Thursday, July 28, 2005

Case of C.I.A. Officer's Leaked Identity Takes New Turn

This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 26 - In the same week in July 2003 in which Bush administration officials told a syndicated columnist and a Time magazine reporter that a C.I.A. officer had initiated her husband's mission to Niger, an administration official provided a Washington Post reporter with a similar account.

The first two episodes, involving the columnist Robert D. Novak and the reporter Matthew Cooper, have become the subjects of intense scrutiny in recent weeks. But little attention has been paid to what The Post reporter, Walter Pincus, has recently described as a separate exchange on July 12, 2003.

In that exchange, Mr. Pincus says, "an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention" to the trip to Niger by Joseph C. Wilson IV "because it was a boondoggle arranged by his wife, an analyst with the agency who was working on weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Wilson traveled to Niger in 2002 at the request of the C.I.A. to look into reports about Iraqi efforts to buy nuclear materials. He later accused the administration of twisting intelligence about the nuclear ambitions of Iraq, prompting an angry response from the White House.

Mr. Pincus did not write about the exchange with the administration official until October 2003, and The Washington Post itself has since reported little about it. The newspaper's most recent story was a 737-word account last Sept. 16, in which the newspaper reported that Mr. Pincus had testified the previous day about the matter, but only after his confidential source had first "revealed his or her identity" to Mr. Fitzgerald, the special counsel conducting the C.I.A. leak inquiry.

Mr. Pincus has not identified his source to the public. But a review of Mr. Pincus's own accounts and those of other people with detailed knowledge of the case strongly suggest that his source was neither Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, nor I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and was in fact a third administration official whose identity has not yet been publicly disclosed.

Mr. Pincus's most recent account, in the current issue of Nieman Reports, a journal of the Nieman Foundation, makes clear that his source had volunteered the information to him, something that people close to both Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have said they did not do in their conversations with reporters.

Mr. Pincus has said he will not identify his source until the source does so. But his account and those provided by other reporters sought out by Mr. Fitzgerald in connection with the case provide a fresh window into the cast of individuals other than Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby who discussed Ms. Wilson with reporters.

So now we have another reporter--this time Walter Pincus from the Washington Post--talked to an administration official who offered this information on Valerie Plame. So now I have some questions about this source--who is this guy? What does he do in the administration? Did he have clearance in knowing Plame was an undercover agent? What did he know of Plame? Why did he talk to Pincus about Plame? I would also be especially interested in knowing if he talked to Novak, Cooper, Judith Miller, or any other reporters regarding Plame. Was he Novak's "gunslinger" source?Who is this guy's boss, and does the boss know that this guy leaked Plame?

This source talked to Pincus about Plame on July 12, 2003. Novak's column came out on July 14, 2003, so someone in the administration, or a group of someones, were trying to take revenge against Wilson for his criticisms on the Bush war in Iraq. This information was given to a number of reporters, hoping someone would take the bait. Novak did in writing about Wilson.

More to come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pataki Decides to Forgo a 4th Term as Governor of New York

From the New York Times:

ALBANY, July 27 - Gov. George E. Pataki confirmed today that he would not seek a fourth term as governor, saying that he was seeking "new paths, new challenges" but was grateful for his time in office.

Reminiscing about his father's work as a "postman, farmer and family man," Mr. Pataki told a cheering crowd at the Capitol, "In New York, there's no better opportunity to serve than as your governor.

"You've given me that opportunity three times over," he added. "I thank you for that honor and I thank you for that privilege."

Mr. Pataki's announcement came as polls showed him trailing Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democrat who hopes to succeed him as governor. But it sets the stage for Mr. Pataki to explore a possible run for president in 2008.

Expect to see Pataki spending a lot of time in Iowa for the next two years.

Pataki is going to have a problem with a presidential run. He is a moderate Republican running in a party whose platform is controlled by the religious right. And there is no way the religious right will allow a pro-choice candidate to be the Republican Party's choice for president. The Times claims:

Some conservatives have been very dismissive of the possibility of Mr. Pataki running for president, saying he would be too liberal to win in a Republican primary, and noting that another liberal Republican widely mentioned as a possible candidate, Rudolph W. Giuliani, could make it hard for him to compete for votes from moderate Republicans.

The moderate Republicans of Pataki, Guiliani, McCain, and even Schwarzenegger, are simply pretty faces, to be propped up as window dressing for a party whose platform is intolerant towards dissenting views. There is no way any of them could make it on a national ticket for the Oval Office (Schwarzenegger is foreign born, so he is ineligible to run for president). As the Republican Party continues to be controlled by the right-wingnuts, you can expect more hard-lined conservative candidates to run for president, alientating the moderates and centrists. The question now is when will the moderates and centrist Republicans defect from the party to an independent status?

House Republicans Predict CAFTA's Passage Tonight

Found this off the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- In a rare piece of lobbying on Capitol Hill, President Bush appealed personally to fellow Republicans Wednesday to close ranks behind a free trade agreement with Central America that faces a very close floor vote.

The House was beginning debate on the Central American Free Trade Agreement later in the day, with a vote coming as early as Wednesday night. With Democrats strongly against it, passage depends on keeping Republican defections to a minimum.

The president reminded Republicans that while some might oppose CAFTA for parochial interests "we are here not only to represent our districts but to represent the nation," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said after the meeting that lasted more than an hour.

DeLay predicted a tough vote, but "we will pass CAFTA tonight."

I will admit, I do not care much for Bush's policies in Iraq, the economy, energy, health care or Social Security. But the president is right about CAFTA. Free trade is important to the U.S. It certainly provides the American consumer a vast array of goods from many countries at an inexpensive price. It also allows the U.S. economy to focus its resources from producing low-valued goods requiring low-skilled workers, such as textiles, to producing high-valued goods requiring higher skilled workers, such as drugs. The nation, as a whole, is better off with free trade.

I do have some concerns with CAFTA. Yes, the old, inefficient industries which hire low-skilled, low-educated American workers will be displaced as companies will find it more efficient to move their manufacturing operations to Central America. A prime example of one such industry is textiles. And yes, some American workers will lose their jobs because of this. But I don't believe this is a reason for scrapping CAFTA. I would like to see government programs developed which provide education and job-skills training to these American workers, allowing them to move up the economic ladder. I've been thinking about education programs, will talk more about this later. I'm also not sure I like whatever side deals the Bush administration made with the sugar industry--probably one of the most corrupt, politically connected industries in the country. I certainly don't want to see subsidies given to the sugar producers (And I imagine that's what the Bush deals are). But CAFTA is just one part of improving the U.S. economy. It is not the magical cure-all that Bush or House Speaker Dennis Hastert is touting this to be.

It is a start towards improving the U.S. economy.

Pentagon to Probe Reuse of Anonymous Quote

I found this off the CNN website. Talk about a big OOPS! The Pentagon was caught plagerizing itself with anonymous quotations in its own press releases. Then again, I have a question--why is the Pentagon issuing anonymous quotes? Journalists use anonymous quotes to protect their sources as they reveal important information regarding the story. The use of anonymous sources protects those sources from government retribution for revealing important information to the journalists. but why does the Pentagon have to issue anonymous sources in their press releases? Anything going through the Pentagon press office is already scrutinized for its political correctness.

Here is the full story. The last two paragraphs show the two quotations. I've bolded them for emphasis:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon will investigate the use of a quote from an anonymous Iraqi that was issued almost unaltered in a second news release referring to a separate incident, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The investigation will attempt to determine whether the quote was accurate in the first place and whether the military needs to change its procedures and take disciplinary action, said Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita.

"I think the quote may have been modestly modified, but the basic point is accurate that they have appeared to use the second quote in another statement," Di Rita said.

The two releases, which refer to separate instances 11 days apart, each contain a 40-word quote attributed to an unidentified Iraqi. The quotes differ by only one word.

Task Force Baghdad with the 3rd Infantry Division issued both releases.

"First of all, the use of anonymous quotes in [Department of Defense] statements is unacceptable," Di Rita said Tuesday. "It's completely unacceptable. It was done for reasons that I don't understand very well yet, but I intend on understanding better.

"It probably reflects a rush to get something out on an important activity that occurred that may have benefited from a little more rigor than it got as the statement was being developed.

"We are developing a better understanding of what exactly has happened, but if there is a need to tighten up our procedure, we certainly will."

Asked whether anyone has been disciplined, Di Rita said, "We're going to gather the facts first and then determine what the actions are."

Asked whether the original quote was even accurate, he said, "I don't know that. It's one of the obvious questions we're trying to understand."

After the news media contacted military officials Sunday about the two statements, the military reissued the latter release without the quote.

"Task Force Baghdad Public Affairs regrets the confusion regarding two press releases issued in support of our operations July 24," the military said Monday in a written statement.

The statement added that there had been "a draft press release which, due to an administrative error, was mistakenly issued on behalf of the 3rd Infantry Division."

Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a spokesman for the 3rd Infantry Division, also told CNN on Sunday that there had been an "administrative error."

He did not explain why the quote was apparently changed to apply to the new incident.

Accuracy in journalism has been in the spotlight after a number of incidents in recent years, including Newsweek magazine's May retraction of a report alleging desecration of the Quran at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The magazine drew criticism from Bush administration officials over the report. (Full story)

In covering the war in Iraq, U.S. media outlets rely in part on information from military news releases and spokespersons.

Attention has also focused on journalists' use of anonymous sources after New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for her refusal to identify a confidential government source as part of a CIA leak investigation. (Full story)

The military's July 13 release referred to an incident in which children were attacked: "'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. 'They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists.'"

The July 24 released referred to an attack in Iraqi security forces: "'The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists,' said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified."

I sort of wonder whether this story was made up by some Bush political hack working in the Pentagon Propoganda Office. The quotes look like something a party hack would write up to support their political ideology--in this case, the Bush war in Iraq. I can say this Pentagon investigation will be announced, then it will be buried with no results reported, or it will be revealed that this fiasco was due to a "clerical error." Nothing will come from this.

Iraq Wants Quick withdrawal of U.S. Troops

Found this off the Associated Press:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (July 27) - Iraq's transitional prime minister called Wednesday for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops and the top U.S. commander here said he believed a "fairly substantial" pullout could begin next spring and summer.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the time has arrived to plan a coordinated transition from American to Iraqi military control throughout the country.

Asked how soon a U.S. withdrawal should happen, he said no exact timetable had been set. "But we confirm and we desire speed in that regard," he said, speaking through a translator. "And this fast pace has two aspects."

First, there must be a quickening of the pace of U.S. training of Iraqi security forces, and second there must be closely coordinated planning between the U.S.-led military coalition and the emerging Iraq government on a security transition, he said.

"We do not want to be surprised by a withdrawal that is not in connection with our Iraqi timing,"' he said.

Speaking earlier with U.S. reporters traveling with Rumsfeld, Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, said he believed a U.S. troop withdrawal could begin by spring 2006 if progress continues on the political front and if the insurgency does not expand.

Two things struck me about this story. The first is that the provisional Iraqi government wants the U.S. troops out as quickly as possible. That's pretty much a no-brainer since the war is raging in Iraq between the U.S. troops and the insurgents. The second thing that struck me was that Rumsfeld and Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, again brought up this idea that U.S. troops could begin a withdrawal by the spring of 2006. Talk of a withdrawal in 2006--a withdrawal that would take place during an election year, at a time when the American public is turning against the Bush administration's the war in Iraq, and have voiced a disapproval of the Republicans in public opinion polls. And of course, any withdrawal would depend upon the training of Iraqi forces and the progress of the insurgency.

I'd say you're going to hear more of this White House PR spin about U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq in 2006, as the midterm elections come upon us. But don't be surprised if the U.S. will increase their troop levels in Iraq in 2007.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

High Court Not Bound By Roe V. Wade, Gonzales Says

I found this off the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (July 26) - The legal right to abortion is settled for lower courts, but the Supreme Court "is not obliged to follow" the Roe v. Wade precedent, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday as the Senate prepared to consider John Roberts' appointment that would put a new vote on the high court.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gonzales said a justice does not have to follow a previous ruling "if you believe it's wrong," a comment suggesting Roberts would not be bound by his past statement that the 1973 decision settled the issue.

Gonzales said circumstances had changed since Roberts commented on Roe v. Wade during his 2003 confirmation hearing for the seat he now holds on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

"If you're asking a circuit court judge, like Judge Roberts was asked, yes, it is settled law because you're bound by the precedent," Gonzales said.

"If you're a Supreme Court justice, that's a different question because a Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong," Gonzales said.

A Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong.

Not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong! Think about those words for a moment. If you follow Gonzales's argument to the extreme, a Supreme Court justice could declare the U.S. Constitution as unconstitutional if that justice believed it was wrong. A Supreme Court justice could throw the Bill of Rights away if that justice believed it was wrong. Gonzales is saying that a justice is not bound by the Constitution or its amendments, but by the justice's own beliefs--whether they've been stated or not. Of course, Gonzales's argument resonates with the right-wingnuts since they want to pack the court with their ideologues to overturn Roe, impose prayer in schools, discriminate against gays and lesbians, dismantle civil rights and liberties, and God-knows-what-else. And President Bush, Gonzales, and the wingnuts would love to pack the Supreme Court with justices who would rule according to their religious beliefs rather than judicial precedent.

GOP Presses for Timetable on Roberts Vote

I found this off the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans, determined to seat John Roberts in time for the Supreme Court's fall term, pressed Democrats Tuesday to agree on a timetable for a vote amid political wrangling over how much of Roberts' past legal writings must be made available.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Judiciary Committee's chairman, said that if he can't get an agreement for a final confirmation vote before Sept. 29, he may start hearings during the last week of August. That would interrupt the Senate's traditional monthlong summer vacation.

Okay, so let me get this straight. Senate Republicans are pressing the Democrats to agree on a timetable for a vote to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court, even as the Bush White House is refusing to release documents that Roberts worked on for the solicitor general's office?

Can you say "rubber stamp?"

Of course, the Post is picking up some real juicy tibits in the documents that have been released. Consider this:

Ironically, in one of the documents released during the day, the young Roberts wrote that beginning "my first day on the job" he was involved in the administration's efforts to secure confirmation for Sandra Day O'Connor.

It was O'Connor's resignation this summer that opened the first vacancy on the court in 11 years and led to President Bush's selection of Roberts to fill it.

In a sentence that could just as easily apply to his own confirmation proceedings as to hers, Roberts wrote on Sept. 17, 1981, "The approach was to avoid giving specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the court, but demonstrating in the response a firm command of the subject area and awareness of the relevant precedents and arguments."

In addition to drafting suggested answers likely to be put to O'Connor by the Judiciary Committee, Roberts wrote that he "participated in the two `moot court' sessions with Judge O'Connor held here prior to the hearings."

Gee....Sounds like Roberts and the Bush White House are using the same strategy here. Continuing on with the Roberts quotes:

Another document provides an example of Roberts offering advice that verged on the political. He was assigned to help prepare material for a speech Attorney General William French Smith was making to conservative groups at a time when they were expressing unhappiness that the Justice Department wasn't carrying out President Reagan's conservative philosophy.

Addressing criticism that judicial nominees weren't "ideologically committed to the president's policies," Roberts suggested something other than a "yes they are" answer. "Rather, we should shift the debate and briefly touch on our judicial restraint themes," he wrote.

"It really should not matter what the personal ideology of our appointees may be, so long as they recognize that their ideology should have no role in the decisional process."

It is a point that the current Bush administration makes in the current case _ that regardless of Roberts' personal political views, he will rule based on the Constitution and court precedent.

The more I read about Roberts, the more I do not believe him to be qualified to the court.

Governor Inks Strict New Rules for Used-Car Deals

This is from the Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today approved legislation giving California the nation's strictest rules governing the way car dealers market used cars and pad expenses into financing deals.

Dubbed the "Car Buyers' Bill of Rights," the legislation, which takes effect July 1, 2006, resolves years of disputes between the state's powerful auto dealers and consumer advocates, who struck a compromise that averted a threatened ballot measure that would have sought tougher regulations.

Dealers will be required to explicitly detail all the items in a purchase price and monthly loan payments, where, consumer advocates complained, dealers sometimes included expensive extras such as "theft etch" protection and extended service contracts.

The law also limits which cars can be advertised as "certified used," a term that has gained popularity as a way to persuade customers that the car is in very good shape. Under the new law, it will become a misdemeanor crime to designate as "certified" any car with a damaged frame, rolled-back odometer or "Lemon Law" buyback, as well as cars being sold "as is."

But the signature element of the legislation — allowing displeased car buyers to return used vehicles for a refund — was significantly watered down from its original version in the Legislature.

Instead of guaranteeing that anyone who wanted to return a car within three days of purchase could do so, the law will now allow car buyers to pay extra for the option of returning a car within two days, so long as the car cost less than $40,000 and was driven no more than 250 miles.

Car dealers, who opposed a similar proposal last year, supported this year's version after it was amended to allow dealers to charge up to $250 for the right to return a car after only two days.

Is this a strict new rule governing used-car deals? So if a consumer buys a car, under $40,000, and wants to return in within three days, will have to pay the dealer an additional $250 charge? And I guess if the individual doesn't want to pay that optional $250 charge, he or she is stuck with the car? And if the individual does pay for this option, and still keeps the car, the individual just added another $250 to the dealer's profit. Looks like the Governator caved into the used-car lobby on this "bill of rights." And what if an individual buys a used Hummer (obviously priced above the $40,000), drives it for three days and wants to return it? Is that individual also required to pay a fee?

A used-car bill of rights? What a crock.

AFL-CIO Split Puts Labor's Path in Doubt

Found this off the Los Angeles Times:

CHICAGO — Two of the nation's largest unions Monday officially bolted from the AFL-CIO, deepening a rift over the future of the struggling U.S. labor movement while raising questions about labor's support of the Democratic Party.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union, which together make up about one-fourth of the AFL-CIO's 13 million members, said they were leaving the federation because of fundamental differences over organizing tactics and political activities.

The largest rift in organized labor in nearly 70 years was seen as a troubling, though expected, development by many in organized labor, and was blasted by AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney as "a grievous insult." The defections mean that the 50-year-old federation has lost two of its largest groups, which contribute about one-sixth of its total annual budget.

Two other prominent unions also are considering leaving the federation. Combined with the Teamsters and SEIU, their departure would result in the loss of nearly a third of the AFL-CIO's members.

The federation, the dissenting unions said, spends too much time and money on political activities, and not enough on getting workers to join unions. The service employees union has pointed to its successes in courting and organizing low-wage immigrant workers, who are a major segment of the workforce in California.

In recent weeks, the Teamsters, SEIU and five other unions have joined forces in the Change to Win coalition, which officials said was aimed at restoring power to the labor movement.

The SEIU has 1.8 million members and the Teamsters have 1.3 million, making them two of the three largest unions in the AFL-CIO. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and SEIU President Andrew L. Stern said their unions planned to set aside an estimated $10 million to help the coalition recruit new union members.

"This was not done lightly," Hoffa said at a news conference. "We must have more union members in order to change the political climate that is undermining workers' rights in this country. The AFL-CIO has chosen the opposite approach."

The news came on the first day of the federation's annual labor convention here, where some of the American labor movement's most epic battles have been fought.

But most of the buzz leading up to the convention has revolved around the growing frustration over slumping membership.

Unions now represent about 12% of all workers, and less than 8% of those in the private sector. Fifty years ago, organized labor made up more than one-third of the workforce.

The unions have a major problem. For the last 30 years, their membership rolls have been dropping, almost in conjunction with the structural shifting of the U.S. economy from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based economy. And now the U.S. economy is shifting from a services-based economy towards something new. The AFL-CIO has been unable to adapt to these changes. What does AFL-CIO President Sweeney do? Give more money as political contributions to the Democratic Party, while his union membership is declining? This is not your father's manufacturing union. The unions have got to start courting the service workers--retail, hospitality, garment, security, tourism, nursing, agricultural. These are areas where the work is low paid, low benefits, using lower-skilled and lower educated workers. But the unions should also target higher-skilled workforces, such as computers and software programming, engineering workers, architecture, and communications. The U.S. economy is shifting towards a high-tech, highly educated workforce who will also have issues that are both different and similar to lower-skilled workforce. These are issues such as health care, retirement, day care, and even ownership of the companies through stock purchase programs. The unions have got to court these workers, explaining the benefits that workers can have in organizing and in negotiating with corporate management on issues that concern them.

Perhaps this union shake-up is necessary as a wake-up call for the unions to start developing new innovative policies and programs to change and adapt to the new U.S. economy.

Some documents of Supreme Court Choice Will Be Released

This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, July 25 - The Bush administration plans to release documents from Judge John G. Roberts's tenure in the White House counsel's office in the mid-1980's and his earlier job working for the attorney general, but will not make public papers covering the four years he spent as principal deputy solicitor general starting in 1989, two senior administration officials said Monday.

The decision fulfilled a request for disclosure of the documents made on Monday by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Roberts, President Bush's choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said the senator's spokesman, Bill Reynolds.

But it falls short of the disclosure sought by Democrats, who have been demanding access to files from the nominee's work in the solicitor general's office at the Justice Department from 1989 to 1993, under the first President George Bush. Democrats say those files could shed light on the nominee's thinking about issues that could come before the court, and are especially important because Judge Roberts has not produced much of a paper trail when it comes to issues like abortion. Mr. Specter did not seek access to the papers from Judge Roberts's work as deputy solicitor general, Mr. Reynolds said.

The administration officials said the White House would work with the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to expedite processing of roughly 50,000 pages of documents from 1982 to 1986, when Judge Roberts was an assistant counsel in the Reagan White House. About 4,000 pages of documents from that period have already been made public, but those have not included papers pertaining to Judge Roberts's work on a broad array of topics including the Iran-contra scandal, school prayer and civil rights issues.

The officials said the administration had decided to waive any claim to attorney-client privilege from those documents because the papers are covered by the Presidential Records Act, the law that governs the disposition of presidential papers. The administration's position, one of the officials said, is that there is a "presumption of disclosure" when it comes to documents covered by the act. Under the law, the current White House has final say over what presidential documents are made public.

So the Bush Administration is going to throw a few scraps of documents, of their own choosing, to placate the Senate Democrats demands. The Times continues saying "White House had reviewed some of the papers from Judge Roberts's work in the counsel's office and saw nothing in them that could create problems for his confirmation."

And we are suppose to accept this? I'm sorry--I don't buy it. We have an administration that has lied to the American people in arguing its invasion of Iraq, an administration that refused to release the names of advisors to Vice President Cheney regarding his energy policy, lied about the torture abuse and prison scandals at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, and an administration that continues to lie about its involvement in the Valerie Plamegate scandal. And now, we are suppose to accept the White House argument that they will select the documents for Senate Democrats to review for John Roberts Supreme Court nomination? It is ironic the documents that have been withheld by the White House include topics such as Iran-Contra, school prayer, and civil rights. These are issues that will certainly come up to the Supreme Court, and the Democrats have a right to scrutinize them to determine Roberts views and his thinking. In the Times article:

But the officials said the administration felt it would be wrong to release the papers from Judge Roberts's work as the No. 2 person in the solicitor general's office under Kenneth W. Starr. Those papers, which are not covered by the Presidential Records Act, record "sensitive, deliberative, confidential" conversations among administration lawyers in developing legal cases for argument before the Supreme Court and therefore should not be released publicly, one of the officials said.

There should be no lawyer-client privileges regarding Roberts's work as solicitor general. Roberts was working for the federal government. He was working for the American taxpayer. He was working to develop arguments on the government's behalf for the Supreme Court. He was working for us--the taxpayers. And now that he has been selected to the Supreme Court, we should have every right to review what work he did in the solicitor general's office. The Times article continues saying:
On Sunday, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said lawyer-client privilege did not apply either to Judge Roberts's work at the Justice Department or to his work at the White House. Speaking on the ABC News program "This Week," Mr. Leahy said lawyers in the solicitor general's office "are not working for the president," but are "working for you and me, and all the American people."

I hope the Senate Democrats will not give in to this latest White House snowjob. They should press for the release of all these documents for review. John Roberts has almost no paper trail during his two-year stint on the federal bench--which is a major reason why President Bush chose him in the first place. But Roberts had worked extensively in the government. He was a public employee. His work in the government has produced a paper trail. The Senate Democrats should have the right to examine that paper trail and determine whether Roberts is the right man, with his thinking, temperament, and views, to sit on the nation's highest court for the next 30 years. If the Bush administration continues to refuse to release these documents, then the Democrats should threaten to filibuster.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Congress Plans to Scrutinize Plame-Related Issues

I originally found this story off the Daily Kos. Kos found this Reuters story off the News:

Here is the first couple paragraphs:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress will conduct a series of hearings on national security and espionage issues raised by the CIA-leak controversy surrounding senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, officials said on Monday.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence plans hearings on potential national security threats posed by leaks, including leaks to the media, and will aim to toughen legislation barring the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

"It's time there's a comprehensive law that will make it easier for the government to prosecute wrongdoers and increase the penalties that hopefully will act as a deterrent," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the panel's Republican chairman.

Media leaks and the covert status of espionage officials have become politically charged issues with the controversy over Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA agent was leaked in 2003 after her diplomat husband Joseph Wilson accused the White House of exaggerating intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Now here's the last three paragraphs. Pay special attention to the last paragraph. It even surprised me.

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, intends to preside over hearings on the intelligence community's use of covert protections for CIA agents and others involved in secret activities.

The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could hold hearings on the use of espionage cover soon after the U.S. Congress returns from its August recess, said Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little.

Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.

So the Republicans are going to open an investigation into special prosecutor Fitzgerald, just as Fitzgerald is connecting the dots of the Valerie Plame case towards the White House.

What does that tell you?

Lawmaker Considers Bill to Punish Leakers

Like this is really going to stop the leaks.
From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (July 25) - The Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives will consider drawing up legislation to help the Justice Department prosecute individuals who leak classified information, the panel's Republican chairman said Monday.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation that deliberate leaks of classified information have "probably done more damage to the intelligence community" than espionage has. He said he wants to create a culture in which "zero tolerance" for such unauthorized release of information would be the norm.

"It's time there is a comprehensive law that will make it easier for the government to prosecute wrongdoers and increase the penalties, which hopefully will act as a deterrent for people thinking about sharing information," he said.

Hoekstra's comments came as minority Democrats demanded congressional investigations into the headline-grabbing leak of a covert CIA operative's identity during the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

The Justice Department rarely investigates leaks of confidential information, which often come from Congress members or political appointees in the government hoping to influence international policy.

It is only after we get the leaks of Valerie Plame's CIA cover blown, possibly by the White House, that Congress will start considering legislation to punish leakers. Of course, if anyone in the White House was involved with the Plame leaks, they are certainly not going to be prosecuted within this law.

The problem is that classified material is always leaked out to the press--by either the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, FBI, CIA. The purpose of these leaks is to influence policy issues towards a particular political agenda. The individuals who leak this information, does so with the intent to influence or redirect the debate of the issue to that individual's advantage. Any legislation to punish leakers, will limit this ability to influence policy issues. And you can bet that legislatures will not limit their ability to influence policy issues. If a bill does pass through Congress, it will be so watered down with loopholes, that it will be toothless.

Gonzales Admits Telling Card About CIA Leak Probe

Remember the slogan, "Loose Lips Sink Ships?"

It was created--I believe--during the Second World War to remind the American military and possibly the public not to talk about secret information regarding the war to others. There was always a chance that whoever you talked to may have been an enemy spy, who would then use that information to thwart your war plans.

So what do I see today, but a little article from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (July 25) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the executive mansion.

The White House did not respond to questions Sunday about whether Card passed that information to top Bush aide Karl Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation.
Gonzales was White House counsel on Sept. 29, 2003, and got the first official word inside the White House when the Justice Department opened its inquiry. Earlier that day, White House press secretary Scott McClellan had said the leak was a serious matter the Justice Department should pursue "to the fullest extent." McClellan also said it was "ridiculous" to suggest Rove, Bush's top political operative, was involved.

Despite repeated denials by the White House that Rove played a part in revealing the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper recently said he first learned of her position during a discussion with Rove in July 2003. Cooper said Rove made the disclosure as he cautioned the reporter against allegations that Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was making about faulty Iraq intelligence.

Gonzales said Justice Department lawyers notified him of the investigation around 8 p.m., and he got permission from them to wait until the following morning to direct the staff to preserve any materials related to the case.

"We were advised, `Go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning, that would be OK,'" Gonzales said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And again, most of the staff had gone home. No one knew about the investigation."

Gonzales said he immediately notified Card, then told President Bush the next morning before notifying the White House staff.

At the time, the Justice Department was run by John Ashcroft, who eventually recused himself from the case under pressure from Democrats who complained about his ties to Rove.

So Gonzales learned that the Justice Department was opening an investigation into the Valerie Plame leak. He immediately told Card about the investigation, but then waited 12 hours before telling anyone else in the White House? That was not the most intelligent thing for Gonzales to have done--especially if the leak had come from the White House itself. Certainly the next big question to ask is who did Card talk to about this investigation? Did he talk to Karl Rove? Did he talk to Lewis Libby? If either Rove and Libby were originally involved with leaking this information to reporters, then Card's possible notification would allow both Rove and Libby to CYA. Yes, we are talking about a cover-up here. And if there is a cover-up started by both Rove and Libby, an even bigger question is does the president know about this cover-up? It certainly doesn't help the Bush White House that Gonzales first tells Card of the investigation, then tells President Bush and the rest of the White House staff, 12 hours later. For 12 hours is a great deal of time for either Rove and Libby to shred documents, delete email files, and clean up whatever evidence of their involvement.

So now Card is on the hot seat. Who did he tell?

White House May Sidestep Democrats on Bolton

This is from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (July 25) - Frustrated by Senate Democrats, the White House hinted Monday that President Bush may act soon to sidestep Congress and install embattled nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on a temporary basis.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush has used his power for temporary appointments when "he has to get people in place that have waited far too long to get about doing their business.'' He said that "sometimes there's come a point'' when Bush has decided he needs to act.

Bolton's nomination has been stalled for months. Critics say Bolton, who has been accused of mistreating subordinates and who has been openly skeptical about the U.N., would hurt U.S. efforts to work with other countries on global matters. The administration says the tough-talking Bolton is ideally suited to lead an effort to overhaul the U.N. bureaucracy and make it more accountable.

Bush could put Bolton on the job by exercising his authority to make a recess appointment, an avenue available to the president when Congress is in recess. Lawmakers are expected to leave Friday for a summer recess and not return until Sept. 7.

Under the Constitution, the appointment would last until the end of the next session of Congress - no later than January 2007.

Republicans have twice attempted - and failed - to break a Democratic filibuster against Bolton's nomination. The White House has ruled out withdrawing Bolton's name, and has called repeatedly for a vote on his nomination.

Looks like the White House is going to sneak Bolton into the Unite Nations. It actually doesn't surprise me, considering that Congress would become busy with the John Roberts Show, and the Valerie Plamegate scandal. There is no way Bolton can be confirmed, and if Bush does simply place Bolton into the U.N., the Republicans can hope to gain five more seats in the Senate during the 2006 midterm elections to break the filibuster, and place Bolton there permanently. And if the Republicans cannot gain enough seats during the elections to break the filibuster, then Bolton is finished. It is a high-stakes gamble based on the hope that the Republicans can gain more seats in the Senate, even when they're confronting problems with the economy, job stagnation, the war in Iraq, and the president's falling poll numbers.

Roberts Declines to Explain Conservative Group Listing

Found this off AOL News:

WASHINGTON (July 25) - Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declined Monday to say why he was listed in a leadership directory of the Federalist Society and the White House said he has no recollection of belonging to the conservative group.

The question of Roberts' membership in the society - an influential organization of conservative lawyers and judges formed in the early 1980s to combat what its members said was growing liberalism on the bench - emerged as a vexing issue at the start of another week of meetings for President Bush's nominee on Capitol Hill.

Although no Democrats have publicly threatened to filibuster his nomination, they have said they're concerned that not enough is known about Roberts' personal and legal views. Questions about where he stands on a range of issues, including abortion, likely will be front-line matters at his confirmation hearings later this summer.

The Washington Post reported Monday that it had obtained from a liberal group a 1997-98 Federalist Society leadership directory listing Roberts, then a partner in a private law firm, as being a steering committee member in the group's Washington chapter.

Roberts has acknowledged participating in Federal Society events and giving speeches for the organization.

But on Monday, presidential press secretary Scott McClellan said, "He doesn't recall ever paying dues or being a member."

Roberts doesn't recall being on the leadership directory for the Federalist Society? Even though the directory has his name in it? I'm sorry, but Roberts needs to explain himself on that issue, and if he doesn't, then the Democrats should filibuster him. But I'm more concerned about the White House refusal to release material when Roberts worked as solicitor general for the federal government. All of Roberts' notes, memos, and records should be released. Roberts was an employee of the federal government, and now as a Supreme Court nominee, Congress should have a right to review that material. The AOL news story says:

Some records already are available to the public at the presidential libraries of Ronald Reagan, in Simi Valley, Calif., and George H.W. Bush, in College Station, Texas. Others have yet to be cleared for security and personal privacy by archivists and, under law, by representatives of the former administrations and the current president.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to ask for such material for its hearings. But some Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, have urged the White House to release "in their entirety" any documents written by Roberts.

Citing privacy and precedent, Fred D. Thompson, the former Tennessee senator guiding Roberts through the process on behalf of the White House, said Sunday the Bush administration does not intend to release everything. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared more open to considering such requests.

McClellan warned senators against even making such requests.

"We hope people wouldn't make such requests that they know are considered out of bounds and that can't be fulfilled because of those privacy issues," he said.

McClellan, Roberts was a public employee to the government. The public has the right to review his records when he worked as a public employee--there is no privacy issue here. The White House doesn't want those records released because of possible damaging material to be used against Roberts' confirmation. I'm sorry, McClellan--I don't buy it. I want to know both the good and the bad, before Congress places this guy on a bench, where he'll be judging decisions for the next 30 years. And if the Democrats do not recieve those records of Roberts' work as solicitor general, then they should also filibuster him.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Microsoft Names New Operating System "Vista"

I have a confession to make: I HATE MICROSOFT WINDOWS!

I'm typing this blog entry on an Intel Celeron 1.7 gigahertz computer, 500 megs RAM, with Windows ME. This particular machine's hard drive has been reformatted and the software reinstalled at least three times over the past two years, since I've built it. There has always seemed to be software glitches, or viruses, or unwanted spam programs inserting themselves into the computer--even though I've tried to protect myself with Norton Anti-Virus. I fear that when I first starting building this machine, it would become obsolete within the next week.

So, I get on the CNN website, and what do I see?

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Microsoft announced Friday that it will call its next-generation operating system "Windows Vista."

The much-anticipated operating system had formerly been code-named "Longhorn."

Microsoft also unveiled the Windows Vista Web site and said the first beta test version of the system, which will be targeted at developers and IT professionals, will be available by Aug. 3. The system is scheduled to be released late next year.

I'm pissed at Microsoft because just about every release of a new Windows operating system or a new Office program, has become bloated with more crap that Microsoft touts as "features." The more that Microsoft creates these bloatware programs, the more computer hardware resources these programs need, and the more money I have to spend on upgrading or purchasing a new computer, just to do some basic tasks. It is never-ending. I could switch over to a Mac, but then all my accumulated Windows programs would become coasters (As if they already are). I would probably have to invest in all new Mac software--which also costs money. How about Linux? Can you run Office 2000 on a Linux machine? Since the world now runs in Microsoft, I guess I'm pretty much stuck with Windows.

What is so ironic is that I know that Microsoft's new "Vista" operating system will not improve the computing world. Microsoft will sell a gazillion Vista OS programs--pre-installed on all the Dell and HP computers. All the Silicon Valley Geeks will download the beta versions to their computers, find several hundred bugs in the bloated program, then tell their hacker buddies about the bugs so that the hackers could create viruses in another attempt to take down the "Evil Empire." And as Vista is released, it will perform about the same as XP, which performed the same as ME, which performed the same as 98--get the picture? The only difference between the MS operating systems is that you needed even more modern and more expensive hardware to make the systems run.

And you wonder why our landfills rapidly accumulate with obsolete computers and old parts.

I shake my head and say, "Oh well."

Ex-Diplomat's Surprise Volley on Iraq Drove White House Into Political Warfare Mode

This is a good background story from the New York Times which basically goes through the timeline on the Valerie Plame scandal, starting with the publication of Joe Wilson's editorial. This is the start of the first two paragraphs:

WASHINGTON, July 22 - President Bush was celebrating his 57th birthday at the White House on July 6, 2003, a muggy midsummer Sunday. He had played golf with old friends at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, followed by an early birthday party arranged by his wife. The weekend marked a rare lull in the presidential schedule, a welcome break before a grueling trip to Africa that would start on Monday.

But a former diplomat named Joseph C. Wilson IV had just delivered an unwelcome present. In an Op-Ed article for The New York Times, an interview with The Washington Post and an appearance on "Meet the Press" on NBC, Mr. Wilson accused the administration of twisting the facts about Iraqi weapons and leading the nation to war on false pretenses.

The rest of the story can be read here through the NY Times:

Defying U.S. Efforts, Guerrillas in Iraq Refocus and Strengthen

This is from the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 23 - They just keep getting stronger.

Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.

A string of recent attacks, including the execution of moderate Sunni leaders and the kidnapping of foreign diplomats, has brought home for many Iraqis that the democratic process that has been unfolding since the Americans restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004 has failed to isolate the insurgents and, indeed, has become the target itself.

After concentrating their efforts for two and a half years on driving out the 138,000-plus American troops, the insurgents appear to be shifting their focus to the political and sectarian polarization of the country - apparently hoping to ignite a civil war - and to the isolation of the Iraqi government abroad.

And the insurgents are choosing their targets with greater precision, and executing and dramatizing their attacks with more sophistication than they have in the past.

American commanders say the number of attacks against American and Iraqi forces has held steady over the last year, averaging about 65 a day.

But the Americans concede the growing sophistication of insurgent attacks and the insurgents' ability to replenish their ranks as fast as they are killed.

"We are capturing or killing a lot of insurgents," said a senior Army intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make his assessments public. "But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another insurgent ready to step up and take charge."

At the same time, the Americans acknowledge that they are no closer to understanding the inner workings of the insurgency or stemming the flow of foreign fighters, who are believed to be conducting a vast majority of suicide attacks. The insurgency, believed to be an unlikely mix of Baath Party die-hards and Islamic militants, has largely eluded the understanding of American intelligence officers since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government 27 months ago.

The danger is that the violence could overwhelm the intensive American-backed efforts now under way to draw Iraq's Sunni Arabs into the political mainstream, leaving the community more embittered than ever and setting the stage for even more violence and possibly civil war.

So let me get this straight here. Ever since the U.S. invaded and took over Iraq, the insurgents have been attacking either U.S. troops or supply lines as a means to evict the U.S. from Iraq. So far, that tactic has failed. So now the insurgents are adapting their strategy towards kidnapping and killing moderate Sunni leaders and foreign diplomats as a means of isolating the Iraqi government and hoping to ignite ethnic and religious tensions into a full-blown civil war. The insurgents are targeting and executing their attacks with greater precision and dramatic violence, and are able to replenish their own ranks, while the U.S. military efforts at stopping this insurgency has remained stagnant.

We have got to find a way out of Iraq.

Court Kicks Another Initiative Off Election Ballot

I'm starting to wonder if the Governator's Mansion is filled with Keystone Kops. Here's another story from the Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO — An initiative aimed at rolling back one of the vestiges of California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation was thrown off the November special election ballot Friday by a state appeals court.

The 3rd Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that Proposition 80, if passed, would have been unconstitutional because it illegally impinged on the Legislature's authority.

The judges said they saw "no value in allowing an invalid measure to be on the ballot … to do so would be a disservice to the voters because it could unjustifiably divert attention, time and resources away from valid measures on the same ballot."

The Proposition 80 ruling marked the second time in two days that a court booted a proposed initiative off the ballot of the coming special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Thursday, a Sacramento Superior Court judge removed Proposition 77, a legislative reapportionment measure that was the centerpiece of the governor's "Year of Reform" campaign. The judge nullified the initiative because wording on voter petitions had not been approved according to law.

The most important feature of Proposition 80 would have banned consumers who aren't already doing so from buying their electricity from independent power producers. About 13% of the state's electricity consumption comes from such competitive retail sales, which were a key component of the state's failed effort at deregulating its power market.

However, Proposition 80 also contained a provision affecting the powers of the California Public Utilities Commission — a role the court said was reserved for the Legislature by the state Constitution. Hence, the ballot initiative should have been submitted as a proposed constitutional amendment, the court said.

Putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot requires signatures from 598,105 registered voters. However, backers of Proposition 80 only turned in 373,816 signatures, enough to qualify an initiative aimed at changing a routine state law.

The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based ratepayers' advocacy group known as TURN that backed Proposition 80, said it planned to ask the California Supreme Court to review the lower court's published decision in hopes of getting the initiative back on the ballot in time for the election.

"We think the court made a mistake, and we think the people of California have every right to say never again to deregulation," TURN spokeswoman Mindy Spatz said.

A spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, a strong advocate of retail electricity competition, declined to comment on the judge's decision.

I've tried to gather whatever information I could find on these special election initiatives from the California papers here. And of course, there is almost no information or analysis on these initiatives. So what do I find on the Times, but another initiative--this one affecting power regulation in California--that has been thrown out by the court. Talk about a stealth initiative--especially one that deals with the complicated regulations (or de-regulations)of California's power industry.

I don't recall hearing the Governator talking about this initiative in his "Year of Reform."

Governor's Remap Bid Ruled Invalid

From the Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO — Delivering a substantial blow to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "year of reform" agenda, a judge Thursday struck from the special election ballot an initiative that would have wrested away the Legislature's power to draw political districts.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian ruled that the initiative should not have been placed on the Nov. 8 ballot because the wording circulated on voter petitions had not been approved according to law.

The decision was a victory for Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who had sued to block Proposition 77 after learning that backers had submitted one version to his office — the first stop in California's initiative process — but circulated a different one to the more than 950,000 voters who signed petitions to put it on the ballot.

The ruling, which Proposition 77 proponents vowed to appeal, seriously weakens the ambitious plan that Schwarzenegger spelled out in his January State of the State speech. Already the governor has dropped a public pension overhaul initiative because of errors in the way it was written.

Schwarzenegger had vowed to take away the Legislature's ability to shape its own voting districts, which Democrats and Republicans have both long used to maintain power and keep challengers at bay. But his move to put the redistricting task in the hands of independent judges annoyed politicians from both parties.

Removal of the measure would leave just two governor-backed initiatives for the special election that Schwarzenegger called at a cost now estimated to be at least $50 million: an initiative to curb spending in a way that would increase the governor's power to make budget cuts and one that would make it harder for public school teachers to earn tenure.

One more of these special initiatives are off the ballots. One aspect of Proposition 77 that I didn't realize was that the backers--the LA Times notes are "People's Advocate Inc., a Sacramento anti-tax group, with the help of Citizens to Save California, a committee backing Schwarzenegger's broad ballot agenda--had submitted one version to Lockyer, and circulated another version to the voters to sign the petitions. Excuse me? The petition that I'm signing for the ballot initiative is not the same as submitted to the attorney general? I also find it ironic that the Governator has also dropped a public pension overal initiative because of written errors.

So now there are only two initiatives for this November special election--an initiative to increase the governor's power to make budget cuts and curb spending, and an initiative to increase public school teachers probation from 2 years to 5 years, before they can gain tenure. And it is still going to cost the state $50 million for this election of two initiatives. What a waste of taxpayer money.

The LA Times continues saying:

[Judge] Ohanesian rejected the arguments of Proposition 77 proponents that the differences in the two texts were too insignificant to matter to voters.

"The procedures in question are clear and well known and easily followed," said the judge, who ruled from the bench after a 2 1/2 -hour hearing. "There is no good reason to put the courts in the position of having to decide what is good enough for qualifying an initiative measure for the ballot when actual compliance is easily attainable."

She also rejected the argument that disqualifying the initiative would "disenfranchise" the nearly 1 million people who signed petitions, saying that proponents still have time to properly qualify the initiative for the June 2006 ballot.

Her order bars Secretary of State Bruce McPherson from including Proposition 77 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Man Shot on London Subway Unrelated to Bombings

From the Los Angeles Times:

LONDON -- The man shot and killed on a subway car by London police in front of horrified commuters apparently had nothing to do with this month's bombings on the city's transit system, police said today in expressing their "regrets."

A day earlier, the police commissioner said the man was "directly linked" to Thursday's attacks, in which bombs on three subway trains and a bus failed to detonate properly. No one was injured.

"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets," a police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was shot Friday at a subway station in the south London neighborhood of Stockwell. Witnesses said the man appeared to be South Asian and was wearing a heavy padded coat when police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him in the head and torso.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said on customary condition of anonymity that the man was unconnected to the incidents of Thursday, in which bombs placed on three subway cars and a double-decker bus failed to detonate properly.

The spokesman also said the man was "probably unconnected" to the July 7 subway and bus bombings that killed 56 people, including four attackers.

Okay, now I'm angry and disgusted at the British police. I'll admit that the man was acting suspiciously, and that he left a house that was under suspicion for the terrorist attacks in London. And I'll admit that the British police had a right to arrest and question him regarding the terrorist activities. But when the British police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him in the head and torso--SHOT HIM WHEN THEY HAD HIM PINNED TO THE GROUND--that is murder! Plain and simple murder by the British police.

According to the New York Times:

No explosives or weapons were found on the man's body after the shooting, police officials said.

So he had no backpack of explosives, nor were explosives on his body. He did not have a weapon, nor did he brandish any weapon at the police. There was no reason to use deadly force in this incident. The man probably wasn't even a Muslim. This is not the way to engage in the public's trust to root out terrorists--especially among London's 1.6 million Muslim community. According to the NY Times:

The incident sent shock waves through the country's 1.6 million Muslims, already alarmed by a publicly acknowledged shoot-to-kill policy directed against suspected suicide bombers. And it has dealt a major setback to the police investigation into suspected terrorist cells in London.

"This really is an appalling set of circumstances," said John O'Connor, a former police commander. "The consequences are quite horrible."

Azzam Tamimi, head of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "This is very frightening. People will be afraid to walk the streets, or go on the tube, or carry anything in their hands."

Of course, the British police have their little response to this debacle. They are certainly worried about suicide bombers and are willing to use deadly force against these bombers. In the LA Times:

Heavily armed officers patrolled with clear instructions to stop suicide bombers -- if necessary, with a shot to the head.

"If you are dealing with someone who might be a suicide bomber, if they remain conscious, they could trigger plastic explosives or whatever device is on them," Mayor Ken Livingstone. "Therefore, overwhelmingly in these circumstances, it is going to be a shoot-to-kill policy."

The big problem with the British police is that they are not trained in using deadly force. According to the NY Times:

Except in Northern Ireland, at airports and nuclear facilities, British police officers are not routinely armed. A small percentage of officers - roughly 7 percent in London - have weapons training, which is also required for the use of Taser stun guns, available to nearly all police forces. As routine weapons, officers carry a baton and a tear-gas-like spray. Of more than 30,000 officers in London, around 2,000 are authorized to carry weapons, a Scotland Yard spokesman said, speaking anonymously under police rules.

The more you arm British police officers, while not providing adequate weapons training, and then set them loose in a city that has already been frightened with two sophisticated bombing attacks in less than two weeks, the more likely you're going to see more of these "unfortunate incidents." The British are giving the terrorists a victory--not only are the citizens of London going to be frightened of the terrorists bombing them, but they're also going to be frightened of their own police suspecting them to be terrorists and shooting them.

That's not the way you win the war on terrorism.

More on Special Prosecutor's Probe on Memo, Rove, and now Fleischer

I found this off of Bloomberg News. It is a continuation of the Plamegate story of what did Karl Rove know and when did he know it? The story also centers on the July 7 2003 memo that Secretary of State Colin Powell took with him to President Bush's trip to Africa. But there's an interesting little tibit of information in the story.

The memo, prepared by the State Department on July 7, 2003, informed top administration officials that the wife of ex-diplomat and Bush critic Joseph Wilson was a CIA agent. Seven days later, Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was publicly identified as a CIA operative by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.

The Novak call may loom large in the investigation because Fleischer was among a group of administration officials who left Washington later that day on a presidential trip to Africa. On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip.

In addition, on July 8, 2003, the day after the memo was sent, Novak discussed Wilson and his wife with Rove, who had remained in Washington, according to the New York Times.

So Ari Fleischer read the memo. This is especially interesting because in the New York Times article Fleischer tell the grand jury that he had never seen the article. According to the Times:

Among those asked if he had seen the memo was Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, who was on Air Force One with Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell during the Africa trip. Mr. Fleischer told the grand jury that he never saw the document, a person familiar with the testimony said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the prosecutor's admonitions about not disclosing what is said to the grand jury.

So if Fleischer had seen this memo on Air Force One, then who did he talk to about it? Did he talk to Rove about the memo? The Bloomberg article does provide an interesting insight into the Bush inner circle:

Fleischer, who saw the July 7 memo, wasn't part of Bush's inner circle during his tenure as press secretary, while Rove was at the heart of it. Given those facts, it seems highly doubtful that Fleischer would have acted on the information in the memo without the knowledge or approval of Rove and other top-level White House officials.

The New York Times article says that "Rove has also told the grand jury that he never saw the memorandum, a person briefed on the case said." While Bloomberg reports that Fleischer read the memo. Now if Fleischer is not a part of Bush's inner circle, he certainly would not have done anything with the memo. But he may have recognized the significance of its contents, considering the criticisms the White House was then experiencing after the Wilson Op-Ed in the NY Times. Fleischer could have talked to Rove about the memo. And if Rove did learn of Plame through Fleischer, he certainly could have set the White House PR spin machine to leak the contents of the memo in retribution to Wilson's criticisms.

Somewhere in all these lies and contradictions, there is a White House coverup regarding Plamegate. Rove, Lewis Libby, and possibly Fleischer are involved in the scandal. And Special Prosecutor Fitzpatrick knows it. In the Bloomberg news story:

This points toward a potential problem for Rove in the direction of Fitzgerald's investigation. It now has expanded beyond its original mission -- to determine if the 1982 law was violated -- to encompass whether any White House officials, including Rove and Fleischer, have testified falsely about the case or obstructed justice by trying to cover up their involvement in the leak, according to people familiar with the case who cite a pattern of questioning by Fitzgerald.

In addition, there is strong reason to believe that Fitzgerald is hunting big game, according to several legal experts. They say that is demonstrated by the fact that he has done something that no federal prosecutor has done in 30 years: send a reporter, Judith Miller of the New York Times, to jail for refusing to divulge with whom she spoke about the Wilson-Plame case.

``You wouldn't expect him to go to these lengths unless he thought he had something serious to look at,'' said Randall Eliason, the former chief of the public corruption section at the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington. ``You don't compel reporters to testify or jail reporters unless you have a pretty good reason.''

More to come.

Friday, July 22, 2005

China's Opaque Currency Policy

This is a complicated story from AOL News / New York Times:

An old Chinese saying holds that the longest journey begins with the first step, but in the case of China's currency policy shift yesterday, the destination of the journey has been left completely unclear and the chosen route has many risks

China has abandoned one of the world's clearest currency policies, a tightly managed peg of the yuan to the dollar that had endured since 1997. China has chosen instead to adopt one of the world's most opaque currency policies, with a secret mechanism to reset the yuan's value each night.

For nearly eight years, Beijing's leaders trusted in Alan Greenspan, assuming that where the dollar went, China could safely follow. Now China's rulers are putting their trust in a much less well-known central banker: Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People's Bank of China, who must manage the more discretionary policy put in place yesterday. Starting with the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and continuing through the rapid economic expansion since then, China has allowed the yuan to vary less than one-hundredth of a percent from its peg of 8.277 to the dollar. That impressive stability helped prompt business executives and entrepreneurs from around the world to invest $60 billion a year in new factories and other operations in China. These investors were confident that they knew what those businesses and their exports would be worth in dollars.

The People's Bank of China raised the value of the yuan by 2 percent on yesterday, to 8.11 to the dollar. But more important, the bank said that each evening, it would set a new trading range for the yuan to move within on the next trading day. To add to the uncertainty, each day's new range may not necessarily be expressed in terms of dollars, the bank warned. It did not provide examples, but the euro would be the most likely alternative.

To determine the new peg, the central bank will look at how a basket of foreign currencies moved the day before. But the central bank did not reveal which currencies it will track or their relative weightings within the basket. This policy gives enormous discretion to China's leaders to push the yuan up or down as they choose.

The only limit that the central bank put on its moves was a promise yesterday that the center of each day's trading range would not move more than 0.3 percent in either direction from the center of the previous day's range. But with 20 or so trading days in a month, that means China could in theory push its currency up by 6 percent a month - or push it down by the same amount.

For the past five years, China has been under tremendous pressure by the U.S. to release its currency from its peg to the dollar and revalue it. Because its currency is pegged to an artificial price with the dollar, as the dollar has fallen in the currency markets, so has the yuan. The cheap currency has allowed China to continue to flood the U.S. with inexpensive Chinese goods, sending dollars to China at which the Chinese have been investing in U.S. Treasuries. But have the Chinese been taking in too many dollars? Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of reports of Chinese companies buying up U.S. companies--CNOOC tried to buy up Unocal, Levono Group bought up IBM's personal computer business, and Haier Group tried to buy up the American appliance maker Maytag. China's dollars that are invested into U.S. T-Bills are used to finance the U.S. budget deficit, which may cause long-term interest rates to rise, and the dollar's value to drop--along with the yuan. It is a complicated economic dance between the U.S. and China.

So the Chinese are going to try something different. They are certainly not going to release the yuan off its peg to the dollar--that could wipe out the U.S. market for cheap Chinese goods that allow the Chinese factories to hum, and provide for China's sizzling economic growth. But the Chinese central bank is going to look at a basket of currencies, see how these currencies are trading, and then shift the yuan according to the central banker's discretion. And there is the limit that the yuan can move to no more than 0.3 percent in either direction from the previous day's range. The Chinese central bank had probably placed that limit to avert the Asian currency meltdowns of the late 1990s from happening to China. This new policy does provide some political breathing room for China. Because China will be shifting the yuan according to some basket of currencies (though there is no definition as to what the currencies are or their relative weightings), the Chinese can claim they are no longer manipulating their currency as to gain advantage in trade with the U.S., as some in the U.S. government have charged.

It is an interesting development. More to come.

Google Stock Sinks on Slow Revenue Growth

I live in the Silicon Valley--home of stock option wishes and tech start-up dreams. I saw this story off the Associate Press:

SAN FRANCISCO (July 22) - Google Inc. shares continued to tumble Friday amid disappointment over slowed revenue growth at the online search engine leader even as second-quarter profit more than quadrupled.

Shares of Google fell $15.96, or 5.1 percent, to $297.98 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, a day after the Mountain View-based company reported earnings climbed to $342.8 million, or $1.19 per share, from $79.1 million, or 30 cents per share, at the same time last year.

If not for a charge to account for employee stock options issued before Google went public 11 months ago, the earnings would have ranged between $1.29 and $1.35 per share. That topped the mean estimate of $1.21 per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Revenue for the period totaled $1.38 billion, nearly doubling from $700.2 million last year. After subtracting the commissions that Google paid to other Web sites in its advertising network, the revenue stood at $890 million, beating the Wall Street estimate of $842 million, according to Thomson Financial.

Reflecting investor anticipation of a big quarter, Google's shares reached a new high of $317.80 on Thursday before retreating slightly to finish at $313.94, up $1.94 for the day. But then the shares dropped in extended trading.

The biggest problem with Google now is that they haven't learned how to grow up. Google is no longer a tech start-up company. Google is a mature technology company and they have to adapt their business model to reflect that maturity. That is not a bad adaptation--Yahoo, Microsoft, and Intel are excellent examples of mature technology companies. Unfortunately, everyone here in the Silicon Valley still believes in "Google: The Start-Up Dream Machine." Its stock is so closely watched here. Consider the following the AP story:

Google's stock also had become overheated in anticipation of a blowout quarter, said Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Rashtchy. ''The stock had been going up too much in the last few days. It was becoming too much about a game of momentum. This quarter looked fine to me. There was nothing that surprised me about the quarter or the way investors reacted to it.''

Although Google's earnings and revenue continue to rise at a rapid clip, some of the gains weren't quite as large as in recent quarters - something that often happens as companies get bigger and the comparisons become tougher. For instance, in the first quarter, Google's earnings surged to a more than sixfold improvement.

In another development that may have troubled investors, Google's second-quarter revenue rose by 10 percent from the previous quarter. The sequential revenue growth had ranged between 15 percent and 28 percent in the previous three quarters that Google had reported as a publicly held company.

But the second quarter typically marks a financial slowdown for many Internet companies that rely on heavy traffic like Google, because more people are spending time away from their computers as the weather becomes warmer and the days grow longer. The same dynamic seemed to affect Google's second quarter results last year, when revenue increased just 7 percent from the preceding quarter.

Industry analysts believe the seasonal shift is one of the reasons that another Internet bellwether, Yahoo Inc., merely matched analysts' expectations in its second quarter, a performance that caused its stock to plummet earlier this week.

As a mature company, you cannot expect to get 28 percent growth rates per quarter indefinitely. You cannot expect to see your stock going up to $300 a share, then $350, or $400 a share. The stock is going to get too expensive--pricewise--so that individual investors are not going to buy into it. The problem here is that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin want to have it both ways. They want to covet the bounty of investment dollars by making Google a public company, however they refuse to relinquish control of their company to professional management. If Google is unable to consistently produce those extraordinary earnings growth marks, then investors are going to balk at investing their dollars in Google's extraordinarily high stock price. Once that happens, there's only one direction for Google's stock.

Corporate Icons Make It A Bad Week For American Labor

Found this on AOL News:

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (July 22) - In a week where Alan Greenspan said he expected the U.S. economy to keep growing and Wall Street seemed generally pleased with corporate performance, workers at Eastman Kodak Co., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Kimberly-Clark Corp., among others, were warned about thousands of new layoffs.

But some economy watchers are suddenly concerned that this latest flurry of job cuts - a byproduct of various trends such as outsourcing, mergers, automation, changing technology and consumer demands - may foreshadow some trouble ahead.

"We won't know till afterwards, but I do think we may be seeing a tipping point in the economic cycle that these big layoffs are flagging," said John A. Carpenter, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based employment research firm. "I think it's a sign that leaks are breaking out."

One thing is for certain: It was not a good week for American labor. In fact, it's been an unusually torrid summer in terms of trimming payrolls.

U.S. corporations announced plans in June to cut 110,996 jobs - the highest monthly total in 17 months - and July's toll could turn out to be steeper. Overall job cuts are on the rise in 2005, reaching 538,274 through June, according to Challenger's monthly job-cut analysis.

Suffering its third straight quarterly loss, Kodak upped its job-slashing target by 10,000 on Wednesday from an earlier range of 12,000 to 15,000. By mid-2007, its worldwide payroll should level out below 50,000, one-third what it was in 1988.

Even as the picture-taking pioneer enjoys rapid gains in digital photography, it is struggling to cope with plummeting demand for conventional silver-halide film, its cash cow for the last century.

"We cannot keep bleeding year after year," Kodak's new chief executive, Antonio Perez, told analysts. "We need to establish an end point to this transformation, and we need to get there soon."

The same applies at Hewlett-Packard. The Palo Alto, Calif., computer and printer maker moved Tuesday to modify its pension benefits and eliminate 14,500 jobs, or nearly 10 percent of its work force, in a scramble to rein in bloated costs and combat efficient rivals.

Kimberly-Clark joined the job terminators Friday: The maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers plans to let 6,000 people go and sell or close as many as 20 plants. And Ford Motor Corp., which is already cutting 2,700 salaried workers this year, is mulling more aggressive measures.

In contrast, International Business Machines Corp.'s second-quarter earnings beat Wall Street's expectations, suggesting a rebound from its difficulties this spring when it targeted 14,500 job cuts, primarily in Europe.

So U.S. corporations are planning to cut another 110,000 jobs in June and July's cuts could be steeper. How long will this job cutting last? And isn't it ironic that while we're not only seeing these big job cuts coming, but also big corporate profits have been posted, making Wall Street happy? Continuing with the AOL story:

The Labor Department said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits plunged 34,000 to 303,000 - the largest one-week improvement since December 2002. And while Greenspan cautioned that a big run-up in already high energy prices could throw a wrench into his forecast, the Federal Reserve Board chairman reiterated his bullish economic outlook.

"The economy," Challenger acknowledged, "has been very strong for the last year. We've seen over 2 million jobs created, we've seen unemployment drop to 5.0 percent, but I feel like we've probably hit the high water mark.

"We are beginning to see some of these icon companies topple a bit. It's not visible too much yet, but these are signs and suggest the next six months to a year are going to be tougher times for the economy."

So the Labor Dept. said the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment have plunged by 34,000. I want to know how many of those Americans have used up their unemployment benefits, and have been dropped from the rolls? This economy is still in a wretching long-term structural change from a post-industrial to a service oriented economy. An even more scary scenario is that the U.S. economy will have to compete in a global labor market with a rising industrial and post-industrial economies of China and India--and both countries can offer highly educated labor services for a fraction of the labor costs to that of U.S. workers. This is also being felt in the labor market--especially as companies transfer high technology jobs and services from the U.S. to both China and India.

We are still in trouble.

Pentagon Proposes Rise in Age Limit for Recruits

Found this off of AOL News:

With the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard all on pace to fall short of their recruitment goals for the year, the military is reconsidering its age limits for recruits.

Allowing older soldiers could be costly in terms of benefits, and there is the thorny issue of whether older men and women can keep up with the young. But many in the military argue that 40-somethings are in better physical shape today and point out that thousands of middle-age soldiers are already rotating through Iraq.

On Monday, the Pentagon filed documents asking Congress to increase the maximum age for military recruits to 42, in all branches of the service. Now, the limit is 39 for people without previous military service who want to enlist in the reserves and the National Guard, and 35 for those seeking active duty.

At a subcommittee hearing in the House on Tuesday, David S. C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said lifting the age limit was one of several tools needed to turn recruitment around.

"There is a segment of the population that is older, that would like to serve," Mr. Chu said at the hearing, "and we'd like to open up that aperture for the military departments to use as they see fit."

It is ironic how the White House PR machine, through under secretary of defense Chu, is asking Congress to increase the military age for recruiting so that the older segment of the population can serve their country. Let's face it--the military has shredded itself to pieces through the Bush war in Iraq. The military has used up its manpower through the stop-loss gimmicks that have extended soldiers tours. With the public's mounting worries that the U.S. has gotten into a no-win situation in Iraq, and the parent's opposition towards recruiters access to young high school and college students on campuses, it is no wonder that the Pentagon is falling short of its current recruiting goals. So if you can't get the young people to join, then go after the old--wave the flags and talk about patriotism and serving your country.

The problem is that this can only work in the short run. You can certainly get some older Americans who still believe in the Bush PR line for the war in Iraq. But as new allegations of Plamegate and the scandals that the Bush White House fixed the intelligence reports to support their war and are now trying to cover up the scandals start to publicly emerge, how many of those older recruits are still going to believe in patriotism and serving their country, when their Commander-in-Chief has lied to them? How many of these older recruits are still willing to go to an unjust and unnecessary war? And when the numbers for the older recruits start to drop, and the Pentagon still falls short of its recruiting goals, then what is next? Will there be a draft?

White House Threatens Veto Over Detainee Policies

I heard about this on KGO News-Talk radio host Bernie Ward. The story is from Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.

In a statement, the White House said such amendments would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."

"If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed, the statement said.

Democrats on Thursday said they would push an amendment to establish an independent national commission to investigate policies that led to abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay which mostly holds prisoners picked up from the U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the Armed Services Committee's top Democrat, said the commission on detainee abuses was needed because "the most serious scandal in recent military history needs an objective investigation."

Levin said the commission should be modeled on the bipartisan commission that probed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said the Pentagon's own investigations into detainee abuses left "huge gaps ... The military reviewing itself, that's not good enough."

Do you understand this story? President Bush is going to veto next year's defense budget because he does not like the idea of Congress setting up a commission to investigate of torture and prisoner abuse at Gitmo and other military prisons holding suspected terrorists. And with this veto, the Bush PR machine is blaming Congress for causing America to be weakened against terrorist attacks--even though Congress is willing to pass a big defense bill. The only problem is that George Bush does not want Congress to be investigating into the Gitmo or Abu Ghraib scandals, and the White House involvement into those scandals.

I hope the Democrats stand up to this White House abuse of power. The Democrats should draw a line into the sand, saying "Fine--veto the defense bill. But then we're not going to allow any contingency funding for the war in Iraq, or defense to be passed." Then filibuster every spending bill that comes up. And while you're filibustering the bills, tell the American people that you are willing to give the president the money he wants, but only after the president agrees to allow Congress to investigate these incidents. Start presenting these White House abuses of power--the Gitmo scandals, the Abu Ghraib tortures, Valerie Plamegate. Keep pushing these scandals out against the White House, keep showing the abuses of power.

Because that is what this story is....An abuse of power by President Bush.