Thursday, June 30, 2005

Where Baseball Has Become a Political Football

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON - For years, Washington hungered for a baseball team. Now it has one, and a winning team at that.

But in a city where politics course through the veins of the inhabitants, where Republicans run the show and the man in the White House is himself a former baseball team owner, it was probably too much to expect the Washington Nationals to usher in a bipartisan era of peace, love and understanding.

Sure, James Carville, the Democratic political consultant, can be spotted at games sitting in the same row as Andrew H. Card Jr., President Bush's chief of staff. But now that George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who spent millions of dollars trying to defeat Mr. Bush last year, is competing for ownership of the team against bidders who include Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, and Peter Fitzgerald, a former Republican senator, the mood on Capitol Hill isn't exactly Mom and apple pie.

Some Republicans went so far as to suggest that Major League Baseball, which owns the team, could lose its antitrust exemption if it permits Mr. Soros, who would be a part-owner with a group of investors headed by a local entrepreneur, to buy it - a threat that drew immediate ridicule in the sports pages and outrage from Democrats.

By Wednesday, one Republican, Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, backed away from that suggestion, saying he never intended any threat. But Mr. Davis and other Republicans did not back down from their criticism of Mr. Soros, who, they took pains to note, has been convicted of insider trading in France - a ruling he is appealing - and has supported ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana.

"We finally got a winning team," Representative Davis said. "Now they're going to hand it over to a convicted felon who wants to legalize drugs and who lives in New York and spent $5 million trying to defeat the president? How's he going to get him out to the opening game?"

Let's face it. This controversy is all about money and power. The Republicans have the power in Washington--both the Congress and the Presidency. The Washington Nationals have the money--they are a winning baseball team. When you combine money with power, you end up with corruption. A baseball game is a perfect setting for a little lobbying for tax breaks or special interest regulations between a congressman and a lobbyist--especially when they're sitting in the luxury boxes. Now a businessman with heavy Democratic leanings is expressing interest into buying the team, and the Republicans are worried they're going to lose their little perk. Can't have Democratic senators or representatives sitting in luxury boxes with lobbyists. Democratic Representative George Miller told the Times:

"This is K Street run amok," complained Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, referring to the Republican "K Street Project," an effort to encourage businesses and trade associations to hire Republican lobbyists. "The message they're sending to baseball here is no different than the message they send to corporations: unless you play ball with us and our people, forget access to the halls of our democracy."

So the Republicans are going to try to strong-arm Major League Baseball into rejecting Soros' bid. The Republicans want to keep their little perk. It is simple corruption.

Troops Silence at Fort Bragg Starts a Debate All Its Own

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, June 29 - So what happened to the applause?

When President Bush visits military bases, he invariably receives a foot-stomping, loud ovation at every applause line. At bases like Fort Bragg - the backdrop for his Tuesday night speech on Iraq - the clapping is often interspersed with calls of "Hoo-ah," the military's all-purpose, spirited response to, well, almost anything.

So the silence during his speech was more than a little noticeable, both on television and in the hall. On Wednesday, as Mr. Bush's repeated use of the imagery of the Sept. 11 attacks drew bitter criticism from Congressional Democrats, there was a parallel debate under way about whether the troops sat on their hands because they were not impressed, or because they thought that was their orders.

I watched a repeat playing of the speech on Fox News Monday night. I will say it is rather strange watching a president walking into a hall filled with silent troops. A polite applause would probably have been better.

The more I think about the speech, the more I start to realize that the message of the speech was really meant for the American soldier. Oh, the speech was certainly billed to the press and the public as a major event, where the president would level to the people. But that's just simple advertising. The message of the speech was to the soldiers, saying the U.S. is on the right course. We're winning the war on terrorism, we're staying till we finish the job, and America is behind you. It was the same message, given in hundreds of previous speeches given by Bush at various campaign rallies and events. The only difference was that this speech was held as a solemn event in a military base.

The Bush administration has a problem. Not only are they bogged down in a no-win insurgency war in Iraq, but they're also starting to see public opposition to the war. The recent public polls show that more people oppose the war in Iraq, and that Bush's job performance numbers have also dropped. What is worst is that this news and information is certainly being filtered over to the soldiers fighting in the trenches of Iraq. They are seeing the beginnings of this opposition, and are probably wondering if the public will start demonstrating against the war a la Vietnam. Once soldiers start questioning why they are doing their duty to their country, when their country doesn't support them in the war, then that war is lost.

So President Bush has two fires to put out. The first fire is certainly the public's opposition to the war. And the only way to solve that is to pull the U.S. out of Iraq--which the White House, and PNAC will never do. The second is to quell the doubts that soldiers may have in fighting an unpopular war. This speech was designed to quell that doubt in the soldiers. But if the war continues as it is, with public opposition, and opposition growing in Congress, it is not going to be long before that doubt will start to grow.

And the 2006 midterm elections are coming.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Schwarzenegger Faces Tough Road to Re-Election

From The Associated Press:

SAN FRANCISCO (June 29) - A majority of California voters does not want to see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger re-elected, according to the latest poll showing the Republican's political appeal sliding.

The nonpartisan Field Poll of registered voters found that just 39 percent said they were inclined to give Schwarzenegger a second term, while 57 percent were not. As recently as February, the numbers were almost reversed, with 56 percent saying they were inclined to re-elect Schwarzenegger and just 42 percent were not.

A series of polls released by Field researchers indicates Schwarzenegger has lost considerable ground among voters in recent months. The drop in the governor's popularity has coincided with his push for a fall special election for voters to consider several ballot measures aimed at curbing the power of Democrats and public employee unions in state government.

Earlier installments of the poll have shown that Schwarzenegger's job approval ratings have tumbled amid voters expressing skepticism about the special election and tepid support for his ballot measures.

Governator, like it or not, you're in trouble!

The biggest problem Schwarzenegger has is that he's aligned himself too far to the right with the special interest groups, and big business. These ballot issues are the perfect examples--teachers having five-year probation periods, redistricting maps drawn up by retired California judges, unions required to have permission slips signed by members before giving money to political campaigns? They've all been defeated before as initiatives by California voters. Why are they now so suddenly important for the Governator's reform that they must have a special ballot?

The only positive aspect in the AP story is that the Governator enjoys support among Republicans, with 71 percent inclined to re-elect him. But that's not much comfort when the majority of the state's registered voters are Democrats, and 83 percent of those Democrats would oppose a second term.

I would say that Schwarzenegger is pinning his political future in this special election, however, he is working subtly with this election. With about four months to go before the special election, I have not seen or heard anything about these ballot initiatives--either with local press coverage, or any type of political literature. This special election is quiet. In fact, I'm not sure what the ballot numbers are. With an election, there is always some form of campaign staff and money to be use to elicit votes for either a candidate or a ballot initiative. There has been nothing so far.

This makes me wonder. The only way for the Governator to push these initiatives through is to generate enough support among his own Republican base, while trying to keep the opposition quiet. Schwarzenegger may try a two-prong approach for this special election campaign. The first would be the big media-friendly-rally stops, where the Governator will be surrounded by adoring, American flag-waving fans, as he rants on the evil Democratic legislature who is obstructing California's reform. He probably won't say anything specifically about the ballot initiatives, but would rather say "Support me in my efforts at reforming California." It would be a sly, back-handed approach at asking for the Republicans to vote for his initiatives in the special election. The second approach would be a targeted marketing campaign towards those Republicans, with either email, or mass-mailed brochures, to also ask them to vote. Certain conservative talk-radio, or television shows could also have commercials supporting these propositions--targeted directly towards the conservative Republicans to vote for the Governator. Of course, these marketing campaigns would be targeted towards predominantly Republican voter districts. And while all this campaigning is going on, the Governator would be hoping these ballot initiatives don't get too much media press time, nor would the opposition campaign staff be given the media coverage to present their views against these ballot initiatives.

You could almost say that Schwarzenegger is trying his hand at a "stealth election" campaign.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Iraq: Bush Makes His Case

From the Associated Press

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (June 28) - President Bush on Tuesday rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq or sending more troops, counseling patience for Americans who question the war's painful costs.

"Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it," Bush told a nation increasingly doubtful about the toll of the 27-month-old war that has taken the lives of more than 1,740 U.S. troops.

Bush spoke in an evening address for a half-hour from an Army base that has 9,300 troops in Iraq, hoping to persuade the public that his strategy for victory needed only time - not any changes - to be successful.

The audience of 750 soldiers and airmen in dress uniform listened respectfully, breaking into applause when Bush vowed that the United States "will stay in the fight until the fight is won."

I don't know what more I can say in this analysis. It is more of the same ole...same ole. President Bush makes a major televised speech, with all the main networks covering it. The site of his speech is at Fort Bragg--at the site of a major Army base. His audience is 750 soldiers and airmen--a perfect audience. You're not going to expect any protesters waving any anti-Bush signs during that speech. It is the perfect Republican campaign rally, with the perfect audience, providing perfect televised news coverage. And what does Bush say? The war in Iraq "is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country....The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of Sept. 11 - if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden.....For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch." Bush makes the same speech he's been making for the last 3 years.

I feel like I'm listening to a broken record, playing snippet of the same tune over and over again, its needle stuck within a single groove. And as that record plays in its single-minded purpose, the needle digs deeper into that groove, forcing the record player to keep repeating that single tune. Pretty soon, the record will no longer be playable. You will have to find a new record to play a new tune. And just as Bush is a broken record, repeating the same speech over and over again, we have to remove Bush from office. Find someone new who can give us a new tune.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Reporters' Appeal in Leak Case

From the New York Times:

The United States Supreme Court declined today to hear the cases of two reporters facing jail time for refusing to testify about conversations with their confidential sources.

The case now returns to the federal district court in Washington, where its chief judge, Thomas F. Hogan, is expected to hear arguments this week about when and where the reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, will begin to serve their time.

Judge Hogan held the reporters in civil contempt in October for refusing to cooperate in a grand jury's investigation of the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. agent, Valerie Plame.

Remember Pravda? That was the old state-sponsored newspaper which was the mouthpiece for the Soviet Union's propaganda. Pravda never really criticized the Soviet Union, nor did the newspaper publish any stories on corruption within the government or its leadership. Whatever Pravda, or any of the other Soviet press agencies published had to be approved by the government. You could never see such stories as the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran-Contra, or the Iraq War being published in the Soviet Union, or even Russia of today.

Today's decision by the Supreme Court to refuse to hear the two reporters cases on the Valerie Plame story is sending a message that the United States will no longer have a free press. For reporters to get the job done in gathering the news, they must give their word to their sources that the sources names will not be revealed. It is an issue of trust between the reporter and their source. Without this bond of trust, sources will never reveal important news information to the public--especially if this information regards government corruption or leaders that are breaking the law. With the United States government declaring more information and material as being classified or secret, simply because the leaders do not want to be embarrassed by the information's publication, it becomes more important for the reporters to retain the confidentiality of their sources. The Supreme Court says no. The reporters broke the law, therefore they must reveal their sources to federal investigators or a grand jury. The reporters must break their bonds of trust with their sources.

I will say that I do find it ironic that the federal investigators are going after these two reporters regarding the Valerie Plame story, and yet the identity of Valerie Plame was published by a conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Novak identified Plame in his column. And yet, Novak has not been ordered to reveal his sources, he has not been held in contempt, nor is he being forced to serve jail. Robert Novak remains free and clear. According to the Times story:

Even as Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper prepare for jail, Mr. Novak remains free. Neither he (Robert Novak) nor (Special prosecutor Patrick J.) Fitzgerald will say why that is so.

Other aspects of the case remain shrouded in secrecy as well. Mr. Fitzgerald appears to assert that Mr. Cooper, who wrote about Ms. Plame after the Novak column, and Ms. Miller, who never wrote on the subject, have information that may point to criminal conduct by a government official.

The special prosecutor is going after two reporters who investigated the Plame story after Novak wrote his column. Cooper wrote his story after Novak's column was published, and Miller never wrote about the story. The special prosecutor is not investigating the key figure here--Robert Novak. I wonder if this investigation into the Valerie Plame matter has serious political overtones to it, where senior conservative government officials are steering this investigation towards beneficial conservative political goals? It is almost impossible to prove that assumption.

However, this whole issue really smells fishy.

In another important note, the Supreme Court will wrap up its business and adjourn today for the end of this year. If Chief Justice William Rehnquist is planning to retire, then today will be the big announcement. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

With Ashcroft Gone, Justice Department Statues Disrobe

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (June 24) - With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.

The 12-foot, 6-inch aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s.

YEE HAW! Let's Get Nekkid!

So John Ashcroft was so afraid of speaking in the Great Hall because some photographer was going to take a picture of him with a statue showing some breast. Can't use those pictures for Ashcroft campaign posters to be distributed to the good, honest, red-state, Christian evangelists. Can't use the TV footage of Ashcroft decrying the effects of pornography on morality in campaign commercials--not when the Spirit of Justice is standing there in all her glory. Would F.C.C. chairman Michael Powell have to fine Ashcroft for Spirit of Justice's wardrobe malfunction?

The good news is that Alberto Gonzales had finally removed the drapes. Let the statues be. Let the public, who will visit the Justice Department, enjoy the beauty of the majestic historic building, and the statues. If you want to hold a ceremony in the Great Hall, then put up a portable drapery for that ceremony. When the ceremony is over, take the drapes down. It is that simple--almost a non-issue. Ashcroft made this into a big issue with his religious beliefs. The photographers caught on, then tried to take pictures of Ashcroft with the exposed breast.

Somedays I shake my head at the absurdities of the world.

Friday, June 24, 2005

16 to 25? Pentagon Has Your Number, and More

This is from the New York Times:

The Defense Department and a private contractor have been building an extensive database of 30 million 16-to-25-year-olds, combining names with Social Security numbers, grade-point averages, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

The department began building the database three years ago, but military officials filed a notice announcing plans for it only last month. That is apparently a violation of the federal Privacy Act, which requires that government agencies accept public comment before new records systems are created.

I'm not sure which is worst. Is it the Defense Department's failure to accept public comments on this database, or is it the contracting of a private marketing company to manage this database? Some of this information is very detailed and private--grade point averages, height, weight, social security numbers. With the database that includes the names of 3.1 million graduating seniors and 4.7 million college students, this is not something to be used just in case of a draft or national emergency. This is a database designed to analyze market segments, then selectively target those segments with a carefully choreographed e-marketing and direct mail marketing campaign to recruit these young kids into the military.

David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said that the database had been in development since 2002. "Congress wants to ensure the success of the volunteer force," he said at a reporters' roundtable in Washington. "Congress does not want conscription, the country does not want conscription. If we don't want conscription, you have to give the Department of Defense, the military services, an avenue to contact young people to tell them what is being offered. It would be naive to believe that in any enterprise, that you are going to do well just by waiting for people to call you."

Excuse me David Chu? I'm not sure I like the idea of the military developing a e-marketing database that would have flooded a young student's email box with your recruitment spam--along with all the other spam touting viagra, porn sites, mortgage refinancing ads and such. If the military is so worried that they can't get enough recruits to replenish the manpower that the military had used up in their war with Iraq, then by all means--Let's have a draft! Let's put these young kids into the military against their will, have them fight and die in a war they do not believe in. That would certainly generate even greater opposition against the Iraq war, and generate opposition against incompetence of the Republican leadership who had gotten us into this war in the first place.

Don't try to end-run your marketing campaign around the American public.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Top General Disputes Cheney Insurgency Claim

From the Associated Press:

The Iraqi insurgency is as active as six months ago and more foreign fighters are flowing in all the time, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Thursday, despite Vice President Dick Cheney's insistence that the insurgency was "in its last throes."

Gen. John Abizaid, testifying at a contentious Senate hearing alongside Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, gave his view of the war in response to lawmakers who expressed concern about progress in Iraq and support at home.

Okay, obviously there is a major contradiction in what the top U.S. military commander said at a Senate hearing verses what Vice President Cheney had said about the insurgency.

Now, I want to include two more interesting quotes from this contentious Senate hearing between General Abizaid, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The first quote would be from Abizaid:

"In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago. In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was." General John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Gulf.

Now Rumsfeld's quote:

"Some ... have suggested that deadlines be set. That would be a mistake ... It would throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses in casualties, been denied havens, and suffered weakened popular support." Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.

These guys were sitting together, side-by-side, in a Senate hearing, and they have completely contradicted each other. Abizaid said the insurgency is at about the same strength. Rumsfeld said the insurgency suffered significant losses. Rumsfeld is Abizaid's boss.

Which individual is lying?

Democrats Demand Rove Apologize for 9/11 Remarks (Part 2 of Post)

I've been thinking about my original post of Karl Rove's comments on liberals and Democrats. As I have said, Karl Rove is a political mastermind and any comments he has made, is a part of some overall-reaching political goal. Liberals and Democrats should not underestimate him.

I've been asking myself why would Karl Rove say what he said? The most obvious answer is that he's using this as a wedge issue, to divide the different views of how to fight terror according to Republican perceptions and debate guidelines. A second answer is certainly--keep the American public focused on the war on terror, and not let the public think about the other problems of this country--such as the economy, social security, the war in Iraq, the budget deficit, the job losses, high gas prices.

I saw an interesting paragraph in The New York Times where a ranking Republican official argued "that Democrats were blowing Mr. Rove's comments out of proportion, noting that his comments specifically pointed out the post-Sept. 11 positions of, the filmmaker Michael Moore and former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, not Congressional Democrats or the party itself."

The Times article then stated that a parade of Democrats attacked Rove which included "Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Senators Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey; and Senators Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut."

I'm wondering whether this was staged by the Republican Party to generate this chorus of criticism by top Democratic Congressional leaders, after which the Republican Party will use those statements--especially any television coverage--against the Democrats in either the 2006 or 2008 elections. It certainly wouldn't be beyond the Republican dirty tricks playbook to manufacture this political crisis, record the TV coverage of top Democratic leaders critical remarks, then use those remarks for attacking the Democrats in campaign commercials--after the American public would have forgotten that it was Karl Rove's mouth that had started this critical flap in the first place.

At this point, the Democrats are simply reacting. They are reacting to this manufactured speech by Rove. The Democrats are reacting to the battles that the Republicans can pick and choose on the Republican Party's own terms. That is not how you beat Karl Rove, or the Republicans. The Democrats have got to find issues that they can use to attack President Bush, Karl Rove, and the Republicans with a sustained ferocity. There are plenty of issues to choose from--the war in Iraq, high gas prices, jobs, the income inequality between the rich and poor. Pick two issues that will resonate with the American public and pound the Republicans with them. The Democrats have got to start developing a pro-active game plan now.

Otherwise, they may start losing again in 2006.

Democrats Say Rove Should Apologize or Resign

I've been trolling the blogsphere, seeing what other bloggers are saying in their posts. The biggest Associated Press news story today for the bloggers has been Karl Rove's insulting remarks, accusing liberals of wanting "therapy and understanding" for the Sept. 11 terrorist attackers. Democrats in Congress today are saying that Rove should either apologize or resign for his remarks. According to the AP story, White House press secretary Scott McClellan came to Rove's defense, saying that Rove was "simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."

What can I say, that hasn't already been said? Yes, Karl Rove flapped his mouth with some rather derogatory comments. Yes, he was probably stupid for claiming that liberals "saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," while conservatives "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war." Just as he was insidious to have said that the Democratic Party had made a mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.

But I also want to say a couple of comments to the Democrats, liberals and progressives who have gotten steamed over Rove's comments. Don't underestimate Karl Rove. This guy has been a political mastermind in consolidating political power with control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency for the Republican Party. Whenever he opens his mouth to say something, there is a deeper political meaning and strategy behind his words. The question you have to ask is, why did he say that? What was the political purpose for these remarks? What is his game strategy? The Democrats have got to figure out what Karl Rove's game plan is, then counter it with their own calculating, measured remarks.

Don't underestimate Karl Rove.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Chinese Firm Launches $18.5 Billion Bid for Unocal

This is from the Los Angeles Times:

A Chinese oil company today offered to buy California-based Unocal Corp. for $18.5 billion, topping a rival bid by Chevron Corp. and setting the stage for a political debate over the future of U.S. energy, security and trade policies.

The offer by CNOOC Ltd., an arm of State-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp., also represents China's largest potential overseas investment by far. But it's one the Chinese believe their fast-growing economy needs to help satisfy its surging demand for oil, refined products and natural gas.

CNOCC offered $67 cash for each share of El Segundo-based Unocal and stressed that its bid was "friendly" and that it hoped to reach a "consensual" deal.

Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, and the second-largest U.S. oil company behind Exxon Mobil Corp., is offering about $62 a share in cash and Chevron stock--or about $17 billion--under its agreement with Unocal, which already has received U.S. antitrust clearance from the Federal Trade Commission.

This is a huge story. You are talking about a large Chinese oil company wanting to buy an American oil company, at a time when oil supplies are tightening, prices are rising, and the two biggest nations that are seeking new oil supplies to satisfy their growing demand are China and the United States. According to the LA Times, Unocal focuses on exploration and production and has projects in the Asia-Pacific region which includes Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Both Chevron and CNOOC prize Unocal's oil and natural-gas projects in Asia and the Pacific region. Unocal also operates in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caspian Sea area. To put it simply, this is a competition between the United States and China for oil assets. It is a competition that is being carried out by two big oil firms of CNOOC and Chevron for Unocal's assets--oil. Whoever gets Unocal, gets the oil.

This is a political and public relations firebomb. Of course it raises serious concerns about a Chinese oil company buying an American oil company at a time when the Bush White House has been pushing an energy bill stressing more oil exploration and production. It is also a public relations nightmare. The Republicans will jump on the bandwagon, decrying that the Chinese government is taking control of the U.S. energy, economic, and security policy. Congressional leaders will want to re-examine trade policies between the U.S. and China, and how the Unocal deal will affect trade between both countries. And if the CNOOC-Unocal deal collapses, the Chinese government may complain the Bush White House may have exerted pressure to kill the deal and restrict the new Chinese oil companies from exploration and development outside of China.

I have no clue how this deal will turn out. But I am concerned that whatever the outcome of this deal, either China or the United States will point fingers at each other, decrying that each other's governments had exerted pressure to influence the deal towards their own satisfaction. And both governments will certainly be exerting such influence on this deal. The question is, what is going to happen next.

Bush Pushes for More Nuclear Power Plants

From the Associated Press:

Pushing for the construction of nuclear power plants, President Bush on Wednesday pressed Congress to send him an energy bill, though he acknowledged that even when he signs the legislation, gasoline prices at the pump won't fall overnight.

For once, I will have to agree with President Bush. We do need to start looking at designing and building new nuclear power plants. The technology has certainly advanced dramatically in the last 30 years. We need to start looking at new, innovative designs for nuclear reactors which can incorporate better environmental and safety concerns. This is certainly one method to reduce U.S. oil consumption for its energy needs.

But while I may agree that the U.S. should invest in nuclear power, I still have serious concerns with the safety and waste issues. Operation of nuclear power plants should still be regulated with strict safety guidelines for the public good The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be given strong powers to enforce these guidelines. While I will accept some cooperation between the NRC and the nuclear industry regarding safety guidelines, I do not want the NRC to become subservient to the big nuclear power companies. I fear that if Bush pushes for nuclear power, he will place people in the N.R.C, and the Department of Energy, who would be friendly to the nuclear power industry and would kowtow to nuclear industry's corporate interest for bottom-line profits. For the development of nuclear power, I want a strong, independent watchdog keeping tabs on the industry. That will never happen under the Bush administration.

The second problem I have with nuclear power is simply the nuclear waste issue. The more nuclear power we generate, the more radioactive waste we produce. The radioactive waste has to be addressed. The Bush administration wants to store the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and military bases at a long-term waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain. This is a short-term solution. The nuclear power industry, in conjunction with the federal government, will need to research and develop a long-term recycling program to reprocess the radioactive waste into new nuclear fuel to be used in the nuclear power plants. Once the fuel can no longer be recycled, then perhaps it can be safely stored in a long-term facility as Yucca Mountain. However, given the enthusiasm that the Bush White House has for recycling programs, such a recycling program for the nuclear industry will never be developed.

San Jose OKs Second Downtown

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The San Jose City Council laid the foundation Tuesday for massive growth of industry and housing in North San Jose, with a promise to nearby cities that their concerns over traffic and schools won't be ignored.

But by approving the environmental impact report and policy changes for turning an area of high-tech campuses into a second downtown, the council sent a strong message to businesses that San Jose won't stand in their way to expand.

This is a big, local story here in our Bay Area. North San Jose was first developed, through the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, as an industrial area of high-tech campuses with single-story buildings and large parking lots in the late 1970s, early 80s when the high tech boom was just starting. This area, also known as the Golden Triangle, provided the S.J. Redevelopment Agency with the growing funds the agency needed to completely redevelop San Jose's downtown. The 25-year project for downtown is nearing its completion, so the Redevelopment Agency needs another big project to justify its existence and expenses. Hence, we need to tear down the Golden Triangle, and put up a new second downtown.

The Golden Triangle was originally developed when land was plentiful and housing was still cheap. The Silicon Valley computer boom was just starting, and the Redevelopment Agency provided the new high-tech companies with incentives to build low-density industrial campuses there. What a difference 25 years makes. I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country. Today in the Bay Area, housing prices are exorbitant. Much of the housing that has been built over the last 25 years has been single or two-story tract housing, with transportation still being the auto. It is only recently that Bay Area cities have started to consider high density mixed-use development, coupled with light-rail public transportation. With land prices also becoming expensive, high-tech companies have been moving their operations out-of-state to areas where land is cheap and plentiful-Tucson, Arizona and Austin Texas are just two cities which have a thriving high-tech industry.

The problem is that these mixed-use developments have been small-scale. The Redevelopment Agency had just completed Santana Row--a mixed-use high density housing and shopping area near the west side of San Jose. But Santana Row is small--occupying a space of land where you can build two decent-sized shopping centers side-by-side. Santana Row is also located next to Valley Fair--one of the most popular, and busiest shopping centers here in the South Bay. The placing of Santana Row next to Valley Fair has resulted in a traffic congestion nightmare. For San Jose to efficiently grow, the city needs to develop a comprehensive and detailed plan for building a large-scale mixed-use neighborhood of housing and industry. There are two large tracts of land that can be used for this development. The first is Coyote Valley--a huge swath of farmland in the outskirts of South San Jose. But talks of developing Coyote Valley have been going on for 30 years, and have broken down after Cisco decided against building a high-tech campus there in 2002. The second area is the Golden Triangle / North San Jose.

But there are big problems with this development. The first problem obviously is the increase in traffic. Our transportation system here in the South Bay is the car. When we need to go someplace, we drive our cars. San Jose does have a public transportation system using both buses and light rail, however, the system is still inefficient and time consuming. San Jose also does not have BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit System). For this redevelopment of North San Jose to a second downtown, San Jose must work with the other Bay Area cities to develop a comprehensive public transportation system for the entire Bay Area. BART has to extend 20 miles down south from Fremont to San Jose, and possibly to connect into Coyote Valley for future development. The car cannot be a primary mode of transportation for this second downtown. And that's going to be almost impossible, since the Bay Area transportation network depends on the auto. The second problem is that there is also certainly the spillover of noise, air pollution, and the increasing needs by the growing population for such services as schools, police, and fire. Those spillovers from the second downtown are certainly going to affect the neighboring communities of Santa Clara and Milpitas. If San Jose pushes this redevelopment too fast, this is going to cause and outrage among the outlying communities, thus making it harder for all the communities to find common solutions for these problems. When the high-tech boom of the 1980s was in full swing, San Jose was on the receiving end of this spillover. High-tech campuses were being constructed in northern outlying communities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Cupertino, where these communities were getting higher tax property tax revenues from the high tech companies over that of the property tax revenues from residential properties. The employees of those high-tech firms in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Cupertino were living in San Jose, and thus the population were consuming more police, fire, school and garbage services in San Jose rather than the northern outlying communities which had built those high-tech campuses, and had a lower population of residencies. A lower population in these northern communities, with their high-tech campuses, meant a lower demand for these social services. San Jose does not want to force this spillover of social services against its neighbors.

I'm not sure yet if this is the right way to go about with this development. The South Bay certainly needs to change and adapt to the needs of its citizens. This area still continues to grow at an alarming rate. Housing prices still continue to rise. San Jose is right in redeveloping its northern area into a mixed-use community as a way to improve the quality of life for the community. But there are certainly enormous problems and challenges to this redevelopment. San Jose needs to work with all the cities in the South Bay--and the greater San Francisco Bay Area--in order to solve these problems of traffic, pollution, and social services. The cities here are no longer separate entities. They are inter-connected and inter-dependent upon each other. Let's hope the local politicians understand that.

Documents Show Abramoff's Web of Influence in Capitol

This is a complicated article from the Associated Press. This article shows how the Coushatta Indian tribe had spent $32 million of its casino profits in government lobbying campaign, with lobbyist Jack Abramoff at the center of this web. Abramoff is under investigation by the Senate and a federal grand jury over allegations that he overcharged Indian tribes for his lobbying, and for his ties with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

What this article shows is the corrupting influence that money can have in the political process. What is especially of concern is how the Coushatta Indian tribe would transfer funds from one political group to another political group, to mask and disguise where this money had come from and where it is going. One memo from the Indian tribe recorded that a check for $10,000 that was issued to the Texans for a Republican Majority was to be reissued to America 21--a Christian group focused on voter turnout--because Abramoff was under a criminal investigation. The Coushatta Indian tribe then asked to cancel a $25,000 check to Americans for a Republican Majority, and to send the money to Sixty Plus, a group that helped Republicans get their Medicare prescription drug benefit through Congress. These examples show how "powerful leaders and special interests can hide money from a system that relies on public disclosure as its ethical safeguard."

"This shows how easy it is for interest groups, lobbyists or politicians to manipulate or redirect money into whatever avenue is dark and free of roadblocks, and the average person never sees any of it," said Kent cooper, a former federal election regulator.

This is scary.

Congress Again Debates Protecting the Flag

From the New York Times:

A constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to outlaw debasing the American flag is again before lawmakers, and lobbyists on both sides say the conservative tilt of this Senate give the measure its best chance of Congressional approval since the Supreme Court ruled 16 years ago that flag burning was a form of protected speech.

The House, which has repeatedly passed the measure in earlier sessions, began debating it again on Tuesday and is expected to approve it overwhelmingly on Wednesday.

In the Senate, where it has never passed but where the Judiciary Committee is expecting to take it up right after the Fourth of July holiday, 65 member, only two fewer than needed if all 100 are present and voting, have voted for it in the past or said they will support it this time, lobbyist for the competing sides say.

Say hello to your next wedge issue. With the 2005 midterm elections coming up, the Republicans are worried that the American public will hold them responsible for such major issues as the war in Iraq, the economy, jobs, and high gas prices. Much of their agenda has stalled in the Senate, where they are facing a united Democratic opposition. Just yesterday, the Senate Republicans again failed to break the Democratic filibuster over John Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador. So when your agenda is stalled, what do you do? You could blame the Democrats for being obstructionist--as the Republicans and the Bush White House have repeatedly tried. But the problem there is that the Republican Party controls both Congress and the Presidency. They are responsible for finding a way to solve the nation's problems. Blaming the Democrats, who are now the minority party, shows the Republicans as being weak and petty-minded.

So we come to the wedge issues. This is an old page from the Republican campaign playbook. The Republicans play up the social issues as a means to both galvanize public support to their platform, and to deflect the American public's attention away from the serious political and economic problems this country faces. The Republicans have done this for abortion, gay marriage, Terri Schiavo, and now we have the constitutional amendment to flag burning. Ironically, this issue has now been raised as the president's poll numbers have been sinking, Bolton's nomination has failed, and the violence in Iraq still continues. The House will obviously pass this amendment. The Senate may pass this amendment by the end of this year, which George Bush will declare its passage as a great victory for patriotism, and for our sons and daughters fighting for American values and freedom. If the Senate does not approve the flag burning amendment, you can be the Republicans will use this a major campaign issue in key Senate races, possibly where Democratic Senators voted against this amendment.

I'm getting tired of listening to these insidious wedge issues. This country has far more serious problems to solve than burning a flag.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Marines See Signs Iraq Rebels Are Battling Foreign Fighters

From The New York Times:

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border [of Karabila, Iraq] have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

This is very interesting. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the country became a magnet for just about every Islamic terrorist, fundamentalist, or anti-American Jihadists. Iraq became the place if you wanted to fight against the Americans. But in addition to the foreign fighters in Iraq, there has also been sprouting a home-grown Iraqi insurgency with a more nationalistic goal of driving the U.S. occupation forces out of Iraq. While both elements of the total insurgency wants to fight against the Americans, both elements are completely incompatible in their reasons and methods of achieving their goals.

Let's start with the foreign fighters. I would imagine most of the foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq have some terrorist training, or have belonged to the various Jihadists or terrorist groups within the Middle East. Ideology drives these fighters. These foreign fighters have experience in hit-and-run tactics against military forces (Such as Jihadist raids on Israeli military patrols in the occupied territories). These foreign fighters also have the experience and the ideology to conduct terror attacks against the civilian population. Pick up the paper any day, and there is a report of a car bomb, or a suicide bombing against a police target, or a target with causes extensive civilian casualties. These attacks will provide heightened media coverage of the insurgency--especially if a large number of civilians are killed or wounded. It is what the foreign fighters are skilled and excel at--to use terror to gain maximum media publicity in support of their cause.

In contrast, you have the home-grown Iraqi insurgency. This element of the insurgency is comprised of Iraqi citizens who are fighting to remove the American occupation forces. Nationalism drives these insurgents--they want to kick the Americans out of Iraq. What is important about this type of insurgency is that the Iraqi rebels need to convince the Iraqi civilian population to join their cause. They need to convince the civilians to come to their aid, in order to win. The problem is that every time a foreign terrorist's suicide bomb kills Iraqi civilians, that makes it much tougher for the Iraqi nationalistic rebels to convince the civilians to join their cause. That's the big rift.

This rift may have some positive implications for extracting the United States out of Iraq. The key here is to get those Iraqi nationalist insurgents to the bargaining table. The United States has to get them into the negotiations for the creation of the new Iraqi government. If those nationalistic insurgents are not involved in the governing process, then those insurgents may denounce the newly installed Iraqi government as a puppet to the U.S., and would continue fighting. The second thing the U.S. has to do is to give amnesty to all Iraqi insurgents--not the foreign fighters. The Iraqi insurgents are not terrorists--they are fighting to remove a foreign occupation force controlling their country, namely the United States. That amnesty is important, if the nationalists-insurgents are to consider coming to the negotiating table. Finally, the United States has to do one thing that the Bush White House and the Neo-conservatives from PNAC will refuse to do. And that is to dismantle the permanent bases for permanently stationing American troops in Iraq. By allowing this condition, it can show the Iraqi insurgents that the United States is committed to establishing a free, sovereign Iraqi government and country, and then leaving Iraq for the Iraqis.

Of course, there are conditions that the Iraqi nationalistic insurgents must also meet. The first is obviously to stop the fighting, establish a truce with the U.S. forces. The second is to secure the country, and especially the Iraqi borders to stop the flow of foreign fighters. And finally, all parties--the Iraqi insurgents, U.S. forces, and Iraqi police and army forces--have to get rid of the foreign fighters, in order to reduce the number of suicide terror attacks and civilian casualties.

Of course, these negotiated conditions for ending the insurgency will never be accepted--either by the Iraqi nationalistic insurgents, nor the Bush White House. Until then, the only thing to do is to wait and see what will happen with this rift between the ideological foreign fighters, and the Iraqi nationalistic insurgents.

Winn-Dixie Offers Plan to Get Out of Bankruptcy

From the Associated Press:

Supermarket chain Winn-Dixie said Tuesday it will cease operations in four Southern states, close 326 of its 913 stores and cut 22,000 jobs under its proposed bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The company said it will stop operating in Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas, and trim operations in its five remaining states, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The cuts amount to 35 percent of its current work force of 78,000.

The analysis here is simple. Winn-Dixie can't compete against Wall Mart.

The grocery business is cutthroat. Your profit margin is perhaps a couple of pennies per food item with thousands of items to stock on the shelves. Your profit is going to come from selected food items that everyone needs, or specialty items such as deli or bakery. So the grocery stores have to streamline their operations for maximum efficiency--especially in supply chain and distribution. Wall Mart has one of the most efficient distribution operations of any retail company. But one of the biggest costs for a grocery store is labor costs--wages. Here in California, the big supermarket chains such as Safeway and Albertsons have unionized workforces, which pay higher salaries and benefits. I'm not sure if Winn-Dixie stores have unionized labor. Wall Mart has vehemently resisted all attempts to unionizing its workforce, thus pays lower wages and salaries for its non-union workers over that of its competition and their unionized workforce. Wall Mart has also started merging its big boxed retail department stores with a full service grocery stores to provide consumers with a shopping behemoth--a single store providing all shopping needs. The interesting thing about this is that Wall Mart can use its retail department stores to subsidize the construction of these giant retail/grocery stores as it worms its way into the grocery business.

There is only so much streamlining and cost-cutting that Winn-Dixie can do. But when you're competing against the world's largest retailer, who is planning to break into the grocery industry, in the south, it is no wonder that Winn-Dixie is having problems. I'm not saying that Wall Mart is to blame for Winn-Dixies woes. Whatever problems Winn-Dixie may have had, they have been exacerbated by Wall Mart's competition. With Winn-Dixie pulling out of the grocery business in four states, and trimming operations in five states, you can bet that Wall Mart will be picking up some choice store locations to increase its operations and market share within those states. This is only going to increase the pressure of Winn-Dixie to compete more efficiently than Wall Mart. Somehow, I doubt that would happen.

Winn-Dixie will go down, just as KMart has gone down.

Ex-Klansman Convicted of Manslaughter

From the Associated Press:

Forty-one years to the day after three civil rights workers were beaten and shot to death, an 80-year-old former Klu Klux Klansman was found guilty of manslaughter Tuesday in a trial that marked Mississippi's latest attempt to atone for its bloodstained racist past.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks took nearly six hours to clear Edgar Ray Killen of murder but convict him of lesser charges in the 1964 killings that galvanized the struggle for equality and helped bring about passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Civil rights volunteers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - two white New Yorkers - and James Chaney, a black Mississippian, were intercepted by Klansman in their station wagon on June 21, 1964. Their bodies were found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam, in a case that was dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."

Prosecutors said Killen - a part-time preacher and sawmill operator - organized the carloads of Klansmen who hunted down and killed the three young men.

I'm somewhat torn on this verdict. On the one hand, I am glad that the state has been able to bring to justice at least one person who was guilty of killing these three young civil rights workers. However, I am disgusted that it took over 40 years to convict Killen of manslaughter. If justice is blind, then she's also a slug. Killen's conviction is meaningless. He has lived a long life in freedom, whereas Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were just starting out with their lives. To put Killen in jail now that he's 80 years old, isn't going to do much good--he'll probably die in the next couple of years anyways.

Killen was smart in this instance. He didn't intercept the civil rights workers, beaten them, or pulled the trigger to kill them. He basically planned the whole operation, then stepped back to allow his fellow Klansmen to do the dirty work for him. He was also able to use his cover as a preacher to deflect any suspicion of his involvement in the killings. That's why the federal prosecutors couldn't convict him of violating the victim's civil rights in 1967.

But there's a greater issue here regarding the state of Mississippi. There is over 200 years of state-sponsered slavery and racial segregation within the Deep South. Even now, there is still a sense of prejudice--although it may be deeply submerged. This trial and conviction isn't just about Killen--it is also a trial of the state of Mississippi. It is a trial in the court of public opinion as to whether Mississippi can atone for the racial segregation, the beatings, lynchings and murders at the hands of the Klan--a Klan that included local police and government officials. Can Mississippi and the Deep south atone for all the lynchings and civil rights violations that have occurred since the end of the civil war--especially when Senators can not pass a bill apologizing for those lynchings?

Somehow, I don't think this conviction can do much. And that is sad.

Schwarzenegger's Approval Ratings Continue to Slide

This is from The Associated Press:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's call for a special election and a new advertising campaign to promote his agenda have failed to arrest his slide in popularity, according to a new statewide poll.

According to the Field Poll released Tuesday, 37 percent of registered California voters approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance, a drop of 18 percentage points since February.

Continuing a trend that began in January, 53 percent of registered California voters said they do not approve of Schwarzenegger's performance. That's a jump of 18 percentage points since February.

In other words, 18 percent of the electorate went from supporting Schwarzenegger to opposing him. That's a huge change in his job performance. In the AP article, poll director Mark DiCamillo said that this poll was "a reaction to the call for the special election." The seven-day survey began on June 13, the same night that Schwarzenegger called for his special election.

Schwarzenegger has been pulling a page from the Bush's continuous campaign playbook. Both Bush and Schwarzenegger refuse to negotiate, or compromise their agenda with the Democrats. Both have tried to circumvent Congress, and the legislature, by taking their case to the people. Bush has tried to sell Social Security and Iraq to the American public with his multiple public relations tours and Republican-controlled rallies. Schwarzenegger is trying to sell his redistricting program, and limits on state spending with the special election. Both have floundered as specific details in the programs have been made known to American public, and to Californians. You can only use so much smoke and mirrors to sell bad legislation. Once the public finds out about the details of this legislation, then no amount of flag waving, or band playing parties are going to generate the votes needed to approve such legislation.

Public Broadcasting Monitor Worked for Conservatives

From The New York Times:

A researcher retained secretly by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to monitor the "Now" program with Bill Moyers for political objectivity last year, worked for 20 years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservation Union, and a conservative columnist, an official at the journalism center said on Monday.

The decision by the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, retain the researcher, Fred Mann, without the knowledge of the corporation's board, to report on the political leanings of the guests of "Now" is one of several issues under investigation by the corporation's inspector general.

Talk about a conflict of interest here. The chairman for C.P.B secretly places a researcher on the payroll to investigate the political views of guests on a PBS show. The researcher's own political leanings are highly conservative, considering his own work at both a conservative journalism center and a conservative columnist. Do you really expect this researcher's conclusions to be "fair and balanced?"

Guess what? The Republican Party wants to control every media outlet it can, so it can push its own ideology and propaganda, while at the same time stifle any criticism. The Republicans have always believed that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its PBS programming, is a propaganda tool controlled by the liberal elites and the Democratic Party. The Republicans have wanted to shut down C.P.B and PBS, or control it for their own agenda. Never mind that the Republicans have their own conservative media outlets--such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times. We can't have the liberal elites take control of Sesame Street. Or have Buster Bunny run around in Vermont learning how to make maple syrup from a lesbian family. We can't have Bill Moyers of "Now" talk with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska of criticisms on the White House policy in Iraq, or investigate financial waste at the Pentagon.

Your tax dollars hard at work to promote the Republican propaganda while censoring all criticism to that propaganda.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Democrats Block New Attempt to Confirm Bolton

From the Associate Press:

Senate Democrats blocked John Bolton's confirmation as U.N. ambassador for the second time Monday and President Bush left open the possibility of bypassing lawmakers and appointing the tough-talking former State Department official on his own.

The vote was 54-38, six shy of the total needed to force a final vote on Bolton, and a represented an erosion in support from last month's failed Republican effort.

This is a political trial balloon. Bush is facing some pretty stark choices here, and he's scrambling to figure out what to do. He withdraw Bolton's name and select another nominee for whom the Senate Democrats may be more accommodating. But in withdrawing Bolton's name, Bush concedes defeat in this battle--and George Bush is never going to concede defeat or compromise in this issue. Bush may accede to the Democrats demands for classified information regarding Bolton. This information is specifically a list of 36 U.S. officials names to be cross-checked against names that were initially blacked out of which Bolton requested and received from national security intercepts that he reviewed. The Democrats are especially interested in checking if Bolton may have intimidated those blacked-out names to follow the White House party line regarding the intercepts. Democrats are also interested in checking if Bolton may have misled Congress regarding Syria's weapons capabilities. If Bush relinquishes the documents as the Democrats requested, then the Democrats are certainly going to find enough smelly garbage in Bolton's State Department work that could probably be traced back to the White House--why else is Bush blacking out those names? Bush certainly can't seem to push harder for Bolton's nomination, considering that the Senate Democrats have put up a wall of opposition to Bolton's confirmation. Only three Democrats sided with the White House to end the debate on the nomination. The final option Bush has is that he can simply appoint Bolton to the U.N., after Congress recesses. However, this appointment would only last for the next one-year session of Congress. If Bush appoints Bolton to the U.N., then Bolton will serve until January 2007.

None of these options are politically appealing for the Bush White House. Bush has certainly spent a lot of political capitol on Bolton's confirmation, however he has little to show for it. If Bush backs down, this only emboldens the Senate Democrats to oppose Bush on a number of other controversial issues--the war in Iraq, Social Security, energy policy (especially the oil drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Refuge), or even the controversial Supreme Court nomination if Chief Justice William Rehnquist resigns. And the Senate Democrats have become emboldened against the White House after Bush has become vulnerable with sagging poll numbers, and an American public questioning his policies on Iraq and Social Security. The only palatable option that President Bush has is simply appointing John Bolton to the U.N., then hope that the Republicans can gain enough Senate seats in the 2006 midterm elections to break the filibuster. But even that is a risky strategy, considering that the American public may blame the Republicans for failing to solve the country's problems when they have control of both the presidency and Congress.

Bush needed to confirm Bolton to the U.N. before the end of June--if Chief Justice Rehnquist were to announce his retirement. If Rehnquist does retire at the end of this Supreme Court session in June, then the Senate will be pretty much shut down due to partisan bickering over whomever George Bush selects to the court. Bolton's nomination will go down by the wayside. If there is a Supreme Court fight in the next couple of months, then Bush may simply appoint Bolton, and any criticism over the Bolton appointment will be drowned out by the Supreme Court fight.

Either way, Bush is starting to sink into some quicksand of his own creation.

Senator Biden Says He Intends to Run for President

From The Associated Press:

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Sunday he intends to run for president in 2008.

But Biden, who also sought the nomination in 1988, said he would give himself until the end of this year to determine if he really can raise enough money and attract enough support.

Is this the best that Democrats can do? Come on--Karl Rove would eat Biden for a breakfast appetizer! Back in the 1988 campaign, I believe Biden was accused in the press plagiarizing quotes from other politicians in his stump speeches. If he does run, the Republicans are going to pick over his speeches with a fine tooth comb. Biden is finished in the presidential race. There is no way he could win.

The Democrats are going to have to do better than that. The Democrats are going to have to find someone who is relatively unknown, but has the political and executive skills necessary for the office. They may select a well-known individual, such as Hillary. However, selecting a well-known individual, as Hillary, would also bring along that individual's record, faults, and their own political enemies, of which the Republicans can certainly exploit. The Democrats are really going to need to find another Bill Clinton-like character, without Clinton's womanizing flaws. An individual who can galvanize the country with fresh new ideas and new hopes for the country. This individual has to be ready to fight down and dirty against the Republicans, while at the same time appear to remain above the crass and political mud-slinging that will take place in 2008. This individual also needs to have sharp policy differences in issues that oppose the Republican Party's viewpoint--no more "Me too" answers regarding Iraq. This country is at a major crossroads, similar to what the country had faced in 1968, when opposition started to form against the Vietnam war. We are certainly starting to see some opposition to the war in Iraq, but the opposition is fragmented and subdued. A charismatic Democratic nominee with a sharp policy difference in Iraq, can present a clear and different pathway for the American voters.

Let's hope the Democrats can find that kind of individual.

State Lawmakers Hope to Create New York Beer Trail

From The Associated Press:

Lawmakers are encouraging residents and visitors alike to enjoy a tall, cold one. A bill making its way through the Legislature aims to create a New York state beer trail, similar to those the wine industry has successfully used to attract millions of oenophiles to Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and eastern Long Island.

Sponsors of the legislation say it will highlight the re-emergence of breweries in New York and help brewers cash-in on the popularity of their oatmeal stouts, India pale ales, and bitters.

A state beer trail? Travel--or should I say stumble--along the trail as you're enjoying various tall cold ones with their different flavors, colors and textures? Read up on the history of the different microbreweries, see how the different ales and stouts are made, make new friends--preferably with the opposite sex. And you'd certainly would explore two other important state trails which utilize the same pathways as the state beer trail--the state peanut trail and state pretzel trail. Hey, if you're going to be tasting beer, you better have peanuts and pretzels to go along with it.

And don't forget the state beer trail's signature motto: "One hundred bottles of beer on the wall...."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

FBI Admits Terror Experience Not Required for Top Jobs

This is from the Associated Press

In sworn testimony that contrasts with their promises to the public, the FBI managers who crafted the post-Sept. 11 fight against terrorism say expertise about the Mideast or terrorism was not important in choosing the agents they promoted to top jobs. And they still do not believe such experience is necessary today even as terrorist acts occur across the glob.

EXCUSE ME?Terrorist experience is not required for top FBI positions which fight against terrorism? That's like hanging out a sign saying "Doctors Needed--No Experience Necessary!"

The AP article continues saying "A bombing case is a bombing case," said Dale Watson, the FBI's terrorism chief in the two years after Sept. 11, 2001. "A crime scene in a band robbery case is the same as a crime scene, you know, across the board."

You better start stocking up on the plastic sheeting and duct tape, for the FBI has just made this country more vulnerable to terrorism. A bombing case may be a bombing case in terms of how a bomb is created. But that is not what a top FBI terrorism official has got to know. He has got to know the culture which breeds the terrorists. He has to know their religions, their norms, their mores. Since much of the terrorism is currently stemming from the Middle East, he has got to have the knowledge and expertise in Mideast languages, religions, culture, mores, and how the various sub-factions compete with each other. He has got to know the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni. All of this is important so that he can understand the thinking going on within the terrorist's mind--who they are, where they are, and what they may be currently doing--so that he can concentrate his resources to either capturing the terrorists, or more importantly, to stop the terrorists from striking again at a future date. Counter-terrorism is about pro-action, not reaction. FBI officials investigating bank robberies, or kidnappings are investigating these crimes after the incident has taken place, then track backwards to who was responsible for committing the crime. That is the wrong type of individual this country need for an FBI terrorism position.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Molester Said to Leave Trail of Victims

Got this off AOL News: It has been a huge story here in San Jose.

On of the most prolific child molesters in history, Dean Arthur Schartzmiller criminal record began 35 years ago, but he never registered as a sex offender and spent just 12 years in prison. In his time on the outside, police suspect he molested as many as 36,000 children in several states, Mexico, and Brazil.

I see two problems with this story. The first is obviously the lack of sharing information and criminal intelligence between police departments in different states. San Jose Police had no clue as to what this guy was doing because they never checked up on police records in Idaho, nor did the police in Idaho checked up on records in Alaska. And I'm sure that the FBI was pretty clueless in this matter as well--it is a state police issue and we don't have any jurisdiction. There has to be a way to link the database records of child molesters of all state police departments and the FBI, so that authorities can track repeat offenders. Now I'm somewhat torn by this matter, since I am a proponent of individual rights. If a convicted child molester has served his time, is released, and remains in good standing and behavior with society (which means he is not accused or arrested for another child molestation offense), then he should live his life in society. However, if this individual keeps molesting children repeatedly, after serving multiple jail sentences for multiple convictions, then that is the kind of individual you lock up and throw away the key. That is the kind of individual you use every tool in law enforcement's disposal to keep this person off the street.

The second problem I see is that parents have got to take an active role in teaching their children the dangers of these child molesters. Child molestation is about power and secrecy. Power is in the hands of the molester, who uses it to perform his acts on the child and to control the child, by ordering the child not to tell anyone about their involvement together. Secrecy allows the molester to get away with his crimes. The molester uses his influence as an adult to order the child not to tell anyone of their acts--they did something very secret and very bad together. If the child tells their parents, or the authorities, then that child would also be very bad, be punished for what they did, and their parents won't love them for what they did. It is convoluted and sickening, but is also very effective for molesters to keep their transgressions secret. Parents have got to instruct their children that child molestation is certainly wrong--but not because of the child, but rather the molester. They have to instruct their children to avoid the situations where a molester will entice the child with candy, presents, or skateboards. And if the child is molested then they have to go to the police, the school teachers, or parents to tell of these crimes, so that the authorities can put these repeat child molesters away.

Google To Take On PayPal

This is from AOL News

Online search-engine leader Google Inc. is preparing to introduce an electronic payment system later this year in a move that would pose a financial threat to one of its biggest advertisers, Internet auctioneer eBay Inc (and eBay's popular PayPal service).

Talk about the battle of the big internet companies. It seems like everyone is trying to get their hands into the online payments system. America Online has their AOL wallet. Ebay has PayPal. Yahoo had My Billing services. Everyone wants to get their hands in the internet shopping pie, and to get the consumer's credit card numbers. What bugs me is that as these big internet service companies adopt the online payment services--of which these services will be charged to the consumer's credit cards--how secure will software and firewalls of these online payment systems be in response to computer hacking? Ironically, there is also an AOL news storyabout a computer hacker was able to steal data on 40 million credit card accounts. Now matter how much that these internet service companies may say how secure their systems are, there is always someone who can find a way to beat the system.

Friday, June 17, 2005

California Special Election Ballot has "Back to the Future" Feel

Found this off the San Jose Mercury News Website

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled his "Year of Reform" special election from his populist playbook, predicting that California voters will support his agenda because they want change in the way state government operates.

Yet several of the measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, including two of Schwarzeneggers', have that "been there, done that" feeling.

So our Governator can't seem to play ball with the legislator. And since he can't play ball, Schwarzenegger will circumvent the legislative process and push his agenda through the initiative process, in order to get everything he wants. What I find ironic is that the changes Schwarzenegger wants to make--allowing retired judges to draw up redistricting plans, or requiring public unions to get permission from its members before using their dues for political purposes--have been placed on the ballots before in California. And the voters have rejected them. Does the Governator really expect his charm and personality will convince voters to pass his initiatives--especially when he's facing fierce opposition with both the Democrats and powerful public employees unions? Once aspect is certain. Schwarzenegger is using the special election as a means to downplay voter turnout. By calling the special election in November, Schwarzenegger is hoping that his personality and his PR machine can generate enough conservative voter turnout, while the timing of the election so quickly in an off-election year will be ignored by the moderates, independents, and general public.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next five months.

Gov. Bush Demands Investigation of 911 Call in Schiavo Case

It seems that the Terri Schiavo issue just won't go away.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor as agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband Michael Schiavo found her and when he called 911.

It seems that the Republican Party, Gov. Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Operation Rescue's Terry Randall, and the rest of the Religious Right, are pretty sore that they lost their battle in keeping Terri Schiavo's feeding tube connected. Since Michael Schiavo was able to win his battle against Rove, the Bush brothers, and the Religious Right, in allowing Terri Schiavo to die, now the Religious Right wants to continue to destroy Michael Schiavo by launching this investigation into an alleged "time gap" of when he saw her, and when he called 911. This is crass vilification--a revenge by conservatives against an individual who took on the Republicans and the Religious Right in an issue, and was able to beat them. What do you think is going to happen when this special prosecutor--appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, brother of President Bush--starts digging into this time gap? He's going to start digging for dirt which will hopefully lead to purported allegations that Michael Shiavo had killed, or "murdered," his wife Terri. These allegations will then be conveniently leaked to the press. The Republican Party and the Religious Right will use those press reports in denouncing Michael Shiavo as being a murderer. Michael Shiavo murdered his wife Terri. Karl Rove and the Republicans will continue to pound this theme over and over again to the American public, until the American public--more importantly, the white, Christian evangelicals--believe it to be true. The Republicans will galvanize their evangelical Christian voters in supporting their Republican candidates, their hard-line social conservative agenda, and their corporate pro-business agenda.

With the war in Iraq continuing to go downhill, with more Americans starting to worry about jobs and the economy, with President Bush's and Congressional Republican's public opinion poll numbers starting to slide, the Republican Party is finding that their grip on power is starting to fail. The 2006 elections is only a year away. The only means that the Republican Party can maintain their control in Congress is to ratchet up the debate on social issues and hope that the American public will ignore their own deteriorating economic conditions. Thus, the Republicans have to keep Terri Schiavo in the news. They have to keep their own conservative base solidly behind them, while trying to strip away the moderates and independents who may be concerned with social issues.

That's the reason that Jeb Bush is calling for this investigation by a prosecutor. It can also be good PR for appeasing the Religious Right, if brother Jeb ever decides to run for president after brother George steps down in 2008.

It is not about Terri Schiavo.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Exit Strategy" Is More Than A Whisper In Washington, With Lawmakers Speaking Out

This is from The New York Times:

With opinion polls showing a drop in support for the war, and a British memo asserting that the Bush administration had intended to go to war as early as the summer of 2002, the words "exit strategy" are being uttered by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The political winds are starting to shift, and whether George Bush realizes it or not, he's going to have a big problem in his hands. Bush can't keep going on saying how the United States must keep fighting the terrorists or how we're slowly winning the war in the long run. Where's the proof that the U.S. is winning? In an Associated Press article released today, insurgents killed another six U.S. troops and a suicide car bomb slammed into a truck carrying Iraqi policemen near the Baghdad airport, killing eight and wounding 25. There are two sides to this story: The daily White House PR on how the U.S. is winning the global war on terrorism in Iraq, and the rising number of insurgent attacks and mounting U.S. casualties--now at 1,714 U.S. dead. This contradiction in reports has started a new bipartisan movement in Congress to consider how to extricate the U.S. out of Iraq. This is huge. A year ago, the country was split down the line between red states and blue states. Red State Republicans voted for Bush because they thought he did an excellent job in the war in Iraq and terrorism. Blue State Democrats voted against Bush because they thought the war was wrong. The 2004 election was about the war. Now, the war has changed. The insurgents have continued their attacks with impunity. The Downing Street Memos have revealed the Bush Administration's complete intent on going to war, fixing the intelligence to market the war, and have revealed the failure of the White House to seriously consider a detailed post-war strategy after invading Iraq. All of these stories have been politically damaging to Bush, causing opinion poll numbers regarding his job performance and his policies in Iraq to have dropped sharply. This reversal is allowing certain Republicans to consider different viewpoints--especially if the war continues to sour American public opinion in 2006, when the midterm elections take place. Congressional Republicans are questioning the exit strategy as a means to distance themselves away from the White House, and a possible voter backlash against the Republican Congressional and White House support for the the war. Democrats are only happy to get on the exit strategy bandwagon for it allows them to utilize their PR machine to sharply criticize President Bush on the war. And if the Democrats can take control of one or both houses of Congress, they can take control of the committees as a means to launch their on investigations into the Bush White House.

How far will this exit strategy questioning go will depend on two things. The first is obviously how bad will the situation in Iraq deteriorate by November 2006? If the situation in Iraq continues to go downhill, you can probably expect a regime change in Congress. The second question is whether control of Congress will change hands from Republicans to Democrats. If the Democrats do gain control, you can expect more talk of an exit strategy from Iraq, especially if the Democrats do start to investigate Bush's conduct of the war. Either way, the political winds are starting to shift.

Now how hard will the storm hit us?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bin Laden, Omar Alive and Well, Taliban Official Says.

From the Associated Press:

Osama bin Laden is alive and in good health, as is fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, a purported senior commander of the ousted militia said Wednesday in a television interview.

HE'S BACK!Just when you thought it was safe to crawl out of your chemically-sealed-with-plastic-sheeting-and-duck-tape bomb shelter, the bogeyman himself pops up to say "BOO!" to the American public. After three years with a multi-million dollar bounty on his head and thousands of "Dead or Alive" wanted posters printed by the Bush White House, Osama bin Laden is still alive and happily thumbing his nose at the United States.

Bin Laden is having the time of his life now. He's got a lovely guerrilla war taking place in the Taliban-controlled mountainous regions between the Afghan-Pakistani border, a completely bogged down U.S. military fighting a losing battle with insurgents in Iraq, and inflamed Middle Eastern population infuriated at what they see as American imperialism, and Al Qaida recruitment offices happily signing up new members to fight his holy war with the United States. Oh, and if Bin Laden is smart enough to check up on the American press, he's probably laughing at how the U.S. military's recruitment numbers have dropped.

Let's face it. The United States screwed up big time. After the World Trade Center attacks, we had the chance to go after Bin Laden with some serious force. When Bin Laden was trapped in the mountains of Tora Bora, we could have gone in there with overwhelming force, manpower, and firepower to completely destroy Bin Laden, Omar, the Taliban, and Al Qaida. Instead, we let poorly trained Afghan forces of the Northern Alliance muck everything up, while the bulk of the American military was transferred to Iraq for Bush's pet invasion (And achieve PNAC's incompetent goal of establishing Iraq to be the 51st state). We screwed up.

And now Bin Laden is laughing at us.

Schiavo Autopsy Backs Husband On Brain Damage

From the Associated Press:

An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had a massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.

Thank God. This mess is finally over.

It is ironic that, while the autopsy report vindicates all of husband's Michael Schiavo's claims that his wife was essentially brain dead, the Bush White House and the Religious Right still believed that she should have been kept alive. If anything, her autopsy provided a glimpse of her vegetative existence. Her brain weighed 615 grams--half the expected weight of a human brain. She was blind because the vision centers of her brain were dead. She could not eat or drink if given food by mouth. The videotapes showing Terri Schiavo nodding, moaning, smiling, laughing, and following the progress of a Mickey Mouse balloon were automated responses with no evidence of thought or consciousness.

Is it right for someone to live in this type of existence?

In the United States, there is not debate as to what constitutes death. Death use to be defined as once an individual's heart stops beating, that individual was declared dead. Now, once an individual's heart stops beating, medical personnel can revive the heart if it is quickly stimulated in time using electric shock. Society has to develop a new definition of what constitutes an individual's death. Is it heart stoppage? Is it brain death? We cannot simply accept science's version of what death is, any more than we can accept what the Bush administration and the Religious Right's version of death. Somehow, we have to find a common ground between the two opposing sides.

I would say that for a human, life is consciousness. Life is the mind. It is the ability to think in abstract terms of ideas, issues, values, thoughts, emotions, desires. It is everything that makes us human--both good and bad. Life is the ability to think. Life begins with the brain and the brains ability to react to its environment. Death would be the lack of consciousness. It would be the lack of any brain activity...The lack of synapses firing, or any neural activity. Death would be the complete lack of any thought. When the brain dies, the body dies.

Medical science should not be quick in defining when the brain is actually dead. Medical science should carefully and methodically test to make absolutely sure that there is no neural activity within that individual's brain. If there is any brain activity, then try different therapies in attempts to stimulate the brain activity. And if there isn't any brain activity, nor is there any hope of regaining any brain activity, then perhaps it is right for the individual to die with dignity. What is the point of living when your brain has no activity? What's the point of living when you have no mind to explore all the endless possibilities of existence? In that case, you're simply a lump of biological material, kept alive through the advances of modern medical science. That's not life.

That's the equivalent of the living dead.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Peephole to the War Room: British Documents Shed Light on Bush Team's State of Mind

From Todd S. Purdum at The New York Times:

The disclosure of British government memorandums portraying the Bush administration as bent on war with Iraq by the summer of 2002, and insufficiently prepared for post-invasion problems, has caused a political stir on both sides of the Atlantic, in part because opponents of President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair see the documents as proof that both men misled their countries into war.

But the documents are not quite so shocking. Three years ago, the near-unanimous conventional wisdom in Washington held that Mr. Bush was determined to topple Saddam Hussein by any means necessary. Plenty of people--chief among them Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state--were also warning in public and private that the Pentagon was ill prepared for prolonged occupation.

What no one knew then for certain (though some lonely voiced did predict it) is that American forces would none none of the lethal chemical or biological weapons that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair said made Iraq so dangerous, or that the anti-American insurgency would be so durable and deadly. That is why the British memos' foresight--read with benefit of hindsight--rings so bittersweet for those who tried in vain to avert the war, and remain aghast at its human and material cost.

Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, plans to hold an informational forum about the memos (without Republican participation) on Thursday. Blogs are awash in discussions of the memos, and full of criticism of the mainstream American media for not paying them more mind.

It is amazing how the American corporate media--even a media outlet as respected as the New York Times--can finally come out with a story accepting the existence of the Downing Street Memos, while at the same time, downplaying the contents of those memos as if saying they are no big deal. What is shocking about these memos is that they provide proof the Bush administration had every intention of going to war in Iraq and that the Bush White House was twisting the intelligence and facts to market their war to the American public. President Bush was not adapting his policy in relation to the intelligence findings. Bush was adapting the intelligence findings in relation to his policy of war. He was fixing his intelligence so that the American public would support his war in Iraq. There was nothing that Saddam could do--suffice to putting a bullet into his head--that would stop Bush from invading Iraq.

The New York Times claims that these memos are not so shocking--that there was plenty of evidence in the news reports that Bush had made up his mind in going to war. What the Times does not realize is that these memos were developed by British intelligence and presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair knew that Bush was twisting the intelligence to market the war to the American public. Blair knew that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (British intelligence couldn't be as bad as American intelligence. In fact, American intelligence also knew that Saddam didn't have WMDs. Unfortunately, those American intelligence findings were ignored by the Bush White House). In the latest memo published by the Washington Post and The Times of London on July 21, 2002, Blair knew that the post-war occupation of Iraq would be protracted and costly. He ignored it. British Prime Minister Tony Blair ignored his own country's intelligence. He never challenged Bush on the reasons to go to war in Iraq. He could have refused to commit British troops to the invasion, citing his own country's intelligence findings and raising concerns about a costly occupation. He didn't refuse. Instead, British Prime Minister Tony Blair went happily along with Bush's invasion plan, accepting the White House PR for war, over his own country's intelligence service. In short, Tony Blair became a puppet to George Bush. The New York Times claims that these memos are not shocking in that plenty of invasion details were leaked to the corporate media. But what the Times does not realize is that these memos provide a detailed look into the marketing and PR planning the top politicians in both Washington and London were using to market this war, while ignoring the possible devastating consequences that war would bring to both the United States and Great Britain. Those consequences were ignored by both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.

We are now reaping what Bush and Blair have sowed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Jackson Acquitted On All Accounts

From Associated Press:

A jury acquitted Michael Jackson on Monday of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor at his Neverland ranch - exonerating the pop star who insisted he was the victim of mother-and-son con artists and a prosecutor with a vendetta.

Somehow, that verdict doesn't surprise me.

Two things struck me about this trial. The first is that if you've got money, you can get away with child molestation, or murder, in our justice system. You can hire the best attorneys--along with their muscular legal staff--to plant the most outrageous doubts in the jury's minds. A mother-and-son con artist scam? Come on! Do you really think I'm going to believe that? However, when you've got the money, you can hire the biggest lawyers, and the scores of investigators to dig up whatever dirt you can to demonize and destroy your opponent. O.J. Simpson got away with murder. Michael Jackson got away with child molestation. That's the corrupting influence of money in our legal system. Had O.J. and Michael been given a public defender, do you think either would have gotten off as they did?

The second thing that struck me was the media frenzy of this trial. It became the next "Trial of the Century" where media pundits and bombastic analysts will certainly be comparing this trial with the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Both involved black celebrities. Both involved especially heinous crimes. Both exposed the American public to the extremely rich, luxurious celebrity lifestyles of Beverly Hills. Both celebrities had their eccentricities--O.J. liked to play golf at midnight on his estate, Michael Jackson is just eccentric. Did we really need to have 2000 journalists covering this trial? Did we really need to know about Jackson's missing his court appearance because of a backache? Turn on the television, and there's the latest Michael Jackson story of what he had for lunch during today's court session--simultaneously broadcasted on CNN, Fox, CBS, NBC ABC News, and Entertainment Tonight. It is totally outrageous.

But the media frenzy is also about the corporate media. The duty of the corporate media isn't to produce news that the American public needs to know. The duty of the corporate media is to produce news stories which will increase their market share, and their bottom line profits. Complicated news stories such as Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, the sputtering economy--those stories don't generate ratings. They are too complicated to explain, and the public would have to think and reflect on those stories. There's no profit in reporting those stories. So there's no reason to report them. Michael Jackson's molestation trial is big news. It is easy to report, and place in a 30-second sound and video clip. You don't have to think about complicated issues, unless you believe that Jackson's backache was complicated enough to allow him to miss his court date. It's got celebrities, sleaze, sex, and money--what more could you ask for in generating fat profits for media conglomerates?And so the Michael Jackson trial became the equivalent of eye candy for the media. It makes pretty television with sacchary-sweet fluff for news details that have no bearing to the public. It is American journalism at its absolute worst.