Friday, June 30, 2006

More Flag Burning by Dilbert's Scott Adams

I don't know why I'm still awake. I don't know why I'm blogging. But I ran across this piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams, and thought it was priceless. Check it out here.

Net Neutrality

I'm not ready to give my own comments on Net Neutrality, because I don't fully understand the issue. It's funny (and scary) that this Senator probably should have adopted my "No Comment" stance. Read the hilarious comments about the internet by Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska (R).

Wired News article here
.

Snarkmarket

I like a lot of the posts at Snarkmarket. The site has a lot of good links to things on the web. I especially like them because they linked to scalesrates (this blog) because of our shared view on the hideousness that is the new Slate.com.

GM - Renault - Nissan Alliance?


I read about this this morning, and it could be huge. Kirk Kerkorian, who is really cool in his own right (Read more about him here - have I mentioned that I love Wikipedia??), and is the third largest shareholder in GM, has proposed that GM join the Renault-Nissan alliance.

I was reading a bit about the Renault-Nissan alliance in last month's issue of Forbes (this is the link, but it's not a free article), and it is really quite impressive. I'm not sure exactly what the advantages of the alliance specifically are, other than they get to share talent and marketing research and production facilities, but one thing that was very clear is that the companies try very hard to maintain that they are two separate companies. For the first time in the history of their alliance, they have the same CEO, Carlos Ghosn, who flies back and forth between the European headquarters of Renault and the Japanese Nissan headquarters. He is, I believe, one of the hardest working CEOs I have ever heard of. He is actually paid two salaries, one from each company, he says that it is in order to show that one company is not more important to him (As the Guinness guys would say, "Brilliant!" That's like if I got my mom and dad to both give me allowance, to ensure them that I didn't love one more than the other.).

Anyway, what was so interesting about the Forbes article is that Ghosn had dismissed the idea of acquiring GM because of their troubles. Maybe Kerkorkian has floated this idea publicly to try to sway him in some way? In either case, Nissan-Renault would not have to acquire GM in order for GM to join the alliance. Nissan-Renault would only purchase a minority stake in GM. If you've got access to the WSJ, you can read the brief Kerkorian announcement here, Kerkorian Presses GM to Join Alliance of Renault and Nissan.

EDIT: Here's a free article discussing the proposal in more detailed terms.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

You Can't Please All the People All the Time

I thought the only people that would be pissed about Warren Buffett giving away the vast majority of his fortune to charity would have been his kids or grandkids. However, as is evidenced by my earlier post about the Fed, I'm not always right.

Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, a Roman Catholic priest and president of Human Life International compared him to a Nazi doctor, because the Gates Foundation, to which Buffett gave the majority of his gift to, supports Planned Parenthood. And Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (I've written about them before) said that the Buffets were partially responsible for the approval of the RU-486 pill, contributing to the deaths of over 500,000 babies.

I've already explained once how crazy and calculating the Family Research Council is. The above is even more proof. I've never heard of Human Life International, but you can add them to the list of organizations to which I'll probably never belong.

More on this wacky criticism, here.

-B. Hammond

VERY quick note-

Bob Shrum on Hardball last night:

"The New York Times has done far more for this country than George W. Bush ever will."

A) True
B) Indisputable
C) Should probably never be repeated
D) All of the above <---- CORRECT

On Gitmo and Storm Drains...




This morning the news came that the Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot create tribunals to try the terrorist suspects currently being held. Instead, the Court ruled that the government must rely on a) regular courts, b) court-martials, or c) the congress to pass legislation to set up an alternative system.

Clearly, this decision was both surprising and correct. Justice Roberts removed himself from the decision due to the fact that he ruled for the government while sitting on the federal court of appeals. Justice Kennedy provided the swing vote (which was not necessary because of the Roberts removal).

Now to the storm drains portion of the story- from the article:

In his dissent, Justice Thomas cited a recent ruling in an environmental case to argue that the majority was being inconsistent in order to denigrate the president's powers.

"Those Justices who today disregard the commander-in-chief's wartime decisions, only 10 days ago deferred to the judgment of the Corps of Engineers with regard to a matter much more within the competence of lawyers, upholding that agency's wildly implausible conclusion that a storm drain is a tributary of the United States," Justice Thomas wrote. "It goes without saying that there is much more at stake here than storm drains."
---

Some thoughts-

First, aside from the fact that it is unclear why President Bush/Karl Rove/Alberto thought they ever had the authority to usurp the Constitution/justice system/common law/democracy- I'm not sure that the Court has at all shut the door on this type of fake court system. It seems that all that is needed is congressional authority for the government to do it again. I don't think the Republicans will be willing to make that happen before November (despite some early rhetoric), and they may not have the numbers/stomach/idiocy to do it after the election. Here's to hoping.

Second, for some reason I had been holding out hope that Alito would be a pleasant surprise. I have lost that hope completely. Both he and Chief Justice Roberts are puppets of Bush. At least Roberts never tried to conceal it.

Finally, I was surprised (if not slightly underwhelmed) by the President's press conference this morning. His comments on this decision were brief, but respectful. And if we know anything about this administration, it's that they respect neither the Constitution nor the other branches of government. The fight goes on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Fed

The Fed is scheduled to announce interest rates tomorrow. Bernanke and his cohorts are expected to raise interest rates by a 1/4 of a percent, but could go as high as a 1/2 of a percent.

It's unclear what would be best for the financial markets, and I didn't attend enough economics classes to know what the larger effects of either rate increase will be. Anyway, stay tuned. My guess is that a 1/2 percent increase in the fed funds rate would send a signal to the markets that no other rate increases should be expected in the future, and the markets would rally, maybe after a brief dip to adjust to the tightened money supply.

A 1/4 percent increase leaves the possibility of an August increase, and so uncertainty will remain in the markets, and no rally will occur.

All of this, of course, makes no reference to the impact of rate increases on inflation, because, well, I don't know enough about economics. We'll see what happens, tomorrow.

-B. Hammond

Mad Cow Diplomacy

This is an example of why I prefer getting the hard copy of newspapers rather than reading them online, because I often miss articles when I read the papers online as opposed to when I read the paper version. Below is something that fell through the cracks when I did my sweep of the news early in the morning...

The news story I'm referring to has to do with Mad Cow disease, which is one scary disease. I'm not a scientist, but what follows is my lawyerly understanding of the disease. The scientific name for the disease is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. That's about as science-y as I'm going to get. Basically, the disease results in misshapen or folded proteins that collect in the cow's brain, creating holes. The disease can be transmitted from cow to cow when one cow eats the remains of a tainted cow (cows used to be fed to each other, a practice that has been abandoned/outlawed after the British mad cow scare in the late 90's). There seem to be other ways that it can be transferred, too, but again I'm not a scientist, so I don't know.

While bird flu and other potential pandemics get a lot of attention, this disease is a lot scarier, at least to me. See, at first this disease just represents itself in cows. But, it seems that it can be transferred to humans by a human eating the meat of a tainted cow. And, because the disease is just caused by folded proteins, it's not killed by heating the meat to a certain temperature or anything. More on the science of Mad Cow Disease here (I love Wikipedia!).

Anyway, I've spent way too much time talking about the disease, anyway, it's bad, and it freaks people out. Well, after a mad cow scare in America in 2003 (I believe), Japan closed its borders to foreign beef, and began testing each and every cow in its country, and would only import beef from countries that did the same. Of course, the price of beef skyrocketed in Japan.

So, some American companies want back into the Japanese beef market, especially now that prices have risen so much. One company in particular, Creekstone Farms of Arkansas City, Kansas, proposed that it would test each of its cows so that it would be eligible to export its beef to Japan. Under the 1913 Virus, Serum, and Toxin Act, the FDA forbade the company from conducting such tests, maintaining that the federal government alone had the authority to do so. Our conservative, "small" government, free-market officials, barred a company from testing its own cows because only the government has the authority to do so. The company says that it's lost approximately $100 million by not being able to conduct the tests and export to Japan.

This just doesn't seem right. This post has gotten too long, but if you want to read more about the federal government barring a company from testing its own cows for mad cow disease because it doesn't want to scare the public and because it wants to handle negotiations with Japan instead of allowing individual companies pursue their own economic benefit (and remember, these two things are not mutually exclusive. The federal government could urge Japan to drop the ban and companies could conduct the test in the meantime.), look at these sites (I don't know how much longer they'll be free):
Houston Chronicle
Wall Street Journal
Washington Post

EDIT: My point in writing this was to say that it is wrong for the Bush administration to prevent a private company from attempting to comply with the Japanese standards in order to sell its product there, especially if those standards help to make the American consumer safer in the process.
-B. Hammond

If you don't like my fire then don't come around...



Anyone else think the ongoing debate on flag burning is utterly ridiculous? I mean its not like we have anything else going on (Iraq/Iran/North Korea/Afghanistan/minimum wage/immigration/and on/and on/and on).

Anyway the vote for the amendment failed- by one vote! What a farce. I know that Sen. Clinton was behind this originally, and that's just really unfortunate. Are we really going to amend the Bill of Rights? We think this is that important? Are there people out there burning flags? Give. Me. A. Break.

From the Detroit Free Press article:

The vote was scheduled by the Republican leadership to come just before July 4. Joining Republicans in supporting the amendment were 14 Democrats, including Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. The state's other senator, Carl Levin, also a Democrat, voted against the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., spoke of the advantage, for those voting in favor of the amendment, of being able to go home and tell constituents, "we did the right thing."

Is there a bigger joke on the hill right now than Bill Frist? (No.)

4 Parts Bad/ 1 Part Good




Quick note.

The Supreme Court handed minorities in Texas a defeat today, saying that the gerrymandering done by Tom DeLay was not, in fact, unconstitutional.

Check out the article here.

I think that even moderate, rational conservatives would agree that this type of behavior is unconstitutional/sickening. What ever happened to the doctrine that you could redraw districts as long as race wasn't a factor?

The Court did find that one particularly bad redrawing, was not constitutional (not the one shown above). Looks like Rep. Bonillia will have a fight on his hands.

From the article:

The court upheld the state's ability to break with the tradition of redrawing Congressional districts only right after the official federal census every 10 years, potentially opening the door for legislatures in other states to rewrite their own Congressional maps at will throughout the decade, or when a new party takes over a state capital.

Oh well Texas, you're on your own.

Chalk one up for Mitch!




Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana has spent a great deal of time persuading Asian companies to move factories/operations to the Hoosier state. Recently, he traveled to Japan to promote our state.

The NYT reports today that his efforts have paid off. Link.

It's going to cost Indiana a pretty penny, but I don't think there is any doubt it will be worth it. Mitch needed the good news, so I'm glad to read this. For a Republican- Mitch isn't bad at all.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The coward's veto... (separate from the line item)



Also, from the Washington Post- it seems that while the Republican controlled congress has never had a single piece of legislation vetoed by this President- he has signed many bills into law, only to officially criticize them with an official "signing statement" shortly thereafter. Link to the article.

A signing statement is (as best as I can understand)- a presidential interpretation of the law that is being signed. That is, until now. George W. Bush uses the signing statements to head fake the American people. He quells public criticism by signing a (somewhat) sensible bill into law, and then goes on to officially criticize the bill moments later. Most famously, Bush did this on while outlawing torture for enemy combatants (which goes on every single day, and not just on enemy combatants).

From the article:

Other presidents have used signing statements to clarify their interpretation of laws, but no president has used such statements instead of ever using the veto authority spelled out in the Constitution, said Harvard University law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., who is serving on a new American Bar Association task force examining Bush's signing statements. Bush has never used his veto power in his presidency.

"There is a sense that the president has taken the signing statements far beyond the customary purviews," Specter told the administration's representative, Michelle E. Boardman, deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. "There's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and exclude the ones he doesn't like."

The Line Item Veto...




The Washington Post reports that the President is calling on the Senate to pass a line-item veto bill. Link.

A few things that are important to know about this issue:

1) The Supreme Court ruled a line-item veto bill unconstitutional in 1996.
2) The current bill differs from the '96 bill in that it only requires a simple majority to override a line-item veto (not 2/3).
3) George W. Bush has absolutely no respect/regard/understanding of the separation of powers.

It is simply amazing to me that a man that has usurped and abused his power in every regard would have the gall to try to get this type of legislation through congress. Despicable.

From the article:

"Bush said he needs the power to have more influence over lawmakers as they spend taxpayer money. "I want to be a part of the budgetary process," he said in an address sponsored by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. "It's an important part of the president's working with Congress and I'm not going to deal myself out of the budgetary process."

Bush has never vetoed a bill in his 5 1/2 years in office and, while long on record in favor of a line-item veto, he has never made a concerted effort to win such authority from Congress until this year as polls showed increasing conservative anxiety about federal spending. Since he took office, the federal budget has grown nearly 50 percent, from $1.86 trillion to a proposed $2.77 trillion for the coming fiscal year, driven in part by the cost of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the rise in entitlement costs."

Delay and Congressional District 22




The Delay saga won't end, but an interesting piece of news appeared this morning in my local newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, and will probably be available free only for a few days here.

Tom Delay, after he won the primary, then decided that he did not want to run for re-election. This created a problem, however, because if he withdrew from the election, his name would still remain on the ballot, and the Republicans would not be able to name a replacement (I think they would be able to after the election, if Delay won, but the article is unclear. Regardless, they probably wouldn't name a replacement in the off chance that he won.).

The other possibility is that he has made himself ineligible to run for the position, as he claims that he is now a resident of Virginia, having recently purchased a home there (in an attempt to mae himself ineligble).

Democrats want his name on the ballot. They believe that it will energize the base, allowing them to raise more money and get more people out to vote. They contend, and so far the Republican Judge in charge of determining it agrees, that Delay voluntarily withdrew from the election, rejecting the claim that he is ineligble. If and when the judges ruling becomes final, that could put a lot of pressure on Delay and the Republican party of Texas.

Monday, June 26, 2006

All the News That's Fit to Print?



The Tony Snow/Karl Rove/Drink the kool-aid/Fox News machine is calling for the prosecution of the New York Times for treason.

Here's a link to the Washington Post article.

And Bush says it's "disgraceful" on the AP wire.

Clearly, there are two distinct arguments going on here. First, is the tapping of phones/internet/email/social networking/bank accounts - helpful/legal/necessary/compelling and, furthermore, is it wrong that the New York Times, above the objections of the administration- ran the articles?

The answer to those questions will be debated and discussed between reasonable people. The former is a FAR more important discussion, and while the ends may be compelling- it's extremely difficult to argue that the means are. At very least, conform the program to the liberal confines of the national security laws that prohibit next-to-nothing. In the mean time, the New York Times (who sat on the international wire tapping story for nearly a year) should and can report on whatever it knows.

Slate.com

I used to read Slate a lot more than I do now. I actually started reading it when it launched. It was a pretty revolutionary piece of journalism on the internet. They just celebrated their 10th (I believe) anniversary the other day, which made me feel old.

I just wanted to complain about the redesign of Slate's website. I think it's awful. Also, I think after Microsoft's sale of the website, the quality of the journalism has gone down a little bit. I had expected it to get better.

Sorry for the short post, it was just on my mind.

-B. Hammond

Sunday, June 25, 2006

To Sprawl-



I grew up in a suburb or two, and can say with certainty that I will not live in one for the rest of my life. My reasons are both political and personal. The Washington Post reports that, according to a think tank in Seattle, I can add health reasons as well. Obesity and car crashes are far more common in suburbs than they are inner-cities. Go figure.

From the (very short) article:

"Sprawl spawns fatal car crashes and fat people and is demonstrably bad for the longevity of people living in the Pacific Northwest, according to a think tank in Seattle.

The rate of car crashes, the leading killer of Northwest residents younger than 45, drops sharply in the region's most densely populated communities, where residents tend to drive less and walk and ride buses more, said the "Cascadia Scorecard," an annual examination of social trends by the Sightline Institute."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bruce Arena unsure



In a metaphor for the way his team played in Germany in the last two weeks, ESPN reports that Bruce Arena is uncertain of his future with USA Soccer. Link.

I'm an avid fan of the World Cup. The USA played like garbage- really uninspired (in 2 of 3 games). I put most of the blame on the coach.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Four years ago I was completely burnt out after that whole thing. I was a zombie for about two weeks," he said. "Right now, I'm just an idiot."
---
It wasn't fun watching these guys play (again, w/ the exception of the Italian game). USA soccer has a lot of work to do if we are ever going to make a run at the Cup, or if we ever hope to make the game a small portion of how popular it is all over the world.

When it rains, it Snows...




New press secretary Tony Snow made a comment the other day on CNN's Late Edition:

"The president understands peoples' impatience -- not impatience, but how a war can wear on a nation. He understands that.
If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?' But you cannot conduct a war based on polls."

Well, The Washington Post points out in a little blurb- that such polls were, in fact, collected.

In fact, there was a poll taken by Gallup from Dec. 31, 1944, to Jan. 4, 1945 -- three years into that war and right in the middle of the bloody Battle of the Bulge, where U.S. casualties were estimated between 70,000 and 80,000. It found that 73 percent of Americans would refuse to make peace with Adolf Hitler if he offered it and that 86 percent of Americans thought there was no chance that we would lose the war in Europe.

The question asked was: "If Hitler offered to make peace now and would give up all land he has conquered, should we try to work out a peace or should we go on fighting until the German army is completely defeated?

----

I know World War II, I worked with World II- Operation Iraqi Freedom, you are no World War II.

I Agree With Bush?

It's not too many times that I can say that I agree with President Bush. Earlier this year, the Justice Souter issued an opinion that stated that state government's and municipalities had the authority to exercise eminent domain over private property (that may have been redundant) in order to use the land not only for public purposes, but also for economic ones. This decision was not readily accepted by the public. A public interest group promptly filed a petition for the local government to sieze Justice Souter's home in order to build a mall. I don't think it worked, but it was funny.

Well, to get to the point, President Bush just issued an executive order, available at the White House's website here, that once again restricts the government's eminent domain powers to an exercise in the public interest. We'll see if a local government challenges this ruling. It may be useless, anyway, because after the Supreme Court's ruling several states passed laws restricting the use of eminent domain in a similar fashion. Regardless, President Bush was spot on on this one.

-B. Hammond

Now add this...



...to the list of things that are now being sifted through by the government.

The NYT reports that the CIA/Treasury Department goes through bank records (not of everyone, but "thousands").

Here's a quote from the (long) article:

" The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift."

Here's a link to the (long) article.

To hate the base...




Wanted to get this in yesterday, but ran out of time.

Peggy Noonan had a must-read in the WSJ yesterday. She writes about the fact that both Dems and the GOP find themselves annoyed/angered with their respective bases.

Noonan plays both sides of this discussion- saying that the Republicans find their base boring, and that elected Dems find the base "a little bit batty". She also recounts a conversation she had with some folks after they watched Howard Dean had been on a cable show talking down to the base. The person watching it with Noonan said he thought Dean spoke this way because he thinks his base is stupid. Noonan thinks he speaks this way because he knows how his base speaks. They are angry- and need Dean to speak in the same way (the argument goes).

Here's a pulled quote:

On Republicans:

"They know the higher wisdom on such issues as immigration. They feel less fealty to the insights of the base.
They know more than the base, are more experienced than the base, have a more nuanced sense of reality. And as for conservative social issues groups, the politicians resent those nagging, whining pushers-for-the-impossible who are always threatening to stay home or go elsewhere. (Where?)"

Taking an Idea to Its Illogical Conclusion

Sometimes, it's best to just stop, admit you were wrong, and move on. Fox News hasn't learned this. To keep the public (mis)informed about WMDs and Iraq, they've started the drumbeat in a new vein, namely, that the United States hid information about finding WMDs in Iraq so that we wouldn't embarass Russia, China, and France. More on this here.

-B. Hammond

I Know I'm Getting Excited Over Nothing...




There used to be a time when a Congressional hearing meant something. I'm not saying I actually remember this time, as it was before I could read, but it used to happen.

I know I'm going to be let down again, but I'm still holding out hope that maybe this time something interesting will happen. It would be like Christmas in July. Atty. General Alberto Gonzalez is scheduled to testify on July 18th before the Senate Judiciary committee. He is going to be questioned about the NSA's domestic wiretapping program, and the use of Presidential Signing Statements, memos that allow the president to bypass laws if he believes they interfere with his authority.

More on this if you follow this link.

-B. Hammond

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Al Gore- redux?



The New York Post today hypothesized that Al Gore would make the run because of his refusal to support ex-running mate Joe Lieberman's senate bid. The far left is in a highly publicized battle with Lieberman over his support of Republican policies in Iraq in elsewhere. Link

From the article:

"THE best proof that Al Gore wants to keep the door open to a 2008 White House bid is how he (again) back-stabbed 2000 running mate Joe Lieberman by refusing to back his Senate re-election."

Al Gore might just run. And he might just win.

my(?)space- NSA looks at social networking sites-



There has been a few articles lately Here, and here on the monitoring of social networking sites like myspace and facebook.

Of course, the NSA says it's all in the name of protecting the American people. American people, however, are going to have to decide just how far they are willing to let this administration and their tentacles go. Undoubtedly, it would be a major blow to civil libertarians if the government could point to a single case of protection/prevention that came from the monitoring of phone calls/emails/web use/social networking. I suspect we won't see anything like that for awhile though. Perhaps it's because I don't think monitoring (especially of sites like myspace) is useful (what terrorist in his right mind would use such a site?), but also it's a suspicion that what the government really wants is as much information about all Americans as it can possibly obtain- legally or otherwise.

Pulled from the ZDNET article:

"I'll do you one better. I believe that computer facial matching software will soon advance to the point where photos stored on NSA computers of terrorist suspects could then be mapped for similarities to photos on MySpace and other social networking sites."

Now that might actually be a reason for this type of monitoring- photos of terrorists on potentially innocent people's profiles. I'm just not sure what I think of big brother going this far. There is a growing list of reasons not to participate in social networking sites- searches by potential employers, graduate schools, and sexual predators to name a few. Add the NSA to that list.

I Love the Family Research Council

I may be a little biased, because I'm a big fan of promiscuity, but the Family Research Council's posiion on Merck's new drug Gardasil seems a bit absurd to me. See Time Magazine's article here.

The FDA recently approved Gardasil, which prevents cancer. Cervical cancer, to be exact. From the article:

"it works by guarding against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is thought to cause about three of every four cases of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women, and the third most deadly around the world. It kills close to 4000 women each year in the U.S. alone."

Pretty cool, huh? Well, it seems that the Family Research Council, part of the extreme right wing of the conservative party, doesn't want the government to mandate that children be vaccinated against HPV. Why you ask? Because they feel like the risk of HPV dissuades young women from being promiscuous, and that the better way to prevent against cervical cancer is abstinence until marriage.

This article, and the Family Research Council's position, shows me how calculating politicians and public interest groups at the fringe can be. They view the loss of lives from this disease as a "lesson" to young boys and girls out there not to have premarital sex, when the loss of lives could be prevented. It amazes me, sometimes.

-B. Hammond

THE DARK SIDE




Absolute MUST WATCH!!!!

PBS Frontline piece called The Dark Side. Absolutely the most informative, damning piece of journalism I have seen in a long time. Maybe ever. Check your local listings and find out when it's on in your area. Fascinating.

It journals the path to war and Cheney's tentacles throughout the administration/government. I took some notes while watching it-but I'm a little tired to post a serious discussion on it tonight.

You'll be able to watch it online (on the PBS site) starting Thursday at 5pm.

A link to the VERY informative THE DARK SIDE site at PBS.

AT&T Tells Customers: We own your personal records



The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article yesterday about AT&T changing their privacy policy. LINK.

The old privacy policy read: AT&T had the right in regards to customer's personal phone records "to respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law."

The new privacy policy reads: "may disclose your information in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process." Ominously missing is the phrase "to the extent required and/or permitted by law."

If you don't agree to the new policy, you lose service.

Pulled quote: The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service -- something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing..."While your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T," the new policy declares. "As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."

Had a short, if interesting conversation about this with Connors tonight. His thoughts- "I'm ok with that. I feel like if [the NSA] wants to know who I'm talking to and for how long I'm talking- and it helps stop some attack- it's like buying a house for five dollars." That's an interesting point- but you've got to wonder where the people running our nation will draw the line. It would seem certain that what we know of (through whistle blowers) is a very small fraction of the actual war to personal liberties being waged. Warrantless searches (almost certain), web use monitoring, phone tapping, and on.

Just because we can doesn't mean we should. There are other, equally effective ways of protecting Americans that don't leave the Constitution torn to shreds.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Clinton Aides urge Bush to strike North Korea





The Post has an interesting article discussing North Korea's impending missile launch. Ex-secretary Perry and Asst. Secretary Carter (both from the Clinton Defense Department) are urging the Bush administration to launch a cruise missile from a US submarine at the missile site in North Korea set to launch a trans-Pacific test missile.

I believe that North Korea is a far more dangerous threat than Iraq was. However, our loss of political capital has made it difficult- if not impossible - to flex American military muscle.


Pulled quote-

"We believe diplomacy might have precluded the current situation," Perry and Carter said. "But diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature."

Perry and Carter say that such a strike "undoubtedly carries risk" but that there would be no damage to North Korea beyond the missile galley. They argue that the unproven U.S. missile-defense system might not be able to shoot down a missile.

****

UPDATE- CHENEY RESPONDS-


Cheney, etc. say "diplomacy" is the answer in NK.
pulled:

The officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, said they were pressing diplomatic options to persuade North Korea not to launch a long-range missile for the first time since 1998. "We think diplomacy is the right answer, and that is what we are pursuing," Hadley told reporters who were with President Bush in Budapest.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?




Must Read from the Times.

The White House's theory that we don't need any friends in this small world of ours is being put to the test on Bush's visit to Austria (his 17th to Europe).

Here's a snippet-

"That's absurd!" Mr. Bush declared, dismissing a reporter's suggestion that most Europeans regard the United States as a bigger threat to global stability than North Korea, which has proclaimed it has nuclear weapons, and Iran, which is suspected of developing them.

I hope Americans realize what kind of problem we have on our hands here. Our international reputation- rightly or wrongly- is worse than North Korea. It's sad that this has become a debate.

Saddam on hunger strike...




Until "international protection is provided to my defense team."

A hunger strike wouldn't be my suggestion- but his demands seem reasonable. If I were Bush, I would get the protection there ASAP before it looks like he's doing it because Saddam asked. The trial has been a circus/joke/embarassment so far. Let's at least do what we can to stop the killing of those involved.

It seems to me the *last* thing Karl Rove would want is a skinny and frail looking Saddam sitting in the court room- garnering the support of the few European friends we have left.

Politics vs. Policy




In the day' only must-read, the Times details Kerry's new plan- and the fury that it has caused among fellow Dems.

---

Mr. Kerry now describes the war in Iraq as a mistake, even though he once supported it. His critics say they believe the new stand reflects more politics than principle, and ignores other Democrats' concern that setting a fixed date will leave those in tough re-election fights open to Republican taunts that they are "cutting and running" in Iraq.

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I don't support Mr. Kerry or his proposal, but the criticisms of it seem unfounded. I can't imagine anyone claiming he was championing this proposal for political advantage. Everyone seems to understand that nothing good that's come out of this war has been worth anywhere near the price we've had to pay (half a trillion so far, American lives, Iraqi lives)- just look at the polls. But, at the same time- I don't think there is a need for a date certain to stop this madness and killing. Let's just get out smartly- no need to mark it down on the calendar.

Here's an interesting tidbit-

Stepping into an elevator on Capitol Hill late last week, Mr. Kerry was asked whether he was under pressure in the Democrats' meetings to withdraw his proposal. As he insisted he was not, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, standing behind him, raised his eyebrows, then winked.

Kerry's not the man. But he does seem to have a plan that makes more sense than the current debacle.

Now THIS...



...is American military might.

Training exercise in the Pacific (near Guam today). Something like this has (apparently) never happened in the Pacific before today. Enough to give me chills.

Shrum on Hardball...




Quick post.

Chris Matthews wasn't on Hardball tonight, but Bob Shrum was- in living color.

Here's a soundbite-
"We can support the troops that are fighting in Iraq without supporting the lies and manipulations that started this war. If the American people would have known then what they know now- that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that there were no WMDs... and that Al-Qaida wasn't there until we brought them there...we wouldn't be in Iraq."

(Hows abouts you win an election now?) (For once!)

By the book? (Buy the book?)




Jeffrey O. Nelson has edited the encyclopedia of American Conservatism. Seems like a reference book worth owning.

The Times has a review of the book in Tuesday's edition. The review points out, rightly so, that if conservatism plans on surviving- it needs to start looking more like what's in the book, and less what it looks like today in Washington. Between Big Brother, the out of control spending, and big government- "this isn't your father's Cadillac".

Interesting- George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney were both omitted from the book. Dan Quayle made it in.

Quote to pull:

Dan T. Carter of the University of South of Carolina said such entries offered a "pasteurized" view of racial history. "The rise of American conservatism owes, in some part, to racial animosity, and it's uncomfortable for many conservatives to deal with that," said Mr. Carter, a biographer of Wallace who describes his politics as liberal. "You don't have to say that conservatism capitulated to it. But you have to acknowledge it was there."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Secrets, Secrets




Very interesting article in the Post today about the use of polygraphs in the US government to gain employment and top secret security clearance. LINK. My dad is good friends with a polygraph expert from the FBI- but, as it turns out, the FBI doesn't seem to be a heavyweight in the creepy world of polygraphs.

It seems perfectly reasonable that some people would be unable to calm themselves down for one of these things. Particularly when career advancement depends on it. The article never discusses if false positives are more damaging than false negatives (that is, is it worse when the test/tester thinks someone is lying but they aren't, or when they pass the test and later are determined to have lied on it). I would suspect that the government would prefer to catch the liars.

Here's the quote to take from the article:

After telling Vermette that "there's no way you are not lying to me," the examiner pressed him on whether he was sexually involved with the teenager at church. The examiner then asked Vermette about her bra size. When Vermette said he did not know, the examiner asked him to guess -- after explaining bra sizes.

"He gave me a list of numbers to choose from, and I gave up and guessed one. Then he went on to ask about hair color, eye color, height and weight, all of which I am sure are absolutely vital to national security," Vermette wrote in an account of the episode. "I felt bad afterwards that I answered any of these questions but was under extreme psychological pressure and humiliation."
---

On another level, the article illustrates the mess that is the CIA/NSA/HSA/FBI. Lots of egos protecting their turf. I'm unsure as to why it seems we have different agencies that do the same/similar things. Homeland security should run domestic security, and FBI should be the law enforcement agency that tracks down fugitives and investigates crimes. Internationally, the situation is more complicated. What are the real differences between the NSA and CIA? I'll get on that.

Not Phat-




Editorial in the Indy Star this morning paints a pretty bleak picture of the health of the Hoosier state.

Dr. Richard Feldman's op-ed in full.

More adult Hoosiers smoke today than did this time last year. That's not promising.

Here is the quote to pull from this piece:

"More than 72 percent of Hoosiers are now overweight or obese with the national average being 61 percent. More than 52 percent of Hoosier adults do not engage in adequate physical activity. The results: Indiana is the 10th fattest state in the country."

Why things don't ever get done...





An article in the Washington Post this morning makes crystal clear why things never seem to get done in the United States Senate/Congress.

Here's the article in full.

The quote to take from the article:

The Senate's passage of a minimum-wage increase in 1997 created so much pressure on House Republicans in industrial districts in the Northeast and Midwest that GOP leaders were forced to bring the issue to the floor. Democrats are hoping to re-create that political dynamic.

But first they have to clear the Senate. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) used a procedural move yesterday to ensure that before any vote on the minimum wage, the Senate must vote on a Republican measure criminalizing the transport of a minor across state lines to get an abortion. That vote could give some swing-state Democrats so much of a headache that the two parties will agree to drop both amendments and go back to defense.

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The article is really about the different amendments being offered by the liberal and moderate wings of the Democratic party. I like the moderate version- but obviously either is better than "lie and die".

Here's a blurb from the article about the moderates' proposal:

"This amendment is not cut-and-run," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who co-sponsored the measure with Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). "This is not about a date certain" for a withdrawal, he said, but it is intended to spur the Iraqi government to prepare its army and police for self-sufficiency. Also endorsing the measure, to be offered as an amendment to the 2007 defense authorization bill, were Democrats Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.).

They seem to be listening to me about cut-and-run. They seem to be reading my blog.

John Kerry on Imus in the morning...




Well, I'm not a fan of John Kerry, but his words on Imus in the Morning were exactly what I would like to hear more of:

On Imus this morning John Kerry said his amendment (with Feingold and Boxer) "provides the only opportunity for success" and sets more than enough time to do "what has to be done" to get American troops home and get the Iraqis to stand up on their own.

Kerry went on to say that "this Administration wants to have a fake debate. . . cut and run, cut and run, cut and run, cut and run. . . They found their three words."

"My plan is not cut and run. . . Their plan is lie and die," Kerry added.


Lie and die? It's nice to have SOMETHING to counterbalance cut and run-- lie and die just might work.

Good to read this-



Good to read this in the Indy Star

I've only seen 2 in my life, both in Indiana. Maura and I saw one on 37, and Tony told me it was an albino-headed hawk. Suck it.

Cut-and-run




Joe Klein's column in Time this week is spot-on.

Klein rightly points out that 1) The invasion of Iraq was an enormous mistake that has been fumbled beyond imagination; 2) For some reason the Dems can't seem to do a damn thing about it.

I agree with Klein's assertion that Democrats seem confused, divided, and uncertain. John Kerry has called for the withdraw of troops from Iraq by Dec. 31, 2006 (saw on Hardball today that he changed his mind over the weekend and his NEW timeline is July 1, 2007...give me a break Senator).

Here's the quote to take from the piece:

"And so, a mystery: How is it possible—with 2,500 U.S. solders dead, no discernible progress on the ground and a solid majority of the public now agreeing that the war in Iraq was a mistake—for the Democrats to seem so bollixed about the war and for the President to seem so confident? A good part of it is flawed strategy. Democrats keep hoping that the elections can be framed as a referendum on the Bush policy, and Republicans keep reminding the public that elections are a choice, not a referendum."

The war is disasterer to be sure. Every day, in every way. Americans lost their stomach for this debacle many months ago. Why then, can't the Dems seem to gain any ground?

Here are my thoughts- Democrats can't gain any ground because they don't have a leader. They are too nervous running for the nomination to make any real policy. Congressman Murtha (agree with him or not) is the only Democrat that doesn't seem to be pandering these days. It's nice to hear him call out Karl Rove's transparent, hate filled, fear mongering in New Hampshire. Murtha's not the person (at all) the Dems need- but they could use his spirit. And he's far more a leader than Kerry is.

Hillary is too afraid to break either way and no one has the stomach for that.

Above all else--- DO NOT LET YOURSELF BE LABELEDED AS "CUT AND RUN." I know that Karl Rove salivates every time he sees the opportunity to paint a Democrat as "cutting and running", and for some reason Democrats seem content on letting it happen. How about "redeploying our troops to make America safer", or "ending an unsafe and unnecessary occupationon of Iraq"? Anything is better than cutting and running. That's not what anyone is saying- and it's high time the Dems stop letting Rove & Co. using it.