Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fascinating comment

Thank you, Instapundit, for highlighting this little tidbit from an interview with the Times in London:

::::::::THERE has probably never been a president, there may not have been a human being, who observes punctuality with the sort of fanaticism that President George W. Bush brings to every aspect of his life.

If you are on time for a meeting with the President you are late, we were told as we prepared for our interview in the Oval Office yesterday to preview the G8 summit at Gleneagles next week.

Sure enough, a full nine minutes before the allotted time for our appointment, the door of the most famous room in the world opens and a genial President steps forward to greet us.

In person Mr Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one’s faith in the reliability of the modern media.
::::::::

Join the club, Mr. Baker. Nice to see it finally get admitted in print, and thank you very much.

Annan to US: Please invade

It's impossible to not see the irony in this situation. After years of berating the United States and obstructing every move that even remotely involved military action, Kofi Annan has come to Secretary Rice and asked for the US to put troops into Haiti.

::::::::United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the United States this week to consider sending troops to Haiti to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission beset by mounting armed challenges to its authority, according to senior U.N. officials.

Annan told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a meeting at U.N. headquarters Tuesday afternoon that he may have to ask for American "boots on the ground" in the coming months to reinforce more than 6,500 Brazilian, Chilean, Argentine and other peacekeeping forces serving in Haiti, the officials said.

He expressed hope that the United States would participate in a planned U.N. rapid reaction force, authorized by the Security Council earlier this month, that would have the firepower to intimidate armed gangs threatening the country's fragile political transition. Officials said that similar requests are being considered for other countries, including Canada and France. "We want scarier troops," one senior U.N. official said.
::::::::

Yes, I'd imagine they do. The UN's mission in Haiti took over from the United States who put troops into Haiti to stabilize the situation after Aristide's departure. The UN's troops are basically filled by and lead by Brazil. Annan's confidence in them is, apparently, wavering. I've got 2 basic thoughts on the matter, and both of them say we should steadfastly not send troops there.

First, I think that before we send so much as an MRE there, the French, Germans, and Russians should step their asses up and send troops. And they can find their own way there, too. After the resistance we got from those three in sending troops to Iraq (which we now know was being bought with Saddam's oil certificates) I don't think any of that group has any standing to be suggesting we go in anywhere. If Annan needs troops, let him get them from those guys first. If they turn out to be unable to hack it, then we can talk. Until then, they can just pitch in and do some of the heavy lifting if the UN's that important a body to them.

The second thought I have is that it's got to be a real morale-buster to the Brazilian troops that Annan's looking to replace them. The implication of that comment from the "senior UN official" about needing scarier troops is pretty clear: that Brazilians aren't scaring anyone. To put that into more military language, they're not intimidating and that means they're not effective. If I was a Brazilian squad leader, it'd bust my chops pretty good to have that getting spread around by the UN's people. Of course, we don't know for sure why the UN really wants us there. Are the Brazilians really that ineffective or has the UN tied their hands so badly they can't do the job? Definitely something to answer before any American boots hit the Haitian soil.

Jack Kelly on Journalistic believability

Jack Kelly over at Irish Pennants has an insider's viewpoint of today's media. What does he think about the state of things regarding journalilsts?

::::::::Bush hasn't spoken out often enough about what we are doing in Iraq and why. But the principal reason why a slim majority of Americans don't think the war was worth it is because journalists don't tell them the truth.::::::::

Read all about it here.

And so it begins: Kelo decision starts the stampede

The Supreme Court decision in Kelo has been widely denounced outside of the circle of developers and their city/county council friends. One of the things said in the immediate aftermath was that this would set off a land rush the likes of which haven't been seen since the Oklahoma Territory was opened. Supporters of the ruling basically dismissed the idea saying that few towns would pursue such a course for fear of angering their constituents. Apparently, there's plenty of those towns who have no such fear. Instapundit has a link this morning to Virgina Postrel who talks about the fallout from Kelo. (Brief aside, she also has a suggestion for stockholders and consumers to get involved with the businesses they invest in and do business with to get them to pledge not to make eminent domain requests. If you own stock, there are rules designating how you can make a shareholder proposal for the next shareholders' meeting. Check with your companies' investor relations group for info and consider it.) Virginia links from her site to the Institute for Justice. Those folks are tracking the number of Kelo-related activities and, contrary to the claims, there's been a rash of actions in just the few days since the ruling.

::::::::The following examples from newspapers across the country show that the threat of condemnation to homes, small business, churches and other property from government-forced private development projects is being realized. These incidents are the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of properties nationwide are facing the threat of eminent domain for private development, and many more projects are in the planning stages. In its first-ever nationwide study Public Power, Private Gain, the Institute for Justice documented more than 10,000 instances of threatened or actual condemnation for private development nationwide from 1998 through 2002. The Institute for Justice will issue an updated report later this year.::::::::

Follow the link to see briefs of the actions cities are taking now that they've been cleared to take property to improve their tax base. There are links to the news reports for each and every one. Every one listed is a matter of a local government condemning property for the sole reason that it's not generating the tax revenue that they'd like to see. The progression here is so obvious to see that it literally beggars the imagination that the Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of the ruling can't see this. It's not an overstatement to say that they have rendered private property rights null and void in this country if a weathier citizen can apply for and have the local government take your home and give it to him.

I'll be keeping an eye on this.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Troop count?

Forgot something in the last entry. That same story had a mention of Senator Joe Biden talking about the commanders in the field and their assessment of their troop strength. Now, here we have a situation were either 1) Biden's lying outright (unlikely), 2) Biden's exaggerating and making it seem like he spoke with dozens of commanders and actually spoke with 1 LT. Colonel (maybe), 3) President Bush is being told his commanders are all happy and that's not true (maybe), 4) President Bush is lying outright (unlikely).

Why unlikely? Because it's just too easy to prove the lie. With all the allegedly disaffected soldiers over there, keeping it quiet that one commander or another is wanting more troops is damn difficult, considering the communications methods open these days. I also don't know what Biden's definition of a "commander" is. Could be some LT whose unit has come under fire for a few days running. I don't know what the President's definition is, either. Could be only the top-level Generals.

I do think it's a valid question and I wish the Pentagon would make a pointed inquiry and report the findings. If they need more, send more. And if they need a 40-something tubby guy with network skills, call me. Wouldn't want someone to think I'm not ready to back up my own words.

Democrats unsatisfied with last night's speech Updated

Who knows? I might win an award for "most expected headline," here.

::::::::Congressional Democrats said President Bush's repeated attempts last night to link the war in Iraq to the September 11 terrorist attacks rang hollow and did not constitute the plan to win the war that they said Mr. Bush needed to deliver.
::::::::

If that's their take on the speech then they weren't listening at all. That, or they have different criteria for what constitutes "win the war." The President was quite specific on how we win. We continue to train their security forces. We continue to engage and eliminate the terrorists blowing up Iraqi civilians. We continue to provide support for their government efforts, working for passage of their constitution and election of their government under that constitution. We continue to assist, along with the rest of the international community, with the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure. In other words, we do all the things we've been saying we need to do in order to make Iraq a free democracy, secure and stable, a place not home to terrorist groups who send attacks against us and our friends.

What he didn't do was what every Democratic leader has been calling for.

He didn't pull out a calendar and give the date and time that troops will start leaving, followed by a detailed schedule for the retreat pulling out. Oh, and just for Ted Kennedy, announcing the resignation of Don Rumsfeld.

I agree with the President completely on the issue of timetables for pullout. It sends the exact wrong message to the enemy, to our allies, and to our military in the field. We need to keep doing all those things I mentioned above, most importantly the training of Iraqi security. Get them able to handle their own security - that's the fastest way for our troops to get out while not making the same mistake as was ade in Afghanistan those years ago when the Soviets left. As the President said, when the Iraqis stand up, we can stand down.

Update: Pardon me! I was in the middle of writing on this subject and got distracted by something offline so I never addressed the other part of the Democratic response. I'll handle that now. The Democratic leadership - point man on this one is none other than John Kerry - is dismissing the linkages between Saddam's Iraq and terror groups and also trying to assert that the President is changing his reasoning again as to why the invasion was necessary. They're saying that the President lied about the WMD (a claim that flies in the face of 3 separate investigations' findings) and that he now talks about promoting democracy and links between Saddam and the 9/11 attack. First, anyone who reads the transcript of the speech can see that the President makes no linkage between Saddam and 9/11. He makes linkage between Saddam and terror groups. Regardless, they talk as thought the President is changing his tune suddenly.

From an article by Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker's February 2003 issue, speaking of President Bush's State of the Union address:

::::::::In his State of the Union address, President Bush offered at least four justifications, none of them overlapping: the cruelty of Saddam against his own people; his flouting of treaties and United Nations Security Council resolutions; the military threat that he poses to his neighbors; and his ties to terrorists in general and to Al Qaeda in particular. In addition, Bush hinted at the possibility that Saddam might attack the United States or enable someone else to do so.::::::::

These were the reasons cited in January of 2003. To say now, in June of 2005, that the President is pulling this Saddam/Terrorist link out of nowhere is just plain wrong. The records are there to prove it and to make the claim otherwise is foolish in light of the evidence available. Later in that same article, the promotion of democracy is mentioned:

:::::::: President Bush appeared to be making the same point in the State of the Union address when he remarked that "all people have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny-and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom."

Even those suffering from justification fatigue ought to pay special attention to this one, because it goes beyond the category of reasons offered in support of a course of action that has already been decided upon and set in motion. Unlike the other justifications, it is both a reason for war and a plan for the future. It also cries out for elaboration. Democracy is a wonderful idea, but none of the countries in the Middle East, except Israel and Turkey, resemble anything that would look like a democracy to Americans.
::::::::

The President has remained consistent in his reasons. It's just that his opponents do not care to listen. The claim that the President is lying when he speaks of Saddam's ties to terrorism is something that "rings hollow" when it comes from the mouths of the Democrats who voted to authorize the invasion. From the Senate resolution:

::::::::"Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

"Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terroist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;

"Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations ... "
::::::::

Senators Reid and Kerry both voted for this. They agreed with their vote that this was correct. To say that it's the President who's manufacturing things now is to ignore their own actions. Too bad they're well documented.

Hat tip and thanks to Hugh Hewitt, Power Line.

Think it'll go to court?

As ye sow...

::::::::Following a Supreme Court ruling last week that gave local governments power to seize private property, someone has suggested taking over Justice David Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse and turning it into a hotel.

"The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare," Logan Darrow Clements of California wrote in a letter faxed to town officials in Weare on Tuesday.

Souter, a longtime Weare resident, joined in the 5-4 court decision allowing governments to seize private property from one owner and turn it over to another if doing so would benefit a community.
::::::::

I wonder what justification the Weare town council will use to deny the application? Might be instructive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

FEC hearings beginning

As an addendum to my previous commentary on the FEC situation, I'd like to note that Mike Krempasky from Red State is going to be live-blogging the hearings. Thanks, Mike.

The Greatest American

Jack Kelly over at Irish Pennants reports on who the Discovery Channel's "Greatest American" program named as the top American of our history. Now, watch carefully:

::::::::The Discovery Channel has been conducting a poll on who is the greatest American. The winner has been announced. It's Ronald Reagan.::::::::

Jack's a fairly conservative-friendly guy and I'm a card-carrying Republican. What do you think we think of Reagan's being announced as the Greatest American?

::::::::I'm appalled. Not because I don't think highly of Reagan, for whom I had the honor and pleasure of working, but because Reagan -- great as he was -- is not a greater president than Abraham Lincoln (#2) or George Washington (#4), or Franklin Roosevelt (#10).::::::::

You said it, Jack. Come on, people. Ronald Reagan was a great man and guided this nation through the end of the Cold War. His policies and directives during his presidency set up and executed the end game that saw the Soviet Union - as powerful as she was - destroyed and scattered. He deserves credit, make no mistake. But the "greatest?" Only if your knowledge of history is pathetically lacking and your scope of interest sadly narrow. Jack has his picks for the title. Here's mine.

My pick would have been Benjamin Franklin. Statesman, author, patriot, inventor - Franklin wore so many hats his desk would have looked like a haberdashery. He was engaged in the very formation of this experiment in governance, the United States. He literally put everything on the line to do that which was right and to create a nation where men could live free. If that sounds corny to you, then you've come to the wrong blog. Franklin's accomplishments were many, inventing bifocals and charting the Gulf Stream, serving as our first Postmaster General and as ambassador to France. He and Alexander Hamilton are the only non-Presidents whose portraits are featured on our paper currency in production circulation today. (The only other non-President featured on our paper money was Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time when the federal government first began printing money in 1862. He's on the $10,000 bill which, obviously, isn't in circulation.) Franklin was intelligent, wise, insightful and deeply convinced of democracy's promise. No offense to Ronald Reagan is met, but he's not in Franklin's class.

I note that Franklin came in at number 5. Like Jack, I can't really understand some of the other choices. Oprah Winfrey at #8? Ahead of Neil Armstrong and Thomas Edison? Our public education system needs a real reset in terms of history.

Republican Stupidity

I just read via Michelle Malkin's site where some Congressional Republicans are honked off that the Washington Nationals might get bought by an investment team led by George Soros. There are all manner of reasons to dislike George Soros, not the least of which is his shadow play pulling the strings of John McCain and Russ Feingold in getting the 1st Amendment violated. He is precisely the kind of super-rich "sinister force behind the scenes" kind of guy the liberal left loves to hate, so long as such a guy is a Republican. For all that, the concept that standing up to denounce him engaging in a perfectly legal business transaction is worse than ill-advised. It's stupid. Ridiculous. Moronic. And the Republican Congressmen who are now so intent on interfering in a business deal after standing on a platform of keeping government noses out of free enterprise should be ashamed. If they weren't making the rest of us look bad, I'd say "go ahead and make asses of yourselves." Unfortunately, they are making the rest of us look bad.

Gold Star Moms vote to allow non-citizens to join

See, that wasn't that hard, was it?

::::::::A group for mothers whose children died in war voted Monday to allow non-U.S. citizens to join, after coming under criticism for denying membership to a Filipina mother whose son was killed in Afghanistan.

The 1929 charter of American Gold Star Mothers (search) had prevented foreign citizens from joining. Earlier this year, the organization's 12-member executive board voted against changing the rule.

...

The change was approved unanimously Monday during the American Gold Star Mothers' annual convention in the Dallas area.

"This change to our constitution was the right thing to do, but we had to make the change the right way," said Judith Young, the group's new president.
::::::::

I had written earlier on the topic and thought the group should change its constitution to handle the reality of today's military. I am suspicious that, in spite of Ms. Young's comments, that they would likely not have changed their rules were they not put under a very large microscope and had the situation noted in the public eye. However, I'm glad that non-citizen parents of members of our military can now be included in the group, should they wish.

AP: You're a blogger only if you're OUR kind of blogger

Well, at least it was a promising headline. On FoxNew.com this morning, I saw a link to a story "Bloggers vs. Govt. Regulation" and thought I'd go have a read. The crux of the story is nothing most bloggers and their readers don't already know: that bloggers oppose regulation of their speech by the FEC and that they don't trust the FEC - and by extension, the bulk of government - to keep that in mind. For that part of the story, it's fine.

But they interviewed just 2 bloggers on the matter and their choices, I find, are very telling. The first was Markos "Screw 'em" Zuniga of the Daily Kos and the other Duncan Black a.k.a. Atrios. And that's it. Two of the most liberal and left-wing of the blogosphere and they are all the AP found time to include on a story that has been carried widely across the entire blogosphere. Where's Hugh Hewitt, a radio show personality with a daily audience of thousands? The guys from Power Line, named "Blog of the Year" by Time Magazine in 2004? Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs who was so instrumental in the CBS "Memogate" fiasco? (Well, maybe that's why Charles didn't get interviewed.) Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters, or Michelle Malkin, or Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit? The petition that was signed by literally hundreds of bloggers had all of the names above listed as signatories. The AP decided to interview for this story and only interviewed the Left side of the 'sphere.

And they wonder why people think they're biased.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Court rules cable companies don't have to share

In another of the rulings out of the Supreme Court today, the Justices said that cable companies do not have to grant rival ISP's access to their physical infrastructure.

::::::::The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that cable companies may keep rival Internet providers from using their lines, a decision that will limit competition and consumers' choices.

The 6-3 decision is a victory for the Bush administration, which sought exclusive control to promote broadband investment from deep-pocketed cable companies.

Judges should defer to the expertise of the Federal Communications Commission , which concluded that limited access is best for the industry, the high court said in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas.

19 million homes have cable broadband service. At issue is whether cable Internet access is a "telecommunications service" under federal law that makes it subject to strict FCC rules requiring companies to provide access to independent providers.

The FCC said no, voting in March 2002 to exempt cable companies from the strict rules to stir more investment. The agency reasoned that high-speed Internet over cable was just an "information service," making it different from phone companies.
::::::::

I can't say that I agree with the FCC's comment. I can see both sides of this argument. How is this different from requiring that local phone carriers carry calls originating on long distance carriers' networks? Verizon can't, for example, simply decide they're not going to carry calls coming from AT&T, or allow a caller attached to Verizon from using MCI instead of Verizon's own long distance. The only way to justify punting on this one is to agree that cable isn't really a telecommunications service, something that fails horribly when you know what the hell you're talking about. Done deal, tho. I guess any start-up ISP would be better off to deploy 802.16-style systems to provide access to the "last mile" over the airwaves. Want suggestions? E-mail me.

Supreme Court refuses to hear CIA outing case

Forgot to add one from earlier. The Court refused to hear an appeal regarding 2 journalists accused of contempt of court for not revealing their sources as to the "outing" of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative.

::::::::The Supreme Court rejected appeals Monday from two journalists who have refused to testify before a grand jury about the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity.

The cases asked the court to revisit an issue that it last dealt with more than 30 years ago _ whether reporters can be jailed or fined for refusing to identify their sources.

The justices' intervention had been sought by 34 states and many news groups, all arguing that confidentiality is important in news gathering.

"Important information will be lost to the public if journalists cannot reliably promise anonymity to sources," news organizations including The Associated Press told justices in court papers.

Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller, who filed the appeals, face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to reveal sources as part of an investigation into who divulged the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
::::::::

More Supreme Court Rulings

The Supreme Court has more rulings out.

In a unanimous decision, the Court said that file-sharing services can be sued over their users' swapping files in violation of copyright.

::::::::Internet file-sharing services will be held responsible if they intend for their customers to use software primarily to swap songs and movies illegally, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting warnings that the lawsuits will stunt growth of cool tech gadgets such as the next iPod.

The unanimous decision sends the case back to lower court, which had ruled in favor of file-sharing services Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc. on the grounds that the companies couldn't be sued. The justices said there was enough evidence of unlawful intent for the case to go to trial.
::::::::

Well, no shit they should be sued if they intend for people to break the law. The question, I believe, was whether the production of a piece of software that can be used for such a purpose makes one liable if someone does use it as such. However, I believe the Court ruled properly here. If there was sufficient evidence that the makers of the software/service not only made the software but induced people to use it to violate copyright, then a jury should see that information and make a verdict. The Supreme's punted the ball back. Go to trial and then we'll see.

Next up: Can cops be sued for failing to enforce a restraining order? Supremes say: no.

::::::::The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police cannot be sued for how they enforce restraining orders, ending a lawsuit by a Colorado woman who claimed police did not do enough to prevent her estranged husband from killing her three young daughters.

Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion.

City governments had feared that if the court ruled the other way, it would unleash a potentially devastating flood of cases that could bankrupt municipal governments.

Gonzales contended that police did not do enough to stop her estranged husband, who took the three daughters from the front yard of her home in June 1999 in violation of a restraining order.

Hours later Simon Gonzales died in a gun fight with officers outside a police station. The bodies of the three girls, ages 10, 9 and 7, were in his truck.
::::::::

OK, I'm less happy with this one. In this case, Ms. Gonzales reached her former hubby on his cell and Simon Gonzales told her he'd taken the kids to an amusement park. Now, how did he do such a thing without violating the restraining order? Once notified of this, the cops should have had a judge swear out an arrest warrant and they should have moved with all possible speed to find him, given the presense of the girls in his company. They didn't. The deal with a restraining order is that, in the final analysis, it's just a piece of paper. Without the vigorous enforcement by (excuse the repetition) law enforcement, it's worthless. The person protected by the order is counting on the cops being there to back up the words with the necessary deeds. If someone can make the case that the cops failed in their duty to enforce, why should that person not be permitted to bring the case to court? The net effect of this is to seriously undermine the confidence in the whole concept of a restraining order. Now, victims who are relying on such an order for protection must realize that the only protection they can count on is what they, themselves, can bring to bear. May I suggest a Sig?

More to come as they put 'em out.

Chrenkoff reports, Good News from Iraq

Many are making large haybales from recent polls about American resolve in the war on terror and in the Iraq war in particular. As has been reported elsewhere, those polls use demographic sampling that wouldn't survive at such polling houses as Gallup, Gartner, and Pew. My take on it is that even if you grant that the samples are OK (and I don't, mind you) that it's more indicative of the type of information being reported to those people. If they had the full details, they'd be selecting different answers. Fortunately for those of us familiar with the blogosphere, we have access to Arthur Chrenkoff. His latest Good News from Iraq is up today and, as ususal contains dozens and dozens of under-reported or ignored stories from Iraq that show that positive events are happening, and more often than the negative ones.

::::::::A prominent politician has recently penned this opinion piece for a major American daily:

Today I am traveling to Brussels to join representatives of more than 80 governments and institutions in sending a loud and clear message of support for the political transition in Iraq.

A year ago, in Resolution 1546, the U.N. Security Council set out the timetable that Iraq, with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community, was expected to fulfill. The Brussels conference is a chance to reassure the Iraqi people that the international community stands with them in their brave efforts to rebuild their country, and that we recognize how much progress has been made in the face of daunting challenges...

As the process moves forward, there will no doubt be frustrating delays and difficult setbacks. But let us not lose sight of the fact that all over Iraq today, Iraqis are debating nearly every aspect of their political future...

In a media-hungry age, visibility is often regarded as proof of success. But this does not necessarily hold true in Iraq. Even when, as with last week's agreement, the results of our efforts are easily seen by all, the efforts themselves must be undertaken quietly and away from the cameras.

Who is this unreconstructed optimist who, going against most media reports, refuses to acknowledge that Iraq is fast descending into hell? If you answered George Bush, Dick Chaney or Condoleeza Rice, you're wrong. If you answered Tony Blair, you're wrong too. The correct answer is Kofi Annan.

Two years and a democratic election later, the international community, deeply sceptical if not hostile at first, is now increasingly coming onboard to help Iraq make the transition to a normal country. While stories of violence dominate the news, these international and domestic efforts to rebuild Iraq after decaded of physical and political devastation continue to pick up pace. Below is a selection of past two weeks' worth of stories which, if get reported at all, usually drowned by the tide of negativity.
::::::::

It's worth the time. Be informed.

Supreme Court rules against 10 Commandments displays Updated

Anyone who is surprised by this ruling hasn't been paying attention to the advance of the thin-skinned condition of our society over the past few decades. Nothing is displayed or said any more as a celebration of an idea or as honoring the contributions to current society of a given thing. It's brutal, in-your-face advocacy and a demand - nay, a threat - that you adhere or else. The display of the 10 Commandments is an acknowledgement of the contributions of the earliest of laws to our current legal structure. They were the laws imparted to a civilization that formed a large chunk of the foundation of our own and continues to be a basis for the majority of our populace. The basis of this decision is that some people feel they are "pressured" by the visual presence of a display of those commandments. Sad. Even more sadly predictable.

I'll have links to the decision as soon as they're made available.

Update: Here's a link to the story at the Washington Times.

:::::::: WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a narrowly drawn ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in courthouses Monday, holding that two exhibits in Kentucky crossed the line between separation of church and state because they promoted a religious message.

The 5-4 decision, first of two seeking to mediate the bitter culture war over religion's place in public life, took a case-by-case approach to this vexing issue. In the decision, the court declined to prohibit all displays in court buildings or on government property.

In a stinging dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia worried publicly about "the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority."

The justices voting on the prevailing side Monday left themselves legal wiggle room on this issue, however, saying that some displays - like their own courtroom frieze - would be permissible if they're portrayed neutrally in order to honor the nation's legal history.

But framed copies in two Kentucky courthouses went too far in endorsing religion, the court held.

"The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the majority.

"When the government acts with the ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion, it violates that central Establishment clause value of official religious neutrality," he said.

Souter was joined in his opinion by other members of the liberal bloc - Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Sandra Day O'Connor, who provided the swing vote.

In his dissent, Scalia argued that Ten Commandments displays are a legitimate tribute to the nation's religious and legal history.

Government officials may have had a religious purpose when they originally posted the Ten Commandments display by itself in 1999. But their efforts to dilute the religious message since then by hanging other historical documents in the courthouses made it constitutionally adequate, Scalia said.

In his dissent, Scalia blasted the majority for ignoring the rule of law to push their own personal policy preferences.

"What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle," Scalia wrote.
::::::::

So, now these 5 Justices are saying it's not even appropriate to display the 10 Commandments as a historical document alongside of other historical documents? How do you justify that position and still say the decision isn't anti-Christian? If the document is displayed as a part of a historical tribute to documents dealing with the law, then the only aspect that you'd be looking at to see a separation is the fact that it's a document derived from and originated within a Judeo-Christian culture. Use that criteria to deny its inclusion in such a display and you're being anti-Christian.

The ruling, as I said, doesn't surprise me in the least, for all kinds of reasons. I'm with Scalia on this one. The Justices ruling in the majority are letting their preferences get in the way of their judgement. Only this time, the rest of us pay for it. Again.

Chuck update

Chuck, a.k.a. TCOverride, is at Walter Reed, as you already know if you've read this blog over the past few days. His wife, Carren, is here in DC with him and provides an update on Chuck's site. One item she wanted to clarify was this:

::::::::I need to clarify what happened to Chuck, from what I understand. Somewhere out in "blog country," a story has been fabricated that Chuck actually picked up the IED. My husband is NOT an idiot and would NEVER do such a thing! So whoever started this story, you need to clarify on YOUR blog that HE DID NOT PICK UP THE IED!!!!!!

Chuck was on a foot patrol w/ one of his platoons. A civilian Iraqi informant was leading the patrol to the site of the IED. Well, this informant (ass hole) set the patrol up and the IED was remotely detonated. And my husband was hit!!! The blast blew him into the canal, and CPT Jason Spencer went into the canal and saved Chuck's life... he kept him above the water so he didn't drown. THAT is the story in a nut shell. I am sure Chuck will explain in full detail when he is able. He did NOT pick up the IED!!!!!!!!!

I feel better now... I needed to clarify.
::::::::

You know, the funny thing is that I recall seeing that claim - that he picked up the IED - but, for the life of me, I can't recall where I saw that. I recall thinking that didn't sound right but I just sort of "filed it" and focused on his condition and that of his men. What I'd really like to know, now, is 1) did the informant survive the blast, and 2) if so, how badly did Chuck's men kick the crap out of him?

In any case, the Babes at Two Babes and a Brain are still taking donations for those camelback water system insulator bags, if you'd like to help Chuck's men out.

Poll finds public is increasingly distrustful of media's reliability, patriotism

A new poll out by Pew indicates that people are even divided between those who think the media stands up for America and those who think it's too critical. Of course, one has to trust that the media will report the results in such a way as to objectively convey the results, something that the AP has an issue with. (Being trustworthy, that is.) The poll itself (available here) shows that while people reported they held favorable views about media, they no longer find media credible. Since 1985 the percentage of people viewing media favorably has dropped from 88% to 80%. Not a huge decline, right? In the same period, those that find media believable has dropped from 84% to 54%. Think about that. That means where once only 1 in 5 people didn't trust what the media was telling them, today it's 1 in 2. Literally every other person in the US thinks they're being lied to by the media.

It's curious that favorability rating stayed so high, considering that ratio of people who think the media's not trustworthy.

::::::::In fact, the favorable ratings for most categories of news organizations surpass positive ratings for President Bush and major political institutions � the Supreme Court, Congress, and the two major political parties. Favorable ratings for daily newspapers, local TV news and network TV news have all remained fairly stable since July 2001, even as public attitudes toward the news media have declined. The exception to this pattern are large, nationally influential newspapers, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, whose favorable ratings have declined markedly.
::::::::

A majority of those surveyed found the press to be biased (60%). When asked specifically if they felt the press favored 1 side in their reporting of political events, 70% said they did which represents the highest percentage recorded with that view. In my opinion, the immediate follow-on question should have been "what side?" If that was asked, I can't find it this morning. I'll try to find more time to devote to an analysis later today.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Supreme Court set for momentous day tomorrow

The Washington Times reports that the Supreme Court is expecting a big day tomorrow:

::::::::The Supreme Court ends its work tomorrow with the highest of drama: an anticipated retirement, a ruling on the constitutionality of government Ten Commandments displays and decisions in other major cases.

Traditionally, there is an air of suspense as the justices meet for the final time before breaking for three months. Justices usually wait until then to resolve blockbuster cases.

Added to that is the expectation that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is presiding over the court for the last time. Chief Justice Rehnquist has thyroid cancer and many court experts believe his retirement is imminent.
::::::::

Should be an interesting day. There's been some talk flying around that the retirement we're going to hear about isn't Rehnquist's but Sandra Day O'Connor's. I was a little curious about that until I read that she's 75 years old. And she's not the oldest. Rehnquist is 80 and John Paul Stevens is 85. Forgive me, and I'm sure I'm going to catch it in the teeth from AARP over this, but considering that we mandate retirement in other fields at 65, what the hell is someone 20 years older than that doing ruling on the most important cases of our Nation in the most powerful court in the land? If these people in the black robes were exhibiting some signs that their age made them more likely to ignore the social engineering fads of the day and less likely to ignore the Constitution, as written, I'd have no issue with them. Clearly, age doesn't impart that kind of stability of judgement. Maybe that's something we should be adding to our judicial system: a mandatory retirement age.

Good point, Smash

I note on Smash's site a wonderful entry:

::::::::THE ACLU WEBSITE has a whole section dedicated to the alleged mistreatment of enemy prisoners, but not one article on the abuse of eminent domain.::::::::

Now, how is it that the American Civil Liberties Union is more concerned about the status of people apprehended while trying to kill American soldiers on a foreign battlefield than in the trampling of American's civil rights?

Arthur Chrenkoff on finding political insight in the strangest places

From Chrenkoff:

::::::::By the way, you have to be worried when a guy with too much mascara and a snake wrapped around his neck has a keener grasp of basic new millennium geopolitics than so many leading lights of the Democratic Party.::::::::

Yee-hee-hee-OUCH! That's gotta hurt! Who's he talking about? Follow the link and see.

TCOverride Update

The ladies at Two Babes and a Brain went to visit Chuck (a.k.a. TCOverride) at Walter Reed this weekend. I wrote to them and asked them to pass along my best wishes to him and ask what I could do for him or his XO. They said he'd like people to get some insulator bags for the "camelback" water carriers his men use and send them over. Sounded like a plan to me. The Babes have a donation button on their site so, if you can, head over there, press that button and drop them a note. They and the men will appreciate it.

Gitmo not the horror story they'd been told

While the AP is doing the best they can to pull their message out of the story, even they couldn't simply overwrite the substantive result of a visit by several Congressmen to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They title the story "Gitmo conditions have improved" and make sure to quote Representatives saying just that. The bottom line, however, is that the Gitmo these people saw is not the Gitmo they've been told about on the news:

::::::::The U.S. lawmakers witnessed interrogations, toured cell blocks and ate the same lunch given to detainees on the first congressional visit to the prison for suspected terrorists since criticism of it intensified in the spring.

"The Guantanamo we saw today is not the Guantanamo we heard about a few years ago," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.

Still, lawmakers from both parties agree more still must be done to ensure an adequate legal process is in place to handle detainee cases. In the meantime, said Rep. Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., "I think they're doing the best they can to define due process here."
::::::::

That's an interesting comment to make, that what you're seeing isn't what you've been hearing about for a few years. Without a solid baseline - a provable starting position that whatever you're referring to actually was the way you'd heard it was, how do you then justify the stance that what you were told a few years ago wasn't an exaggeration? In other words, Representative Tauscher, what if the Guantanamo Bay you saw today was, in fact, the Gitmo that existed a few years ago. Only no one gave you the straight story? Or perhaps that improvements have been made, yes, but that the scope of those improvements has been inaccurately reported, making it seem that Gitmo was worse than it really was? Logically speaking, that's as much a possibility as the concept that Gitmo was a hellhole and has improved dramatically.

I'm also not sure how you go from someone saying that you're doing your best under the circumstances and derive the conclusion that improvements have been made. Rep. Schwarz isn't reported as saying "they've improved" just that they're defining due process as well as can be done. Shiela Jackson of Texas is one of the Democrats that has been calling for the closure of the base. Now she stated explicitly that what they saw was "evidence that we've made progress." Same comment as above - if she's operating under a false impression of what the place was like, then how do you call a current observation evidence of progress? Perhaps she visited there before. but I can't find - please excuse the term - evidence of that. Therefore, I can't base a conclusion off of an alleged prior visit or lack thereof. Still, I took note of something hopefull. When she referred to progress being made, she said "we" had made the progress. After so many Democrats have done so much for years to give you the impression that they're apart from the rest of us, it's nice to hear one include herself in the greater whole of America. And no, I'm not being sarcastic - it's really nice.

Update: Just a comment about the reporting here. The AP, of course, has to do what they can to put the negative spin on things, so they make sure to end the article with a couple of paragraphs on how President Bush (evil, evil, EVIL!) declared the detainees "enemy combatants" so he could get away with granting them fewer rights, specifically those detailed under the Geneva Conventions. The term isn't "enemy combatant." That refers to any enemy, uniformed or not, lawful or not. These are "unlawful combatants" and, for what must be the ten thousandth time, they are specifically and explicitly not covered by the Geneva Coventions. The Conventions have nothing to do with people like these who took up arms against the US Military while not wearing a uniform, not being part of a regulated command, and while not following the Conventions themselves. You might as well say that these people aren't being treated according to Title IX's sex discrimination statutes in college sports. Their status has nothing whatsoever to do with Title IX and it has nothing to do with the Geneva Conventions. The AP ends the story with the comment that some of the detainees have been held for 3 years without being charged with a crime. Again with the charges and indictments attitude. These people were taken on the field of battle in armed opposition to our troops. Charges, as in crimes, aren't the issue and saying it over and over again won't make it so.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Action in Afghanistan: Coalition forces find 76 terrorist bodies

Looks like things aren't going so well for the Taliban holdouts these days.

::::::::MIANA SHIEN, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan forces scouring mountains in the country's south found the bodies of 76 suspected militants killed during a blistering barrage of their camps by Afghan and U.S. forces, the Defense Ministry said Saturday.

Meanwhile, Afghan government and U.S. military leaders met with tribal chiefs in a tent on a dusty plateau near the battlefield and urged them to help fight militants still holding out.

In all, a total of 178 militants have been killed and 56 suspected insurgents have been captured since Tuesday in some of the deadliest fighting since the fall of the Taliban four years ago, ministry spokesman Zahir Marad said.

"Our forces have collected the bodies of 76 more rebels from the battlefield," Marad said, adding that the corpses were scattered across a wide mountainous area in and around the Miana Shien district of Kandahar province.

The U.S. military's toll of insurgents killed was 56, but American spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said this did not make the government's figure necessarily wrong because Afghan forces had taken the lead in the operation and U.S.-led coalition troops were finding it hard to keep a tally of the dead.
::::::::

Looks like the Afghanis are pretty serious about this democracy thing surviving.

TCOverride, a.k.a. Chuck, is back in the States

Milblogger TCOverride is back in the States and at Walter Reed hospital here in DC. Check Two Babes and a Brain or Chuck's site for updates. Our prayers are with you, Chuck!

So far, a pretty good day.

This morning, instead of getting up and letting the munchkin watch cartoons until 11:00-11:30 or so, we left the house around 9:30 and headed over to a farm in Maryland where they have strawberry fields and cherry trees. Getting there would normally require a trip down the toll road, to the beltway, then back to a point across the Potomac nearly even with where we started. About 6 years ago, the wife & I stumbled across White's Ferry, a ferry boat across the Potomac that runs between Leesburg, VA and the Maryland side near Poolesville. It was started in 1828 or so and has been pulling people across the Potomac here ever since. It runs all year and puts you over on the MD side in the middle of farmland with large trees grown over the roads so it looks like a living tunnel for large stretches. Poolesville is a town you could literally be through in under 60 seconds at highway speeds. We went exploring over there back when we discovered the Ferry and found a restaurant called "Bassett's" there in town - the only eatery besides the McDonalds that was built 10 years ago.

About 20 minutes past there, you take a side road that quickly turns into a concrete/gravel deal. About 500 yards in, you're at Homestead Farms. They've got strawberries, rhubarb (yes, I had to look up that word to spell it right!), cherries, blackberries, raspberries, assorted veggies, 13 different kinds of apples, and pumpkins that they grow throughout the summer and autumn. In December, they sell Christmas trees you cut down yourself in a real Norman Rockwell moment. We mounted up the wagon they use to move people out to the strawberry field and spent about 30 minutes in the field actually picking. My kid had a suprisingly good eye for a 4-year-old for finding the best spots. (Hey, she's closer to them *and* her eyes are better...) We picked about 12 pounds of strawberries, grabbed a couple quarts of cherries back at the general store rather than pick them (it's bloody hot out here!) and handled an attack from a homemade cherry pie by suckering it into the shopping basket and whisking it out to the car.

I didn't touch a computer until we got home at around 2:00 this afternoon. I've had a fun day so far.

On the topic of Constitutional Amendments

My whole life (up to this month) I've actually heard of 1 amendment to the Constitution get past the "talking about it" stage, and that was the so-called "Equal Rights Amendment", or the ERA. I know it got introduced. I know it got stalled and I know it died over 2 decades ago. Of course, "died" is a relative term. The amendment actually made it out of Congress and into the State legislatures and has passed 35 of the required 38 States. Sounds like that's an "any minute now" kind of situation, doesn't it? Of course, the amendment was first proposed in 1923, so the fact that 80 years later it's still not made it onto the document pretty much says "stalled" to me.

In the last 6 months, however, there have been a number of amendments proposed and some are actually making headway. The well-reported efforts to amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union between 1 man and 1 woman, a proposed amendment to change the 14th Amendment that would count only US Citizens for the purposes of apportionment, and a proposal to repeal the 22nd Amendment are all being seriously discussed. The House recently approved an amendment to ban flag burning. In all this, I find myself wondering what's happened lately that people are seriously talking about the amendment process. This is, after all, the most serious political effort this country's citizenry can undertake and it requires a massive, sustained effort to get it done. It's supposed to be very, very hard to do.

Jack Kelly over at Irish Pennants proposes 2 amendments that highlight very clearly why this kind of talk has suddenly emerged. Here's Jack:

::::::::The core of the problem is the combination of judicial review with life tenure for judges. The Supreme Court has arrogated to itself a power not mentioned in the Constitution, and -- because of life tenure -- can legislate from the bench with impunity.

There are two process amendments which would ameliorate this problem:

The first is to abolish life tenure. If federal judges were appointed for a fixed term -- say 9 years -- and permitted to serve multiple terms, but only if renominated by the president and reconfirmed by the Senate, there would be an effective means of holding judges accountable for their conduct on the bench. (Impeachment is reserved for personal misconduct, and the two-thirds vote required to remove a judge is, for all practical purposes, an insurmountable barrier for disciplining a judge for ideological overreach.)
::::::::

Term limits for the Supreme Court is something I've mentioned before and I remain in favor of it. Jack's suggestion is for a shorter term than I would have had but I'm OK with that. Jack's real fascinating concept comes in the 2nd of his proposed amendments:

::::::::The second is to do what the Founding Fathers didn't, and establish a means for resolving disputes in Constitutional interpretation among the three separate, but equal branches of the federal government.

Suppose the Constitution were amended to say that if the president, by proclamation, and the Congress, by passage of a joint resolution, disagree with a ruling of the Supreme Court, the matter would be put before the voters in the next general election. A "yes" vote would sustain the ruling of the Court; a "no" vote would overturn.
::::::::

Intriguing concept. Incredibly difficult to achieve but not impossible. And it has the benefit of putting the People back at the top of the authority structure where we're supposed to be. I believe all this talk about amendments in general is a sign of some general distrust of the judiciary. There's a sense they've gotten out of control and that they don't care. Witness the Raich and Kelo cases ruled upon in just the last month. Virtually no one I've spoke with - Democrat or Republican, Right or Left, Liberal or Conservative - has thought these two rulings made sense. The problem is that, today, there's not a damned thing you can do about it. Perhaps we need to clarify these rules so the judges (read that: Justices) will adjudicate based on the law as written, not like they think it should be.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Atrios making it up as he goes along

Confederate Yankee answers a post over at Atrios with direct, irrefutable statements.

::::::::Duncan Black, better know as Atrios of Eschaton mewls:

Ken Mehlman Says Liberals Want Our Troops to Die

So this is the nice quiet RNC chief who is so unlike that nasty Howard Dean:

Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, speaking in Puerto Rico, said there was no need to apologize because "what Karl Rove said is true."


I'm with you, Duncan. I feel your pain...
Though Mehlman never made that comment, did he, Duncan? You made it up....
::::::::

Quite correct. Mehlmen never even mentioned such a claim as that Liberals want our troops to die. Although, if you keep reading over at C.Y., you'll see that such a sentiment has some basis.

Troubleshooting continues

Well, the change in this blog's skin isn't intentional. It's part of the troubleshooting. Something tells me that the "Bluebird" template here at Blogger (the one I like) is the problem. I'm still tinkering.

RNC Chairman highlights Dems' hypocrisy on Rove's comments Updated

Karl Rove spoke up in New York on the topic of the differences between the conservative and liberal responses to being attacked on 9/11 and the war on terror. Now, after Dick Durbin's remarks and the complete and utter lack of condemnation of his remarks from the Democratic leadership, those same Dems are demanding an apology and resignation from Rove. Now, in case you haven't seen it yet, here's Rove's comments:

::::::::Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.::::::::

You can see why the Dems are screaming. Rove was blunt, direct, and entirely accurate. And lest any of my more liberal readers take umbrage with that assessment, feel free to go have a look at RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's note on the topic wherein he quotes a variety of the louder liberal elements' own words.

::::::::“It’s outrageous that the same Democrats who stood by Dick Durbin’s libeling of our military are now expressing faux outrage over Karl Rove’s statement of historical fact. George Soros, Michael Moore, MoveOn and the hard left were wrong after 9/11, just as it was wrong for Democrat leaders to stand by and remain silent after Dick Durbin made his deplorable comments.”
- RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman
::::::::

The post there has all the quotes and the links to the comments as reported so I'll simply direct you there rather than replicate them. As for an apology - you don't apologize for telling the truth.

Update: I've been returning to this topic in my head all day and I've reconsidered. I personally know liberals who are quite supportive of the war, though perhaps not to the extent that I am. Certainly there are some who don't think of this as a law enforcement action at all and that therapy isn't something the attackers are due nor would it be effective. So Rove's comments are overly inclusive. They are not inaccurate, however, for a sizeable chunk of the Left. Based on my readings, it seems a majority of the Left, in fact. I honestly believe that's what Rove meant, but that's not what he said. He should probably clarify that

All that now said, my earlier reference to Ken Mahlman's comments remains untouched. The liberals in this country have certainly given enough cause to think that Rove's take on their positions is dead on and they don't have a lot of standing to be demanding apologies and resignations considering their silence - or vocal support - of Durbin's accusations. So, while I think Rove over-included, don't be expecting me to condemn him. This is the environment that's been made by some poisonous accusations over the last 5 years. To now blame conservatives for the tone is disingenuous.

Flag burning

It's been brought to my attention that I didn't say anything about the House recently approving a Constitutional amendment making it illegal to burn a flag in protest. Given the other news that's been in front of us, it simply slipped past. Succinctly put, I don't support this. I don't approve of the act or, usually, the people doing it, but it's clearly political speech. As such it should be protected.

Yes, I know, the concept that political speech can be banned has already been borne out by the BCRA. I'm against that horrid piece of trash, too, and anything that depends on it as precedent is already suspect. I honestly think this won't get throught the Senate. Even if it does, it's a long way through two-thirds of the States.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Not sure what's going on...

I appear to be having some blog trouble with the template used and it's inserting a whole lot of blank lines at the top of the top blog. I'm working the issue and will advise. And working, and working...

Updated: Supreme Court now officially out-of-control

First, they approve the constitutionality of a law that regulates your speech in a political setting, in clear violation of the 1st Amendment. Today, they just ruled that your local government can force you off your property and hand that property over to a private developer who'll bulldoze your home and put up a shopping mall.

No, I'm not kidding. Read it here. I don't have time to go into too much analysis right now, so check back later.

Update:

Well, I had hoped it was a bad dream, but I see the story being carried everywhere.

::::::::Cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court (search) ruled Thursday, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.::::::::

Those damn conservative judges! Always bending over the middle class for big business and ruling in their fav- ... What? How did Scalia vote? He was in the minority? You mean, he wanted to rule in favor of the property owners and against the big business interests and developers?

Hmm. Who else wanted to rule against?

::::::::Dissenting were justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as well as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.::::::::

Yes, that's right kids. The left-leaning members of the Supreme Court - that's John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer - (Kennedy was a Reagan appointee, but all the rest...) all looked at a local government deciding they had screwed up their finances so badly that they needed additional tax revenues and that the best way to get it was to push legal property holders off their land and hand it over to private developers and said that sounded reasonable. The Founding Fathers would be storming the Court with muskets and pitchforks to hear that the US Government was taking land away from a citizen who had committed no crime beyond actually owning property someone else wanted and handing it over to that someone else so they could build something on it and make money for themselves. That the local governments are making tax revenue - which is not certain, I might add - does nothing to mitigate this fact.

I'd like to know how many of the local government officers live in the homes they're going to take away? My guess: zero.

This is a perfect example of the insanity of the Supreme Court these past few years and why there needs to be a serious mechanism to protect the citizens of this country from judges who no longer feel they need to be bound by the law and existing precedent. In the meantime, it's time to fire up the State activism and get laws passed in the other 42 States that don't expressly forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development by private concerns. If those private groups want the land, they can buy it from the owners. If the owners don't want to sell, tough noogies. The rest of us want to feel safe in our homes.

Schools sidestepping parents in questioning kids

Picture this: your 6th-grade daughter comes home and mentions that her teacher had a special guest in class today and that guest asked all the students a lot of questions. Wrote them down, even.

What kind of questions?

"How often do you have oral sex?"

If you're thinking that can't happen, think again real hard. It's not only possible, it is happening. And the school and the government agencies doing the questioning are doing their best to keep you in the dark about it.

::::::::When Mark Fisher protested quizzing his 12-year-old daughter about oral sex (among other topics), the school authorities asserted their right to gather such information without his consent.

The questionnaire is not limited to Massachusetts; it is nationwide. And the 'problem' is not the gathering of information but the denial of parental rights and reasonable concerns.

The Shrewsbury questionnaire is part of The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) that was established in 1990 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor youth behaviors that influence health.

The CDC website offers a 22-page version of the YRBS, which consists of 87 questions. Seven questions address sexual behavior. For example, the posted questionnaire asks, "How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?" And, was a condom used?
::::::::

The CDC's site says that they're gathering information about kids grades 9-12 but reports are in of kids down to 6th grade being surveyed and the schools are refusing to release the actual survey questions to the parents of the kids being surveyed. Vigilance, it is said, is the price of freedom. I never thought I'd have to be keeping an eye on the schools we all pay through the nose to keep operating.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

TCOveride: Milblogger down.

Oh, damn...

::::::::This is Carren writing to tell Chuck's faithful readers that he has been injured, but is in stable condition. I won't give details for fear of misinformation (and the fact that this can be accessed by millions of people).

In general... Chuck sustained shrapnel wounds to his legs and arms from an IED. He and an Iraqi civilian were the only ones injured. The Good Lord above was looking out for him in a BIG way! He is probably in Landstuhl (sp?), Germany by now and will be back in the states in the next week to 10 days (as far as I know right now). He still has his eyesite and has not sustained internal injuries that I know of. I have not talked to him yet... they have kept him sedated for his trip to Germany, as well as for pain management. He also has some injuries to his face, but I think it is just bruised/scratched up quite a bit.
::::::::

Chuck is one of my personal favorites, though he doesn't know me from Adam. I had begun to get a sinking feeling since he'd not updated his blog since Sunday and he's pretty regular about it. I thought I was just being an impatient little cuss. I'm deeply saddened to hear I was wrong. By the same token, I'm glad his injuries don't appear life threatening. In any case, my thoughts and prayers go to Chuck and his family. If you've got a spare cycle or two today, remember them in your prayers, too.

Illinois Senators trying to help war widow

Todd Engstrom was a civilian contractor working with the Army to train Iraqi forces last year. In September, his convoy came under attack and he was killed. He left behind a 12-year-old son and a wife he'd just married in 2003. His wife, Diana, is from Kosovo where they met and married. She returned to the States with him. Under current immigration law, an immigrant spouse has to be married for 2 years to gain the right to stay in the United States if the US citizen in the marriage dies. As such, Diana Engstrom is subject to deportation.

The 2 Senators from Illinois - and yes, that includes the infamous "Gitmo Dick" Durbin - are introducing legislation to allow her to stay. I find Senator Obama's comments compelling:

::::::::In recent years, Congress has been reluctant to pass bills designed to benefit a single individual, and mostly they deal with immigration issues. Of the 132 so-called "private relief" bills introduced in the last Congress, only six became law.

"Generally, it's a bad idea to identify a single individual and do a piece of legislation for them," said Obama, "but this is such a heartbreaking story and it speaks to a lot of civilians who are essentially working on behalf of the war effort in Iraq."

Obama added that Engstrom case falls into "a gray area," since Todd Engstrom was a civilian acting as a U.S. military operative.

"We are going to be taking a look to see if we should be passing some more general laws to close this very narrow loophole," Obama added.
::::::::

I'm with Obama on this one. I don't think it's a good idea to pass a law to benefit a single person in our society - that's an inefficient method of governance - but I think this is an exceptional case that should be granted.

The arrogance of the Left in full view

Perhaps it's a sign of desperation that their message has failed to convince a majority of Americans but it seems the Left is increasingly unable to hide their arrogance and the signs of their superiority complex. In an effort to dismiss the political stance held by that majority of Americans, the Left has decided that being conservative is actually a genetic defect. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you Ken Schram of KOMO-TV in Seattle, Washington:

::::::::According to a new study published in the American Political Science Review, being politically conservative is, in part, a matter or genetics.

I've long wondered how an otherwise seemingly rational person could adhere so strictly to stilted ideologies; how they could be so consistently willing to smother a sense of social well-being.

It's merely a matter of having been dumped in the shallow end of the gene pool.

They're sorta like the puppy who piddles in the middle of the floor: They just don't know any better.

To be sure, the study says that how someone is raised may determine their political party affiliation, but it's genetics that appears to set one on a philosophically conservative course.

To me, that helps explain why PBS threatens their intellect, or why they are so at peace with going to war.

It's not that conservatives mean to favor the rich over the poor and middle class.

And it's not that they'd rather drill for oil than preserve the environment.

Because it's not really their fault.

They're just born that way.
::::::::

You don't even need to imagine the howls of anger that would arise were a conservative to make the counter argument. The Left has been quite vocal in cases where they feel their views are being insufficiently weighed. The part that just astounds me is how anyone can claim the media isn't slanted left after a commentary like this. There is no way that KOMO - or any other broadcast station - would allow someone to get on their stage and make the claim that liberals just can't help being military-hating, America-bashing morons who favor changing our laws to accommodate terrorists. They're just born that way, the poor creatures.

Yeah, I'm sure I'll be seeing that on News Channel 8 out here. The MSM allows this kind of baiting commentary precisely because it's leftward leaning (in this case, leaning hard enough that you might as well say it's laying down on its left side) and it fits the message the media wants people to hear. If I were to point out, by the way, that the science of genetics forces one to conclude that if, in fact, there's a genetic marker that indicates conservatism, then the reverse is equally true - that being a liberal is genetic, I doubt very much they'd want to air that perspective.

Clearly, the Left doesn't give a damn what anyone to their right thinks these days. Considering the whoopass they've been handed for the past 5 years, you have to wonder where the arrogance comes from. Are they just cocky, or just as desperate as they sound?

Hat tip: LGF

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Durbin apologizes. Is it enough?

Dick Durbin has now seen fit to actually apologize for his remarks last week when he compared our military and other officials at Gitmo with Nazi concentration camp guards, Soviets running the gulags, and murderous Khmer Rouge. The story:

::::::::Sen. Dick Durbin went to the Senate floor late Tuesday to offer his apologies to anyone who may have been offended by his comparison of treatment of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Nazis, Soviet gulags and Cambodia's Pol Pot.

"More than most people, a senator lives by his words ... occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words," Durbin, D-Ill., said.

"I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.

"I am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military ... I never ever intended any disrespect for them. Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line to them I extend my heartfelt apology," Durbin said, choking on his words.
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All right, time to get some stuff off my chest. First, this sounds like more of the same non-apology apology stuff in that he's got that prominently placed "if" thoughout all his apologies. "I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense..." Both times he seems to reach out with an apology, he qualifies it. This isn't the mark of a person who honestly believes he said something uncalled for. This isn't a man who understands that what he said isn't true. The onus for whether or not an offense was made, so far as Senator Durbin is concerned, is on the person hearing the words. It's not that the words spoken were offensive at all. He pretty clearly thinks what he said was on target. He's just sorry someone got offended when he said it.

Kinda reminds me of my kid when she says she's sorry about having her hand elbow-deep in the cookie jar. She's not sorry she disobeyed me when I said she couldn't have one. She's sorry she got caught. Durbin's in the same place. He's not sorry he was an arrogant, insensitive, morally equivalizing, treasonous jerk, he's just sorry people came away from the comments with that impression.

Second, I can't say with confidence that he intended to show disrespect for the men and women of our military. I can say with 100% confidence that he sure as hell didn't intend to not show disrespect.

Third, and this actually follows in line with my first point, there's that qualifying remark at the end that "Some believe that my remarks crossed the line..." I'm sorry, Senator. "Some?" The way he puts that, I can pretty much conclude he's not a member of that group. He doesn't think he crossed the line, and that's pretty instructive as to his real feelings. So, is it enough?

Not from where I'm sitting.

I realize it's probably all we're going to get, but for this to have been a real apology it would have had to have something like, "My remarks last week were injurious, based on uncorroborated information, and simply uncalled for. I have no evidence of systematic wrongdoing there at Gitmo and, even if I had, nothing even rumored to be taking place sinks to the level of the inhumanity of the Nazi regime, the Soviet actions in the gulag, or the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. I was wrong to say so and I offer my deepest apologies to those I wronged with my words. I will be certain to take greater care when I speak out on important issues in the future." A man takes responsibility for his words, most especially when they wrong someone else. You apologize in unambigous terms and you pledge to do better in the future. Senator Durbin's "apology" fails across the board. No real surprise.

Fox News' story said the Senator was choking on his words as he read his apology. Would have better off, I think, if he'd have done that about a week ago.

Update: Oh, last thing. I note that John McCain about busted a leg jumping up there to say that the apology was good enough for him. I'm soooo glad. Now, if I ever seem to be writing here like I value what McCain thinks, you can conclude that someone has hacked my Blogger password and is posting as an imposter.

Solar sail launched today Updated

I know I'm late with this but there was an interesting news item today. A spacecraft was launched today that will, finally, demonstrate in real life whether the sci-fi concept of sailing the solar winds is a workable solution or not.

::::::::Cosmos 1, the world's first solar sail spacecraft, takes flight on June 21, 2005, and is scheduled to unfurl its shining sails on June 26. The innovative solar sail, a project of The Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, was built in Russia and will launch atop a converted ICBM from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea.::::::::

Guess someone found a good use for all those surplused Russian subs after all.

Update: Well, perhaps I spoke too soon. No sooner than I'd posted this when I saw this story over on Fox:

::::::::The world's first solar sail spacecraft was launched Tuesday from a Russian submarine under the Barents Sea but concern grew about whether it safely reached orbit as hours passed without a signal.

Cosmos 1, a $4 million experiment intended to show that a so-called solar sail can make a controlled flight, was launched at 12:46 p.m. PDT, and initial data reception was followed by silence.

"The news is not good," said Bruce Murray, a co-founder of The Planetary Society, which organized the launch.

Data stopped during a pass over a portable ground station on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula at about the time the rocket's final stage would have ignited, mission officials said.
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Yeah, that's not a good sign. When a spacecraft reaches an ignition point for an engine burn and suddenly stops communicating, it's usually because the ship went boom along with the engine. I certainly hope the pull this one off.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A look at the willing

I'm used to linking to Arthur Chrenkoff for his "Good News" series of posts. Today, I found something every bit as fascinating. This post goes through all the nations on earth that are part of the Coalition and has pictures. I recommend it highly.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

VDH essay on "The Sorry Bunch"

Victor Davis Hanson is a brilliant writer and he's got a penchant for cutting through the smoke screens put up by the Western Left in clear prose. "The Sorry Bunch" is his essay on the NRO this week and it once again nails it. Merely implying that the Left in this country hates America is enough to invoke instant indignation. Not that the Left these days can really argue the point, they just get their noses out of joint over it and hit the replay button on the latest Nazi/Soviet/Cambodian comparison seeking to equate real torture and real murder and real tyranny with a made-up story about a Koran. Well, the truth hurts.

::::::::Indeed, it is far worse than that: Our own fundamentalist Left is in lockstep with Wahhabist reductionism — in its similar instinctive distrust of Western culture. Both blame the United States and excuse culpability on the part of Islamists. The more left-wing the Westerner, the more tolerant he is of right-wing Islamic extremism; the more liberal the Arab, the more likely he is to agree with conservative Westerners about the real source of Middle Eastern pathology.

The constant? A global distrust of Western-style liberalism and preference for deductive absolutism. So burn down a mosque in Zimbabwe, murder innocent Palestinians in Bethlehem in 2002, arrest Christians in Saudi Arabia, or slaughter Africans in Dafur, and both the Western Left and the Middle East's hard Right won't say a word. No such violence resonates with America's diverse critics as much as a false story of a flushed Koran — precisely because the gripe is not about the lives of real people, but the psychological hurts, angst, and warped ideology of those who in their various ways don't like the United States.
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The revelation this past week of Senator Durbin's hateful, wildly inaccurate remarks have brought forth a realization in me. It is long past time for those of us who have a clear view of the fact that we're in a war, and that war wasn't started by us, to speak up clearly and to the point about what we're doing and why. VDH's article also has a warning for those of us who have been gritting our teeth as the Left spews out unsupported allegations and ludicrous moral equivalences.

::::::::A war that cannot be won entirely on the battlefield most certainly can be lost entirely off it — especially when an ailing Western liberal society is harder on its own democratic culture than it is on fascist Islamic fundamentalism.

So unhinged have we become that if an American policymaker calls for democracy and reform in the Middle East, then he is likely to echo the aspirations of jailed and persecuted Arab reformers. But if he says Islamic fascism is either none of our business or that we lack the wisdom or morality to pass judgment on the pathologies of a traditional tribal society, then the jihadist and the police state — and our own Western Left — approve.

The problem the administration faces is not entirely a military one: Our armed forces continue to perform heroically and selflessly under nearly impossible conditions of global scrutiny and hypercriticism. There has not been an attack on the U.S. since 9/11 — despite carnage in Madrid and over 1,000 slaughtered in Russia by various Islamic terrorists during the same period.

Rather, the American public is tiring of the Middle East, its hypocrisy and whiny logic — and to such a degree that it sometimes unfortunately doesn't make distinctions for the Iraqi democratic government or other Arab reformers, but rather is slowly coming to believe the entire region is ungracious, hopeless, and not worth another American soldier or dollar.
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It's time to stop with the staying politely in our seats and folding our hands in our laps while we chant (to ourselves?) that the Left's got a right to their opinon and the right to speak while we have to simply sit there and say nothing. That confronting this unpatriotic and un-American attitude here within the borders of our own country is something best avoided. When idiots like Durbin make their remarks, we call them on it and demand they back it up. Durbin needs to see, in bright light and bloody color, the atrocities committed by the Nazis, by the Soviets, and by the Khmer Rouge. He needs to see all that - and so does the rest of America - and then see the worst Gitmo has offered. That a guard handled a book without gloves on, indeed.

I'm not yet sure what I can do, aside from blog about it as I have been. But I'm going to find out what I can do to get the real facts in front of my fellow Americans so they can see the hypocrisy and loathing of the Left for what it is. Then they can decide and have done with it.

On attacking your enemies' weaknesses

I like it!

::::::::These islamocultists seemingly want to die in the act of killing us. This presents a conundrum in that not only do we want to live, we also don’t want them to have what they want. While slaughtering these animals is surely an important aspect of the GWOT, it doesn’t do much for our side in the propaganda campaign. These are people who murder their daughters for being raped in order to uphold the family “honor”. Pride is a terrible weakness to have because it is something that is very easy to take away. Dignity, honor, decency can only be given away while pride is right out in the open for the taking. Let’s take it.

Shame is a powerful weapon when it is wielded with intelligence and guile. At this point, treating AQ detainees with the same dignity and respect shown to members of a chain gang would be a start. Put them to work. Let’s have them grow their own food; the soil is fertile in Cuba. I’m sure there are ditches that need to be dug, toilets that need to be cleaned, clothes washed, etc. Don’t hide it from the world, make a frickin’ web cam site so we can log in and watch Imad scrubbing pots, and Mohammed breaking rocks with a sledge hammer. There is no need for air conditioning in any detainee cell in Cuba. All that is required is a roof. You put those boys outside for 12 hours a day working themselves to the bone, and we’ll see how the recruiting numbers work out. If a detainee wants a day off, he can spend it telling the CIA and FBI what’s on the schedule for AQ ops next month and who is doing what. If not, no problem, grab a shovel and start diggin’. By the way, detainees can read the Koran on THEIR time, not Uncle Sam’s. The schedule of Guantanamo should be made by the Camp not by the inmates. You are in OUR world now Ahmed, not yours.
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Great suggestion. I'll even volunteer to design the network needed to get those webcams rolling. Hey, we do this with Paypal for the pay-per-view angle and we might even be able to fund that place without taxpayer dollars completely.

And a Happy Fathers' Day to fathers far from home

Greyhawk has a wonderful Fathers' Day note from a Dad who was also deployed away from home to those fathers deployed today. I may bitch about my job but, at the end of the day, I come home to the wife and kid. I have friends who deployed to Iraq and were gone for a year. Those men deserve to be in our thoughts today, and so they are in mine.

Mark Steyn is on target

And scores a bullseye:

::::::::And this is where it's time to question Durbin's patriotism. As Leahy implicitly acknowledges, Guantanamo is about "image" and "perception" -- about how others see America. If this one small camp of a few hundred people has "drained the world's good will," whose fault is that?

The senator from Illinois' comparisons are as tired as they're grotesque. They add nothing useful to the debate. But around the planet, folks naturally figure that, if only 100 people out of nearly 300 million get to be senators, the position must be a big deal. Hence, headlines in the Arab world like "U.S. Senator Stands By Nazi Remark." That's al-Jazeera, where the senator from al-Inois is now a big hero -- for slandering his own country, for confirming the lurid propaganda of his country's enemies. Yes, folks, American soldiers are Nazis and American prison camps are gulags: don't take our word for it, Senator Bigshot says so.

This isn't a Republican vs Democrat thing; it's about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they've signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe.
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Read the whole thing. At least one of Chicago's papers isn't afraid to stand up and call the Senator what he needs to be called.

What torture really looks like

The part that bugs me most about all the hand wringing over whether our troops at Gitmo are handling a book in a fashion that the detainees who were captured trying to kill our troops elsewhere in the world find acceptable and calling the treatment those detainees receive - which is unparalleled in history in its fairness and control - "torture" is the absolute lack of acknowledgement when we see it for real. From the New York Times, ladies & gentlemen: (Or here if you'd rather not go to the NYT.)

::::::::KARABILA, Iraq, Sunday, June 19 - Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis.

The American military has found torture houses after invading towns heavily populated by insurgents - like Falluja, where the anti-insurgent assault last fall uncovered almost 20 such sites. But rarely have they come across victims who have lived to tell the tale.

The men said they told the marines, from Company K, Third Marines, Second Division, that they had been tortured with shocks and flogged with a strip of rubber for more than two weeks, unseen behind the windows of black glass. One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed.

In an interview with an embedded reporter just hours after he was freed, he said he had never seen the faces of his captors, who occasionally whispered at him, "We will kill you." He said they did not question him, and he did not know what they wanted. Nor did he ever expect to be released.

"They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."
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THIS is what torture is, folks. Playing music to keep someone awake is only torture for people who have no conception of what torture is. What has happened at Gitmo is that people who are being interrogated since they were captured in armed opposition to Coalition troops have been made uncomfortable. Uncomfortable. NOT tortured. NOT shocked and beaten for 20 days. And most assuredly not killed.

Where are the pictures of those men? Where's the endless parade of news commentators and reporters and so-called non-partisan organizations like Amnesty International screaming about the conditions these men were forced to endure? Where's the outrage over the deaths - yes, the deaths - of those men who were dragged into that room and never saw the outside of it again? We're still hearing the desperate screeching of anti-Bush rhetoric spewing from the mouths of people like Senator Dick Durbin over Abu Ghraib to this day. Where's the Senator calling for those people who are responsible for what happened to a 19-year-old Iraqi to held to account? Did I miss it because he was speaking so during after-business hours grandstanding on the Senate floor?

Or did I miss it because the Senator hasn't bothered to say any such thing. After all, George Bush and the Pentagon weren't staffing this place with people whose actions I'd find indistinguishable from Nazi guard at Buchenwald.

Every jackass who has supported the notion that Gitmo is a torture center - and I'm talking to you, Kos - should be prepared to step up to the mic and admit that the reality of the situation is that what's happening at Gitmo is. not. torture. That the terrorists we're fighting - excuse, me: that the rest of us are fighting - are not the minutemen of a noble Iraqi resistance. They're the enemy. They are the new Nazis. They are the new Khmer Rouge. Or, better yet, let's just call them what they are. They are islamofacist terrorists. They don't want to negotiate, they don't want to live in peace. They don't care about the Iraqi people or the Afghani people, or any other people, for that matter. They care only that they get to call all the shots for everyone else and anyone who feels different is good only for killing.

You don't win these people over by closing a prison. You don't win them over at all. They'll stop only when they see their tactics aren't going to work and that we're not going to back down. So these jerks who keep handing them soundbites and hopes that our will is going to crumble - and I'm talking to you, Durbin - need to own up to the fact that they're wrong about Gitmo. Then, if they can't be bothered to help out in the effort, they need to sit down, shut up, and let the adults get to work.

Thank you Power Line for bringing this to my attention.