Monday, February 20, 2006

Constructive Criticism to Hugh Hewitt on Interviewing Liberals

Have less fun…Get their “facts” revealed

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Helen Thomas and Lawrence O'Donnell February 15, 2006. See; most listeners thought Hugh did a great job. His judicial temperament was great always cool and speaking as a gentleman.

I better liked Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Lawrence O'Donnell February 15, 2006 , Regarding O’Donnell’s Huffington Post Was Cheney Drunk? which included “Every lawyer I've talked to assumes Cheney was too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting.”
HH: “Larry, did you...what lawyers did you talk to that assumed Cheney was
LO: “Oh, my brothers are all lawyers. I must have talked to a dozen
lawyers yesterday, including a former U.S. attorney...”

Hugh was masterful. If O’Donnell felt free to question Cheney’s integrity in what he was saying, why not question O’Donnell’s integrity. Did he really speak to lawyers who told him that? Who were they? O’Donnell would not reveal his sources, and backpedaled quite a bit, claiming later to having spoke to one brother, six lawyers in one day.

I have some constructive criticism for the Helen Thomas interview. I think many people would take umbrage of being asked “did you vote for Gore or Kerry” or “do you hate George W. Bush?” I’d prefer for him to get on the record their view and understanding of recent history. What they think the “facts” are that they base their views on.

Some suggested questions.

HELEN THOMAS: The damage was to their reputation for secrecy.

A vice-president has the right to meet with citizens in private, even oil company executives, to gather information to better formulate policy, doesn’t he?

Didn’t Cheney win in the Court case dismissing the lawsuit that sought to force Vice President Cheney to turn over records of private meetings his office held in 2001 to shape the administration's energy policy? Didn’t Judge A. Raymond Randolph write for the unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that “The president must be free to seek confidential information from many sources, both inside the government and outside"?

HELEN THOMAS: I don't like the way he's operated, leaking classified documents, defending torture, in fact, working very hard against any ban on torture. I don't know if you saw the photographs today that were first shown on the Australian TV...

Suggestion: Did you consider, not the assault, but just the sleep deprivation
techniques used at Waco on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians torture?

Didn’t the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 51 day siege at Waco, Texas, included such psy-war tactics as sleep deprivation of the inhabitants of the community by means of all-night broadcasts of recordings of the screams of rabbits being slaughtered? Do you consider that torture?

HELEN THOMAS: ...where are the ties to al Qaeda?

The Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was injured as we overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan. Where was al-Zarqawi when the US invaded Iraq?

Do you think, in a police state such as Saddam’s Iraq, al-Zarqawi was in Iraq with Saddam’s knowledge and consent?

HELEN THOMAS: I think that he had...there were facts, they've cherry picked the facts, they wanted a war.

How is what George W. Bush said different from President Bill Clinton December 1998 speech to the country when Clinton order military force in Iraq?

Didn’t President Clinton say in December 1998 “[The] “mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.”

Didn’t President Clinton say in December 1998 “
- “the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future.”
- “And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. … and he will use them.”
- “Because we're acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.”

HELEN THOMAS: Should they be the grateful dead? A hundred thousand dead? Wounded? Should all of the people we have killed, Americans, dead?

Suggested question:
There were reports that 50,000 Iraqi children prematurely died each year due to the United Nations authorized economic sanctions? Do you believe that 600,000 children died in Iraq due to the UN sanctions?

The UN oil-for-food program was designed to provide to the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. How do understand how the money was used?

Democrat Gerrymandering in Georgia?

Know someone very angry with Tom Delay for gerrymandering in Texas?

There is an interesting fact in A Lesson From Hamas: Read the Voting Law's Fine Print in February 19, 2006 New York Times by James Glanz.

He writes:
“2004 Georgia Congressional elections. In those elections, with 13 seats up for grabs, 1.8 million votes were cast for Republicans, who won 7 seats, and 1.1 million for Democrats, who won 6.”

■ Georgia Democrats got 1.1 million congressional votes or 38% of the vote but elected 6 Congressmen or 46% of the total
■ Georgia Repulicans got 1.8 million congressional votes or 62% of the vote but only elected 7 Congressmen or 54% of the total

Hamas Wins Seats in PLA Areas Where Fatah Multiple Candidates Outpoll Them

Apparently Hamas’ overwhelming victory in the Palestine Authority wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as their getting 72 of 132 legislative seats. Hamas got 44% of the vote to 42% for Fatah.

What happened? Often Fatah ran multiple candidates while Hamas had much better party disciple.

See A Lesson From Hamas: Read the Voting Law's Fine Print in February 19, 2006 New York Times by James Glanz. They show a chart:

■ In Jenin, Fatah got 140,546 votes to Hamas’ 102,799, but each won two legislative seats.
■ In Ramallah, Fatah got 169,734 votes to Hamas’ 134,858 but Hamas won four legislative seats and Fatah only one.
■ In Jerusalem, Fatah got 93,556 votes to Hamas’ 58,144 but Hamas won four legislative seats and Fatah only two.
■ Fatah had from three to six times as many candidates on the ballot.

Has anybody heard how the math works out? Hamas has 72 of 132 seats so opponents have 60 seats, but 14 of the Hamas elected members are sitting in Israel jails, so is the real balance of power: Hamas 58 votes and opponents 60?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Govt. Employee Health Benefits to Retirees Out of Control

See Los Angeles Times February 18, 2006 article Benefits Tab Seen as Major Fiscal Drag by Evan Halper.

■ “Healthcare promised to retirees could create a crisis unless the state finds a way to pay for it, a new report says. It urges a reserve fund.”
■ “The cost to the state of providing these benefits has tripled in the last decade.”
■ “The [California] state government has guaranteed health benefits for tens of thousands of its current and future retirees without a plan to pay for them, and the liability threatens to return California to fiscal crisis”
■ “The nonpartisan legislative analyst's office reported that the bill for workers already promised lifetime health insurance by the state is $40 billion to $70 billion over the next 30 years. And that sum is rising rapidly as more state workers become eligible.”
■ “city and county governments are expected to face a similar tab”
■ "that state and local governments had no plan to cover their healthcare obligations prompted new federal regulations requiring them to project those costs.”
■ “government inaction on the issue will come at a huge cost to taxpayers”
■ “State workers have healthcare benefits that are becoming increasingly rare in the private sector. Only 32% of large California corporations offer their retirees health benefits.”
■ “The state would need to set aside an average of $6 billion a year for the next 30 years to cover the costs. That would amount to roughly 5% of all state spending”

The City of Laguna Beach has had out of control employee costs in recent years. Due to escalating home prices and sufficient turnover, the City’s property tax take has increased from $ 8,500,000 seven years ago to over $17,500,000. Thus City Council members have not had to make any tough decisions as most all this increased revenue have been spent funding employee pension, workman compensation, and health care cost increases.

The City of Laguna Beach has had out of control employee costs in recent years. Due to escalating home prices and sufficient turnover, the City’s property tax take has increased from $ 8,500,000 seven years ago to over $17,500,000. Thus City Council members have not had to make any tough decisions as most all this increased revenues have been spent funding employee pension, workman compensation, and health care costs.

Has the City prepared a report projecting City employee guaranteed health benefits?
What funds has the City set aside to meet these financial obligations?
What functions have been outsourced to private contractors in the last four years?

Al Gore Claims US of "Terrible Abuses" Against Arabs

Hat tip with links to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Feb. 17, 2006 editorial What is Al Gore thinking? Comments in Middle East border on bizarre

■ Former Vice-President Al “Gore told a mainly Saudi audience Sunday [February 12, 2006] that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11 attacks.
■ Mr. Gore said Arabs in the United States have been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."
■ The editorial wonders “In an Arab world where torture, beheadings and the cutting off of hands are considered
normal sanctions not just for real felonies but also for "heresy" and other thought crimes, what on earth must Mr. Gore's listeners have imagined he meant by "terrible abuses"?
■ “What must an audience familiar with prison conditions in Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia picture when Mr. Gore speaks of "unforgivable" conditions?”
■ “One doubts they were picturing a warm dry cot, indoor plumbing and three square meals a day while an illegal immigrant who had knowingly outstayed his visa waited for a scheduled court hearing.”

The most telling difference in polling between Democrats and Republicans is the answer to the question “Would the world be better off if other countries were more like the United States? or “Would the world be better off if the United States was more like other countries?

I suspect that even the Abu Ghraib prison when run by Americans in Iraq is more humane than most any prison in the Middle East.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction – the “Smoking Gun” Tapes

Hat tip
See Intelligence Summit to Air 'Saddam's WMD Tapes' by Monisha Bansal February 15, 2006 on Saddam Hussein comments on his weapons of mass destruction Tapes to be aired on ABC Nightline Special.

- “the organizers of an upcoming ‘Intelligence Summit’ are describing the tapes as the ‘smoking gun evidence’ that the Iraqi dictator possessed weapons of mass destruction in the period leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.”

-“The New York Sun on Feb. 7 reported that Rep. Peter Hoekstra's (R-Mich.) committee had obtained the audio tapes from former federal prosecutor John Loftus. According to the report, Loftus received the tapes ‘from a former American military intelligence analyst.’ Loftus is president of the Intelligence Summit, which is a yearly gathering of experts in the fields of counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.”

- “One of [Saddam’s] former military advisors and top generals, Georges Sada, has written a book titled: "Saddam's Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein…..alleges that in June 2002 Saddam transported weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq and into Syria aboard several refitted commercial jets, under the pretense of conducting a humanitarian mission for flood victims.”

Monday, February 13, 2006

Democracy in the Middle East

There is plenty to worry about regarding the War on Terror, however progress is being made.

See The Belmont Club and Richard Fernandez Monday, February 13, 2006 commentary: “Al-Qaeda continues its attempts to export terrorism outside the region, direct to America, Europe and other parts of the world. But unlike Hezbollah which could claim it had driven Israel from Lebanon, Zarqawi has little to show for his vaunted insurgency except a lot of videos of beheaded women and Asian contract workers. His Sunnis voted to join an American-sponsored government. And now, despite the odd bomb, his insurgency is old news.”

Also in his “The week in review”, he quotes Winds of Change “Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam is certain the current regime in Damascus will collapse and Syria will see a move to democracy this year. On Saturday the regime reshuffled their cabinet.”

Many are concerned about the Hamas wins majority in Palestinian parliament, but I see an very unusual event in the Middle East. That is a democratic peaceful transfer of government authority. Very unusual and very hopeful. Perhaps an example to others. President George W. Bush’s strategy is that all this will help safeguard the national security of the United States as the Middle East moves towards accountable democratically elected governments.