Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bush: the worst kind of lame duck situation...

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

The Election and Investigatory Powers of Congress
By George Friedman

There is now only a week to go before midterm congressional elections in the United States. The legislative outcome is already fairly clear. President George W. Bush lost the ability to drive legislation through Congress when he had to back away from his Social Security proposals. That situation will continue: The president will not be able to generate legislation without building coalitions. On the other hand, Congress will not be able to override his vetoes. That means that, regardless of whether the Democrats take the House of Representatives (as appears likely) or the Senate (which appears less likely but still possible), the basic architecture of the American legislative process will remain intact.

Democrats will not gain much power to legislate; Republicans will not lose much.

If the Democrats take control of the House from the Republicans, the most important change will not be that Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker, but that the leadership of House committees will shift -- and even more significant, that there will be upheaval of committee staffs. Republicans will shift to minority staff positions -- and have to let go of a lot of staffers -- while the Democrats will get to hire a lot of new ones.

These staffers serve two functions. The first is preparing legislation, the second is managing investigations. Given the likelihood of political gridlock, there will be precious little opportunity for legislation to be signed into law during the next two years -- but there likely will be ample opportunity and motivation for congressional investigations. Should the Democrats use this power to their advantage, there will be long-term implications for both the next presidential election and foreign policy options in the interim.

One of the most important things that the Republicans achieved, with their control of both the House and Senate, was to establish control over the type and scope of investigations that were permitted. Now, even if control of only the House should change hands, the Democrats will be making those decisions. And, where the GOP's goal was to shut down congressional investigations, the Democrat Party's goal will be to open them up and use them to shape the political landscape ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

It is important to define what we mean by "investigation." On the surface, congressional investigations are opportunities for staffers from the majority party to wield subpoena power in efforts to embarrass their bosses' opponents. The investigations also provide opportunities for members of Congress and senators to make extensive speeches that witnesses have to sit and listen to when they are called to testify -- a very weird process, if you have ever seen it.

Congressional investigations are not about coming to the truth of a matter in order for the laws of the republic to be improved for the common good. They are designed to extract political benefit and put opponents in the wrong. (Republicans and Democrats alike use the congressional investigative function to that end, so neither has the right to be indignant.)

For years, however, Democrats have been in no position to unilaterally call hearings and turn their staffs and subpoena powers loose on a topic -- which means they have been precluded from controlling the news cycle. The media focus intensely on major congressional hearings. For television networks, they provide vivid moments of confrontation; and the reams of testimony, leaked or official, give the print media an enormous opportunity to look for embarrassing moments that appear to reveal something newsworthy. In the course of these hearings, there might even be opportunities for witnesses to fall into acts of perjury -- or truth-telling -- that can lead to indictments and trials.

To reverse their position, the Democrats need not capture both the House and Senate next week. In fact, from the party's standpoint, that might not even be desirable. The Senate and House historically have gotten in each other's way in the hearing process. Moreover, there are a lot of Democratic senators considering a run for the presidency, but not many members of Congress with those ambitions. Senators who get caught up in congressional hearings can wind up being embarrassed themselves -- and with the competing goals of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and some of the other candidates, things could wind up a mess.

But if the House alone goes to Democrats, Pelosi would be positioned to orchestrate a series of hearings from multiple committees and effectively control the news cycles. Within three months of the new House being sworn in, the political landscape could be dominated by hearings -- each week bringing new images of witnesses being skewered or news of embarrassing files being released.

Against this backdrop, a new generation of Democratic congressmen would be making their debuts on the news networks, both while sitting on panels, and on the news channels afterward.

Politically, this would have two implications. First, the ability of the White House to control and direct public attention would decline dramatically. Not only would the White House not be able to shut down unwanted debate, but it would lack the ability even to take part in setting the agenda. Each week's subject would be chosen by the House Democratic leadership.

Second, there will be a presidential election in two years that the Democrats want to win. Therefore, they would use congressional hearings to shape public opinion along the lines their party wants. The goal would be not only to embarrass the administration, but also to showcase Democratic strengths.

The Senate can decide to hold its own hearings, of course, and likely would if left in Republican hands. The problem is that, at the end of the day, the most interesting investigations would involve the Bush administration and corporations that can be linked to it. A GOP-controlled Senate could call useful hearings, but they would be overwhelmed by the Democratic fireworks. They just would not matter as much.

So let's consider, from a foreign policy standpoint, what would be likely matters for investigation:

What did the Bush administration really know about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did Bush dismiss advice from the CIA on Iraq?

Did the administration ignore warnings about al Qaeda attacks prior to 9/11?

These, of course, would be the mothers of all investigations. Everything would be dragged out and pored over. The fact that there have been bipartisan examinations by the 9/11 commission would not matter: The new hearings would be framed as an inquiry into whether the 9/11 commission's recommendations were implemented -- and that would open the door to re-examine all the other issues.

Following close on these would be investigations into:

Whether the Department of Homeland Security is effective.

Whether the new structure of the intelligence community works.

Whether Halliburton received contracts unfairly -- a line of inquiry that could touch Vice President Dick Cheney.

Whether private contractors like Blackwater are doing appropriate jobs in Iraq.

Whether the Geneva Conventions should apply in cases of terrorist detentions.

Whether China is violating international trade agreement.

And so on. Every scab would be opened -- as is the right of Congress, the tendency of the nation in unpopular wars, and likely an inevitable consequence of these midterm elections.

We can expect the charges raised at these hearings to be serious, and to come from two groups. The first will be Democratic critics of the administration. These will be unimportant: Such critics, along with people like former White House security adviser Richard Clarke, already have said everything they have to say. But the second group will include another class -- former members of the administration, the military and the CIA who have, since the invasion of Iraq, broken with the administration.

They have occasionally raised their voices -- as, for instance, in Bob Woodward's recent book -- but the new congressional hearings would provide a platform for systematic criticism of the administration. And many of these critics seem bruised and bitter enough to avail themselves of it.

This intersects with internal Republican politics. At this point, the Republicans are divided into two camps. There are those who align with the Bush position: that the war in Iraq made sense and that, despite mistakes, it has been prosecuted fairly well on the whole.

And there are those, coalesced around Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner, who argue that, though the rationale for the war very well might have made sense, its prosecution by Donald Rumsfeld has led to disaster.

The lines might be evenly drawn, but for the strong suspicion that Sen. John McCain is in the latter camp. McCain clearly intends to run for president and, though he publicly shows support for Bush, there is every evidence that McCain has never forgiven him for the treatment he received in the primaries of 2000. McCain is not going to attack the president, nor does he really oppose the war in Iraq, but he has shown signs that he feels that the war has not been well prosecuted.

This view, shared publicly by recently retired military commanders who served in Iraq, holds out Rumsfeld as the villain. It is not something that McCain is going to lead the charge on, but in taking down Rumsfeld, McCain would be positioned to say that he supported the war and the president -- but not his secretary of defense, who was responsible for overseeing the prosecution of the war. From McCain's point of view, little would be more perfect than an investigation into the war by a Democrat-controlled House during which former military and Defense Department officials pounded the daylights out of Rumsfeld.

This would put whole-hearted Republican supporters of the president in a tough position and give McCain -- who, as a senator, would not have to participate in the hearings -- space to defend Bush's decision but not his tactics. The hearings also would allow him to challenge Democratic front-runners (Clinton and Obama) on their credentials for waging a war. They could be maneuvered into either going too far and taking a pure anti-war stance, or into trying to craft a defense policy at which McCain could strike.

To put it another way, aggressively investigating an issue like the war could wind up blowing up in the Democrats' faces, but that is so distant and subtle a possibility that we won't worry about it happening -- nor will they. What does seem certain, however, is this: The American interest in foreign policy is about to take an investigatory turn, as in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Various congressional hearings, like those of the Church Committee, so riveted the United States in the 1970s and so tied down the policymaking bureaucracy that crafting foreign policy became almost impossible.

George W. Bush is a lame duck in the worst sense of the term. Not only are there no more elections he can influence, but he is heading into his last two years in office with terrible poll ratings. And he is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives -- a loss that will generate endless hearings and investigations on foreign policy, placing Bush and his staff on the defensive for two years. Making foreign policy in this environment will be impossible.

Following the elections, five or six months will elapse before the House Democrats get organized and have staff in place. After that, the avalanche will fall in on Bush, and 2008 presidential politics will converge with congressional investigations to overwhelm his ability to manage foreign policy. That means the president has less than half a year to get his house in order if he hopes to control the situation, or at least to manage his response.

Meanwhile, the international window of opportunity for U.S. enemies will open wider and wider.

Send questions or comments on this article to analysis@stratfor.com.


EPITS? Gov. term...what's it mean?

From Secrecy News:


The specialized language of government information policy is itself a reflection of the intricacies and convolutions of that policy. A newly updated and substantially expanded lexicon of information-related terms, prepared by Susan L. Maret, provides a valuable map to the language and the terrain of U.S. government information policy.

Hundreds of entries, ranging from the well-known or obvious ("classified") to the obscure and recondite (e.g., EPITS), are presented with lucid definitions and pointers to official source documents.

"These terms represent a virtual seed catalog to federal informationally-driven procedures, policies, and practices involving, among other matters, the information life cycle, recordkeeping, ownership over information, collection and analysis of intelligence information, security classification categories and markings, censorship, citizen right-to-know, deception, propaganda, secrecy, technology, surveillance, threat, and warfare," Dr. Maret writes.

"The terms reported here -- which have often been interpreted widely from one federal agency to another -- play a significant role in shaping social and political reality, and furthering government policy."

See "On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon with an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the U.S. Federal Government" by Susan Maret, Ph.D., updated October 2006:



Hah! Kerry tells 'em off...

From the New York Times:

Kerry and G.O.P. Spar Over Iraq Remarks
Published: October 31, 2006

Debate over the Iraq war seemed to reach a new intensity today, with Republicans accusing Senator John Kerry of insulting rank-and-file American troops and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, lashing back at some of his tormentors as “assorted right-wing nut jobs.”

The latest flap, over what Mr. Kerry said on the West Coast on Monday, was another example of the heated rhetoric surrounding the war issue as the Congressional elections approach.

President Bush said Monday that a Democratic triumph in the races for the House and Senate would amount to a victory for terrorists.

Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate who is believed to be considering another run for the White House in 2008, set the stage for bitter back-and-forth as he addressed a gathering at Pasadena City College in California.

The senator, who was campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides, opened with several one-liners, joking at one point that President Bush had lived in Texas but now “lives in a state of denial.”

Then, Mr. Kerry said: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Those remarks were denounced by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and, like Mr. Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, as well as a group of House Republicans.

“Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country’s call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education,” Mr. McCain said today.

Mr. McCain said any suggestion that only the poorly educated would agree to serve in Iraq is “an insult to every soldier serving in combat.”

Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, wrote a letter to Mr. Kerry in which he called for “a clear and simple apology, without caveat or explanation.” The letter was signed by 18 other House Republicans.

And the White house spokesman, Tony Snow, asserted that Mr. Kerry’s speech “sort of fits a pattern” of criticizing American troops in Iraq. “This is an absolute insult, and I’m a little astonished that he didn’t figure it out already,” Mr. Snow said. “If I say something stupid, I apologize as quickly as possible.”

But if anyone should apologize, Mr. Kerry said, it is President Bush and his administration officials who started the ill-conceived war. He said his remarks had been distorted and called the criticism directed at him the work of “assorted right-wing nut jobs and right-wing talk show hosts.”

“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.”

“I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq,” Mr. Kerry went on. “It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.”

At a televised news conference today in Seattle, Mr. Kerry said he was “disgusted” by the Republican attacks, which he noted were coming at the end of a bloody month in Iraq. “Sadly, this is the best this administration can do,” he said.

Mr. Kerry did not mention Mr. McCain in his statement, although at the news conference he said Mr. McCain should seek an apology from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney if he wants an apology from anyone.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. McCain, separated by party and political philosophy but united by their experiences in Vietnam combat, have been described before as having a friendly relationship. Mr. McCain is also viewed as a potential rival in the 2008 presidential race.

Mr. Bush stepped up the language on Iraq on Monday while campaigning for Republican candidates in Georgia and Texas. “However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this,” he said. “The terrorists win and America loses.”

Part of Mr. Kerry’s outrage may arise from memories of 2004, when a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth raised allegations, never substantiated, that he had exaggerated his wartime exploits. Some political observers thought Mr. Kerry and his allies were too slow to strike back at his attackers.

This time, Mr. Kerry did not wait. “No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan and a stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq,” he said in his statement. At his news conference, he accused Republicans of creating “straw men” because “they’re afraid to debate real men.”


Monday, October 30, 2006

Morality is more important than religion....

From International Herald Tribune:

Bad reasons to be good
Sam Harris
The Boston Globe
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2006-->Published: October 30, 2006

America's midterm elections are fast approaching, and their outcome could well be determined by the "moral values" of conservative Christians.

While this possibility is regularly bemoaned by liberals, the link between religion and morality in our public life is almost never questioned.

One of the most common justifications one hears for religious faith, from all points on the political spectrum, is that it provides a necessary framework for moral behavior. Most Americans appear to believe that without faith in God, we would have no durable reasons to treat one another well. The political version of this morality claim is that the country was founded on "Judeo-Christian principles," the implication being that without these principles we would have no way to write just laws.

It is, of course, taboo to criticize a person's religious beliefs. The problem, however, is that much of what people believe in the name of religion is intrinsically divisive, unreasonable, and incompatible with genuine morality.

The truth is that the only rational basis for morality is a concern for the happiness and suffering of other conscious beings.

This emphasis on the happiness and suffering of others explains why we don't have moral obligations toward rocks. It also explains why (generally speaking) people deserve greater moral concern than animals, and why certain animals concern us more than others. If we show more sensitivity to the experience of chimpanzees than to the experience of crickets, we do so because there is a relationship between the size and complexity of a creature's brain and its experience of the world.

Unfortunately, religion tends to separate questions of morality from the living reality of human and animal suffering. Consequently, religious people often devote immense energy to so- called "moral" questions - such as gay marriage - where no real suffering is at issue, and they will inflict terrible suffering in the service of their religious beliefs.

Consider the suffering of the millions of unfortunate people who happen to live in sub-Saharan Africa. The wars in this part of the world are interminable. AIDS is epidemic there, killing around 3 million people each year. It is almost impossible to exaggerate how bad your luck is if you are born today in a country like Sudan. The question is, how does religion affect this problem?

Many pious Christians go to countries like Sudan to help alleviate human suffering, and such behavior is regularly put forward as a defense of Christianity. But in this case, religion gives people bad reasons for acting morally, where good reasons are actually available. We don't have to believe that a deity wrote one of our books, or that Jesus was born of a virgin, to be moved to help people in need. In those same desperate places, one finds secular volunteers working with organizations like Doctors Without Borders and helping people for secular reasons.

Helping people purely out of concern for their happiness and suffering seems rather more noble than helping them because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it, or will punish you for not doing it.

But the worst problem with religious morality is that it often causes good people to act immorally, even while they attempt to alleviate the suffering of others.

In Africa, for instance, certain Christians preach against condom use in villages where AIDS is epidemic, and where the only information about condoms comes from the ministry. They also preach the necessity of believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ in places where religious conflict between Christians and Muslims has led to the deaths of millions.

Secular volunteers don't spread ignorance and death in this way. A person need not be evil to preach against condom use in a village decimated by AIDS; he or she need only believe a specific faith-based moral dogma. In such cases we can see that religion can cause good people to do fewer good deeds than they might otherwise.

We have to realize that we decide what is good in our religious doctrines.

We read the Golden Rule, for instance, and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses. And then we come across another of God's teachings on morality: If a man discovers that his bride is not a virgin on their wedding night, he must stone her to death on her father's doorstep (Deuteronomy 22: 13-21). If we are civilized, we will reject this as utter lunacy. Doing so requires that we exercise our own moral intuitions, keeping the real issue of human happiness in view. The belief that the Bible is the word of God is of no help to us whatsoever.

As we consider how to run our own society and how to help people in need, the choice before us is simple: Either we can have a 21st-century conversation about morality and human happiness - availing ourselves of all the scientific insights and philosophical arguments that have accumulated in the last 2,000 years of human discourse - or we can confine ourselves to an Iron Age conversation as it is preserved in our holy books.

Wherever the issue of "moral values" surfaces, ask yourself which approach to morality is operating. Are we talking about how to best alleviate human suffering? Or are we talking about the whims of an invisible God?

Sam Harris is the author of Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith. He can be reached through his Web site, samharris.org. This article first appeared in The Boston Globe.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Allen trashes a hero...Dem author, James Webb...

From The Virginian-Pilot:

James Webb's Navy Cross
The Virginian-Pilot © October 27, 2006

Editor's note: The Navy Cross is the nation's second-highest award for bravery in facing an enemy. James Webb has refused to use it in his campaign. We are publishing it with our endorsement of him because we believe it testifies to his character.

The Navy Cross is presented to James H. Webb, Jr., First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam.

On 10 July 1969, while participating in a company-sized search and destroy operation deep in hostile territory, First Lieutenant Webb's platoon discovered a well-camouflaged bunker complex which appeared to be unoccupied. Deploying his men into defensive positions, First Lieutenant Webb was advancing to the first bunker when three enemy soldiers armed with hand grenades jumped out.

Reacting instantly, he grabbed the closest man and, brandishing his .45 caliber pistol at the others, apprehended all three of the soldiers.

Accompanied by one of his men, he then approached the second bunker and called for the enemy to surrender. When the hostile soldiers failed to answer him and threw a grenade which detonated dangerously close to him, First Lieutenant Webb detonated a claymore mine in the bunker aperture, accounting for two enemy casualties and disclosing the entrance to a tunnel.

Despite the smoke and debris from the explosion and the possibility of enemy soldiers hiding in the tunnel, he then conducted a thorough search which yielded several items of equipment and numerous documents containing valuable intelligence data. Continuing the assault, he approached a third bunker and was preparing to fire into it when the enemy threw another grenade.

Observing the grenade land dangerously close to his companion, First Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body.

Although sustaining painful fragmentation wounds from the explosion, he managed to throw a grenade into the aperture and completely destroy the remaining bunker.

By his courage, aggressive leadership, and selfless devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Webb upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.


Russia: Keep an eye on US automakers...

From Moscow Times:

Monday, October 30, 2006. Issue 3529. Page 10.
Adjusting Russian-U.S. Relations in 2008
By Richard Lourie

To Our Readers
The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number. Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to oped@imedia.ru, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.
Email the Opinion Page Editor

In 2008, Russia and the United States will have new leaders after eight-year presidencies. Vladimir Putin will leave behind a Russia richer and more stable, feared and respected than the one he inherited from Boris Yeltsin. George W. Bush will leave behind a country poorer (remember the trillion-dollar surplus?), more polarized and feared, but less respected than the one he inherited from Bill Clinton.

2008 will provide an opportunity for the new leaders of both countries to reassess their relationship. What could, or should, that readjusted relationship look like?

First, the United States needs to depersonalize its relationship with Russia. We've had too much of "good ol' Boris" and Putin of the soulful eyes. It is preferable when leaders get along, but interests always trump sympathies.

Second, the United States needs to define its interests in relation to Russia. During the Cold War, the essential U.S. goal could be summed up in a single word: containment. Today's world is less starkly clear, but there still have to be priorities. Is the United States' most important goal to manage Russia's nuclear stockpile? Or is it encouraging democracy? Or integrating Russia into the world economy so that it will have a vested interest in moderating its behavior?

Third, energy independence has quickly to become central to both U.S. domestic and foreign policy. It is, in the medium to long term, the best way to offset Russia's clout in the international arena, which is almost entirely related to oil and gas. Energy independence may be an illusion when Lukoil already owns all the Getty service stations in the United States. Still, independence may be the sort of unattainable goal whose pursuit creates new technologies and uncovers new energy sources.

Though the Russians have a reputation as chess-playing realists, their relationship to the United States is in fact clouded by emotion.

Russia's tendencies toward xenophobia and paranoia were exacerbated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Resentment, envy, Dostoevskian self-flagellation and suspicion have distorted Russia's view of the United States at all levels.

Then again, the United States did display haughtiness in its triumphalist relationship to post-Soviet Russia, pushing for Russia's neighbors to join the European Union and NATO. Even the paranoid have real enemies.

Russia should realize that Iran is the issue most likely to bring U.S.-Russian relations from low-grade hostility to open crisis. Iran's history -- its oil exploited by the British, its Shah deposed and the country occupied by the British and Russians in 1941, its government overthrown in a CIA-backed coup in 1953 -- make the protection and prestige offered by nuclear weapons seem essential. But it is Iran's relationship with Hamas and Hezbollah that make a nuclear Iran especially worrisome in the future. Russia does not want to find itself on the wrong side of an issue involving nuclear weapons, terrorists, oil and Israel.

Russian foreign policymakers should also keep a close eye on Ford and other ailing U.S. automakers. U.S. business and society have often proved highly flexible and creative. If the United States concentrates seriously on energy independence, Russia might find its clout waning as the first quarter of the 21st century ends. The choice for a highly centralized, authoritarian government dependant on gas and oil for income and influence will then no longer appear the wisest choice and Putin will end up among the reviled along with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

Richard Lourie is the author of "The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin" and "Sakharov: A Biography."


Saturday, October 28, 2006

San Diego's in!!!

From Donna Frye:


Today at a press conference in Mission Bay Park, I joined and supported Mayor Sanders and Council President Peters in signing the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. The agreement is an effort to help San Diego take actions to reduce global warming pollution.

The agreement urges cities to conform to the goals and guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, which the federal government failed to sign. Some of the goals for cities that sign it include: promoting the use of clean and renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency and water conservation, escalating the growth of urban forests, reducing urban sprawl and curbing global warming emissions by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. The agreement has been signed by mayors of hundreds of cities throughout the United States and I am proud that San Diego can now be added to the growing list of cities that are taking a stand against global warming. Implementing the goals of the Climate Protection Agreement is an incredible opportunity to create good-paying jobs and help save the planet.

Global warming is the biggest environmental threat to the economy and our communities today. It is absolutely imperative that we work together to take action at a local level to curb the impacts of global warming. Most importantly, I want to emphasize that this is not a partisan or political issue, but rather an issue of survival and quality of life.

In September, as chair of the City Council’s Natural Resources & Culture Committee, I held a hearing on the issue of global warming. The committee discussed the impact of global warming in San Diego and heard potential local solutions. Professor Richard Somerville, from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, spoke about the causes and effects of global warming, while other experts discussed what solutions exist for this crisis. The threat to San Diego is serious-- rising sea levels and higher temperatures can cause devastating floods, erode our coastline and decrease our supply of clean drinking water.

I have also worked with local business leaders to reduce energy use and increase the use of green energy sources to save money and minimize their impacts on the environment. As a firm believer in leading by example I have made sure that the city is taking a leadership role on this issue. I am also working on adopting a ‘local action plan’ for addressing global warming at the City and am providing preferential parking to owners of hybrid vehicles in our city parking lots.

To see a copy of the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement click on the following link: http://www.usmayors.org/uscm/resolutions/73rd_conference/env_04.asp
Councilmember Donna Frye 202 C Street, San Diego, Ca. 92101


Friday, October 27, 2006

Hah! Fitzgerald strikes Libby again!

From the Washington Post:


In the Libby Case, A Grilling to Remember
Friday, October 27, 2006; Page A21

With withering and methodical dispatch, White House nemesis and prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald yesterday sliced up the first person called to the stand on behalf of the vice president's former chief of staff.

If I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was not afraid of the special counsel before, the former Cheney aide, who will face Fitzgerald in a trial beginning Jan. 11, had ample reason to start quaking after yesterday's Ginsu-like legal performance.

Fitzgerald's target in the witness box was Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine. For more than an hour of the pretrial hearing, Loftus calmly explained to Judge Reggie B. Walton her three decades of expertise in human memory and witness testimony. Loftus asserted that, after copious scientific research, she has found that many potential jurors do not understand the limits of memory and that

Libby should be allowed to call an expert to make that clear to them.

But when Fitzgerald got his chance to cross-examine Loftus about her findings, he had her stuttering to explain her own writings and backpedaling from her earlier assertions. Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.

Her defense-paid visit to the federal court was crucial because Libby is relying on the "memory defense" against Fitzgerald's charges that he obstructed justice and lied to investigators about his role in the leaking of a CIA operative's identity to the media. Libby's attorneys argue that he did not lie -- that he was just really busy with national security matters and forgot some of his conversations.

When Fitzgerald found a line in one of her books that raised doubts about research she had cited on the stand as proof that Libby needs an expert to educate jurors, Loftus said, "I don't know how I let that line slip by."

I'd need to see that again," Loftus said when Fitzgerald cited a line in her book that overstated her research by saying that "most jurors" consider memory to be equivalent to playing a videotape. Her research, however, found that to be true for traumatic events, and even then, only 46 percent of potential jurors thought memory could be similar to a videotape.

There were several moments when Loftus was completely caught off guard by Fitzgerald, creating some very awkward silences in the courtroom.

One of those moments came when Loftus insisted that she had never met Fitzgerald. He then reminded her that he had cross-examined her before, when she was an expert defense witness and he was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in New York.

Libby's defense team declined to comment.

-- Carol D. Leonnig


Insult Canada & throw bloggers in jail...

From American Progress:

Think Fast

96: the total number of troops who have died so far this month in Iraq, the bloodiest since October 2005. Five American troops were killed during fighting in Anbar Province yesterday.

According to Matt Drudge, both NBC and The CW television networks have refused to air ads for the new Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up and Sing." NBC reportedly claims the network "cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush."

Scott Howell, a close associate of Karl Rove, helped produce the racist ad targeting Harold Ford in Tennessee. A second producer of the ad, Terry Nelson, is a consultant to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Wal-Mart. Huff Post reports Nelson will be fired by Wal-Mart.

Responding to accusations made by Rush Limbaugh, Michael J. Fox said he was neither acting nor off his medication for Parkinson's disease. "The irony of it is that I was too medicated," Fox told CBS's Katie Couric, adding that his jumpy condition as he spoke to her reflected "a dearth of medication -- not by design. I just take it, and it kicks in when it kicks in."

President Bush, "who has not been talking about gay marriage" in recent weeks, "took pains to insert a reference" to gay marriage during an appearance yesterday in an effort to use "to rally dispirited conservatives to the polls."

A stark warning was delivered to Tony Blair and his cabinet yesterday by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former World Bank economist, about the potential economic effect of global warming. Stern argued "global warming could cost the world's economies up to 20 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) if urgent action is not taken to stop floods, storms and natural catastrophes."

Meanwhile, "the drive to tackle climate change gathered pace on Thursday as Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, announced a $3 billion plan to invest in the carbon trading market amid mounting evidence that some US states are growing more sympathetic to international action."

Amnesty International is asking bloggers to show their support for the plight of fellow bloggers jailed for what they wrote in their online journals. The organization says freedom of expression and privacy "are under threat from governments that want to control what their citizens say, and what information they can access."

Eighty-two percent of Americans believe Congress will set timetable for Iraq redeployment, and 63 percent believe Congress should set a timetable, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

And finally: Blame Corker! Canada is upset over a campaign ad backing Tennessee Senate candidate Bob Corker which quotes a "man on the street" saying "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy." The line is being perceived "in Canada as a suggestion that the country is a free rider when it comes to global security."


AG Gonzales to Congress: Got nuthin' to say to you..

From Secrecy News:

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 112
October 27, 2006

Secrecy News Blog:

Keeping secrets from the press and the public may be frustrating and occasionally illegal. But executive branch secrecy directed at Congress is actually subversive to the extent that it undermines the performance of legislative oversight. Such secrecy was on vivid display at an April 6, 2006 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the Department of Justice, the record of which has just been published.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the sole witness, consistently evaded or deflected a wide range of basic policy questions. He was so reluctant to give definitive responses to congressional questions that at one point he refused to endorse the well-established requirements of existing law.

Would the Bush Administration ever conduct "purely domestic warrantless surveillance between two Americans?" Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) wanted to know.

"I'm not going to rule it out," the Attorney General replied, unintentionally making headlines the next day.

The answers to many of the Committee's questions are classified, the Attorney General repeatedly stated, and could not be presented. Eventually, even Republican supporters of Bush Administration policies began to run out of patience.

"Mr. Attorney General, how can we discharge our oversight responsibilities if every time we ask a pointed question we are told that the answer is classified?" said House JudiciaryCommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI).

"We need to have answers," he said. "And we're not gettingthem."

"I am really concerned that the Judiciary Committee has been kind of put in the trash heap," Chairman Sensenbrenner said at the conclusion of the hearing.

Aside from classification restrictions, AG Gonzales displayed a surprisingly weak grasp of many of the issues raised by the Committee; he said "I don't know" at least twenty-one times. He also declined to answer questions that touched on internal Administration deliberations.

And he adhered to a view that classified intelligence matters are strictly the domain of the congressional Intelligence Committees, not the Judiciary Committees.

The newly published hearing record includes (in the PDF version) nearly 100 pages of somewhat more substantive follow-up questions and answers for the record, transmitted in September 2006. Topics included domestic surveillance, the President's classification and declassification authority, the possible use of military force against U.S. persons suspected of being terrorists, the use of Presidential signing statements, and so forth. Most of this material seems to restate previously articulated positions.

The hearing transcript features some sublimely obtuse moments. "Do you have the highest security clearance that is available in the United States Government?" asked Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

"As far as I know, yes," the Attorney General said.

See "United States Department of Justice," hearing before theHouse Judiciary Committee, April 6, 2006 (PDF version linkedwithin): http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2006_hr/doj.html

"We have legitimate oversight questions, and we're told it's classified, so we can't get to the bottom of this," a frustrated Rep. Sensenbrenner said. "Maybe there ought to be some declassification," he mused.


Secrecy in science is the subject of a series of papers in the latest issue of the Duke University Law School journal Law and Contemporary Problems. The authors consider the consequences of secret science and "propose solutions to help balance the costs and benefits of such secrecy."

See a descriptive news release here:

The full text of the special issue on "Sequestered Science,"edited by David Michaels and Neil Vidmar, is here: http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/lcp/


Latest from TJ Waters & Class 11's media tour...

Just want to say, going in, that TJ is one terrific writer. Read CLASS 11 and found every page just fascinating. No wondering what the CIA is all about for any longer, cause TJ lays it out!!!

He emails:

"Well, my 59 seconds of fame yesterday has elicited additional interest fromFox News. I will appear via satellite on Fox and Friends Saturday edition.


Broadcast time is 7:45am, but don't get up. Tape it and watch at a more reasonable Saturday time!!

Best to all.


I'm convinced CLASS 11 is gonna be in print for a long, long time...and TJ's gonna get hassled to write another book. Serves him right.


A worthy book for the shelf...

From Examiner.com :

Marc Danziger: ‘The Blog of War’ redefines combat reporting

Marc Danziger, The Examiner
Oct 27, 2006 2:00 AM (10 hrs ago)

WASHINGTON - A book of blog posts may seem like an odd thing to publish; blogs are written as a transitory medium, and in most cases are best left that way.

There’s a new book of blog posts that’s worth your attention, however; “The Blog of War: Frontline Dispatches from Military Bloggers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Direct knowledge of the men and women in the military wasn’t particularly a large part of my background. No one — at all — in my high school class joined the military.

In college, the only members of the military I ever encountered were vaguely creepy members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. My father served in World War II — in a non-martial but critical role as a cryptographer in Hawaii and India, and through my father’s job in construction I met a number of men who’d been in the service. But those were distant connections, and gave me little connection to my peers who serve in the military. …

And then I discovered the military bloggers. Current and ex-members of the military rode the wave of blog mainstreaming and suddenly there they were in my laptop, talking to me. Reading their work and meeting them changed me profoundly. Colby Buzzell, Lt. Smash, Chief Wiggles, the cast expanded with every link I clicked.

The pseudonomyous Blackfive was one of the original cast of characters in that space and now he’s stepped into the limelight as Matthew Burden, a Chicago-based ex-Special Forces operator with a keen sense of humor, a strong sense of honor, and good taste in Scotch. Disclosure: I’ve met him once, at a conference in Boston — I think.

Burden’s book is a collection of blog posts about life in the military and about the war. To be blunt, if you read blogs as regularly as I do, you’ll have read most of them. But most people don’t check Instapundit or Kevin Drum every quarter-hour. And for those people, Burden has put together a tasting menu that puts much of the best of the milblogs between covers and lets you read them without a battery.

There is a wide array of stories in the book — the voices and messages are scattered widely — but if you treat it as a cocktail party where you get to meet, briefly, an array of interesting people, if only for a moment — you’ll relish it.

Because it’s the people you meet who’ll matter. Sean Dustman (“Doc in the Box”) recounts a poem a friend write for him as he deployed:

“… He has been shorn into a beautiful
Monk, ready to sacrifice
Ready to jump to help the helpless
I admire him, but I still don’t want him to go
I avoid telling him that my heart is breaking
A thousand times all over again
I am learning to pray ceaselessly to a deity
I’m not sure I really believe in
Keep him safe keep him safe keep him safe”

Lt. Cmdr. Heidi Kraft, a doctor, keeps very practical lists:
“Things That Were Not Good
“Terrifying camel spiders, poisonous scorpions, flapping bats in the
darkness, howling, territorial wild dogs, flies that insisted on landing
on our faces, giant, looming mosquitoes, invisible sand flies that carry leischmaniasis.
“132 degrees
“Wearing long sleeves, full pants and combat boots in 132 degrees.
“Sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat ... like wrists, and ears.”

Tank Cmdr. Neil Prakash talks about the humor in fear:

“OK … so some guy has you in his sights and he’s trying to kill you. And he hasn’t yet. But the bullets are coming damn close. And you don’t know where he is. So that’s funny. And for some reason, any time you come real close to death, but live ... that’s just absurdly funny.”

And finally, Lt. Col Michael Strobl writes of his duty in accompanying the body of Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown in Wyoming for internment. This is such a well-written, moving piece that it feels like a violation to present just a piece of it.

And if I have a quibble in the presentation of the book it is that this should have opened it, rather than closed it. It’s so moving that it’s hard to respond to when you’ve finished, and in a way I’d have rather gone from this story to one that introduces me to the living Chance and his buddies and peers than the other way around.

While it is an obvious thing to do to honor our dead soldiers, the joy of a book like this — and of the milblogs it gives a snapshot of — is to introduce you to very real words of our living ones. They are a very real manifestation of Whitman:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear. …”

Fewer and fewer Americans know soldiers as the tradition of military service slips into history. Buy the book, meet some, and listen to them.

Marc Danziger is a member of The Washington Examiner Blog Board of Contributors and blogs at windsofchange.net.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Riverbend blogger's two books!!!

From Tom Dispatch:

[an excerpt]

One of the sections below is devoted to Riverbend, the pseudonymous "girl blogger" of Baghdad. For it, I read the collection of her blog entries that the Feminist Press at CUNY published in 2005, Baghdad Burning, Girl Blog from Iraq, and then the newest volume, Baghdad Burning II, More Girl Blog from Iraq, just now being published. These represent an unparalleled record of the American war on, and occupation of, Iraq (and Riverbend writes like an angel).

The two volumes are simply the best contemporary account we are likely to have any time soon of the hell into which we've plunged that country. I can't recommend t! hem too highly.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Busby vs Bilbray...Where's Bilbray live, anyway?

From truthout.org:

Cunningham Successor Faces Legal Controversy, Too
By Thomas D. Williams
t r u t h o u t Report
Wednesday 25 October 2006

San Diego Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, now in the midst of a California elections campaign, is trapped in a spinning political and legal controversy over whether his prime residence is in California or Virginia.

The issue became a nagging question for Bilbray, 55, a surfer, most of whose roots are in California, as a result of a sworn statement he made in a Fairfax County, Virginia, 2005 deed of trust. It made 8930 Linton Lane, Alexandria, Virginia, his "prime residence."

After losing a California Congressional election to Susan Davis in 2000, Bilbray soon moved to Washington, DC, to become a lobbyist. He represented tribal issues, a border-sewage treatment project and an anti-illegal immigration group, the Associated Press reports.

Land records show he retains that Alexandria residence, while also using and listing family residences in Imperial Beach and Carlsbad, California, where the Bilbrays report they began living when he once again successfully ran for congress in a special election earlier this year. A call Tuesday to the Alexandria, Virginia, Real Estate Division confirmed he still owns the property there.

The battle of words over his residence has swirled off and on for almost six months, yet no public official responsible to the voters in California has ultimately decided legally, once and for all, where Bilbray's prime residence is. Nevertheless, it is essential that Bilbray be a legal resident of California to not only run for office, but to vote.

Some officials involved with the controversy agree it could be much simpler, less expensive and time consuming to resolve whether a contender is qualified to be a candidate before he is elected, rather than afterwards. Special elections in California have an estimated cost of over $30 million, and state reimbursement to a locality has reached as high as $43 million. Those are figures released by a 2006 report from the Institute of Governmental Studies for the University of California at Berkeley.

But, today, despite the doubt over Bilbray's actual prime and legal residence, no state official has decided what to do with the election looming November 7.

Only last April, Bilbray won his own special run-off election to fill the seat of Randall Harold "Duke" Cunningham, a 14-year Republican congressional veteran.

In March, Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004. Bilbray had himself been a Republican member of Congress from another California district from 1995 to 2001 before he lost an election.

Bilbray served for a decade on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors from 1985 to 1994, before winning his first election to the US House of Representatives, representing a district that included Imperial Beach.

Just a month after Bilbray regained his place in Congress this year from San Diego, County Democratic Chairman Jess Durfee complained to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer that Bilbray had falsely sworn under oath to the state about California being his prime residence. The following month, Lockyer's office turned the complaint over to San Diego District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis.

Paul Levikow, director of communications for Dumanis, would not comment on that investigation, or whether the question of Bilbray's legal residence can be resolved before the election through a complaint to another responsible state office.

The dispute over Bilbray's home grounds has resulted in news story after news story including rumors about the status of the investigation and whether a grand jury has been impaneled. No one interviewed could supply a copy of subpoenas reportedly issued to neighbors of Bilbray's to prove the grand jury's existence. No public record is available because of the secrecy required for grand juries so there is no way of knowing whether or not one is actually investigating the complaint, or has completed a probe.

A California state elections registration document, sworn to under oath by Bilbray on Feb. 23, 2006, says he is a resident of Carlsbad, California. On the other hand, a deed, dated July 24, 2002, says he resides in Imperial Beach, California. However, still another deed dated Aug. 5, 2005, in Fairfax County's Alexandria, Virginia, and sworn to by Bilbray, makes his "prime" residency there.

According to federal tax rules, a taxpayer must have lived two of the past five years in a "prime residence" to shelter up to $500,000 in real estate profits from taxation, if married, as Bilbray is. If the taxpayer doesn't follow the rule, the tax shelter gets eliminated.

Repeated attempts to contact Bilbray for his reaction to the controversy including three phone calls to his press spokesman, Kurt Bardella, and an e-mail supplying Bardella with Bilbray's crucial residency and voter registration documents, failed to inspire any response.

When he was confronted about the state investigation of his residency in a debate on NBC's 739 News in San Diego recently, Bilbray said: "I live in Carlsbad. If she (Busby) had the decency to ask my neighbors where I live, she wouldn't do this." He then claimed that his opponent makes serious charges without being able to back them up.

Despite the availability of these documents to Bilbray's opponents, Democratic Chairman Durfee and Democrat Francine Busby, his rival for the congressional seat, and potentially to all state officials responsible, nothing has been done to decide Bilbray's crucial residency qualification. Nan Nguyen, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's elections division, said ironing out a conflict over residency is the responsibility of the Registrar's Office, in this case, in San Diego. Through a spokeswoman, Monique Roberts, Registrar Department Head, Mikel Haas, said his office does not investigate residency requirement complaints. The person with the substantiating evidence needs to file the complaint, Roberts said, and the registrar's office has received no such information.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman, for the attorney general's office, said the usual remedy for a dispute like this comes from a challenge by the complaining parties to the courts in the form of a writ. It is not the practice of the attorney general to file such a writ, he said.

However, Busby's spokeswoman, Linda Poniktera, said that for Busby to file such a complaint in court "would be considered sour grapes" by the voting public. She said Busby has already made every effort, including posting Bilbray's residency conflict on her Internet site, to ensure the voters know all about the available facts.

Busby said: "Don't take my word for it. The documents available in the public domain speak for themselves. There are discrepancies suggesting that Mr. Bilbray may be subject to charges of perjury and fraud, and voters have a right to know the facts before the election. Any ordinary citizen who behaved this way would be subjected to investigation. If elected officials have additional information, it should be provided to voters without regard for timing."

Democratic Chairman Durfee said: "Lawyers told us the best course of action would be to complain to the district attorney, and, as a backup course of action, to the attorney general. Prior opinions of the attorney general were not definitive enough to convince the party to file a writ."
Thomas "Dennie" Williams is a former state and federal court reporter, specializing in investigations, for the Hartford Courant. Since the 1970s, he has written extensively about irregularities in the Connecticut Superior Court and Probate Court systems for disciplining both judges and lawyers for misconduct. His stories about the corrupt activities inside the Hartford Probate Court helped encourage a federal grand jury probe leading to the conviction of the court's investigator for corrupt activities, the first attempted impeachment of a judge or any official in the state's history, and a legislative probe that resulted in major changes of the court's disciplinary system for state lawyers. Another of his investigative inquiries in the 1980s led to the forced resignation of a Superior Court judge who was hiring and appointing friends and relatives for lucrative court duties. His most recent freelance stories exposed failings of the Connecticut Judicial Review Council, investigating misconduct by Superior Court judges and the regular one and a half year delays in deciding State Appellate Court cases. He has received numerous awards for his investigative and in-depth reporting.


Audio, TV, Film, and BOOKS!!!

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


UK TV producer Jane Fallon's GETTING RID OF MATTHEW, about a long-suffering mistress who finally decides it's time to dump her married lover and get on with her life; pitched for fans of Lizy Buchan, Jane Green, and Jennifer Weiner, to Ellen Archer and Pamela Dorman at Voice, by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown UK (US).

24-year-old Ivo Stourton's debut novel THE NIGHT CLIMBERS, in which an exclusive group of thrill-seeking students at fictional Tudor College in Cambridge, England lose their source of income and commit art fraud in order to regain their foothold, to Terra Chalberg at Simon Spotlight Entertainment, for publication in fall 2007, by Helen Edwards at Transworld (NA).


James O. Born's untitled Alex Duarte novel, the sequel to FIELD OF FIRE, to Neil Nyren and Brendan Duffy at Putnam, by Meg Ruley at Jane Rotrosen Agency (NA).


Patrick Ryan's untitled novel about how a father's criminal activities send his family on the lam and they assume a new life of scrappy survival and tent revivals, leading them to the business of faith-healing, scam or not, in the form of a fifteen-year-old mute, to Susan Kamil at Dial Press, by Lisa Bankoff at ICM (NA).


Director of the Immigration and National Security Program at The Nixon Center and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Robert S. Leiken's EUROPE'S ANGRY MUSLIMS: The Fire Next Time, which grows out of his Foreign Affairs article and provides an historical account of how Islam came to 20th century Europe, and how it is rearranging the continent's cultural, political and security landscape, to David McBride at Oxford University Press, by Andrew Stuart at The Stuart Agency (NA).

WSJ reporters Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman's TO FEED THE HUNGRY: Who Starves, Why, and How We Can Stop It, in which the authors journey around the world to expose the economic, social, and political dynamics in both the developed and developing worlds that encourage famine to continue, to Lisa Kaufman at Public Affairs, for publication in spring 2008, by Wall Street Journal Books (world).


Emmy-award winning comedienne Judy Gold (with Kate Ryan)'s 25 QUESTIONS FOR A JEWISH MOTHER, incorporating Gold's own stories of growing up Jewish, as well as the voice of the 50 Jewish mothers interviewed in the course of writing the book, to Ellen Archer and Pamela Dorman at Voice, by Laurie Liss at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).


Lee Woodruff's memoir, written with husband and ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and told from their dual perspectives, about their experience after his convoy was attacked in Iraq, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and causing him to step down from his newly appointed job as co-anchor of the evening news, to Susan Mercandetti at Random House, by Robert Barnett at Williams & Connolly (world).

A portion of the authors' proceeds will be donated to organizations that help support members of the armed forces recovering from traumatic brain injuries. In Spring 2007, Woodruff will return to the air to tell his in a one-hour primetime special.

The only female member of the iconic folk group The Weavers Ronnie Gilbert's RONNIE GILBERT: A Radical Life with Songs, touching on the early years with Pete Seeger, the commercial successes of "Goodnight Irene" and "Wemoweh," the censorship that destroyed their careers, and the subsequent renewal of the group, to Mary Francis at the University of California Press, by Ellen Geiger at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency (World).

Former head of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing's memoir, to Harmony, by Lynn Nesbit at Janklow & Nesbit.

Former Page Six freelancer accused of attempted extortion from billionaire Ron Burkle, Jared Paul Stern's STERN MEASURES, on "the glamorous heights and seamy underbelly of the gossip industry and the New York tabloid wars," to Mark Gompertz at Touchstone Fireside, for publication in fall 2007, by John Brockman at Brockman (NA).


Masha Gessen's BLOOD MATTERS: Travels Along the Genetic Frontier, a personal look through family history and the latest medical science at the complex ethical choices brought on by advancements in genetic testing, to Matt Weiland at Granta, by Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh, on behalf of Elyse Cheney.

Caine Prize-winning author Helon Habila's LAGOS, a portrait of one of the fastest-growing yet little-known cities in the world, to Matt Weiland at Granta, by David Godwin at David Godwin Associates.

Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Paul Fitzgerald's ADJUST YOUR BRAIN, which proposes a cocktail of FDA drugs resetting major brain chemicals can treat nearly every type of mental illness, to John Hunt of O Books, by Sally van Haitsma of The Castiglia Agency (World).


Mark Obmascik's THE BIG YEAR: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession, optioned again to DreamWorks, in a major deal, by Howie Sanders of UTA, on behalf of Jody Rein at Jody Rein Books.

Jason F. Wright's CHRISTMAS JARS, about a young female reporter whose life is changed forever while investigating the unique Christmas tradition of the Christmas Jar, to Academy Award winner Keith Merrill, who will direct and Barry McLerran will executive produce, in a good deal, by Laurie Liss at Sterling Lord Literistic.jason@jasonfwright.com


Neal Bascomb's RED MUTINY: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin, again to Brian Sweany of Recorded Books, by Farley Chase of the Waxman Literary Agency.

Canadian rights to Sherry Cooper's TIMELESS: The Economic Implications of Retiring in an Aging Society, to Andrea Crozier at Penguin Canada. harmony.ho@ca.penguingroup.com


Judge orders Exit Polls left alone!

From Associated Press via truthout.org:

Judge Rules on Exit Polls in Florida
The Associated Press
Tuesday 24 October 2006

Miami - A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a Florida law that prohibits exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place, finding there was no evidence that such surveys were disruptive or threatened access to voting.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a media coalition argued in a lawsuit that the state's new guidelines on conducting exit polls, written after a judge threw out the old rules, are vague and confusing and should be rejected.

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck said Florida's law was unconstitutional and ordered state officials not to enforce it in the Nov. 7 election. He left intact the 100-foot limit for other activities such as distributing campaign material or peddling.

The ruling came on a lawsuit brought by The Associated Press and five television networks that want to conduct exit polls at about 40 Florida polling places next month.

The 2005 law, the judge concluded, violates the First Amendment's free speech and freedom of the press protections. The judge also said the law was too broad.

The AP and five networks - CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox - have jointly conducted exit polls during numerous elections, using the results to project winners in key races, as well as analyze political and social trends.

"It's the result we expected, but we're still thrilled," said Dave Tomlin, AP's associate general counsel.

Florida State Department spokeswoman Jenny Nash said elections officials were pleased that Huck did not strike down the entire law. She said no decision had been made on whether the exit polling aspect would be appealed.

"Order at the polls was really the intent. This decision works out well for everyone," Nash said.

At a hearing last week, news media attorneys argued that the 100-foot limit would interfere with exit polling by making it more difficult to approach voters, harming the poll's accuracy.

Attorneys for the state contended that the law was enacted to encourage voters to go to the polls by making it a pleasant experience. Many voters, they said, feel that they are "running the gauntlet" because of harassment.

Huck, however, agreed with the news media's argument that such polling was not disruptive, noting exit polling was cited in none of about 5,000 recent complaints filed by voters about harassment at the polls.

In Ohio, the same news media coalition asked U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson to spell out exit polling rules for county election boards in his own words and force Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to post them so the plaintiffs can interview voters leaving polling places.

The judge last month had ordered the state to produce a new directive when he struck down Blackwell's 2004 order against exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place. Watson granted a temporary order suspending the 2004 order, allowing exit polling that year.

The lawsuit filed Monday says Blackwell's latest guidelines, issued Oct. 13, begin by stating that loitering and delaying voters are prohibited and only later say that the judge specifically allowed exit polling.

"Given the whole history of the case, how this directive issued on Oct. 13 was written essentially frustrates the entire purpose of the case from the beginning, which was to clear up the matter of whether the exit polling could take place," said attorney Richard Goehler, representing the news organizations.

James Lee, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said language from Watson's ruling is contained word for word in the directive and should be clear to election boards.


From war to White House grilled cheese sandwiches...

From American Progress:

Think Fast

War on West shifts back to Afghanistan: Counterterrorism officials say Iraq is “drawing fewer foreign fighters as Muslim extremists aspiring to battle the West turn their attention back to the symbolically important and increasingly violent turf of Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, the “British military wants to withdraw troops from Iraq within a year, and London wants to focus on the war in Afghanistan,” a Pentagon official told the New York Times.
The College Board reports that the cost of obtaining a four-year university degree continues to outpace inflation. Tuition and fees at four-year public universities rose 6.3 percent from 2005 to 2006. At the same time, the amount of federal financial aid available through Pell Grants declined to a new low.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said yesterday that he “might need to call for an increase in American troop levels in Baghdad” to stem the violence there, and that Iraqi troops would not be able to take over combat operations for 12-18 months.

36: The percentage of Americans who have reduced the amount they save for retirement due to the burden of rising healthcare costs, up from 25 percent in 2004. In 2006, healthcare premiums for employers and their workers climbed two times faster than both wages and inflation.

The Bush administration “is seeking to sharply restrict communication between defense lawyers and inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison.” The administration is seeking approval to control the numbers of lawyer visits, the topics that can be discussed, and the types of information that can be exchanged through the mail.

The last throes of “last throes.” When asked about his infamous quote about the Iraq insurgency, Vice President Cheney told NPR, “I would have expected that the political process we set in motion…would have resulted in a lower level of violence than we’re seeing today. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t say that we’re over the hump in terms of violence, no.”

The inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found “overhead costs have consumed more than half the budget of some reconstruction projects in Iraq,” leaving “far less money than expected to provide the oil, water and electricity needed to improve the lives of Iraqis.” A Halliburton subsidiary spent 55 percent of its budget on overhead on a critical oil project.

And finally: The President will have a grilled-cheese with your finest Kraft singles. Walter Scheib III, the former White House executive chef, has written a book about his time cooking for the first families. Scheib “confesses that the job had become boring to him because President and Mrs. Bush weren’t particularly adventurous eaters.” During his time with Bush, Scheib “made many an enchilada and grilled-cheese sandwich on white bread with Kraft singles for President Bush.”


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

See Ashcroft...Go away!

From San Diego City Beat.com :


Why, John—why?

I really must remember to shave before approaching ultra-conservative former U.S. attorneys general in religious bookstores. It’s likely that my second-day stubble played a role in getting me removed from the Family Christian Store on Sports Arena Boulevard last Thursday night. That’s right—John Ashcroft gave me the boot during his local book-signing appearance. Friends say I should wear it like a badge of honor. I just feel disrespected. Yes, they counter, but I was disrespected by the right kind of person. Maybe so.

It was partly my fault; I hadn’t read the press release carefully. I noted the time and location, assuming, wrongly, that Ashcroft would be discussing his book, Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice, before a gathered throng. Nope. He was just going to sit at a desk and sign books assembly-line style. Reporters interested in talking to Ashcroft were required to sign up in advance, an opportunity seized only by KUSI and the Union-Tribune.

When I arrived, Ashcroft was being interviewed by KUSI behind a large man with folded arms and wearing sunglasses, whose job it was to keep people who look like me away from the former AG. One of Ashcroft’s handlers emerged and asked me what I wanted. I flashed my credentials and said I wouldn’t mind shootin’ a couple questions at the man. She asked me who I was with. “San Diego CityBeat,” I told her. She asked me what sort of paper is that. “Alternative weekly,” I said. “I think we’re going to pass,” she said, smiling smarmily. “But thank you.”

This woman—I didn’t catch her name, so I’ll call her Miss Smarmy Pants—said “thank you” every time I said something to her. I asked her why, and she said she appreciated my interest. Boy, what a crock o’ crap that sentiment turned out to be. Unless she has a really unpleasant way of showing appreciation. In retrospect, I’m pretty certain “Thank you” meant “Please leave.”

Just to spite her, and figuring it was my only chance to get a story, I hung around. I leaned up against a pillar about 10 feet away from where Ashcroft was stationed. My new plan was to listen in to how he interacted with an adoring public. That was a bad plan. He talked about baseball with a few of them, posed for photos and said things like, “What a good deal,” when no deals were proposed. Wholly non-newsworthy.

Ashcroft’s appearance was scheduled for two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m. I’d say about 40 people went through the line by 6:40, but it was a minor trickle after that. When there were no more people with books in hand, Miss Smarmy Pants would push a stack of books his way to sign, with names of recipients written on Post-Its. That’s when I spoke up. I asked if it was a good time to ask a couple of questions. “No,” said Miss Smarmy Pants, “but thank you.”

Ashcroft looked up and asked what sort of questions I had. Thinking the dude might actually be cool enough to overrule his handler, I said I was interested in getting his thoughts on the recent national intelligence estimate that said the war in Iraq is creating more terrorists, and the new book by David Kuo claiming the Bush administration considers evangelical Christians “nuts.” I had other questions, about such things as torture and habeas corpus rights, but those were the two I mentioned. He was dismissive, saying he was out of the loop. He said he hadn’t read the NIE. But he must’ve read news reports about it, I offered. He said he had but then looked away. He didn’t want to talk to me.

A few minutes later, the big guy with the sunglasses approached me and quietly informed me that “management”—Miss Smarmy Pants—wanted me gone. The large man, a locally based federal agent moonlighting for Ashcroft, apologized, saying he didn’t think I was doing anything wrong and telling me that he’s, in fact, a CityBeat reader. I thought for a moment about how to protest without making a scene, but couldn’t come up with anything, and I knew hanging around wasn’t going to do me any good, anyhow. I tried to shoot Miss Smarmy Pants a murderous look, but she wasn’t even brave enough to make eye contact.

My Ashcroft experience was a polar opposite of my encounter with Bill Clinton back in June. That day, looking even more slovenly—I hadn’t expected to actually talk to the man—I approached him with a complex three-part policy question, and he stood there, genuinely engaging me in conversation until I was satisfied.

In a New York Times Magazine interview published on Sunday, Ashcroft closed by saying, “I just hope that in meeting people, they’ll understand that I’m not as bad as they thought I was.”
Meeting him might have been nice. Too bad it requires advance approval. —David Rolland


Rep. John Conyers waits for BushCo...

From In These Times via truthout.org:

George W. Bush v. The US Constitution
By Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)
In These Times
Tuesday 24 October 2006

In July 2005, 122 members of Congress, along with more than 500,000 Americans, sent a letter to President George W. Bush, asking him to verify whether the assertions set forth in the so-called "Downing Street Minutes" were accurate. The president never responded.

That lack of response prompted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, to commission his staff to write a report examining the administration's manipulation and deception during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. When the New York Times reported in December 2005 that President Bush had approved widespread warrantless domestic surveillance of innocent Americans, (later corroborated in May 2006 by USA Today), Conyers asked his staff to document those abuses as well. The final report, "The Constitution In Crisis," released in August with little attention from the mainstream media, is a compelling indictment of the Bush administration.

Academy Chicago Publishers recently published the report as a book, titled George W. Bush versus the U.S. Constitution. Below, In These Times has excerpted the book's foreword by Rep. Conyers, who explains the dangers to the Constitution posed by the Bush administration's assertion of a "unitary executive."

Scandals such as Watergate and Iran-Contra are widely considered to be constitutional crises, in the sense that the executive branch was acting in violation of the law and in tension with the majority party in the Congress. But the system of checks and balances put in place by the Founding Fathers worked, the abuses were investigated, and actions were taken-even if presidential pardons ultimately prevented a full measure of justice.

The situation we find ourselves in today under the administration of George W. Bush is systemically different. The alleged acts of wrongdoing my staff has documented-which include making misleading statements about the decision to go to war; manipulating intelligence; facilitating and countenancing torture; using classified information to out a CIA agent; and violating federal surveillance and privacy laws-are quite serious. However, the current majority party has shown little inclination to engage in basic oversight, let alone question the administration directly. The media, though showing some signs of aggressiveness, is increasingly concentrated and all too often unwilling to risk the enmity or legal challenge from the party in charge. At the same time, unlike previous threats to civil liberties posed by the Civil War (suspension of habeas corpus and eviction of Jews from portions of the Southern States); World War I (anti-immigrant "Palmer Raids"); World War II (internment of Japanese-Americans); and the Vietnam War (COINTELPRO); the risks to our citizens' rights today are potentially more grave, as the war on terror has no specific end point.

Although on occasion the courts are able to serve as a partial check on the unilateral overreaching of the executive branch-as they did in the recent Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision invalidating the president's military tribunal rules-the unfortunate reality remains that we are a long way from being out of the constitutional woods under the dangerous combination of an imperial Bush presidency and a compliant GOP Congress. I say this for several reasons. The Hamdan decision itself was approved by only five justices (three justices dissented, and Chief Justice Roberts recused himself because he had previously ruled in favor of the administration) and was written by 86-year old Justice Stevens. In the event of his retirement in the next two years, the Court's balance would probably be tipped as he would undoubtedly be replaced by another justice in the Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Alito mode, favoring an all-powerful "unitary" executive. In the very first hearing held on the decision, the administration witness testified that "the president is always right," and severely criticized the Court's decision. The Republican majority also appears poised to use the decision to score political points rather than to reassert congressional prerogatives: that House Majority Leader Boehner disingenuously declared the case "offers a clear choice between Capitol Hill Democrats who celebrate offering special privileges to violent terrorists, and Republicans who want the president to have the necessary tools to prosecute and achieve victory in the Global War on Terror."

Thus, notwithstanding the relevance of the Hamdan decision, I believe our Constitution remains in crisis. We cannot count on a single judicial decision to reclaim the rule of law or resurrect the system of checks and balances envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Rather, we need to restore a vigilant Congress, an independent judiciary, a law-abiding president, and a vigorous free press that has served our nation so well throughout our history.

I believe it is essential that we come together as a nation to confront religious extremism and despicable regimes abroad as well as terrorist tactics at home. However, as a veteran, I recognize that we do no service to our brave armed forces by asking them to engage in military conflict under false pretenses and without adequate resources. Nor do we advance the cause of fighting terrorism if our government takes constitutionally dubious short cuts with little law enforcement value, that alienate the very groups in this country whose cooperation is central to fighting this seminal battle.

Many of us remember a time when the powers of our government were horribly abused. Those of us who lived through the Vietnam conflict know the damage that can result when our government misleads its citizens about war. As one who was included on President Nixon's "enemies list," I am all too familiar with the specter of unlawful government intrusion. In the face of these lessons, I believe it is imperative that we never lose our voice of dissent, regardless of political pressure. As Martin Luther King said, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." None of us should be bullied or intimidated when the executive branch charges that those who criticize their actions are "aiding the terrorists" and "giving ammunition to America's enemies," or when the executive warns that "Americans need to watch what they say," as this administration has done.

It is tragic that our nation has invaded another sovereign nation because "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," and that millions of innocent Americans have been subject to government surveillance outside proper legal process. It is unforgivable that Congress has been unwilling to examine these matters or take actions to prevent these circumstances from occurring again. Since the majority party is unwilling to fulfill their oversight responsibilities, it is incumbent on individual members of Congress, as well as the American public, to act to protect our constitutional form of government.

It should be noted that without the assistance of the "blogosphere" and other Internet-based media, it would have been impossible for my staff to assemble all of the information, sources and other materials that they did, and I would like to offer them my heartfelt thanks. Whereas the so-called "mainstream media" have frequently been willing to look past the abuses of the Bush administration, the blogosophere has proven to be a new and important bulwark of our nation's First Amendment freedoms.


Thank you...I'll vote by mail-in ballot....

From Bruce McPherson, California Secretary of State:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the use of paper ballots in the upcoming November 7, 2006 election.

As Secretary of State, I believe that there is no right more fundamental and vital than the right to vote. Democracy depends on it. I would like to clarify a few points so you can have confidence in how elections are conducted in California.

First, all electronic voting machines used in California elections have a paper trail that is used for the voter to verify the vote cast and as the official ballot record. In fact, a 2006 California law, which Is ponsored in the Legislature, permanently requires that all electronic voting machines used in California elections, must have a voter-verified paper audit trail of each ballot cast. Further I have implemented the most rigorous voting systems testing standards and security precautions in the nation to insure the accuracy and integrity of the each vote cast. These include:

1. The toughest voting systems testing standards in the nation(10-step process).

2. Three-tiered testing -- federal, state and local -- with thorough checks and balances.

3. Each machine has a strict set of use procedures to ensure proper implementation including custody logs, proper storing, and serialized security seals.

4. 1% manual recount tally to audit the results to make sure they are accurate.

5. New paper trail requirement that allows a voter to see how they voted and to correct any errors prior to casting their ballot.

6. Systems that allow disabled voters to vote independently and privately statewide for the first time.

In addition, I have directed all county election officials to have an adequate supply of paper ballots, as determined by the election official, available at the voting locations on election day for use in the event of a power failure, temporary loss of the ability to use electronic equipment, or if a voter chooses not to vote on electronic equipment. These ballots may be cast on sample or provisional ballots or other reasonable, available supplies of ballots.

If a voter who is otherwise entitled to cast a regular ballot does so on a paper provisional ballot, that ballot shall be handled as a regular ballot -not as a provisional ballot. This directive has been in effect for each election I have overseen - the 2005 Special Election and for both the 2006 Primary and the upcoming General Election.

Please be assured that I am dedicated to ensuring that all Californians are able to vote and have their vote counted accurately. No voter should ever be turned away or told to come back later because a voting system is not available when the voter appears.

For additional information on voting systems, please visit my web site at


Sincerely,BRUCE McPHERSONSecretary of State


Monday, October 23, 2006

Troops have had enough..."BRING US HOME!!!"

From Information Clearing House:

Active-Duty Troops Launch Campaign to End U.S. Occupation of Iraq:

For the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, active- duty members of the military are asking Members of Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring American soldiers home.



Two writers, Stephen King & TJ Waters, each having a fit!

1st, From Editors & Publishers:

'NYT' Hails Stephen King -- As He Boosts MoveOn.org
By E&P Staff
Published: October 23, 2006 1:45 PM ET

NEW YORK Sometimes -- okay, nearly always -- timing is everything. So it seemed for the liberal political action group MoveOn.org today. Just hours after his latest book got a rare rave in The New York Times, horror novelist Stephen King emailed a big election year pitch for MoveOn. You'd almost think it was a liberal conspiracy.

"If I know anything, I know scary," King emailed. "And giving this president and this out-of-control Congress two more years to screw up our future is downright terrifying. Thankfully, this national nightmare is one we can end with—literally—a wake up call.

"My friends at MoveOn.org Political Action are organizing pre-Halloween phone parties this weekend, Oct. 28th & 29th....And since it's almost Halloween, we'll celebrate with an optional costume contest, some pumpkin carving (I'll be making a Jack-Abramoff-O'-Lantern) and—of course—plenty of candy."

Janet Maslin in the Times called King's new Scribner's book, "Lisey's Story," a "tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey without covering much physical terrain." She considers it "haunting even by Mr. King's standards."

E&P Staff (letters@editorandpublisher.com)
2nd, an email from TJ Waters on "Class 11" media tour:

Well, more bad news, Hannity and Colmes have also cancelled me for today. Perhaps you already noticed I didn't appear on CNN this morning. Happy? Not really!!!

H&C may have a slot later in the week. We'll see. I'm tentatively on Glenn Beck's program on CNN tomorrow. Check his website for local listings:


WFLA wants me down in Tampa. All this way for a booking back home!! In the meantime I'm up here twiddling my thumbs.....



Sunday, October 22, 2006

B.D., Zonker, and the great Trudeau....

[Here an excerpt from an absolutely wonderful article on Garry Trudeau, the marvelous cartoonist who does "Doonesbury". You won't find the likes of this again...]

From the Washington Post:

"As the plane begins its descent to LaGuardia, Trudeau remembers something interesting, something from his teens, when he had a summer job working at Time magazine.

"As I was walking out the building one day on my lunch break, two-thirds of a block away this spectacularly beautiful young woman in a very short miniskirt was walking toward me . . ."

Not sure where this is going, but I'm taking notes as fast as I can.

"She was in her early twenties. I was 16 and looked all of 12. You could feel it in the air, her coming at you. Her presence was destabilizing the street for a one-block radius. Guys were gawking, cars were slowing. This woman was a menace. She was walking in a confident way, with a swing to her hips.

I was geeky and shy, too shy to make eye contact. I wouldn't even have known what to DO with eye contact. My discomfort must have been obvious because, as she passes me, she leans over, her breath is warm, and she softly . . . growls in my ear."


[Note: to continue reading click link above]