<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Hello?...First Amendment? 

On Thursday, the United States House of Representatives and Senate responsed in a most amazing manner to the ruling of an Oklahoma Judge's ruling the Federal Do-Not-Call Registry. Perhaps they were a little too early:
Minutes after both houses of Congress concluded a remarkable scramble Thursday to make a popular "do not call" registry pass muster with a federal judge, a second jurist ruled the program has deeper problems: It violates telemarketers' First Amendment rights.

The surprise ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham in Denver handed the telemarketing industry its second legal victory this week and put in doubt the future of the Federal Trade Commission's national registry.

Although Nottingham's ruling is certain to be appealed, legal experts said that at the very least it will delay implementation of the program, which was scheduled to start Wednesday.

The first amendment defines Freedom of Speech in this country. Does that mean that a salesperson has the right to burst through my front door at dinner time and tell me about a vacation package I have won or perhaps a new credit card they have pre-approved just for me? If that happened, and I called the Police, would the response would be "I'm sorry sir, but we cannot remove them from your premises because it might violate their first amendment rights"? I was channel surfing the other night and flipped right past the Home Shopping Network...did I violate their first amendment rights also? If an infomercial airs, and no one watches, are rights being violated? In the future, will telephone or even television ownership going to be required to help protect these rights? Will it be illegal to wear earplugs in the future because of the potential of suppressing free speech?

A little research yielded the following explanation for this judicial ruling:

For the Federal Trade Commission, Judge Edward W. Nottingham's ruling invalidating the nationwide do-not-call registry illustrates the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

Nottingham voided the FTC registry because it offered consumers the option of banning unwanted calls from for-profit businesses but not calls from charitable organizations, which, the judge reasoned, are just as intrusive. This 'content-based' discrimination between two otherwise indistinguishable forms of speech, Nottingham ruled, violated the First Amendment.

Is that the only problem? That can be resolved without even thinking. Simply extend the ban of unwanted calls to all organizations. Nearly one half of all residential phone numbers have signed up for the Do-Not-Call Registry. It is extremely apparent that most Americans do not want their telephone to be a sales tool used against them. I pay for my telephone services and I have every right to limit its use to the purposes I desire.

Telemarketing is dead. They need a new business model (or maybe just a legitimate line of business). One suggestion: if you insist on using the telephone as a marketing tool, then set up a service where you pay for a portion of a household's telephone service in exchange for occasional sales calls. I honestly do not know anyone who would go for such an arrangment, but I'm sure some people would.

As long as you didn't call them during dinner to discuss it.

Terrorists...In Iraq? 

This article is an interesting breakdown of some of the foreign resistance fighters captured in Iraq:
Foreign fighters captured in Iraq include 19 suspected al-Qaida members, and 123 of 248 non-Iraqis being held are Syrians, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer disclosed Friday.

Iranians and Yemenis account for the next largest number of foreigners being held by U.S. forces, Bremer told reporters at the Pentagon. He was unable to provide precise numbers.

Foreign Islamic terrorists and "mercenaries" who have infiltrated into Iraq from Syria and Iran constitute a large part of the threat to U.S. troops, along with backers of former dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, Bremer said.

The suspected al-Qaida members were identified in interrogations and by examining confiscated documents, he explained, adding that some of those who have entered Iraq from Syria "may also be al-Qaida."

"Several hundred" members of a terrorist group called Ansar al-Islam, which U.S. officials say is allied with al-Qaida, also have re-infiltrated Iraq and pose a major threat, Bremer said.

"They're a very dangerous terrorist group, and that's a lot of terrorists," he said.

Iraq has nothing to do with terror? The former regieme sponsored Palestinian suicide bombers. Training camps for terror organizations have been found in Iraq. The only resistance U.S. Troops are facing in Iraq is coming from both home-grown and foreign terrorists. It is certain that the Islamic world expected a Mogadishu response to terrorism in Iraq, just as they expected the same type of weak response to 9/11. It is fortunate for the people of Iraq that the assumption of a weak U.S. resolve, shaped by Beirut and Somalia, was not correct.

And how successful have these terror attacks been?

Bremer said terrorist acts and attacks on U.S. troops, however, have failed to obstruct reconstruction efforts in Iraq. More than 8,000 projects, from repaving roads to repairing water and electric systems, have been completed by the Coalition Provisional Authority and allied troops, he said.
Starting on 9/11/2001, the United States and her close allies have taken a new approach to dealing with terrorism. As a result, it has lost its ability to achieve results. It used to be the tool of choice for those movements never able to attain their goals by conventional means. Now it is simply desperate action, death throes, of organizations fading into obscurity.

Friday, September 26, 2003

NL Central 

And then there were three.

Houston and Chicago are all tied up in the National League Central with three games remaining. The pennant race has been fun, especially in Pejman's comments every time the Cubs lose, which has not been often enough for my tastes. So to satisfy my curiousity, and possibly irritate Mr. Yousefzadeh, here is a detailed analysis of the remaining games for the two division leaders:

Houston vs. Milwaukee
TeamAvgSlgOBPOPSRunsERARunsWinsVs.
Houston.262.429.336.7667903.82655868
Milwaukee.256.418.329.7476925.02858666
Difference.010.011.007.019981.20203202

Chicago vs. Pittsburgh
TeamAvgSlgOBPOPSRunsERARunsWinsVs.
Chicago.259.416.323.7397113.86676868
Pittsburgh.268.422.338.7607464.64788747
Difference.009.006.015.021350.78112121
Statistically, Houson is a slightly stronger team than Chicago, and their opponent (Milwaukee) is significantly weaker than Chicago's (Pittsburgh). Unfortunately, statistics do not win ball games. My gut feeling on this is both leaders will go 2-1 in their final series and finish the season tied. This will require a one game playoff which will be held in Chicago (unfortunately). If it does come to that, then look here on Monday morning for a head-to-head statistical analysis of Houston vs. Chicago.

The Council Has Spoken 

The Watcher's Council has met and has voted on the posts of the week:

   Winning Council Entry:
    Approaching Iran by Spiced Sass

   Winning Non-Council Entry:
    The New Uncle Wiggle Wings by Dean's World

There was another tie this week, in the Council category. (I didn't receive a single vote with what I thought was a pretty good article. I'm gonna attribute it to the fact that BlogSpot pulled down the archives and permalinks for a few days.)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Judicial Restraint 

Yesterday, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that the FTC commission that created the Federal Do-Not-Call Registry overstepped its bounds. Today Congress is taking action to ensure that the judiciary knows that such authority has been granted to the FTC by the Congress:
Lawmakers are moving swiftly to defend the popular national do-not-call list from a court ruling that may jeopardize the promise of peace and quiet for people fed up with telemarketers.

The Senate and House were expected to consider legislation Thursday that would ensure the free government service goes into effect as scheduled next week, deflecting unwanted sales pitches to more than 50 million registered phone numbers.

A flood of congressional proposals defending the list came only hours after an announcement Wednesday that a federal judge in Oklahoma City had ruled the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority by creating the registry. Telemarketers who sued to block the list stopped short of declaring victory because there was uncertainty about how the ruling would affect the FTC's plans.

Consumers may continue signing up for the list despite the ruling, FTC spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane said.

If you are not already signed up, do it before October 1st. The telemarketers are only required to check the list every three months, so missing the deadline could be costly as far as time goes. The phone here received roughly 5 telemarketing calls per day. Assuming one minute of lost time per phone call over a period of three months comes out to 7.5 hours of wasted time.

Screened Passion 

Mel Gibson's movie which details the crucifixion of Jesus Christ continues to be shown to select screening audiences. Keith A. Fournier gives his review in this article in Christianity Today. He is amazed at the charges that the movie is anti-Semitic:
At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. 'Why is this film considered by some to be 'anti-Semitic?'

Frankly, having now experienced (you do not 'view' this film) 'the Passion' it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded 'After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't.' He continued 'It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus'

I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way. Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations.

This article is a must read, just as this movie will be a must see. The most amazing part of the screening was the state of the audience once the movie ended:
When the film concluded, this "invitation only" gathering of "movers and shakers" in Washington, D.C. were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth.
A very interesting take on the controversy surrounding this movie comes from conservative Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin:
As an Orthodox rabbi with a wary eye on Jewish history which has an ominous habit of repeating itself, I fear that these protests, well intentioned though some may be, are a mistake. I believe those who publicly protest Mel Gibson's film lack moral legitimacy. What is more, I believe their actions are not only wrong but even recklessly ill-advised and shockingly imprudent. I address myself to all my fellow Jews when I say that your interests are not being served by many of those organizations and self appointed defenders who claim to be acting on your behalf. Just ask yourself who most jeopardizes Jewish safety today, Moslems or Christians?
There is no need to say anything else, Lapin has said it all.

Good Morning Humor 

I needed a laugh this morning and found it at Snooze Button Dreams. Somehow he took a technical discussion about operating systems dealing with legacy applications and transformed it into a hilarious skit which parodies U.N. politics. Thanks for the Thursday morning cheer!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Whose Line is it Anyway? 

Last week, I received a most annoying phone call. I work from home, so I am around the majority of the time. I answered the phone and the lady thanked me for staying at Fairfield Inn, a subsidiary of Marriot hotels. She wanted to let me know about special vacation packages I was eligible for. I politely told her that I was not in a financial position to take a vacation. She insisted on going over the package with me, so I politely explained that that I did not have time to listen. She asked when she could call me back. At this point I said quite firmly that I did not care to accept her offer and that I was on the Federal Do-Not-Call Registry and asked her to remove my phone number from her list.

This is where things got interesting. She declared quite defiantly that because I was their customer, they had every right to call me regardless of my presence on the Do-Not-Call list. I'm usually a pretty calm person but this really got me hot under the collar. I argued with her a bit and she continued to insist that it was her right to pester me at home because I had once stayed in one of their hotels. She was no longer trying to sell me anything except the fact that the Do-Not-Call list did not include her calling me. I finally just hung up and I honestly expected her to call right back to continue the conversation.

A word to companies who may not be technically violating the letter of the law but are truly violating its intent: People like myself may have been your customers in the past, but there is no way I will do any business with you over the telephone. I may even choose not to do any business with you in the future. If this is the way that you treat your customers, then I choose not to be one.

Today, a federal court has reversed the do-not-call registry per this New York Times article:

A federal district court has ruled that federal regulators overstepped their authority in establishing a national do-not-call registry, a decision that would appear to block the registry — containing 48 million phone numbers — from taking effect on Oct. 1. Under federal rules, telemarketers could be heavily fined for calling those numbers.

The ruling, issued on Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and made public today, found that Congress had not given authority to the Federal Trade Commission to establish the national registry.

It is amazing that in just a few short months, 48 million phone numbers have been placed on this list. I do not know how many phone numbers there are in the country, but there are approximately 109 million households (per the U.S. Census Bureau). Many houses have multiple phone lines, but it would be a safe bet that at least 25% of all U.S. households have signed up for the Do-Not-Call Registry. If the issue was put to a popular vote, the registry would be overwhelmingly supported. The only people I have ever seen in opposition to it are those who do business as telemarketers (and even they don't like to be called at home).

Over at Free Republic, this thread was started when news of this development first came out. It is interesting to see how frustrated this news is making people. Someone posted the number for the court which made the decision and encouraged others to let the court know how they felt about it. Member xtargeter posted about his call to the court:

I called and the woman that answered sounded like she was in tears. I explained politely that I was upset with the ruling and she said they had been getting calls all morning and that some of the courthouse workers had received calls at home. Some of the calls had not been "very nice." She said that was going too far. I responded that I get numerous calls all day long, and that since I worked nights, I didn't appreciate getting them during the day when I was sleeping. She said she would pass the message on the judge.

Sounds like they didn't anticipate the storm.

There is no doubt that millions and millions of Americans who pay for their own phone lines in their home do not wish unsolicited sales calls throughout the day and into the evening. If you would like to call the court and let them know (politely please) how you feel about this decision, here is the number:
     (405) 609-5000.

Blogger/BlogSpot Woes 

My archives are broken. Actually, they are not all broken...two of them work: August 24th and September 7th. Strange, huh? This issue is affecting all Blogspot blogs so I don't even have the honor of being singled out.

Anyways...if you are here for the Watcher's Council or for the Truth Laid Bear's New Blog Showcase or The Carnival of the Vanities, I must regretfully inform you that the true link to my submissions are down right now. However, the article is at the end of this page...here is a shortcut to get there: Caucasian Club

Oops...I almost forgot about The Bonfire of the Vanities. The temporary link to my submission there is here: Tihs Is Inetertsnig.

UPDATE: As of 5:30pm on Wednesday, the archives are working again. They were only down for about 24 hours. You do get what you pay for.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Resolution as Leverage 

One paragraph in this quote from the previous post is very troublesome (source: MSNBC):
What Clark meant, his aides scurried to say, was that he would have voted aye only to pressure Saddam Hussein into allowing more inspections, and as a way of scaring the United Nations into taking more action. But that was the rationale many Democrats in the Senate (including Kerry and Clinton) used to justify their yes vote. Dean, by contrast, agreed with Gore: that a yes vote on the resolution was tantamount to giving Bush a strategic blank check, sanctioning the president's theory of pre-emptive war. Dean says he would have voted no; Rep. Dennis Kucinich actually did so.
In October of 2002, the U.S. Congress passed this resolution which explicitly authorized the use of U.S. Armed forced in Iraq. The resolution passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 296-133 and the U.S. Senate with a 77-23 margin. Nearly a year later, several prominent (Democratic) Representatives and Senators have come out and declared that they did not really vote for a resolution to use force. Wesley Clark has also declared that he would have voted for this resolution but only as leverage to help achieve a U.N.-based solution.

This whole "Resolution as Leverage" idea is intellectually dishonest. When the vote was taken in 2002, it was politically expedient to vote in favor of the resolution. Now that the Presidential campaign is in full swing, these candidates are trying to appeal to their base constituency by stating that they only voted for it as diplomatic leverage but has no intention to go to war. It is an untenable position to declare support for the resolution and in the same breath condemn the war.

Here is a portion of the text they overwhelmingly approved:

SECTION 3, ARTICLE B

(b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION - In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq;

(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

There is no ambiguity in this language. The President was fully authorized to use force in Iraq by the Congress if diplomatic means failed. Was there ever any doubt that diplomatic means would fail miserably? There were numerous U.N. Resolutions against Iraq since the first gulf war and each one produced zero progress in dealing with the beligerance of Saddam Hussein and the oppression of the Iraqi people. Diplomacy was and always would be ineffective against Saddam because no one was willing to enforce it prior to March, 2003.

In order for "Resolution as Leverage" to work, there must be true resolve behind the resolution. There also must be a track record of action when the "lever" does not accomplish its desired result. U.S. foreign policy under the Clinton Administration was heavy on talk and light on action. Talk is acceptable when the objectives are being achieved but when talks break down and no action follows, the "lever" becomes flaccid and powerless. Nothing illustrates this better then the words of Uday Hussein a few days into Gulf War II:

"This time I think the Americans are serious. Bush is not like Clinton. I think this is the end."

Forward March or About-Face? 

This MSNBC article looks closely at General Wesley Clark's entry into the Presidential race:
More seriously, Clark managed to create confusion about his position on the war in Iraq - opposition to which was supposed to be his calling card. Pressed by reporters, Clark said he "probably" would have voted last year for the congressional resolution that authorized George W. Bush to go to war. Suddenly, the Democratic establishment's beau ideal - a four-star foe of the war, a MacArthur who could not be branded a McGovern-seemed to fade into just another wishy-washy pol.

What Clark meant, his aides scurried to say, was that he would have voted aye only to pressure Saddam Hussein into allowing more inspections, and as a way of scaring the United Nations into taking more action. But that was the rationale many Democrats in the Senate (including Kerry and Clinton) used to justify their yes vote. Dean, by contrast, agreed with Gore: that a yes vote on the resolution was tantamount to giving Bush a strategic blank check, sanctioning the president's theory of pre-emptive war. Dean says he would have voted no; Rep. Dennis Kucinich actually did so.

Clark's new spinners blamed the confusion on reporters' refusal (or inability) to understand fine distinctions - and on Clark's own naivete about the brutish simple-mindedness of the campaign press corps. Lacking infrastructure (his new press secretary was using her husband's cell phone), Clark personally printed from his computer a sheaf of his writings showing his passionate opposition to the war per se. "We screwed up, but we're learning," one aide said. In Iowa, he declared he "never would have voted for the war," though war was precisely what the resolution he "probably" would have supported authorized.

It is very interesting that Clark has muddied the water in the one arena where he should have an advantage over the other candidates. There have been some very interesting Clark discussions over at Baldilocks, especially in the comments on this post and this one too.

Censorship? 

This just in:
Iraq's Governing Council today banned the Arab satellite television stations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya from covering official activities here for two weeks, a statement said.

It said the ban was a warning to the stations and other broadcasters for inciting anti-United States violence.

'Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya will temporarily be excluded from any coverage of Governing Council activities or official press conferences, and correspondents of the two channels will not be allowed to enter ministries or government offices for two weeks,' the statement said.

Al-Jazeera's response?
Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballut said: "We regret this decision, but we will continue our work as usual until we are officially notified."
The world is becoming more and more aware what their 'work as usual' is.

It seems that western media is trying to do the same thing, would it be possible to ban them also?

''It's the nature of the business,'' Time's Brian Bennett says. ''What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well.''

The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. ''There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized,'' he says.

But he also sees a city where restaurants are reopening daily, where women feel increasingly safe going out to shop, where more police means intersections aren't as clogged as they were this summer. ''My neighbors are nice,'' he says. ''My street is a pretty quiet place.''

When Bennett visited the USA a few weeks ago, he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn't mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media.

It is high time the news organizations got over they false concept that "bad news" sells. What sells is the truth, and if they fail to report the truth, there will come a time when nothing they report will sell.

(Hat-tip to Hobbsonline A.M. for the second link)

Iranian Sentiment 

Duncan Beatty traveled to Iran recently and posted some highlights from his trip. His take on the sentiments of the people is very interesting:
Many of the people in the cabs in Tehran had the similar thoughts. "Tell George Bush to come and get rid of the mullahs for us." I was shocked by the openness of that statement. With one fellow I tried to discuss it with him in more detail to see if he really meant it or was just talking. I told him that if George Bush came and got rid of the Mullahs, it would not be to help the people of Iran; he would be coming for the oil. The fellow replied, "He can have the oil, its not doing us any good anyway and at least then we would be free."

The further outside of Tehran I was the less political and less critical of the government people were, although not completely without regard. They did not like the situation but were less inclined to openly complain about it.

When I was riding in cars in Shiraz with my friend Ali many of the people had questions for me. They often wanted to know what I thought about their country. They were very proud and they were concerned that I would think less of Iran, and them, since it was not as modern as America and economic conditions were not as good.

I sensed a strong identity with America from many of the people. I think this is because of the success and power of America, and also because of the feeling that in America anyone who wants to work hard can be personally successful, which is a value that they respect. I think many people in Iran feel that their country could and would achieve the same success if not for the leadership of the clerics.

This insight into the way the Iranian people think gave me a new perspective on the foreign policy of the USA. Think about it like this. Let's say that over 50% of the people in Iran would like to get rid of their government of mullahs (I believe the number would really be over 90%). In a democratic system, with over 50% wanting something they would get it. So if an outside influence (USA) helped them get what they want, isn't the outside influence doing the democratic thing?

Of course I realize that this issue is not so simplistic and the opportunity for abuse by the outside influence is huge, but at any time is it ok for an outside influence to help shape another country if it is the desire of the majority in that country? I have never been to Iraq, but I wonder what the majority of people there want?

(Hat-tip to American Realpolitik)

Monday, September 22, 2003

Witness Protection 

I promised myself to never post on the Kobe Bryant sexual assualt case. That was before the case has turned into an international soap opera. The Swiss contribution is as follows:
A Swiss body-building coach was charged with offering to kill the woman who accused US basketball superstar Kobe Bryant of rape, prosecutors said.

Patrick Graber, 31, was arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly claiming to be a Russian mobster willing to kill the Colorado teenager for $US3 million ($A4.44 million) on Bryant's behalf.

This kind of insanity is really not that surprising. It is fully expected to continue until the trial and its subsequent appeals are over. What is surprising is the lack of neutrality on the part of the Swiss.

She's Running 

Interesting poll results were released today which will have a major impact on the Presidential race in 2004. The poll had nothing to do with the numerous Democratic candidates but instead looked at a future Senate race:
Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers want former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani back in public office, according to a statewide poll released Monday.

Hypothetical matchups found the Republican beating both of the state's Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton (news - web sites) and Charles Schumer, if the elections were held today.

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found 62 percent of registered voters want Giuliani to return to public office, while 32 percent felt Giuliani should stay in private business.

...

In a hypothetical matchup for the U.S. Senate against Clinton in 2006, the poll found 57 percent favoring Giuliani over 40 percent for the incumbent Democrat. Giuliani would beat Schumer 51 percent to 45 percent if the 2004 election were held today, according to the poll.

It is no secret that Hillary Clinton has her eye on the Presidency. The only question is will she run in 2004 against an Incumbent Bush or wait until 2008. There are two risks if she decides to wait. First, there is the risk that the Democratic Party Nominee might actually become President. Second, if she waits, it is critical that she keep her seat in the Senate. If she loses the Senatorial election in 2006, she will never be President.

The result of this poll, as premature as it is, indicate that if Ms. Clinton wants to run for President, it will have to be in 2004. She is already in the race and Clark is pegged to be her running mate. It will be interesting to see if she can win the Primary, let alone the General Election. It will also be interesting to see which one will top the ticket.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Saddam Negotiations 

This is a most intriguing development (if true):
SADDAM Hussein has been in secret negotiations with US forces in Iraq for the past nine days, we can reveal.

The Iraqi dictator is demanding safe passage to the former Soviet republic of Belarus. In exchange, he has vowed to provide information on weapons of mass destruction and disclose bank accounts where he siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in plundered cash.

President Bush is being kept abreast of the extraordinary talks by his National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice. She is co-ordinating negotiations in Baghdad which are led by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American forces in Iraq.

The United States has vowed never to negotiate with Saddam and want to take him dead or alive, but the White House hopes the clandestine talks will allow them to pinpoint the tyrant's exact location.

This kind of information makes one think the former Iraqi dictator will be captured sooner rather than later.
(Hat-tip to argghhh!!)

UPDATE: U.S. Military Denies any contact with Saddam in this article (per Instapundit)

New Weblogs Showcase 

The best (IMHO) from Truth Laid Bear's New Weblog Showcase:

Judicial Ethics 

Hugh Hewitt points out a glaring ethics violation in the judicial leg of the California Recall:
I was reminded of this when Priorities & Frivolities pointed me to an astonishing statement by Ninth Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson in this morning's Los Angeles Times. Judge Pregerson is glum about the chances of his outlandish decision, taken with two others to cancel the California recall, being upheld by 11 of his colleagues. Pregerson points to the make-up of the panel, which has been described by others as moderate to conservative by Ninth Circuit standards. This is an admission by Pregerson, of course, that his and the others' first decision is so nakedly political that its reversal by a center-right court is assured. But it is the Judge's breach of an obvious requirement of ethics to remain silent that is newsworthy. That obligation is obvious and intuitive for anyone trained in the law, and he should have known better. In fact, I suspect he did know better, but couldn't be bothered by such considerations. His conscience must have made him do it.
Eugene Volokh illuminates the issue further with:
The L.A. Times quotes him as saying, in an interview: "You know who's on the panel, right? Do you think it's going to have much of a chance of surviving? I wouldn't bet on it. . . . Judge Paez, Judge Thomas and I — we did the right thing," Pregerson said. "We're there to protect people's rights under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, no matter who's involved, and a lot of people don't like it. That's their problem, not mine." But Canon 3(A)(6) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges says:

A judge should avoid public comment on the merits of a pending or impending action, requiring similar restraint by court personnel subject to the judge's direction and control. This proscription does not extend to public statements made in the course of the judge's official duties, to the explanation of court procedures, or to a scholarly presentation made for purposes of legal education.

Moreover, the official Commentary makes clear that this isn't limited to cases that are still before the judge, or for that matter to cases that involve the judge's own court: "The admonition against public comment about the merits of a pending or impending action continues until completion of the appellate process. If the public comment involves a case from the judge's own court, particular care should be taken that the comment does not denigrate public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary in violation of Canon 2A." As Beldar points out, none of the exceptions in the Canon apply here; hard to see the Pregerson statement as anything other than a Code of Conduct violation.

This leaves two judicial questions hanging. First, will the new panel from the 9th circuit reverse the delay for the recall election? Second, will there any penalty for Judge Harry Pregerson's Code of Conduct violation? My predictions are Yes, and No respectively.