Tuesday, March 30, 2004

BEHIND THE SCENES

NEOPHYTE: I agree boss. Gay people should have the right to marry. But it will never pass.

OLD HAND: Haven't you seen this?

NEOPHYTE: Yeah, that's the constitution. We sometimes use it to argue in favor of vulgarity. Oh, and I remember those poor devils having to cite the 5th amendment in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. It's not much use after that.

OLD HAND: On the contrary. You should take another look at the tenth amendment.

NEOPHYTE: Hummm "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

OLD HAND: What do you think?

NEOPHYTE: So much for Roe v. Wade, The Department of Education, Commerce, Labor, Transportation etc. etc. Why didn't we see this before?

OLD HAND: We won't actually use this for anything else. Once we win the matter at hand, we'll put the book right back on the shelf.

NEOPHYTE: Can you do that?

OLD HAND: It works every time.
DASCHLE WANTS SOME ATTENTION TOO

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Tuesday vowed to block all of President Bush's judicial nominees unless Bush promises to stop seating federal judges while the chamber is on vacation.

"We will not be able to move on the confirmation of judges until we are given the assurance that they will not recess appoint future judges, especially judges who have been rejected by the Senate," the South Dakota Democrat said.

A White House spokeswoman replied that Bush has no intentions of giving up his constitutionally mandated power to make recess appointments, particularly when used to circumvent "unprecedented Democratic obstructionism."

This doesn't seem like a very good political move for Daschle. He's in a tough re-election race against popular former Representative John Thune, and the filibuster issue helped Bush regain the Senate in 2002.

Up until now Daschle was playing the centrist in his re-election bid. A threat like this makes me think that Daschle is jealous that John Kerry is getting all of the attention. Keep it up and they'll need a new minority leader.

Thune barely lost to South Dakota’s other Democrat in 2002, and there was enough irregularity in the returns that he may have been the winner.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Myth of the Racist Republicans

If you're in the mood for a somewhat long, but interesting article charting the Republican gains in the south -- here it is. Gerard Alexander points out that the Republicans first started making a splash in the south in the 1952 election, a full 12 years before the divisive Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further, Alexander points out that Republican gains in the south were made first in the peripheral south, not the deep south. States like North Carolina, Texas and Florida and Arkansas became Republican before Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. The growth over the years was helped by northerners moving south and younger southern voters who were much more likely to vote for the party of Lincoln. It wasn't until the 1990s that Republicans controlled the majority of southern House seats and gained control of Congress. Is the south more racist now than it was during Jim Crow?

Also, Republicans are called racist for being against affirmative action, busing, welfare. But these positions can be an argument for a colorblind society. Southern Democrats like George Wallace were openly for segregation. Alexander contends that former southerner Democrats started voting for Republicans not because Republicans shared their racism, but that their neutral racial policies were much less radical than the liberal Democratic "stick it to the man" positions were becoming. The Republicans didn't pander to those southerners, but offered a less radical path to equality.

FDR spent his presidency placating openly racist southern Congressman, but history has treated him kindly. The last openly racist Senator is Democrat, Robert Byrd. He continues to get a free pass in the media. Let a Republican speak against affirmative action and he's accused of pandering to racists. What liberal media?

Friday, March 26, 2004

HOW MUCH GAS CAN WE USE, BOSS?

It's been tough finding things worth commenting on. A lot of the news lately hasn't interested me. I did find an article in the New York Times about Kerry's plan to increase fuel efficiency. It might be worth a couple of laughs.

In the face of rising gasoline prices and stagnating fuel efficiency, Senator John Kerry is sticking with a plan he backed in the Senate to increase the nation's fuel economy standards 50 percent by 2015. That would be the largest increase, by far, since automotive fuel economy standards were first imposed after the oil shocks of the 1970's.

Few think even Mr. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, could actually make good on such a plan if he were elected president, because there is too much opposition from Congressional Republicans and Midwestern Democrats. When Senator Kerry and Senator John McCain pushed such a proposal two years ago, it failed in the Senate on a 62-to-38 vote.

The Times concentrates on whether they have the votes, but not the logistics. This is a basic question of economics.

Manufacturers already make cars that get 30 miles per gallon. If people are tired of paying high prices they can buy one of those cars. In fact, one of the effects and reasons behind the steep gas tax is to price middle class families out of V-8 engines. This Kerry proposal is just more social engineering.

If gas prices remain high for a prolonged period of time, many drivers will choose to dump their gas-guzzlers, but that's not good enough for politicians looking to gain votes by "helping." But does the consumer benefit by having his decisions made in Washington?

These kinds of laws will only ensure that people have fewer choices when buying a car. What happens to people who want a motor home? Will the Kerry Administration put those manufacturers out of business or will they give them an exemption? It wouldn't be fair either way. We'd end up with a bunch of special favors to certain segments of the population and the regular citizen is once again treated like cattle.

Why not just let people choose how much gas they want to buy at the market price? Because, allowing people those kinds of free choices wouldn?t give John Kerry much left to run on. His half of the electorate exists to run the lives of the other half.

This particular law would give Kerry all the power of social engineering but with a due date past his own tenure in politics. He would get all the benefits of tinkering and none of the ill effects of his decisions.

I?ll be interested in how many new proposals John Kerry introduces in this campaign that rely on citizens making their own choices.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Richard Clarke's testimony can't be called anything but laughable.
The government's former top counterterrorism adviser testified Wednesday that the Clinton administration had "no higher priority" than combatting terrorists while the Bush administration made it "an important issue but not an urgent issue."

Richard Clarke told a bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that "although I continued to say it (terrorism) was an urgent problem I don't think it was ever treated that way" by the current administration in advance of the strikes two and a half years ago.

Can anyone name a anti-terrorist success in the 8 years of the Clinton admininstation? Lip service is not a sign of priority.

UPDATE: Clarke is proven a liar.
UPDATE #2 Al Qaeda absent from final Clinton report

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

ARE THE BASEBALLS BEING MANIPULATED?
SURPRISE, Ariz. - Kenny Rogers and Doug Brocail pitched in a Triple A game on Sunday in Surprise, and the first thing they noticed was the baseballs are different than the ones being used in major league camp.

Rogers and Brocail both insisted that the major league baseballs definitely favor the hitter.

Rogers and Brocail said major league baseballs are much harder and have lower seams. A baseball with higher seams is easier to grip and get more movement.

"I got a callous on my finger from throwing one," Brocail said. "I had to throw all fastballs."

"I grabbed one of those balls and said you've got to be kidding," Rogers said. "There's a big adjustment when you come up from Triple A. You have to get used to a whole new baseball."

If Rogers and Brocail are correct and you add that to the players taking steroids to hit the ball farther, you have to conclude that baseball has traded its rich history for the quick buck. They're just a decade behind the baseball card manufacturers that ruined the hobby with overproduction in the 1980s.

Monday, March 22, 2004

FLAVOR OF THE WEEK

Richard Clarke's book and 60 minutes interview is today's big campaign story and tomorrow's fish wrap. It did bring the new charge that Viacom uses 60 minutes to push books. That's just the sort of argument that the opponents of media consolidation have been using for a good while. They gave similar time to Paul O'Neill when his (their) book was being published. Cheney was on Rush today explaining that Clarke is a louse.

George Smith wrote an interesting article about Richard Clarke on February 17th that Drudge linked today.
The retirement of Richard Clarke is appropriate to the reality of the war on terror. Years ago, Clarke bet his national security career on the idea that electronic war was going to be real war. He lost, because as al Qaeda and Iraq have shown, real action is still of the blood and guts kind.

In 1986, as a State Department bureaucrat with pull, he came up with a plan to battle terrorism and subvert Muammar Qaddafi by having SR-71s produce sonic booms over Libya. This was to be accompanied by rafts washing onto the sands of Tripoli, the aim of which was to create the illusion of a coming attack. When this nonsense was revealed, it created embarrassment for the Reagan administration and was buried.

In 1998, according to the New Republic, Clarke "played a key role in the Clinton administration's misguided retaliation for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which targeted bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan." The pharmaceutical factory was, apparently, just a pharmaceutical factory, and we now know how impressed bin Laden was by cruise missiles that miss.

This campaign is going to be nothing but picking off cranks one at a time.

UPDATE: John Podhoretz reviews the new book for fun.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

BUSH IN ORLANDO

President Bush was in Orlando today on the campaign trail. Many people naturally assumed I would go, but I saw him here in 2000 the Sunday before the election and it was the same stump speech he gave throughout the campaign; the one where he said that taxes are the people's money and not the government's money. He kept that promise. Now I'm watching the speech on C-SPAN tape delay. He's wearing a more casual button down shirt with no tie and his delivery is more casual. Both seem to be assets. The most striking thing is the number of American flags at the event and the emotion of the crowd when he mentions love of America. I wish I had gone. It's exciting to be around a bunch of people who aren't shy about loving their country.

I'm not saying that liberals don't love their country, but they must love it in a more detached sort of way. They defend their standoffishness by accusing conservatives of being jingoistic. Their approach seems to be that they'd love their country a lot more if it had the socialism of Europe and foreign policy of Africa. If they could only shape it towards utopia it would be more palatable.

I'm happy most with Bush when he reminds me that he had the guts to go after the terrorists. I'm least happy with Bush when he proposes the kinds of spending proposals that were DOA when Clinton wanted them.

I was happy to see Congressman Tom Feeney at the event. Feeney reportedly told Bush that he couldn't vote for the Medicare increases because he came to Washington to cut entitlements not expand them. Bush then reportedly hung up on him. My Congressman Ric Keller enthusiastically supported the Medicare expansion. It's pasted all over the his homepage. I wrote Congressman Keller on March 8th after I read the Heritage Foundation's proposals for reducing the size of government. I'm still waiting for a response. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Mr. Keller,

I've been worried that federal spending is getting out of control. I have a great deal of respect for President Bush, especially in foreign policy, but I fear that Congress has been rubber stamping his budget increases. I've paid thousands of dollars into Social Security and Medicare programs that I know won’t be solvent when I retire. Now the President has pushed forward an expansion of Medicare. Defense spending is justified, but an increase in other areas of government seems frivolous in a time of war.

The Heritage Foundation has a thoughtful proposal (http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/bg1733.cfm) on getting the budget back under control. I’m sure you follow their good work. Do you think any of the proposals could be enacted?

Would Congress be less apt to spend a ton of money if a President Kerry were proposing the same programs? Wouldn’t the natural adversarial relationship between the President and Congress be a good way to curb big budgets? I can’t stand John Kerry, but if a Republican Congress and a Republican President cannot reduce the size of government, why did we elect one in the first place?

Compassionate Conservatism seems to be aimed at a great many people who would never consider voting for a Republican. You rarely see the Democrats rewarding the opposition when they’re in power.

Please help me to get back the excitement I had in 1994 when the Republicans captured Congress and promised a balance budget amendment and term limits. I would be grateful to hear your thoughts and better informed opinions on these questions.

Thomas Stamper

Keller is a decent guy. He's around my age and probably has the kind of ambitions that make him want to get along. Feeney was the Speaker of the Florida House before running for Congress, and is much more willing to buck the executive branch, even when it's occupied by his own party. I prefer the Feeney method. Friendly debate and disagreement is healthy over specific policies.

If spending continues to go unchecked, divided government will seem like a better and better idea. Of the two branches, a Republican Congress will be a better way to limited government than a Republican President. We're at war and it's not like I'm going to vote for anyone other than Bush, but I would be more enthusiastic about it if he reminds us that he's a protector of individual liberty over government largesse.

Friday, March 19, 2004

HE LIKES THE LEFT LEANING GUY

Lining up foreign support for your campaign is all fun and games until you get endorsed by any number of the freaks running foreign governments.
Kerry Advisor Rand Beers Responds to Mahathir Mohamad

Responding to recent comments by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Kerry Foreign Policy Advisor Rand Beers issued the following statement today:
“John Kerry rejects any association with former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an avowed anti-Semite whose views are totally deplorable. The world needs leaders who seek to bring people together, not drive them apart with hateful and divisive rhetoric.

“This election will be decided by the American people, and the American people alone. It is simply not appropriate for any foreign leader to endorse a candidate in America’s presidential election. John Kerry does not seek, and will not accept, any such endorsements.”

Or at least it was perfectly appropriate when Kerry could use anonymous foreign leaders to bolster his standing. Now please go away!

Monday, March 15, 2004

WHAT DO THE TERRORISTS WANT?

It was no coincidence that the bombing in Spain was planned to influence the election. The terrorists got exactly what they wanted from the bombing. The Spaniards elected a government that will take a soft approach to terrorism.

The lesson here is that a terrorist attack is being planned now to influence our November elections. If the terrorists are successful in doing harm in the United States again, will the American people follow the path of Spain and elect John Kerry?

Even if we foil all the planned attacks before the election, we cannot forget that the terrorists feel safer with leaders who plan no action against them. Therefore, voting for John Kerry only makes sense if you think the terrorists are done with us. The bombing in Spain shows that they are far from it.
GOT TO GET THOSE TALKING POINTS IN

As part of a nationwide team covering the presidential race for kid-oriented Scholastic News, 11-year-old Mitchel Hochberg of Northbrook queried John Kerry at an Evanston senior center this week.

Hochberg, a fifth-grader, noted that President Bush and Kerry have exchanged unusually aggressive barbs for so early in a presidential contest. Does that help Kerry or hurt him? Hochberg wondered.
Kerry responded by talking about prescription drugs.

"It was an interesting experience,'' Hochberg said after the event. But, he lamented, Kerry's response "wasn't a full answer.''

Welcome to the club, kid.

Rich.

Friday, March 12, 2004

I haven't blogged in a few days, because I've been working on a post that I just can't get right. A lot of things have been happening in the news and I have said little. The Passion of Christ is not so controversial now that it's making hundreds of millions. I still haven't seen it. Who wants to fight the first weekend crowds? Or the second weekend crowds? or the third. . . okay this excuse will eventually wear thin.

I've been reading everyday that Howard Stern is calling for Bush's ouster because 6 clear channel stations bumped him off. It's just the kind of gimmick he needed to get some press attention again. Stern is a pretty talented guy, but he's spawned so many half-ass copycats that he may be drowning in them. The Stern station in Orlando has more than one Stern copycat show and I can’t listen to either one. What is more annoying than listening to 5 people share a single microphone?

It wasn't long ago that Stern was blasting Jay Leno for stealing stuttering John. Stuttering John has come and gone from the Stern show in the past, but now that someone as big as Leno wants him, Howard makes a stink. Blasting Leno didn’t get much attention, so this indecency angle became his hobby horse. He's taking this indecency bill and trying to make it about himself. Congress is really worried about the parents that wrote to complain about Janet Jackson. Stern needs to separate himself from the pack again. Or he may just be bored with doing the show. The attention will either give him a crusade and something new to do on the show or he’ll get to go out as a martyr.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

ARE WE AT WAR?

This is a great post from Andrew Sullivan about America's divide.
TWO AMERICAS: Yes, there are two different countries within a country right now. But it's not red and blue exactly. It's not even secular and religious. Or north and south. More accurately, as blogger FrozenNorth explains, it is between those who believe we are at war and those who believe we aren't. I'm in the former camp. So are some Democrats, Republicans and Independents, despite their deep differences over other issues. As 9/11 recedes, I'm not even sure this is a vote-winner for Bush; but it strikes me as essential that he make it the central issue in the campaign and that Kerry be forced to tell us why he believes it is not a war, and how he believes we can defeat terror while returning to the "law enforcement" policies of the 1990s. I may be unable to support a president who would defile the constitution. But equally, no one should support a candidate who cannot be trusted to take the war to the foes of this country. Before they take the war to us - again.

I think many who deny the war do so because they have a passionate dislike for Bush. If Clinton were President I don't think anyone would question whether we were at war, but Republicans would argue that President Clinton wasn't taking it seriously enough. Any President would have invaded Afghanistan. The real question is whether we're going to pretend the danger ended there. Clinton treated the first World Trade Center bombing as an isolated incident instead of a warning. Bush’s critics seem to be taking the isolated incident argument up where Clinton left it. How many isolated incidents do we need before we conclude that a terror network means us harm?

Half the country is arguing that Bush went too far going into Iraq. More than that, critics argue that 911 was used as an excuse to attack Iraq. Some theories are that oilman Bush was greedy for black gold. Other theories are that neo-cons want to rule the world. All critics agree that taking out the dictator has made the world less stable because it has angered our allies and made the world fearful of us. This is very much a post-Vietnam mindset.

First, I have yet to hear a good argument as to why the world fearing us is dangerous. Fear will help rogues keep their distance. The tone taken by Libya, Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia has been positive since Saddam was booted. This gets little attention.

Second, it’s trying times like these that allow us to identify our real allies. It’s obvious that countries like France have always been ready to be on board as long as there was something in it for them. The moment that their interests diverged from ours, they were more than ready to go their own way. Let’s not forget that France gave us the Vietnam problem to begin with. Their passivism led to rise of Hitler.

Our alienation of certain “allies” has been a positive. Weeding out the fair weather friends is a good way to properly allocated U.S. resources when it comes time to identifying and helping our real friends. What good would come of having the world pretend to love us if they never intend to help us in our times of trouble?

The problem the administration got into was one of public relations. They couched the war in nation building terms to sell the war to doves and WMD terms to sell the war to hawks. Both were easy cases to make. No one balked when Clinton used the armed services to nation build in Bosnia and no one balked when Clinton said Saddam had WMD.

What’s becoming evident is that doves didn’t mind Clinton pointing out Saddam’s threat, because there was never any intention to solve the problem.

The Bush administration was na├»ve in thinking they could continue Clinton’s rhetoric about WMDs and Nation-Building and get support. Not because Bush was just using the rhetoric, but because Bush would actually put action behind those words. That is going too far. Bush suffers because he has the wherewithal to do something about the problem.

If the world is actually more dangerous now, why haven’t we suffered more attacks? They were coming at a pretty steady stream in the 1990s. Now that we’ve made the world more dangerous they seem to have stopped.

Sullivan is the right that the real issue in this campaign is whether or not we’re at war. Our safety depends on the answer.

Monday, March 08, 2004

HERITAGE FOUNDATION'S BUDGET PROPOSAL

The Heritage Foundation has a great proposal to get runaway spending under control.
Build a constituency for limited government and lower taxes.

Interest groups are always ready to defend their special-interest subsidies. Taxpayers rarely fight wasteful spending because they do not believe they will ever see the savings. Policymakers can organize taxpayers in opposition to wasteful spending by linking specific reforms and spending reductions to specific tax cuts, such as legislation to:

-Terminate corporate welfare and use the savings for capital gains and business tax cuts;

-Reduce outdated and duplicative programs and use the savings to reduce income taxes across the board;

-Privatize federal corporations by offering current public employees stock options at below-market prices;

-Commercialize air traffic control duties and privatize airports, targeting the savings to airline security; and

-Devolve programs to states while alleviating federal mandates and reducing federal taxes.

Make the states pay for their own pork.
State and local governments, which often consider federal grants “free money,” also lack sufficient incentives to spend this money well because they did not have to extract the taxes themselves. (Many seem to forget the high federal taxes that local residents paid for this “free money.”) Consequently, local officials rarely object to federal grants for unnecessary projects.

Few local governments, for example, would consider taxing their own residents to fund the following pork-barrel projects found in the 2004 federal budget: [2]

-$725,000 for the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

-$200,000 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio;

-$150,000 for a single traffic light in Briarcliff Manor, New York;

-$100,000 for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee;

-$500,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute; and

-$50 million to construct an indoor rainforest in Coralville, Iowa.

Privatize government institutions.
Candidates for privatization are numerous. Congress should:

-Sell the remaining Power Marketing Administrations through a stock offering ($155 million, D);

-Require that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund itself as all other television networks do ($437 million, D);

-Privatize the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation ($14 million, D);

-Allow government agencies to accept bids on government printing jobs instead of having to use the

-Government Printing Office (GPO) ($130 million, D);

-Shift the National Agricultural Statistics Service to the private sector ($124 million, D);

-Sell Amtrak through a stock offering ($1,334 million, D);

-Privatize the next generation high-speed rail program ($27 million, D);

-Turn over the foreign market development program to the assisted industries ($24 million, M);

-Privatize ineffective applied research programs for energy conversation research, fossil fuels, and solar and renewable energy ($1,640 million, D);

-Sell many of the federal government’s 1,200 civilian aircraft and 380,000 non-tactical, non-postal vehicles;

-Shift the Energy Information Agency’s duties to the private sector ($78 million, D);

-Privatize the Architect of the Capitol ($534 million, D); and

-Privatize Air Traffic Control operations and fully fund with user fees.

These things go on forever and you can hit the link if you want to read more. I'm going to write my congressman tonight and see what he thinks of the proposal.

Friday, March 05, 2004

WEB TAX

States hate the Internet. They blame E commerce for millions in lost sales tax revenue, and they want to fix the problem by collecting taxes on Internet items bought by their residents.

But why did states start a sales tax in the first place? They justified sales tax because brick and mortar stores need roads, police protection, government bureaus, state commerce regulators and still other services that burden taxpayers. But if the Internet is resulting in less local commerce it would follow that states have the potential to save a lot of money. Only, as you know, states are never in the business of reducing their size if they can help it.

What this question has exposed is that the states levy taxes using a convenient justification and then spend the money however they want bloating their state budgets. As soon as something in the paradigm changes, their pet projects begin to feel the pinch.

The state of Florida use to do business in a single building less than 50 years ago, but now they have fifty odd buildings providing who knows what. They fund a bunch of fluff that make politicians feel important, compassionate and powerful.

I rarely think the Federal government should trump state government, but interfering with interstate commerce is ample reason.

The commerce is occurring where the seller resides, not the buyer. The sale happens the moment the credit card is charged, not the moment the package arrives. States are trying to make money from commerce that is happening outside of their jurisdiction.

Also, by taxing the Internet, state A can control the prices of items in state B. That's overstepping boundaries. Operationally, that gives states the power of levying a sort of tariff on goods from elsewhere. Eventually a state could ruin Internet commerce by making the online price higher than what the same item could be purchased for locally. You'd have, in effect, a trade war between the fifty states. We'd have free trade with Mexico but limited trade with New York.

The states should be welcoming Internet commerce, because their residents are enjoying a higher standard of living. Could it be possible that the people who run the government would rather have more agencies than a better quality of life for the people they "represent"? That would be cynical.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

ARISTIDE CRIES FOUL

A lot is being made about whether Aristide left Haiti on his own free will. The media seems to be resting the controversy on his being freely elected as if that guaranteed an A+ rating on human rights. Don't forget that Adolf Hitler was popularly elected too before he systematically took over the entire country by limiting freedoms. Without a constitution and an executive that support individual rights, a free election is just a smokescreen. What good is an election if criticizing the government will put you in jail? Does anybody think that Aristide would have ever allowed the kind of election that would have put a rival into power?

It's easy to have one election, but the question is whether that leader is willing to concede that the people have rights that reach higher than the whim of the ruler. The big election in this country happened not in 1788, 1792 or 1796, but in 1800. The first three elections were more or less continuations of current policy. But the election of 1800 brought an entirely new set of leaders and opposite ideas into power. It's sometimes called the bloodless revolution of 1800, because no other established government had ever been able to relinquish power without an armed conflict. That Adams was able to step aside for his bitter rival Jefferson seems like nothing today, because it happens all the time. In my lifetime it's happened in 1976, 1980, 1992, and 2000. The majority of the countries in the world have never experienced it.

If we’re going to question the legitimacy of Aristide, we must ask ourselves how he ruled concerning individual freedom and whether it was within the spirit of the election that put him there. If all it takes to be legitimate is one election then a victory at the ballot box would seem to justify any horrid act that came next. The media doesn't seem to ask these tough questions.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

THE IRAQI CONSTITUTION
Iraqi leaders agreed early Monday morning to an interim constitution that would serve as the framework for the government through next year, Iraqi officials said.

If approved, the interim constitution would be the most progressive such document in the Arab world. Even before the hard bargaining began, there was wide agreement on many of its major features, including the freedom of speech, press and assembly and the free exercise of religion.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, equal treatment under the law regardless of gender or ethnicity, as well as civilian control over the military.

"This document protects the rights of individuals more than any other document in the region," said Feisal al-Istrabadi, an Iraqi American lawyer who helped draft the interim constitution.

What will be the criticism of the war once Iraq has a constitution and more freedom than any other Arab nation?
WHO TOOK WHAT
San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, New York Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and three other major league baseball players received steroids from a Burlingame nutritional supplement lab, federal investigators were told.

The baseball stars allegedly got the illegal performance-enhancing drugs from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative through Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal weight trainer and longtime friend, according to information furnished the government and shared with The Chronicle.

In addition to Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield, the other baseball players said to have received steroids from BALCO via Anderson were two former Giants, outfielder Marvin Benard and catcher Benito Santiago, and a former A's second baseman, Randy Velarde.

Bonds befriended Giambi after the 2000 season, when Giambi, then the first baseman for the Athletics, had won the American League Most Valuable Player award, the source said.

After the 2002 season, Bonds and Giambi were part of a team of big leaguers who traveled to Japan on a baseball barnstorming tour. Bonds brought Anderson along on the trip, and the trainer got to know Giambi at that time.

Bonds also had been friendly with Sheffield since the outfielder's days with the Florida Marlins in the 1990s. After the 2001 season, Sheffield, then with the Atlanta Braves, moved to the Bay Area for several weeks so that he could work out with Bonds. A source said Anderson had supervised some of the workouts.

. . . as long as they weren't gambling

UPDATE: Slick pronounces Bonds guilty.
HAITI

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Sunday night to send a multinational peacekeeping force to Haiti for up to three months.

Those who complain about the costs of re-building Iraq should remember that we spent money and put our soldiers in danger in Haiti for an unclear cause. There was no justification for entering Haiti that couldn't have been made for Cuba. The only difference was that invading Cuba would have served a vital U.S. interest.

I only link this because I hope my pal Steve Whitaker will comment on his experiences as a soldier in Haiti during the original invasion.