Friday, September 30, 2005

Pentagon spy Franklin to plead guilty

Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon analyst who disclosed classified information to both an Israeli official and a lobbying group is going to plead guilty to the charges leveled against him on Wednesday. It's an interesting aside that we still don't know what, exactly, those charges are, only that there are 5 of them. We all assume it's disclosure of classified documents but I guess we'll have to wait for Wednesday.

I've stated before that I don't care what Franklin's politics are and I still don't. That he's going to plead guilty tells me that it's no longer a case of "if he did it, then..." He did do it, by his own admission. What he did was espionage and should be treated as such.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

John Roberts confirmed as Chief Justice of Supreme Court

The US Senate has confirmed John Roberts as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a vote of 78-22. Pretty solid. Given Roberts' credentials, I can't figure out the reason to vote against him excepting idealogical in nature, but apparently 22 Senators found one.

Now for the real circus, we all waiting to see who gets nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. It's pretty much a lock that if someone with even remotely conservative views on things - including a penchant for applying the Constitution as it's written to the law - will trigger a filibuster by the Democrats regardless of their signing an agreement to not filibuster on idealogical grounds. As I mentioned back when the Gang of 14 did their little number on judicial confirmations, nothing was solved by that agreement. It was just delayed for another day. Well, that day's here. Let's get on with it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

IFC removed from the NYC Ground Zero memorial

Been a long day away from the blogosphere but what's in my inbox when I get home?

::::::::We are very pleased to announce that Governor Pataki has announced the removal of the International Freedom Center (IFC) from Ground Zero. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/28/AR2005092801849.html for details.

Every since June 8, 2005 when Debra Bulingame's op-ed, The Great Ground Zero Heist, appeared in the Wall Street Journal, we have fought together for the preservation of the dignity of Ground Zero. With your help, we have achieved a major victory toward that goal.

We will continue to monitor the plans for Ground Zero to ensure that a fitting and proper memorial is built; one that is respectful of the victims murdered that day, their families, the first responders, and the American people.

A press release on the removal of the IFC from the 15 family member groups is expected in the next 24 hours and we will post it @ www.takebackthememorial.org as soon as it becomes available.

Thank you again for your support, prayers, and dedication. We simply could not have done this without you.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Shurbet
Founder/Web Master
TakeBackTheMemorial.org
::::::::

I'm very pleased to see this. Like the Flight 93 memorial, I feel that a "memorial" should be just that, not a history or political lesson. On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists hijacked 4 aircraft and crashed 2 of them into the World Trade Center resulting in the deaths of over 2000 people. The courageous heroes of the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department charged into chaos that morning trying to save the lives of those trapped in the burning buildings. Many, many of those heroes put their lives on the line and then stepped boldly across it in pursuit of their duty and in defense of their fellow citizens, not to mention those international visitors in the buildings that day. The memorial is to the memory of those that died that day due to the inexcusable actions of terrorist cowards.

The IFC would be as appropriate there as a neo-Nazi membership drive held in the lobby of the DC Holocaust Museum. I'm sure there are people who would like to see it. It just needs to be done somewhere else.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Maryland school's sex ed program in the news again

Back in May a Montgomery County, MD sex education curriculum wound up in court. I wrote about it at the time and did a follow-up on an editorial published in the Washington Post Outlook section by a high school student attending a school in that district. The crux of the lawsuit was the complaint that the curriculum did 2 things objectionable:


  1. It excluded the position that homosexuality is viewed by a significant portion of our society as flatly wrong, except by way of calling such a notion incorrect.

  2. That the specific religions that held this opinion were morally inferior to religions that didn't.


Reproducing, yet again, the primary point of the judge's ruling, I wrote:

::::::::The Judge wrote that Montgomery County Schools "open up the classroom to the subject of homosexuality, and specifically, the moral rightness of the homosexual lifestyle. However, the Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject -- that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle -- to the exclusion of other perspectives.

"The public interest is served by preventing [school officials] from promoting particular religious beliefs in the public schools and preventing [the officials] from disseminating one-sided information on a controversial topic,"
::::::::

The school superintendent responded to this ruling by immediately suspending any sex ed teaching including the airing of a film discussing safe sex wherein the proper use of a condom, demonstrated on a cucumber, was displayed. I wrote initially that I thought this was simply a maneuver designed to be obstinate by over-applying the judge's ruling and that neither the judge nor the original complaint ever brought up the film in any way.

So, here we are today and there's another article in the WaPo, this time by Post Staff Writer V. Dion Haynes. This is no editorial. This is supposedly a news article which implies some research has been done and the facts as stated are the facts as can best be established. The title, "Sex-Ed Panel Aims to Sway Lessons on Gays" has at least the sound of being directed to the point of the earlier articles and the lawsuit. The panel mentioned in the title is chaired by Dr. Paul A. Wertsch. Third paragraph in the article reads:

::::::::Wertsch was among the health educators who spoke at the forum sponsored by Teachthefacts.org, a parent group established to support the education curriculum proposed last year by the county Board of Education. The curriculum, which the parent group considered comprehensive, was dropped in the spring to settle a lawsuit brought by other parents who thought some of the lessons, including a demonstration of how to put on a condom, were too explicit.::::::::

No, NO, NO, NO! The original article was published in the Washington Post, for crying out loud, and this hack claiming to be a journalist can't do the research? The lawsuit was directed at the curriculum's stance on the morality of homosexuality, not about any part of it being "explicit." The "demo" about the condom was never mentioned in the lawsuit whatsoever. Being the kindest I can be, this is sloppiness in reporting at its worst and if this journalist is so incapable of getting the publicly recorded facts correct, then he or she needs to be shown the door and the unemployment line.

Poland's elections

Poland's voters have apparently had quite enough of their ex-communist government officials and have voted to put 2 of their center-right parties in charge. The high unemployment there (17%) and various scandals have all combined to see to the ouster of the current government and the introduction of one that has promised to do something about both categories of problems.

Of course, what would a story like this be without referencing Poland's rather prominent position in the Coalition in Iraq? The new government has said that they might be willing to keep their troops in Iraq longer than the December 31 deadline the previous government had declared. I'm glad they'll consider it. Let's see what happens after Iraq's electorate has a say on their constitution and go from there. While it was important for our media to ask (and I'm sure for some of our citizenry as well) it seems the issue barely got mention during the campaign season there. Domestic issues were at the forefront and those are the issue that the leftists got smacked around over.

It's a shame Chrenkoff's not writing any more. As a Polish expatriate living in Australia, I'd have love to have heard his comments on this.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Who lay among the honored dead?

Arlington National Cemetary holds a distinct position in our nation's esteem. There lie interred in that hallowed ground Presidents, geniuses, philantropists, soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and few known but to God. It is a place almost universally known by Americans as a place for this nation's honored dead.

So how could a scumbag double-murderer who died in prison be residing there in such company?

No, I'm not talking about a political distinction. I'm talking about a guy who just so happened to be a veteran who managed to gain the confidence of an eldery couple enough to enter their home and overpower them. What happened next cannot be excused.

::::::::The elderly couple, Daniel and Wilda Davis, opened their door to Russell Wayne Wagner on Valentine's Day 1994.

"He took Mom and Dad and sat them on a kitchen chair, tied their hands behind their heads and put a pillowcase over their heads, stabbed them 14-15 times and then he robbed them and then he left," their son, Vernon Davis, tearfully told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Thursday.

Wagner was convicted of the couple's murders and sentenced to two life terms with parole eligibility. When he died in prison, he was cremated and placed in the nation's premiere veterans' cemetery: Arlington National Cemetery.
::::::::

In 1997 Congress passed a law restricting the access to Arlington National Cemetary such that certain kinds of felons - violent ones, I believe - cannot be buried at Arlington regardless of their discharge status. Wagner's burial got through a loophole in the law that only restricts those sentanced to death or life without parole. Wagner was sentenced to life but would have been eligible for parole. Just to add yet another unsavory chapter to this whole mess, Wagner died in prison from a heroin overdose. From the sounds of the webmaster at the Arlington National Cemetary site, it would appear the caretakers at Arlington weren't aware of the felony conviction before accepting Wagner's funeral there. I tend to doubt they could have done anything even if they had known.

There are 2 bills currently making their way through Congress to attempt to rectify this issue. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has introduced a bill to remove the loophole regarding parole and simply prohibit any felon sentenced to life from being buried there, regardless of whether parole is an option or not. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) has done the same except his bill would also explicitly exhume Wagner. I have no issue with that at all. Such a man has no right to pollute the ground there. I hope Craig's bill passes.

Frist scandal

I'll be perfectly honest in that I've not thought much of Bill Frist. Literally. Coming off a clear win in the 2004 elections and with the momentum of the electorate behind him in getting the filibusters stopped in the Senate judicial confirmation process, he basically frittered away his mandate. He clearly doesn't have the reins of leadership tightly held when 7 of his fellow Republican senators decided to cut his legs out from under him. Since then, I'm afraid I haven't given him much thought at all.

Yesterday, I caught a reference of Frist being involved in a scandal. There's been so many allegations of "scandal" by the MSM where Republicans are concerned that don't pan out to be anything of import that it really didn't make much of an impression. This morning, however, over at RedState.org there was a post that called for Frist to step down. One of the reasons for that was a reference to a "personal scandal." The New York Times and Washington Post might call Frist's ordering white wine with steak a scandal, but RedState doesn't use the term lightly.

The scandal involves the fishy-smelling sale of stock from Frist's blind trust. He apparently ordered the sale of HCA, Inc. stock from the trust just before the stock price went south. The SEC is investigating but, as with any good investigation, cautions that they don't know enough yet to characterize this event as illegal or not. They're investigating. Fair enough, but then I turned to Captain's Quarters to see what's going on over there. I find this.

::::::::Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a serious investigation into his finances after apparently directing the sale of stock while his assets supposedly remained in a blind trust -- and dumping family-business stock just before the bottom dropped out. Today's Page One story in the Washington Post reports that Frist specifically ordered the divestiture of family shares of the family business:::::::::

Ed Morrisey then goes on to quote both the linked article and an AP article as well. He's 110% correct about 2 things. First, the documents that have come to light to spark this investigation must be authenticated. (I'd recommend staying away from CBS for that task...) Second, if they are authentic then Frist was engaging in the very, very basic no-no of actively directing what was supposed to be a blind trust. Blind trusts are trusts set up to provide one a benefit while allowing the beneficiary no control over the management of the trust's assets. Senators and holders of higher offices (the President and Vice-President, for example) enter into blind trusts so their assets can continue to be invested while protecting everyone from allegations of conflict of interest. For that to work, the trust has to be... well, blind. He violate that basic tennet and, in the sale of a stock that suddenly dropped 9% of its value, he has given the appearance of operating on insider information. This is not good for Senator Frist. The Senator should face it: he's compromised.

Compromised senators don't manage the business of the country well and, guilty of infraction or not, Senator Frist will be even less effective as a leader than he was before. Do the right thing, Senator. Step aside and let another Republican take up the reins.

Judge issue restraining order barring gun confiscations

I mentioned yesterday that the NRA and Second Amendment Foundation had filed a lawsuit to block the confiscation of guns by the New Orleans police department. It has fortunately not taken long to explain the unconstitutional nature of the confiscations to a federal judge. The restraining order has been issued effective immediately.

NRA spokesmen have noted that they believe there were about 100 people who had guns illegally siezed but the number is difficult to nail down since the cops failed to provide any paperwork when they grabbed the firearms. Does that sound like a government who has any intention of giving those gus back? Not to me, and I don't think anyone can reasonably make an argument that it implies anything but that the cops intended to keep those guns. The next step should be for those people who had guns illegally confiscated to sue the police chief, the mayor, and (if she was involved in any way) the governor. At least there won't be any more people joining them.

Friday, September 23, 2005

MSM ignores their own "crisis"

You'll recall the literal hourly reports from the MSM last month or so when the Army wasn't meeting their recruitment goal? Calamity! Disaster! Looming crisis for the Pentagon. (Oh, that DAMN BUSH!!!)

Yeah. So when the Pentagon puts out a report showing the August numbers showed the Army made its recruiment target at 102% of goal which MSM outlet reports it? Not. A. Single. One.

Hat tip: Irish Pennants

Roberts is recommended by the Judiciary committee

John Roberts has received the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary committee for confirmation to become the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The vote was 13-5 with (no surprise) Kennedy, Biden, Feinstein, Schumer, and Durbin voting against.

Roberts was endorsed by the ABA, his work as a lawyer for the government during which he argued cases before the Supreme Court itself and his judgement in the 2 years of sitting on the bench in DC all combine to make him a highly qualified judge. His repeated stance on the law is that he will apply the law as the legislature has passed it to cases brought before him. This is precisely the quality we need in a Supreme Court justice so I really can't fathom a vote against him except for the reason that he doesn't fit a given person's idealogical views. And that's something the Democrats all said they wouldn't let sway them in determining their vote. Three of them on the committee held to their words. These five, however, clearly cannot.

I'm pleased Roberts is now out of committee. I would like to see the vote for confirmation take place very soon so we can get on with the next nomination, get the Supreme Court fully staffed, and get them back doing what they're supposed to be doing rather than playing around waiting for the political grandstanding to be done.

NRA files lawsuit to halt illegal confiscations in New Orleans

A few days ago I mentioned the New Orleans police department was going around confiscating legally-owned firearms from people who had committed no crimes in what appears to be a hugely illegal action. I note today that the NRA has now filed a lawsuit to stop the practice.

::::::::Today, the National Rifle Association (NRA) filed a motion in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking a temporary restraining order to block authorities from confiscating law-abiding citizens’ firearms in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“New Orleans is the first city in the United States to forcibly disarm peaceable law-abiding citizens and it must be the last. Victims are dealing with a complete breakdown of government. At a time when 911 is non-operational and law enforcement cannot respond immediately to calls for help, people have only the Second Amendment to protect themselves, their loved ones and their property,” said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

“The NRA stands with law-abiding Americans, who agree that at their most vulnerable moment, their right to defend themselves and their families should not be taken away,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist.

According to The New York Times, the New Orleans superintendent of police directed that no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to have guns and that “only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons.” ABC News quoted New Orleans’ deputy police chief, saying, “No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons.”

“The NRA is determined to stop this blatant abuse of power by local politicians. It is disgraceful that any government official would further endanger the lives of innocent victims by issuing this ridiculous order. We are very grateful to the many rank and file police officers who have come forward and assisted NRA in exposing these violations of constitutional freedoms. We are also pleased that the Second Amendment Foundation is joining us in this effort,” added Cox.
::::::::

Left completely unsaid by the police chief is the fact that the only people they're going to have records of owning guns are the law-abiding citizens, not the ones who jump at the first chance to open fire while looting. This was a feel-good measure and a show of laziness on the part of the police down there.

The Patterico First Amendment Pledge

Patterico has been one of the consistent voices watching over the travesty that is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold. He's got a post up regarding an interesting disclosure by John McCain on his Act's effects on the Internet. Linked at the bottom of that post is his invitation to join a list of bloggers in a pledge to not allow our First Amendment rights to free speech to be subverted. Accordingly:

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

I am an American citizen. It is my right and duty to speak out on matters pertaining to the political workings of my government and I will not relinquish either that right or that duty.

Count me in, Patterico.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Philly jury finds Diocese covered up but they can't be charged

After 3 years of deliberation, the grand jury empaneled to decide on whether to charge the Philadelphia Archdiocese with crimes related to 40 years' worth of covering up sexual abuse committed by priests of the Catholic faith has found that the Diocese did, in fact, cover those incident up but charges cannot be legally leveled. The crux of the situation is a point of Pennsylvania law: the Diocese isn't a corporation, it's an "unincorporated association." I'm sure there are legal minds out there more capable of detailing how that's critical but the bottom line is that PA law doesn't allow such associations to be charged as a separate legal entity. I'm sure someone's going to be looking at that law closely, but it cannot and will not apply to this case.

Ok, let's get this disclaimer out of the way: I'm Catholic. While I'm not a member of a church within the Philly diocese, I am a member of the Church. I am, therefore, fully qualified to comment.

I am, frankly, unconcerned that charges for these past cover ups will not be brought in a secular court. Those charges would be leveled, effectively, at the current membership of both the priesthood and the congregation and those 2 groups were not responsible for the actions of the priests who made the abuses. The priests in question, however are a completely different matter. Not only should they be subject to whatever punishments are called for within the Church, they also committed a secular crime and should feel the full fury of the American legal system. I am absolutely, unapologetically unmovable from that stance. Now that the grand jury has ruled that the Church cannot be held as liable as the offending priest, there is no reason whatsoever for the Catholic Church - and the Philly ArchDiocese in specific - to withhold the names of the offending priests. They should be given up to law enforcement without delay and any assistance the police require in building their case should be rendered eagerly. That they should be publicly defrocked should go without saying. I will leave it to the clergy to decide if excommunication is called for on a case-by-case basis but the starting position in such deliberations should be leaning toward "yes."

Now, about those cover ups... What those priests did in committing the sexual abuses against the members of their congregation cannot be defended in any way as a matter of church law. Catholic dogma recognizes no mitigating factors in a priest sexually abusing a parishioner. Our clergy all know this and should also know that telling a lie - even a lie of omission - to allow someone to get away with such an action is also wrong and indefensible. That the Church cannot be charged legally with a crime should be of no matter to us as Catholics or to our clergy. It is matter of right and wrong, honor and cowardice, grace and sin. The scales must be set aright again. The secular law cannot do so and should never have been asked to try. Any priest, bishop, cardinal, or whatever that had a hand in these cover ups should not now be in any position to ever do so again. The Church should - must, if it intends to ever engender trust in itself again - come out in no uncertain terms that such covering up will not be tolerated from this day forth. Any member of the clergy that handles an accusation of sexual abuse by a priest by simply transferring that priest to another parrish should be removed from his position. If further abuse occurs as a result of this cover up, then not only should the abusing priest be defrocked, so too should the one covering it up.

Our clergy are the defenders of our faith. They are the shepherds they like to claim they are. They hold a responsibility to protect the members of their faith and that means not planting a seed of evil in their communities. They should be loud and public about this committment not to make themselves look good to the atheists and agnostics in our society nor to the membership of other faiths, but to the members of the Catholic faith who are depending on them to do what's right and honorable.

North Korean negotiators apparently schizo

Not to be outdone by Venezuelan headcase Hugo Chavez, the negotiators for North Korea have followed up their announcement that they would give up their nukes with a wild-eyed paranoid delusion that the US is trying to kill them all. Just a couple of days after they said they'd give up the weapons - oh, in exchange for yet another American nuclear reactor, which request was denied by the US - their spokesman told the press that:

::::::::"The ulterior intention of the United States talking about resolving the nuclear issue under the signboard of the six-party talks is as clear as daylight," the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"In a word, it intends to disarm and crush us to death with nuclear weapons," the commentary said.
::::::::

Why would we go to the trouble of disarming North Korea (of its nukes, by the way, not disarm entirely) only to then launch nukes ourselves at them? Considering the arsenal we currently have, it would be a lot simpler to just bomb them out of existence immediately rather than telegraph our intent. NK has been relying on this grandstanding technique now since Clinton was in office. They're relying on it because it worked so well for them before. Clinton managed to cough up a nuclear reactor for them the last time they threatened someone with nuclear annihilation and then they reneged on their agreement. It should surprise no one that the US isn't interested in playing that particular game again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

JetBlue 292 down safe in L.A.

JetBlueflight 292, an Airbus 320 that suffered a major failure of its nose landing gear, has landed safely at LAX in Los Angeles. The pilots managed to keep the bird on the runway and under control in spite of the gear facing the wrong direction. No injuries and, frankly, minimal damage to the aircraft. Outstanding job, pilots!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Voter reform recommendations delivered to the White House

The Commission for Federal Election Reform co-chaired by former President Carter and James Baker has delivered its recommendations for election reform to the White House. According to the story, there's 87 recommendations in the report which you can view in its entirety here. For those who want to cut to the chase, the summary of recommendation can be viewed in a PDF file here.

The recommendations you're likely to hear about on the news are 3 that are apparently dear to the hearts of the MSM, either in a love it or hate it kind of mode. The first one that's being reported is a national (free, of course) voter ID card to be issued to all eligible voters. Sure to start the screaming from elements of both the Left (who consider such an idea akin to a poll tax) and the Right (who view such an ID as merely the method by which Big Brother will come calling), the concept of a voter ID is one I've written about before. I think it's a good idea so long as the ID can be secured well and the issuance thereof controlled reasonably. In short, it better be a lot more difficult for illegal aliens to get one than other documents have proven to be.

The second one is the implementation of a paper trail as a hardcopy backup to electronic voting machines. This is also something I've written on in the past and my attitudes haven't changed at all. I cannot imagine a serious designer not including an audit trail feature in a device unless specifically instructed not to do so. There needs to be some method for an audit trail. Paper seems to be the medium of trusted choice for the time being, so I say go for it. It's no worse than the current situation where the paper vote is being kept in archive anyway.

The other one being mentioned has me scratching my head, frankly. They want to implement regional primaries. For this one, I'm quoting the story:

::::::::Another idea is to shift to a regional primary system of four presidential primaries, although they did not recommend ending the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — historically the first two barometers of political popularity for the party's presidential hopefuls. After the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, the plan calls for four primaries at one-month intervals. The order in which regions voted would rotate every four years.

The commission recommends Congress legislate the change if political parties don't change the system by 2008.

"We believe it's the best approach," Carter said.

The current system picks nominees so quickly that voters in many states don't get to consider the options, the commission said. As a result, Carter said, more than nine in 10 Americans never get a chance to vote.
::::::::

OK, does anyone think the last campaign season was over too fast? The last thing I want is to give these guys yet more time to stuff spam in my mailbox and predict all manner of catastrophe befalling if we don't vote for them. I see no value whatsoever in this recommendation and I personally think they need to just drop that one in the trash.

One of the more interesting recommendations in the report - more interesting for the fact that the media virtually ignored it - is the suggestion that the voter registration databases be made interoperable between states and that procedures be placed to keep the lists current. The idea is to keep someone from registering to vote in Florida, moving to Ohio and registering again without cancelling the Florida registration. This allows people to vote twice in a national election. The databases would be reconciled so that this hypothetical person would appear in Ohio's list and be purged from Florida's. This is a good idea so long as proper controls are in place to verify the "move" instruction is actually coming from the person themselves and not from some telemarketer who goofed a keyboard entry.

Aside from keeping the voter roles accurate, making the databases interoperable means that a vote could, in theory, be tallied for a given person literally anywhere there's a polling place using electronic voting. Example: I live in Virginia and I'm registered there. Come election day, I happen to be in Kentucky. Rather than file an absentee ballot by mail, I could simply show up at a polling place in Kentucky. When I validate my ID (the national one, remember?) the system recognizes that I'm from Virginia. A quick query to Virginia's elections system would provide the ballot questions which can then be displayed on the voting screen. I make my selections, commit my decisions, and the results get squirted back to Virginia to be counted normally. There is no technical reason why that can't work. We all do the very same thing every time we use an ATM away from home. It really is that simple. (Well, the idea is simple, in any case.)

There's a lot there, so go have a look.

North Korean nukes: Fox News headline

So, I pull up Fox News' site this morning and what's the headline read? "North Korea Agrees to Drop Nukes." (Blink) Yeeesssss, I read that right. Of course, the story's about NK pledging to halt their nuclear weapons program - tentatively - but the initial image that headline gave me was... Well, it was less friendly, let's just put it that way. Someone at Fox News is just a bit to feisty this morning.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Gun confiscation in New Orleans - echo of the past, portent of the future?

In response to the lawlessness witnessed in New Orleans, the government there has decided that the best course of action is to confiscate the legally-owned firearms of citizens who have committed no crime whatsoever. Now, I realize this will stretch the capacities of the people who made this wholly illegal decision but I'd like to quote a well-known document on this matter:

::::::::Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
::::::::

I cannot in any way imagine a situation in modern America more illustrative of a need for a militia than the complete abdication of responsibility by the state and local governments in New Orleans, LA. To literally abandon their citizens, both in terms of providing relief efforts and in protecting them from those who figured the laws no longer apply to them, and then to move forcefully to remove their capacity to protect themselves is not mere incompetence but as un-American as it gets. These people shouldn't be removed from office because they're bumbling fools - although that's a fine enough reason - but because they're dangerously close to instituting decisions down there that that were very much at home in Soviet Russia and socialist nations around the world. And they were at home here, too, once upon a time. This shows an interesting parallel to 1774.

The NRA has now spoken its collective mind. They - we - aren't happy:

::::::::National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre slammed New Orleans authorities Monday for seizing legal firearms from lawful residents.

"What we’ve seen in Louisiana - the breakdown of law and order in the aftermath of disaster - is exactly the kind of situation where the Second Amendment was intended to allow citizens to protect themselves, " LaPierre said.

"When law enforcement isn’t available, Americans turn to the one right that protects all the others - the right to keep and bear arms," LaPierre said. "This attempt to repeal the Second Amendment should be condemned."

The New York Times reported last Thursday that no civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to have guns, quoting the superintendent of police that "only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons."

A Louisiana state statute allows the chief law enforcement officer to "regulate possession" of firearms during declared emergencies. "But regulate doesn’t mean confiscate," said Chris W. Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist.

"Authorities are using that statute to do what the looters and criminals could not: disarm the law-abiding citizens of New Orleans trying to protect their homes and families," Cox said.
::::::::

I think this should most definitely be part of any investigation that looks into the response to this hurricane by authorities at all levels.

Missile fired at US commercial jet?

There are still no details available as yet but there were rumors flying around yesterday about an alleged SAM attack on an America West flight headed into New York. I first saw the notice over at LGF with some additional follow-up from Michelle Malkin. Michelle, being a real columnist as well as a blogger, has access to sources the rest of us can't lay a glove on so she started making some calls. America West said that there was an incident and that the captain of the flight reported it. From Michelle's blog:

::::::::I just got off the phone with Phil Gee, associate manager of media relations at America West, who promptly returned my late evening call. Here's what he told me:

On Sept. 15 (Thursday), America West Flight 17 took off from JFK Airport at 6:05pm EDT [Update: The actual time of departure was 6:49 pm. -MM]. The captain "took the initiative," says Gee, and reported an "irregularity" to air traffic control as the plane was ascending. The plane continued to Phoenix and landed safely at 8:55pm MST. FBI and other authorities met and interviewed all of the crew and passengers on the plane. The investigation is continuing.

Gee would not say whether the pilot or other crew or passengers reported witnessing a missile firing.

"Nothing is confirmed," Gee said.
::::::::

In an update that follows, she writes more:

::::::::Update: A government aviation official who asked me not to reveal her name says the "missile siting was [a] false alarm:"

"The sighting was reported near Colt's Neck, NJ, which is a major route south out of NY. FAA set up a small temporary flight restriction around the area while checking radar files. Turned out to be nothing more than birds, and [a] big game of 'telephone.'"
::::::::

I respect Michelle Malkin a great deal, though we have our significant differences of opinion. However, I have to say that in this case I can't simply accept this explanation. First of all, it's an anonymous source to all of the rest of us. Michelle knows the government official, of course, but the rest of us don't. I can lend this explanation a bit of credit based solely on the fact that Michelle's the one who's reporting it, but I'm afraid that's not going to be enough. (Michelle, hopefully, understands that.)

Second, I worked in the commercial aviation field for a few years and the FAA simply does not move investigations that fast. Unless someone had the incident on video for the FAA to rewind and review, they've got to get eyewitness reports, pull radar logs, check to see who else might have been in visual range, coordinate with our military to see if this might have been a training accident, etc., etc., etc. To have an incident filed on Thursday and be able to tell by Sunday morning that what was seen was a flock of birds that most assuredly isn't sitting there to be investigated seems just a bit too pat an answer to me.

Third: I mean, come on, what did you expect them to say? Assume it had been a missle. How big a hit would the already ailing passenger air services have taken from that bit of news; that there's terrorists in Jersey with shoulder-fired SAMs taking potshots at passenger planes as they pass by and neither the FAA nor DHS have any idea who, where, or when they'll pop up again?

I'm not saying anyone's lying, here, or that we should be grounding aircraft along that corridor. I'm saying that we need lots more information before we hit the alert button or dismiss this as a weather ballon. (Or birds. Whatever.)

Afghan polls open again

The Afghanis are voting today to elect their representatives to Parliament. In the face of threats from Taliban holdouts, they're heading to the polls to affirm the democratic path they've been on since electing Hamid Karzai president. Afghan election officials are predicting "massive" turnout.

In a country where some in this nation said democracy simply wouldn't work, it appears to be flourishing. Afghani citizens - men and women alike - are seeing the rewards of throwing off the tryanny they'd lived under and they appreciate the help we and our Coalition allies have provided.

I'm looking forward to hearing the results of the elections and I'll post what I hear when I do.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Newsflash: Chavez is an idiot

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is telling everyone he has documented evidence that the US is planning to invade Venezuela and that the plan involves "aircraft carriers and planes." Well, stop those presses, folks!

Let's see, we have no common border with Venezuela. There's no secured highway from Texas down to the tip of Panama. Colombia's not likely to allow passage of a huge invasion army to finish the trip even if there were. So if an invasion force were going to be sent from here to there it would very likely "involve" ships. Of course, we need air cover, and that means (drumroll please) aircraft carriers and planes. Damn, that Chavez character is just brilliant!

Ah, but he's on to us now:

::::::::He added: "We are coming up with the counter-Balboa plan. That is to say if the government of the United States attempts to commit the foolhardy enterprise of attacking us, it would be embarked on a 100-year war. We are prepared."::::::::

Chavez is preening for the international set and he knows it. Unlike an enemy like Al Qaeda, we know precisely where Chavez is. We know where his military strength is located and we know what area in the world his operations are concentrated within. In short, he's a sitting target. Say whatever you like about the US military, their history is replete with examples that prove we're very, very good at taking out such targets.

The last guy who boasted that the US couldn't possibly take him out militarily skoffed at our abilities, technology, and training. He loudly predicted that our troops would wither in the desert and our "toys" would simply be of no use in real combat. The first time we kicked that guy's ass out of a country he had invaded in something like 100 hours. The second time we went after him we destroyed his vaunted military and removed him from power in about a week. That guy is now sitting in a jail in Baghdad awaiting trial.

The situation for Chavez - IF the US had invasion of Venezuela on our minds - would be very different than it was for Saddam. First, it's about 2000 miles from Washington, DC to Caracas. That's about the same distance as it is from here to Las Vegas, Nevada. That's within the range of our airlift capability without requiring airborn refueling. And that assumes a takeoff from Washington, DC. We can do it from Florida and be a lot closer still. Second, the troops that engaged in the Coalition assault on Iraq contained some combat veterans, but were still comprised largely of well-trained though untested soldiers. That's not the case today - the vast majority of our standing troop strength now has live combat experience and a large chunk of that is in urban warfare. Trust me, Chavez, you do not want to try going head to head with US troops in a non-urban environment now. Giving these guys a target in a situation where they can lay into you with no concern about innocent civilians or infrastructure and you will not be walking away.

Everyone who has even the slightest familiarity with the military capacity of these 2 countries knows what I've just said is true. So why challenge the US to a fight? Because he's scared to sh*tting his pants, that's why, and he knows the only defense he's got is to try to get enough of our friends to scowl disapprovingly at us should the subject come up. That and to try to mobilize all those university students who think wearing his mug on a T-shirt is just the height of cool. In short, he's doing exactly what General Vo Nguyen Giap and bin Laden and Zarqawi are doing: relying on our media and our academia to sap the will of the American public and erode support for any military operation. In Chavez's case, he's doing it in a preemptive manner.

I've got no problem whatsoever in the removal of Chavez from his position. Jimmy Carter notwithstanding, there was enough evidence of electoral fraud to call his presidency into real question and his prior record makes him a clear enemy of democracy. Seeing him punted won't raise any tears from me. That said, I wouldn't commit troops to the job - just yet - and wouldn't suggest anyone else do so, either. I consider this to be some dictator who knows he's on thin ice puffing up for the media. In short: he's an idiot.

Friday, September 16, 2005

NASA shooting for the moon in 2018

I always thought, as I was growing up, that we'd have a permanent station on the moon by the year 2000. In the early 70's, just a few years after Apollo 11 landed a crew on the moon for a very short stay, it seemed that old Y2K was a long, long way off. Plenty of time to set up shop on the moon and have regularly scheduled flights there and back.

As they say, that was then...

The fact of the matter is that there are some resources here on Earth that we absolutely need to use and that are absolutely not renewable. Forget about oil - buring it for energy, in any case - and think about things like copper or iron. That stuff doesn't just appear out of nowhere and, with the Earth's population increasing, there will come a point where there just won't be any of it around that we can get at. Mankind's destiny is in the stars. To get there is going to require technologies the likes of which we've only imagined and developing them will require loads of research, trial, and error. The first step in reaching those distant stars is to reach out to our closest celestial neighbor and that's the moon.

NASA has apparently come to the same conclusion and has delivered its plan to the White House to put people back on the moon by 2018.

::::::::The space agency presented its lunar exploration plan to the White House on Wednesday and on Capitol Hill on Friday. An announcement is set for Monday at NASA headquarters in Washington.

The fact that this successor to the soon-to-be-retired shuttle relies so heavily on old-time equipment, rather than sporting fancy futuristic designs, "makes good technological and management sense," said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University's space policy institute.
::::::::

Some of that "old-time" equipment actually refers to technology developed for use in the Apollo program. The idea is to launch not 1 rocket but 2. One will take up the crew compartment and "command module", to use Apollo's parlance. The other will carry the lunar lander, equipment, and the propulsion system that will be used to make the flight to the moon and back. This second rocket will be launched unmanned and will achieve orbit essentially on autopilot. The crew vehicle will be launched after the unmanned systems have achieved stable orbit and, once separated from it's own launch vehicle, will rendevous with the rest of the lunar package. The combined payloads will then form the entire lunar system and leave orbit from here.

I'm not at all adverse to them using older tech to get this job done. Take away the fancy emissions controls and power accessories and my 2005 Toyota is basically the same beast as the 1975 Plymouth I drove back in the day. We use that technology because it works, we understand it well, and it's reliable. No reason to make rockets science into... well... rocket science. (You get me, I know you do.) I'm very pleased they've got a plan to make a shot at it. I wish it could be faster, but there are a lot of priorities right now. I can only hope for the best for them.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Iraqis know who the enemy is

...even if some of our fellow Americans don't. Gateway Pundit has the goods:

::::::::I received this email earlier today:

The following is my translation of a headline and article in the September 15 edition of the Iraqi Arab newspaper “Nahrain”

"Loyal Iraqi civilians arrest Terrorist in Al-Kademiah."

"A number of Iraqi loyal civilians arrested 4 terrorists who were trying to launch rockets to kill innocent people in the Al-Kademiah in the early afternoon (of wed Sept. 14).

After Al-Kademiah residents saw the terrorists preparing the rockets to be fired randomly at civilians they, over powered them, arrested them and confined them to a local house.

The civilian’s then called the Iraqi security forces who now have them in custody for questioning. This brave and heroic stance of the citizens of Al-Kademiah and their resolve to cooperate with Iraqi security forces in defeating terror and building a free, democratic Iraq free of criminals who want nothing but to kill Iraqis and return them to the dark days which buried the glow of freedom and democracy.

Join us to defeat terror by contacting one of these hot lines:

Baghdad 813-2426, 813-2429, or 07901737723, 07901737724, 07901737725, 07901737726,

07901737727 or send an email to baghdadtipshotline@yahoo.com."

My [e-mailer's] comments:

Progress towards the rule of law, freedom and democracy is unstoppable and is proliferating. You will notice that all we heard and read about are the terrorist attacks that were carried on the September 14, not the ones that were thwarted and defeated.

Regards,

Haider Ajina
McKinleyville, CA
::::::::

Also in this post is an exerpt and a link to a US Defense Department release regarding the status of operations in northern Iraq which, I'm betting, you haven't seen much of on the nightly news. You should go have a look.

"It's not about blame - that's history."

Engineers examining the phycial mechanics of Katrina's effects on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans are saying that floodgates proposed decades ago could have prevented the flooding of much of New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane. In 1965, Hurricane Betsy came ashore near New Orleans and caused flooding, though not as severe as what we saw 2 weeks ago. President Lyndon Johnson ordered the Army Corp of Engineers to build floodgates on the Lake at that time because studies showed that a Category 3 hurricane could cause the Lake to rise by as much as 12 feet which would put the water level over the top of the levees and flood the city. (Sound familiar?) The floodgates were never built.

Why, you ask? Because an environmental group called "Save Our Wetlands" filed a lawsuit to stop the project, citing the interests of marine life in the area. As a result of that lawsuit the gates were never built. No floodgates, no method of reducing the water level in the Lake. So, when Katrina blew past she raised the water level in the Lake and it overtopped the levees. That the 17th Street levee was breached only added to the problem - the flooding was already in progress. The reason the flooding happened was foreseen 40 years ago and the effort to deal with it proactively was halted in its tracks. So, what does this group have to say about that now?

::::::::It is not about blame — that’s history. What this is about is saving and protecting lives,” said Valsin Marmillion of American Wetlands. “Any proposal has to be done in concert with saving the wetlands. It is not either/or. It is people figuring out the best science to do this.”::::::::

Emphasis mine. In the past 2 weeks there's been a huge amount of commentary suggesting that the government didn't do what it was supposed to in years past and that this lapse should have ramifications descend upon the current government because, well, they're to blame. Now, when the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly that's all just history and we need to just move right along. Nothing to see here. If they want this to be "not about blame" then they need to make an effort to avoid casting blame as their first order of business. Oh, and we can have both lifesaving methods and wetlands protection if someone will just figure out the best science.

They did figure out the best science to handle things, 40 years ago. But the short-sightedness of a group who placed fish above people rather than recognize that people have every right to survive and protect themselves, too, kept that science from being applied. How am I supposed to trust that the descendents of that group will recognize "the best science" when they see it?

(Updated to correct the date of Hurrican Betsy from 1968 to 1965. Thanks to my readers for pointing that out!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Flight 93 memorial: a controvery and a suggestion

The memorial being proposed for Flight 93, the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11, has become controversial owing to the design element that gives the memorial its title - a crecent. The shape of the memorial as a whole is a crescent which is the internationally recognized sympol of Islam. Now, I don't know whether or not the designer had that in mind when he proposed the design. There are 2 points that indicate he did: 1) when a panel reviewing the design suggested to the designer that the shape coupled with the title, "Crescent of Embrace" implied a memorial to Islam or islamic beliefs and suggested a change to use the term "arc", the designer refused, and 2) since this controversy has been made public, the designer hasn't come right out and said it was a coincidence. All that said, I would submit that the distinction is immaterial. If the designer had been making a museum for WWII and had inadvertently made the building into the shape of a swastika, he'd be expected to change the design if building had not yet commenced. (Even if it's discovered after the building is done, it's at the very least embarrassing.)

Now, I am no artist. However, in the spirit of suggesting a solution whenever one complains, I'd like to recommend this as a design. I'm going to describe it in words since the crude sketch I just did confuses even me as to what the &$^@@! I was trying to portray.

I propose a memorial built upon a circular stone platform 80 feet in diameter. On the platform there will be a flagpole, 40 feet high, located 20 feet from the edge of the platform at the most southern position. At 40 feet due north of the flagpole, there will begin a sculpture consisting of two distinct parts. The first is a 20 foot tall "cut-off" obelisk. Think "Washington Monument" without the pointy top.The obelisk should 5 feet on a side at the bottom with a gentle taper to 4.5 feet on a side at the top.

On the side facing away from the flagpole (the north face) should be a brief narrative of what happened on 9/11 and how Flight 93 came to its end there. My recommended text is: "On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists who hijacked passenger aircraft and crashed them into buildings in New York and Washington DC. On hearing about the other aircraft, the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 rose up against the terrorists on their flight and fought to regain control of the aircraft before it was crashed into a target in Washington, DC. During the battle, Flight 93 crashed in this field. The actions of the passengers protected the lives of Americans on the ground at the cost of their own."

The west face of the obelisk should have a carved image of the World Trade Center - just the 2 towers. This image should be stylized, not rendered realistic. The east face should have a carved image of the Pentagon. Again, it should be a stylized image.

The southern face of the obelisk (the one facing the flagpole) should have 2 images carved into it. The first, very near the top, should be a stylized image of an aircraft. It shouldn't be a realistic image identifiable as a specific aircraft model but a fairly generic passenger jet-looking image. The aircraft should be nose up at a 30° angle, my personal recommendation is ascending to the right, tail down to the left. About halfway down the obelisk will be the other image, that of an American flag. The flag will be carved as if billowing in the wind, but still flying full from a flagpole. The pole will have its top very near the left side of the face with a slight angle as you drop down the pole toward the right, perhaps 5°. The flag will be carved with the "trailing edge" flying at this same angle "up" from the leading edge attached to the pole. The image is to invoke an ascending wind. The flag and the aircraft will be about the same length and the plane will be directly over the flag with about 5 or 10 feet of separation.

The second element of the sculpture will be a cast bronze piece on the platform directly in front of the obelisk. It will start with a curving surface. Rising out of the surface will be 40 stylized human figures from just below the waist up. The figures will be identical and will not have any specifically recognized features - they will not be identified as specific individuals. The right arms of the figures will be positioned with their hands over their hearts as if reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem. The left arms will be hanging straight down ending in balled fists. The heads of the figures will be angled as if looking up. The specific angle should be such as to have the figures looking at a flag flying from the flagpole located to the south on the platform.

On plaques mounted directly in front of figures should be the following text: "This memorial is dedicated to the heroes of Flight 93 who stood together in defense of Liberty. September 11, 2001." The names of every passenger and crew member aboard will be listed below. Below all that, in a slightly larger font, should be "Let's Roll."

Have a museum or a vistors' center located somewhere nearby but not on the platform itself.

A memorial should be a memorial, not a museum and not a history lesson. It should certainly not be a analysis of the socio-ethnic cultural diorama blah, blah, blah. This should be a place to recall not just the sacrifice of those ordinary Americans thrust into extraordinary circumstances but the spirit in which they rose, together, to fight our common foe and the lucid bravery they displayed.

That's my suggestion.

Chrenkoff rides into the sunset

Arthur Chrenkoff is a Pole living in Australia and also the defacto standard for reporting the balance of the story being broadcast in the MSM about Afghanistan and Iraq. I've been linking to him for nearly a year and have relied on his wisdom and tireless research. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he's accepted a job which will require him to stop writing on his blog. I'm not just sad about. We're losing an extremely valuable man in the information war that's running concurrently to the war on terror. He announced his departure some weeks ago and told us he'd tell us when it was time to go.

Looks like it's time to go.

We're sure going to miss you, Arthur, but we'll keep the lamps lit for you. Here's hoping you return someday.

The briefings he's been providing will not cease, however, as several talented authors are going to keep up the work. See them over at Good News Central.

"Wrong wire, there, Ace."

Wonder how much remedial training a certain electrical crew in L.A. is signed up for this week?

::::::::Traffic lights, businesses and ATMs were plunged into lunchtime darkness when utility workers accidentally sliced several power lines, startling some in a city already jittery following a purported Al Qaeda threat.

The mishap, which lasted about 2½ hours Monday, cut power to 750,000 homes and businesses — or about 2 million people — from downtown Los Angeles to Venice Beach to much of the city's San Fernando Valley.
::::::::

Whoops.

Monday, September 12, 2005

An excellent point...

alt.muslim asks the question, "What if Jews destroyed mosques?"

Space HereImagine if Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip destroyed two dozen mosques. There would be mass rallies in front of Israeli embassies around the world, and in America organizations like CAIR and MPAC would issue righteous condemnations calling on the American government to restrain Israel. However, as we've seen today, when Palestinians streaming into liberated Gaza set fire to synagogues there is deafening silence from most Muslims and certainly from the leadership of the American Muslim community.

...

The wholesale destruction of the Jewish synagogues is yet another indication that Palestinians of all stripes, whether Fatah secularists or Islamic Hamas types, do not have the political maturity to construct a civil society. However, it is also a sign that Muslims in America lack the conviction of their religion to condemn sacrilege when it is committed by Muslims against others.
Space Here

Go have a read and ask yourself the question. We all know what the answer is.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Clear planning for unclear critics

I'm referring to an editorial by Michael Hirsh of Newsweek that appears in today's Washington Post. It's titled, "9/11 - And Counting", subtitled, "Four Years In, No Clear Plan." Kinda makes you wonder what side of this conflict he's on, doesn't it? Of course, most editorials don't allow the author to come up with the headline, so why don't we just give him a pass on that one, hmm?

I have so many issues with what Hirsh has to say in this article I scarcely know where to begin and I'm really, really trying to avoid a line-by-line commentary. But it's gonna be tough.

The basis for this editorial is that the Bush Administration hasn't got a "clear plan" for winning the war on terrorism and the unspoken premise is that the President bloody well should have by now. To law the groundwork for this argument to proceed, Hirsh dives right into a comparison of the war on terror to WWII with special emphasis on the timing involved. Here's what he has to say:

::::::::Over the next 3 1/2 years, he and then his successor, Harry Truman, transformed a depression-ravaged, isolationist nation -- one with virtually no army -- into the world's dominant power. They assiduously cultivated alliances that shared the fighting and dying, oversaw the defeat of two hegemonic threats (Japan and Germany), and began to rebuild these former enemies into peaceful democratic allies. At the same time the two presidents created many of the institutions that still define the global system, including the United Nations, planning for which began in 1944.

And they did it in less time than has now elapsed in the war on terrorism. Today marks the fourth anniversary of 9/11. It is a depressing milestone, made grimmer by the comparison to World War II. President Bush himself drew this analogy in a speech on Aug. 30, declaring that we face a "determined enemy who follows a ruthless ideology" just as we did 60 years earlier, and "once again we will not rest until victory is America's." What Bush failed to note was that it took FDR and Truman precisely 1,347 days, from Dec. 7, 1941, to the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, to win WWII, pacify the enemy and largely secure the peace that followed. By comparison, 1,461 days have now passed since that terrible day in 2001. And even now there is no end in sight to the "global war on terror." What is perhaps more unsettling, there is no detailed strategy for winning this war.
::::::::

So, Hirsh thinks WWII and this war on terror are similar endeavors?

::::::::Clearly, this is a very different kind of conflict from WWII. Then, we were fighting an easy-to-identify enemy in plainly delineated theaters of war. The same can't be said of the war on terrorism. Bush himself has said that it would be a long, open-ended conflict. And as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has put it umpteen times, al Qaeda is "not going to be signing some sort of a surrender aboard the battleship Missouri."::::::::

If it's so clear to Hirsh that "this is a very different kind of conflict from WWII" then what's the purpose of the preceding 2 paragraphs? If it's a very different kind of war, then what does the length of the 1 have to do with the other? While in school, I took a variety of tests in basic computer operation. They were very clearly different kinds of tests from the certification testing I undergo as a professional. Any guesses how seriously I'd take someone who conceded that point and yet went on to castigate me for taking longer on a 75-question exam involving network design simulations than on a 10-question multiple choice quiz? That's right: not very. And Hirsh repeats the mistake yet again just a couple of paragraphs later when he complains that we still haven't found bin Laden but Hitler was already dead by now in the comparitive timeline.

This war is different and that makes comparing the timelines of the two a fool's exercise. Germany, Italy and Japan were not just enemies, they were known locations that could not move. Their ability to fight was tied to the industrial might they had developed and to the manpower they could raise and arm. There were physical boundaries to both of those resources. Today's terrorists are armed by people who call us allies and funded by governments who shed crocodile tears at the loss of our citizen's lives. It's as if Canada had been supplying engines for Japan's Zeros while urging us on at Normandy. With no capital city to surround and, as Dick Rumsfeld put it, force a surrender-signing on the deck of a battleship the concept of watching a clock and complaining that we're taking longer than someone else did in another war is just idiocy masquerading as rational argument.

All this and we're not even addressing the supposed point of the article.

But Hirsh isn't ready for that yet as he pulls out the Kerry Campaign talking point yet again about how Bush is squandering US prestige. He makes the charge that Bush is now projecting weakness rather than US power. The power he's referring to, of course, is our "moral standing" with the rest of the world. Without so much as a single example of a loss of moral standing with any nation that wasn't already working against us in the background, he proceeds with yet another of the Left's favored myths: that resistance to terrorism is only making it stronger. We're now even more beholden to Arab and Russian oil and our trade and budget deficits are reaching record levels.

Haven't we all read the economic figures that show the deficits are decreasing? That revenues are up? Unemployment is lower now than it was after the Clinton-era dot-com bubble burst? Why is Mr. Hirsh, along with so many of his fellow journalists, unable to report the facts about these items but they have no problem editorializing in the reverse?

Here's a line that just required me to re-read it twice:

::::::::Most disturbing of all, the man who once called himself a "war president" has not formulated a well-thought-out plan for winning this war, either in public or privately within his administration.::::::::

Skipping lightly past the concept of what Mr. Hirsh would even consider as "well-thought-out", one must ask: how in hell would he know what war plans the President has or hasn't formulated in private? The last I checked, Newsweek wasn't on the Cabinet and they sure as hell aren't represented on the Joint Chiefs. That's some towering arrogance on the part of a reporter to think that because he's not privy to national security planning it must not exist. He speaks of our not having "metrics" to determine if we're winning the war. He's obviously not talking to people like Michael Yon or any of the leadership of the "Deuce Four" Yon's been working with for months. I can certainly understand Hirsh's lack of metrics if he's only listening to mainstream media reports - such as Newsweek - for his information. Of course, he also doesn't want to leave you with the impression that you're only listening to a reporter from a magazine whose singularly, spectacularly dead wrong reporting resulted in riots and real deaths. So he tells us that a "surprising number" of strategists think we're losing the war. I'll bet it's surprising. He thinks all of them should be saying that and could only find 2. What a surprise!

Getting serious, though, what is a "surprising number"? And who are they? He tosses this out there as a fact and can't name a single one? He moves right along, however, hoping no one will notice that he's neither provided an example or a real number for us to be surprised at and seques into yet another unnamed source. There's some "senior military official" at the Pentagon who's "exasperated" that there are people at the Pentagon spending time thinking about a war with China, "a war that is never going to happen..." If there's a senior military official so blatantly stupid as to make a comment like that, Hirsh should consider himself patriotically duty bound to report him and get such an obvious incompetent out of our national security apparatus.

The editorial wends its way back into the WWII comparison by purporting to show how FDR planned everything about the war and the postwar way before Pearl Harbor. (Does speaking about the US foreign policy at the time constitute war planning?) And my, oh my, didn't all those plans just go so well for the next 4 years? Here's a tip to Hirsh: go have a chat with some real WWII vets and ask them just how well planned everything was. Be prepared for an earful.

Here's another one: Hirsh quotes a political science prof who sees no link between democratic societies and the reduction of terrorism. In fact, Hirsh continues, "some" scholars suggest most terrorism occurs within democracies.

Hirsh, are you even paying attention to what you just said? Of course more terrorism occurs within democracies. Where the hell do you think the terrorists are setting off the bombs? In their own towns? (In Iraq they are, but you know what I mean.) Hamas doesn't get much mileage out of blowing up busloads of Palestinians, now do they? No, they blow up Israelis. The Taliban-sheltered bin Laden wouldn't have gotten very far crashing a plane into downtown Kandahar in 2001, now would he? No. He did it in New York and Washington - and inadvertently in Pennsylvania, thanks to courageous Americans - in the heart of our democracy. This is a worthless point.

Hirsh finally gets around to comparing the war on terror with the Cold War, a more apt comparison. However, it still suffers the same flaw as the other comparison. The issue of containment is raised which begs the question: contain what? Where? Throw up a cordon around what country or neighborhood? In the Cold War the enemy was the Soviet Union and her minions. We knew where they were and we could contain them because we knew where they were. I have the same arguments as I did about the WWII comparison - if the communists were being sheltered by nations claiming to be our allies and funded by those who made a show of fighting communism then containment would not have worked. In the end, it wasn't containment that defeated the Soviet Union, either.

The real question one has by the time you've read Hirsh's article this far is: OK, so what would constitute a "clear plan" for Hirsh? For all of his complaining up to this point, Hirsh's only comment is about (of course) the oil. It always comes down to the oil with the Left these days. Hirsh believes that a national strategy would be based on reducing this country's need for oil out of the Middle East and that this would assist us in winning the war on terror. But, the Bush Administration has screwed that pooch, too, because the only energy plan that's been passed has concentrated on finding new sources of oil, not investing huge sums in unproven technologies that would provide power without the oil.

OK, first off I'm all for reducing our need for oil. I'd love nothing better than to be running my house and car on something other than petroleum products. Sodium Borohydride, for instance, but I digress. Secondly, Hirsh makes the snarky comment that Bush's energy legislation was "four years in the making" implying that even this flawed legislation took too long. Well that wasn't the administration's fault. Blame Congress for that one. They're the ones who wouldn't get off their collective asses and vote, so you can't put that one on Bush. Last, if we're in such dire straights and the critical issue is to reduce our reliance on oil from "a region that was far more unstable than we realized", then it doesn't make sense to dump money into maybes. We put the funds into getting the energy sources we know are there and getting them to our citizenry as soon as possible. Develop the alternative fuels alongside, if we can.

While energy policy doesn't get the attention it deserves, it's just amazing that someone can complain there's no clear plan to win the war on terror and then point to energy policy as the only issue that matters. Ridiculous. What about border security? How about shutting off the flow of illegal aliens that are undoubtedly carrying terrorists into this country? How about puting in those port modifications to detect radiation signatures that we've heard so much about? Better bomb detection gear, and not just at airports. And what about our military deployments? Any thoughts on that, Mr. Hirsh? The article makes one thing clear at least. Critics like Mr. Hirsh aren't really so interested in clear plans for victory in the war on terror as much as using their perception that no such planning exists as a smear weapon against a sitting President. Must be nice that Newsweek and the Washington Post offer people like him such a venue to broadcast their views.

I will remember

It had already started by now, 4 years ago. As of this moment those on American Airlines flight 11 were already dead after terrorists had slammed their aircraft into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York as were those on United 175 which hit the South Tower. American Airlines 77 out of DC was in the air and turning toward the Pentagon under terrorist control. In less than 20 minutes, all those aboard would also be dead.

Advised of the situation, ordinary Americans going about their business would rise up against the terrorists on United flight 93 and deny them their prize at the cost of their own lives. Their story will be told tonite on the program "93: The Flight That Fought Back." I'm told it will be true to the best of all of our knowledge and respectful of those who died in that airborne battle.

Nothing has changed in my feelings about the war on terror from my post of last year on this day. With the revelations of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, those of the 9/11 Commission ignoring evidence that the terrorists were identified before 9/11 and were meeting with foreign governments, and the constant reports from returning soldiers that the situation abroad in both Afghanistan and Iraq is more hopeful than we're being told I am less forgiving than ever of the ankle-biting, anti-soldier attitudes of many Americans today. The one thing that has changed in me this past year is the realization that some of those folks aren't going to be convinced because they are steadfastly refusing to be convinced regardless of what evidence may come.

The strategy is working. There are more free Arabs today, living in democracies where they have a voice that actually counts for something, than has existed in history. All of their citizens, men and women alike, have a better shot today at safe, happy, productive lives and that's something they didn't have 4 years ago. Places like Libya, Lebanon, and Egypt are undergoing their own spontaneous reforms - flawed as some of them may be - that were precipitated by the actions we and our Coalition allies have taken. We are safer today than we were 4 years ago because we are taking this fight to the terrorists whereever they are. I supported it when this started and I support today, as I remember the events that finally woke me up to the need.

Fortunately, there are people who get it and can write better than I can. On this day, I can ony ask that you remember those people who died that day at the hands of terrorists who care nothing for the lives and freedoms of others. They will not go away and they will not suddenly understand that we should be left in peace. I will not let the lessons learned that day be buried. I will remember.

Update: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has a good post and images we should all keep firmly in mind today.

Yon interviewed in Pittsburgh-Tribune

While I'm still unsurprised but disappointed that Micheal Yon hasn't been interviewed by the WaPo, NYT, Fox News, CNN, etc., I am very glad to read that he's getting some MSM exposure which should bring him to the attention of the common American. They - we - need to hear his stories badly. Bill Steigerwald at the Pittsburgh-Tribune wrote up a nice column about Yon and I deeply appreciate it. Read it and you'll see why.

Two key exchanges in their interview show some real thought on Steigerwald's part and it needs to be repeated far and wide.

::::::::Yon makes no bones about whose side he's on in Iraq -- ours. He went in January, on his own dime, to do something personally about the "disconnect" between what's really going on in Iraq and what the mainstream media are reporting.

Last week, I sent Yon an e-mail. "What is the major thing you and soldiers over there know about the direction of the war that we consumers of mainstream media do not know?"

"That very real progress is being made," Yon replied, adding that while Iraq could still fall apart, it is getting stronger.

Based on his dispatches, I told him, I had learned the enemy is tough and smart and American soldiers are incredibly brave, dedicated and trying to do the right thing. What else should I know?

"The Iraqi people and the Coalition are making this work. The enemy is brave, but so are the new Iraqi police and army. The enemy is smart, but so are many people who are stopping them.
::::::::

This is critical: that an enemy is deadly does not make him superior nor does it make him a winner - unless you allow it to.

::::::::Finally, I told Yon that his excellent reporting and photos reinforced my prewar belief that we were stupid to send 150,000 of our best and bravest to Iraq and that we should get out ASAP. "Am I wrong?" I asked from the safety of my ivory tower.

Yon, writing from a place where he himself has written "progress is measured while the flesh and blood of the newly dead dries on the pavement," said, "You are wrong. If you run, they (the terrorists) will follow. They will kill you."
::::::::

Yon understands and he's there. Fortunately for all of us.

Michael Yon has a new dispatch

And you should see it.


Damn right.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

State Law Whoopsies

OK, now this is funny! Just keep it indoors, folks.

The FairTax Updated

(My thanks to Outside The Beltway for their open post!)

I've read "The FairTax Book" by Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder and I am recommending it in the highest possible terms to everyone. It's not a huge book (187 pages, counting the index) and it's written in an easygoing almost conversational style. It's a fast read and that's saying something when the topic is prospective tax law.

So, what is the FairTax? Rather than try to talk about it myself, I'm going to direct you to the source. Well, one of them, anyway. I still recommend that book, big time. But for details on what this is all about, look no further than the site for Americans for Fair Tax and their FAQs on the topic. Get educated on the matter before you decide.

In brief, the FairTax is a national consumption tax that replaces the federal income tax and payroll taxes. The mechanics of how that comes about and what it entails is on the web site but I'll tell you what has convinced me that we need to go this route. Funding the federal government - and most specifically Medicare and Social Security - by taxing the income of working Americans to provide benefits for non-working Americans is a system with a built-in design flaw. As the ratio of workers to non-workers lowers, the funding drops. What was a surplus becomes a status quo parity and then a deficit. When the funds accumulated during surplus years runs out, the system can no longer provide enough funding to handle the payments. This is exactly the situation we have with Social Security (due to become bankrupt in 2041) and, even worse, with Medicare (due to become bankrupt in 2020). The only way to provide the required funding is to increase the burden on working Americans, either by taxing more of their income or raising the tax rate or both. The system relies completely on having a lot of working Americans for each non-working one. When that variable fails to live up to the requirement, the system collapses.

A consumption tax, on the other hand, taxes every American according to their consumption as opposed to their production. Again, I urge you to go to the site and read up on it. Oh, and by the way: this is already a bill before Congress. It was last year, too, but for some reason we never heard about it from our media. Again. Well, you don't have to be reliant on that avenue of info any more, so go read up on it. Decide for yourself.

Update: After posting this I started poking around the AFT site and found a quick "Tagline" description of AFT and the FairTax for use in literature and whatnot. I figured I'd just include it here for your quick review.

::::::::What is the FairTax plan?
The FairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a rebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar revenue neutrality, and the repeal of the 16th Amendment. This non-partisan legislation (HR 25/S 25) abolishes all federal personal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment, and corporate taxes and replaces them all with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax – collected by existing state sales tax authorities. The FairTax taxes us only on what we choose to spend, not on what we earn. It does not raise any more or less revenue; it is designed to be revenue neutral. So it is also cost neutral – the final cost for goods and services changes little under the FairTax. The FairTax is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system.

What is Americans For Fair Taxation (FairTax.org)?
FairTax.org is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to replacing the current tax system. The organization has hundreds of thousands of members and volunteers nationwide. Its plan supports sound economic research, education of citizens and community leaders, and grassroots mobilization efforts. For more information visit the web page: www.fairtax.org or call 1-800-FAIRTAX.
::::::::

Angel duty

I've heard again from my soldier, the one I'm writing to as part of the Soldiers' Angels program. He has returned to Iraq after rotating home for 15 days' leave. Aside from landing in Baghdad into 130° F heat, he's doing fine. His letter to me was sent back on 23 August, however, and I know from a previous letter that his family was from Louisiana. I've sent him a reply asking where exactly his family is down there. I can only hope and pray they're all right.

If you're reading this, soldier, drop me a line if there's anything I can do for them.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Iraqi Soldiers donate to Katrina relief effort

I am deeply appreciative and extremely humbled by this act on the part of Iraqi soldiers:

::::::::TAJI, Iraq, Sept. 9, 2005 — Iraqi soldiers serving at Taji military base collected 1,000,000 Iraqi dinars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Iraqi Col. Abbas Fadhil, Iraqi base commander, presented the money to U.S. Col. Paul D. Linkenhoker, Taji Coalition base commander, at a Sept. 5 staff meeting.

“We are all brothers,” said Abbas. “When one suffers tragedy, we all suffer their pain.”

The amount of money is small in American dollars - roughly $680 - but it represents a huge act of compassion from Iraqi soldiers to their American counterparts, said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Goyne.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of their generosity,” Goyne said. “I was proud and happy to know Col. Abbas, his officers, NCOs and fellow soldiers. That amount represents a month’s salary for most of those soldiers.”
::::::::

My thanks to those men. That they would think of helping us while fighting their own very real battles shows they mean what they say about brotherhood. I'm proud to call them allies and friends.

Hat Tip: LGF

More commentary on Katrina repsonsibility

No, I don't mean holding someone responsible for the fact that a hurricane formed and hit the coast. (That seems to be the area of expertise for the MoveOn, Daily Kos, and Democratic Underground crowd.) As I mentioned yesterday, however, it is becoming apparent that the federal agencies - FEMA, Coast Guard, etc. - aren't where the problems lay in the immediate aftermath of Katrina's landfall. FEMA's not the party responsible for keeping the Red Cross from providing assistance to those poor souls who relied on the Superdome for shelter at the Mayor's suggestion. The idea that the problem was positioned a little closer to the issue than Washington is supported more each day as the facts get examined. Peter Ferra writes:

::::::::A few basic facts will help to detox the political environment:

(1) FEMA is not an agency of first responders. It is not the agency responsible for bringing people bottles of water and trays of fresh food, or transporting them out of harm's way. It also has zero law enforcement authority, or personnel.

These first-responder jobs are the responsibility of local and state government -- city police and firemen, city transportation and emergency services personnel, state police, and ultimately the state National Guard.

FEMA has always been primarily a federal financing agency, providing funding to the locals after the crisis hits to help them respond and rebuild. That is why FEMA's Web site baldly states don't expect them to show up with their aid until three or four days after the disaster strikes.

(2) Moreover, the National Guard is under the command of each state's governor, not the president. The president can federalize control of a state's guard on his own order, but doing so without a governor's consent to deal with an intrastate natural disaster would be a supreme insult to the governor and the state. In addition, using federal troops for local police actions is against the law and has been since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
::::::::

His commentary continues with an examination of who actually did what (or didn't do, as the case may be) in the aftermath of Katrina. I've already covered some of it here, but he's got a good article you'd be well served reading.

Responsibility as a citizen: are you prepared? Updated

Interesting op-ed piece in the Washington Times this morning is titled "Malfeasance of citizenship."

::::::::In assessing the events on our Gulf Coast over the past fortnight it is necessary to note that thousands of Americans in News Orleans showed almost no sense of self-reliance and personal responsibility. Some, of course, were sick, infirm or otherwise helpless. But many were not. This malfeasance of citizenship is as damaging as the failures of government officials, and rectification is just as crucial.::::::::

In the wake of 9/11 I prepared my family with some capability for self-reliance. I took the Department of Homeland Security's suggestion to lay in enough supplies to provide for ourselves in every respect for 3 days. Have you?

Update: I've been thinking about this today a lot and I want to make 1 counter comment. It's not fair to automatically assume that everyone who was sheltering at the Superdome had taken no action to provide for themselves. It might have been a situation where their emergency supplies were located at their homes and they were unable to transport them to the Dome when they went there. I don't know of any specific instance where that's true, but it's a possibility and I wanted to say so.

Berger fined for mishandling classified documents

Former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was fined today as part of his sentence for mishandling classified documents. The going rate for knowingly stuffing secret documents into your pants and jacket and totally contravening security measures you've sworn to uphold? $50,000.

That's right, folks. The Nation Security Advisor for the President of the United States - arguably the single most cleared person in the country and the one most familiar with both the security process and the ramifications of compromise of that process - deliberately stole classified documents and smuggled them out the door hidden in his jacket and pants and he has to pay a fine of $50,000. Oh, and 100 hours of community service and 2 years' probation. And let's not forget, he had to "surrender his access" to such classified documents for a period of 3 years.

Want to know what would have happened had a political nobody such as myself had done such a thing? There would have been no fine at all, because depending on what documents I took, I'd be strapped to a gurney and have a needle full of a very toxic cocktail stuck in my arm. At the very least, I'd be going to jail for decades, if not for the remainder of my life. Sandy Berger should have been held to the same standard. It's not like he didn't know what he was doing. It's not like - in spite of his earlier lies to the contrary - he made an honest mistake. He knew full well what he was doing and he knew equally well it was against the law not to mention his oath to do no such thing. Berger should have been sent to jail for a long time. As for his "access", it should have been revoked, on a permanent basis, not "surrendered" for 3 years. Who can trust this man with classified documents again?

Certainly not me.