Saturday, August 11, 2007

Spread This Like Wild Fire

U.S. Life Span Shorter

The U.S. Health care system is the best in the world or at least thats what they keep telling us. We spend the most per person so of course we must have the best results, right?

We do have the best results unless you count how long we actually live then there are 41 countries that have longer life expectancies. As long as you don't want to live a long life then the U.S. health care system is just great. Still think our system is the envy of the world?

Bush War Adviser Says Draft Worth a Look

Well what do you know the Bush administration is talking about bringing back the draft.
Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

``I think it makes sense to certainly consider it,'' Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's ``All Things Considered.''

``And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another,'' Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Restoring it, Lute said, would be a ``major policy shift'' and Bush has made it clear that he doesn't think it's necessary.

The repeated deployments affect not only the troops but their families, who can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military, Lute said.

``There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living room conversations within these families,'' he said. ``And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions.''

The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System, re-established in 1980, maintains a registry of 18-year-old men.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has called for reinstating the draft as a way to end the Iraq war.

Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington. Lute, an active-duty general, was chosen after several retired generals turned down the job.
I say lets do it but there can be no college deferrals, no marriage deferrals or any other excuses to avoid service.

The first to be drafted should be the Young Republicans who are so supportive of this war yet seem to have so little time to fight it. Next should come the sons of Mitt Romney who also support the war but who Mitt says are doing their patriotic duty by trying to get him elected. At least that is what he says now but we all know multiple choice Mitt will have something new to say when he figures out which way the wind is blowing.

If they do reinstate the draft will they change the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy or will gays finally be allowed to die in a worthless war like everyone else?

Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute didn't just make this statement without thinking. They are laying the groundwork for a return to the draft because they have destroyed our military. If you still feel safer after this disastrous war and the destruction of our military then you are truly living in a fool's paradise and nothing I could say or anyone else could say would change your very warped thinking.

All people who support this war and are under 42 years old should join to help us avoid the draft. Don't worry either if you have been convicted of a crime, that is no longer a reason to disallow your service. With the ever expanding age limit you may soon be able to retire from your present job and join the military. I have a feeling they are already designing the logos for the "Grandpa Brigades".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cheney Urging Strikes On Iran

Ok lets examine this headline more closely. Cheney wants to bomb Iran but doesn't have the same desires for Saudi Arabia who funds the Sunni insurgents within Iraq. I think it is time to realize that this administration is filled with a bunch of war mongering lunatics who are getting richer and richer with each dropped bomb.
President Bush charged Thursday that Iran continues to arm and train insurgents who are killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and he threatened action if that continues.

At a news conference Thursday, Bush said Iran had been warned of unspecified consequences if it continued its alleged support for anti-American forces in Iraq. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had conveyed the warning in meetings with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad, the president said.
Again where is any discussion of attacking Saudi Arabia which also was the country of 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. The same Saudi Arabia that is a dictatorial regime that oppresses its people daily. That talk will never come since the Bush family and the House of Saud that runs Saudi Arabia are as thick as thieves. Iran, that is another case.

Lets look at our history in Iran. It was the CIA that helped topple Mossadegh when he nationalized the Iranian oil industry. It was the United States that propped up the dictatorship of the Shah and it was that support of the Shah that led to the Islamic Revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. We have only ourselves to blame for the current problems with Iran. Did we learn anything from our mistakes? Apparently not if we are going to repeat history yet again.

A war with Iran would be devasting to our economy, would inflame the Muslim world even further but I am sure would enrich Mr. Cheney through no bid contracts for Halliburton. Mr. Bush is a mental midget who is easily manipulated by Dick Cheney. I do not hold out much hope of avoiding a war with Iran unless we begin impeachment proceedings aginst this criminal administration. 2008 may be too late.

Mortgage Meltdown Contagion

Anyone who has read this site from its inception knows that I have been saying that the housing market turmoil would be felt throughout the economy. Now economists are beginning to see it my way.
The outlook for the housing market looks even bleaker than it did a week ago. Last Friday we reported that foreclosures were skyrocketing, home prices falling and recovery forecasts were being scaled back.

And now this week, the mortgage meltdown spread to the financial markets with ebola-like speed, sparking fears that tighter credit will have a broader impact on consumers, markets and the economy.

The U.S. government continues to downplay the risk of the meltdown spreading. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said the effects are largely contained.
This is what happens when only those on upper income levels decide what will happen for the rest of us. I am not an economist but could see the writing on the wall. These people live in a fantasy world where money is never an issue. That is not the reality for the majority of the American population. How could anyone really believe that a housing market in free fall and a mortgage industry crumbling before our eyes would not have an effect on the broader economy?
When the Federal Reserve met this week, the central bank said that inflation is the greatest threat to the economy, not the mortgage crisis.

And in late July, William Poole, the president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve branch, said, "Unless the pressure becomes much more severe, the problems would not impact consumer spending or credit quality more generally."

Yet, Countrywide Financial, the nation's largest mortgage lender by volume, reported Thursday that "unprecedented disruptions" in the mortgage market were forcing it to cut way back on the number of loans it was securitizing and selling in the secondary markets.
If I could see the writing on the wall and I am just a lowly blogger with a financial service background why didn't the experts see this coming?

I have said this before but we are looking at the start of a perfect storm economically that will sweep the Democrats into power in 2008 in both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency. Unfortunately the pain that will be felt by the lower and middle classes will be widespread. As usual the wealthy will weather the storm just fine.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Democratic Candidates Gay Forum Blogging

Tonight was the first forum dedicated to Gay and Lesbian issues. It was broadcast live over the LOGO network, which is a Gay themed network under the MTV umbrella. LOGO offered the same forum to the Republican candidates but all declined. If you are Gay and can still support the Republican Party after that snub to your community then you are either self loathing or just plain stupid.

If the race could be judged on just Gay issues then it would be a clear win for Dennis Kucinich,who is light years ahead of the other candidates on the issue of equal rights for the GLBT community and not far behind was former Senator Mike Gravel. The thing to remember for both of those candidates is that there is almost no chance of either being the nominee so truly speaking your beliefs becomes very easy.

Gov. Richardson was clearly the loser tonight as he stammered through what should have been easy questions on equality. He has a very good public record on GLBT issues but it was not evident by his seemingly uncomfortable feeling being at the forum.

John Edwards sounded too political and not as genuine as I would have liked to hear him. I believe a lot of his support within the Gay community could be traced to his wife Elizabeth who is an outspoken proponent of equal rights. He did not harm his standing amongst the gay community this evening but he did nothing to further it either. I must also say that I have supported Senator Edwards Presidential campaign with a small donation but I have not made up my mind as to whom I will support in the primary.

Barack Obama was very impressive and seemed extremely genuine in his belief of equal rights. He is not in favor of gay marriage but is in favor of civil unions with the same rights as marriage as are Edwards, Clinton and Richardson. Only Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel support marriage equality but as I stated above that is an easy position to take when you understand that you will not be the nominee.

Hillary Clinton was also very impressive. What I have noticed about her while I have watched all the debates is that she always appears Presidential. She also did not pander to the community instead she reiterated that she would be a strong proponent of gay rights but also that there would be times when there would be a difference of opinion. I appreciated the candor.

I consider myself very smart politically and I am smart enough to realize that none of the candidates with any chance would come out for gay marriage. They can not do that in a society that votes based on the thirty second soundbite. Those in the gay community that are looking for real leadership on this issue must understand that leadership on that issue would most likely mean that leader would not be elected President. Although I hate to admit that, it is true at this point in our history.

Times are changing quickly and the GLBT community can not afford to see another Republican elected President. If that was to happen we could be looking at a loss of all the rights we have gained over the past 15 years. I am comfortable with the Democratic field and will do all in my power to help the nominee get elected. I am sure tonight didn't change any minds but I am sure it made us all feel much more comfortable with our choices.

Bush: No Bailout for Pinched Homeowners

President Bush said Thursday concern should be shown those who've lost their homes but it's not the federal government's job to bail them out.
"Obviously anybody who loses their home is somebody with whom we must show an enormous empathy," Bush said. Asked whether he would champion a government bailout, Bush responded: "If you mean direct grants to homeowners, the answer would be `No, I don't support that.'"
Too bad these homeowners aren't corporations. If they were they would be given tax breaks. I don't know what more Americans need to hear from this imbecile. Our infrastructure is crumbling, the middle class is being decimated and corporate taxes as a portion of Gross Domestic Product is one of the lowest in history.

Why is it OK for a corporation to dump your pension but its not OK for the government to help its citizens in distress? Wake up America. Corporations are running our government and the results of that fact are destroying our nation.

U.S. Jobless Claims Rise

U.S. jobless claims rise, suggesting employment conditions while softening still remain good.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications filed for unemployment insurance increased by a seasonally adjusted 7,000 to 316,000 for the week ending Aug. 4. The increase left claims at their highest point since late June.

Economists were predicting claims would be lower, around 310,000 for last week.

Still, claims are lower now than they were a year ago, when they stood at 319,000.

In other economic news, the back-to-school shopping season had a disappointing start in July as people turned cautious amid turmoil on Wall Street, harder-to-get credit and the worsening housing slump.
I have been writing about the wealth factor and how a stock market in turmoil coupled with a collapse in the housing market would eventually lead into the broader economy. These back-to-school sales numbers would indicate that my assumptions were correct.

Mortgage Defaults Growing

AIG, the world's largest insurer and one of the biggest mortgage lenders, said residential mortgage delinquencies and defaults are becoming more common among borrowers in the category just above subprime.
It said 10.8 percent of subprime mortgages were 60 days overdue, compared with 4.6 percent in the category with credit scores just above subprime, indicating that the threat to the mortgage market may be spreading.

While maintaining that it is "comfortable" with its mortgage exposure, AIG gave a gloomy assessment of the market in a presentation to investors and analysts.

It said delinquency rates for first mortgages had risen to 3.98 percent in June from 3.56 in April and a low of 3.08 in July 2005. First mortgages represent 90 percent of AIG's domestic mortgage business.

AIG divided its mortgage portfolio into three categories: subprime, for borrowers with credit scores below 620; "non-prime," for borrowers with credit scores between 620 and 659; and prime, for borrowers with credit ratings above 660.

As of June 30, AIG's finance arm, which originates first and second mortgages, recorded delinquencies of 3.68 percent in subprime, 2.13 percent in non-prime, and 0.81 percent in prime.
Does anyone still hold out hope that this mortgage crisis will not spread into the greater economy? You need to remember that the U.S. savings rate is negative which means those most at risk for foreclosure have the least saved to avoid it.

Unfortunately for many the dream of home ownership has turned into a nightmare that may yet effect us all.

Political Turmoil in Pakistan Deepens

During the AFL-CIO debate Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton all jumped on Barack Obama for his statement that if we knew where al-Qaeda leaders were within Pakistan that the United States would go into Pakistan without the approval of the Musharraf government. had it been any other country but Pakistan I would have agreed with his assertion.

Pakistan is a unique situation due to their nuclear capabilities. Pervez Musharraf is trying desperately to hold onto power but the political crisis within Pakistan continues to grow.
Political turmoil in Pakistan deepened Thursday when the government raised the possibility that embattled President Gen. Pervez Musharraf might impose a state of emergency, drawing condemnation that doing so would be a desperate bid to hold onto power.

Tariq Azim, the minister for state information, said a state of emergency could not be ruled out because of "external and internal threats" and deteriorating security in Pakistan's volatile northwest near the Afghan border.

Azim also said talk from the United States about the possibility of U.S. military action against al-Qaida in Pakistan "has started alarm bells ringing and has upset the Pakistani public." He mentioned Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama by name as an example of someone who made such comments, saying his recent remarks were one reason the government was debating a state of emergency.
Most feel the real reason for a state of emergency would be to try to consolidate powers for Mr. Musharraf who would use the emergency declaration to quell political enemies after his unsuccessful attempt to remove the country's chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who was likely to rule on Musharraf's bid for a new five year term.
It was not immediately clear how Musharraf might gain politically from a state of emergency, but it would give him sweeping powers, including the ability to restrict people's freedom to move, rally, and engage in political activities and assert their fundamental rights through the courts.
As we see all this political turmoil within Pakistan we must remember that it was the War in Iraq which diverted all attention away from the hunt for al-Qaeda that has allowed al-Qaeda to emerge even stronger and pose a grave threat to the dictatorial government of Pervez Musharraf. The problem for the United States, which supports this dictatorial rule, is that if this government is overthrown we most likely would be looking at a new government that supports the Taliban and al-Qaeda and has nuclear capabilities. The Bush foreign policy has made the world a much more dangerous place. We had the opportunity to fundamentally change Afghanistan and we failed. What we accomplished is destabilizing two countries, Iraq and Pakistan and leaving another, Afghanistan to twist in the wind.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More Republican Sexual Hypocrisy

Another day another closet case Republican offering sex to someone of the same sex. The problem for the guy being asked was that he was asleep. He woke up when Glenn Murphy, Jr., the recently elected chairman of the Young Republican National Federation was performing oral sex on him.

I could never do this story the justice that it needs so please read this post from Pam's House Blend and add her site to your daily reading. She is brilliant. This post should have you peeing your pants.

Republican Hypocrisy, Closet Cases and Racism

This story has had me laughing for days. What is it with these Republican closet cases? You need a notebook to keep up with these hypocrites. This excuse was the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time.
Fear of the "pretty stocky black guy" who turned out to be an undercover cop made Florida state representative Bob Allen perform the actions that led to a charge of solicitation to commit prostitution, Allen told police in documents aired by the Orlando Sentinel.

Allen was arrested July 11 in a Titusville, Fla., public park restroom after he offered the officer $20 to let him perform oral sex, police said.

The charge, a second-degree misdemeanor, is punishable by a year in county jail and a $500 fine. Allen says he is innocent and that he will not resign from the legislature. He did resign late last month from the board of the Girls and Boys Town of Central Florida, cable TV station Central Florida News 13 reported.
So when you see a "pretty stocky black guy" and get afraid of the big black man it is normal to offer him a blow job? Come on folks I am sure this isn't Allen's first time at the rodeo so to speak.

This would just be funny if Representative Allen hadn't used his political position to help stop gays and lesbians from adopting in the state of Florida.
Soon after taking office in 2001, Allen was one of 21 Florida legislators to sign Gov. Jeb Bush's friend-of-the-court brief supporting the state's ban on gays adopting children.

In March he cosponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have enhanced penalties for "offenses involving unnatural and lascivious acts," such as indecent exposure.
Too bad that the enhanced penalties was never enacted. It would have been poetic justice to have his own law cause him enhanced penalties.

Amazing Animal Video

I know this is a political site but this video was too amazing to pass up. Even in the wild the animals look out for the young. Maybe President Bush should see this and maybe he will change his mind about vetoing Children's Health Insurance. The adults get very angry when the young are threatened.

From The Campaign For America's Future

Visit their site at Campaign For America's Future

U.S. Set For A Crackdown On Illegal Hiring

In a new effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, federal authorities are expected to announce tough rules this week that would require employers to fire workers who use false Social Security numbers.
Now administration officials are signaling that they intend to clamp down on employers of illegal immigrants even without a new immigration law to offer legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the workforce.

The approach is expected to play well with conservatives who have long demanded that the administration do more to enforce existing immigration laws, but it could also lead to renewed pressure from businesses on Congress to provide legal status for an estimated six million unauthorized immigrant workers.

“We are tough and we are going to be even tougher,” Russ Knocke, the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said yesterday. “There are not going to be any more excuses for employers, and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly disregard the law.”
Does anyone really believe that the federal governement will enforce these new rules? That may help them with the conservative base but it will anger the business community which provides the campaign funds. Which side do you really think they will come down on?

Illegal immigration can only be solved when our government makes it next to impossible to hire an illegal immigrant. We must also recognize that no solution will work unless we push for real reform in the home countries of the immigrants. Until we understand exactly why they are coming any attempts to stop illegal immigration will fail.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

AFL-CIO Debate Roundup

I watched the entire AFL-CIO sponsored debate from Soldier Field in Chicago. The field of candidates is impressive but we all know that reasonably only three or four of them have the potential of being the nominee. Today it was reported that Hillary Clinton has widened her lead over the other contenders.

In the debate it was Hillary Clinton in my estimation that came away the winner if only slightly. Dennis Kucinich gave by far the best answers to questions but he is not a viable candidate at this point so he had nothing to lose.

In being completely truthful I must admit that the only candidate I have contributed to has been John Edwards although I did donate to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.

Most pundits after the debate felt that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had won the debate. I could agree on Hillary Clinton but not on Barack Obama. I have tried to fall in love with candidate Obama because at first I thought he represented the greatest hope of a real change. Through the debates I find my hope in his candidacy fading. He has the presence necessary to be President but for me he is missing that intangible characteristic that would make me give my all to support him. I don't think I am alone in this thinking since the national polls show his numbers slipping slightly.

Hillary Clinton has done what is necessary. She seems Presidential, has a command of the facts and has run a very smart campaign. She remains the front runner for those reasons.

John Edwards lost a chance tonight to shine. Although I thought he did well he did not deliver any knockout punches to help improve his standing. He will need a win in Iowa or his candidacy may be over. Hillary and Barack are not in that same precarious situation.

Bill Richardson is probably on paper the most qualified to be President but he has yet to have a strong enough performance in any of these candidate forums to improve his numbers. He simply has not seemed Presidential.

Chris Dodd has not gotten the traction that I feel he deserves. He is a smart man with good ideas but for him and the other second tier candidates it is hard to get any real face time. The Hillary and Obama juggernauts make it very hard for any other real candidates to break out. His debate performances have been very solid and his record is one of accomplishments on middle class issues is impressive. If he were ever to be the nominee, he would make a formidable candidate.

The debates so far have done nothing to shake Hillary Clinton from her front runner status. I am very interested in hearing the candidates this Thursday when they will all be involved in a LOGO network debate on Gay and Lesbian issues.

Feds Leave Key Interest Rate Unchanged

Wall Street turbulence, Main Street credit problems and a nationwide housing slump pose increasing risks to the economy, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday, even as it left interest rates unchanged.
Although Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his central bank colleagues acknowledged challenges that have intensified since their last meeting in late June, they nonetheless expressed hope that the economy will safely make its way.

The policymakers also clung to their belief that the biggest potential danger to the economy is that inflation won't recede as they anticipate.

Against these economic crosscurrents, the Fed left an important interest rate at 5.25 percent on Tuesday. In turn, commercial banks' prime interest rate for certain credit cards, home equity lines of credit and other loans _ would stay at 8.25 percent.
The problem for the Federal Reserve is how to respond to the growing housing and stock market turbulence without sounding like the sky is falling. They felt the best way to accomplish this was to acknowledge the problem exists but downplay the severity.

The credit markets are very tight right now and that should slow mergers and acquisitions which are a main reason for the stock markets rise. You can also look to foreign markets which are also down. Investments in such countries as Brazil, India and Russia are seen as much more risky and with the flight to more stable investments you may see these markets decline or grow much more slowly.

Believing that the housing market problems will not reach into the broader economy is naive and you will see greater stock market volatility for some time to come. The housing market will not recover until 2009 and the pain and suffering for the middle class will continue during that time. The housing market correction will leave many middle class people feeling much less wealthy which will cause them to slow spending.

I have said the US economy will slip into recession or will grow at a rate just above recession for the next year. I stick by that prediction.

The Surge Is Not Working

We were told that in order to judge the success of the surge we would need to wait until all troops were in place. That happened last month and there has been no let up in the violence or political upheaval. The only surge has been in the deaths of our soldiers.
Four more U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, the military said on Tuesday, raising the U.S. death toll for the first six days of the month to 21 as thousands of troops battle militants in intense summer heat.

Off the battlefield, Iraq's crumbling national unity government was in crisis after five secularist ministers said they would boycott cabinet meetings until Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki addressed demands they first gave him in February.

The move means that 17 ministers, nearly half the cabinet, have now quit or are boycotting government meetings. The main Sunni Arab bloc pulled out last week and ministers loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew in April.
Those responsible for this war need to be held accountable. You can bet that come Septmeber, when no progress can be shown, that the administration will throw General Petraeus under the bus and blame him for the lack of progress.

When will the American people have had enough of this daily death and destruction and demand an end to our involvement in Iraq but how can we just leave a country that we destroyed? We have been put into a no win situation and have brought the Iraqi people with us. This is by far the greatest foreign policy disaster in our nations history and we have President Bush to thank for it. This is his war and his mess but we will all be paying for it for the next generation. How about we send him a bill when he leaves office like they send our troops?

John Stewart On The Subprime Mess

This is very funny but also very true. It is always the poor who are taken advantage of. It is the dream of owning a home, a dream that seemed unattainable until these subprime loans on board. Now many will lose their homes and the dream will turn into a nightmare.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Is Giuliani's Daughter An Obama Supporter?

When I saw this story I had to post it.
Rudolph W. Giuliani's daughter, Caroline, has done her best to keep out of the spotlight as her father runs for president, choosing to keep complicated family matters private. And for his part, Mr. Giuliani has tried to shield both her and his son, Andrew, from attention.

But the very public nature of the way young adults socialize via the Internet, posting private musings for all the world to see, thrust her into the limelight today with word that her online profile suggested she supported Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

On her profile in Facebook, the popular online social networking site, Ms. Giuliani, 17, listed her political views as “liberal” and noted her membership in a group called “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack).”
Rudy Giuliani's children do not even like him. That says all anyone really needs to know about Rudy. When your own children can't support you that should be all America needs to know.

Weapons Given to Iraq Are Missing

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.
The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
Is anyone surprised by this report? They also never secured the ammunitions dumps when they went into Iraq but they did secure the oil fields. Is there anyone that still believes our motives for going into Iraq were noble?

Isn't it good to know that 190,000 weapons are missing in a country that has not had steady electricity since the invasion. At some point you have to stop blaming incompetence and realize that this was planned chaos. No one group could possibly be this incompetent, not even the Bush administration! Was stealing the oil so all important that none of the other details were even discussed?

It is currently 115 degrees in Baghdad where they receive just a few hours of electricity per day. That means you can not keep food from spoiling and you can not run air conditioners. Then we wonder why they are shooting at our troops.

It has been four years since the invasion and the infrastructure has been decimated. The people of Iraq and our soldiers are paying the price while President Bush vacations at Camp David.

No Deal On Korean Hostages - Bush

US President George W Bush and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai have agreed not to bargain with the Taleban over South Korean hostages, the White House said.
A US presidential spokesman said there would be no "quid pro quo" over the 21 captives, after a news conference near Washington between the two leaders.

Two South Koreans from the abducted group have been killed by the Taleban, who demand a prisoner swap.

The Korean hostages were seized on 19 July from a bus in Ghazni province.

Following talks at Camp David, Maryland, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: "Both leaders agreed that in negotiations for the release, there should be no quid pro quo for the hostages.

"The Taleban are brutal and should not be emboldened by this."
I actually agree that you do not negotiate with people like the Taliban but Bush needs to ask himself what part diverting troops from Afghanistan played in this hostage crisis.

Had we kept the troops in Afghanistan there is a good chance that the Taliban would have been completely crushed by now. There is also the likelihood that we would have caught Osama Bin laden. What we are left with is two countries in disarray where violence is a daily occurrence and daily life a living hell.

It is this disarray and violence that threatens to spread to Pakistan and create a catastrophe that would stun the world.

Suicide Bomb Kills 28 in Tal Afar, Iraq

Another day, another bombing in Iraq.
A suicide bomber slammed his truck into a densely populated residential area in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar on Monday, killing at least 28 people, including 19 children, local authorities said.

The attack occurred in a crowded Shiite neighborhood of the religiously mixed city, about 250 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The powerful blast caused houses to collapse in the morning as many families were getting ready for the day, and officials said the death toll could rise.
In other Iraq news more Sunni lawmakers have left the governement.
In Baghdad, lawmakers said that five Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraq's first post-Saddam leader will boycott government meetings, further deepening the political crisis that threatens to swamp the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The boycott of the Iraqiya List ministers loyal to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi leaves the government, at least temporarily, with no Sunni participants. It was a deep blow to al-Maliki's attempts to reconcile the country's majority Shiites and minority Sunnis and Kurds.

Iraqiya List lawmaker Iyad Jamal-Aldin said the Allawi bloc decided to boycott because al-Maliki has failed to respond to demands for political reform issued five months ago. He said the boycott was not tied to the decision last week by the top Sunni political bloc to pull its six ministers out of the 40-member Cabinet.
Without political reconciliation nothing will change in Iraq. The carnage goes on unabated even though the surge is now fully in place. Iraq is like playing a game of whack a mole. You secure one spot and they just move somewhere else. How many of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis will die as a result of the incompetence of this administration?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Voting Changes in California

It is good to see that someone has some common sense and is realizing that our voting system can be hacked. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen placed restrictions on black box voting equipment.
After a months-long review of California's electronic voting machines, Bowen on Friday placed rigorous security conditions on voting equipment used in dozens of counties and limited the use of two of the most widely used machines.

Friday was the deadline for Bowen to certify voting systems for the early presidential primary in February 2008.

Bowen announced the moves a week after University of California computer experts found that voting machines sold by three companies — Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia Voting Systems — were vulnerable to hackers and that voting results could be altered.

Bowen said the UC investigation revealed some vulnerabilities that would allow hackers to manipulate the systems "with little chance of detection and with dire consequences."

Her review also found that the machines posed problems for disabled voters.

Specifically, Bowen said she had decertified the machines for use and then recertified them on the condition they meet her new security standards.

In a move with potentially wide-ranging consequences, Bowen also limited the Diebold and Sequoia machines to one per polling place — Monterey County has 124 polling locations. Bowen said that would help voters with disabilities cast their ballots while significantly reducing the threat of vote manipulation.
Let's hope the example set by California is followed throughout the United States. Anyone who thinks that our current system of voting is secure from widespread fraud should read What Happened in Ohio.

Our democracy relies on free and fair elections. There can be no question as to the legitimacy of our vote.