Thursday, March 30, 2006

Virginia muslim gets 30 years for assassination conspiracy

Next up on the good news list:


Prosecutors had asked for the maximum — a life sentence — for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 25-year-old U.S. citizen who was born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Va.

"The facts of this case are still astonishing," prosecutor David Laufman said. "Barely a year after Sept. 11 the defendant joined the organization responsible for 3,000 deaths."

But U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said 30 years was sufficient punishment. He compared the Abu Ali case to "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, who received a 20-year sentence... Prosecutors had asked for the maximum — a life sentence — for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 25-year-old U.S. citizen who was born to a Jordanian father and raised in Falls Church, Va.

"The facts of this case are still astonishing," prosecutor David Laufman said. "Barely a year after Sept. 11 the defendant joined the organization responsible for 3,000 deaths."

But U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said 30 years was sufficient punishment. He compared the Abu Ali case to "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, who received a 20-year sentence.
[Link]

Much more information is available here at the Jawa Report. There’s been some commentary about the proper sentence for treason being the death penalty, and I agree. However, that’s not was Ali was charged with. I guess you’d have to take that up with the prosecutors. My reaction to the judge’s comment, comparing Ali to Walker Lindh, isn’t a matter of Ali getting 10 more years than Lindh. It’s that Lindh only got 20 years. That guy tried to light off a bomb in a passenger aircraft and he only got 20 years?

Note this little item near the end of the story:

In February, defense lawyers asked for a review of the conviction in light of the disclosure that the Bush administration had eavesdropped on suspected terrorists' conversations without search warrants. Abu Ali's lawyers said they suspected, but had no firm evidence, that Abu Ali had been a target of the surveillance program.

The government's response was not made public, but the judge decided to go ahead with the sentencing after receiving it.


Thank you, New York Times, for handing the defense a ready-made trial-delaying tool. Unfortunately, this probably backfired on them when the general consensus came out in the judiciary that the surveillance program was legal. The judge in this case likely got to get a brief on the communications Ali had been having with known terror cells abroad and that couldn’t have been too helpful to the defense. Come to think of it, that might have weighed in on the judge’s decision on the length of the sentence.

Hostage Jill Carroll freed (Unconfirmed)

Just got on-line this morning (and, for the 1st time in a few days, on my own computer instead of a company one working a project from the second I wake up) and noted this bit of good news:


Kidnapped U.S. reporter Jill Carroll has been released after nearly three months in captivity, Iraq police and the leader of the Islamic Party said Thursday. Her editor said she was in good condition.

"She was released this morning, she's talked to her father and she's fine," said David Cook, Washington bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor.

Carroll was kidnapped on Jan. 7 in Baghdad's western Adil neighborhood while going to interview Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi. Her translator was killed in the attack about 300 yards from al-Dulaimi's office.
[Link]

This has not yet been confirmed by the State Department or the DoD, so I’ll keep looking for more information.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Catch-and-release, again?

Deja vu, all over again?


When a Colorado state trooper pulled over a van crammed with 15 illegal aliens headed for Iowa City, it looked like their plans to visit the Hawkeye State had come to a screeching halt.


Instead, Trooper John Lopez released the van and its occupants after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent told the Colorado State Patrol that he didn't have the staff to detain the admitted illegal aliens.


Immigration officials now say that the decision Thursday to let them go was based on a miscommunication about the van's location. Even so, the release has fueled frustration over what critics see as the federal agency's inability to handle the unabated flow of undocumented workers. [Link]


The problem is the state troopers don’t have the jurisdiction to do anything about illegals when they find them. The proposed legislation coming up in the Senate would address that. Moreover, we clearly need to prioritize funding and focus into ICE. Of course, if we were serious about our border security, we wouldn’t be having so many calls in Colorado that ICE’s agents can’t respond.

Additional immigration protest views

Michelle Malkin has been, for as long as I’ve read her stuff, a strong advocate for immigrations laws enforcement and for a strong border security posture. She writes a wonderful post here on the matter of the immigration laws protests I mentioned below.

Erma Byrd, wife of Senator Robert Byrd, dead at 88

Noted with saddness:


Erma Ora James Byrd, the wife of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, has died after battling an illness for five years. She was 88.

Erma Byrd, who met her husband of nearly 69 years when they were in grade school, died Saturday at the couple's home in McLean, Va., according to Byrd's spokesman, Tom Gavin. He would not say what the illness was.

The senator and members of their family were with her when she died.
[Link]

Some things transcend the question of Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, right-wing/left-wing. This is one of those, or should be. My sympathies go to Senator Byrd and his family in this time of loss.

“Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”

Mass Protests supporting illegal entry

Over the past few days there have been protests regarding new immigration laws, specifically one that would make it felony to illegally enter this country. Some of those protests have seen support numbering in the thousands. My take on it?


Big deal. So what?


First off, just what are these people protesting? The law at the heart of the protests and demands does not make a new classification of crime. It does not, as is constantly cited by so-called “immigrants rights” groups, “criminalize” immigration. There is nothing in the law that makes something that’s legal today illegal tomorrow. What it does is raise the classification on an existing crime to a felony level, permitting the application of law enforcement assets that currently cannot act upon the crime. And that, really, is what the protests are all about. It’s not that any of those people (who have bothered to educate themselves on the matter) are suggesting that illegal entry isn’t or shouldn’t be a crime. It’s that they understand very well that the current classification allows for a rather anemic law enforcement response. Raising it to a felony would put a more serious law enforcement threat onto their radar screens and they want to re-frame this debate so as to hide that essential fact.


Protests organized to keep our nation from effectively enforcing our laws do not impress me much. My stance on illegal entry and immigration - and those are 2 very separate and distinct concepts - are well documented right here on this blog. I approve of the latter when it’s done legally and I disapprove of the former with no reservations. All the sign-carrying in the world won’t change that. If these thousands of people want to make sure that neither they nor anyone they know run afoul of our immigrations law, then they would be better off putting down the signs and helping themselves and others out in complying with the law.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stonewalling at Yale

Courtesy of a link from Power Line, I bring you this wonderful tale of supression of a free press by that bastion of free thought: Yale.


After getting the door literally slammed in his face in the administrative building that houses the office of Yale President Richard Levin, Evan sauntered outside where he interviewed Natalie Healy, a woman who lost her son Dan - a Navy SEAL - in Afghanistan last year. Naturally, Ms. Healy is outraged that a man who was an official of a murderous regime that killed her son has been given a place at Yale while many thousands of better qualified American kids are sent rejection letters every year.

Apparently this was too much for the Yale administrators who sent the police to give Evan and our cameraman the same message that is sent to ROTC and military recruiters every year: Get off campus!
[Link]

Wouldn’t want people to think too much about Yale’s actions, now would we? You gotta love a University that cheerfully accepts public funding sending the cops to shut down a journalist doing an interview.

Christians worship rabbits? Say, what?

I just saw this post over at Power Line wherein they detail the efforts by a St. Paul official in removing a decoration from city hall there:


Sorry we missed this story in our own backyard yesterday: "City hall evicts Easter bunny." As reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press story: "A toy rabbit decorating the entrance of the St. Paul City Council offices went hop-hop-hoppin' on down the bunny trail Wednesday after the city's human rights director said non-Christians might be offended by it." [Link]

First, a quick nod to a note from Jay Nordlinger over at Impromptus. Since when does an American city have a public official with a title “human-rights director”? Skipping lightly past that one, may I now bring up the screamingly obvious fact that Christians don’t include rabbits in our religious observances? Easter is about the risen Son of God, not some bunny rabbit hopping around with painted eggs. The whole bunny routine is a secular observance, not a Christian one. The ones who should be offended by this spectacle are the Christians who are getting blamed for some tight-assed city official’s too touchy trigger on her “offend-o-meter.”

I guess Santa Claus is going to get the bum’s rush in St. Paul next.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Whiney=Conservative story

I’ve had a few e-mails from folks about why I’m not writing about the recent story on the study released from Berkeley that concludes that whiney (read that: can’t cope with anything without hysterical fear/crying/generally inferior behavior) children will grow up to be conservatives while kids who aren’t (read that: highly intelligent, deep-thinking, easily adaptive to new situations, generally superior) will grow up to be liberals. The answer is simple: it’s pure, unadulterated bullshit masquerading as an allegedly scientific study. And I don’t need to go very far into the study to find all the proof I need of it.


At first, I didn’t write about it because the story, which appeared in a newspaper, didn’t provide a link back to the source material. Searches for the study on-line proved fruitless. So, this was a giant assertion without any back-up. Why waste my breath? Anyone who reads that story and triumphantly points to it with a big “Ah-HAAAAA” expression on their faces without so much as looking for the source material have already made up their minds. The story is merely something physical for them to point to rather than having to rely on their own expounding to make their points. These people can’t be rationally argued with, so why bother?


Fortunately, there are bloggers who actually do care about the debate in question and will act rationally even in the face of a study asserting that which might be abhorent to them. Thus it is that Michelle Malkin goes to the trouble of not only addressing the argument but also posting the actual study so the source material can be seen. Go have a read for yourself, if you like.


Here’s the basic foundational problem with this study: it is statistically insignificant and it suffers from the lack of solid definitions of terms. It also commits the logical fallacy of assuming causation that does not conclusively explain a result.


The study takes data from 95 individuals from the Berkeley area. 95 people. That’s the sample being used to assess the behavior of a population of millions. Billions, actually, since the study isn’t purporting to explain behavior of only the population of the United States, but of humans in general. Selecting 95 people from a geographically very small area doesn’t even rise to the level of absurdity in terms of a reasonable statistical sample. It would take over 1500 such individuals selected from as wide a geographic area as possible (within the target area) to even rate as a blip on the statistical relevance screen. The fact that these 95 people are all from the Berkeley area would tend to create the expection of similar behaviors and value sets which may or (more likely) may not reflect the value sets held by the majority of the wider population. What’s considered “conservative” in Berkeley might not pass for even moderate in Kansas. That’s the definition problem I spoke of.


Then there’s the logical problem of assuming that whatever makes the kid whine in preschool is going to be the determining factor in his or her politics in college. What is it that makes the kid “whiney” to begin with? Who decided that one kid’s whines met the criteria where another’s did not? This measure is extremely subjective which makes it a poor benchmark. What if the thing that makes a kid whine is a set of parents being consistent in what they allow and disallow as opposed to simply caving in to whatever desire strikes the kid at the moment? If the former set of parents are considered conservative and the latter liberal, then we’ve just proven that the parents’ politics forms the basis for the child’s politics in life, a fact we’ve already known for centuries.


It’s been suggested that the reason child whiners grow up to be conservatives is that they’ve gotten their whining out of the way in preschool instead of making it a lifelong effort like liberals. What, in this study, contradicts this conclusion? Nothing, that’s what. I would imagine the Kos Kids wouldn’t be cheering the study were it to be used to advance that conclusion.


So, it’s all just so much gas vented into the atmosphere and just so much wasted paper. Having seen the study, I am left with exactly the same sense of the situation I had before it was available. It’s a waste of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You and your bags: separate itineraries

If you have the impression that the airlines lose a lot of passengers’ bags, you’re right. How right you are might surprise you, however:


An estimated 30 million bags were temporarily lost by airlines in 2005, and 200,000 of those bags were never reunited with their owners, according to an industry report released Monday.

The report by SITA Inc., a company that provides technology solutions for the air transport industry, also noted that "the problem of mishandled baggage is worsening on both sides of the Atlantic."

The 30 million misdirected bags comprised only 1 percent of the 3 billion bags processed last year by airports, up from 0.7 percent in 2004, said SITA, which is promoting technology it says would reduce the problem.

Last year, mishandled luggage cost world airlines $2.5 billion, compared with $1.6 billion in 2004, SITA said, in a report released before Tuesday's airline and airport passenger services exposition in Paris. The jump partly reflects improvements in data collection, but also the increasing costs resulting from inadequate baggage management.
[Link]

When I worked in the airline industry years ago, our goal was a .3% (that’s point-three percent) mishandle rate and we generally hit that. In this age of increased security, it’s a wonder that it would even be that high. I can’t help but wonder how having that $2.5 billion back in their pockets would change the tune the airline industry is singing. Perhaps they need to spend some more time and funds on proper training and procedural review. Sure seems like a better investment than plunking the bucks down for delivery services to get the bags back to their customers.

Hitchens: My Ideal War

There’s a good article by Christopher Hitchens in Slate titled, “My Ideal War.” Hitchens tosses in his 2 cents for what should have been.


So, now I come at last to my ideal war. Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: [Link]

Hitches is no rah-rah for the Right, conservatism, or for the Bush Administration. He doesn’t launch frothing attacks against those entities, either, which has placed him on the Left’s black list for the last few years, which is a shame. This is what real loyal opposition is and it would serve our country well for all of her citizens to learn that.


In any case, the article is a good read for what should have been and I recommend it highly.


Thanks to LGF for the pointer.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Captured Iraqi docs continue to shed new light

The MSM is studiously avoiding any mention of the release of thousands of captured Iraqi documents into the public domain that began this week. The issue is huge and this is truly harnessing the power of the blogosphere’s “Army of Davids” to analyze the content therein. It’s been said that no one’s going to find any significant new intel in them, but there’s been plenty in the way of clarification and verification. From Captain’s Quarters:


Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard has long pressed for the release of millions of Iraqi intelligence documents captured by the US when Baghdad fell. He argued for years that the trove of correspondence would shed light on critical disputes about the Iraq war and the actual threat presented from Saddam Hussein and his genocidal regime. Hayes gambled that the IIS hid much more than the American media reported -- and it turns out that Hayes has won his bet. [Link]

Captain Ed has quite a bit in that post and I encourage you to read more. You’ve been told time and again that Saddam’s government had no linkage with Al Qaeda or bin Laden. These documents say otherwise. That Iraq didn’t have any linkage to terror groups. Not so, according to these docs. That Iraq was forthcoming to the WMD inspectors before the invasion. The documents show a concerted effort to confound and deceive those inspections. We already know the Oil-for-Food scandals underlying these events.

In any case, go have a read and follow the links.

Riots in France. Again.

You could be forgiven for not knowing but cities all over France are experiencing riots, car burnings, and large-scale disruptions yet again. Last night was at least the 3rd knight of such riots, but American media didn’t start carrying the news, really, until last night’s broadcasts. Must’ve been too busy trying to find people protesting the Iraq War. In any case, the reason for the riots in France is a proposed rule that would ease the process of hiring and firing of employees in France.


With commerce snarled in some cities, people asked whether Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin would stand firm on implementing the change that he says is needed to encourage hiring. The usually outspoken leader was silent Saturday.

Protest organizers urged President Jacques Chirac on Saturday to prevent the law from taking effect as expected in April.

The group issued an ultimatum, saying it expects an answer by Monday, when leaders will decide whether to continue protests that have paralyzed at least 16 universities and dominated political discourse for weeks.

"We give them two days to see if they understand the message we've sent," said Rene Jouan of CFDT, France's largest union.

The law would allow businesses to fire young workers in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees.

Companies are often reluctant to add employees because it is hard to let them go if business conditions worsen. Students see a subtext in the new law: make it easier to hire and fire to help France compete in a globalizing world economy.

Youth joblessness stands at 23 percent nationwide, and 50 percent among impoverished young people. The lack of work was blamed in part for the riots that shook France's depressed suburbs during the fall.
[Link]

People in the US don’t realize the staggering difference in the ability of an American company to get rid of an unproductive employee as compared to those in Europe. (The same holds true for a good employee “getting rid” of an unproductive company through resigning and hiring on somewhere else.) In France, the standard interval for an employee to “give notice” that he’s leaving is 4 months. That’s right: an employee who gives notice to his boss in Paris today will be expected to continue his current job until mid-July. I recall some of my former (French) co-workers horrified amazement when I told them I’d be gone in 2 weeks.

The real problem is that companies are required to give the same notice when they’re going to let someone go. Literally any reason the company might have to fire someone that doesn’t involve an employee shooting people in the office requires that they carry the employee for 4 months before they can drop him. You can understand how a company might be a bit nervy about hiring someone when they might get stuck for them for a poisonous 4 months trying to let him go. Those companies have to be in a position of near-desperation before they consider hiring, hence the 23% unemployment figure.

Personally, I think the proposed law is going overboard. They’d be better off implementing a “probation period” kind of thing like US companies do, where the window to just fire someone without reason is 3 months or so and then shorten the “notice” period considerably. A month should be plenty, although you could also go with 6 weeks. Whatever they decide to do, it’s clear they need to change something to become more competitive in the market. Getting the people who have become used to a life on the public largesse to agree to this will be the hard part.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

MN legislature passes “protest at funeral” law; blogging titans react

I’ve not written about him before, but well-read denizens of the blogosphere probably know all about Fred Phelps, the egomaniacal nut job who takes his little loudmouthed flock around the country to hold demonstrations at the funerals of US military personnel killed in combat. Phelps, you see, thinks God is killing these soldiers because America isn’t stoning gays and lesbians to death in the public square. Frankly, to call him a nut job is an insult to nut jobs everywhere. I find absolutely nothing redeeming in this man, his stance on the subject, and most definitely not in his chosen method of making his point.


Like most people with an ounce of empathy and respect, I believe firmly that people should be allowed to bury their loved ones in peace. A funeral is no place for political grandstanding in any way. What Fred Phelps is doing by launching his little preening protests at these funerals isn’t sick, ladies & gentlemen, it’s evil. He is no better than the terrorist scum these military folks were fighting and, in my perfect world, he’d suffer the same fate the next time he brought a “God hates fags” sign to a cemetery.


Several communities have either been the victims of Phelps’ parade or decided they don’t want to be and have gone to the step of writing legislation to keep Phelps - or anyone else of like mind - from using funerals to protest things. The form of these laws is to generally prohibit protest or demonstration within a certain range of the funeral. Such is the form of the legislation passed by the MN legislature this week. This doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is the reaction to this law being passed by two of the blogosphere’s titans, both of whom are intimately familiar with MN and the politics thereof: Captain’s Quarters and Power Line. Both of these worthies are firmly against the passage of any such legislation. First up, Ed Morrissey at CQ:


The law carries a ninety-day jail sentence for anyone who intentionally disrupts a memorial service or funeral. It also bars protestors from any demonstrations at the houses of the families. All of these sound reasonable, but it represents a government restriction on speech and organizing that finds no parallel elsewhere in law. The Supreme Court just ruled similar restrictions on abortion clinic protests unconstitutional. As John Hinderaker noted earlier at Power Line, the urge to solve every dispute through legislation only creates a community less free to express itself and more bound by government restrictions. That hardly seems like an appropriate manner in which to honor our fallen heroes.

Hopefully our legislature will heed the words of a Gold Star mother and rethink their reaction to the disgusting provocations of Fred Phelps. In the end, Phelps is a bug, and we shouldn't make him important enough to merit the loss of our speech rights.
[Link]

Begging the Captain’s pardon, but the he’s incorrect on the recent Supreme Court ruling. The Court did not rule that restrictions on the abortion protests were unconstitutional. They ruled that the federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban the protests. There’s a significant difference in saying you can’t ban something, period, and saying you can’t ban something by saying (insert argument here)”. The Court did not rule out banning abortion protests within a certain range of the clinics, only that protesting wasn’t extortion. The MN law does not say that Phelps or whoever may follow cannot protest whatever they want to protest. It just says they can’t do it within a certain range of a funeral. Again, respects to the Captain, but there are plenty of circumstances where my ability to protest something is restricted in certain physical locations. I can’t protest something politically within a certain distance of a polling location, for example. I most certainly can’t demonstrate in favor of a particular candidate. My speech isn’t being denied. My venue is, however, and it’s being restricted in deference to a greater community good as defined by the laws passed by our elected representatives. This MN law is no different.

As for his suggestion on how to handle it.... please. “Just ignore him and he’ll go away”? And who among us bears the cost of that methodology? The grieving families, that’s who. As a community, are we not allowed to draw a line around them and say to everyone - us included - that these people have paid a high enough price for our society today? Demonstrate, if you must, but leave these people in peace for the span of time they need to commemorate the life and passing of their fallen family. I mentioned earlier that I consider Phelps and his ilk no better than the terrorists we’re fighting. Simply ignoring them and hoping they’ll go away isn’t an appropriate response. Neither is it with those who would use someone else’s funeral as a soapbox.


Then there’s this from Power Line:


Now the Minnesota legislature is enacting legislation to limit demonstrations within a certain number of feet of a funeral.

This strikes me as one of many examples of our culture's obsession with legal remedies. As a lawyer, I suppose I shouldn't complain; but as a citizen, I think it's ridiculous. If a bunch of crazies show up waving signs at a funeral, the appropriate course is for an able-bodied man--there should be at least one at any funeral--to take a sign and break it over the ringleader's head.
[Link]

Just so I understand this correctly, let’s review: a lawyer is suggesting that the appropriate response to a protester is to manhandle the protester’s property (his sign) from him and then physically assault him with it. I’d pay for a ticket to see him, or any lawyer, argue that case in front of a judge. Personally, I’m all for his suggestion. Seriously! There was a time when that was considered not only appropriate, but the duty of the able-bodied men at such an event and I do, indeed, believe that we’d be better off today if it were still allowed. But the undeniable fact is that anyone performing such this appropriate response would likely be arrested on the spot and have no legal legs to stand on in court. Phelps, in fact, is probably praying constantly that someone does such a thing specifically so he can get into court and highlight his misbegotten hide.

The appropriate actions at a funeral are to not use it as a protest. Phelps doesn’t care to conform to what is clearly our societal norms. (Certain Democrats and Bush-hating factions aside.) Since our legal system has precluded physical confrontation as a response, what recourse is left to the grieving families? What recourse is left to us, as a community, if we are unwilling to simply sit back and let the Phelps’ of the world run roughshod over us?

We debate the issue and then we pass laws. That’s what civilized democracies do. In America we hold the freedom of speech in our highest regard and we should. But just as we don’t condone yelling “fire” in a crowded theater under the auspices of free speech, we have the right and the responsibility to curtail speech in certain places and times when we can’t rely on our citizen’s common courtesy to do it for us. Precisely done, I have no issue with laws like that passed in MN, and I’m surprised that true blogger giants such as these fine folks do.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Myths of Iraq

I have been meaning to link to this article by Ralph Peters written in response to the media’s distortions of the situation in Iraq. Peters has been there, seen it with his own eyes, and spoken with the Iraqi citizens most of the MSM’s reporters have not even seen from inside their hotel.


Nonetheless, the real story of the civil-war-that-wasn't is one of the dog that didn't bark. Iraqis resisted the summons to retributive violence. Mundane life prevailed. After a day and a half of squabbling, the political factions returned to the negotiating table. Iraqis increasingly take responsibility for their own security, easing the burden on U.S. forces. And the people of Iraq want peace, not a reign of terror.

But the foreign media have become a destructive factor, extrapolating daily crises from minor incidents. Part of this is ignorance. Some of it is willful. None of it is helpful.

The dangerous nature of journalism in Iraq has created a new phenomenon, the all-powerful local stringer. Unwilling to stray too far from secure facilities and their bodyguards, reporters rely heavily on Iraqi assistance in gathering news. And Iraqi stringers, some of whom have their own political agendas, long ago figured out that Americans prefer bad news to good news. The Iraqi leg-men earn blood money for unbalanced, often-hysterical claims, while the Journalism 101 rule of seeking confirmation from a second source has been discarded in the pathetic race for headlines.

To enhance their own indispensability, Iraqi stringers exaggerate the danger to Western journalists (which is real enough, but need not paralyze a determined reporter). Dependence on the unverified reports of local hires has become the dirty secret of semi-celebrity journalism in Iraq as Western journalists succumb to a version of Stockholm Syndrome in which they convince themselves that their Iraqi sources and stringers are exceptions to every failing and foible in the Middle East.
[Link]

Read the whole thing.

Happy St. Patty’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all. For those of you who can’t/don’t, I’ll hoist one aloft for you later today. That offer extends only as a placeholder to members of our military who are currently deployed - you guys and girls can catch up when you get home, so come home safe. Ad Nykus, folks.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

PETA loses covert domestic wiretapping suit

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lost a lawsuit yesterday in which they alleged they were the victims of an illegal domestic spying program. No, this isn’t another NSA story. PETA alleged that the owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus had engaged in illegal wiretapping and spying in the Circus’ dealings with PETA. After 9 hours the jury found for the Circus, confirming that there was, in fact, a load of manure around the joint but that it wasn’t the Circus who was housing it.


The president of the company that owns the Ringling Bros. circus was cleared Wednesday of accusations he ran a spy campaign against animal rights groups.

The decision by a Fairfax County Circuit Court jury is a blow to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which brought the civil suit against Kenneth Feld. Feld is the president of Vienna-based Feld Entertainment, which owns the legendary circus and numerous other high-profile entertainment acts, including Disney on Ice.


The two sides have been at odds for years. PETA filed the suit in 2001. In opening arguments last month, PETA's lawyer claimed Feld was in charge of an espionage campaign and stole items including donor lists. Feld's lawyer said nothing illegal was done, PETA was never harmed by any alleged actions, and that the group was hypocritical because it frequently uses undercover operatives to expose wrongdoing. [Link]


We don’t have all the facts of the case, of course, but PETA seems to be relying on the fact that Ringling Bros. had lots of PETA’s confidential documents in their possession. So what? It proves they had the documents, not how they got them. Disgruntled or careless PETA employees and members might have been equally at fault. And even if the company who had the documents managed to infiltrate PETA and get their hands on their internal documents, PETA’s not exactly a national security agency. Sorry, folks, it’s going to take more than that and you really don’t want to go in front of an appeals court unless you do have more.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Press release out for potential bomb at Dulles Town Center Mall

In my last post, I spoke about the incident with the “suspicious package” at Dulles Town Center Mall. I have no idea if it had anything to do with the e-mail query I sent but a release was made at the Sheriff’s web site. Here’s the meat of it:


Loudoun County, Virginia- A suspicious package found outside the Dulles Town Center Tuesday night closed a small portion of the mall for several hours.

A shopper at the center found a suitcase outside the JC Penny around 6:45 PM. They notified security with the Dulles Town Center who contacted the Sheriff’s Office. The Loudoun County Bomb Squad responded to the scene and examined the case.

Since it was unclear as to what was in the case the squad decided to render the package safe as a precautionary measure. The scene was cleared shortly before 10 PM. The case did not contain any explosive material.
[Link]

I question whether the 200-yard wide perimeter surrounding the bulk of the busiest southside parking lots at the mall constitute a “small portion” but I’m sure the Sheriff’s department is looking to downplay things as much as possible. So, someone left a suitcase outside the mall in a position that made an observer - a shopper - worried enough to notice and bring it to the attention of mall security. Interesting. And while I’m very glad that the suitcase contained no explosives, those aren’t the only dangerous materials in the world.

I would hope that the Sheriff’s Department is purusing the case - pardon the pun - even with no explosives found. Several questions need to be answered:


  1. Who left the suitcase?

  2. How did it get left behind? Did someone simply forget it when they were loading their car and drive off or was this item placed there specifically to get the reaction that it did?

  3. If it was a simply goof-up, will the Sheriff’s department explain that, in full? (Having this be a forgetful person is quite a bit different than the implications that arise by having someone do something like this on purpose.)

  4. What did the case contain? We know it wasn’t explosives, but it tells us very different things if the contents were underwear and t-shirts versus electronics and packets of white powder.

I am also getting annecdotal information that there’s now been 3 incidents requiring the bomb squard in the past couple of months. Perhaps a correlative study is in order.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Updated: Loudoun County mall parking lots locked down due to suspicious package

Not one of the more enjoyable evenings I’ve spent. The Dulles Town Center mall here in Loudoun County had a “suspicious package” turn up in one of the parking lots. The Sheriff’s department set up a perimeter about 200-250 yards across (presumably centered on the package) and denied all access to the lots within. That’s The particular area is where a major entry point to the mall is - naturally - and so this wound up locking about a third of the mall’s patrons out of their cars.


Me included. And my wife. Both cars and no way home.


It took about 4 hours, I believe, to get things figured out. Neither the local news, who did have a camera crew present, nor the County’s alert system is carrying any news about the incident yet. I have pictures from my camera phone and I’ll post those in the morning. Right now my toddler is way tired and I just want to relax a bit.


More on this later.


Update: There’s still nothing on this incident in the news or in the press releases at the Loudoun County Sheriff’s site. While waiting for the package to be cleared - I assume - I managed to take a couple of shots on my camera phone and I’ve put them up for you. The first shows the emergency crews gathered at their action stations. It’s hard to make out given the lighting and whatnot but there was a large police presence coordinating the emergency teams.








Loudoun emergency teams waiting


This shot shows the bomb truck waiting at the perimeter of the locked-down zone. Loudoun’s “truck” is actually a trailer - it’s the white ball behind that dark SUV near the center of the shot.








Loudoun’s bomb truck standing by


I don’t know if the package was ever brought to the truck or anything else at this point. When a release is put out, I’ll link it here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rather can’t take the heat

This up from Captain’s Quarters, a link to the Courier Post’s Jim Walsh who attended a speech by Dan “Fake But Accurate” Rather. Have a look:


Here's the scene: Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather is in Cherry Hill, giving a speech about the need for journalists to do better.

"What's gone out of fashion is the tough question and the follow-up," he tells an admiring audience of about 600 people at Cherry Hill's Star Forum.

So how can I, the guy covering Rather's remarks, just sit there?

When he finishes, I hurry to a floor mike to ask Rather about an issue that will be part of my story.

"Mr. Rather," I say. "Great suggestions. But you left the anchor desk last year after your report questioning President Bush's military service was discredited. Key memos could not be authenticated. Do you think the failure to ask questions then affects your credibility now?"

Rather responds with civility -- if not clarity. He notes, in part, that an independent review "couldn't determine whether the documents were authentic or not."

Eager to please, I follow up: "The Courier-Post won't run something if we're not sure it's authentic. Are you saying it's OK . . ."

But my microphone goes dead -- and the audience stirs to life.

Some people jeer. Others glare and scowl (I can now distinguish between the two). This continues outside as I call in my story.

Gee, Rather's speech never mentioned this. [
Link]

Got that? Dan Rather just gave a speech about tough questions and follow ups when the answer’s a non-answer and, when questioned by a supposedly fellow journalist on a matter he’s a bit uncomfy with, his handlers take care of the problem by simply cutting the mike off. Can’t have all that free speech and pointed questioning running around. After all this is Dan Rather, not the President. Sheesh!

Come to think of it, picture that. The President opens the floor up for questions after his press briefing remarks and someone tosses him a question about the “quagmire” in Iraq. The Prez restates his initial remarks and goes to call on someone else. The original questioner, realizing the President didn’t answer his question, begins to clarify the question and sharpen the edges so he can get a real response. Less than 20 words into his follow-up - in the middle of the question - the President’s staff shuts down the microphone.

Care to take a guess at the likely response? You already know what it is: the outrage would peel the paint in the room and every journalist of every stripe would be screaming his lungs out that the press was being trampled upon, free speech was being denied, and that the people had a right to know what the answer to the unfinished question was. They’d be correct to do all that, too, but when it’s them getting the heat applied, they suddenly don’t give a crap about your right to know.

Nicely done, Dan. You’ve proven my points tonite.

Immigrations from the immigrants’ perspective

My stance on immigrations and illegal aliens hasn’t changed. (In case you’re new here, I think illegal entry into the US is a crime and the criminal guilty of it should be sent back to the country he came in from no questions asked.) One of the principle reasons I cite in why I adamantly oppose any manner of amnesty for illegal aliens is that it is patently, absurdly unfair to the people who are playing it by the book. This article in the Washington Times today shows that the people I’m concerned about agree with me:


Jose Memjivar, 44, is an immigrant from El Salvador, but his conscience leaves no room for illegal immigration, even though he has a tough time criticizing it.



"I feel sorry for the people who have to leave their country and come through the desert, but I don't think it's right," he says.
[Link]


That’s just 1 of the folks. You should take a few moments and read the article, it’s not a very long piece. It gives some details into the immigration issue that the so-called “immigrants rights” groups never go into. How it takes between 3 and 5 years to get a green card and then as long as another 4 years to become a citizen. Lawyer’s fees and whatnot can easily add up to thousands of dollar - about the same that illegals pay to get smuggled in. To consider letting these people who cheated their way in stay is a slap in the face of the real immigrants - the kind we really need to have here.

Flogging the Iraq=Vietnam meme... again.

Gathered together to give a panel discussion on “Vietnam and the Presidency” a group of former high-ranking government officials just couldn’t help themselves. In their very diplomatic speech, they contend that Iraq is just Vietnam without the triple-canopy tree cover. Former Kennedy advisor Theodore Sorenson, LBJ White House staff member Jack Valenti, and former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Alexander Haig were to discuss the history of Vietnam in the context of the actions and decisions of the Presidents who were in office during that war. Unfortunately, they just can’t seem to keep themselves on topic.


The banner on their dais read "Vietnam and the Presidency" -- ostensibly, the subject of a high-powered conference that brought historians and former policymakers to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for two days ending Saturday.

But, as the speakers talked about anti-American insurgents and faulty U.S. intelligence and the search for an honorable way out in Southeast Asia, nearly all found bitter parallels to the current conflict in Iraq.

"It appears to me we haven't learned very much," said Alexander M. Haig Jr., Kissinger's assistant in the Nixon White House and secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.
[Link]

I’ve been told by some very smart folks that when the only tool you have is a hammer, the world starts to look like a nail. Steeped and stuck in Vietnam as this crowd apparently is, it is little wonder that every conflict will look just like that war. The critical factor is right there in the 2nd paragraph I’ve quoted above. When the end-all and be-all of your involvement in anything is to search for a way out - honorable or not - then you’re involved for the wrong reason. Scarred by Vietnam, that’s all this group was thinking about from the moment we committed troops to something other than handing out water bottles and blankets in some natural disaster. “What’s our exit strategy?”, is the only question of importance to people like this. Victory is immaterial because they simply cannot bring themselves to believe that any such thing is possible anytime, anywhere. That is the critical difference between these people and our enemies. The enemy is still quite convinced he can succeed.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s another quote from the story:

"You cannot win against an insurgency that springs from the population," said Jack Valenti, former special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. "There's never been an insurgency that doesn't prevail against a mighty power..." [Link]

Tell that to the Polish citizens who rose up against the Russians in 1830. The November Uprising was supported by a pretty good chunk of Polish society. They got crushed, folks. That’s just 1 example I was able to call immediately to mind. Do you think that some studied research into the matter might come up with others? Vietnam was the first war that was lost as a result of the winning side’s populace becoming convinced they were simply losing and coming to that conclusion in real time. If there’s any parallel to the Vietnam War, then it’s the relentless advocacy journalism pounding out the “we’re losing and we’ve gotta get out of here” drumbeat being pushed by the MSM.

Avoiding the obvious

If I told you that a man had committed a crime in full view of multiple witnesses and that this man had been quite vocal about his reasons for committing the crime, would you be surprised if the news media omitted this detail in their reporting of the event? I mean, if the guy robbed your local bank and was spewing on about stealing the money because he thought all you rich bastards just had too much money for his liking, wouldn’t you expect your newspaper to carry a family-friendly version of that comment? (Maybe not so family-friendly, either...) Sure you would. The reason for his actions is an important part of the story and a story like that would most surely be news.


So why is it that a man can go out of his way to plan and execute an attempt to mow down as many people as he can with a rented SUV, speak plainly about his reasons and background to the cops and anyone else who’ll listen, and the news media won’t pass those details along? From Mark Steyn’s latest:


This week's Voldemort Award goes to the New York Times for their account of a curious case of road rage in North Carolina:

"The man charged with nine counts of attempted murder for driving a Jeep through a crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last Friday told the police that he deliberately rented a four-wheel-drive vehicle so he could 'run over things and keep going.' "

The driver in question was Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar.

Whoa, don't jump to conclusions. The Times certainly didn't. As the report continued:

"According to statements taken by the police, Mr. Taheri-azar, 22, an Iranian-born graduate of the university, felt that the United States government had been 'killing his people across the sea' and that his actions reflected 'an eye for an eye.'"

"His people"? And who exactly would that be? Taheri-azar is admirably upfront about his actions. As he told police, he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world."

And yet the M-word appears nowhere in the Times report. Whether intentionally or not, they seem to be channeling the great Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali, who died a millennium ago but whose first rule on the conduct of dhimmis -- non-Muslims in Muslim society -- seem to have been taken on board by the Western media:

The dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle. . . .

Are they teaching that at Columbia Journalism School yet?

A fellow called Mohammed mows down a bunch of students? Just one of those things -- like a gran'ma in my neck of the woods a couple of years back who hit the wrong pedal in the parking lot and ploughed through a McDonald's, leaving the place a hideous tangle of crumbled drywall, splattered patties and incendiary hot apple-pie filling. Yet, according to his own statements, Taheri-azar committed an act of ideological domestic terrorism, which he'd planned for two months. He told police he was more disappointed more students in his path weren't struck and that he'd rented the biggest vehicle the agency had in order to do as much damage to as many people as possible. The Persian car pet may have been flooring it, but the media are idling in neutral, if not actively reversing away from the story as fast as they can.
[Link]

Try as they and their supporters might to deny it, the glaringly obvious fact is that they’ve decided to report this terrorist attack as anything but so they can avoid giving any support to the notion that terrorists do, indeed, want to attack Americans here on American soil. If the story gives any credence to that idea or might be construed to offer support to the Administration and/or the concept of recognizing where the greatest threat for terror attacks lies, they’ll scramble for the cover of downplaying or ignoring outright critical details of a story. If they can work in a reference to Abu Ghraib, so much the better.


The fact of this case is a matter of police record now: this guy decided to kill Americans because he felt Muslims were due their lives. And why’s that? Why, because any offense to a Muslim is a terminal offense in his eyes and that’s just the way it goes. Someone thousands of miles away you’ve never heard of gets “wronged” in the eyes of an American muslim who feels that “American” is the lesser part of his citizenship and next thing you know he’s aiming a 4x4 at you and praying to Allah almighty that you go down in a bloody heap under his tires. But CNN, the NY Times, and the Washington Post would prefer you not dwell on the facts and, therefore, they decide you don’t need to read about them.


This isn’t an isolated incident in the media, either. Readers of this blog know that I’ve spoke about this several times before. The sad fact is that I hardly ever need to repeat my examples, there are so many of them. Take this one, for example, covered by Jack Kelly in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:


More than 8,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have deserted since the Iraq war began, USA Today reported Tuesday.

"Some lawyers who represent deserters say the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service and that the Pentagon is cracking down on deserters to discourage antiwar sentiment," wrote reporter Bill Nichols.

" 'The last thing (Pentagon officials) want is for people to think ... that this is like Vietnam,' said Tod Ensign, head of Citizen Soldier, an antiwar group that offers legal aid to deserters."

Mr. Ensign is full of horse manure, as Mr. Nichols demonstrates in his story. The data show desertions have plunged since 9/11, and are much lower than during the Vietnam war.

The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in the 2001 fiscal year, but only 3,456 in 2005, Mr. Nichols noted. In 1971, the Army reported 33,094 desertions, 3.4 percent of its total force. In 2005, desertions represented just 0.24 percent of 1.4 million of active service members.
[Link]

Daily Pundit mentioned the same item:

Why is this the lede:

At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Instead of this?

Desertion numbers have dropped since 9/11. The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.

The desertion rate was much higher during the Vietnam era. The Army saw a high of 33,094 deserters in 1971 - 3.4% of the Army force. But there was a draft and the active-duty force was 2.7 million.

Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.

Probably because the real story sounds too much like good news, so the objective DNC whore who wrote this "news" piece decided to twist the lede graf into something that sounds more damaging.
[Link]

Dead on accurate. The real story in that set of statistics is that desertions have gone down significantly, and during a time of war, as opposed to the other way around. If the military were losing heart the way the media’s been trying to pound into your head it is then you’d expect desertions to be rising not falling. It’s way, way down and that’s a sign that our soldiers aren’t losing faith in their mission. There’s simply no other reason to reverse the implication of this story by running the lead paragraph the say it was except that the news, unfiltered, doesn’t match the authors desired narrative.

If the government was caught so blatantly burying critical pieces of their story in an effort to change public opinion and undermine the press, you’d never be able to outrun the coverage. Hell, the media and the Left are still harping on that “Bush lied!” without any proof of such a thing. Imagine the firestorm if they actually could show that he had. The media’s got a “do as I say, not as I do” approach, however, and it’s coloring the coverage of almost every news outlet in the nation.

Here’s the real question: with such examples as these where the media is clearly intentionally distorting the truth in an effort to generate the declining poll numbers (which they then gleefully report as proof of their previous distortions) how are we to trust anything they say? And if we cannot trust them, who do we go to for the real information we need, as citizens, to make the informed decisions we must in a system of governance such as ours? Once upon a time, the media filled that role and they were proud to do so. Ever since Watergate, they’ve been stuck on the notion that the only “good” reporting is the earth-shattering, scandal-uncovering, Administration-killing, blockbuster kind that makes a reporter’s name a household word. And so long as that’s the goal, then truthful reporting of the facts cannot occur. The media need a serious adjustment and I hope they make it before their credibility tanks so badly that they foster the very environment they fear: a citizenry so pessimistic that they’ll never learn the truth that they figure there’s no point in trying.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

F-14 Tomcat retires from service

It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago that I and my college friends, accompanied by our dates (and I by the future Mrs. HoodaThunk) sat in a movie theater and watched Tom Cruise light up the sky in what has become the most recognizable of America’s fighter jets, the F-14 Tomcat. Fast, agile, powerful and sexy, the Tomcat was the plane in our arsenal. That movie, “Top Gun”, was one of the few action flicks that was also a great date movie. The cast, the sound track, everything about the movie was enjoyable and memorable and the F-14 was the chariot that carried not only Cruise and company into victorious battle, it carried us all into the sky like many of us will never see in person.


As with any movie star you grew up with, it’s always something of a shock to read about their passing. So it is today as I read that the US Navy has retired the last 2 active squadrons of F-14 Tomcats.


There will be no more dogfights for the Tomcat.

The last two squadrons of the sleek, Cold War fighter jet returned home from their final deployment Friday, two decades after the warplanes were glamorized in the 1986 Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun."

All 22 Tomcats of fighter squadrons VF-213 and VF-31 arrived in style, flying together in a wedge formation over Oceana Naval Air Station as hundreds of sailors and their family and friends cheered. Some wore T-shirts reading "Tomcats Forever" and a banner proclaimed, "Last Fly-In, Baby!"

"We're putting the premier fighter to sleep," said pilot Lt. Jon Jeck, 32, as he held his 3-year-old son Collin. "It's a staple of Americana."

The Navy plans to replace the F-14, a two-seat fighter with moveable swept-back wings, with the F/A-18 Super Hornets.
[Link]

The Tomcat was, indeed, a premier fighter. Closely analgous to the F-15 in the Air Force inventory, the F-14 kept our fleets safe and provided a massive air patrol umbrella to operate within. Combined with the AIM-54 Phoenix missile (retired, itself, in 2004), the Tomcat could engage targets well over the horizon from the fleet. While they were in the air, no airborne threat ever approached our carriers with hostile intent and survived the attempt.


She’s been a good warrior and a valiant symbol of America’s readiness in combat for a good portion of my life, and I will miss her.



(Open link by Mudville Gazette. Thanks, Greyhawks!)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Secretary Norton of Dept of Interior to announce resignation today

I just heard on our local radio station that Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton is going to announce her resignation today. More to come as I get it.

Gitmo Project, set #20

As I mentioned earlier, I am participating in the Gitmo Project initiated over at Captain’s Quarters. I’ll leave you to read Ed’s post on the project to get the details of what we’re trying to do. My part was to analyze set #20 of the statements given by the detainees brought before the Tribunal at Gitmo. These detainees were all captured as part of operations surrounding the Afghani theatre of the war on terror. These 4 detainees were specifically captured as a result of the battle at Tora Bora.


The instructions given were twofold. First, we were to analyze the testimony given for any significant events or information. Basically we were looking for any “gotchas” that might have surfaced much in the way we did when Hugh Hewitt parcelled out Chief Justice Roberts’ writings prior to his confirmation to the Supreme Court. The second thing was to attempt to determine whether there was sufficient cause for a given detainee to remain detained.


We’ll get to the first part in a moment. The second part requires a caveat up front. The fact of the matter is that the files we are parsing do not contain any of the classified material being used to justify the detention. That information is critical in determining whether continued detention is called for or not. That we can’t access that information makes our decision-making process in this endeavor necessarily flawed. In fact, aside from a listing of the allegations made against the detainees by the military and the government, no information was available in the set I analyzed that provided support for those allegations. The best I can do, then, is to make a very fuzzy judgement on whether the allegations themselves appear to be serious enough or relevant enough to warrant the detention. I can, of course, also make the determination as to whether the detainee, through his answers, raises more questions than he resolves.


The detainees’ statements are identified by an “ISN” number, not by a name. There were instances where, during the questioning, the detainee was called by name, but I can’t see how that information is helpful here. The ISN numbers are significant, I’m sure, in the broad scope but here in this analysis, they’re not of much use, either. So, I’m just going to address these statements one by one as they came to me. There were four detainees detailed in the set I was assigned. So, here we go.


Of all the statements, the first detainee’s was the most intriguing. This man’s story was that he was picked up at a bazaar in Pakistan by Pakistani police. They took him to an undisclosed location and presented him with 3 notebooks containing “extensive” information on weapons systems, counterintelligence tactics and methodology, and - get this - “extensive references to chemistry and explosives.” They then ordered him to hand copy the notebooks. When he refused, they beat him until he complied. When he was finished, he was then taken to a prison called “Khad” where they held him for about a week. They then turned him over to American forces who flew him to Kandahar and then accused him of being a terrorist and producing the 3 notebooks he’d been forced to copy as evidence.


The charges against him are that he participated in military operations against American forces, that he’s a member of a local Islamic terror group (for whom he managed a membership list, complete with weapon serial numbers; he says he was also forced to make that list up), and that he trained rather extensively under the Taliban. The detainee’s only response to all of this is that he’s just a refugee that Pakistani police went to huge efforts to frame. In other words, he says, he was set up. When questioned he came up with a conspiracy theory that the US govenment is paying a bounty on captures turned over to them by the Pakistani police and that the Pakistani are simply doing this for the money. He manages to hit all the hot-button topics - he was tortured, there’s a conspiracy against him, etc. - which has the benefit of being a defense that he doesn’t have to offer any proof for. His answers, frankly, appear to be attempts to misdirect and his explanation of the notebooks found on his person when he was captured is rather flimsy. I have no issue with saying he needs to remain detained.


Detainees 2 and 3, on the other hand, are both Uighurs, an ethnic subset of the Chinese population. Think of native Alaskan Inuit as related to the American population. The Uighurs have a lot of bad feeling toward the Chinese government and there are a number of them who are unhappy enough to both leave the country and seek weapons training for a possible future rebellion. Both of these detainees were captured in Pakistan after feeling Tora Bora when American bombers started putting ordnance on the ground. They both claim that they only worked and trained with other Uighurs there and that, for the most part, they worked on building stuff in the camp, not on weapons training. They were both captured in a larger group of 18 Uighurs who all pretty much have the same story. The charges against them are, basically, that they were at the camp in Tora Bora and that they received training in the use and care of a Kalishnikov (AK-47). I must say that the charges appear pretty weak. They amount to accusing a person of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unless the classified information about these 2 men contains something far more moving, I would say that they should be released.


Detainee number 4 is also an Uighur and was also captured along with detainees 2 and 3. His story is very similar but his method of imparting that story was far more aggressive. He seemed quite a bit more familiar with the tactics of answering a Tribunal. He even provided a witness, albiet a poor one. While his tone makes me suspect he’s a lot smarter than he wants people to believe, I have to come to the same conclusion as I have for the previous 2. The charges against him just seem so generic that it would take some pretty significant intel that he was up to something to warrant continued detention. Barring that information in the classified documents, I believe he should be released.


That’s my report. Take it for the unclassified, civilian view from several thousand miles away that it is.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Alabama church fires “a joke that went too far?”

The 3 unmitigated idiots who were arrested yesterday on charges of arson and conspiracy have had the audacity to claim that the setting on fire of several churches was the result of a joke that went too far. When one of my jokes goes too far, you don’t see me repeating it 4 more times. This explanation - if you can be kind and call it that - merely adds insult to the injury. It wasn’t a joke. It was quite literally a vindictive disregard for their fellow man. As a society we should return the favor in kind.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Patriot Act passes, heads to President

The Patriot Act renewal passed today and is headed to the President’s desk for his signature. The passage came as a result of an agreement between the White House and Congress on restrictions to the Act.


These restrictions would:

— Give recipients of court-approved subpoenas for information in terrorist investigations the right to challenge a requirement that they refrain from telling anyone.

— Eliminate a requirement that an individual provide the FBI with the name of a lawyer consulted about a National Security Letter, which is a demand for records issued by investigators.

— Clarify that most libraries are not subject to demands in those letters for information about suspected terrorists.

The legislation also takes aim at the distribution and use of methamphetamine by limiting the supply of a key ingredient found in everyday cold and allergy medicines.

Yet another provision is designed to strengthen port security by imposing strict punishments on crew members who impede or mislead law enforcement officers trying to board their ships.
[Link]

I’m not sure the Act was the proper place for elevating Nyquil to the controlled substances list, but that’s Congress for you.

Iran arming Iraqi insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists

ABC News has the story out that explosives seized at the Iran-Iraq border have the hallmarks of the Iranian military-arms production industry. Where the insurgents and terrorists had to resort to improvising weapons out of pre-existing explosive ordnance at the start of their attacks, they are now being supplied with made-to-order stuff including highly sophisticated shaped charges. These munitions were simply beyond the ability of the insurgents to produce and, frankly, beyond most terrorists’ ability to even envision beyond whatever wet dreams they have when they think about attacking American troops. The Iranian arms industry, however, is in a completely different position.


Is this an act of war? That depends largely on how you define a war, and that’s not the subjective thing it appears to be on first blush. In WWI and WWII there were various cooperative defense treaties in place. The whole reason WWI became a “world war” was because, like dominos falling, when 1 country declared war on another not only did that country reply in kind, every country that had a mutual defense treaty in place with the “target” of that declaration also declared war on the original declarant. Of course, any country with a similar treaty with the original declarant was required by those treaties to declare war on any country that had done so. And so on, and so on. You can imagine that the tangled web of treaties got everyone involved very quickly. The bottom line, however, is that there were very specific triggers to those declarations. In diplomacy, those triggers are called “causus belli.”


The question to be asked at this point is whether the act of providing sophisticated weapons to our enemies is to be considered a causus belli. Then, is there anything the Iranians can do to mitigate it without American bombs plowing up Iranian soil?


I think it is clearly a causus belli to be caught supplying advanced weaponry to one side of a conflict, especially when you’ve been warned explicitly to not interfere. This is completely different from the Iranians providing medicine or food or any other material that might be used to relieve the hardship of war from the civilian population. The Iranians are providing material that has no other purpose than to attack our troops and our allies. So, then, to question #1 the answer is a resounding “yes.” Can the Iranians make amends?


Aside from halting all aid to our enemies in Iraq, providing every shred of intel on who got what arms, when and where, and providing us verifiable methods of determining they won’t do it again, I can’t see how the Iranians can wiggle out of this one without coming under American fire. I worry that the reaction of dropping bombs on Iran is what the Iranian government is hoping for in their efforts to lie further to their own people. That, however, is an acceptable risk to me. Iran is a very different enemy than Al Qaeda. AQ has no factories to bomb, no power grid to shred, no communications infrastructure to disrupt. Iran has none of these advantages. We know where they are and we know where these weapons are being manufactured. We should make a huge effort to get the word to the Iranian people that we’re responding to their government’s support of our enemies in Iraq. Then, we should mount up attack and bomber strike packages and turn a few factories into parking lots.

SCOTUS upholds Solomon; law schools must now decide

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Solomon Amendment, saying that Universities who accept public funds must grant campus access to military recruiters. The case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), was centered on law schools who disagree with the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with regard to gays in the ranks. The law schools sought to bar military recruiters from their campuses “as a protest” of the policy.


Never mind that the military had precisely zero with setting the policy these law schools dislike. If they’ve got a problem with it - and nothing else - then they should be protesting Congress, not military recruiters. They now have a choice, of course. Take their principled stance to the next level and continue to deny access to military recruiters at the cost of all their public funding, or take the money and let the recruiters on campus. We’ll see, I suppose, but I’m putting my money on the money.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Participating in the Gitmo Project

I’m working on the Gitmo Project posted over at Captain’s Quarters. I’ve been assigned set # 20 of the CRST documents which, basically, detail the Tribunal questioning of the detainees brought before it. It’s about 40 pages of material so it’ll take an evening to go through it properly. Expect to see something on it tomorrow night, barring any intervening emergencies.


Thanks to Ed Morrisey over at CQ for firing this project up.

Updated: “Peanut butter kiss” might not have been the cause of death

I took quick note of the story where the coronor handling the death of a 15-year-old girl has said that she did not die from an alergic reaction to peanut butter. It had been previously reported that she had kissed her boyfriend who had just eaten something with peanuts in it. The resulting alergic reaction killed her. Apparently, however, that wasn’t the case:


A 15-year-old girl with a peanut allergy did not die from kissing her boyfriend following his peanut butter snack, a coroner said Friday, countering reports that drew international attention last year.

Saguenay coroner Michel Miron said Christina Desforges' death had a different cause. But he refused further disclosure, saying he first wanted to report to the provincial coroner and examine more test results.

Miron said he was speaking out now to head off an allergy group's plan to use the case as an example in an awareness effort.
[Link]

I understand his reticence in coming clean with the actual cause of death, but the initial report was so widely reported that I think the public is owed the explanation. The Canadian group who is going to use the incident as a lesson isn’t the only group making the claim. I think we all need to know what really happened now that people are repeating it as the truth when it’s not.


Update: Additional details have come out now. The coroner is saying that a lack of oxygen - cerebral anoxia - was the cause of the damage to her brain. She was suffering an asthma attack at the time of her collapse and this might have had something to do with it. His final report hasn’t been filed yet.

US sending AC-130 Spectre-class gunships to Iraq

The Washington Times has a story up this morning that the US is sending, as the story calls them, “flying gunships” to Iraq. The ships are AC-130H Spectre gunships, a variant of the C-130 Hercules 4-engine tranport aircraft. (Upgraded versions of the Spectre are designated AC-130U “Spooky”.) These are a devastating resource to bring to any battlefield situation. The Spectres can loiter for literally hours and rain down an amount of firepower that would give pause to anyone, military or otherwise. Unprotected troops can be decimated in seconds by this platform and it’s extremely hard to run from them. Their sighting systems are also quite precise allowing a good pilot to engage a single vehicle out of a convoy and not significantly impact any others.


To be honest, I’m surprised that these ships weren’t already in the theatre. Their ability to secure a wide area and provide quick-strike capability using weapons ranging from 25mm and 40mm cannon up to a 105mm “Howitzer” would seem to be tailor-made to interdicting sabotage and the “rat lines” used to smuggle in terrorists and weapons. Of course, I’m not working at the Pentagon, so what do I know? Should be interesting.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

High School students continue try Bush over “war crimes”

As reported at the Drudge Report, a Parsippany, NJ high school is holding a mock court putting President Bush on trial for “war crimes.” The national attention generated by Drudge caused the school district to meet Friday to discuss the appropriateness of the exercise and to re-examine the process.


Top school officials will huddle privately this morning to discuss a classroom war crimes "trial"of President Bush at Parsippany High School that suddenly is drawing national attention.

The school board's president, Robert Perlett, said the 8:30 a.m. meeting was called by mutual agreement on Thursday as the uproar surrounding the mock tribunal escalated on the Internet and talk radio.

Perlett said no decision had been made to halt the trial, which is to enter a fourth day today after classes were canceled Thursday due to the snowstorm.
[Link]

That meeting resulted in the district’s approval to proceed, albeit with some changes.

A mock war crimes trial of President George W. Bush at a Parsippany high school continued Friday, despite criticism from people across the nation who heard about the classroom exercise from a prominent Web site and talk-radio programs.

Parsippany-Troy Hills School District interim superintendent James Dwyer said the hearing in the 12th grade politics and government class would continue, but a verdict by a five-teacher "international court of justice" panel would not be rendered as originally planned.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting with school board president, the high school principal and a curriculum superintendent, Dwyer said Friday the project was in keeping with the district's curriculum and had received prior administrative approval.

The class is an advanced placement elective, he said, and the lesson explores current events and foreign policy in an interactive way.

"The focus is on the process itself, not on any outcome," Dwyer said.
[Link]

I’m curious about who the 5 teachers are who were originally thought to be qualified to listen to arguments advanced by high school seniors using evidence no doubt gleaned from the pages of the New York Times and produce a legally proper verdict. Dwyer’s comment about it all being about “the process itself, not on any outcome” is the kind of patronizing crap you expect teachers to fling out toward the children under their care when they’re desperately trying to avoid discussing uncomfortable topics. Of course it was about the outcome. There is no reason to choose this particular “case” unless someone has an eye toward the outcome.

Think about it: what evidence can they bring up regarding the crimes they’re “charging” the President with? They allege the President is guilty of "crimes against civilian populations" and "inhumane treatment of prisoners.” To what classified information do these kids have access? How many of them have personally visited Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Camp Anaconda in Afghanistan? How many have been to either Iraq or Afghanistan? How many have left the borders of the US at all? To even suggest that the President has engaged in “crimes against civilian populations” exhibits a bias. How is that charge even being defined?

So, do I think the “trial” should be stopped? Absolutely not. Under no circumstances should this exercise be aborted, delayed, or interfered with in any way. I’m all for reinstating the “verdict” of the “international court of teachers’ justice” as was originally planned. As has been said elsewhere, this is all about freedom of speech, right?

And when they’re done, the transcripts of this “court case” should be published in their entirety. Every statement, every allegation, every argument every refutation, and every single scrap of evidence offered either for or against should be released for public viewing and discussion. As Professor Glenn Reynolds would say, let’s turn loose an Army of Davids on the results of this exercise and determine whether or not it was properly conducted. After all, the school district’s focus is on the process, remember?

The key factor in instruction is the ability to accurately gauge whether the students have produced the correct result to a given exercise. If they add 2 plus 2, we know, emphatically, that they should come up with 4. If they drop sodium into a beaker with water, they’re supposed to see an energetic reaction. If we ask them to calculate how far a 1 kilogram weight will fly given a push of a particular power and vector, we will already know the answer. Instruction, at least at the levels of grades 1 through 12, does not come from asking the students to provide answers we don’t already have. If the students were to be taught the process of rational assessment of evidence and the successful argument of a conclusion based on that evidence, it makes no sense at all to ask them to do that in a case where we don’t have all the evidence and the answer has not already been defined. There are a myriad of court cases where the evidence is completely available and th correct answer already given by trained legal professionals rather than an ad hoc council of high school teachers. That’s what gives this exercise the stench of an anti-Bush witch hunt.

The deed’s done, however. We cannot simply shut this exercise down and, for the good of those students as well as for the rest of us, we shouldn’t try. Let the trial commence and then let us all see the results. Then we can make an assessment - a verdict, if you will - on whether the school’s teachers and administrators were acting appropriately or if they were (once again) teaching their political biases instead of the subjects they’re paid to teach.


(Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the open post.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blanco said levees were intact. Will that get some air?

The media has certainly made sure to sow the AP non-story about the briefing on the New Orleans levees as widely as possible. When the facts of the transcripts were made available the conclusions made by the AP in determining that the President was warned of the levee breaches were shown to be the unsupported Bush-bashing we’ve come to expect from the media these days. The AP’s video hack job is just the latest Memogate. Follow that link to Captain’s Quarters and read all about it.


What’s not unsupported is video now coming to light that shows Louisianna Governor Blanco assuring everyone that the levees were still intact - hours after the National Weather Service had received reports that there were, in fact, breached.


As Hurricane Katrina loomed over the Gulf Coast, federal and state officials agonized over the threat to levees and lives. Hours after the catastrophic storm hit, Louisiana's governor believed New Orleans' crucial floodwalls were still intact.

"We keep getting reports in some places that maybe water is coming over the levees," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said shortly after noon on Aug. 29 — the day the storm hit the Gulf coast.

"We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee," she said on a video of the day's disaster briefing that was obtained Thursday night by The Associated Press. "I think we have not breached the levee at this time."

In fact, the National Weather Service received a report of a levee breach and issued a flash-flood warning as early as 9:12 a.m. that day, according to the White House's formal recounting of events the day Katrina struck.

Not until the day after Katrina roared ashore did the White House confirm that its surge had, in fact, breached the levees — a delay that critics charge held up repair efforts and allowed the deadly flooding to worsen.
[Link]

I wonder how much air time this video will get?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Comedic news casts

Its not often that I watch the late-night comedy shows. Tonite Jay Leno is doing his normal schtick bashing the administration. In the span of about 60 seconds he used the bogus AP story about the “Katrina briefing” the President supposedly received, the bogus CBS poll showing the President’s approval rating at 34%, and the “fact” that the Dubai Ports deal was going to transfer full control of US ports to a foreign firm as setups for his jokes. I wonder how many adults actually listen to those set ups and assume those facts are real?


Scary thought.

Where is the condemnation for a teacher who corrupts the education system?

Can you imagine the earth-shattering howls of indignation that would arise from the Left in this country were a high-school teacher to simply set aside school policies and start expounding in a civics class on the lack of good Christian morals present in politicans today? The merest mention of the term “good Christian morals” in any tone other than sneering sarcasm would be met with demands for the resignation of the teacher, the principal, and very likely any school board member who had a hand in hiring either one. That story would be getting airtime on every major TV network and would likely appear on page 1 of most of the major daily newspapers.


So where are these folks when a high school teacher decides to make use of a geography class to launch a rant about how America is the most violent country on the planet led by a man with “eeire similarities” to Hilter? (Via Michelle Malkin and Slapstick Politics. Michelle’s putting up a transcript for those of us without the time or ability to listen to the podcast of the audio tape taken by a student in the class at the time.) This kind of commentary has absolutely no place in a public high school. Judgments like these are highly subjective - not to mention the “Hitler” crack being fallaciously emotive, in addition - and require a wider array of experience and knowledge to even adequately discuss than is present in the average high school class. As I have said on many, many occasions, high school teachers should be sticking to the facts of their subjects and leave the politics for later in the student’s life.


Given the results from the National Geographic surveys on the topic of geographic literacy , I would think that a geography teacher would have enough to do to actually have students know geography. The last survey, taken in 2002, had some nearly-unbelievable results:


The National Geographic–Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey polled more than 3,000 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and the United States.

Sweden scored highest; Mexico, lowest. The U.S. was next to last.

"The survey demonstrates the geographic illiteracy of the United States," said Robert Pastor, professor of International Relations at American University, in Washington, D.C. "The results are particularly appalling in light of September 11, which traumatized America and revealed that our destiny is connected to the rest of the world."

About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean's location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent.
[Link]

Think about that: pick any 10 people ages 18-24 and 7 of them won’t be able to pick out Britain on a map. Six won’t know where Japan or France are. Three won’t be able to identify that humongous blank area out west as the Pacific Ocean. One of them will look at you blankly when you ask them to point to their own country.

Here’s an idea, high school teachers. Teach your damn subject well enough that surveys like this one don’t come back with such abyssmal results and then start shooting your mouth off about your politics. Not before.

OK Sooner student “suicide” doubted

Back in October an Oklahoma college student made fairly big news by dying in a bomb blast on a park bench just outside of the university stadium while a packed-house game was in play. I wrote at the time that the immediate explanation - a suicide - left a lot to be desired as a conclusion to the investigation. Simply put, there was a tremendous amount of circumstantial evidence that pointed, instead, to a failed suicide bombing where the explosive went off prematurely. While many folks were asking the same questions I was and some of those people were continuing the investigation as best they could, there has been no major updates to the case since.


Until now. Via Michelle Malkin I was directed to this story which quotes a police bomb expert as saying he believes that Joel Hinrichs didn’t intend to light that bomb off where he did.


A Norman police bomb expert said Tuesday he does not believe University of Oklahoma student Joel Henry Hinrichs III committed suicide by blowing himself up outside a packed football stadium.

"I believe he accidentally blew himself up," Sgt. George Mauldin said.

Mauldin said Hinrichs, 21, an engineering student, had two to three pounds of triacetone triperoxide, commonly known as TATP, in a backpack in his lap when it exploded Oct. 1.

...



"Someone saw him fiddling with it (the backpack) shortly before the explosion occurred. I think he got cocky, and it went off," Mauldin said. [Link]


The FBI remains adamant that this was a lone suicide with no ties to terrorism and says they’re going to release the investigation’s conclusions in a few weeks. When they do, I’ll talk about it here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Study uncovers a “no duh” moment

Quick, name all 5 leading characters on the “The Simpsons” animated TV show. Could you do it?


OK, now name all 5 freedoms addressed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. How about that one?


Don’t feel bad if you got Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie but could only say “freedom of speech” or “freedom of religion” regarding the First Amendment. You’re in good company. More than half of those surveyed could name at least 2 of the characters from the TV show but only 25% could actually name more than 1 of the freedoms mentioned in the 1st Amendment. The numbers for people who could successfully answer all 5 items of these 2 questions is even more abyssmal: 22% could name all 5 Simpsons; 1 in 1000 could name all 5 freedoms. This story by the AP paints this as both a shame (it is) and a surprise (to whom?)


The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

Joe Madeira, director of exhibitions at the museum, said he was surprised by the results.

"Part of the survey really shows there are misconceptions, and part of our mission is to clear up these misconceptions," said Madeira, whose museum will be dedicated to helping visitors understand the First Amendment when it opens in April. "It means we have our job cut out for us..."
[Link]

So, Mr. Madeira is surprised that Americans treated to a weekly show now running its 17th season would better know the names of 5 characters than would know the language of a historical document taught to them in an elementary school civics class, possibly decades ago, and only given air time in PBS documentaries scattered across the TV schedule? No offense but what planet has he been living on? The Simpsons, as well as all the marketing schtick mentioned later in the article, are designed to be easily remembered and get blasted to Americans in entertaining technicolor. A good chunk of the Left in this country’s political spectrum is actively trying to make sure Americans forget all about the Constitution’s freedom of speech and religion by trying to shout down opposing viewpoint and removing the merest mention of religion from any public view or discourse. If more people understood that their right to practice their religion cannot be legally opposed then they might start wondering why all this effort is being made - and allowed - to suppress their actions.

But, seriously, is it any surprise that people don’t know this, given the lack of commitment to teaching it in our schools? Honestly?