John Thune's (R-SD) Math

The Senate voted by 60 - 39 to limit debate on the health care bill, setting up a vote for final passage tomorrow at 7am ET. Debate continues on the bill this evening.

Source: C-SPAN.org

As part of this continuing debate, the minority (the Republican caucus) was allotted one hour for remarks. As part of these remarks, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) asked that the bloc be divided evenly among several members of the Republican caucus. John Thune (R-SD) received the third segment which can be viewed in its entirety below.

Sen. Thune directed much of his ten minute address to the issue of the deficit. He began by presenting convoluted percentages of non-defense budget spending over the preceding several years. He was attempting to illustrate that the Democrats contributed more to the deficit and that our current deficit is not attributable to President George W. Bush or the Republican party.

He then lifted a blank presentation board and a marker. Next, he began to write numbers, in billions of dollars, relating to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the Healthcare bill's cost. The first number represented the CBO's estimated surplus ($132 B), over a ten year period, resulting from the implementation of the Senate's Healthcare bill. The next few lines depict Sen. Thune's interpreted inaccuracies of the CBO's estimate.

John Thune (R, SD) Can't Add

Sen. Thune then adds the 132 billion to his list of erroneous estimates and makes an arithmetic error:

   132 - 200 - 72 - 47 = -177

His numbers don't add up to -177; the correct computation yields -187. We have a US Senator attempting to illustrate why the CBO is wrong and he can't add four numbers of three digits or less together. Simply stunning. But perhaps what's even more stunning is that nobody caught this error; either in the planning stages or during the remaining remarks.

Published on December 23rd at 4:51 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Squashing Fiscal Abuse

The continuing saga of AIG's taxpayer funded bonuses may be eclipsed by another company's incompetence; Merrill Lynch is ready and willing according to the New York Times:

Merrill Lynch's $3.6 billion bonus pool has been among the most controversial payouts on Wall Street. But most of those bonuses, which included some 700 awards of over $1 million, would not be affected by a new bonus tax being considered in Congress.

The tax, which passed in the House on Thursday, would affect only bonuses paid during 2009. Typically, Merrill's bonuses are paid in January, along with the rest of Wall Street's. But the investment bank pushed $2.5 billion of the bonuses out the door in December in advance of its merger with Bank of America.

Source: New York Times

Without making any judgment with regard to the ethical payout of these bonuses, the legal argument is clearly supportive of Merrill's intentions. The creation of new law will be required to prevent, or inhibit the payout of these contractually obligated bonuses; but the creation of these new laws could establish dangerous precedents. The new administration has clearly stated their intent to limit these bonus, and it may possible for the President to directly intervene without Congress' assistance.

Based upon our Friday article, it is still possible for Obama to abuse his Executive power to detain any person who "substantially supported" terrorists; the term used by the Bush Administration was "Enemy Combatant." Using the evidence presented by Bush's Government in the Rapp Declaration it becomes clear that the term "Enemy Combatant" encompassed financial terrorism; this nomenclature would then translate to "substantially supported" financial terrorists under the Obama Administration's new characterization.

Before we continue, it is important to understand what the term "terrorist" actually encompasses; as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary:

[a. F. terroriste, f. L. terror TERROR: see -IST.]

1. As a political term: a. Applied to the Jacobins and their agents and partisans in the French Revolution, esp. to those connected with the Revolutionary tribunals during the "Reign of Terror".

b. Any one who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation.

In early use also applied spec. to members of one of the extreme revolutionary societies in Russia. The term now usually refers to a member of a clandestine or expatriate organization aiming to coerce an established government by acts of violence against it or its subjects.

2. Dyslogistically: One who entertains, professes, or tries to awaken or spread a feeling of terror or alarm; an alarmist, a scaremonger.

3. attrib.

Hence terro'ristic, -'ristical adjs., characterized by or practising terrorism; also terro'ristically.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Using the above bolded, definition one could argue that the large institutional banks coerced the Government into providing large payouts in an attempt to remedy the terror invoked as a result of selfish financial management. If the Obama Administration is serious about recouping the taxpayer funded bonuses, Obama, as President, could declare any recipient of these taxpayer funded bonuses an accomplice to financial terrorists.

While I doubt my previous train of thought passes legal muster, a move of that magnitude may finally force TARP funded bonus recipients, and their respective companies, to realize that the entire financial scenario is "not a fucking game." If the individual agrees to return the bonus money, Obama could simply repeal or pardon his detention order.

Published on March 23rd at 9:04 AM CT :: 1 Comment

Obama's Abusable Power

On September 11th, George Bush gained a lot of power, legal or otherwise, and whether you like it or not this power transferred to the new administration. Obama may be the most powerful president ever, but this new found power carries the requisite of responsibility. Given the current state of our nation, it may be possible, perhaps even responsible, for Obama to abuse his new found power for the greater good; but so far, his administration has remained effectively silent on the matter.

This article will attempt to detail the legal processes associated with the creation and transition of this power; by understanding the circumstances, we can better understand the promise or peril of any Executive decision resulting from the use of these aforementioned powers.

Our sleuthing follows the tail of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, an alleged (and in all likelihood) al Qaeda operative originally detained in 2001 as a material witness to the FBI's investigation of 9/11. Al-Marri was arrested in Peoria, Illinois and was eventually charged with credit card fraud; a trail date was then set for June of 2003. Evidence of these events can be found within a 2007 court judgment which we will be discussing later on; I've excerpted the relevant information below:

In February 2002, al-Marri was charged in the Southern District of New York with the possession of unauthorized or counterfeit credit-card numbers with the intent to defraud. A year later, in January 2003, he was charged in a second, six-count indictment, with two counts of making a false statement to the FBI, three counts of making a false statement on a bank application, and one count of using another person's identification for the purpose of influencing the action of a federally insured financial institution. Al-Marri pleaded not guilty to all of these charges. In May 2003, a federal district court in New York dismissed the charges against al-Marri for lack of venue.

The Government then returned al-Marri to Peoria and he was reindicted in the Central District of Illinois on the same seven counts, to which he again pleaded not guilty. The district court set a July 21, 2003 trial date. On Friday, June 20, 2003, the court scheduled a hearing on pre-trial motions, including a motion to suppress evidence against al-Marri assertedly obtained by torture. On the following Monday, June 23, before that hearing could be held, the Government moved ex parte to dismiss the indictment based on an order signed that morning by the President.

Source: Al-Marri v. Wright via USCourts.gov [PDF]

Before al-Marri could face his June 23rd trail, President Bush declared him an "Enemy Combatant" and initiated the process required to transfer him to the South Carolina equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. While imprisoned in South Carolina, the Federal District Court heeded the Government's request to dismiss all charges filed against al-Marri. Reading further in the aforementioned 2007 judgment reveals additional details of the just described sequence of events:

In the order, President George W. Bush stated that he "DETERMINE[D] for the United States of America that" al-Marri: (1) is an enemy combatant; (2) is closely associated with al Qaeda; (3) "engaged in conduct that constituted hostile and war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism;" (4) "possesses intelligence . . . that . . . would aid U.S. efforts to prevent attacks by al Qaeda;" and (5) "represents a continuing, present, and grave danger to the national security of the United States." The President determined that al-Marri's detention by the military was "necessary to prevent him from aiding al Qaeda" and thus ordered the Attorney General to surrender al- Marri to the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Defense to "detain him as an enemy combatant."

The federal district court in Illinois granted the Government's motion to dismiss the criminal indictment against al- Marri. In accordance with the President's order, al-Marri was then transferred to military custody and brought to the Naval Consolidated Brig in South Carolina.

Source: Al-Marri v. Wright via USCourts.gov [PDF]

Al-Marri's counsel filed a petition, on his behalf, on July 8th, 2003 seeking a writ of habeas corpus in the Illinois jurisdiction of his original arrest; this petition was later dismissed citing a "lack of venue." Exactly one year later, his representation filed another similar petition in the South Carolina District Court, again requesting writ to habeas corpus. The Government responded on September 4th by citing the Declaration of Jeffrey N. Rapp, Director of the Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, as support for the President's order to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant. Mr. Rapp's declaration was 16 pages long and became known as the Rapp Declaration. The Rapp Declaration is presented below with a few pertinent excerpts highlighted with regard to a future article:

[The original contents of this document were classified, but the information has since been declassified as noted by the stricken text. Bold added for emphasis.]

SECRET//NOFORN

Classified Declaration of Mr. Jeffrey N. Rapp

Director, Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism

1. (U) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, I, Jeffrey N. Raw, hereby declare that, to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, and under the penalty of perjury, the following is true and correct:

Preamble

2 (U) I submit this Declaration for the Court's consideration in the matter of Al-Marri v. Hanft, Case Number 2:04-2257-26AJ, pending in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.

3. (U) Based on the information that I haw acquired in the course of my official duties, I am familiar with all the matters discussed in this Declaration. I am also familiar with the interviews of Ali Saleh Mohamed Kahlah Al-Marri (Al-Marri) conducted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by personnel of the Department of Defense (DoD) once the DoD took custody of Al-Marri on 23 lune 2003 after he was declared an enemy combatant by the President of the United States.

...

Overview

8. (S//NF) Al-Marri, also known as Abdulkareemm A. Almuslam, is currently being detained in the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The President of the United States has determined that he is closely associated with al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization with which the United States is at war. All detailed below, Al-Marri is an al Qaeda"sleeper" agent sent to the United States for the purpose of engaging in and facilitating terrorist activities subsequent to September 11, 2001. Al-Marri currently possesses information of high intelligence value, including information about personnel activities of al Qaeda. Prior to arriving in the United States on September 10.2001, Al-Marri met personally with Usama Bin Laden (Bin Laden) and volunteered for a martyr mission or to do anything else that al Qaeda requested. Al-Marri was assisted in his al Qaeda assignment to the United States by at least two high-level al Qaeda members: September 11, 2001 mastermind Khalid Shaykh Muhammed (KSM); and al Qaeda financier and September 11, 2001moneyman Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hawsawi (Al-Hawsawi). Al Qaedasent Al-Marri to the United States to facilitate other aI Qaeda operatives in carrying out post-September 11, 2001 terror attack. Al Qaeda also asked Al-Marri to explore computer hacking methods and the U.S. financial system. In addition, Al-Marri was trained by al Qaeda in the use of poisons and had detailed information concerning poisonous chemicals stored on his laptop computer. Information about Al-Marri's relationship with and activities on behalf of al-Qaeda has been obtained from and corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.

...

27. (S//NF) In addition, Al-Marri's laptop computer contained numerous computer programs typically utilized by computer hackers; "proxy" computer software which can be utilized to hide a user's origin or identity when connected to the internet; and bookmarked lists of favorite websites apparently devoted to computer hacking. Al Qaeda had tasked Al-Marri with exploring the possibility of hacking into the main frame computers of banks inside the U.S. to wipe out balances and otherwise wreak havoc with banking records in order to damages the U.S. economy. Al-Marri had discussed with al Qaeda other hacking operations as well, including hacking into the computers of banks and credit card companies, obtaining credit card account numbers, and using the these numbers to book airline reservations on five or six flights. This in accord with the belief that fulling booking flight with false reservations would result in loses to the airlines industry.

...

Conclusion

35. (U) In conclusion, investigation has determined that Al-Marri was an active al Qaeda operative at the time of his entry into the United States on September 10, 2001. Al-Marri was sent to the United States at the behest of al Qaeda. Upon his arrival in the United States. Al-Marri engaged in conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism intended to cause injury or adverse effects on the United States. Al-Marri's status has been subject to a rigorous review process and it has been determined that Al-Marri represents a continuing grave danger to the national security of the United States. Al-Marri must be detained to prevent him. from aiding al Qaeda in its efforts to attack the United States, its forces, other governmental personnel, or citizens.

Source: Rapp Declaration via WashingtonPost [PDF] (Mirror)

Al-Marri was then permitted to respond to the Government's evidence; he contended that he was not an enemy combatant and moved for summary judgment. The district court would eventually deny his motion, but the final say was delegated to a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge eventually ruled that the Rapp Declaration provided sufficient grounds for classification as an enemy combatant; the magistrate judge directed al-Marri to file rebuttal evidence.

In response to the magistrate judge, Al-Marri denied their assertion, but filed no rebuttal evidence citing the court's burden to provide evidence of his guilt; he argued that the Rapp Declaration did not suffice. In 2006, the magistrate judge recommended dismissal of al-Marri's case and the district court adopted this suggestion; al-Marri then signaled his intent to appeal.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit presided over al-Marri's appeal and issued the following ruling on June 11th, 2007. The 4th Circuit unanimously reversed the district court's ruling with regard to al-Marri's habeas corpus argument. The court did not however reach a unanimous verdict with respect to the issue of Executive power; one of the three judges voted to uphold the district court's ruling. The full text of the majority ruling is presented below:

IV.

For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the judgment of the district court dismissing al-Marri's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. We remand the case to that court with instructions to issue a writ of habeas corpus directing the Secretary of Defense to release al-Marri from military custody within a reasonable period of time to be set by the district court. The Government can transfer al-Marri to civilian authorities to face criminal charges, initiate deportation proceedings against him, hold him as a material witness in connection with grand jury proceedings, or detain him for a limited time pursuant to the Patriot Act. But military detention of al-Marri must cease.

Source: Judgment Al-Marri v. Wright via USCourts.gov [PDF]

The 4th Circuit court then held an en banc rehearing on their previous ruling; the date of the hearing was October 31, 2007. On July 15th, 2008 they issued two 5-4 decisions; their first ruling stated that if the Government's allegations are in fact true, al-Marri could be held indefinitely within a military prison as an enemy combatant; the court also ruled that al-Marri was not provided his constitutionally defined due process of law to determine whether the aforementioned allegations were in fact true. The complete opinion of the en banc rehearing is quoted below:

ON REHEARING EN BANC

...

OPINION

PER CURIAM:

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his military detention as an enemy combatant. After the district court denied all relief, al-Marri noted this appeal. A divided panel of this court reversed the judgment of the district court and ordered that al-Marri's military detention cease. See Al-Marri v. Wright, 487 F.3d 160 (4th Cir. 2007).

Subsequently, this court vacated that judgment and considered the case en banc. The parties present two principal issues for our consideration: (1) assuming the Government's allegations about al-Marri are true, whether Congress has empowered the President to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant; and (2) assuming Congress has empowered the President to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant provided the Government's allegations against him are true, whether al-Marri has been afforded sufficient process to challenge his designation as an enemy combatant.*

Having considered the briefs and arguments of the parties, the en banc court now holds: (1) by a 5 to 4 vote (Chief Judge Williams and Judges Wilkinson, Niemeyer, Traxler, and Duncan voting in the affirmative; Judges Michael, Motz, King, and Gregory voting in the negative), that, if the Government's allegations about al-Marri are true, Congress has empowered the President to detain him as an enemy combatant; and (2) by a 5 to 4 vote (Judges Michael, Motz, Traxler, King, and Gregory voting in the affirmative; Chief Judge Williams and Judges Wilkinson, Niemeyer, and Duncan voting in the negative), that, assuming Congress has empowered the President to detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant provided the Government's allegations against him are true, al-Marri has not been afforded sufficient process to challenge his designation as an enemy combatant.

Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinions that follow.

----------------

*We deny the Government's motion to dismiss this case for lack of jurisdiction. The Government relied on section 7 of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600, which amended the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-148, § 1005(e)(1), 119 Stat. 2680, 2741-42. After we heard en banc argument in this case, the Supreme Court declared section 7 of the MCA unconstitutional. See Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___, ___, slip op. at 64 (June 12, 2008). The Government now concedes that we have jurisdiction over al-Marri's habeas petition.

Source: Al-Marri v. Pucciarelli via USCourts.gov [PDF]

In response to the 4th Circuit's en banc rehearing, al-Marri's representation filed a petition for certiorari on September 19th, 2008 with the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would accept the appeal on December 5th, 2008 pertaining to the following question:

08-368 AL-MARRI V. PUCCIARELLI

DECISION BELOW:534 F.3d 213

LOWER COURT CASE NUMBER: 06-7427

QUESTIONS PRESENTED:

Does the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), 115 Stat. 224, authorize and if so does the Constitution allow-the seizure and indefinite military detention of a person lawfully residing in the United States, without criminal charge or trial, based on government assertions that the detainee conspired with al Qaeda to engage in terrorist activities?

CERT. GRANTED 12/5/2008

Source: 08-368 Al-Marri v. Pucciarelli Questions Presented via SupremeCourtUS.gov [PDF]

Between the time of the initial hearing and the Supreme Court's issuance of a ruling, a new Executive took office. Just two days into his presidency, Barack Obama issued a memorandum detailing his administration's intent to review the detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. The review is to be completed on or before March 23, 2009.

The Supreme Court then issued their ruling on March 6th:

FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2009

CERTIORARI -- SUMMARY DISPOSITION

AL-MARRI, ALI V. SPAGONE, DANIEL

08-368 (08A755)

The application of the Acting Solicitor General respecting the custody and transfer of petitioner, seeking to release petitioner from military custody and transfer him to the custody of the Attorney General, presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted. The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the appeal as moot. See United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U.S. 36 (1950).

Source: Al-Marri v. Spagone Summary Certiorari Summary Disposition via SupremeCourtUS.gov [PDF]

A press release by the American Civil Liberties Union effectively describes the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision:

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court today vacated a lower court decision giving the president the extraordinary power to seize and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens or residents without charge or trial. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who, after being held for almost six years in military detention, was indicted last week in federal court and charged with two counts of material support for terrorism.

In July 2008, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in a fractured decision that the president had legal authority to imprison al-Marri indefinitely without charge. As one judge noted in dissent, however, to accept the government's claim of extraordinary detention power would have "disastrous consequences for the Constitution-and the country." The Supreme Court vacated that decision and dismissed the case as moot.

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project and lead counsel in al-Marri's case:

"While we would have preferred a Supreme Court ruling that U.S. citizens and lawful residents detained in the U.S. cannot be held in military custody as 'enemy combatants' without charges or trial, the Supreme Court nonetheless took an important step today by vacating a lower court decision that had upheld the Bush administration's authority to designate al-Marri as an 'enemy combatant.' Congress never granted the president that authority and the Constitution does not permit it. We trust that the Obama administration will not repeat the abuses of the Bush administration having now chosen to prosecute Mr. al-Marri in federal court rather than defend the Bush administration's actions in this case."

Source: Supreme Court Vacates Decision Giving President Indefinite Detention Power In Al-Marri Case via ACLU.org

Obama appears to be taking the necessary steps, at least in the eyes of public opinion, to limit his own power, but the legal door has yet to be closed. Noah Feldman of Harvard University wrote an interesting and very informed op-ed in Thursday's edition of the New York Times that discussed the entire al-Marri debacle as it relates to President Obama. Prof. Feldman places Obama within the precipice of the legal doorway, unable, or perhaps unwilling to make an immediate or definitive decision with regard to his Executive power.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Obama's inherited power could help alleviate the current angst on Wall Street; we'll provide further analysis later in the week.

Published on March 20th at 4:58 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Jamie McIntyre, of CNN, is a Joke

A fascinating, and I don't mean intellectually stimulating, article was published today by CNN contributor Jamie McIntyre entitled Myth of Shinseki lingers. I'm going to include his entire piece and work through it paragraph by paragraph. The thesis of the article reads as follows:

The nomination of retired Army Chief Gen. Eric Shinseki to be secretary of veterans affairs is widely seen as an appointment with a message, since Shinseki ran afoul of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the inside story of how Shinseki's reputation as a "truth-teller" has been burnished beyond what the facts support.

Source: CNN

Seems interesting enough right, wrong. It takes just thirteen words for Jamie to entirely contradict the premise of his piece:

In fairness to Gen. Eric Shinseki, he's never said "I told you so."

What does that even mean? Seriously. Either Jamie is implying that Gen. Eric Shinseki was wrong, which in itself is wrong (more on that later) or Jamie is saying that Gen. Eric Shinseki wasn't arrogant enough to boast, thus implying that he was right. In either case Jamie is wrong.

But many others have elevated his now-famous February 2003 testimony to the level of Scripture.

And if by "Scripture" you mean that Gen. Eric Shinseki's foresight regarding the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation were correct, then yes; otherwise no.

Shinseki was right, they say, when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee a month before the invasion that something on the order "several hundred thousand troops" would be necessary to keep order in a post-invasion Iraq.

Thank you for proving my previous point, Jamie.

At the time, that observation drew loud scoffs from then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and from his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who dismissed the prediction as "wildly off the mark."

Still, Shinseki wasn't advocating 300,000 troops be dispatched into Iraq. In fact, he said specifically that the forces mobilized in the region to that point were probably enough, and he made it clear he would have defer to the combatant commander, Gen. Tommy Franks.

"I would have to rely on combatant commanders' exact requirements," he said.

But pressed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, to make an off-the-cuff guesstimate, Shinseki said "it would take a significant ground force."

Okay? What part of "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required" to invade Iraq, is so difficult to comprehend? Shinseki absolutely supported a ground force of at least 300,000; I would say several implies at least three as couple typically denotes two.

Since that day, critics of the war have lauded Shinseki's prescience and his willingness to speak truth to power.

"Here was a career officer who had valuable insights who was shunted aside by arrogant civilians," University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole is quoted as saying in Sunday's Washington Post.

"When he had his disagreements with the administration, he wasn't afraid to speak up," Vietnam Veterans of America's John Rowan told CNN on hearing of the nomination.

It's an appealing narrative, but the facts as we know them are not nearly so complimentary to the retired Army chief.

Let's see the "facts" then Jamie, so far neither Prof. Juan Cole nor John Rowan have said anything disputable.

You see, Shinseki never made any recommendation for more troops for Iraq. In fact, as Army chief of staff, it wasn't really part of his job to take part in direct war planning.

If it wasn't part of his job, why would you expect him to do it?

But as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he did owe the president his best military advice. And if he felt strongly enough that the advice was not being taken, he could have resigned.

So let me get this straight Jamie, you're suggesting that one of the few Generals with any say in any military planning, who was ultimately proven to be correct about his pre-war assertions, should have resigned because the President ignored his advice. Unbelievable.

According to senior military officers who were in the pre-war meetings, Shinseki never objected to the war plans, and he didn't press for any changes.

Wait, if "it wasn't really part of [Shinseki]'s job to take part in direct war planning" why was he in "the pre-war meetings?"

When the joint chiefs were asked point-blank by then-Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers if they had any concerns about the plans before they went to the president, Shinseki kept silent.

Jamie, you've already stated that Shinseki believed "it would take a significant ground force" to invade Iraq. Did you want Shinseki to stand up and say this is a bad idea, we need more troops? It wasn't his job, as you previously mentioned, and his views were clearly understood and already ignored by all those involved.

He kept his counsel

But Shinseki was a very private leader who did media briefings only when ordered to and rarely gave interviews. If he had concerns about the Iraq war plans, he kept them to himself.

He admitted as much in a rare e-mail exchange with Newsweek magazine in 2006.

Asked to respond to the criticism that he failed to push to stop Rumsfeld from going into Iraq with too few troops, he told the magazine, "Probably that's fair. Not my style."

Knowing his opinions were not particularly welcome, Shinseki kept his mouth shut. In that sense, he was "marginalized," as some say.

Again Jamie, you prove my point, and contradict your own. Nobody had anything to gain from Shinseki's contining vocalization of his views. The war was still going to happen in whatever manner Rumsfeld and Bush wanted it done, and I would rather have a General who was correct and silent (Shinseki) than a General who was loud and wrong (possible replacement had Shinseki resigned).

And it's true that in retrospect, many U.S. commanders believe there should have been more troops sent to Iraq, even though it's far from clear that would have prevented the insurgency and sectarian violence that the Pentagon failed to anticipate.

But the idea that Shinseki was a strong advocate for a bigger force and that no one listened vastly overstates his role.

It's one of those Washington myths that are almost impossible to dispel -- like the popular misconception that Shinseki was fired for standing up to Rumsfeld.

That myth is so pervasive, the authoritative Associated Press repeated it again Saturday night, saying "Shinseki was removed from [his] post after challenging the Bush administration."

He did not stand up to Rumsfeld, nor was he fired.

Nobody is overstating Shinseki's role. Perhaps you are understating the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration's planning of the Iraq War. Shinseki may not have been removed from his post but there was definitely contempt from Rumsfeld. Shenseki's retirement took place just 4 months after his preceding testimony. At Shinseki's retirement ceremony, no senior civilians attended breaking an historical precedence. I'll also point out that the AP is garbage, go ahead and find another source propagating this "myth," and get back to me.

There's no question that Shinseki was on the outs with his civilian bosses, especially Rumsfeld.

Shinseki ordered that all soldiers wear black berets, a move that infuriated the special forces community, for whom the berets were a badge signifying their elite status. Rumsfeld, according to aides, was particularly miffed that Shinseki spent so much effort changing the Army's head gear, when the nation was at war.

He retired after serving a full four years as chief at a ceremony in 2003 that neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz attended.

In a briefing carried by CNN, Shinseki stated that "The Army will change to remain the most capable and the most respected Army in the world." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz then went on to say that "[Shinseki & Wolfowitz] thought it important to have a symbolic and a visible demonstration that this Army was prepared for change and undertaking it." Both were commenting on the inclusion of the black beret into the Army uniform. It seems as though Rumsfeld was more concerned with physically waging war than he was with supporting the operations of the US Army.

A man of principle

In announcing Shinseki's selection as secretary of veterans affairs, President-elect Barack Obama called him someone who "always stood on principle."

"No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans," he said.

In applauding the selection, Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of VoteVets.org, said, "If there are two things everyone knows about Gen. Shinseki, they are that he always thinks ahead to what needs may be down the road, and is not afraid to strongly speak his mind to the president of the United States."

Now that Shinseki is working for someone who believes in him, that could well turn out to be true -- no matter how much he kept his counsel to himself in the past.

Seriously Jamie, what was your point? You know what the facts support? The facts support an opinion formulated by Gen. Shinseki before the invasion of Iraq, this truth was his truth, what he believed. When the dust settled, Shinseki was correct. Whether you want to call him a "truth-teller" because of this has absolutely nothing to do with deception, but rather perception. If you value honesty and integrity Shinseki did absolutely nothing wrong, he stood by his beliefs and didn't waver; others may have disagreed with him, but he always agreed with himself. he told his truth, and it just so happens that it turned out to be the truth.

Published on December 8th at 11:49 PM CT :: 1 Comment

Exit Polls Dictate a Landslide

Based upon exit polls provided by MSNBC, it appears as though Obama has this election in the bag. Obama will win Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Florida and North Carolina if the exit polls are accurate.

	Georgia			  Florida		
	Obama	McCain	% Total	  Obama	  McCain  % Total
Male	51	56	0.46	  49	  49	  0.47
Female	54	55	0.54	  50	  48	  0.53
							
Male	23.46	25.76		  23.03  23.03	
Female	29.16	29.7		  26.5	 25.44	
Total	52.62	55.46		  49.53	 48.47	
							
	Alabama			  North Carolina		
	Obama	McCain	% Total	  Obama	  McCain  % Total
Male	38	60	0.45	  46	  53	  0.46
Female	45	55	0.55	  56	  43	  0.54
							
Male	17.1	27		  21.16	  24.38	
Female	24.75	30.25		  30.24	  23.22	
Total	41.85	57.25		  51.4	  47.6	
							
	Virginia		  Missouri		
	Obama	McCain	% Total	  Obama	  McCain  % Total
Male	52	46	0.46	  52	  47	  0.46
Female	56	44	0.54	  54	  45	  0.54
							
Male	23.92	21.16		  23.92	  21.62	
Female	30.24	23.76		  29.16	  24.3	
Total	54.16	44.92		  53.08	  45.92	
							
	Indiana			  Ohio		
	Obama	McCain	% Total	  Obama	  McCain  % Total
Male	49	49	0.47	  52	  46	  0.48
Female	55	44	0.53	  54	  44	  0.52
							
Male	23.03	23.03		  24.96	  22.08	
Female	29.15	23.32		  28.08	  22.88	
Total	52.18	46.35		  53.04	  44.96	

Data gathered from MSNBC's exit polls.

Published on November 4th at 7:20 PM CT :: 2 Comments

It's "Barrack Abeam" According to AP

I was reading about the new spending bill that the Senate just passed on MSNBC.com and noticed an error. The article published by the Associated Press refers to Barack Obama as "Barrack Abeam," have a look:

Barrack Abeam

Source: MSNBC.com

It would appear that somebody hurriedly pressed the "Change All" button on spell check instead of actually proofreading their work. This error serves as yet another indication of the Associated Press' diminishing legacy.

Published on September 27th at 3:34 PM CT :: 1 Comment

Biden's Son More Qualified Than Palin

McCain played the inexperience card throughout the pre-convention period, now its Obama's turn. With Sarah Palin (Republican, Alaska) filling the Republican VP slot the inexperience balance shifts. Sarah Palin's only valid experience in political office started in 2006 when she was elected as the Governor of Alaska. Her previous political career started in Wasilla (approximately 9,000 residents), Alaska in 1992 as a City Council member. She would later become the mayor of Wasilla for the term of 1996-2002. In 2002 she ran for lieutenant Governor and was defeated. Between 2002 and 2006 she did some work for an Oil company and also played an important role in exposing high ranking Republicans in Alaska. The bottom line; her only experience in actual office is her two years as Governor. Right now I could move to any given city in America with a population of 9,000 people, and if I was committed enough I could become Mayor. In fact, somebody much younger than Palin did that very thing, except in a town 4 times the size: Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Another person that comes to mind who may be more qualified than Palin, Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden. Beau is 39 (thanks John, I incorrectly had 29) and was elected in 2006 as Delaware's Attorney General. Delaware has roughly 200,000 more residents than Alaska. The Republican heads are saying she has more experience than the Democratic Nominee for President, but in reality the Democratic Nominee for Vice President's son may have more experience than Palin. Beau Biden received more votes (133,152) in 2006 during his quest to become the Attorney General of Delaware with than did Sarah Palin in her quest to become Alaska's Governor (114,697).

The McCain campaign has continually argued that Obama is not ready to lead; they cite his service as an Illinois State Senator for 8 years, and then follow it up by saying that he has only been a US Senator (Illinois) for 3 years; still more than Palin can put on her resume. The GOP fails to understand the fact that Barack Obama has received more votes, in his political career than has John McCain in that same time. The table below illustrates my point; the vote counts for the senate include the primary and general election.

Candidate 2008 Pres 2000 Pres 2004 Senate 1998 Senate Total
McCain 9,840,746 6,230,475 1,837,092 903,067 18,811,380
Obama 18,534,951 4,253,379 22,788,330

I also feel it necessary to point out that John McCain only met Palin once before naming her VP; now either he's an excellent judge of character, or he did what was most politically expedient. I, myself personally would have liked to get to know the person who will lead the nation in the event of my incapacitation, but apparently that wasn't important to John.

Published on August 29th at 4:01 PM CT :: 11 Comments

Thoughts About Obama's Speech

Besides the brilliance of the speech itself, three things crossed my mind. I'll start by hinting at third, the circumstances of Obama's potential inauguration. Setting that aside I began looking ahead to the debates with the first occurring in Mississippi on September 26th. The one question guaranteed to come up through the course of the debates: "Who would you consider for your cabinet?" In 2004, Kerry established Joe Biden as his choice for Secretary of State, but in 2008 Joe has a different employment status; who will fit the bill in an Obama Administration? Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York) is the first name to come to mind, but I don't really know if it fits. So the question then becomes what role will Hillary Clinton play?

Hillary is certainly qualified for the position of Secretary of State, but does she want it. I have no idea, and its likely already been decided between the two campaigns; but I'll speculate anyway. I believe Hillary will maintain her position as a Senator from New York and focus on bringing universal health care to all with the help of Senator Ted Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts). I certainly think she is qualified to be Secretary of State, but I don't particularly think she wants it. She doesn't need to pad her resume for the next election cycle and I think she would be content to sit back and vote with the party while focusing on her health care quest. Hillary Clinton will be the next Democratic Nominee for president after Barack Obama's reign ends, if she wants it. She no longer needs to prove anything to anybody.

Proceeding through my reasoning Obama's cabinet is still wide open. I think Senator John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts) is guaranteed a position based on his lifelong allegiance to the party and his thorough support of Obama's entire campaign. The Secretary of Defense has Kerry's name all over it; Kerry was a military guy and the 2004 Democratic Nominee; it would also kill the Republicans. I think Governor Bill Richardson (Democrat, New Mexico) is also likely to get a position, what it will be I really can't say. Al Gore will be the Energy Czar. I also think Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) is likely to get a position. Other than that I really have no idea; any suggestions?

The third and final point put a smile on my face. What if on Obama's inauguration day he wore a white suit and sported a huge Afro. Wouldn't that just be awesome? If this were his first act as President he would effectively send a message that the establishments strangle hold on the American dream has ended.

Published on August 28th at 11:45 PM CT :: 5 Comments

An Obama Victory Minus Florida, Ohio

Taking a look at our recently added flip percentages shows John McCain with a secure grasp on Florida and Ohio, while Obama holds a virtual lock on the Kerry states. Under this assumption Obama would have 252 Electoral Votes, the same garnered by Kerry (Kerry technically received 251 due to a faithless elector in Minnesota) and 18 short of the required 270. There are however states still in play that could allow Obama to reach 270; Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia all have flip percentages over 30 and logically appear to be the most likely states to swing. By my count there are 16 permutations involving these seven states that would garner the 19 Electoral Votes needed. Below is a table with the 16 permutations and each permutations' associated probability. The percentages used for each state are provided by the flip percent on the electoral college estimates page as of August 12, 2008.

Permutation Electoral Votes Probability %
Indiana, Virginia 24 13.73
Indiana, Montana, Iowa 21 21.45
Indiana, New Mexico, Iowa 23 36.18
Indiana, Nevada, Iowa 23 26.16
Indiana, Montana, New Mexico 19 20.63
Indiana, Montana, Nevada 19 14.91
Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada 21 25.16
Virginia, Colorado 22 20.15
Virginia, Iowa 20 35.48
Virginia, Nevada, Montana 21 13.93
Virginia, New Mexico, Montana 21 19.27
Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada 23 23.50
Colorado, Iowa, Montana 19 31.50
Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico 21 53.13
Colorado, Iowa, Nevada 21 38.41
Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada 19 36.94
Obama Wins 1 of 16 Permutations 99.97

As you can see from the table, Obama has a 99.97 percent chance of reaching 270 if he wins all the Kerry states. This conclusion depicts John McCain in a bit of a hole requiring a win in either Michigan or New Hampshire to keep his presidential aspirations alive.

Update: Fixed the number of Electoral Votes Obama would receive if he were to win the Kerry states; as pointed out by a commenter. Kerry received 251 Electoral Votes, but based on the states he won he should have received 252. The one missing vote was cast for John Edwards in Minnesota by a faithless elector.

Published on August 12nd at 12:12 PM CT :: 3 Comments

Why Obama Just Won Iowa

The 500 year flood that recently hit Eastern and Central Iowa may alter more than just the countryside of the Hawkeye State. The devastation is likely to send a profound ripple through the country's political landscape and into the upcoming election. With the 2008 presidential race now in full swing both candidates are vying for crucial swing states. Iowa's importance, like its geography will remain a central point of the contest owing to the margin of victory in each of the last two presidential elections (10,059 votes in 2004, 4,144 in 2000).

The affected area is massive but largely decentralized with Governor Culver (D) declaring 83 of Iowa's 99 counties state disaster areas, 42 of these counties have been declared federal disaster areas. People are affected by this event, they are homeless; they are unemployed; they are without basic necessities; they are left with no means of moving forward. The farming year is over; the vast majority of crops have been ruined and there is no hope of salvaging the harvest in most areas. The farmers themselves are covered by the farm bill of 2002 that provides a subsidy in the neighborhood of 70% based on their theoretical yield; but they don't get a free pass as their yield, or lack thereof affects future subsidy awards. But these natural disaster subsidies won't cover the other 79.4% (USDA, 2002) of Iowa's workforce employed by an industry other than farming.

For the vast majority of Iowans affected by the flooding, federal aid will be their only hope. The people of Iowa deserve help just like the people of New Orleans deserved help. The problem however lies in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) complete inability to provide for citizens in need. Whether FEMA's idiocy was a choice or complete incompetence regarding New Orleans the same results or lack thereof cannot happen in Iowa without dire consequences. If for no other reason the Bush Administration should help Iowans for the political expediency of the Republican Party. Under the current circumstances, if aid is not provided, the political climate in Iowa will shift as troubled residents hold the ruling party responsible for their current situation and defect to the Democratic side. The size of this shift would be difficult to predict, but with the margins of previous elections it's a safe bet that Barack Obama has the state locked up unless the Bush Administration provides an unprecedented amount of aid to the people of Iowa; but based on previous encounters, like their response to Katrina, this preposition seems unlikely and thus I feel confident declaring Barack Obama the winner of Iowa's seven electoral votes.

Update: It also doesn't help that McCain was asked by Governor Culver to cancel his visit to Iowa because it would divert attention away from flood relief. Many of the police officers currently charged with handling the thousands of people displaced by the flooding were placed on security detail for the McCain visit. McCain pledged to help the people of Iowa while those actually helping the people were helping McCain instead.

Published on June 12nd at 4:36 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Witness to Obama's Historic Speech

The Xcel Energy Center seats around 18,000 when configured for hockey, and doesn't take 3 hours to reach full capacity like it did on this historic night. I drove by the main entrance under a light rain at around noon and observed that roughly 60 people were waiting in line. I returned some four hours later and walked over a mile from my parking spot, an unenforced meter, to the front of the Xcel. From there I followed the line several blocks until I finally reached the end around 4 pm. The doors were scheduled to open at 7 with the speech beginning at 8. For the next two and a half hours I stood in roughly the same position and watched a never ending flow of people walk past searching for the rear of the line. I would later find out just how long the line truly stretched.

When the line began to move at 6:30 progress was slow. The path snaked across streets and up and down sidewalks eventually converging on a fenced off area infront of the main entrances. The crowd was instructed by volunteers to empty their pockets of anything metal to expedite the security process. Upon clearing security the foyer was relatively empty with staff directing everybody to move to the right. There were no seats in this section and the vast majority of people migrated to the opposite side of the center where there were plenty of vacant seats. I was positioned at what would be center ice with a nice frontal view of the podium. At this point it was all about being patient. MSNBC was playing on the large jumbo screen up until the point where Kieth Olbermann announced that Obama was within 9 delegates of securing the nomination. For the next 2 hours people continued to file in as I sat in a news blackout. I had no way of figuring out what was happening in Montana, South Dakota or amongst the Super Delegates because they changed the programming and it was simply too loud to call anybody.

As the time passed I watched the campaign staff distribute American flags and "Change We Can Believe In" signs to those situated directly behind Obama within camera range. The staff led them in a few practice flag waves and called it good. At about 9 o'clock the seating capacity was reached and nearly every general admission seat was filled with the exception of those behind the press tower. At this juncture a staff member held up a hand written sign on what appeared to be a white board with the words "5 min to SPEECH." About 30 seconds later the 5 was replaced by a 2 and in another 30 seconds a professor from the U of MN arrived at the podium to set the stage for Barack Obama.

He walked out of the tunnel to what was described as "Loud Applause and Cheering" by the internal closed captioning on the jumbotron. His speech began. At this point I assume you watched it if you're reading this so I'll skip to the end. Upon conclusion he did a few waves to the crowd and scaled the stairs to do a victory lap around the inside of his podium area shaking hands and smiling. It took around 20 minutes for him to circle the infield and disappear back into the tunnel to a thunderous applause from those who still remained. At this point I left.

Throughout the entire event I probably took around 40 pictures which I'll selectively post in the morning. The final attendance for the event as estimated by the St. Paul Fire Marshall was 17,000 people inside the Xcel Energy Center leaving 15,000 outside to watch the event on the enormous monitor on the exterior of the buidling. The police blocked off what appeared to be a 1 or 2 mile radius around the building to accommodate those who did not make it inside the doors.

Enormous Crowd Watches Obama Speak Close up of Obama The Press Tower
Crowd Again and the Other Press Tower Keith Tells Us About the 9 Delegates Contact With Outside World Ends
The CHANGE Sign Thank You, Minnesota TV the 15,000 People Outside Watched

Published on June 4th at 1:48 AM CT :: 0 Comments

Electoral College Projection Map
Senate Projection Map