a warrant to monitor US citizens and permanent residents.

The 9/11 hijackers were neither.

Bush Starts Stonewalling, People Will Start Wondering

Ok, at first, I thought Bush might be in the clear on Abramoff. Yes, some of his staff has been either indicted or tied to Abramoff, including a top procurement official. But Bush is either hiding something, or being really, really stupid.

If he is not hiding something, the amount that the White House is stonewalling the press on info about the relationship they may or may not have only makes him look more guilty. His opponents will get more mileage out of this than if Bush just released all of the information.

Mr. Abramoff's Meetings
Wednesday, January 25, 2006; A18

HERE ARE SOME things we know about Jack Abramoff and the White House: The disgraced lobbyist raised at least $100,000 for President Bush's reelection campaign. He had long-standing ties to Karl Rove, a key presidential adviser. He had extensive dealings with executive branch officials and departments -- one of whom, former procurement chief David H. Safavian, has been charged by federal prosecutors with lying to investigators about his involvement with Mr. Abramoff.

We also know that Mr. Abramoff is an admitted crook who was willing to bribe members of Congress and their staffs to get what he (or his clients) wanted. In addition to attending a few White House Hanukkah parties and other events at which he had his picture snapped with the president, Mr. Abramoff had, according to the White House, "a few staff-level meetings" with White House aides.

Here is what we don't know about Jack Abramoff and the White House: whom he met with and what was discussed. Nor, if the White House sticks to its current position, will we learn that anytime soon. Press secretary Scott McClellan told the White House press corps: "If you've got some specific issue that you need to bring to my attention, fine. But what we're not going to do is engage in a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation."

This is not a tenable position. It's undisputed that Mr. Abramoff tried to use his influence, and his restaurant and his skyboxes and his chartered jets, to sway lawmakers and their staffs. Information uncovered by Mr. Bush's own Justice Department shows that Mr. Abramoff tried to do the same inside the executive branch.

Under these circumstances, asking about Mr. Abramoff's White House meetings is no mere exercise in reportorial curiosity but a legitimate inquiry about what an admitted felon might have been seeking at the highest levels of government. Whatever White House officials did or didn't do, there is every reason to believe that Mr. Abramoff was up to no good and therefore every reason the public ought to know with whom he was meeting.

(Full Story)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Katrina Early Warning

It is just to be expected from him, I guess.

Bush September 1st: Good Morning America

I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.

White House Got Early Warning on Katrina

In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show...
In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

(Full Story)

The NSA Is Using The Wrong Legal Standard In Its Spy Program

Ok, so I am a complete dork and watched General Hayden, the Ariforce Commander in charge of the NSA spying, on C-Span last night. So, I am watching and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder stands up and askes a question about the legality of the program in light of the 4th Amendment.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

There are two clauses in the 4th Amendment. Reasonableness of searches and probable cause for warrents. Read seperately, there appears to be no need for a warrant for a search. But, it is not read seperately and the U.S. Supreme Court has imposed a presumptive warrant requirement for all searches and seizures, and has required probable cause in order for a warrantless search or seizure to be reasonable. the Supreme Court has routinely held that the probable cause clause is more impratnat than the reasonableness clause. Thus, the SC has interpreted warrentless searches and seizures as unreasonable unless there is probable cause.

That is why the Q & A with the General is so disturbing. First, he doesn't seem to remember that probable coause does appear in the 4th Amendment. Second, he dosen't know the legal relationship between the two. He is adamate that he knows the 4th amendment... appearantly not.

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause."

And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place of probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

It would be nice if the person in charge of running the program actually knew what the legal standard was, especially before going on television and making even more of a fool of the government. If we don't have someone running the show who even knows the legal standards, than how can we believe them that they are doing everything in there power to protect our civil liberties. Of course, the so called liberal Washington Post let him skate on it (Campaign To Justify Spying Intensifies).

Furthermore, the court has been pretty clear about warrantless eaves dropping (Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347).

- So long as an individual can justifiably expect that his conversation would remain private, his/her conversation is protected from "unreasonable search and seizure" by the Fourth Amendment.

- The Fourth Amendment protects people, not just places. Therefore, the rights of an individual can be violated, regardless of whether or not there is physical intrusion into any given area.

- A warrant is required before the government can execute a wiretap, and the warrant must be sufficiently limited in scope and duration.

The fact that Bush still has not been able to produce any further authority than the broad "Congress told me to fight a war on terror, so that's what I am doing," shows that there is no real legal justification for his actions. He may have been doing what he thought was best for the country, but good intentions still does not make it legal or him above the law

Monday, January 23, 2006

If Bush Won't Lead, States Will

Because of Bush's disastrous environmental policy along side the Republican congress(and there is no way to say it has not been disastrous), the states are starting to tackle the issues on their own. While this is good from an environmental standpoint, it is terrible from an economic standpoint. Whenever you have different regulations by state when the sale of electricity of consumer goods is involved, it drives up prices. It makes producers of consumer goods either produce all of their products to the highest standards applicable, or it must have multiple production lines.

But, states have been left with little or no alternative with Bush's regressive environmental policies. If the federal government is going to fail on the national level to reduce our dependence on foreign energy and to keep the water and air clean enough for human health, the states are right to act individually.

A sound environmental policy is a win/win situation for American. It increases the health and economic productivity of its citizens, it reduces our need to ship our money overseas to buy foreign oil from nations like Iran, and it creates technologies that can be exported around the world for the economic benefit of the U.S.

But, Bush's short term gains for a few trump the overall benefit for the many.

'Blue' States Tackling Energy On Their Own
Federal Efficiency Rules Fall Short, Some Say
By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 22, 2006; Page A01

Democratic-leaning states increasingly are regulating energy use and emissions, working around a GOP-controlled federal government that state officials say has not done enough.

The states are creating energy efficiency requirements for light bulbs and household appliances, limiting power plant and automobile output linked to global warming, and requiring the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

Leading the effort are "blue" states that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election. Even some of those states that have Republican governors, such as California and Connecticut, are making their own rules.

"In a way, the left is controlling that agenda," said Amy Myers Jaffe, associate director of the energy program at Rice University in Houston. "They're just implementing it at the community and state level."

(Full Story)

Karl Rove, Domesic Spying and the 2008 Election

Over the weekend, Karl Rove gave one of his recycled speeches, declaring that Republicans keep us safe and Democrats want to sell out to the terrorist. At center point was the NSA spying program and criticism of it. Rove jumped on Democrats who criticize the illegal program, but fails to mention that many prominent Republicans also are at odds with the administration on the program.

This, I think is a tactical error. It might have been a winning issue if Bush was running again... but he is not. Instead, congressmen are running for re-election and the GOP will have to put up a new candidate for the white house in 2008. Karl Roves comments were lose-lose for the GOP.

First, it either traps congressmen. Either they must be seen as Bush's lackeys when the majority of American people are still dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Being labeled as a congressman who will pander to the White House is not the best position to be in right now. Or, the congressmen must distance themselves from the White House and stake out "independent" ground. This is not good for an administration that is still hoping to accomplish a lot in its last three years in office including the PATRIOT Act. Further fracturing the Republican party onle further erodes Bush's agenda.

Second, it places the next GOP presidential candidate in a bad spot. The current popular front runner is John McCain, who has publicly criticized the president on the NSA program, claiming that Bush probably did not have legal authority. If Rove continues to categorize those who support and those who oppose the program as good and bad for this country, he will have already cemented a negative impression on the possible GOP candidate. As current polling stands, there are no non-moderate Republicans who can beat Hillary Clinton in a head to head match up. Rove's strategy may have the effect of tilting the GOP primaries to far to the right for the Republicans to put up a winning candidate (not that I will complain).

So, Rove has penned in his party, not only policy wise, but ideology wise at a time when flexibility may be needed. The GOP is making a concerted effort to decenteralize the 2006 Congressional race, but Rove's remarks only help the Democrats keep it nationalized.

Delicate Dance for Bush in Depicting Spy Program as Asset

McCain slams W spy program

The President's End Run

Sununu seeking changes in Patriot Act

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Humor

I am busy doing ohter things today, so I thought I would just leave you with this and wish everyone a good weekend.

Jon Stewart: Four years ago, el Presidente Bush first spoke of the Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea---a trio of dangerous nations. Obviously, since that time, Iraq has gotten a little more attention than the other two. [It] played Marcia Brady, if you will, to their Jan. Well, last week, Iran (or "Jan") of the Axis of Evil announced the resumption of its controversial uranium enrichment program, and threatened to block international inspectors from its nuclear sites.

So, a Muslim country [is] developing weapons of mass destruction, led by a man who hates America, in repeated defiance of the United Nations. President Bush...

Bush at press conference: We spent some time talking about the Iranian issue and the desire to solve this issue diplomatically by working together.

Stewart: Um...who are you? Where's our president?? Of course, it's a lot easier to be diplomatic when we've only got two armies left to deploy: Salvation and KISS. ... Okay, I know it's strange to hear the president use the "diplomacy" word, but he explains further...

Bush: Our job is to form a common consensus. And so...this is what we call diplomacy.

Stewart: Now, before you think President Bush is being condescending, he was responding to a question from Johnny Stupid of Dumbfuck Monthly.

---The Daily Show

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh, for The Love Of God!

Paris Hilton, who is being sued for lible for planting a fake story in the press about her then boyfriend's ex-firlfriend, had to give a deposition. These are some of the choices excerpts I have seen in a long time.

In her deposition, Paris is asked about a companion with her that night whose first name is Terry. When asked if she knew his last name, Paris replied: “It is, like, a weird Greek name. Like Douglas.”

Yes, that ever so wierd Greek name Douglas. If she thinks "Douglas" is a wierd Greek name, I wonder what she thinks "Smith" is. Albanian?

Paul Berra, Graff’s lawyer, asks Paris if she is aware that the Page Six article had been republished in various newspapers. “Were there U.K. publications?” Berra asks. Hilton responds “No…there is stuff in London.” Paris’ lawyer, Larry Stein, jumps in and says “London is a U.K. publication.” Paris retorts, “Right. U.K. Whatever.”

It just goes to show you that all the money in the world can't buy you brains. It makes me also ask why, oh why, do Republicans want to make sure that she never pays a penny of tax on the billion dollar empire she will inherit.

Paris on what she said to Zeta Graff:

“She is old and should stay at home with her child instead of being at night clubs with young people. And just that - I just…What else did I say? Just that she is not cute at all.”

Stupidity is not all that attractive either, Paris.

Hilton swore she never saw a republication of the article: "I was in Europe the whole summer, and all there is is like French -- I didn't see anything because I wasn't in American."

You, know... in American... that laguage that she is still getting tutored in.

She added that Graff had threatened Latsis: "He said that she threatened to send Mexican people to come and beat the s..t out of him."

Hilton testified that she too was scared: "He said that she was going to do voodoo on me. And I kind of do believe in that stuff a little bit, so I was a little bit scared about that... "

Well, at least the voodoo doll would have a higher IQ than her.

Hilton, who was admonished several times to use the word "no" instead of "huh-uh," had problems explaining emails between herself and her then-publicist, Rob Shuter. Hilton claims she talked to Shuter after the incident and said: "I don't want this getting out..." But Shuter sent Hilton the article the day it ran with the note: "This is genius." Hilton responded, "You are amazing! I f..... love it!!! You are genius...."

"I meet so many people. I don't even know some of my friends' names."

Can they really be friends then? And, for the record, can you remeber your name, Paris? This is not a trick question, Paris. Let me give you a hint, Paris, it starts with a P.

Hilton's graphic description of Shuter was not the only departure from a traditional deposition. At one point she blurted out: "I'm so hungry."

I guess there were no puppies or babies in the room for her to snack on... Poor Paris.

Well, that makes one of them

Where Is The Line?

I had a commenter leave this as part of a reply to a previous post in regards to the question why are Americans more likely to give up liberty in regards to terrorism when you are much more likely to be killed by someone you know.

Somehow, Dingo, I get the feelin' if another attack happened in your backyard you'd be one of the first to blame the Bush administration for not doin' enough to stop it.

Well, if the attack were to be the result of the lack of security in our ports or one of the many other holes that the government has yet to fill, then yes, I would.

But, this brings to the forefront another question - How far is too far?

How much of our liberty is acceptable to cede to the government for security? And, what is the line where you say that the president or the congress has gone too far in "protecting" you? What is your personal limit?

I would like you hear your opinions.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

The republicans rolled out there "lobbying reform package" yesterday. It, in essence, makes the problems only worse.

Currently, legislators are allowed to take privately funded trips for "educational" purposes, such as Tom DeLay's trip to Siapan to see up close and personal how his vote to favor garment makers on the island makes kids work for 23 cents an hour in sweat shops.

Now, the rules will be changed to ban "educational" trips, but allow "campaign" trips. That means a company... say Halliburton, can fly DeLay to St. Croix for a week on their tab, and as long as they hand him a campaign check, the trip is perfectly legal. No "educational" purpose it needed.

Please, tell me how this is better?

This is what happens when you send a Republican to do a mans job.

Loophole in Lobbying Bill Leaves Wiggle Room

Republicans Propose Restrictions On Lobbying

Why Does Terrorism Scare Us More?

I saw this as part of a post on the Iowa Voice. The author is an unabashed conservative, but for the most part he does put thought into his posts and at least is willing to articulate an argument (even if I disagree). In regards to the NSA illegal spy program he writes:

Personally, I'd much rather have 1000 innocent people investigated than to have NO investigation at all and find out later that had we done it, we could have prevented the next 9/11. Of course, by the time we realize that, the next 9/11 will have already happened, and it would be too late.

What is it about terrorism that has us so afraid that we are willing to give up liberty for security? This is not meant to be an attack on anyone's ideals, but an honest question.

There were 14,408 murders in this country in 2003, which is more deaths than all terrorist attacks in the history of the US combined (including domestic terrorists like McVey). 9,638 were by firearms. Of those 9,638 murders, approximately 3400 of them were by people who had never committed a crime before.

So, still, you have more deaths by firearms from previously non-criminal Americans in 2003 alone than you have deaths by terror in the history of the US. Why is the 2nd amendment so sacred, but the 1st and 4th can be tossed out the window for the sake of safety. Rational thought would tell you that the 2nd amendment is much more dangerous to our safety than the 4th.

Surprisingly, only 17% of murders in the US in 2003 were related to felony crimes such as rape, robbery, burglary, drugs, etc (the reason we say we keep guns for protection). The rest were done mainly over arguments over property, significant others, bar room brawls, etc.

The majority of murders happened by people the victim knew (of cases where the murder was resolved as to the offender). 123 by husbands. 573 by wives. 129 by fathers. 105 by mothers. 268 by sons. 193 by daughters. 3294 by acquaintances. 160 by boyfriends. 464 by girlfriends. Only 1795 were by strangers.

So, what is it about terrorism that scares us more so that we are more willing to surrender our liberties than death from individual Americans. After all, you are thousands of times more likely to die from a crime other than a terrorist attack. Why do we give up our liberty in order to combat terrorism but not other crimes? Iowa voice is much more likely to be killed by his wife or girlfriend than a terrorist.

Why is it that we respect the constitutional right of law biding gun owners when 35% of the 9,638 gun murders are committed by people who never had a prior record, but we don't respect the 1st and 4th amendment in relation to terrorism?

Of course some of it comes from the fear of mass murder from weapons of mass destruction. But, even if Terrorist were able carry out a 9/11 attack each and every year, it still would not match the number of murders inflicted upon us by our fellow citizens.

So, what is it about terrorism that gives us such a knee-jerk reaction to safety? Why is it that the low grade simmer of murder by Americans is less fearful than flash in the pan terrorism? And if there are so many more murders committed by Americans than terrorists, why do we insist that the police stay within the bounds of the constitution on one, but not the other.

I would like to hear your opinions.

Sources: FBI

Murder stats 2003

Murder by State 2003

Murder by Relationship 2003

Follow Up Post to Who Is More Out Of Touch

In follow up to my post - Who's More Out of Touch? - I think Pedro sums it up well

Basically, we have two parties right now in America: one that looks out for the interests of rich people, and one that looks out for the interests of the rich people who like to think of themselves as looking out for the interests of poor people.

And, also a comment left in reply to Pedro by Bilwick:

I agree with comedian Colin Quinn, a lifelong Democrat, explaining to his show-biz-lib friends why he was supported George Bush: "Because the fascism of the Right is at least out in the open."

Whether you are liberal or conservative, if you are in the middle, your respective parties have been taken over by a fringe that is intolerant of dissent.

Yes, the Democrats have become obstructionists in the Congress. So have the Republicans. Democrats have been shut out of all forms of the legislative process. Republicans meet behind closed doors to draw up legislation and block Democrats from even adding amendments to bills. In return, Democrats block any movement of significant legislation through the house or senate.

30 years ago, legislators of both parties would dine together after a day of debating each other on the floor. While they had partisan disagreements, they could still act cordially to each other off the floor and form friendships that would help them cooperate with the opposition.

Now, we are in the world of "K-Street projects" and if a republican legislator is seen in the company of a Democrat or vice versa, they are considered disloyal and traitors to their party.

We need to demand more of our elected officials. Sometimes we will have to be happy with only getting 50% of what we want in order to get anything at all. This partisan divide serves to the benefit of none except the few who use it to raise money and push fascist ideas of either extreme.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Are The Economic Numbers Really All Buch Claims Them To Be

Without question, the economy is growing, and the Republicans are jumping all over it as a sign of how wonderful they are. But, what does it mean to the average American and are the numbers all that they are cracked up to be?

Bush's Expansion Leaves Workers Behind, Sparking Fed Friction
By Craig Torres and Alex Tanzi

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- American workers have rarely taken home a smaller share of the nation's prosperity, a condition that is undermining bipartisan support for free trade and creating friction between President George W. Bush's administration and the Federal Reserve.

After 16 consecutive quarters of economic growth, pay is rising at a slower rate than in any similar expansion since the end of World War II. Companies are paying less of their cash gains in the form of wages and salaries than at any time since the Great Depression, according to government figures.

Such a disparity, partly the result of globalization of the labor market, helps explain why the Bush administration is struggling to muster support for lower trade barriers even with the jobless rate at a four-year low. The imbalance has also triggered a debate between Bush's Treasury Department and the Fed about how low unemployment can go without kindling inflation.

``There is no doubt that something is happening'' to reduce labor's share of income, says Robert Solow, a Nobel Prize- winning economist and professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. An economy that doesn't distribute its gains widely is ``poorly performing,'' he says.

From the final quarter of 2001 through last year's third quarter, total compensation paid to employees by corporations, including health benefits, rose at a 4.3 percent average annual rate, according to government figures. That's the slowest growth for any similar period in post-war expansions lasting at least four years.

(Full Story)

Illegal Spying Helps Little

While the ACLU is filing suit against the Bush administration for its secret wire taps of American citizens under violation of the 1st and 4th amendments. While Rush Limbaugh is still out there spreading the lie that the FISA court rejected a FBI request to tap Jose Padilla, the article draws attention to how the N.S.A. program might even be counter productive by drawing F.B.I. agents away on wild goose chases.

Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends By LOWELL BERGMAN, ERIC LICHTBLAU, SCOTT SHANE and DON VAN NATTA Jr.
Published: January 17, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

(Full Story)

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide

Today, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the assisted suicide case that pitted John Ashcroft against the Oregon law that allows Dr.s to assist terminally ill patients to end their lives.

I agree with this ruling. The practice of medicine is traditionally the purvey of the states and the decision to ends one life if afflicted with a terminal disease is an individual right that should be upheld under the 9th and 10th amendments. I don't agree with the practice, but it is something that should be decided with ones family, doctors and clergy, not politicians in Washington.

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Suicide Law
By GINA HOLLAND Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON Jan 17, 2006 — The Supreme Court upheld Oregon's one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law Tuesday, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.

Justices, on a 6-3 vote, said that federal authority to regulate doctors does not override the 1997 Oregon law used to end the lives of more than 200 seriously ill people. New Chief Justice John Roberts backed the Bush administration, dissenting for the first time.

The administration improperly tried to use a drug law to prosecute Oregon doctors who prescribe overdoses, the court majority said.

"Congress did not have this far-reaching intent to alter the federal-state balance," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for himself, retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

(Full Story)

Friday, January 13, 2006

E-Trade Sucks

So, E-Trade bought out my brokerage firm, Harris Direct and transferred everything over to their brokerage. The final switchover was on Tuesday. Everything seemed to transfer over fine... until today. 25% of my money market funds are gone.

Poof, vanished into thin air.

So, I get a little concerned, but not too much. I decide to call their customer service line - 1-800-WE-SUCK-1. They have one of those all automated systems where you have to enter you account number, followed by you SSN. Then it says that it is transferring you to an account rep.

But, instead, you get "sorry, this call cannot be completed as dialed."

Grrr... I try it again. same thing.

So, I call the number again and try hitting O when it asks for my account number.

"Sorry, I did not understand your account number. Please enter it again."

I press O again followed by the # sign.

"Sorry, I did not understand your account number. Please enter it again."

This time I press 666 followed by the # sign.

"Please wait while we connect you to a customer representative."

Figures... So, I am on hold for 13 minutes before I get a live person. She asks me 6 ways to Sunday of verification info, some of which, I don't even know, like what was my LDL cholesterol count in 1997. She finally asks me what she can help me with. I tell her a good chunk of money is missing from my money market account.

"Oh, well you will have to talk to an associate about that. Please hold."

45 minutes later, I am still on hold. My neck muscles are cramping up and I am head tilt with spasms that Bush gets when he is asked an uncomfortable question.

So, screw the phone, I'll go to the nearest E-Trade office and talk to a live person there. I walk the 7 blocks and ask to speak with someone about my account and the missing money.

"Oh, you'll have to call the customer service line for that."

I explain, I have already done that and could not get through. My neck spasms are starting again, but it is from anger, not phone neck.

Smugly, he says he can't do anything. There has been a computer glitch and they can't access accounts until next Tuesday. Luckily, there were several people with sales people who were looking to open up accounts. As loudly as possible, but without being obnoxious, I reiterate my dissatisfaction with the missing money and the hour + I spent on the phone getting no answers.

At least one of the people there to open an account got up and walked out behind me. So, at least I got some satisfaction out of the trip.

So, if you are thinking about opening an E-Trade account - Don't

There computers suck. There customer service sucks. They suck.

Update: I found these other reviews on-line

E-Trade - "E-Trade is awful. Every time I have had a complaint and call the helpdesk it takes forever for them to pick up. One time I had lost my debit card and I waited on hold for over an hour before the battery on my cell phone died. E-Trade is just plain awful. If I didn't have my direct deposit and other banking already through them I would just leave. I will, however, start to transition everything so I can get another bank. I've had it with them." - Salvador - Florida, USA (Sep-2005)

"Customer Service at E-Trade is very very poor - among the worst I have seen in this or any other industry. I have called them on various requests at least once every business day for the past two weeks and the average hold time before I could speak to an agent was 48 minutes! A few of those days I waited on hold more than one hour to speak to someone... - A. Sircar - Connecticut, USA (Aug-2005)

"All interactions I have had with E-Trade customer service has ended in disappointment and complete dissatisfaction. I have attempted to deal with E-Trade customer service more than 7 times on various issues. All ended terrible. I am still a member on E-Trade with 0 dollars in my account. - J. Slunder - California, USA (Jul-2005)

"E-Trade sucks. I wish I read the comments on this website first. The listed price of $19.95 a trade is not entirely accurate. E-Trade also imposes a $3 processing fee in addition to the $19.95. What the hell? When I finally cancelled my account, I was charged a $10 fee to get my own money." - R. Beckman - California, USA (Feb-2005)

"Worst customer service I have ever experienced." - Hamid - California, USA (Nov-2003)

And it looks like E-Trade has sucked for a very, very long time - Etrade's Rosy Picture Wilts in Face of Truth

Alito Likely to Pass Through Senate

I have listened to or watched much of the Alito hearings. As I have said before, I don't like him for the SC. I don't dislike him as a person. But his interpretation of privacy, discrimination and the expansive powers of government scare me. Someone who can't even accept a married couple right to use contraception as "settled law," gives way too much weight to the government over individuals.

Some round up articals:

Alito Likely To Become A Justice

A Hearing About Nothing

Liberals Vow to Dig In

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Who's More Out of Touch?

I see liberals saying that Republican politicians are out of touch with the average American

I see conservatives saying the Democrat politicians are out of touch with the average American.

Did'ja think, maybe... just maybe it is not Republicans or Democrats... just politicians as a whole.

In the end, it is the growing partisan divide that is driving this.

And, in the end, I blame us... the average American. We have let both of our parties be hijacked by the extremer elements of either side. The Democrats have let it happen. The Republicans have let it happen, and to equal amounts.

Politicians, by nature, respond to their constituency. We have allowed the politicians to create cozy little "safe" districts for themselves where they only have to pander to the fringe to remain in power. The vast middle America has sat down and shut up. We allowed them to become out of touch. We voted them into office after all.

Follow up post: Follow up to who is more out of touch

Filibuster Is On The Table

Rumor has it that Senator Joe Lieberman has said that filibustering the Alito nomination is on the table.


We didn't need Robert Bork in the Supreme Court in 1988, and we don't need him now.

I gave Alito a fair chance. I read many of his opinions, and just did not like his judicial philosophies. He, is without question, very intelligent. But, he gives way too much power to the government over the rights of individuals. I have little doubt that he would have been in the majority on Kelo.

I do have questions about why he was a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (a racists and sexist organization). Why was it on his resume? I can understand that he may have half-heartedly joined it. I know that I am probably a member of some groups that I don't even know about because I signed a petition here or there. But, putting it on your resume is something completely different. It concerns me because of his rulings in discrimination cases. He so narrowly construes discrimination as to make it almost impossible to sue. His membership in CAP would be consistent with his rulings. There is a reason that Alito was the Reagan's administration favorite person to deal with on discrimination cases and it was not because he told great jokes.

I am not asserting that he is an overt racist or sexist. But his opinions lead me to believe that while he would not discriminate himself, he denies the existence of racism or sexism in the real world (similar to Bork).

He is also inconsistent on the questions he will answer. He refuses to say anything about Roe other than it is open game. He predicates this refusal on the fact that there would be future cases coming before the supreme court. Yet, he has said that one-man, one vote is settled law (even though he has also criticized this in the past) and there are currently 4 cases pending on the issue.

I don't think he is a bad person. I don't dislike him personally, but I don't think he has to be objective SC justice. I just have not seen it in his opinions.

Update: I forgot to add another reason I dislike Alito's deference to institutions over the rights of individuals. We need a SC justice who is firm on privacy rights due to things like this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pat's Got Company

Just in case you thought Pat Robertson was the only nut job out there...

Ministers Say They Blessed Seats Ahead of Alito Hearing

Founding Fathers and Freedom

This morning, I read the poll that claims 56% of Americans want the government to get a warrant before then can spy on American citizens. I liked to see that the majority of Americans believe this is a nation of laws, but still, a full 42% of Americans didn't find it necessary for the government to get warrants before spying on us. (Poll: Americans Want Warrants for Spying).

This poll made me think of a quote by James Madison, the father of the Bill of Rights:

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

Of course, the split was sharpest along party lines. This made me wonder, what was the difference between liberals and conservatives on this matter? Why is it that liberals are more concerned with freedom and conservatives more concerned with security? Why is it that conservatives don't see the grandeur of freedom the same as the founding fathers did? And why liberals see a tangible danger to safety less important than fundamental freedom?

I remembered reading something over at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

I saw National Treasure this weekend with some family, and it had some interesting lines in it. At one point, he quite rightly said that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own treason. They were doing what was right, for the safety and security of their own people, to pull away from a tyrannical government.

This is where the difference lies. Not only do conservatives make a fundamental misjudgment about the founding of our nation, they fail to see that they are fundamentally different than our founders.

First, the misjudgment. The founding fathers were not fighting for safety and security. This is an assertion I have seen over and over from conservative bloggers. Yes, we were separating ourselves from a tyrannical government. No, it was not for safety and security. The rule of King George was not like the rule of Saddam Hussein. King George did not have torture chambers set up across the colonies. King George was not gassing the Virginians. We fought not for safety, but for freedom.

In fact, the founders made a conscious decision to give up security for fundamental freedom. The founders decided the risk of death was less important than the acquisition of freedom. To them, the trade of was security for freedom, not freedom for security. The founders fought and gave their lives willingly to enshrine in a constitution certain freedoms that were more important than temporary security. Benjamin Franklin said it best:

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

Second, conservatives fail to see that they are in fact they are the ones that were the loyalists, not the revolutionaries. The passage of two hundred years does not change the fact that the founding fathers were "barking moonbats," as conservatives like to call liberals now. The founders' ideas were bold and, without question, the most liberal the world had seen in over 2000 years. Shrugging off the yoke of thousands of years of hereditary rule for the liberalization of law, rights and freedom was not the work of conservatives. It was the work of men who were embarking on the greatest experiment the world had ever seen.

Conservatives of the day thought the revolutionaries were crazy. "Separate from our king? You can do that... he is our king." Is there any question who's side Rush Limbaugh would have been on? He would have been on his soap box, somewhere in colonial American yelling, "friends!... these revolutionaries!... these traitors to the crown want to destroy everything that makes these British colonies great! They call themselves patriots, but they want to depose the king, the god appointed sovereign."

I have often said, conservatives are just those who accept the ideas of liberals that came several generations before them. Every idea was new at some point.

This is not to say that all liberal ideas are good, nor will they all be accepted with the passage of time. But, some of the things we accept now as fundamental, were new liberal ideas in their day.

End to slavery, end to segregation, women's right to vote. All of these were moonbat ideas at their inception, but are embraced as fundamental by both conservatives and liberals now.

So, when thinking about what our founding fathers would hav thought about the current NSA warrantless spying, think of what our founding fathers really thought, not what you may want them to have thought.

Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it. - James Madison

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bremer Says He Was Ignored When Asking for More Troops

Bremer, who was the top civilian in Iraq, has come out with a new book, "My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope." In Bremer's new book, he claims that he asked Bush and Rummy for an increase in troop strenght and was ignored. So, that whole thing about Bush saying - if they ask for it, they will get it - was just another one of his lines. Kind of like - if anyone in this administration had anything to do with the CIA leaking of Valerie Plame, they will be fired.

Bremer Says He Sought Rise in U.S. Troop Strength in Iraq

Published: January 10, 2006

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 - The American who served as the senior civilian administrator in Iraq says he complained to President Bush and other officials that far too few troops were committed to the occupation in the first year after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

In a new book, the official, L. Paul Bremer III, wrote that he had voiced his concerns personally to Mr. Bush and other administration officials, even writing a formal message in May 2004 to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The private note stated that "the deterioration of the security situation" made it clear that "we were trying to cover too many fronts with too few resources," Mr. Bremer wrote in the book.

"Even a year after liberation, the military still could not provide adequate protection for movements to and from Baghdad International Airport," Mr. Bremer recalled, and wrote that he had advised Mr. Rumsfeld to "consider whether the coalition could deploy one or two additional divisions for up to a year."

(Full Story)

The Washington Two Step that Turned Into a Shuffle

As the Republicans regroup after all the scandals that have broken over the past year, the GOP is looking for new leadership after Tom Delay has bowed to the inevitable and stepped aside. What still burns my hide somewhat, is the fact that it was only after Jack Abramoff plead guilty and agreed to name names is the GOP finally calling for any reform. Even though, we knew prior to this that Washington was rife with corruption, our elected politicians did not even start talking about reform until the other shoe hit the ground.

But even with DeLay on the leadership sideline, those eager to fill his shoes are not without their own tainted past. Blunt and DeLay were intertwined like Lenny Kravitz dreadlocks. (Blunt, Boehner Share Broad Network of Lobbyist Ties With DeLay)

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Representatives Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boehner of Ohio have been among the key intermediaries between Republican lawmakers and lobbyists since their party took control of the U.S. Congress in 1995.

Now, with both men vying to succeed Representative Tom DeLay as House majority leader, those ties may loom as an issue.

Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said concerns that the two men are too close to Washington's K Street lobbying corridor may encourage a dark-horse candidate to run against them. ``We have three weeks until this election, and a lot can happen between now and then,'' Flake said...

Blunt, 55, and DeLay, 58, share a network of ties as extensive as any in Congress, including links to lobbyists.

And Boehner is so much a Washington insider, only he and Jack Nicholson are allowed into the V-V-V-VIP lounge. (Boehner in line to be House majority leader).

Washington- John Boehner is an insider's insider. He not only knows how to pass laws and win allies in Congress, he also knows how to slip quietly out of the Capitol for a smoke and some schmoozing with reporters, and how to make friends among CEOs, work a golf course and throw one magnificent party.

Normally that's how one rises to the vaunted post of House majority leader, a position Boehner, from West Chester in southwest Ohio, wants now that Tom DeLay is bowing out of leadership under an ethics cloud.

But the quest by Boehner (pronounced BAY-ner) to win the No. 2 post in the House, giving him sway in leading the Republican majority, presents a dilemma. If Congress is to renounce its cozy relationships with lobbyists - the intense chase for campaign money and deal-making that's prompting outrage - Boehner may not represent a sweeping change.

Republican, Jeff Flake comments on his parties woes (In Congress, 'we simply have too much power')

"We simply have too much power," says Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaking of lawmakers' ability to target tax dollars for particular projects, contractors or campaign donors. "We Republicans have abused that power badly over the past several years."

And many Americans see it the same way. In a new Gallup poll, 58% of Americans think that corruption is wide spread in DC and goes way beyond the Abramoff scandal and the majority of Americans think that the Republican Congress has led the country in the wrong direction. (Most consider lobbying scandal a big deal, poll shows - In Abramoff Case, Most See Evidence of Wider Problem).

But, there is still greater hope for us. Yesterday, 9 elected Republican judges refused to throw out the charges against DeLay. Even if DeLay is acquitted, it is now absolute that the charges are not baseless.

Monday, January 09, 2006

DeLay Drops Out

Well, this certainly sucks. DeLay has ended his bid to regain his spot at the top of the Republican congress. I was hopping that the "Hammer" would be more tenacious and insist that the Republicans continue to take election year hits for him. The longer he stuck around, trying to delay the GOP from holding new elections, the better it was for democrats.

DeLay Ends Bid To Regain Post As GOP Leader

Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.), one of the most powerful and feared Republican leaders in Washington, abandoned his quest to regain his House majority leader post yesterday, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about the growing corruption and campaign finance scandals linked to his office.

DeLay's announcement in his home town of Sugar Land ends his decade-long tenure as a legislative juggernaut and conservative ideologue who revolutionized the relationship between power and money in Washington. It also cleared the way for a leadership contest that could further shake up the House GOP team going into an uncertain election year. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) said Republicans will choose a new majority leader and other officers the week of Jan. 30, when members return for President Bush's State of the Union address.

On the up side, the front runner for the spot is Roy Blunt, who has quite a few money skeletons in his own closet. Many of Blunt's campaign coffers are tied directly to DeLay. It won't be as easy picking on him as it is DeLay, but the GOP will still retain the shroud of corruption with Blunt as its head.

The Wall Street Journal has an Op-Ed about the continuing problems that will continue to face the GOP if it does not reform itself post haste.

Incumbency Over Ideas

The real House GOP problem isn't about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles. As their years in power have stretched on, House Republicans have become more passionate about retaining power than in using that power to change or limit the federal government. Gathering votes for serious policy is difficult and tends to divide a majority. Re-election unites them, however, so the leadership has gradually settled for raising money on K Street and satisfying Beltway interest groups to sustain their incumbency...

As House Republicans consider replacing Mr. DeLay, they need to choose someone who will reinvigorate their commitment to reforming Washington. And this may mean more change than they'd otherwise prefer entering an election year.

Blunt has been very lack luster in his performance as the interim leader thus far. He has been unable to control the House Republicans and has had to take several hits already. I wish him all the luck in being elected leader.

Friday, January 06, 2006

DeLay and the Abramoff Fallout

Busy day at work and not much time for blogging, but there were a couple of stories on the Abramoff scandal and the continuing fallout, especially for the former House Majority leader, Tom DeLay.

As Republicans fall overthemselves to return the money they received from Abramoff (Purging Capitol Hill's oldest profession), more and more republicans are coming to grips with the fact that the party cannot maintain a semblance of respectability and retain DeLay as their leader. (After Abramoff, a GOP Scramble). Today, 12 Republican congressmen called for new elections to be held (Republicans calling for elections to replace DeLay)

"We have commitments for about 25 signatures. The letter calls for a leadership election for a permanent majority leader," said Matthew Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake (news, bio, voting record), a conservative Arizona Republican.

Fifty House Republican signatures are needed to call elections, which would occur after the House reconvenes on January 31.

The Wall Street Journal write an interesting piece on how the GOP needs to do a wholesale house cleaning if it is to return to the party it claims to be. (Cleaning House).

Here's a better strategy: Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.

The scandal has also given the Texas prosecutor, Ronnie Earl, more ammunition ( Prosecutor Broadens DeLay Inquiry). With this new inquiry, it will continue to drag out the legal process, making the party continue without permanent leadership. With the Abramoff cooperation, Earl is now looking into DeLay's connections with the not-for-profit group, U.S. Family Network, which received large donations and other shady deals (Earle seeks money record)

The subpoenas seek documents and correspondence from the National Republican Congressional Committee in regard to the group's 1999 contribution to the U.S. Family Network. Subpoenas also were issued for Edwin Buckham, of Frederick, Md., a former DeLay chief of staff who set up the family network; and Christopher Geeslin, a Frederick, Md., pastor who served as the network's president.

The network was used to promote causes championed by DeLay, according to the Washington Post.

The group raised $2.5 million from three Abramoff clients, including $1 million from Russian businessmen, the Post reported. Abramoff worked with Buckham to organize a 1997 trip to Moscow by DeLay.

Buckham's lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, employed DeLay's wife, Christine, paying her $115,00 during three years. DeLay's lawyers have said she was paid to determine the favorite charities of members of Congress.

Earle also issued subpoenas to Americans for Economic Growth and the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC for records regarding the $500,000 contribution.

DeLay cannot blame the Abramoff problems on the MSM or an over zealous prosecutor. If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Now, the only question is, who gave who the fleas?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pat Robertson: Good Smite and Good Luck

Isn't it is so comforting to know that idiots like this get to speak to and be followed by 2 million Americans every single day...

Robertson: Sharon punished for dividing Israel

The Rev. Pat Robertson said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was punished by God for dividing the Land of Israel.

Speaking on the “700 Club” on Thursday, Robertson suggested that Sharon, who is currently in an induced coma following a massive stroke and cerebral hemorrhage, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995, were being treated harshly by God for dividing Israel.

“He was dividing God’s land,” Robertson said. “And I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America.’ God says, ‘This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.’ ”

Video clip

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Typical Bush

Ok... Please, if someone could explain to me. If Bush can claim unlimited powers to fight terrorism and eavesdrop on us and such regardless of the constitution, why do we even need the PATRIOT Act?

Isn't that kinda like passing a law making it legal to breath?

Bush, Cheney Defend Iraq War, Spying
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney tried a one-two punch Wednesday in defense of the Iraq war, a domestic spying program and the terrorism-fighting Patriot Act they want Congress to renew


Cheney, speaking at a conservative think tank in Washington, defended the domestic spying program, which he says does not violate Americans' civil liberties.

A presidential order, which is the subject of upcoming congressional hearings, gave the National Security Agency permission to eavesdrop without a warrant on communications between suspected terrorists overseas and people inside the United States.


Parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire on Feb. 3. Whether to renew them will dominate debate on Capitol Hill this month.

"We look forward to a renewal of the Patriot Act in 2006 because that law has done exactly what it was intended to do, and this country cannot afford to be without its protections," Cheney said.

The Abramoff Round Up

Well, it has been a big days of political writings on the Abramoff scandal. But first, I want to say that my heart goes out to the families of the 12 miners that did not make it out alive.

And now to the round up on Abramoff

WaPo has a story on the money trail left by Abramoff (The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail) and the connection with Russian energy interests to Tom DeLay to influence his votes on an IMF matter as well as donations from sweat shops in the Pacific.

A story by Bloomberg (Bush's 2004 Campaign to Donate Abramoff-Linked Contributions to Charity)has Bush giving back some of the political donations from Abramoff. While Abramoff was one of Bush biggest fundraisers, the one thing that tells me that the White House had little or no direct involvement is that they are actually being open about it. I think this marks a first for the Bush administration.

USA Today reports on the indictments (Former lobbyist pleads guilty ) and so does the Boston Globe (Abramoff pleads guilty, agrees to aid probe into Congress).

Another WaPo story (Mr. Abramoff's Plea) talks about the 1# implicated Congressman, Republican Bob Ney of Ohio. Ney still maintains his innocence, but growing evidence is showing that he had much more knowledge that he admits to.

The Columbus Dispatch has more in-depth reporting on Ney's involvement (Lobbyist admits he gave Ney bribes) and delves into Ney's legal troubles. It is likely that Ney will be indicted and if so, Republican leaders plan to call on him to resign prior to the next election. If he does not step aside, it would be an easy target for his next election cycle, leaving Republicans in even more jeopardy of losing the congress in the future. The Dispatch also chronicles the allegations against Ney (Allegations Against Ney)

The Billings Gazette writes on the Abramoff connections with Republican Senator, Conrad Burns who might also find himself in hot water (Abramoff cops plea, to help in D.C. probe)

And if you didn't pick up on all of the connections between DeLay and Abramoff in the above stories, you weren't paying attention. But to save you from having to go back and read again, Roll Call (subscription only) goes into the deep links between the two buddies (Deal Brings Allegations to DeLay Staff). I think the writing is on the wall that DeLay is on his way out of public service.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Munich: Movie Review

I have been trying to catch up on what everyone has been saying over the last week while I was away. I have seen several reviews on the movie Munich. None of which seem to get the same thing out of the movie that I did. Most of the reviews believe that the movie blurs the lines between good and evil to much.

Perhaps Americans have grown to accustomed to Hollywood's idea of good and evil. I believe that Spielberg has portrayed, not only a very definitive line between good and evil, but one of the most realistic delineations in recent history.

The story is about an Israeli man who is recruited by the government to track down and kill the suspected masterminds behind the 1972 massacre of the Israeli Olympic team. The rationale is a mix of revenge and protection of the Jews from Palestinian terrorists.

Throughout the movie, the main character is conflicted in his task. He is sent to hunt down and kill. It is at this point, I think most of the movies nay sayers miss the point.

This moral equivalency thing has to stop now. Terrorists are not on the same moral plane as those who kill terrorists!!!! This movie tries to achieve this unholy equation by potraying the terrorists as complicated human beings who are no different from anyone else.

This first commenter seems to think that terrorist are somehow formed from an ethos. No mother, no father, they just sprang forth from the dirt with a shoulder fired rocket in their hands. They don't have wives and children. They don't eat and sleep. They are just robots in a room that are tasked to do one, and only one thing... Kill Jews. This, of course is not the case. We strive to believe that is true. It makes it easier to combat an enemy that is not, in all trappings, just like us. But there are, regardless of what you may want to think. They may be evil, but they do not live in a cave. Reality, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, will often conflict with necessity and our own morals.

What a piece of crap. To attempt to show a moral equivalence between the terrorists who killed innocent Israelis and the Mossad agents that assasinated them is beyond one's comprehension.

Again, like the first commenter, this commenter missed the point. Spielberg does not make a moral equivalence. In fact, he does the exact opposite. And, this is where I think most Americans have been too conditioned from Hollywood. The difference between good and evil in reality is not like an old western or a Rambo movie. The good guys don't where white and the bad guys don't wear black. Evil, like good, does not exist in a vacume.

In Munich, Spielberg gives the Palestinian terrorists a face. But that does not create good out of an anonymous enemy. The difference that Spielberg creates between good and evil is more real and more true.

First, as the above commenter missed, the terrorist does give a rationale for his deeds. But, Hitler gave rationale for his deeds. Manson gave rationale for his deeds. Every monster in history can give rationale for causing evil. Measuring rationale against morals is completely different.

Second, the terrorist do not show confliction for their deeds.

This is how Spielberg does such a good job of delineating good from evil. The main Jewish characters show both remorse and confliction for what they are doing. This is the line between good and evil when evil is committed. Four men are sent to do a job. That job is an evil task. It was a justified task, but none-the-less, an evil one. Killing, no matter how justified or necessary, is never "good." An eye for an eye is a justification, not a furtherance of good.

An evil job is easily done by an evil person.

An evil job is never done easily by a good person.

Thus lies the difference between good and evil when the task at hand is evil itself. Even when the good are forced to commit justified evil, the good will question. The evil will just do. In the movie, the Palistinians justified their actions as a desire for a homeland, but the means are never questioned.

Spielberg even goes further into showing the difference between a "good society" and and "evil society." The fact that the Israeli government debated and questioned their own deeds. A good society is one that hesitates and asks questions of its deeds. It wants to balance its own morals against the needs of protection and revenge. Sometimes necessity will require evil acts, but the good should never enjoy it.

So, in conclusion, I think it is a must see movie. And if you go see it, remember that good and evil are more than black and white hats.

Update: this is a good article in the Jerusalem Post on the movie: Steven Spielberg's unforgivable 'sin'

H/T The Last Amazon

Jack Abramoff to Plead Guilty

Well, I am back. Can't say that I am all that happy to be once again behind my desk, but those student loans won't pay themselves.

But, at least things are not boring on my first day back. Jack Abramoff is expected to plead guilty soon to 3 felony charges and to start cooperating with prosecutors in the Washington corruption scandal. There will be many congressmen who are hit hard by Abramoff's cooperation, but the biggest two at this point seem to be Republican Bob Ney or Ohio, and Republican Tom DeLay of Texas.

Unless there is significant parity between the number of Democrats tied up with Abramoff, this is bad timing for the Republicans who are going into the mid term elections with the "culture of corruption" tags already hanging around their necks.

Abramoff Makes Plea Deal, Will Cooperate

Abramoff Expected to Plead Guilty to 3 Felony Charges