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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Transcript of Bush's address regarding Iraqi election:

Iraqi poll on democracy? Read on:
Associated Press Report

More money mismanagement? Where does it all go? Read this:
AP Report

Here are some of the better reports on today's Iraqi elections:
Associated Press Report
CNN Report
AP Report #2

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bribing? Propaganda? You be the judge.

It was discovered that a third columnist was paid to promote a Bush Administration policy. One time, a mistake? Second time?? THIRD time??? Federal law bans public use of money for propaganda. Is the White House above tha law? Making a mistake once is forgivable. Twice is plain stupid. Third is no longer a mistake, it is planned. Could the policies be so flawed that they need monetary assistance to be promoted? Read this and tell me what you think: Associated Press Report.

The Social Security wars have started (update on Social Security article): Associated Press report.

It ain't as easy as it looks is it? Maybe too right wing for the right? Read this: Washington Post report

Friday, January 28, 2005

This is one of the funniest things I've read in a while. Very Seinfeld like:Master of his Domain

How is our credibility?

Yesterday, after watching TV news reports comment over and over again about Dr. Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State, I started to think about it myself. It is a remarkable feat she has accomplished and she deserves all the credit. She definitely had many obstacles in front of her and it is a testament to her determination and courage how far she has come. All praise aside, I could not help but notice the incredible amount of resistance that she faced in the senate. The final vote was 85-13 on the floor, but the grilling she got has not been seen for over a hundred years. I think she has undermined the credibility of the Bush Administration and more importantly, of the United States. This issue has been very publicized internationally, and it peaks my curiosity to see how foreign leaders will see Dr. Rice. Will they trust her? Believe her? Her record does not help her, and she will be the chief diplomat of the government. I wonder how wise it is to have someone who's credibility is somewhat tarnished running in the highest diplomatic circles? We will soon find out.

Another helicopter crash in Iraq: AP Report.

At last employers want non-smokers: L.A. Times Report.

FCC and White House will not appeal court ruling on media ownership (update on Michael Powell article): Associated Press Report.

This is a particularly interesting interview with a soldier from Iraq by Russ Bynum of the AP.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Does the White House know what it says? Or what it means?

Last week in his inaugural speech, the President gave a very ideological and bold address about wanting to spread democracy and freedom around the world, and putting an end to tyranny. It sounds great on paper. Ever since, the White House, an ex-president and several others have scrambled to scale back a message that was quite clear when it was spoken. They have collectively spoken to the press assuring the nation that the address was not a policy shift, that they are reading too much into the statement. That might be true, the media always blows things out of proportion because it brings higher ratings. They are ratings whores, nothing new. If the White House knows this, what is it thinking when it approves a speech that reads like the inaugural did. The address is so agressively written, and let's face it, Bush likes tough-talk and is very good at giving it, that there is little room to wiggle another meaning for the message. Yesterday, after several days of damage control, Bush dropped another bomb. He reiterated his pledge to advance liberty worldwide and wipe tyranny from the globe, though he scaled back expectations. The inaugural speech was not a dramatic policy shift, but "it sets a bold new goal for the future" that will require "the commitment of generations," Bush said. If the Administration does not want people to think this is a policy shift, DON'T TALK LIKE IT IS.

Bush's stirring speech has raised concerns about what the intentions are during his second term. Does this new goal affect current relationships with countries that are not democracies? Saudi Arabia is an important ally in the war against terror, but hardly a democracy. It is also the source of 20% of our nations oil. What about Pakistan? Without their cooperation the current wars would be more difficult then they already are. And Russia? President Putin has recently taken a sharp turn away from democracy. China? A communist country with over 1 billion people? A military nightmare.

"My inaugural address reflected the policies of the last four years," Bush said. When asked if the speech reflected a policy shift, he responded: "No. As I said, it reflects the policy of the past, but it sets a bold new goal for the future. And I believe this country is best when it heads toward an ideal world."

This marks a change in the Administartion's approach to foreign policy in the second term. During the first term,
Condoleezza Rice wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine defining Bush's foreign policy as concentrated on security issues, free-trade pacts and confronting rogue states, not democracy-building around the world. The nation has gone through a lot, with the September 11th terrorist strikes, two wars, one of them very controversial, and an economic recession among other things. A reevaluation of foreign policy was due. The question is, is this the right approach? That will remain unanswered for some time.

As of right now, Bush's goal seems almost fantasy. The resources needed to advance them is spread very thin. Diplomatic capital is not the best right now and the country lacks credibility around the world. If military action were needed, which I think is a good possibility, there are not enough troops to sustain an invasion even in the smallest countries. Military recruitment goals are not being met. Financial support for another invasion would also be hard to come by without sinking the country deeper into debt. And the most important point: we are not close to being done in Iraq. A troop presence of 150,000 or more is expected for the next two years at least. The total cost is unknown, but it is approximately $1 billion a week. To move to achieve the Administrations 2nd term goals would require establishing democracy in Iraq soon (not likely) so we can pull troops out to deploy elsewhere, or exiting Iraq earlier without success and then troops can then be sent elsewhere. The latter would automatically make any attempt to spread democracy in similar fashion futile. How can the Administration possibly try elsewhere if they failed in Iraq. The American public would not take it. Only time will tell what will be the outcome.

President Bush's ideals are well-intended, but ill thought out. It would be nice to live in a world without tyranny and oppression, with freedom for all. The idea misses one important point, it is not realistic. That is why idealism and realism clash, and why idealism is sometimes viewed as a joke. It is just that, an idea. Humanity is a sea of variety, with many flavors. There are too many differences between cultures, little effort to understand each other, and very different views for what defines a Utopic world. What we consider ideal can be drastically different from, say, what Muslims consider ideal. I think we are fortunate to live in this country that affords us many freedoms, but our freedoms might not be freedoms to others. Our society is plastered with greed, sex, and violence, all wrapped up in a nice little package called capitalism. I like it that way, although at times it can get ugly. Maybe, just maybe, those are not the things other cultures value. So, the first obstacle in spreading our ideals is getting other people to see the world the way we do, a difficult task. As they say, old habits die hard.

It is unfortunate that a lot of these cultural differences sow their seeds in religion. Our culture is a little over 200 years old and look how ingrained it is in us. What about a culture that has been around for thousands of years? How used to their way of life are they? Add to that the element of religion and it creates a devout faith in the beliefs of the culture. Religion is so poweful that it undermines everything else. Beliefs are so different from culture to culture, that asking one to accept the others' ideals would be like asking you to change your way of life. How many people do you know would do that? A very hard sell.

For more information got to:
USA Today Report
Wahington Post Report

Victims of Nazi Deathcamp Remembered

World leaders and Holocaust survivors have united today in Poland to commemorate the 60th anniversary of liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. The day began with a ceremony at the site of the main death factory at Birkenau where a whistle was blown to signal an imaginary train arriving in the track covered by candles. Back during WWII Jewish prisioners and exiles were sent to their deaths via the same track.

Among the World leaders in attendance were, U.S. Vice-President Cheney, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, German President Horst Kohler, Britain's Prince Edward, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Belgium's King Albert.

Vatican representatives read a message from Pope John Paul II.

During Putin's speech, he addressed the rising anti-semitism in his home country, an issue that has been ignored in the past. "Even in our country, in Russia, which did more than any to combat fascism, for the victory of fascism, which did most to save the Jewish people, even in our country we sometimes unfortunately see manifestations of this problem and I, too, am ashamed of that," Putin said to long applause.

French President Chirac said the EU would stand united to combat anti-semitism. Chirac is also the country's first leader to acknowledge France's complicity in the Holocaust.

<>Vice-President Cheney also spoke. He said the Holocaust did not happen in some far-off place but "in the heart of the civilized world." "The story of the camps shows that evil is real and must be called by its name and must be confronted." "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."

Camps survivors and Soviet liberators were also at hand and spoke to the horrors they witnessed 60 years ago.

Auschwitz was the deadliest of all Nazi concentration camps. It is estimated that 1.5 million people died there as a result of gas chambers, disease, starvation, abuse or exhaustion. It was also the camp where Nazi doctors decided which prisioners would be sent to labor and which would be killed immediately. Auschwitz was set up by Adolf Hitler to carry out his "final solution," the murder of Europe's Jewish population. Over six million Jews died during the holocaust, along with several million others.

It is difficult to believe that something like this could have happened. But it is even more astounding that you have people out there who believe that the Holocaust never occurred. There are folks, most of them young, who have a completely insensitive nature, or in Prince Harry's case, ignorance to the significance of these events. We must never forget what happened sixty years ago, and we must always ensure that it never happens again. Extremism is always afoot and it has to be stepped on, the voices that carry it silenced. We must teach our children to pay proper respect to the most murderous rampage in Human history, to learn the lessons from it, because somewhere along the way another attempt to create something similar will surface. Maybe it is already happening.

Other interesting reports are:
Associated Press

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Is there a limit to our spending?

The federal deficit projection for this year is an estimated $368 billion. This does not include $80 billion that the White House plans to request from Congress to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush is not expected to make the request until the 2006 federal budget is presented on February 7. A more accurate number is $427 billion said a White House official, on the condition of anonymity. Another record deficit surpassing last year's record $412 billion. Because the economy is better this year, the $427 billion is not necessarily more alarming than the $412 billion was last year. Remember that deficits are usually measured against the size of the current economy. Still, it shows a trend toward a increasing debt. Bush's goal of cutting the debt in half by 2009 seems at this, well, a fantasy of fantasies (although the White House would never admit it). Among the costs that have not been included in future budget projections are:

1) The increasing cost of the wars, which they say is impossible to calculate (meaning a lot). Iraq, according to Paul Wolfowitz, was going to be a self-sustained war paid by oil profits. Today, the cost stands at $300 billion and counting. Ironically, former presidential economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, who was reprimanded when he suggested that the Iraq war would exceed $200 billion, was at the White House yesterday when the story about the extra $80 billion broke. I wonder if he said: "I told you so."

2) The cost of possibly implementing the President's Social Security Plan, which could cost between $1- $2 trillion dollars.

3) The cost of extending Bush' Tax cuts and keepeing the alternative minimum tax from affecting the middle class, which would exceed $2.3 trillion. Including ineterst on debt, it could surpass $2.9 trillion.

You do the math. If you can make those figures work for you, YOU should be running this country.

There is one important point to make:
We are in a Republican dominated era, both Congress and the White House, most governorships, a so forth. This fiscal irresponsibilty is one thing that is their doing (one of the few things Democrat haven't blundered). The party of fiscal responsibility is showing tremendous immaturity, there is disagreement in its ranks, and the country is headed in a dangerous path. If this unrestrained spending is not curbed, our children will be the ones to pay the price for our sins.

For more information go to:
CNN Reports
White House AP Report

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What is the problem with Social Security?

At the top of the Bush Administration’s agenda is an ambitious proposal to reform Social Security. It is the type of undertaking that has consistently scared politicians in both parties for decades. It is the type of issue that threatens to divide parties internally and makes politicians scramble in search for a safe place to hide. It is such a big proposal, that it could reshape more than one government program. So, if it is such an explosive issue, why is the President so aggressively pursuing reform? The President deserves credit for having the courage to tackle this issue when no one else has dared. That being said, let’s explore how feasible this plan is.

What is wrong with Social Security? The President has said that if something is not done “it will go flat bust, bankrupt” by the time that workers in their twenties reach retirement age. In his weekly radio address on January 15, he talked about the issue in an attempt to build support for his plan. “If we do not act now, the government will be left with two choices: dramatically reduce benefits or impose a massive economically ruinous tax increase,” he said. Last week, he also sent out Vice-president Cheney and Treasury Secretary John Snow to promote the proposal. Outside groups have been contacted to enlist their support and promote the plan. Yet the formal unveiling of the plan is not expected until the State of the Union Address in little more than a week. But, what does he mean when he says flat bust? Well, this is a complete distortion of the facts. Yes, Social Security has a problem, but the President has mislabeled it a “crisis” to make the situation more imminent. The problem the system faces is that in 2018, it will begin to pay out more money than it takes in. Because currently the system takes in more than it pays out, it is running a surplus that will be able to cover the additional money needed after 2018. Conservative estimates have this surplus running out in 2042, at which time Social Security will only be able to pay about 73% of benefits. It is not going to go “flat bust” as the President suggests, but he is right in taking the initiative to fix the system now before it becomes more difficult. The wave of retiring Baby Boomers in the next decade will tip the scales in Social Security. In 1955 there were 8.6 workers per beneficiary, today there are 3.3, and in 2040 there will be about 2 workers. Social Security has had similar challenges in the past. In the early 1980s it came within days of insolvency. Back then Congress fixed it by raising taxes, but it was only a temporary solution. Now we have another situation brewing and I would expect Congress to find a more permanent solution this time around.

The general idea of the President’s plan is to take a portion of workers’ payroll taxes which are paid into Social Security, and put it in savings accounts that workers can decide how to invest. There will be a government safety net in place to curb reckless investing. By investing in personal accounts, the individuals could possibly gain higher returns on their money than they would if it were paid into the system. This proposal seems reasonable, after all, we want to get as high a return on the investment as possible, and private accounts offer higher return rates. But there are two fundamental drawbacks to this plan:

-Social Security is a program that uses money that is currently paid into it to pay the
benefits due every month. If a portion of that money is taken away for savings accounts,
were will the difference come from?

This plan still does not address the insolvency issue that faces the program in 2018.

The White House has admitted as much. Other issues with this that do no get much air time are the fact that the government would most likely have to borrow the funds to cover retirees' benefits fully (as much as 2 trillion dollars by some estimates), cut benefits, or a combination of both. The White House has said that the President is leaning toward a significant reduction of benefits in the future, increasing more with time. There is also the issue of transition costs. The following is a list of pros and cons associated with the President’s plan:


- There is the possibility of a better
return on your money.
- It will encourage savings.
- It would eliminate the possibility
of higher payroll taxes.
- It would give individuals control
over their own money.


- The cost of making the changes
could be as high as $2 trillion,
with an already ballooning deficit.
- Private accounts do not solve the
real problem of insolvency.
- As in any investment there is the
risk of making a bad investment,
a low return, or losing your money.
- There could be less saving in other
- It could possibly shift the cost to
future generations.

Of course, we will not know the entire plan until it is revealed, but it is safe to say that these are the most important issues regarding this proposal.

The President’s proposal is attractive to a majority of the younger population, most of who believe the system will not be able to cover them. Among the regular population the plan has met with sharp disapproval before being fully unveiled. A CNN poll showed a disapproval rating of 49% and an approval of 40%. All in all, it will be a difficult sell for the White House and the stage is set for a showdown. The program that is really in crisis is Medicare, not Social Security. Let’s see if President Bush tackles this issue with as much fervor.

I have read conspiracy theories about Bush’s reason for taking on Social Security reform. among them:

-It would create more Republicans by making people think in terms of investments and take
their cues from the stock markets (New York Times reporter David Brooks).

-That privatization will send huge stacks of money to Wall Street Brokerage firms, most of
which are Republican.

Personally, I do not believe in any of those. I do not think Wall Street would particularly chase around accounts of a few thousand dollars, even if there are many. What I do think is that Social Security reform is the type of issue that could make a legacy, or destroy it. It is so grand in scope that it would define an entire political party and a President, much like it did for FDR in his landmark New Deal. Bush wants to leave his mark in American history, and with re-election no longer an option, what does he have to lose? Iraq is looking bleaker everyday, so is it possible that he might be looking to have a cushion with a successful Social Security Reform? On the other hand, what happens if it fails? And if Iraq fails too? OUCH!!!

For more information see:
"Is There Really a Crisis?", Time Magazine, January 24, 2005 issue.
"Unsocial Insecurity", The New Yorker, January 24 & 31, 2005 issue.

or go to:
Associated Press report

Monday, January 24, 2005

Today's Update

Here are some of the things hitting the news today:

- Several senators and congressmen have called for an investigation of the Pentagon's new intelligence branch, and members of the armed services committee have stated that an investigation will be opened into this matter. I think Congress got a little upset, more than anything, at the fact that they were kept out of the loop. How dare they? The Pentagon has denied some of the more severe allegations and has said that they were never hiding anything from Congress. I say, if that is so, why did it take two years for Congress to find out about it? And lastly, accountability, like I mentioned in my post yesterday, this is the main thing to be concerned about and I am glad to see that members of Congress agree. More importantly, that they are going to do something about it.

- Social Security, as everyone knows is atop the Bush Agenda, and it is being slowly promoted before it is introduced full force in the next State of the Union Address. There has been a lot of talk about the plan, is it good or bad, what else can be done, etc. Bush has presented it as a "crisis". We know what happened last time something was a "crisis", we invaded Iraq. Tomorrow I will post an in-depth article talking abut the Social Security issue, with the proposals and good exploration of the issue itself.

- Last, it saddens me to say that Johnny Carson, America's premier late night entertainer and host of the Tonight Show for 30 years, died yesterday at the age of 79 from complications due to emphysema. It is a deep loss for those who have seen him in our living rooms, whether growing up, or watching reruns. A man of deep humility and decency, everyone should take a look at how to live an exemplary life out of Mr. Carson's book. He will be deeply missed, but never forgotten. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Who's Next? Iran?

Is the Pentagon the new CIA?

A scathing article was printed in the January 24th/31st, 2005 issue of The New Yorker. The title is "The Coming Wars" and in it writer Seymour M. Hersh makes some very serious allegations regarding the Pentagon and its "new" powers. They have illicited a rare reaction from the Pentagon: a response. Known for not being very chatty with the press, indeed the Pentagon has come out full force with a PR campaign to discredit the article and its writer. They say that it is full of inaccuracies and speculation. The Pentagon's unusual response to this article raises the question: is the article so fabricated that they felt compelled to respond to it, or does it strike a nerve in the heart of the matter, so much so that they feel they have to do some damage control? These are questions that will hardly be answered soon, but let's entertain the notion brought forth in the article.

The idea in "The Coming Wars" is that the Bush Administration has consolidated the military and intelligence communities to an extent unseen since WWII's post-war national security state. The CIA is slowly but surely being downgraded to a "policy facilitator" role, while the Pentagon's powers are being expanded. Secretary Rumsfeld and his group believe the election has given them the necessary support to put forth their policies. Rumsfeld has been the architect of the Iraq War from the beginning and has absorbed most of the criticism for its mistakes, from the lack of supplies and armor, to the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal. Although he is not widely admired in the military, and lawmakers from both parties have called for his resignation, his reappointment was never doubted. His role in the second term is even more important. The global war on terrorism (GWOT) will expand and be placed under Pentagon control. The article also says that the President signed a number of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando units and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets around the Middle East. This should come as no surprise. As most people know, covert intelligence operations and reconnaissance missions have been part of the CIA's duties in the process of gathering intelligence.

What has changed in this covert ops scenario, according to Hersh, is that now the operations overseas can be run off the books. The CIA, since the 1970s, is under legal obligation to obtain authorization from a Presidential finding, and it must also report the operation to Senate and House intelligence committees. The President's decision turns the operations to the Pentagon, where the interpretation of the law changes. As military operations, though the goals are the same, the covert ops. are "not intelligence actions under the statute, but necessary military steps authorized by the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to 'prepare the battlefield,'" and therefore not subject to the same regulations as intelligence operations. Sounds a lot like a legal technicality. Pentagon officials maintain that they will remain accountable to Congress, but they also said that intelligence missions from the Pentagon are subject to fewer constraints than Rumsfeld's predecesors believed. This is a new interpretation of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs the armed services, and Title 50, which covers foreign intelligence along with others.
Under Title 10, all "deployment orders
or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position U.S. forces for combat" must be reported to Congress. Guidelines issued this month by Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone effectively discard the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat by defining the "war on terror" as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. Under the new interpretation, special operation forces can "conduct clandestine HUMINT (human intellgence) operations . . . before publication" of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary.

Title 50 states that executive branch departments must keep Congress informed and up to date on all intelligence activities. Exemptions are provided for "traditional...military activities" and their "routine support." Rumsfeld, conveniently so, interprets "traditional" and "routine" more broadly than his predecessors.

The previously unknown unit running these operations has been dubbed the "Strategic Support Branch" and is believed to have been in play for approximately two years. It is designed to operate without detection and is under the Rumsfeld's direct control. The Strategic Support Branch Consists of small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces. Something I thought was peculiar was a recent Pentagon memo that states that recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed. Tampa-based U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, and the Joint Special Operations Command are the main components Rumsfeld is using. He has designated SOCOM's leader, Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, as military commander in chief in the war on terrorism. Brown's subordinates have also been given authority to pay foreign agents. The Strategic Support Branch looks to provide the military's larger special operations squadrons with missing capabilities such as skills in establishing local spy networks and technology for direct access to national intelligence databases. Some Pentagon officials call the combined units the "secret army of Northern Virginia." These "special mission units" include two squadrons of the popular Army Delta Force, another Army squadron formerly code-named Gray Fox specializing in close-in electronic surveillance, an Air Force human intelligence unit and the Navy unit known as SEAL Team Six. They are not publicly acknowledged.

The reason for the creation of the branch is blamed on the lack of "humint" from the Middle East. Iran has successfully hidden information about their nuclear program and its progress. It is generally estimated by Western Intelligence agencies that they are 3 to 5 years away from the ability to produce nuclear warheads, that is if they do not obtain outside help. Agencies do not know who could be that outside help, if there at all.

The White House has not flat-out denied that there have been secret operations in Iran in the past months. Most of the focus has been on acquiring intelligence pertaining to nuclear weapons, chemical and missile sites. The Bush Administration is taking measures to avoid another WMD fiasco, which could be a fatal blow to the its plans.

Finally, the issue at stake here is not the gathering of intelligence. I think we can all agree that it is an essential part of protecting this country. If we would have had better intelligence in 2001, maybe September 11th could have been avoided (I said MAYBE), or the CIA would have given a more accurate assessment of Iraq. We understand this. But to give someone such a broad scope of powers without any kind of oversight and accountability is outright dangerous. They can do anything they want without having to justify it. We have had this type of clandestine operation before, in the 1980s, it was called Intelligence Support Activity, or I.S.A.. Similarly, it was kept secret from many members of the Pentagon and Congress. By the mid-80s, several of its senior officers had been court-martialled after a series of scandals, some involving illegal arms deals. The whole deal was known as "Yellow Fruit" and it laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal. We have seen, in history itself, how these secret ops can backfire and it amazes me that we do not seem to learn from the past. How long will it take for something similar, maybe even bigger to brew?

For more information:
"The Coming Wars" by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, January 24 & 31, 2005 issue.
Washington Post report

Friday, January 21, 2005

FCC Chairman Michael Powell Posted by Hello

FCC Chairman leaving post

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell, has submitted his resignation effective in March. He has served in the FCC since 1998 and was promoted to chairman in early 2001 after the Bush administration came into power. Powell is best known for leading the FCC to increase fines for obscenity and indecent content, going full steam after last year's Janet Jackson Superbowl fiasco. The FCC received more than 1 million indecency complaints in 2004, most of them involving Jackson. CBS is contesting a proposed FCC fine of $550,000 for the superbowl incident. He also supported a change in media ownership rules that allowed for greater consolidation by the industry's largest conglomerates (CNN/Money Report). The FCC approved changes in 2003 allowing individual companies to own TV stations reaching almost half the nation's viewers and combinations of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same areas. He was the main force behind the "do-not-call-list" to block phone solicitors, changing the rules to allow cell phone users to keep the same number when switching carriers, and increased availability of wireless internet connections in homes and offices.

"During my tenure, we worked to get the law right in order to stimulate innovative technology that puts more power in the hands of the American people, giving them greater choices that enrich their lives. Evidence of our success can be seen increasingly in the offices, the automobiles and the living rooms of the American consumer. The seeds of our policies are taking firm root in the marketplace and are starting to blossom," said Powell in a statement released.

"Chairman Powell has been a valued member of the administration," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said. "He has shown a strong commitment to expand the reach of new communications technologies and services and has helped advance the president's goal that all Americans should have access to affordable broadband by 2007."

Most recently Powell was involved in a public feud with "shock-jock" Howard Stern, where Stern called in during Powell's interview on KGO-AM radio in San Francisco. In the heated exchange, Stern accused Powell of using the FCC to stifle free speech on radio and TV. He also suggested that Powell got the job because of his family name. Powell answered, "I think it's a cheap shot to say just because my father is famous, I don't belong in my position." He added "I don't think that, you know, we have made any particular crusade of the Howard Stern show or you."

Powell's media ownership changes, made possible by a Republican-dominated FCC, have drawn criticism from lawmakers in both parties and a broad range of groups that say the FCC regulations have given large media companies too much control over what people see, hear and read. Congress and the courts are considering several efforts to modify or repeal the rules. Sen. Charles Schumer , D-N.Y., said Powell "instinctively sided with industry,".

Before joining the FCC, Powell was chief of staff at the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, and policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney when Cheney was Secretary of Defense during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

I would like to point out that while the FCC has been cracking down on "indecent content" severely, to the point that networks are alarmed about airing anything, they do allow the airing of Viagra and Cyalis commercials which talk very publicly about erectile dysfunction, and are very sexually suggestive. Talk about a double standard. In fact, minutes after the Janet Jackson incident, one of these commercials aired. Only the "wardrobe malfunction" drew attention from the FCC, and a fine. The only commercial of this type to be taken off the air is a Viagra commercial featuring a man with horns sticking out and and a voiceover talking about his old self never wanting to leave his room during the honeymoon. How suggestive is that? It was taken off, not because of content, but because the drug claimed to have benefits that have not been proven. Needless to say that Pfizer, the drug company that produces Viagra, is one of the most powerful companies on the country and a heavy duty Washington player.

No word yet as to who will replace Powell.

For more information got to:
Associated Press Report
CNN/Money Report

Thursday, January 20, 2005

President Bush at today's inaugural ceremony. Posted by Hello

Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales Posted by Hello

Democrats Delay Alberto Gonzales vote

The current nomination process for Attorney Genereal nominee Alberto Gonzalez has been delayed by the senate comittee. Led by prominent Massachussetts democrat Ted Kennedy, democrats have stayed the vote until next week. Although Mr. Gonzales is widely expected to be approved, the tactic will allow some questions to be asked regarding Mr. Gonzales' role in the so-called "torture memos" written in 2002, which are widely believed to have led to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He has previously been evasive in answering questions regarding the issue.
Since Mr. Gonzales would become the top judicial watchdog, I think a healthy debate on the torture issue is a good idea. It is important for the United States to be viewed as a protector of civil rights. Because of the torture scandal, the U.S. is viewed as a hypocritical nation that will support international law when it wants to, and violate it when it is not convenient. The Geneva Conventions rules were established not only for the prisioners themseleves, but for the protection of the soldiers should they be captured during battle. Senator Joe Biden (D- Delaware) stated as such last year when either Paul Wolfowitz or Donald Rumsfeld was up for questioning, I believe it was Wolfowitz. The idea that the Geneva Conventions are obsolete is a ridiculous and arrogant thing to believe. We must follow these rules, not for the protection of prisioners (some of which deserve to be tortured in my opinion), but for the protection of our own troops if they are captured. I would hate to see pictures of american soldiers, treated like dogs and made to form human pyramids naked while pictures are being taken. I imagine you would not like it either.
Before Mr. Gonzales is approved I think everyone should press to have these questions answered, and receive assurances that actions such as these never happen again.

U.S. National - AFP Report

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Iraqi Elections... truth or fiction?

We are nearing the January 30th date for the historic Iraqi Elections. The Bush Administration has done everything possible to promote the upcoming elections as a historic moment in Iraq, and a stepping stone to democracy in the Middle East. The effort, while noble, will mostly likely fall short of what their, and I emphasize their, expectations initially were. As reported by Reuters (CNN/Reuters report) today, the Administration has launched a campaign to lower expectations for a successful Iraqi vote. This also coming from the Administration that changed the tune from WMDs to democracy in the Middle East when their plans did not pan out. This time changing the tune might not be as easy, with the official search for WMD cancelled last week and now the warning that the elections might not be as successful as they had hoped for. Democracy being the central issue in this Administration’s Middle East policy, the possibility of an unsuccessful transition creates large roadblocks for its peace roadmap.

It is good that the Bush Administration is admitting, if indirectly through their actions, that clean elections are a tough sell in a war ravaged area. Critics of the election effort have long warned that the probability of having true elections is very low, now it seems that the Administration has decided to do a little damage control before things get out of hand.

Another issue is the unwillingness of the President to postpone the vote. At the current security levels, an estimated 20% - 30% of the Sunni minority is expected to boycott the elections. It is difficult to justify forcing the vote when even the White House is calling the vote “less than perfect”. If election officials are going to monitor the process in Iraq from Jordan, that should give a sense of how dire the situation on the ground is. It would make more sense to postpone the elections until there is better protection and the situation has improved (although how much can we reasonably expect the violence to subside?). What good is it to have a vote that might eventually be viewed as illegitimate? Just because there is going to be a vote does not necessarily make it a democracy. A large portion of the population is not planning to vote because, either, they see this as a farce, or they do not feel the security is sufficient. Some would say that if they do not vote then they should not complain if they have no representation. Wrong, these people do care. The question is: Do they care about the way we are going about this process? Ask yourself this:

1) How would you feel if someone tried to impose something on you?

2) How about something that has never been done in your society’s history?

And finally, there is a great deal of danger involved in your participation. Not very reassuring is it? Maybe we ought to stop for a minute rethink what the priorities are, and whether they are ours, or theirs. We are heavily invested in this cause, financially and physically. It would be best if this turned out right the first time .Just a thought.

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