Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reagan appointed Judge Criticizes Warrantless Taps

Ex-Surveillance Judge Criticizes Warrantless Taps
By Michael J. Sniffen
Associated Press, Sunday, June 24, 2007; A07

A federal judge who used to authorize wiretaps in terrorism and espionage cases criticized yesterday President Bush's decision to order warrantless surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."We have to understand you can fight the war [on terrorism] and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war," said Royce C. Lamberth, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington and a former presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, speaking at the American LibraryAssociation's annual convention.

Lamberth, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, expressed his opposition to letting the executive branch decide on its own which people to spy on in national security cases. The judge said it is proper for executive branch agencies to conduct such surveillance. "But what we have found in the history of our country is that you can't trust the executive," he said."The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs. But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can't be at all costs,"Lamberth said at the Washington Convention Center. "We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive."

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which Lamberth led from 1995 to 2002, meets in secret to review applications from the FBI, the National Security Agency and other agencies for warrants to wiretap or search the homes of people in the United States in connection with terrorism or espionage cases. Each application is signed by the attorney general. The court has approved more than 99 percent of such requests. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush authorized the NSA to spy on calls between people in the United States and terrorism suspects abroad without warrants. The administration said that it needed to act more quickly than the surveillance court could and that the president has inherent authority under the Constitution to order warrantless domestic spying. After the program became public and was challenged in court, Bush placed it under court supervision this year. The president still asserts the power to order warrantless spying. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush believes in the program, which is classified because its purpose is to stop terrorists' planning. The program "is lawful, limited, safeguarded and -- most importantly -- effective in protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks," Fratto said. "It's specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans' civil liberties."

Lamberth took issue with Bush's approach. He said the special court, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, met the challenge of reacting quickly to the Sept.11 attacks. Lamberth was stuck in a carpool lane near the Pentagon when a hijacked jet slammed into it that day. With his car enveloped in smoke, he called marshals to help him get into the District. By the time officers reached him, Lambert said, "I had approved five FISA coverages [warrants] on my cellphone." He also approved other warrants at his home at 3 a.m. and on Saturdays."In a time of national emergency like that, changes have to be made in procedures. We changed a number of FISA procedures," Lamberth said.

Normal FISA warrant applications run 40 to 50 pages, but in the days after Sept. 11, the judge said, he issued orders "based on the oral briefing by the director of the FBI to the chief judge of the FISA court."Lamberth would not say whether he thought Bush's warrantless surveillance was constitutional. "Judges shouldn't give advisory opinions, and I was never asked to give an opinion in court," he said. But, he said, when the NSA briefed him about the program, he advised the agency to keep good records so that, if any applications came to the FISA court based on information obtained from the warrantless surveillance, the court could rule on the legality. He said he never got such an application.

for link, see:

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What If You Had A Debate and No One Came?

At last week's NAACP GOP Presidential Candidate Forum, of the nine Republican candidates invited to the forum only Tom Tancredo showed up. All the Democratic Presidential hopefuls showed up for their forum. The excuses given by the Republican campaigns mostly had to do with scheduling conflicts. Many will see this as an indication of the Republican party's commitment to civil rights in America.

Democrates usually start with upwards of 90% support from this easily identifiable demographic group that makes up some 12% of the population. So, the Republicans may reason, why waste our time? Republican efforts to court black votes have not proven effective. When Blacks vote as a Democratic block, then they can't expect to be courted by Republicans.

Still, I wish Republicans would not give up on them. Republicans have a record of which to be proud. Bush's faith-based initiative, the Bush Housing initiative which increased Black homeownership, increased employment in the Black Community, and prominent Black cabinet members in the administration such as Rice and Powell are all things of which the Republicans should remind Black voters.

If Republicans appearance before a black audience does not win them black votes, it is still a good place to talk about important issues. For the good of America, we need to address the issues that effect black America such as poverty, the war-on- drug policy, the black aids epidemic, and failing schools. The forum would have been a good opportunity for a Republican candidate to talk about continuing welfare reform, economic opportunity, and personal responsibility. Even it the blacks in the audience don't care what white Republicans have to say, I would like to see how the Republicans would address the important issues that effect black America and therefore effect us all. I do not think a Jack Kemp would have turned down this opportunity.

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Kansas Seeks Free-Market Health Care Reform

If conservatives do not offer market solutions to solve our health care problem, then I fear we will have a nationalized health care system. President Bush tried to move in that direction but did not have the political capital to achieve any success. This is an interesting article. I am reaching no conclusions on the specifics of this plan, but find it reassuring that someone is looking at market solutions.

19 South LaSalle Street #903Chicago, IL 60603
phone 312/377-4000 · fax 312/377-5000

Kansas Seeks Free-Market Health Care Reform
Author: Erica Schatz
Published by: The Heartland Institute
Published in: Health Care NewsPublication date: June 2007
A free-market health care plan promising less government interference and no new taxes could be on the horizon in Kansas.
KanCare, created by newly elected state Rep. Jeff Colyer (R-Overland Park), is billed as an alternative to the traditional big-government, complicated plans already in existence. Colyer is a medical doctor and member of the state's House Health and Human Services Committee.
The plan is made up of a series of bills that will take several years to pass. In March, the House passed by voice vote H.R. 6009, which charges the state bank commissioner with educating state-chartered banks about health savings accounts (HSAs).
This is only one aspect of the plan; the legislature did not have time to consider any other parts before the session ended in April.
"Right now the health care system in Kansas is like a wobbly, three-legged stool--divided unevenly between growing government programs (23 percent), shrinking private health insurance coverage (65 percent), and the uninsured (10.9 percent)," Colyer explained in a statement on his Web site. "We strengthen the wobbly three-legged stool [in]to a table with four sturdy legs."
KanCare's four parts are:
Combine tax credits with market competition to automatically reduce costs.
Shift Kansans from Medicaid to private insurance plans, with comparable affordability.
Allow consumers to set aside money for health-related expenses in savings accounts, and offer wellness incentives.
Improve charity care through free or low-cost clinics.
Using Market Competition
For the full story:

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Republican Hypocrite

It is embarrassing when Republicans, who run on traditional values and court the religious vote are caught with their pants down, so to speak. Since the Republican Party has identified itself as the Party of God-fearing Christians, it is more embarrassing for a Republican to be caught in a sex scandal than a Democrat, because we expect more moral behaviour from Republicans. Much more of this and the public will stop believing in the moral superiority of Republicans. rod

Senator's Number on 'Madam' Phone List
By Shailagh Murray Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, July 10, 2007; A03
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) apologized last night after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the woman dubbed the "D.C. Madam," making him the first member of Congress to become ensnared in the high-profile case.
The statement containing Vitter's apology said his telephone number was included on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates dating from before he ran for the Senate in 2004.
On his Senate Web site, Vitter says he is committed to "advancing mainstream conservative principles" and notes that he and his wife are lectors at their hometown church.
Here is the link to the rest of the story:

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Confessions of a Right-leaning Pragmatic Centrist

It is hard to get excited about being pragmatic. Pragmatic people are, well, in fact, kind of boring. No one mans the barricades in the name of centrist pragmatism. I have always voting Republican, except in the last Presidential race when I could not bring my self to vote for George Bush. In my youth I was a committed conservative. My conservatism was always tinted with a little Libertarianism and for about 4 months when I was 25, I called my self a “Libertarian” but never joined the party or voted Libertarian. I have subscribed to the conservative political journals, worked in campaigns, joined organizations and contributed money. In recent years my views have shifted somewhat. Part of it is that I think the Republican Party has betrayed many of their principles and, few can say what the Republican Party stands for. Also, the denial of global warming, and promotion of intelligent design have proven embarrassing to me. And, I think Iraq was a terrible mistake. But, something else is happening.

While I would not say I have become more liberal as I have grown older, I have become more pragmatic and less ideological. While I believe in certain principles, sometimes doing what works is more important than the principles. I believe in private property, however, I live in a neighborhood with a conservation overlay and am glad we have it. The conservation overlay is not as restrictive as historical zoning, but no one can put Aluminum siding on their home or make certain other improvements that are not in character with the neighborhood. I believe in good land use planning and zoning. But, I am bothered by condemnation. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that a New England town had illegally taken the home of of a property owner. The city had condemned the property and turned it over to a private company to develop in order to enhance the tax base. I was pleased to see the court rule that that was an improper taking of property. However, it is a fine line between using condemnation for slum and blight clearance and using it to facilitate private development. So, while I would say I am a champion of private property rights, I see a large roll for government in regulating property usage and in planning. In my twenties I was a much more adamant believer in private property rights, and would have thought it an outrage that the government could prohibit you form putting aluminum siding on your house.
In my twenties I was a member of the National Rifle Association. I still do not want the government confiscating weapons, and do not think we can just ignore the second Amendment. But I think we are safer with fewer weapons in circulation rather than with more. Would I feel less safe or more safe if people could carry their hand gun into bars? Less safe, generally, except I know that a ban on guns in bars will mean that responsible people with gun carry permits will not carry their guns in bars and criminals will anyway.  However, I have no problem with laws that restrict where you can carry your weapon. I feel better if people cannot carry their weapons into courtrooms and airports. I have no problem with a hand gun waiting period and think we should close the gun show loophole.
My point is discussing both of these issues is that I see more and more nuances, more shades of gray, on almost all issues. I no longer see very many issues as just black and white. And, I while I see “slippery slopes”; I also see fine lines. So, while I have certain principles I believe in, I am a lot less dogmatic and am more pragmatic than I once was. And when I come to a conclusion, I am not so absolutely certain that I have found the truth. I often tend to think the other person has a valid point even if I disagree with it. And, having changed my mind on issues in the past, I am not so certain of my current position as I was at one time. I don't know if that makes be more liberal, or just older.

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Waiting to be Wooed

By DAVID BROOKS Published: November 30, 2006
I’ve never been a swing voter before. For most of my adult life I’ve felt the Republicans tended to have the best approaches to expand economic opportunity, meet foreign threats and restore a culture of personal responsibility. But over the past few years I’ve grown estranged from many Republicans, especially the ones leading the House. I’m one of those suburbanites who thought the G.O.P. deserved to lose the last election, and now I find myself floating out there in independent-land, not a Democrat, just looking for something new.
It’s like being the belle of the ball, because the Republicans really need to woo back people like me. I hope they won’t mind if I offer a little advice on how to do it.
First, don’t listen to your consultants. Over the next few months, pollsters are going to pick out the key demographic groups (left-handed Catholic orthopedists) and offer advice on how to kiss up to those people. Majorities are never built that way. You end up proposing inconsequential micropolicies and selling your soul.
Don’t focus on groups, focus on problems. If you have persuasive proposals to address big problems, the majority coalition will build itself.
Second, be policy-centric, not philosophy-centric. American conservatism grew up out of power and has always placed great emphasis on doctrine. Today, in the wake of this month’s defeat, Republicans are firing up the old debate among social conservatives, free-market conservatives and others about the proper role of the state. This stale, abstract debate will never lead anywhere and only inhibits creative thinking.
The Republican weakness is not a lack of grand principles, it’s a lack of concrete policies commensurate with the size of 21st-century problems. If they would shelve the doctrinal debate for a second, Republicans — while not doing violence to their belief in the market, traditional values or anything else — could find plenty of policy ideas to deal with China and India, the entitlement crisis and so on.
Third, create a Republican Leadership Council. In the realm of ideas, Democrats own the center. Moderate Democrats have the Democratic Leadership Council, the Third Way and various cells within the Brookings Institution, such as the Hamilton Project. Republican moderates are intellectual weaklings. They have no independent identity, so it’s no wonder centrist voters prefer Democrats on one domestic issue after another.
Fourth, support stem cell research. This has become a symbolic issue denoting fundamental attitudes about science and progress. Moderates can understand why somebody is anti-abortion. But opposing stem cell work seems to close off research that could alleviate human suffering for the sake of a theoretical abstraction.
Fifth, support free trade, while responding to the downside of globalization. When the industrial age kicked in, many European nations built an elaborate welfare state, but didn’t aggressively expand educational opportunity. Americans didn’t build as big a welfare system, but, as the blogger Reihan Salam pointed out recently, we spent a lot on schools to foster social mobility.
The American way is to help people compete, not shield them from competition. Today that means nurturing stable families in which children can develop the social and cultural capital they need to thrive. (A significant expansion of the child tax credit would ease the burden on young parents.) It means publicly funded, though not necessarily publicly run, preschool programs in which children from disorganized homes can learn how to learn. It means radical school reform: performance pay for teachers, an end to the stupid certification rules, urban boarding schools where educators can set up local cultures of achievement, locally run neighborhood child centers to service an array of health and day-care needs.
Sixth, spread assets. Every citizen, from birth, should have an I.R.A.-type savings account. The tax code should encourage personal and employer contributions. These accounts would enhance savings and encourage an investor mentality, and once Americans became comfortable with them, they could be used as tools to reform Social Security and health care funding.
Seventh, raise taxes on carbon emissions and use the revenue to make the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends permanent. This would spur energy innovation and encourage investment more generally.
Over the past few years, the G.O.P. has become like a company with a great mission statement, but no domestic policy products to sell. Now’s the time to get granular. And the thing to remember is, we disaffected voters are easy. We want to go home with you if you’ll give us a reason.

My Comment:
I was delighted to see David Brooks article on how the Republican Party can woo the voters. He offered seven specific proposals. I agree with all of them. A couple, I was really excited about. His point number 4 was Support Steam Cell Research. yes!. I am pro-life, but we have allowed the nuts in the pro-life movement to weld too much power in the party. The Terry Shivo issue and steam cell research opposition is extreme pro-life. I know the difference between studying a frozen zygote that was to be discarded anyway and killing babies. And, I think most Americans to do.
His point Seven was Raise taxes on Carbon Emissions. YES! No one wants to pay more for gas, but we need to. Democrats believe in global warming, were out front on the issue and they own the issue; but, they don't have the guts to do anything about it. The science is in, it is for real and we need to do something. The public is concerned about Global Warming and I think they would embrace a call for a carbon tax if it was offset by an increase in the standard income deduction and other tax reform. If someone would lead, I thing the public would follow. If we would raise the price of gas and then all of the alternative fuels could flourish.
These two points I was delighted to see and other were also good.
I would add a commitment to ending poverty. Not subsidizing it, but continuing well fare reform and addressing the problem of the permanent underclass.
The Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan. I feel like I have l ost the party I was committed to and cared about and believed in. Spending like drunken sailors and the Iraq fiasco leaves me feeling not at home in this party anymore. I want to be wooed also.
Rod Williams Nashville TN 37203

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thomas Friedman on the Power of Green

This is lengthy, but is an excellent article. It is
Thomas Friedman on The Power of Green. If lays out a
very logical argument of why we must address the
Global warming/energy problem and why everyone should
get on board. He makes a compelling security argument
and an economic argument as well as the environmental
argument. By now, everyone who can be persuaded has
been persuaded that global warming is real. We have
seen enough polar bears on ice floes. What is missing
is serious discussion of how to deal with it.
changing out light bulbs and properly inflating our
tires is not going to do it. We need a real plan to
reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Friedman says "We have not even begun to be serious
about the costs, the effort and the scale of change
that will be required to shift our country, and
eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free
energy infrastructure over the next 50 years." He says
"today's presidential hopefuls are largely full of hot
air on the climate-energy issue. Not one of them is
proposing anything hard, like a carbon or gasoline
tax, and if you think we can deal with these huge
problems without asking the American people to do
anything hard, you're a fool or a fraud."
The article explain how get developing countries to
"go green". If the developed countries do it, the
market place will make clean development competitive
with dirty development and the role of international
trade will make developing countries change their
ways. Security hawks, greedy businessmen, and
tree-hugging vegetarians ought to be on the same side
of this issue.
This is the best thing I have read on the topic.
http://www.nytimes./ com/2007/ 04/15/magazine/
15green.t. html?ex=11775600 00&en=2989acb5a9
c75b84&ei= 5070&emc= eta1

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How the Holy Rollers and Neocoms stole the Republican Party

Did anyone see Victor Gold on Cspan2 BookTV a few weeks ago? As a disgruntled Republican, I was delighted to see someone say the things I believe. His book is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, How the Holy Rollers and the Neocons stole the Republican Party. He says the Republican Party must die to be reborn. He was close to Bush and Cheney but is now angry at the administration.

Here is more on Gold and his books and some links: Victor Gold served as press aide to Barry Goldwater and speechwriter and senior advisor to George H. W.Bush (in addition to coauthoring his autobiography),Victor Gold is absolutely furious that the Neo-Cons and their strange bedfellows, the Evangelical Right, have stolen his party from him. Now he is bringing the fight to them. Invasion of the Party Snatchers (April 17), is a blistering critique not only of the Bush-Cheney administration but also of the Republican Congress. After four decades as a Republican insider, Gold is ready to tell all about the war being waged for the soul of the GOP, including the elder Bush’s opinion of his son’s work domestically and abroad, the significance of the newly elected Congress, and how Goldwater would have reacted to it all. Gold reveals, among other explosive disclosures, how George W. has been manipulated by his vice president and secretary of defense to become, in Lenin's famous phrase, a "useful idiot" for Neo-Conservative warmongers and Theo-Conservative religious fanatics. Although there have been other books by dissident Republicans attacking the Bush-Cheney administration’s betrayal of conservative principles, none have been by an insider whose political credentials include inner-circle status with Barry Goldwater and George H.W. Bush. Invasion of the Party Snatchers is a protest and a warning directed not so much at Republicans, as at the American people as a whole. Gold sums up his thesis in the section of the book that takes a hard look at the Neo-Cons, Theo-Cons, and political hacks that now constitute the leadership of the Republican Party. and this one:

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