Friday, August 31, 2007

Iowa Judge Rules Gay Marriage Legal

From The Nation via Yahoo:

The Nation -- Iowa will in all likelihood remain the state that opens the process of nominating the Democratic and Republican candidates for president in 2008. As such, it is a "must visit" and "must impress" state for contenders in both parties.

Iowa is now something else, however.

With the decision of a county judge to strike down Iowa's law banning same-sex marriages, the state becomes a front-line battleground in America's ongoing political wrestling match over gay and lesbian rights.

When Polk County Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and ordered the county recorder in Des Moines to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples, he did not merely give an unexpected courtroom victory to plaintiffs likes Iowa City's Jen BarbouRoske, who declared Thursday, "This is kind of the American Dream."

Hanson also reshaped the presidential races of both parties.

Democratic and Republicans candidates will not be able to campaign in Iowa -- as all will be doing in coming days and weeks -- without addressing the ruling and the broader issue of same-sex marriage.

Of course, most of the candidates have already done this with varying degrees of specificity. But now they will be thrust into the center of a real-life struggle in a state where they will be spending a great deal of time between now and the day in December or January when Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses are held.

As Judge Hanson's ruling is appealed, and as conservative legislators move to counter it, the same-sex marriage debate will move much closer to the front of the agenda -- not just in Iowa but, because of the caucuses, nationally. more

Which means you can expect certain GOP candidates to start touting a ban on Gay marriages again to mobilize the base behind them. Of the current frontrunners odds are high that Giulliani won't be among those pursuing the politics of division. Additionally both John Mcain and hopeful Ron Paul are both opposed to a constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage. That leaves Huckabee, Thompson, and Romney left on the pro-ammendment side of the column.

This issue is an excellent barometer of the status of the GOP. If a candidate who opposes the ban on gay marriage gets the nod we might well be looking at a more moderate GOP in the future. Lets hope that proves to be the case.

Great White Hope To Finally Announce Candidacy

From The Politico:

Fred Thompson's campaign-in-waiting will hold a 4 p.m. conference call today with supporters to brief them on plans for the former Tennessee senator's presidential announcement next week, according to an e-mail obtained by

Randy Enwright, Thompson's political director, said in the message that they will "discuss the next steps as we move forward as an organization." A Thompson aide confirms that they'll share the news about the long-awaited formal launch. "By the end of the day, we'll have more clarity," the aide said, declining to reveal which day the announcement would take place.
UPDATE II: Fred Thompson will formally announce his candidacy for president next Thursday night, September 6th via a webcast, political director, Randy Enwright just told supporters on a conference call. The Tennessean will then head out on a "grass-roots tour" of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Apparently Thompson had been delaying so that the creators, cast, and crew of Law and Order wouldn't be screwed over by the Equal Time law. This is good news to me because If I had to read one more speculative headline on when Thompson was going to announce I was going to hurl.

Credit Crunch 2.0?

From The Financial Times

Defaults on credit card bills in US rising

US consumers are defaulting on credit card payments at a significantly higher rate than last year, raising the prospect of problems in the stricken US subprime mortgage market spreading to other types of consumer debt.

Credit card companies were forced to write off 4.58 per cent of payments as uncollectable in the first half of 2007, almost 30 per cent higher year-on-year. Late payments also rose, and the quarterly payment rate - a measure of cardholders' willingness and ability to repay their debt - fell for the first time in more than four years.

Analysts at Moody's, the rating agency, said the trend could be related to the slowdown in the US property market and fewer borrowers rolling mortgage debt into new, cheaper home loans.

"The combination of higher interest rates and a softer real estate market diminished the attractiveness of mortgage refinancings in which many borrowers reduced their more expensive credit card debt by drawing on the equity in their home," Moody's said.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Now that the easy money in home mortgages is all but over, consumers may soon be caught in a financial squeeze with their credit cards.

That's the worry among some economists and credit counselors as home lending has shifted abruptly into low gear this summer. That leaves homeowners owing big sums to Visa or MasterCard without an important escape hatch -- the ability to pay down the plastic by dashing off a check from their home equity line of credit or rolling the debt into a new, bigger mortgage.
Now admittedly a lot of this is fallout from the subprime mortgage situation. However I can't help but wonder how much of the current crisis and this current depressing credit card default trend aren't attributable to the changes in credit card and bankruptcy laws that W pushed through a few years ago.

h/t to The Big Picture

Texas Governor Commutes Death Sentence

Well this was unexpected...

From the AP:

Texas governor spares getaway driver

Gov. Rick Perry, longtime head of the nation's busiest death penalty state, spared an inmate Thursday hours before he was to have been executed for being a killer's getaway driver.

Perry issued the commutation order on a parole board's rare recommendation about seven hours before Kenneth Foster was to have been put to death — the narrowest gap by which he has halted an execution in his more than eight years in office.

Thursday's vote marked only the second time since Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982 that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed stopping an execution with so little time remaining. And in that 2004 case, Perry rejected the board's recommendation and the prisoner, who had been diagnosed as mentally ill, was executed.

This time, Perry agreed with the board's recommendation that Foster be saved from lethal injection.

Foster, 30, learned of Thursday's board vote during a morning visit with his father. A warden told him of the governor's commutation about an hour later.

"The first thing I did was drop to my knees and say a little prayer," he said as he was being taken from the Huntsville prison unit where executions are carried out for a return trip to the prison that houses death row. "I owe a lot of people."

Death penalty opponents had launched a public-relations campaign to save Foster because they objected to Texas's so-called law of parties, a unique statute in which each participant of a capital crime is held equally responsible. In any other state, the person who actually killed another person might be eligible for execution, but the driver or other participants might not be. more

I think Gov. Perry did the right thing here. The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for those that commit the most heinous of crimes and to me this clearly doesn't meet that standard. The fact that Foster had exhausted his appeals and the sentence had to be commuted points to exactly how broken Texas' death penalty laws are. Additionally with only 2% of murderers getting the death penalty in Texas (according to a San Antonio Express News article from last week that I can't find) it seems that either the laws are applied inconsistently or that one gets the best justice one can afford.

I can understand a state wanting to be tough on crime but ultimately its more important to be fair. Somehow somewhere the powers that be in The Lone Star State seem to have forgotten that fact. Its good that Gov. Perry remembered. Even if it was at the last minute.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Of Note

The NY Daily News asked Michael J Totten to wrote a short piece on whether or not he thought the surge was working. His response...

While American politicians bicker among themselves from eight time zones away about whether the surge led by Gen. David Petraeus is working or not, I returned to Iraq to see for myself.

This trip - from which I returned this month - was my fourth reporting stint in the country since the conflict began. And this time, what I saw was overwhelming, undeniable and, like it or not, complicated: In some places, the surge is working remarkably well. In others, it is not. And the only way we will know for sure whether the tide can be turned is to continue the policy and wait.

I know that's not what many Americans and politicians want to hear, but it's the truth.

Take some time today to read the column in its entirety.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Muqtada al-Sadr's Gift Horse

Looks like W, Petraus, and the troops may be getting a much needed break.

From the AP:

Al-Sadr suspends militia activity in Iraq

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, and it will no longer attack U.S. and coalition troops, aides said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.
In Najaf, al-Sadr's spokesman said the order also means the Mahdi Army will no longer launch attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces.
"It also includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers as well as others," Ahmed al-Shaibani told reporters.
Asked if Mahdi militiamen would defend themselves against provocations, he replied: "We will deal with it when it happens."

BAGHDAD (AP) — Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.
The order was issued after two days of bloody clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala that claimed at least 52 lives. Iraqi security officials blamed Mahdi militiamen for attacking mosque guards, some of whom are linked to the rival Badr Brigade militia. more

If the Mahdi army actually follows orders this could prove to be a tipping point for Iraq. That is of course provided that the Iraqi government can pull together enough to actually make use of this break. Given the fact that this occurred during the surge the simple fact of the matter is that if we can't improve the situation in Iraq during that time the odds of us ever being able to do so are slim to none. So lets all keep our fingers crossed.

Of Note

Over at Central Sanity Pete Abel differs with the conclusion I reached in my post The Left Vs Democrats

Over at one of my favorite blogs Maverick Views Alan Stewart Carl has returned from a work induced blogging hiatus.

Finally Michael W Totten has another installment from his trip to Iraq that is well worth reading.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

40 Years Ago Today

Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the greatest and most important speeches in U.S. history.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Left Vs Democrats

From the Politico:

Liberal blogger targets 'Bush Dog' Dems

A leading liberal blogger has declared political war against centrist Democrats – the latest move in an intensifying show of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Congress by the once-friendly blogosphere.

Matt Stoller, who blogs at the well-trafficked, has compiled a list of 38

“Some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it's useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members,” wrote Stoller, who refers to the 38 Democrats as “Bush Dogs.” more
House “Blue Dog” Democrats who have voted with Republicans on key legislation, and called on the activist community to put pressure on them – and perhaps challenge them in primaries – if they fail to shape up.
I'd find this both amusing and disturbing. Amusing because the netroots had failed to oust a single Senator so what makes any of them think that they can boot 38 (or even a single) congressmen?

Whats disturbing is that Stoller and others are trying to stifle dissent, debate, and effectively representative government using Rovian intimidation tactics to force others to tow their line.
They are now embracing the very strategies they decried for so long. In essence they have become their enemy.

Whats ironic is that the Blue Dogs haven't even been delivering on on their own promises of fiscal responsibility due to pressure from Pelosi.

From the WSJ

The blue dog Web site boasts that its mission is to "refocus Congress on balancing the budget and ridding taxpayers of the burden of debt." If a balanced budget is what they want, the best fiscal option would be to enact what is called a "continuing resolution" budget that would fund all programs at last year's level plus 1% or 2%. Along with rising tax revenues, this could cut the budget deficit roughly in half next year, to well under $100 billion. But Republicans can't do that on their own: they need the votes of these moderate Democrats.

Here's the rub: So far this year the blue dogs have been almost all bark when it comes to fiscal restraint and debt reduction. Thirty of the 48 have voted for every one of the non-defense spending bills their committee chairman have sent them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is enforcing party discipline, and as a result 28 of the 48 blue dogs voted "no" on each of the 27 amendments that Republicans proposed to cut the costs of these bills. The 13 freshman Democrats who represent conservative districts--such as Heath Shuler (N.C.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Zack Space (Ohio), Nick Lampson (Texas)--have been a particular disappointment; back home these same blue dogs trumpet their "independent streak."

But to Stoller party comes before true representative democracy and therefore country. A sentiment he shares with both Karl Rove and Tom Delay. And should the Stollers of the DNC have their way the Dems will have a similiar fall from grace as the GOP and it would be as equally well deserved.

Poll: GOP Losing Youth Vote

From SFGate:

Poll: Young voters disenchanted with Republican party

... A Democracy Corps poll from the Washington firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner suggests voters ages 18 to 29 have undergone a striking political evolution in recent years.

Young Americans have become so profoundly alienated from Republican ideals on issues including the war in Iraq, global warming, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration that their defections suggest a political setback that could haunt Republicans "for many generations to come," the poll said.

The startling collapse of GOP support among young voters is reflected in the poll's findings that show two-thirds of young voters surveyed believe Democrats do a better job than Republicans of representing their views - even on issues Republicans once owned, such as terrorism and taxes.

And among GOP presidential candidates, only former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani registers with more positive views than negative with young voters, the poll shows.

The anti-GOP shift for this generation - which is expected to reach 50 million voters, or 17 percent of the electorate, in 2008 - represents a marked contrast from their predecessors, the Gen Xers born in the mid-'60s to mid-'70s whose demographic represented the strongest Republican voters in the nation, pollster Anna Greenberg said.

Today, "on every single issue, Democrats are doing better with young people - no matter what the issue is," said Greenberg.

Catherine Brinkman, 28, of Foster City, who heads the California Young Republicans, said she hears from many of her Republican friends who say, " 'Look at our (presidential) candidates compared to the Democrats: They have Hillary, everyone knows her ... and you have this phenomenal (senator) out of Chicago, who is African American and energized.' "

The perception is that "we're still selling the same old white guys," Brinkman said.

Another sign that should the GOP continue to use its base pandering strategy it will relegate itself to being the minority party within a decade. However if the Republican leadership is actually paying attention to changing attitudes, demographics, and calls from party members for moderation we might just see a kinder gentler GOP just in time to keep that from happening. My bet is that they spend a few years as a minority before they wise up.

Gonzo Gets Going

From the NY Times:
Embattled Attorney General Resigns

WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. He is expected to announce the decision to reporters at 10:30 Eastern time this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation for months, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, a senior administration official said.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said early this morning, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.

Mr. Bush repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Meanwhile rumors are already circulating that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff is slated to replace Gonzo as AG.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stupid Summer Cold Roundup

Over at DWSUWF MW proposes that Clinton might not be the shoo in you'd think.

Guest posting at Contentions Michael J. Totten discusses the worst Al Qaeda attack since 9/11 which happened just last week.

And finally over at TMV their quote of the day makes an excellent point about why the GOP is in trouble in 2008 and possbly beyond.

Regular posting will commence once I cease to feel like poo.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

France Changes Iraq Stance

Our old friend France is finally back:

Sarkozy 'corrects' Chirac's errors

By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf News
Published: August 22, 2007, 00:13

One of the key promises that Nicolas Sarkozy had made during his presidential election campaign last spring was to "correct" foreign policy "mistakes" made by his predecessor Jacques Chirac.

Chief among these was Chirac's desperate efforts to prevent the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussain's regime of terror.
Chirac failed to save his friend's regime but managed to do serious damage to relations with the US, Great Britain and more than 40 other nations that joined the coalition of the willing to liberate Iraq in 2003.

Sarkozy's moves to correct the mistake started even before his election when he met President George W. Bush at the White House in 2006 and described Chirac's policy as "arrogant".

The surprise visit paid to Iraq by France's new Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner this week is another move by Sarkozy to shed Chirac's disastrous legacy.

Beyond its obvious symbolic and psychological value, France's change of position on Iraq could also have a number of practical positive effects.

Free of constant French diplomatic sniping, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) could fully honour its commitment to help train the new Iraqi army and police force.

So far, the alliance has trained no more than one tenth of the quota allocated to it. (In fact, Hungary seems to be the only Nato member to have done its share.)

The European Union could review its policy towards new Iraq in a positive way, starting by inviting the new Iraqi leaders and treating them as the legitimate elected representatives of their people. With French opposition no longer a factor, the EU could open an office in Baghdad and appoint a special emissary.

The new French policy on Iraq could also inspire a change of attitude in Moscow. With Schroeder and Chirac gone, Putin may find it harder to pursue an Iraq policy based on nostalgia for Saddam and petty enmity towards the US. full article

We lose Blair by election but gain Sarkozy via another. While I can't say its an even trade its still good to have one of America's oldest friends back in the fold. And frankly we could use all of the help we could get with Iraq.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Republicans vs. Birth Control or Why the GOP is Going to Lose in 2008

From The Baltimore Sun:

The quiet campaign against birth control

At National Right to Life's conference this year, Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. At the podium, he rattled off his qualifications. To a layman's ears, it sounded pretty standard for abortion politics. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. He supports teaching only abstinence to teens.

But for those trained to hear the subtleties, Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for - and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

One code phrase is: "I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, the first moment a pregnancy can be known. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the unknown moment sperm and egg meet: fertilization. They'd also like you to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Mr. Romney's code, deciphered, meant, "I, like you, hope to reclassify the most commonly used forms of contraceptives as abortions."

Presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, beefed up his anti-contraception resume by co-sponsoring a bill to de-fund the nation's largest contraception provider, Planned Parenthood, by excluding it from Title X family planning for the poor. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's campaign officials boast he has "consistently voted against taxpayer-funded contraception programs." And Mr. McCain reports that his adviser on sexual-health matters is Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who leads campaigns claiming condoms are unsafe and opposing emergency contraception.

Another presidential candidate, Rep. Tom Tancredo, like Mr. Romney, has ventured far into the "contraception-is-abortion" territory. According to Mr. Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, emergency contraception "cheapens human life and simply uses a woman's body to dispose of the child instead of a doctor."

The American public is unaware of the new wave of anti-contraception activism by opponents of abortion, which makes it much easier for politicians to appease the anti-contraception base. Take, for example, President Bush. While he has delivered some big anti-abortion victories for the religious right in the last seven years (Supreme Court Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., and the so-called partial-birth abortion ban), anti-contraception work has taken up more of his energy. He attempted to strip contraceptive coverage for federal employees; appointed anti-birth control leader David Hager to the FDA panel that approves and expands access to contraceptive methods; chose another contraception opponent to oversee the nation's contraceptive program for the poor; defunded international family-planning programs, and invested unprecedented sums into sex-ed programs that prohibit mention of contraception.

For now, the candidates vying for the Right to Life endorsement are doing their best to avoid directly answering mainstream voters' simple questions on the subject, such as, "Do you support couples having access to safe and effective birth control options, including emergency contraception?" Considering that even 80 percent of self-described "pro-life" voters and a majority of Republican voters strongly support contraception, it's no wonder why.
full article

Now any reasonable person realizes how ludicrous the idea of getting rid of birth control is. Period. But the fact that GOP hopefuls are willing to court the extremists of their party by deception shows some of the very real problems the GOP is facing. First there's the honesty factor. Romney implying that he's anti-contraception is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. He never came out and said it. He just led them to believe he did. It seems that every candidate has an issue they treat like that when it comes to competing for the base. (Imagine Hillary speaking at PETA meetings implying "meat is murder" and you start to see my point.)

The sad fact is that currently the GOP actually needs that subsection of votes because the war in Iraq and a handful of other issues has caused it to hemorrhage moderates and independents thereby leaving more a more socially conservative Republican party. By being forced to endorse positions that they may not actually believe in they are shooting themselves in the foot by making themselves appear to hold positions not held by the majority and simply put this current batch of front runners aren't good liars (I think Giuliani could lie with the best of them but he's using the "I was there on 9/11" strategy so he doesn't have to.)

I really believe as long as the GOP keeps pandering to its base it is going to be relegated to the minority party until the Dems royally screw up and I'm guessing it'll be eight years of Dem control before that happens.

h/t The Gun Toting Kitten

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Of Note

Michael J. Totten has post up detailing an intelligence gathering session he was privy to in Iraq.
It does a great job of pointing out the difference between cultures:

"This is how soldiers spend most of their time when they gather intelligence on terrorists and insurgents in Iraq. Not until the very end of the meeting, which is almost strictly social and takes many hours, does anyone get down to business. Jumping right in with a list of intelligence questions is considered the height or rudeness except in extreme or unusual circumstances."

Take some time today to read the whole story.

Bloomberg Won't Run

From Reuters:

Bloomberg says won't run for president

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he cannot win the U.S. presidency and won't run, the strongest statement to date about his intentions for the 2008 presidential race.

Bloomberg previously had said he had no plans to run, which failed to quiet speculation that he was planning an independent bid for the White House.

In an interview with Dan Rather of HDNet television to be aired on Tuesday, Bloomberg was asked if he was running and if he was going to run for president. He answered "no" to both questions.

He refused to categorically rule out any future run, then added: "The answer is 'no.' ... If somebody asks me where I stand, I tell them. And that's not a way to get elected generally. Nobody's going to elect me president of the United States." more

I was hoping he'd run as I believe he would have really shaken up the establishment regardless of if he won or not. However with him out of the way Ron Paul is now free and clear to run as an independent once the GOP passes him over as the nominee.

h/t to Memeorandum

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ron Paul Wins Alabama Straw Poll

OK, admittedly its was teeny tiny straw poll but he mopped the floor with every single member of the opposition at once. The results:

Paul 216
Romney 14
Hunter 10
Thompson 9
Giuliani 7
Huckabee 6
McCain 2
Brownback 2
Tancredo 0
Cox 0

Beer Good

Beer goggles bad...

From CNN:

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) -- A 23-year old Serb was found dead and half-eaten in the bear cage of Belgrade Zoo at the weekend during the annual beer festival.

The man was found naked, with his clothes lying intact inside the cage. Two adult bears, Masha and Misha, had dragged the body to their feeding corner and reacted angrily when keepers tried to recover it.

"There's a good chance he was drunk or drugged. Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," zoo director Vuk Bojovic told Reuters.

Local media reported that police found several mobile phones inside the cage, as well as bricks, stones and beer cans

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spy in the Sky?

From the WaPo:
Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.

Administration officials say the program will give domestic security and emergency preparedness agencies new capabilities in dealing with a range of threats, from illegal immigration and terrorism to hurricanes and forest fires. But the program, described yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement. more

The Supreme Court already struck down using thermal sensing technology without a warrant so access to this technology would be of very limited use in day to day operations. I see much potential for abuse though and thats what should concern people.

Over at Captain's Quarters Captain Ed brings up this additional point:

Second and perhaps more importantly, American legal tradition has separated military and foreign-intel collection from domestic law enforcement, and for good reasons. The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the military (except the Coast Guard, for certain purposes) from acting in a law-enforcement role, except under emergencies specifically requiring martial law. This law keeps the federal government from usurping power from local and state authorities. Since these satellites were launched with strictly military and foreign-intel missions in mind, using them as tools for law enforcement may not entirely cross the PCA, but it gets too close for comfort.

Unless the use of the satellites is strictly limited to national-security applications, such as a counterterrorist operation or immigration enforcement (both of which are legitimate national-security concerns under federal jurisdiction), satellites should not be used as law-enforcement tools. We did not put those military assets in orbit to be deployed against the people of the United States.

Its really starting to seem to me as though there is an accidental war being waged against privacy these days in the name of security. Whats sad is that privacy is being eroded to fight symptoms of larger problems (badly waged war on drugs, crappy middle eastern policies, poverty etc etc). How much privacy are we going to allow to slip away before we start fighting the fire rather than the smoke?

And then there's corporate data mining.......

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rumsfeld Resigned Before Elections

From the WaPo:

Rumsfeld Resigned as Defense Secretary on Day Before Elections

CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 15 -- Donald H. Rumsfeld, who came to symbolize the Bush administration's problems in the war in Iraq, resigned as secretary of defense one day before last fall's elections, although President Bush did not announce the move until the day after the elections.

The White House confirmed on Wednesday that Rumsfeld's letter of resignation was dated Nov. 6, 2006, the day before voters -- many of them furious about the war in Iraq -- evicted Republicans from the leadership of the House and Senate.

Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said that Bush received the letter and accepted Rumsfeld's resignation on Election Day. The president waited until the next day to announce that he was replacing Rumsfeld with former CIA chief Robert M. Gates.

Bush said that the decision to oust Rumsfeld had come after a series of conversations with the then-defense secretary. That revelation angered many Republicans who thought GOP electoral losses would have been reduced if Rumsfeld had been removed earlier.

"If Rumsfeld had been out, you bet it would have made a difference," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said at the time. "I'd still be chairman of the Judiciary Committee."

Not only did Bush not telegraph his intention to replace Rumsfeld, but he also publicly stated in the days before the elections that he envisioned Rumsfeld serving in his administration for the foreseeable future.


Here's the moolah quote from the article:

"I know that one of the things that the president wanted to avoid was the appearance of trying to make this a political decision," she said. "And that was very important to him, and I think that the American people can appreciate not playing politics with such an important decision."

How is lying to the American people the day after an election about something that happened the day before the election not political? It paints the picture that W didn't want the administration and/or the party to appear either weak or unstable or wrong. And the simple fact of the matter is that he withheld the truth and then lied about it. Odds are if he had allowed Rummy to resign the GOP would have a few more seats in the senate and congress. Maybe pride doth goeth before a fall after all.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be Officially Labeled Terrorists

From the WaPo

Iranian Unit to Be Labeled 'Terrorist'

The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.

The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said. The decision follows congressional pressure on the administration to toughen its stance against Tehran, as well as U.S. frustration with the ineffectiveness of U.N. resolutions against Iran's nuclear program, officials said.

The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guard would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said -- a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.

The order allows the United States to block the assets of terrorists and to disrupt operations by foreign businesses that "provide support, services or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists."

The move reflects escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran over issues including Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran has been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1984, but in May the two countries began their first formal one-on-one dialogue in 28 years with a meeting of diplomats in Baghdad.

The main goal of the new designation is to clamp down on the Revolutionary Guard's vast business network, as well as on foreign companies conducting business linked to the military unit and its personnel. The administration plans to list many of the Revolutionary Guard's financial operations.

"Anyone doing business with these people will have to reevaluate their actions immediately," said a U.S. official familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced. "It increases the risks of people who have until now ignored the growing list of sanctions against the Iranians. It makes clear to everyone who the IRGC and their related businesses really are. It removes the excuses for doing business with these people."

This is a good idea executed badly.

Further economically dissuading Iran from sponsoring terrorism makes perfect sense. However labeling a regular military unit a group of terrorists sets a bad precedent. The IRG is a government sponsored, uniform wearing, by the book type of military unit. By labeling them as terrorists we have effectively stated that they are not covered by the Geneva conventions. Once we start cherry picking what units are and aren't terrorists the same will be done to our troops eventually by one country or another.

What's needed is another classification entirely like"Sponsor of Terrorists" or somesuch so that we can act against such units/countries/organizations without stripping them of protections rightfully afforded by international law. Otherwise we once again sacrifice the moral high ground in pursuit of the war on terror. And we've lost enough of that already.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Of Note

Michael J. Totten has returned from Iraq and has his latest post regarding his experiences there ready for your perusal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Now Presenting..

Many moons ago Dennis Miller said,"There's only one reason to beat a dead horse. Because its fun." and in the spirit of that I'd like to present...

The Roundup of Rove Roundups
(dedicated to Pete Abel)

Over at Barbarian Blog MrGumby2U asks, "Might the Republicans finally have gone too far? Will the American people at long last recognize that the Republicans have no sense of decency?" prior to beginning his roundup.

Psst... The answers are probably and no. (Unless your taking about the GOP leadership in which case you may have a point. But I'd say the same if you asked about the Dems too.)

Pajamas Media has a roundup so large they actually had to get dressed in order to assemble it.

The Moderate Voice has a round up that should be part of any well balanced blog diet.

Buck Naked Politics wraps it up with its own roundup that includes many blogs I've never heard of before like new comer Moderate Monkey (Great name!)

Olbermann's Farewell to Rove

Video Courtesy of C&L:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove Roundup

Since Karl Rove's Resignation generated the biggest buzz in blogland seen in a long while I thought I'd do a roundup from my blogroll.

Captain Ed suggests that Mr. Rove is out of the political consulting biz and recalls the two times he met him.

Over at Thought Theatre Daniel DiRito has a scathing yet alluringly alliterative epitaph for Mr. Rove.

Buck Naked Politics compares Rove's departure to Voldemort's defeat in the final Harry Potter novel and gives a great MSM roundup.

Finally MVDG analyzes Rove's merits, methods, mistakes, and the potential downside his absence may cause for W.

Rove to Resign

From the Wall Street Journal

Karl Rove to Resign At the End of August
Karl Rove, President Bush's longtime political adviser, is resigning as White House deputy chief of staff effective Aug. 31, and returning to Texas, marking a turning point for the Bush presidency.
Mr. Rove, who has held senior posts in the White House since President Bush took office in January 2001, told Mr. Gigot he first floated the idea of leaving a year ago. But he delayed his departure as, first, Democrats took Congress, and then as the White House tackled debates on immigration and Iraq, he said. He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.

"I just think it's time," Mr. Rove said in the interview. "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family." Mr. Rove and his wife have a home in Ingram, Texas, and a son who attends college in nearby San Antonio.
Mr. Rove, 56 years old, has been embroiled in many White House controversies in Mr. Bush's second term, and faced investigation -- but wasn't indicted -- in the White House leak case that ensnared I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. He also has become a target of intense scrutiny in Congress over the firings of a number of U.S. attorneys. Mr. Rove and his political operatives in the White House had some involvement with the decision, but the extent of their role isn't clear, because the White House has asserted executive privilege in refusing to comply with congressional demands for documents and interviews, including with Mr. Rove. Mr. Rove's departure is likely to lessen the intensity of that constitutional clash, if only slightly. full article

I can't say I'm sorry to see him go. However now that he's no longer tied up at the White House he's free to assist the next GOP Presidential nominee. That in turn could get him another cabinet position. Anyone know what the odds are in Vegas regarding that possibility are?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Romney Wins in Iowa Straw Poll

From The Atlantic Online

Gov Mitt Romney won the 2007 Ames straw poll, receiving 4516 votes, or 31%.

In a surprise, Gov. Mike Huckabee finished second with 2587 votes at 18.1%

11. John Cox with 41 votes.
10. John McCain with 101 votes.
9. Duncan Hunter with 174 votes.
8. Rudy Giuliani with 183 votes.
7. Fred Thomson with 203 votes.
6. Tommy Thompson, 1,039 votes, 7.3%
5. Ron Paul with 1305 votes, and 9.1%
4. Tom Tancredo with 1961 votes, 13.7%.
3. Sen. Sam Brownback with 2192 votes and 15.3%

Iowa state auditor David Vaudt unofficially certified the results.

14,203 ballots were cast.

Now here's the weird thing... If you combine Giuliani and McCain's total votes Ron Paul beat them by over a 4 to 1 margin. Whodathunkit?

h/t Memeorandum

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poll: U.S. Public Distrusts Media

More than half of Americans say US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don't care about the people they report on, a poll published Thursday showed.

And poll respondents who use the Internet as their main source of news -- roughly one quarter of all Americans -- were even harsher with their criticism, the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center said.

More than two-thirds of the Internet users said they felt that news organizations don't care about the people they report on; 59 percent said their reporting was inaccurate; and 64 percent they were politically biased.

More than half -- 53 percent -- of Internet users also faulted the news organizations for "failing to stand up for America". more

No surprise there. Considering that since the last such poll was taken reporters been exposed for making news up and not checking major facts (ala Dan Rather). Add to that the influence of talk radio and the poll results make perfect sense. As for bias, it happens. Its human nature to filter stories with personal perspective. Thats where bloggers come in. Bloggers hold the medias feet to the fire by double checking their facts and pointing out their biases. Its a strange relationship but in the end we increase the accuracy of the news we opine about. And in the end its possible that bloggers may help restore America's faith in the media. That is of course provided that it doesn't completely devolve into infotainment and sound bites before then.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Its All In the Timing

I guess one of the benefits of having the lowest approval ratings in decades is that W can threaten to veto increased funding for poor kids health care one day and then announce plans to lower corporate taxes the next. Decreasing entitlement programs and decreasing taxes has long been a part of the GOP platform. But one really has to wonder about the wisdom behind the timing of the two. If he keeps this up he'll supply the Dems with everything they need to completely solidify their hold on Congress and win the White House or force a minor congressional rebellion so that incumbent Republicans can stay in office.

h/t to Memeorandum

Terrorists Teaming Up With Drug Cartels

From the Washington Times:
Terrorists teaming with drug cartels

Islamic extremists embedded in the United States — posing as Hispanic nationals — are partnering with violent Mexican drug gangs to finance terror networks in the Middle East, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report.

"Since drug traffickers and terrorists operate in a clandestine environment, both groups utilize similar methodologies to function ... all lend themselves to facilitation and are among the essential elements that may contribute to the successful conclusion of a catastrophic event by terrorists," said the confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
In the two years since the report was written, other DEA intelligence officials have said they are still struggling to cooperate with and share and gather information from other lead U.S. agencies charged with fighting the war on terrorism.
"We are the eyes and ears when it comes to gathering intelligence on the cartels and smugglers," said the DEA official. "What we know for sure is that persons associated with terrorist groups have discovered what cartels have known all along — the border is the backdoor into the U.S."

According to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report obtained by The Times, nearly every part of the Border Patrol's national strategy is failing.

"Al Qaeda has been trying to smuggle terrorists and terrorist weapons illegally into the United States," the 2006 document states. "This organization has also tried to enter the U.S. by taking advantage of its most vulnerable border areas. The seek to smuggle OTMs [other than Mexicans] from Middle Eastern countries into the U.S."
Peter Brown, terrorism and security consultant, stated that the "biggest element" to the DEA report is the ease with which terrorist cells have taken on new identities.

"The ability for people to completely transform their nationalities absent of their own identities is a dangerous step in the evolution of this cross-border operation," he said. "This is a true threat."
Lending credence to Mr. Brown's concern, an El Paso, Texas, law-enforcement report documents the influx of "approximately 20 Arab persons a week utilizing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver's licenses from Arabic to Hispanic surnames."full article

The fact that each party has failed to produce any meaningful border security legislation because they've been too busy arguing over their special interests provisions in said legislation says a lot about how messed up our political system is.

We need to rethink the war on drugs. I've stated before that it needs to be a war on trafficking since the same people, equipment, and routes are frequently transporting more than one type of illicit cargo. My question is are coyotes transporting potential terrorists or Iraqi refugees?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Of Note

Over at Thought Theater Daniel DiRito paints a very interesting picture of the potential importance of Pakistan in the 2008 election.

Happy Blogaversary

to which turned six today. May you blog long enough so that senility eventually causes you to send an Instalanche my way.

Of Dollars and Dragons

File this one under I told you so:

From the Telegraph:

China threatens 'nuclear option' of dollar sales

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress. Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.

Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds. more

Now the odds of China dumping that much at once are slim to none as they need our market to be reasonably healthy and our investment capital to flow freely to fuel their growth However the fact remains that we have allowed ourselves to be put in a position where our economy can be held hostage. We're now in a position where China can easily dump a billion dollars worth of bonds and shake our economy up a little as a negotiating technique. Not a pretty picture.

By allowing China to bankroll the war on terror we have effectively given them the ability to conduct economic terrorism against us at will. Not exactly what I'd call a fair trade.Its another way in which this war has been conducted in a very shortsighted manner. Because as any CFO will tell you diversification of debt is almost as important as diversifying one's investments. Especially if your loan shark happens to be a dragon.

H/T to Memeorandum

Monday, August 06, 2007

Warrantless Wiretapping Approved

From the NY Post:

President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.

...the new law for the first time provides a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens.

“This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington, who has studied the new legislation.

Previously, the government needed search warrants approved by a special intelligence court to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, e-mail messages and other electronic communications between individuals inside the United States and people overseas, if the government conducted the surveillance inside the United States.

Today, most international telephone conversations to and from the United States are conducted over fiber-optic cables, and the most efficient way for the government to eavesdrop on them is to latch on to giant telecommunications switches located in the United States.

By changing the legal definition of what is considered “electronic surveillance,” the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants — latching on to those giant switches — as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is “reasonably believed” to be overseas.

For example, if a person in Indianapolis calls someone in London, the National Security Agency can eavesdrop on that conversation without a warrant, as long as the N.S.A.’s target is the person in London. full article

Critics fear that the new law is too broadly worded, an end to privacy, or is likely to be abused. I'd argue that privacy is frequently not guaranteed when communicating with citizens of other countries. Additionally in an age when terrorists are frequently ahead of the curve in using the internet to their advantage there are scenarios when time could be of the utmost import. However I in no way, shape, or form trust any administration permanently with the powers this law grants. But as long as this law requires approval every six months and the law is continually refined in the process I'll concede that it may be a necessary tool in order to prevent terrorist acts on U.S. soil. But once it ceases to serve that purpose or is used for another end I'll be among the first to advocate scrapping it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bad Dog

Dog Shoots Man

Sources not even remotely related to the victim stated that the canine criminal was scheduled to be "fixed " the following morning.

Good Dog

Further proof that Chihuahua's still haven't figured out how small they are. Besides I like stories about everyday heroes regardless of how many legs they have.

More Media Bias?

Is it me or is much of the MSM seems to really be pulling for Hillary Clinton? I mean now that Edwards is barely in the race they seem intent on dissecting every word Obama has said since the youtube debate. I have a bit of a anti-Hillary Clinton bias so I thought I'd check.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Obama/Clinton Kerfuffle Continues

You know its a slow news week when this story just keeps getting dragged out like a soap opera.
In Obama's latest attempt to refute Clinton's claims about his inexperience he espoused his plan for the war on terror:

"When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I introduced a plan in January that would have already started bringing our troops out of Iraq, with a goal of removing all combat brigades by March 31, 2008. If the President continues to veto this plan, then ending this war will be my first priority when I take office.

There is no military solution in Iraq. Only Iraq's leaders can settle the grievances at the heart of Iraq's civil war. We must apply pressure on them to act, and our best leverage is reducing our troop presence. And we must also do the hard and sustained diplomatic work in the region on behalf of peace and stability.

In ending the war, we must act with more wisdom than we started it. That is why my plan would maintain sufficient forces in the region to target al Qaeda within Iraq. But we must recognize that al Qaeda is not the primary source of violence in Iraq, and has little support -- not from Shia and Kurds who al Qaeda has targeted, or Sunni tribes hostile to foreigners. On the contrary, al Qaeda's appeal within Iraq is enhanced by our troop presence.

Ending the war will help isolate al Qaeda and give Iraqis the incentive and opportunity to take them out. It will also allow us to direct badly needed resources to Afghanistan. Our troops have fought valiantly there, but Iraq has deprived them of the support they need and deserve. As a result, parts of Afghanistan are falling into the hands of the Taliban, and a mix of terrorism, drugs, and corruption threatens to overwhelm the country." full speech

Not too shabby. Again as long as the diplomacy starts many moons before the withdraw I could get behind that. I think Clinton made a miscalculation in choosing to point out Obama's " inexperience. All Obama has to do is show that he has a decent plan/vision and would be capable of implementing it for your average voter to give Obama a pass on his lack of time inside the beltway. And ultimately that's all he really needs to keep his foot in the door.

Dude, where's my vote?

One of my earliest posts was about the potential for voting machines to be tampered with. Now its been proven possible in CA:

University of California computer scientists have recently shown it's possible to carry out a bevy of hacks on electronic voting machines currently certified for use in the Golden State.

In reports released late last week, the researchers chronicle their five-week endeavor, at the request of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, to exploit examine machines made by Hart InterCivic, Sequoia Voting Systems and Diebold. The same models are also in use in many other states, according to a database compiled by the Election Reform Information Project.

Their conclusion? "The security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results and of the systems that provide those results," wrote principal investigator Matt Bishop, a computer science professor at the University of California, Davis. More

Makes for a strong argument for paper backups even though paper ballots have been known to disappear although I will say that one million electrons are much easier to dispose of than one million voting slips. So whats the solution? There isn't a perfect one. I'm pro paper trails and I'd like for voters to be able to choose a paper ballot if they prefer. I think the only way to truly dissuade tampering with elections would be to make it an act of treason. I know that if I were dictator of America it certainly would be.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

CA Electoral Votes to Be Split?

From The New Yorker:

Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union.

The Tuesday after the first Monday in June is California’s traditional Primary Day. But it’s not the one that everybody will be paying attention to. Five months ago, the legislature hastily moved the Presidential part up to February 5th, joining a stampede of states hoping to claim a piece of the early-state action previously reserved for Iowa and New Hampshire. June 3rd will be an altogether sleepier, low-turnout affair. There may be a few scattered contests for legislative nominations, but the only statewide items on the ballot will be initiatives. More than two dozen have been filed so far, ranging from a proposal to start a state-run Internet poker site to pay for filling potholes to a redundant slew of anti-gay-marriage measures. Few will make it to the ballot. Many are not even intended to; they’re a feint in some byzantine negotiation, or just a cheap attempt to get a little attention—for a two-hundred-dollar fee, anyone can file one. (Actually getting one on the ballot requires more than four hundred thousand signatures, and the outfits that collect them usually charge a dollar or two per signature.) Initiative No. 07-0032—the Presidential Election Reform Act—is different. It’s serious. Its backers have access to serious money. And it could pass. full article

The article goes on to point out that due to CA's moving up it primary date there will be this year the big primary and a smaller primary for state (including ballot) issues in June. That means a fraction of the usual turnout in June. All the GOP has to do is turn out its base and get the talking heads ranting. Should this initiative pass then the Dem's have to find a way to swing the pendulum back in their favor or they are so totally screwed. Once they've restored the balance by unlocking another states electoral votes independent presidential candidates will have a much easier time running for election. Thats a winning proposition to many Americans that are tired of voting for lesser evils.

h/t to Donklephant