Saturday, January 19, 2008

Clinton and Romney win in Nevada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The vote on the Republican side was decisive. With almost all precincts reporting, Romney has thrashed the competition with 51 percent of the vote. Paul and McCain are second and third with 14 and 13 percent, respectively. As I have argued in recent days -- see here and here -- the race is Romney's to lose, and this result in Nevada boosts his fortunes. (Though it ought to be noted that he was the only serious GOP contender to campaign aggressively in the state. McCain focused his efforts on South Carolina, as did Huckabee.)


On the Democratic side, it was supposed to be a close (and bitter) three-person race. It wasn't close (but it was bitter). With almost all precincts reporting, Clinton has won the popular vote over Obama 51 to 45. Edwards, who was polling well, collapsed into a distant third place with just 4 percent of the vote. Here's the story in the Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, capturing strong support from women voters and adding a fresh boost of momentum to her campaign as the Democratic presidential race heads to South Carolina, where she is engaged in a fierce battle with her rival, Senator Barack Obama.

Mrs. Clinton’s victory in Nevada – her second straight win over Mr. Obama – underscored her strength among Hispanic voters, who comprise a large share of the electorate in several upcoming states, as the campaign expands into a coast-to-coast series of 22 contests on Feb. 5.

And yet, such are the technicalities of American democracy, it is Obama who has oddly emerged with the most delegates, 13 to Clinton's 12. For more on this, see The Nation. At WaPo's The Fix, Chris Cillizza is reporting that "[b]oth the chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party and a senior adviser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign are insisting that the contention that Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) won more delegates in today's caucus is incorrect". See also MSNBC, TPM, .

Kos sums it up well: "Ha ha ha. As if this thing couldn't get any more absurd... Hillary won the state. But under her earlier rules, all that mattered was the delegate count. So everyone wins. Or no one wins. Or whatever. Like I said, absurd."


Trouble for Hillary, via CNN:

African Americans overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama in the Nevada caucuses, just as they did in the Michigan Democratic primary last week -- a trend that could hurt Hillary Clinton in next Saturday's South Carolina primary, where black voters are expected to make up half the electorate.

Black voters made up 16 percent of Democratic Nevada caucus-goers -- and roughly 80 percent of them voted for Obama, according to entrance polls. Clinton won support from 16 percent of black voters.

Again, though, she did extremely well with women.


Whatever the delegate count, this was nonetheless a solid performance for Clinton. She may lose in South Carolina next week, but, as with Romney on the other side, this is her race to lose. As long as she keeps it close in South Carolina, she should have significant momentum heading into Super Tuesday, when she should be able to put a good deal of distance between herself in the lead and Obama back in second. Obama, I think, had to win both Nevada and South Carolina decisively to turn the race around. That hasn't happened, and I just can't see how he manages to overcome both Clinton's national popularity and the advantages she has in key states like California and New York.


Yup, they're back (photo from the NYT -- link above):

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One year left, so why am I so depressed?

By Edward Copeland

At midnight tonight, there will be exactly one year left in the destructive administration of George W. Bush. Exactly one year remains until his ass is out of office. Of course, it's a leap year, so he gets an extra day. Also technically, his term ends at noon Jan. 20, 2009, so it's probably 365 and a half days.

Still, here I am, depressed. Why? Hillary Nothing-But-Ambition Clinton has notched another victory in the race for the Democratic nomination, even though I realize in practical terms she's only getting one delegate more than Obama out of Nevada. (Though Keith Olbermann just said on MSNBC as I write this that the Obama campaign is saying they actually received more delegates. Caucuses are just the strangest things in voting and isn't it time they go away before 2012 gets here?)

It's not over yet of course and I've been careful not to pin my hopes too high on Obama, but while I oppose Hillary for many, many reasons, the one overriding reason for my opposition to her is that I believe she will make a General Election that should be a cakewalk for the Democratic nominee either into a close race or, worse, a Republican win the White House at a time when we can least afford it.

Of course, things outside the 2008 election race are bringing me down as well. I have a confession to make: There is a bit of a capitalist in me and the economy has been kicking my ass in terms of investments thanks to yet another awful Dubya appointment. (Why doesn't anyone criticize Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as another of Dubya's countless mistakes?) What's even more discouraging is that no one seems to want to take any real efforts to right the sinking ship that is the U.S. economy. Dubya trotted out his idea of stimulus package this week and what was it? Give everyone $800. Very reminiscent of his post 9/11 advice to Americans telling them that they could help the fight against terrorism by shopping.

Congress is no better. The Democratic leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid has been an absolute joke. What have they accomplished of note since they took back Congress in January 2007? Not a damn thing. The war grinds on. Dubya gets what he wants on just about everything. They even praise Bernanke and think that Dubya's package is a step in the right direction, as long as the right Americans get their $800.

On the plus side, it looks like Mitt Romney still has a fighting chance for the GOP nomination, since I think he'll be the easiest Republican for any Democrat to beat. On the other hand, should Hillary get the Democratic nomination, I think that increases the possibility that Mike Bloomberg will seriously consider mounting a third-party presidential race. Will he be able to win? No. Will he steal votes from both parties? Absolutely, but if it's Hillary is the nominee, she'll unite the Republicans in a way that no Republican candidate can and make it even more likely that she will lose and a Republican president will take office in 2009, will get to make the rightward swing of the Supreme Court even more permanent and steer us in even more disastrous directions, even though it's hard to imagine that any of the current Republican candidates will be as abysmal as Dubya (hard to top the worst of all time), but they won't be good for America either.

I'm very sad.

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New Bush coins

By J. Thomas Duffy

This is very, very funny.

Keith Olbermann ended his broadcast tonight with it.

From BlimpTV:

"Now that President Bush has declared martial law, it will be illegal to own precious metals after the first of the year..."

Play it and go through the whole thing... There's a nice kicker right at the very end of it.


(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Intel drivers

By Carol Gee

The M & M's --Two Mikes, one an Admiral and one a General, are in the drivers' seats of two of the main vehicles for the nation's Intel community. The first is Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence (See my recent feature post). The other Mike -- General Michael V. Hayden, heads the Central Intelligence Agency. Both men have been in the news recently, each sometimes to an advantage and sometimes to a disadvantage. Apparently, loyalty to the White House is a powerful driver for both of the Mikes. Mike McConnell originally got everything he needed in the P.A.A. reauthorization legislation to collect and analyze foreign intelligence. He would have been authorized to target strictly foreign subjects without a warrant, and to required to get FISA court warrants to target U.S. persons. Those were the essential terms in two of the three bill versions set to come up for Senate debate next week. But, after the White House demanded it during the earlier negotiations between he and Congress, McConnell also demanded retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies cooperating with the government intelligence apparatus. Only one of the pending versions contains that provision, the Senate Intel Committee bill.

The Budgets and Authorities -- Congress has the authority to control government spending. As DNI, Admiral Mike McConnell has a certain amount of authority over CIA head, General Michael Hayden, the primary subject of later material in this post.Their operating budgets are in a bill for an estimated $48 billion waiting to be signed by our current president (OCP). OCP has threatened a veto. To quote from this headlined story from the Huffington Post, "House Votes to Ban Harsh C.I.A. Methods," by The Associated Press. December 13, 2007:

The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.

The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, also blocks spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.

The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it is more than the $43 billion approved for 2007.

The Road Rules -- hints at possible reasons for the president's threatened veto of the Mikes' funding. The White House has set up different rules of the road for its so-called war on terror, than what Congress thinks the law should be. Thus Congress put conditions on the money. To quote:

. . . The bill requires civilian as well as military interrogators to obey the Army Field Manual's ban on torture of prisoners and the United States to adhere to Geneva Conventions rules for handling prisoners of war. The bill orders a National Intelligence Estimate on the impact of climate change on U.S. security.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said "in the pursuit of those who seek to harm us, we must not sacrifice the very ideals that distinguish us from those who preach death and destruction. Yet, under the current administration, we have seen that line blurred between legitimate, sanctioned interrogation tactics and torture."

Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., objected to the bill's funding of studies into the impact of global warming on U.S. security, calling it wrong to divert funds "from tough antiterrorsm intelligence programs targeted at apprehending and killing terrorists" to those studies.

The Lapses -- The two Mikes have come into their positions rather recently. And each has had a certain number of inherited messes. DNI McConnell inherited the Terrorist Surveillance Program, secret and, apparently illegal. CIA Director Hayden inherited the torture tapes destruction scandal, also secret and, apparently illegal. The two Mikes do have strengths. They each have a relatively open manner. They are more comfortable than their predecessors with making things public. (McConnell sometimes declassifies materials on the spot). And they have absorbed considerable military discipline, which their boss -- OCP -- absorbed relatively little. The dark side of that is that it harder to resign in protest and ruin a military career, I think, than resign in civilian protest such as Jack Goldsmith and James Comey did over the administration operating outside the law.

  • Failure to inform Congress -- New York Times headline, "C.I.A. Chief Cites Agency Lapse on Tapes" (12/13/07) To quote:

    Gen. Michael V. Hayden . . . acknowledged on Wednesday that the C.I.A. had failed to keep members of Congress fully informed that the agency had videotaped the interrogations of suspected operatives of Al Qaeda and destroyed the tapes three years later.

    General Hayden’s comments struck a different tone from a message he sent to C.I.A. employees last Thursday, when he said that Congressional leaders had been informed about the tapes and of the “agency’s intention to dispose of the material.”

    . . . General Hayden said Wednesday that “particularly at the time of the destruction, we could have done an awful lot better at keeping the committee alert and informed.”

  • Failure to preserve evidence -- Just before Christmas the Times Online headlined, "CIA chief to drag White House into torture cover-up storm." To quote:

    THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.

    Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

  • Failure to preserve evidence -- Porter Goss and the tapes (1/17/08). To quote:

    Former CIA Director Porter Goss never criticized plans to destroy interrogation videotapes, a lawyer said Thursday as the investigation began shaping up as a matter of competing storylines.

    Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who gave the order to destroy the tapes, is at the center of Justice Department and congressional investigations into who approved the plan and whether it was illegal. His attorney, Robert Bennett, said Goss and Rodriquez met several times to discuss the tapes and Goss was never critical of Rodriquez' decision.

    After a first round of hearings on Capitol Hill, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said Rodriguez defied orders that the tapes be preserved.

  • Failure to ascertain what was true before making a statement -- "Detainee's Lawyers Rebut C.I.A. on Tapes," NYT 1/19/08 To quote:

    In papers filed Jan. 4, Mr. Khan’s lawyers challenged a Dec. 6 statement by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden, addressing agency employees after being told that The New York Times was about to publish an article about the tapes, wrote that the taping stopped in 2002.

Loyalty and Chain of Command are powerful drivers for military men. Their loyalty to their Commander in Chief must truly test the resolve of the two Mikes at times. And I do not doubt their loyalty to the idea of trying to collect sufficient information about the enemy to protect the nation against attack. The trick during the years of the current administration has been for them to have matching loyalty to the Bill of Rights and to the rule of law. It is a walk on a knife edge for all of us.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Oil for food

By Carl

Gee, no one could see this coming! What happens when the price of oil and gas really start to take off?

Rising prices for cooking oil are forcing residents of Asia’s largest slum, in Mumbai, India, to ration every drop. Bakeries in the United States are fretting over higher shortening costs. And here in Malaysia, brand-new factories built to convert vegetable oil into diesel sit idle, their owners unable to afford the raw material.

This is the other oil shock. From India to Indiana, shortages and soaring prices for palm oil, soybean oil and many other types of vegetable oils are the latest, most striking example of a developing global problem: costly food.

The food price index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based on export prices for 60 internationally traded foodstuffs, climbed 37 percent last year. That was on top of a 14 percent increase in 2006, and the trend has accelerated this winter.

So the price of food has gone up by half already and the rate of increase is accelerating. I probably should have added starvation, potentially even in the US, as one of the stories to follow this year.

American grain production is at all time highs, yet this is not due to getting more food to market, but an effort to replace crude fossil fuels with ethanol-based production. God forbid we should put people ahead of our cars!

Eleven countries, including China & Mexico, have had to either impose food rationing or tamp down food riots. Think illegal immigration was a problem when it was just disparate incomes? Imagine the wave of immigrants coming over once the food runs out!

And how can we say no to them?

Ironically, part of the problem we're seeing with food production can be laid at the feet of the American consumer: we've helped create a middle class in places like China, Australia, and India, and those families want higher protein diets. Higher protein diets need more energy to be produced than further-down-the-food-chain diets of grains and vegetables. And of course, all this increased economic activity to service our Xboxs and SUVs has created a climate change that makes it darn near impossible to grow food in places that were best suited for it, like many of the former Soviet Union republics. Even the American breadbasket is in danger of droughts that could kill production for whole years.

This will not be pretty

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Hmmm ... I wonder ... Would she rather be in Philadelphia?

By J. Thomas Duffy

No word on where she'd rather be, but this has to be -- despite Mike Huckabee and what he might say at any given moment -- the head-shaker-of-the-day story:

EXCLUSIVE: The AP Has Written Britney Spears' Obituary

I'm half-surprised the Cable News networks haven't tossed their 24/7 political coverage aside to run hours of loops of the same footage of Britney, accompanied by a parade of Tinsel Town talking heads -- the B-journalists -- who, in truth, are very much part of Britney's problems and, exponentially, increase the coverage by running the loops of Anna Nicole Smith, rehashing her sad life and the parallels to Britney...

Too bad this isn't a Sweeps Month, or that may very well have come to fruition.

I wonder if, like a racetrack's tote board, this jostled the betting at the Dead Pool?

Now, it's time to kick back and wait for the other shoe to drop ... Paris Hilton, complaining that no one has written her obituary yet, or worse, as with her singing, she's going to do it herself...

Tell-Britney-To-Stay-Away-From-Green-Bananas Links

Attytood: Thank God the AP is ready for the biggest story of our lifetime

Attaturk: Alert the Pulitzer Prize Committee

The Death Pool - Chronicling Death in Pools since 2007

The Home Of The Celebrity Dead Pool

The Dead Pool

Gerald Ford Dana Carvey SNL - Dana Carvey impersonates Tom Brokaw in a mock news broadcast on SNL as he enumerates the ways that Gerald Ford could die

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Romney has too much going for him to lose

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(An addendum to my recent post.)

At Slate, Dickerson reports on the emergence of Romney 4.0 (which is a lot like Romney 1.0). He's back to being "Mr. Fix-It," the pro-business enthusiast with an "almost total emphasis on using his business skills to fix the federal government". Now, I, like many others, would make the case that Romney is a man without a political core, a pandering demagogue, a flip-flopper, an unprincipled sham of a candidate willing to say whatever it takes to win over an audience -- and the electorate. Nonetheless, if there is any genuineness there at all, any consistency, anything that truly defines the man, it is his pro-business platform, and, more personally, his business skills.

Romney is, at his core, a CEO, or something like a CEO, a corporate manager of some sort. He is a man who can -- or at least thinks he can -- get things done. As he has reemerged as a legitimately strong candidate after Michigan, where he played this card to great success, he has been looking better than ever precisely because he has been showcasing his more genuine self. Romney the social conservative anti-jihadist was phony and opportunistic. Romney the pro-business deflater of bloated government is a real threat to capture the nomination.

The phoniness and opportunism are still there, however, and he hasn't given up saying whatever it takes to win. For example, he ran as an economic populist in economically depressed Michigan and he continues to run as a social conservative in right-wing states like South Carolina.

It is in Nevada, that bastion of frontier libertarianism, where he seems to be more himself, such as there is any real self to seem to be. In their recent endorsement of Romney, the editors of Nevada's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, cited as key strengths Romney's "pro-growth policies," "extensive experience in the private sector," and quasi-libertarian positions on issues like school choice, noting as well that he has committed not to push a universal health care plan as president. Unlike their endorsement of Obama on the Democratic side, their endorsement of Romney was anything but flimsy.

So can he win? Yes.

Will he? I think so.

He should win Nevada, a McCain win in South Carolina would (ironically) benefit him by turning the race into a two-man affair, he should do well in the upcoming all-Republican primaries (where McCain, who has drawn much of his support from independents, will struggle), he has a lot of money, and the Republican establishment will back him over any of his rivals save for Thompson (who may drop out after South Carolina).

In addition to my previous post linked above, and to the links in that post, see the case for Romney made by Noam Scheiber at TNR's The Stump. Consider:

While grassroots evangelicals may have their doubts about him, the elite portion of the movement likes him just fine. Supply-siders seem swayed by his businessman cred while the hawks take comfort in his obsession with doubling Guantanomo and jihadist caliphates.

Now run through the practical scenarios:

If McCain wins South Carolina, Huckabee and Fred Thompson are finished. (Thompson for obvious reasons, Huckabee because the state is about as ideal demographically as it's going to get for him. If he can't win there, where can he win?) I suspect Rudy is done, too, since he and McCain appeal to similar voters -- security hawks, social moderates -- and McCain will have all the momentum. That means a Romney-McCain playoff.

If Huckabee wins South Carolina, Thompson is done and McCain is damaged goods, while Giuliani and(obviously) Huckabee are still alive. With his war chest, Romney should be able to sneak into the top two in Florida, and the person who falls to third -- Giuliani or Huckabee -- is probably done, too. That means a Romney-Huckabee/Giuliani playoff.

If Thompson somehow wins South Carolina, Huckabee is done, McCain is seriously damaged, and Romney has a great shot at first or second in Florida, since Thompson will have a
steep hill to climb there.

The biggest risk to Romney is a fourth-place finish in South Carolina, which raises questions about his viability and sends him limping into Florida. That's probably why you see Romney continuing to run ads there even though he's ostensibly conceded the state.

Short of that, I'd say his prospects look pretty good -- or as good as they can in a race this wide open.

I'd say his prospects look very good. He is, in my view, the one to beat -- or, as they say, the race is his to lose. He will have to stumble badly in South Carolina, or McCain will have to run away with South Carolina, or Huckabee will have to rebound to win South Carolina, or Giuliani will have to turn his campaign around entirely, for his frontrunner status to be diminished. Even then, though, he would remain a formidable candidate in a tight race.

Right now, and looking ahead, he simply has too much going for him to lose.

Yes, Mitt Romney will be the 2008 Republican nominee for president.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Maybe he ought to work for a living, instead

By J. Kingston Pierce

isn’t the first time--nor will it be the last, I predict--that I draw attention to George W. Bush’s luxuriously long annual vacations. Even the notoriously lazy Fred Thompson must be jealous of the time Dubya spends on his 1,600-acre estate-cum-“ranch” in Crawford, Texas, cooling his heels at taxpayer expense.

Just how much time has Bush spent away from the White House since he began occupying it in January 2001? Village Voice political blogger Ward Harkavy does the math:

Bush had taken 418 days of vacation in his first 6.7 years in office. That works out to 62.4 vacation days a year--a little more than 12 work weeks, which is probably slightly more vacation time than you get. On the other hand, think how much more damage Bush could have done if he hadn’t taken so much vacation.

Anyway, multiply 62.4 days a year by eight and you get 499 total days of vacation.

So, in other words, out of seven years he’s spent so far in the Oval Office,
Republican’t Bush has taken more than a year off of work. I guess that’s what happens when you install a silver-spoon-fed, phony “Man of the People” in the presidency.

By comparison, workaholic Democrat Bill Clinton spent only 152 days on vacation during his entire eight-year presidency. That’s slightly over one-third as much time off as Bush has enjoyed thus far, playing with Barney and cutting wood down in Crawford.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Intelligence is necessary and relative

By Carol Gee

"Civil libertarians" in the blogosphere like me collect intelligence on Intelligence, the world of espionage. All of it that we are able to analyze necessarily comes from open sources, unclassified records and public information. My posts attempt to reveal to readers the already known sources used in the field. The methods we use are to watch and read the news generated by the Main Stream Media, to search the Internet, and to read our most trusted bloggers' posts on the subject of intelligence.

In this case Glenn Greenwald is still the very best blog source on national intelligence. This link will let you know all you need to know about our current intel circumstances. It is a must-read for all of us who care about our country's future. To quote his opening:

Lawbreaking telecoms still conniving to obtain immunity from Congress

Over the past several months, Democratic Senators Jay Rockefeller and Harry Reid have been the two most valuable instruments in the Bush administration's efforts to obtain vastly expanded warrantless eavesdropping powers and immunity for lawbreaking telecoms. As the Senate returns to Washington next week, Reid is apparently now more determined than ever before to ensure that the Bush administration's FISA demands are complied with in full.

Of the traditional intel sources, the MSM is, unfortunately, the least reliable. I do not classify C-SPAN as an MSM source, incidentally. As for methods, it is my goal as a civil libertarian to reveal the known methods used in intelligence community that appear to me to violate our citizen protections under the U.S. Constitution. And in doing so, I am convinced that the words used in my posts on the subject are surveilled for any possible threats to national security. (See my 1/17/08 S/SW post, "DNI Mike McConnell's Primer on Intelligence," for his most recent explanation of the world of intel).

What does it mean to be thus observed? As I understand the system, everything in the blogosphere get "scooped up" into the back room wiretapping operations maintained for the government by our cooperating telecommunications companies. The Internet contains public information and thus is seen as open-source by the government. The language (billions of bits a day) is auto-searched with algorithms looking for suspicious words and phrases that might indicate that the writer has nefarious motives threatening to the nation. Certain material eventually bubbles to the surface that is read and analyzed by a human being, whose job it is to spy on those who would harm us. Eventually the Director of National Intelligence decides what threats his customers should know about, based on the current NIPF. What is the NIPF? According to the FBI, from which I quote,

The National Intelligence Priorities Framework is the DNI’s guidance to the IC on the national intelligence priorities approved by the President. The NIPF guides prioritization for the operation, planning, and programming of U.S. intelligence analysis and collection. The NIPF is updated semiannually.

The FBI and other members of the IC support the DNI in establishing national intelligence priorities within the NIPF. The FBI has adopted the NIPF as a method of prioritizing intelligence collection and production for the FBI. As such, the FBI is expected to collect against NIPF requirements and to integrate efforts with the DNI. All FBI intelligence requirements for collection are and must be based on and traceable to the NIPF.

The current Congressional challenges are left over from November and December of last year. The government asked that the FISA law be updated permanently. It was changed, but only on a temporary basis. The changes that were made fixed the problems with the technology issues in the FISA law. What did not happen, thanks to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House bill, was a grant of retroactive immunity for the telecoms who have been making it possible for the government to illegally spy on its own citizens. I am including here a couple of articles that provide additional background on the issues being debated today prior to the Senate's return to business next week.

  • From The Register (Nov4. 2007) via Maud Newton: "No E-mail Privacy Rights under Constitution." To quote:

    On October 8, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted the government's request for a full-panel hearing in United States v. Warshak case centering on the right of privacy for stored electronic communications. At issue is whether the procedure whereby the government can subpoena stored copies of your email - similar to the way they could simply subpoena any physical mail sitting on your desk - is unconstitutionally broad.

    This appears to be more than a mere argument in support of the constitutionality of a Congressional email privacy and access scheme. It represents what may be the fundamental governmental position on Constitutional email and electronic privacy - that there isn't any. What is important in this case is not the ultimate resolution of that narrow issue, but the position that the United States government is taking on the entire issue of electronic privacy. That position, if accepted, may mean that the government can read anybody's email at any time without a warrant.

  • From newsbuster, "Government Seeks to Redefine Privacy," Nov 11, 2007, By PAMELA HESS.

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy. Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.

    Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act. Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.

    The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering. The most contentious issue in the new legislation is whether to shield telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits for allegedly giving the government access to people's private e-mails and phone calls without a court order between 2001 and 2007.

    Some lawmakers, including members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appear reluctant to grant immunity. Suits might be the only way to determine how far the government has burrowed into people's privacy without court permission.

    . . . The central witness in a California lawsuit against AT&T says the government is vacuuming up billions of e-mails and phone calls as they pass through an AT&T switching station in San Francisco.

    Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and Internet site access on AT&T lines.

Howard Berkowitz at TPMCafe wrote a very interesting post; the thread went on for days. We have often discussed the intel world, in which he is much more expert than I. He has made a number of entries into Wikipedia on the subject. Here is one of his comments as food for thought -- another source to close this post. Howard writes:

. . . When it comes to such things as the NSA surveillance, there are some reasonable expert guesses from outside about what they were actually collecting. My sense is that it was the records of who called whom, rather than the contents of calls. In theory, you can get patterns from that, although you need to both lucky and in possession of a lot of computing power -- and also have an adversary that doesn't know much about concealing his communications.

A legal case can actually be made that call records aren't especially protected. There is a provision in the Communications Act of 1934 where collecting them can be done without a warrant, but with the certification of the Attorney General that it's a lawful process. In Smith vs. Maryland, the Supreme Court said there is no expectation of privacy for these records.

On the other hand, all of these statutes and precedents assumed that an individual was being targeted -- a mass surveillance just wasn't being considered.

-- Howard

What can you do? Talk to your senator or representative about making sure that your civil liberties are protected when these bills come up - perhaps next week.

A few of my previous posts on civil liberties or securities are listed below:

  1. Bigger and Bigger Brothers - 1/1/08

  2. Behavior is an indicator of leadership capacity - 12/19/07

  3. Filibuster Digest - 12/18/07

  4. Like an Oasis in the Desert - 12/17/07

  5. Fifty Ways to Understand the Protect America Act - 9/28/07

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Shoot the messenger

By Capt. Fogg

Republicans. The dinner I attended last night after the Dow closed down another 300 points was supposed to be about boating, but the speaker manages a large brokerage house and his talk turned into a tirade about the sensationalist press grasping for ratings by spreading panic about the economy. I recall some film clips from 1929 with a similar message that encouraged people to buy, buy, buy because prosperity was just around the corner. It was of course, but the corner was a long way off.

He compared the financial press to the Weather Channel, which has dramatically increased ratings every time a hurricane is predicted. Ratings or no ratings, the three hurricanes that have devastated my town three times in the last few years were real enough. The sky may not actually fall, but the stock market does and so do telephone poles, trees and houses whether you read about it or not.

In fact I think the press has been talking up the economy for far too long, not to mention the Bush Administration and Bush himself who rhapsodized about his optimism just last week. A hundred point gain after a 600 point drop in the Dow is always announced as a "rebound" and the word Recession has as rarely been heard as a discouraging word. But it has nothing to do with Bloomberg looking for ratings that several European economists I know have been warning me that the creek we seem to be up would soon require the paddle we seem to be missing and not only Greenspan and Bernanke but George the Decider seem to be desperately seeking some way to boost an economy that was supposed to be wildly prosperous after 7 years of profligate spending, wanton borrowing and what has amounted to a tax holiday for major corporations and the very rich. What was supposed to trickle down has trickled overseas.

We're not going to get an admission of culpability here, just a breathless plea for more tax cuts that should give the average family enough extra cash to delay foreclosure for a week or two while the borrowing and spending go on and on and Bush looks to open a third front in his mindless and Quixotic crusade.

"I have a list of economists here who tell us the Dow will close higher at the end of 2008 than at the end of 2007," said the speaker. Who knows? But I'll bet most of those prognosticators are working for a living rather than lounging on their yachts, and if it does prove accurate, will we actually be better off? Will foreigners own more of our corporations and banks and bonds and real estate and other assets? Will General Motors be General Tso a year from now? Will milk be $12 a gallon?

The Dow is hardly indicative of the health of our economy or the wealth of our nation or even the prosperity of our citizens. How many of us are better off now than we were in 1998? Don't all raise your hands at once.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Crazy like Mike

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mike Huckabee rose to prominence seemingly out of nowhere, skyrocketing up the polls, capturing Iowa, and emerging as the presumptive frontrunner, all the while becoming a media darling -- remember that Frank Rich called him the Obama of the GOP -- but, as his star fades, as the phenomenon withers, as his candidacy collapses, the man is getting more and more extreme, more and more disgusting. Or, perhaps, the real Huckabee is coming out, the real Huckabee who worked to parole a convicted rapist while governor of Arkansas, the Christianist Huckabee, ignorant and stupid, the bigot, the fool.

It is desperation, perhaps, that is brining out the real Huckabee. He may have won Iowa, but he is, in this race, a loser, and what he is doing, I think, is trying to attract the hardcore Christianist vote, more broadly the social conservative vote. Thompson and Romney have secured much of that vote, but Huckabee's only chance of turning around his failing campaign -- and it is slim, to say the least -- is to out-crazy them. (And to out-good-ol'-boy them: He seems to have a certain George Allen-like fondness for the Confederate flag, even saying this: "[I]f somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole, that's what we'd do." Charming. And rather un-presidential, no?)

The other day, as many of you surely know by now, Huckabee declared that the Constitution should be amended "according to God's standards," that is, that America should be a Christianist country with Christianist laws governed by a Christianist man (and it must be a man), that is, a country governed by him and the laws of his god as he understands and enforces them. (Note: This is Christianist, not Christian. Christianism is the right-wing political ideology espoused by fanatics like Huckabee. See Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg.)

What would it mean to bring the Constitution, and the country, into line with "God's standards" (as Huckabee defines them)? In an interview with a religious website, as reported by TPM's Greg Sargent, Huckabee shed some light on this, as well as on some of his core beliefs (and political opinions):

QUESTIONER: Is it your goal to bring the Constitution into strict conformity with the Bible? Some people would consider that a kind of dangerous undertaking, particularly given the variety of biblical interpretations.

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't think that’s a radical view to say we're going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.

Yes, that's right. Huckabee, channelling Rick Santorum, connected homosexuality to polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. His view, like Santorum's, and a common one among not just among Christianists but on the right generally, is that allowing gay marriage would be the thin end of the wedge. After that, there's just no stopping anything and everything from being admitted into the definition of marriage -- and from being sanctioned generally. Broaden the definition of marriage to include gay couples and, before long, you'll have marital (and sexual) anarchy.

Have I mentioned that Huckabee is ignorant and stupid, a bigot and a fool?

No wonder so many Christianists love him, failing campaign or not.


I suggested yesterday that a possible, and potentially quite formidable, GOP ticket is Romney-Huckabee (or perhaps McCain-Huckabee). Now I'm not so sure. Huckabee, who may be too crazy for the veep spot anyway, seems to be crazying himself out of consideration.


Some of the saner conservatives out there aren't amused:

Andrew Sullivan: "I think of Huckabee as almost a comic vindication for those of us who have worried about the rise and rise of unopposed Christianism in the GOP. Except he's not a joke. He could actually win this thing." I don't think he can, but Andrew's point is well-taken. And, obviously, Andrew is liberal on this issue.

Stephen Bainbridge: "Mike Huckabee joins Mitt Romney on my personal list of candidates for whom I would not vote even if the only alternative is Hillary Clinton (in which case I’ll just sit home and complain)." Huckabee is a Christian Reconstructionist (see Goldberg's book), "which is pretty damn scary".

Eugene Volokh: "Huckabee seems to be deliberately trying to make an appeal to supposedly universal (at least nearly universal) traditions that go beyond just rejection of same-sex marriage. And that appeal is just factually unfounded, as his own religious histories and his own profession (as minister) should teach him." Eugene does not comment on Huckabee's "moral claims," which are simply appalling.

Michelle Malkin, who isn't sane, just hates him for his (relatively sane) positions on immigration.


For more on Huckabee's views on homosexuality and gay marriage, see Steve Benen, RadicalRuss, John Aravosis, Will Bunch, and Kyle Moore.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse #53: Lambeau Leap into child abuse

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the story of an abusive Cheesehead from whom Favre and the gang may wish to distance themselves:

Upset that his 7-year-old son wouldn't wear a Green Bay Packers jersey during the team's playoff victory Saturday, a man restrained the boy for an hour with tape and taped the jersey onto him.

Mathew Kowald was cited for disorderly conduct in connection with the incident with his son at their home in Pardeeville, Lt. Wayne Smith of the Columbia County Sheriff's Department said. Pardeeville is about 30 miles north of Madison.

The 36-year-old Kowald was arrested Monday after his wife told authorities about the incident. Kowald was taken to the county jail and held until Wednesday, when he pleaded no contest, paid a fine of $186 and was released.

Kowald's wife filed a restraining order Wednesday, so Kowald will not be able to have contact with his family, Smith said. Smith said other domestic issues have surfaced, though he wouldn't elaborate.

The boy refused to wear the jersey Saturday, when the Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game, Smith said. Smith said the incident sounded strange when reported at first, but the mother took pictures with her cell phone and that type of evidence is difficult to dispute.

Indeed, but I'm not sure disorderly conduct is enough. Was this not child abuse?

Every team has its loathsome (and abusive) fans, of course. Even my beloved Steelers, I'm sure, have their share -- although, having been to Pittsburgh, a great city, and having attended a game at Heinz Field, and finding everyone there to have been so nice, as everywhere in the city, it's hard to believe there are any fans quite like this piece of shit.

No, no, I won't let Kowald taint the entire Packers fan base. And though I've often found myself repulsed by the love affair with Brett Favre in the media -- yo, Peter King, enough already, please, either act on your crush or move on -- I'll be rooting for Green Bay against the Giants this weekend. (Sorry, Creature.) And, if they make it, I'll root for them in the Super Bowl, too, whether it's against the Pats or the Bolts (especially against the Pats). I'm already tired of the Favre Show, but I can't deny how impressive a season it's been for him, nor how fun and exciting his team is.

But back to the matter at hand. What a despicable and reprehensible jackass this guy is. He deserves far worse than a restraining order, maybe a bit of time in jail parading around in a fancy costume or something.

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The sound of my voice

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I had the great pleasure of being the guest for the full hour on Mid Stream Radio yesterday, the fine Blog Talk Radio show hosted by Middle Earth Journal's Jazz Shaw and Ron Beasley. (Ron wasn't on with us, though. It was Jazz and Cindy (The Lady Logician).) The MEJ post on my appearance is here. The MSR page at BTR is here.

The topics of conversation: How America is viewed in Canada (and how Canada differs from America); the FDA's approval of cloned animal products; the state of the U.S. economy; and, of course, Michigan, the primaries, and the presidential election campaign generally.

You can listen to the show, and to me, here. You know you want to.


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A Hillary I do like

By Creature

Beyond Hillary's fantastic wonkitude, it will come as no surprise to regular readers that I am not a big fan. My dislike stems mainly from policy, though overall I do believe she is too polarizing a figure to be president. However, lately, I must admit, Hillary has been growing on me (that is when Bill isn't around getting red-faced for her) and I do believe she is hitting her campaigning stride. It wasn't the tears that softened me up, it was her self-deprecating response to the ridiculous question about likability during the New Hampshire debate that had an effect. Throw in yesterday's Hillary-as-flight-attendant shtick (great stuff, BTW) and this bit of honesty about her campaign strategy being a bit too commander-in-chief like out of the gate, and Hillary is showing me a side I can live with.

Now, if only I could make her Iraq vote, her DLC heart, and her Rovian campaign tactics go away I could almost, maybe, kind-of contemplate supporting her.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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President Hillary

By Carl

Barack Obama just handed the nomination to Hillary:

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that for example the 1980 was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

When you diss the only Democrat to win the Presidency since Ronald Reagan, and you praise the Sith Master of the Neo-Con movement, you might as well pack up your campaign slogans and pray you'll be asked to be VP.

Barack, your fight isn't with President Clinton. Tell us how YOU will change the country, especially in light of how your legislative record is, to be polite, spotty and inconsistent. Picking on The Big Dog is only going to remind people that you might be too young to remember how the country was under Reagan. You are four years younger than I am, but I sure as hell remember.

How we ran up massive deficits. How the poor and disenfranchised became more so. How the rich became uberwealthy while the middle class began its grand descent down the marble staircase to permanent servitude.

How we flexed our military muscle all around the globe for no particularly good reason (c'mon, invade Grenada to save a dozen college students? Who we kidding?). How we cut and run in Beirut when the going got tough.

How the Christian Coalition rose from the ashes of the Reagan Administration to become the single biggest obstacle to sanity in this country.

And indeed, how Reagan himself grew the government exponentially (you could bother to do some research, Senator).

And then people will remember how only Bill Clinton saved them from a worse situation, and for that, was brutalized by the plutocracy that has become "America". And vote Hillary.

Shame on you, Barack, shame on you.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)


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Why Romney will (may) win

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Kevin Drum:

As Josh Marshall points out, John McCain got stomped in Michigan among self-described Republicans. He also got stomped among Republicans in Iowa, and even lost (though closely) among Republicans in New Hampshire. Independents might like him, but basically, John McCain just isn't doing well among Republicans in the Republican primary.

Elsewhere, Ezra Klein highlights Rush Limbaugh's spittle-flecked hatred of both McCain and Mike Huckabee: "I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party." Ouch.

Put those things together with the fact that future primaries are mostly closed, which means that only Republicans will be voting in the Republican contests, and McCain's chances suddenly don't look so good. Ditto for Huckabee, who's shown very little ability to appeal much beyond his evangelical base. And ditto for Rudy Giuliani, who might very well be dead before Super Tuesday even rolls around.

Like Kevin, I see Romney as the eventual winner of this race -- and, if I may pat myself on the back, I have been saying so for a long time. I never bought into Huckabee -- he did well, as he should have, in Iowa, but his appeal is narrow and he peaked early after a sudden rise to the top. McCain did well in New Hampshire, as he should have, and he may yet win South Carolina, but I can't see the GOP establishment and the conservative movement (other than the neocons, who are on the fringe anyway) fully accepting him as their preferred nominee. He will have renewed momentum if he wins South Carolina -- and he is well ahead in the polls -- and greater legitimacy in the party if Thompson drops out and endorses him, but it will be tough to beat Romney in the closed, all-Republican primaries to come. (And, yes, Giuliani may be a non-factor now.)

A major concern for Romney, as Kevin mentions, is that he is doing poorly in national polls, but that could change, and likely would change, if the race turned into a two-man contest between him and McCain. Presented with those two options, Romney would look pretty good, and much better than he is looking now, to many Republicans.

McCain's post-Iowa "comeback" has been impressive, to be sure, and he has a solid base of support not just among independents but within the Republican Party (a base that would possibly be expanded and reinforced with Thompson's support), but I just don't see how he can attract majority support in a party that considers him something of a disloyal maverick. It will be difficult for him to win the all-Republican primaries and it would be nearly impossible for him to win a brokered convention. His only hope may be for Huckabee and Giuliani to remain in the race and to squeak out narrow victories in a crowded and divided field -- and to maintain a formidable enough lead in national polls to look like a clear frontrunner.

Still, nothing is clear. See Marc Ambinder: "Four primaries and three winners have exposed, according to the dominant media, a Republican party that is listless, demoralized and casting about for unity. There aren't many Republicans who would disagree."


A prediction: Romney-Huckabee. What do you think? Any other suggestions?


On our side, another prediction: Clinton-Feingold. Again, what do you think? Any other suggestions?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flimsiest. Endorsement. Ever.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada's largest newspaper, is crazy in a decidedly libertarian sort of way -- very much like Nevada itself. Consider the content of today's opinion page. An editorial entitled "Green obstructionism" calls the Sierra Club "anti-capitalist, green extremists," and an editorial cartoon features Uncle Sam drowning in the "Federal Red Ink Lagoon" as a woman gets ready to throw in an anchor with the words "universal health care" on it.

But let's focus on the other editorial, an endorsement of Barack Obama (via RCP) ahead of this Saturday's caucuses. The editors spend the opening paragraphs of their shallow piece making a case against Clinton and Edwards. Clinton lacks experience -- contrary to what she and her campaign are stressing. She was merely "a witness and enabler during her husband's presidential terms". Moreover, she supported universal health care, which, see above, is the worst sort of heresy. As for Edwards, his "anti-capitalist populism is not in this country's long-term best interests". I didn't know Edwards was "anti-capitalist," but I suppose anyone who isn't an anti-government cheerleader for the free and unregulated market is an anti-capitalist, if not worse. In the past, the editors no doubt would have thrown around the "communist" smear.

Anyway, Obama it is. Right? Well, yes, but the editors attack him, too:

Is Barack Obama, then, the ideal Democratic candidate for president? Hardly. His policy recommendations -- when he can be convinced to get any more specific than "I represent change" -- are the opposite of "change." They're old-line, welfare-state solutions that haven't spent enough time in the microwave to appear even superficially appetizing.

Sen. Obama is a relatively young man with relatively little of the kind of real-world experience that prepares a candidate to stand firm against urgent advice to, say, bomb some remote population of defenseless civilians to "send a message," or plunge the economy into a dark night of unforeseen consequences by crippling the free market in the name of "fighting greed."

Basically, all three top Democrats are bad. So why Obama? Because he's "likeable," "a good enough orator," "a good politician, in the non-insulting sense that he knows how to speak to individual Americans and give them the feeling he cares about their concerns". In other words, though the editors don't say it, he's another Bill Clinton, but without all the Clinton baggage. They don't want another Clinton presidency, which would be a "horror movie," and Hillary has all those "negatives". At least -- and it is truly the very least -- Obama would put up a competitive fight in the general election.

Against? Well, Mitt Romney, if the editors of this newspaper have their way. Their endorsement of Romney on the Republican side will appear in tomorrow's edition. (Does it seem odd that libertarians would support Romney over his rivals? No. Paul may be more to their liking in many ways, but he's not a major candidate, and Romney, who has stressed his social conservative and national security credentials, is basically the most pro-business of all the candidates (despite pushing a populist message, and likely a totally insincere one, in Michigan). Huckabee is a christianist theocrat, of course, and while McCain, Giuliani, and Thompson have presented low-tax, pro-business platforms, they can't compare with Romney on this front.)

It seems that the editors are endorsing Obama as the lesser of the evils in a party for which they don't much care. Maybe it was because they needed to endorse someone, anyone, on the Democratic side, because they felt they had to make a pick for both sides, but their case for Obama is extraordinarily weak. It's the sort of "praise" you can do without, but which may, this coming Saturday, help put Obama over the top.

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Rounding up Russia

By Carol Gee

The year 2008 will be big on elections. In the United States, the Democratic party will, in my opinion, have a pretty good idea of who is to be the nominee after February 3, when a large number of states hold their primaries and caucuses. A month later the election of a new Russian president will happen on March 2. In December of last year Russia's premier newspaper, Pravda, declared that Russia will be united , but that "It is still unclear what role Vladimir Putin will choose after his resignation, but it’s likely that Dmitry Medvedev would be nominated his successor. Elsewhere, it is also expected that Dmitri Medvedev will succeed Vladimir Putin, who will then become Prime Minister.*

Meanwhile our own current president (OCP) is traveling in the Middle East attempting, after all this time, to secure some kind of a peace legacy. (The website PressTV-Iran carries an interesting interview, offering a different perspective on the Bush legacy). OCP seems to have no interest in U.S. 2008 elections.

It is also not clear that the U.S. has much interest in Russian affairs. However President Putin in November seemed to feel that foreign nations were meddling in the Russian election process by funding his opponents. The BBC News (11/21/07), headlined "Putin attacks 'jackal' opponents. To quote:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused opposition politicians of scavenging like jackals for funds from foreign embassies.

He also accused the West of meddling in Russian politics, saying: "Those who confront us need a weak and ill state."

Though OCP has looked into Putin's eyes, and our Secretary of State has a heavy (cold war era) Russian portfolio, the administration seems unable to focus on much of anything but the Persian Gulf region. In a recent post titled,"Bubbling Balkans crisis is back," Steve Clemons at the Washington Note says as much. To quote from the post:

Lieven is correct to note that there are anti-Putin, anti-Russian hardliners in Washington who want yet more reasons to ignite global conflict and tension -- which reinforces the high-fear politics they have become vested in.

But beyond some folks in DC demonizing Putin and a resurgent Russia, there is little evidence that Russia is a priority today on Washington's foreign policy roster of concerns. As one former senior G.W. Bush administration official said at a
Nixon Center gathering, "I can see no evidence that this administration has a
strategy towards Russia of any kind."

The image of OCP blithely traveling around the Middle East seeing the sights in Dubai, hugging the King in Saudi Arabia (and filling up their sophisticated weapons caches), contrasts sharply with Vladimir Putin's markedly increasing unfriendliness towards the West. A headline, "FSB calls British Council staff for questioning" from the Financial Times (1/16/08) illustrates my point. To quote:

Russia’s Federal Security Service has summoned for questioning all the Russian staff of the British Council’s regional offices while the head of its St Petersburg office was detained last night for an hour as a standoff between Russia and the UK escalated.

. . . The intervention by the Russian security services comes after the British Council on Monday reopened its regional branches in defiance of an order by the Russian government in a dispute over the UK cultural arm’s legal status. The diplomatic feud has been linked by both sides to the rapid chill in relations over the November 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko.

Meanwhile, occasionally the Russians are behaving like grown-ups, members of the family of nations. It seems that they are attempting to curb air pollution, by cutting carbon emissions. This headline appeared in Ria Novosti (1/16/07) : "Russia's auto industry switches to Euro 3 emission standard." To quote:

Russia's auto makers have competed their transition to the Euro 3 emission standard in vehicle production, the chief executive of the Association of Russian Auto Makers said on Wednesday.

Nations meddle in each others' business all the time; it is called diplomacy. Last fall I wrote a post called "The Business of Sovereignty," which I posted at TPMCafe. It produced a very intriguing conversation with Howard Berkowitz that I saved, just for this occasion it now seems. I quote his lovely Russian spy story in full:

On October 14, 2007 - 11:44am hcberkowitz said:

Even during the Cold War, it was impressive to see Soviet and American warriors (I think the term here is more appropriate than soldier, which are not truly equivalent) get together under nonconfrontational situations. There was an unwritten agreement between the CIA and KGB not to attack one anothers' officers. If a local CIA case officer had his car break down on a lonely road in a bandit-filled area, he would have been delighted to have his KGB counterpart drive by. It would have been understood that the only damage that would have been done by the KGB man was the shared vodka hangover in the morning.

At high levels, when Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, the military adviser to Gorbachev, to the general acceptance and shock of all concerned, to have paid a visit to the Pentagon and been invited into the National Military Command Center, he and the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe, connected on some emotional level, and, by the observation of everyone who saw them together, formed a true friendship. It is not clear how Akhromeyev died in the attempted coup against Gorbachev; suicide was the initial report but that has come into question. Back at the Pentagon, Crowe grieved deeply.

Both sides have been opening their histories, sometimes showing frightening things, and, on other occasions, finding things to share. No one knew, for example, that the Soviet commander in Cuba, during the Missile Crisis, had tactical nuclear weapons with the preauthorization to use them against an amphibious landing.

In the US and fUSSR strategic air defense organizations, there were mid-level officers, who, at various times, made the right call when sensors were reporting a nuclear attack in progress. This happened a handful of times, but it makes the reciprocal teams in the command centers very, very aware of responsibility not just to their own countries, but to humanity.

A colleague of mine had retired from the US Army Band, where he was the lead arranger. One year, he got me VIP tickets to their annual 1812 Overture concert. People forget that Overture is about the Battle of Borodino, when Russia turned Napoleon back. Customarily, the Soviet military attaches were invited and given honored seating. There were various pieces in the concert, but when the Overture played, the Soviets, in dress uniform, arose and stood at attention. After the last cannon and bell was silent, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff saluted them, and the salutes were returned sincerely.

Sometimes, there is reason to hope.


*Reference regarding Russian presidency: Analytical article from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, by Andrew C. Kuchins. To quote:

Putinism Without Putin?

With a 70 percent approval rating, an economy inflated by oil wealth, stability-minded voters and the media under his thumb, Russia’s president holds all the cards in his country’s 2008 elections. But whatever the results, Russia’s foreign policy likely will continue to be driven by a cold calculation of its national interest.

Not all the news about Russia is bad, though it may seem that way. Today's Russian Roundup was my attempt to present a bit of both sides of that picture. Some day I will try to write a post about OCP that will be more balanced, but I just do not have it in my heart yet. I am one of those "angry Democrats," and it will take me a while to regain my perspective and get over it.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The big Las Vegas hug-a-thon

By Creature

I didn't watch it. Eh, what can you do? But from what I'm reading this A.M. it seems like Hillary, Barack, and John had a happy threesome on stage. I'm glad to hear Hillary distanced herself from Bob Johnson's Obama drug use comment. To deny what was meant by Johnson's comment, as her husband had, would have been ludicrous. I'm also glad to hear a bit of contrition from Obama over his campaign pushing the MLK flap. However, if anyone believes this actual Kumbaya moment will last, I got a surrogate, or two, waiting in the wings to learn you otherwise.

And, speaking of surrogates, I agree with Gandelman. Too much Bill is hurting Hillary. And, not to mention, a bit unseemly for a former president, and supposed Democratic leader, to be throwing punches with this much glee.

Update: I may have been too quick to give Hillary distancing credit above. Steve Benen thankfully watched so I didn't have to and finds Hillary on both sides of the Johnson fence (imagine that):

Clinton got a little tripped up on the Robert Johnson flap. On the one hand, she said we should take Johnson at his word. On the other, she said Johnson’s comments were “out of bounds.” I’m pretty sure those two positions contradict each other.

Sorry, Hillary, Johnson's word is crap. Your association with him is just another nail in your pandering coffin.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Huckabee's Church of America

By Capt. Fogg

The trouble with molding a society or running a government "according to God's standards," as Mike Huckabee says we should do, is that God's standards can only be determined by people like Mike Huckabee, and Mike Huckabee, like most of mankind, has his own God. I don't think he has Krishna in mind, or Vishnu, much less the God of whom Mohammad spoke or even the God who commands us to exterminate certain nations, cast out our non-Jewish wives and refrain upon pain of death from using certain kinds of thread in out clothing or eating a cheeseburger.

Of course Huckabee is really talking about amending the constitution, not to institute the 600 some odd Biblical commandments that he and his chuckleheaded Christian cheerleaders ignore as a fundamental precept of their religion, but to solicit the support of the fundamentalist barbarians who base their "values" on the unchristian and non-Christian contempt for homosexuals and are so dependent upon polyester preachers withTeflon tongues that they think the Bible prohibits abortion.

Opening my first e-mail this morning was like entering some gas station bathroom to find the toilet un-flushed and clogged. FAITH. FAMILY. FREEDOM. was the headline, followed by:

Mike Huckabee a Man of Principle for President.

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

I could hardly read the rest of it. Needless to say, I don't think a government directed by faith is anything less than a tyranny of the faithful. I don't think we need a government intruding into family matters or a government to tell us who we may or may not include in our families and if we have that, we have no freedom at all.

I'm sure I don't have to explain that the foundation of the enlightenment philosophy that produced our form of government was that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were fundamental rights and not privileges or favors bestowed upon us by God's chosen king. The latter of course was the way the world was run in the 18th century and that was supported by Biblical authority. It was a step away from the Biblical and ecclesiastical authority we took by assigning sovereignty to the people and not to the often half-witted and corrupt interpreters of "faith" like Mike Huckabee and to allow our Constitution to be twisted so as to pretend the American Revolution never occurred and the government and its Church were once again as one.

"I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards,"

said Mike speaking as though he were God's own mouthpiece. Mike Huckabee would rather have us governed by an oligarchy of Baptists and bibles with their peremptory ideas about God than by the will of the citizens. Is there anything further from the essence of democracy than Huckabee's vision?

"We need a President that thinks about all the people,"

says the screed floating in my in-box, and I agree. All the people are not fundamentalists however, much less Christians of any sort. Some of us have different gods, different ideas and all of us are guaranteed the right to have them.

"Mike Huckabee is attacked by the New York Times because when asked about evolution he states "I believe that creation has a Creator."

Not so -- he's attacked by those who don't want science suppressed and superstition installed.

"More than 20 years ago Mike Huckabee determined to put his faith and conviction into action fighting for the American Family and their Freedom to Pursue Happiness"

except when that happiness includes things Huckabee thinks his personal god dislikes or when that family doesn't met Huckabee's standards. Huckabee and his pet god will tell you what freedom you're allowed and indeed it will be little enough of it unless those of us who really value liberty and want a government that is us rather than them, send Mike a message of contempt by voting for a candidate that represents our traditional, constitutional values and not a church.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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