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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Why would George W. Bush look to sidestep the FISA court? After all, they virtually never delay or reject wiretap requests.

Well, until after 9/11, that is.
Government records show that the administration was encountering unprecedented second-guessing by the secret federal surveillance court when President Bush decided to bypass the panel and order surveillance of U.S.-based terror suspects without the court's approval.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress shows that the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than from the four previous presidential administrations combined.

This doesn't speak to the legality of the issue, but it does point out an explanation for Bush's actions. The Left may wish to frame this as a brave court seeking to limit the actions of a man with dictatorial tendencies. It fuels their pre-conceived notions about Dubya and the programs legality, but does little beyond that. The resignation of one of the FISA judges 4 years after the program started, but 1 day after the story broke in the media, does about the same thing.

The media, of course, has been playing up this angle. In the article above, their source is James Bamford, "an acknowledged authority on the supersecret NSA", who compares this to the "bad old days" of Nixon. You'd tend to think, based on the coverage, that anyone who's anyone thinks this is completely illegal. You'd be wrong.

Enter Cass Sunstein. Well actually, he can' t really enter, since the media has virtually shut him out of their coverage to this point. Cass Sunstein is a self-described "liberal" laws professor at the University of Chicago to whom the media goes when they need a quote on Constitutional law. This post at has background on how often he's been to go-to guy (see the comments on Lexis-Nexis searches). However, all of a sudden the media has ignored his views on this constitutional topic. Why? Perhaps it's because his opinion doesn't fit the media's angle on the story. From his interview on Hugh Hewitt's show:
HH: [...] First, did the authorization for the use of military force from 2001 authorize the president's action with regards to conducting surveillance on foreign powers, including al Qaeda, in contact with their agents in America, Professor?

CS: Well, probably. If the Congress authorizes the president to use force, a pretty natural incident of that is to engage in surveillance. So if there's on the battlefield some communication between Taliban and al Qaeda, the president can monitor that. If al Qaeda calls the United States, the president can probably monitor that, too, as part of waging against al Qaeda.

HH: Very good. Part two of your analysis...If...whether or not the AUMF does, does the Constitution give the president inherent authority to do what he did?

CS: That's less clear, but there's a very strong argument the president does have that authority. All the lower courts that have investigated the issue have so said. So as part of the president's power as executive, there's a strong argument that he can monitor conversations from overseas, especially if they're al Qaeda communications in the aftermath of 9/11. So what I guess I do is put the two arguments together. It's a little technical, but I think pretty important, which is that since the president has a plausible claim that he has inherent authority to do this, that is to monitor communications from threats outside our borders, we should be pretty willing to interpret a Congressional authorization to use force in a way that conforms to the president's possible Constitutional authority. So that is if you put the Constitutional authority together with the statutory authorization, the president's on pretty good ground.

This interview is chock full of information and analysis you won't find in the mainstream media news coverage of this. Why isn't this getting out? Note the bolded parts below (my emphasis).
HH: Professor Sunstein, have you ever been contacted by mainstream media about this controversy?

CS: A lot. Yeah.

HH: And have you spent a lot of time trying to walk the reporters through the basics?

CS: Yes.

HH: Who's contacted you, for example? The New York Times?

CS: Well, I wouldn't want to name specific ones. It's a little bit of confidentiality there, but some well known ones. Let's just say that.

HH: Let me ask. Have you been quoted in any papers that you've seen?

CS: I don't think so.

HH: Do you consider the quality of the media coverage here to be good, bad, or in between?

CS: Pretty bad
, and I think the reason is we're seeing a kind of libertarian panic a little bit, where what seems at first glance...this might be proved wrong...but where what seems at first glance a pretty modest program is being described as a kind of universal wiretapping, and also being described as depending on a wild claim of presidential authority, which the president, to his credit, has not made any such wild claim. The claims are actually fairly modest, and not unconventional. So the problem with what we've seen from the media is treating this as much more peculiar, and much larger than it actually is. As I recall, by the way, I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, and they did say that in at least one person's view, the authorization to use military force probably was adequate here.

HH: Do you think the media simply does not understand? Or are they being purposefully ill-informed in your view?

CS: You know what I think it is? It's kind of an echo of Watergate. So when the word wiretapping comes out, a lot of people get really nervous and think this is a rerun of Watergate. I also think there are two different ideas going on here. One is skepticism on the part of many members of the media about judgments by President Bush that threaten, in their view, civil liberties. So it's like they see President Bush and civil liberties, and they get a little more reflexively skeptical than maybe the individual issue warrants. So there's that. Plus, there's, I think, a kind of the American culture, including the media, streak that is very nervous about intruding on telephone calls and e-mails. And that, in many ways, is healthy. But it can create a misunderstanding of a particular situation.

The media is simply not telling both sides of the story, and even according to a liberal professor it's due partially to the media's "reflexively skeptical" view of President Bush; a view that, in turn, causes their coverage to be "pretty bad". According to Sunstein, this is a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the media (one might say "myopic zeal'). Instead of getting both sides, the coverage has been heavily tilted to the "WATERGATE!" side of the ledger. Of course, when the media only gets one side of the story, it almost inevitably gets the liberal side. This provides the talking points the Left then uses ad infinitum, and later exculpatory revelations are ignored. (Much like the latest news about deaths from Katrina. I think we're still waiting for that apology from Kanye West.)

Now, there's nothing at all wrong with the media being a group of professional skeptics; in a sense that's their job. However, as has been noted, EOs and policies by previous administrations that were very nearly the same as this one were buried by the same media that is taking this story and shouting it from multiple rooftops. Their skepticism is quite selective, as is the Left's outrage over this. Those on the Left may wish to make the argument that the media is simply being cautious of the actions of a man who would be king, but since the recent UCLA study that showed how leftward the media tilts, that bias must be taken into consideration first, long before trying to apply some sort of megalomania to Bush himself.

Journalists journal, right? They like to believe themselves to be playing things down the middle, but here's yet another example in a long line of examples to demonstrate they aren't nearly there.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, y'all. See you in a few days.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

In regards to the NSA wiretapping, one of Clinton's own Associate Attorney General, John Schmidt, agrees that this is "consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents".
The president authorized the NSA program in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. An identifiable group, Al Qaeda, was responsible and believed to be planning future attacks in the United States. Electronic surveillance of communications to or from those who might plausibly be members of or in contact with Al Qaeda was probably the only means of obtaining information about what its members were planning next. No one except the president and the few officials with access to the NSA program can know how valuable such surveillance has been in protecting the nation.

In the Supreme Court's 1972 Keith decision holding that the president does not have inherent authority to order wiretapping without warrants to combat domestic threats, the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president's authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad.

Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant.

In the most recent judicial statement on the issue, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, composed of three federal appellate court judges, said in 2002 that "All the ... courts to have decided the issue held that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence ... We take for granted that the president does have that authority."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thanks to NewsBusters for digging this up:

By DAVID BURNHAM, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (NYT) 1051 words Published: November 7, 1982

A Federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents, and then provide summaries of these messages to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Wall St. Journal, on the constitutionality of NSA wiretapping, and how the Founding Fathers would have seen it:
What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.

The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.

The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

So much for all these congresscritters (and lefty bloggers) immediately assuming that this is some sort of treasonous act worthy of impeachment. What we have here is adjusting strategy to meet a new enemy while staying within Constitutional boundaries and current law. Our Founders had the right idea; in a time of war, requiring decisions by committee will work against us. At the same time, they didn't make the President a king or a dictator; he still has to abide by prescribed limits. Given what we know so far--the briefings and concerns and even the temporary suspension--it appears that this administration was very sensitive to those limits.

This is all notwithstanding a Clinton-appointed judge who was on the FISA court resigning today, instead of anytime in the past year. If he was so deeply concerned over this surveillance,why did he wait until the story broke? Sounds more political than personal to me.

The 10 Commandments can stay in a Kentucky court house.
The county display the ACLU sued over included the Ten Commandments, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Star Spangled Banner, the national motto, the preamble to the Kentucky Constitution, the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution and a picture of Lady Justice.

Writing for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Suhrheinrich said the ACLU's "repeated reference 'to the separation of church and state' ... has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state."

Suhrheinrich wrote: "The ACLU, an organization whose mission is 'to ensure that ... the government [is kept] out of the religion business,' does not embody the reasonable person."

The court said a reasonable observer of Mercer County's display appreciates "the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American traditions."

Just to remind some folks, Jefferson wrote "separation of church and state" in a personal letter to the Danbury Baptists. He was speaking for himself, and was not present when the First Amendment was debated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

While those on the Left rage on...
It continues to amaze me that anyone can continue to justify this crap. We have a President, and an administration that continues to defecate on the Constitution and people who are suppossed to be SUPER Patriots, continue to act as apologist for it. Sorry guys, this one definately does not pass the smell test, and as more details become available, and more constitutional lawyers, NOT HACKS weigh in on the matter, it looks worse and worse...billripped.jpg

I am going to ask the question again, and I am sure it will be ignored by the trolls who respond to this post... WHERE does Bush's powers as a "War Time President," end?

...Drudge puts it all in perspective.


Bill Clinton Signed Executive Order that allowed Attorney General to do searches without court approval

Clinton, February 9, 1995: "The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order"

Jimmy Carter Signed Executive Order on May 23, 1979: "Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order."

WASH POST, July 15, 1994: Extend not only to searches of the homes of U.S. citizens but also -- in the delicate words of a Justice Department official -- to "places where you wouldn't find or would be unlikely to find information involving a U.S. citizen... would allow the government to use classified electronic surveillance techniques, such as infrared sensors to observe people inside their homes, without a court order."

Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, the Clinton administration believes the president "has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

Secret searches and wiretaps of Aldrich Ames's office and home in June and October 1993, both without a federal warrant.

The Left's outrage has to take this into consideration. Bush's EO dealt with phone calls to foreign countries from people who were in a terrorists little black book (and cell phone and computer). Clinton's even extended to solely domestic locations. Their outrage over this EO and the Plame affair would just begin to have a shred of credibility if they were just as outraged then as they are now.

But I'll bet most of them were happy when Ames was captured.

(Cross-posted at Comments welcome.)

Clayton Cramer, on the Dover "Intelligent Design" trial:
It was a controversial idea of human origins--one that offended many people because of its implications for their religious beliefs. The idea had some worrisome baggage far beyond the area of biology. It scared the people in charge of the society, enough so that they felt a need to prohibit it from being taught in public schools.

Whoops, sorry. He's talking about the Scopes trial. Follow the link for an interesting comparison of the two.

Syria helping out a friend in need.
Syria has signed a pledge to store Iranian nuclear weapons and missiles.

The London-based Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Iran and Syria signed a strategic accord meant to protect either country from international pressure regarding their weapons programs. The magazine, citing diplomatic sources, said Syria agreed to store Iranian materials and weapons should Teheran come under United Nations sanctions.

"Just stash them next to the ones from Hussein." This gives a little more credence to the idea that Saddam hid his WMDs there as well.

Incestuous pedophilia, the musical.
Around the holidays, the biggest challenge for many theater companies is convincing audiences to care about yet another staging of "A Christmas Carol." This season in Atlanta, however, Actor's Express wants to stir up buzz about a less familiar property -- namely, a pedophile musical.

The Express has already started pushing "Love Jerry," a new tuner written and composed by Megan Gogerty that follows the tortured story of Jerry, who develops a sexual relationship with his nephew while trying to stay friends with the boy's father.

I'm not sure how someone can see this and not realize the cultural pit we're slipping down into. This is the start of the normalization of pedophilia (and incest; a two-fer). Doesn't matter that it's "delicate" and "heart-wrenching"; the point is that the behavior isn't condemned.
In "Love Jerry," there's no question what's going on, yet Gogerty refrains from demonizing the title character. She focuses instead on the entire family's attempt to comprehend what's happened.

This moral grayness makes the play even trickier to market, yet it's also what convinced Express artistic director Jasson Minadakis to produce it. He says he "absolutely believes" in the show and is continually "shocked by how powerfully it expresses itself."

Apparently, the theater-going audience that Gogerty is trying to reach is no longer shocked by the act itself, so Minadakis is left with trying to shock people with "moral grayness". They're trying to move these things from the "wrong" category to the "gray" area. That's shocking. It's not surprising, but it is shocking.

To some, however, this may indeed be surprising. Slate's Dahlia Lithwik, from last year:
The problem with the slippery slope argument is that it depends on inexact, and sometimes hysterical, comparisons. Most of us can agree, for instance, that all the shriekings about gay marriage opening the door to incest with children and pedophilia are inapposite.

An appeal to only the legal angle begs the question. Normalizing this will ultimately mean more of it, especially the way "privacy of my own bedroom" is used by those trying to normalize homosexual marriage.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Diane Glass, also from 2004, approached this from the same angle:
Which brings us to the inevitable "what about the children" argument. What's stopping us from going down the slippery slope toward pedophilia? Well, the fact that only adults can marry. Problem solved.

For some, that's simply a discriminatory statute just waiting to be "reformed".

Kevin Drum, from 2 years ago, railing on Rick Santorum:
Santorum's main beef relied on a "slippery slope" argument: if the government can't ban gay sex, then it also can't ban incest, bigamy, or adultery. This reminds me of why I dislike slippery slope arguments so much: they rely on the unspoken assumptions that (a) all arguments will eventually be followed to their most extreme conclusion, and (b) there are people whose ultimate goal is to gain acceptance of those extreme positions.

And yet here we stand, with an arts crowd looking to give a boost to some of the very things that Drum didn't think was anywhere down the slope at all.

The surprise for these and others appears to be that a different set of people may, in fact, be responsible for pushing pedophilia and incest into the mainstream of society than were responsible for giving homosexual marriage a kick-start. It doesn't really matter that some same-sex marriage advocates didn't want to see incest normalized, frankly. The main argument against same-sex marriage was "where does it end?" When the line is pushed to a new distance, it's now much shorter distance to other targets, and the folks waiting at those other targets are very happy you helped them out. Your protestations against their targets mean nothing to them, while they use your same arguments to work for what they want. You've done most of their work for them, and now all they have to do is nudge things a little more with a play here and a book there and an outed celebrity to sign autographs.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network, and Comments welcome.)

Those who made so much hay about low poll numbers for the President will now, of course, get quiet.
Bush's overall approval rating rose to 47 percent, from 39 percent in early November, with 52 percent saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job. His approval rating on Iraq jumped 10 percentage points since early November, to 46 percent, while his rating on the economy rose 11 points, to 47 percent. A clear majority, 56 percent, said they approve of the way Bush is handling the fight against terrorism -- a traditional strong point in his reputation that nonetheless had flagged to 48 percent in the November poll.

This coincides with elections in Iraq and the push-back by the administration over pre-war intelligence. So, again, the polls mostly measure how well one side or the other is getting their word out. Add to that the results of the UCLA media bias study, and you'll see why those poll numbers have a tough time climbing. The MSM is mostly reporting the liberal PR, which, fortunately, can't completely obscure the good news.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The 2005 Gererosity Index is out. As Michael Medved points out, the top half of the list is fully populated with "red states", while all but 1 of the bottom quarter of the list are "blue states". His conclusion:
The reason GOP states are so much more generous is both obvious and profound: conservatives view compassion as a personal responsibility, but liberals tend to see it as the government’s job. One approach leads to individual commitment, while the other encourages the belief you can best help others by leaving it up to tax collectors and bureaucrats.

Not to mention that those tax collectors and bureaucrats suck out around 75% of the money passing through them. This also highlights the divide in this country between those who look to government first to solve all the ills of society and those who are busy doing something about them (or personally supporting those who are).

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Comments welcome.)

Marc at Hubs & Spokes has hard evidence that the President is again trying to destroy the wall separating church and state.

Heh heh.

This just in; Media is biased!
While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

Regarding Drudge, later on in the report it's noted that Drudge is graded based on the bias of the stories he links to, which lean left. This overbalances his personal conservative tilt, but he doesn't do as much writing of his own as he used to years ago. So overall, the media is liberal.

This isn't news to the "reality-based community" (a term the Kos folks like to assign themselves, even though they've called the media "conservative"). This is simply yet another in a long, long line of evidence that conservatives have a tougher time getting their message out in the media.
Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS' "Evening News," The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News' "Special Report With Brit Hume" and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

Heh, and Markos of Daily Kos calls the media the "Right Wing Noise Machine". But when 18 of 20 top media outlets lean (or fall over) left, it's points out the wishful thinking on his part.

Of the nightly news shows, I find these results interesting.
The most centrist outlet proved to be the "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." CNN's "NewsNight With Aaron Brown" and ABC's "Good Morning America" were a close second and third.

"Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill," Groseclose said. "If these newscasters weren't centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators."

The fourth most centrist outlet was "Special Report With Brit Hume" on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC's "World News Tonight" and NBC's "Nightly News" to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news," said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

I find it interesting that folks who get outraged over Brit Hume don't recognize the same bias in ABC or NBC. And (no surprise here) CBS is even farther to the left. Is "Special Report" biased to the right? I'm willing to admit that it is. It uses contributors and sources that ABC, NBC and CBS completely ignore, based on the political stance. Rush Limbaugh often says that he doesn't need to be balanced by a liberal because he is the balance that's required for all the liberal opinionating out there (often disguised as news). Fox is far more centered than Limbaugh, of course, but they do have a rightward tilt that helps to balance the whole picture. But by the way they describe it, lots of folks on the left seem to think that Fox is much farther to the right than CBS is to the left. This study puts all of this in perspective.

When folks who say that Fox needs more liberal contributors start acknowledging that the rest of them need more conservative ones, that's when I'll start taking them seriously. Eric Alterman, call your publisher.

More thoughts and analysis can be found at "Oh, That Liberal Media", and Technorati shows all the blogs covering this.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network and Comments welcome.)

This just in; hurricanes are no respecters of persons!
The bodies of New Orleans residents killed by Hurricane Katrina were almost as likely to be recovered from middle-class neighborhoods as from the city's poorer districts, such as the Lower 9th Ward, according to a Times analysis of data released by the state of Louisiana.

The analysis contradicts what swiftly became conventional wisdom in the days after the storm hit — that it was the city's poorest African American residents who bore the brunt of the hurricane. Slightly more than half of the bodies were found in the city's poorer neighborhoods, with the remainder scattered throughout middle-class and even some richer districts.

"The fascinating thing is that it's so spread out," said Joachim Singelmann, director of the Louisiana Population Data Center at Louisiana State University. "It's not just the Lower 9th Ward or New Orleans East, which everybody has heard about. It's across the board, including some well-to-do neighborhoods."

The "conventional wisdom" was only conventional among those ready to blame Bush for everything they could, including supposedly purposely destroying the levies. This was blatant exploitation of a tragedy for political gain that hit all economic levels.

Question: Will the same people that trumpeted the Katrina conventional "wisdom" as "proof" that Bush "hated" blacks recant and acknowledge that this new revelation, at the very least, says nothing about Bush's racial views? I'd hope that it may even bring them to reconsider the whole presupposition that Bush is racist, and question previously accepted conventional wisdom. Will Kanye West apologize, even a little? I hope so, but my breath I holdeth not.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Actor Morgan Freeman, on Black History Month:
Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous." "You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

You'll find 100% agreement here. The contribution of blacks to American history should be, and is, part of the curriculum.
Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

Morgan, you da' man.

The NY Times has a report today about a Bush order to have the NSA do wiretaps on international calls without getting an initial warrant. I'm generally of the opinion that government power tends to expand over time just from a natural tendency, never mind all the new programs people keep trying to push into federal government. Therefore, an expansion like this gives me cause for concern.

Let's take a look at the specifics mentioned in the article, though. Knee-jerk reactions, from both sides, are not useful.
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

So just a few months after 9/11, when most of America was waiting for the other shoe to drop, President Bush got ahead of the curve and got proactive in hopes of preventing another attack. Now it's 4 years later and we've had nothing. The other shoe hasn't dropped. As we'll see, some of the credit for that goes to this decision.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

I'm no Constitutional scholar, (and I doubt the "officials" are themselves) but I'm also not sure whether or not we're really taking about a Constitutional issue here. Since the calls were to or from international destinations, there might be an out here.
According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.

So the administration has, in fact, been modifying it's operations in light of these questions. And all in secret, mind you. These changes were made not so that they look better on the evening news, but because, apparently, of the legitimacy of the issues. This speaks well, I think, of an honest attempt to stay within the law, yet push things enough to keep our enemies at bay.

Back in 2002, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) issued a statement that accused the Bush administration of not doing enough to prevent 9/11 and that they just sat on pre-9/11 intelligence in a "conspiracy of silence". This outrage ultimately brought about the highly-touted "9/11 Commission", which we now know was flawed with partisanship and unwilling to look at some hard facts ("Able Danger" among them). As I said back then,
[D]o you really think Ms. McKinney would have smiled with joy if we had done some serious racial profiling at airports and emptied all tall office buildings in order to prevent bin Laden's guided missiles from taking lives? Given the vague nature of what was known, and even if the exact dates, targets and MO were known, those types of measures would've been required to prevent the attacks. Cynthia doesn't like profiling now, and she wouldn't have approved of it then, but she sure does know how to may hay out of hindsight.

Scott Ott, at the news satire site ScrappleFace, uses his wonderful sense of humor to put it in perspective.
"I want to apologize for allowing the NSA to do these wiretaps after 9/11," the president said. "I'm sorry that I violated the privacy of some of these folks after terrorists launched attacks from our soil that killed 3,000 people, destroyed two skyscrapers and four jumbo jets, and punched a gaping hole in our military headquarters."

"My biggest regret," the president added, "is that the NSA didn't secretly tap these lines before 9/11. I hope my fellow Americans can forgive me."

I expect we'll hear Democrats coming out of the woodwork decrying this in the strongest of terms. Although, I'd bet that such pronouncements against Bush would have come anyway if another terrorism incident had taken place after 9/11, so you gotta take that for what it's worth. The President decided to do what it would take and was sensitive to and acted on questions of legality. I'd say that speaks well for him and how this operation was handled.

Back at the article, there have been positive results.
The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.

It's very easy to criticize something from a position of comfort and safety.
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.

This is where I think things get interesting. Listen to the outrage from Democrats on this, and listen closely for their mentioning that in some cases where wholly domestic wiretaps were required, they did get warrants. Listen for their leaders to acknowledge that, yes, they were briefed on it, and sent multiple memos expression their specific concerns over legalities. Listen very closely. I'm not entirely sure we're going to get anything like that from them. Hold not thy breath.
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

Yup, the Times held onto this urgent report for a year to make sure they got it right. And wouldn't you know, they released it on the very day the the Patriot Act renewal was scheduled to come for a vote in the Senate. Just coincidence, I'm sure. And it's just as much a coincidence that the author of the Times piece, James Risen, has a book coming out in a few weeks entitled "STATE OF WAR: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration". Pure accident of fate.

Later on, the piece goes into the idea that this may, in fact, have been legal based on a Congressional resolution.
Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States ? including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners ? is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.

If it's possible that this operation is legal, especially during wartime, then the leak of it ought to outrage those who got upset over the Plame kerfuffle. I''m sure it will outrage them, though I'm equally sure that outrage will be mostly misplaced.
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, the officials said.

But now we've given the terrorists new information--that anything seized in the war could be used immediately--and now they'll change their precautions. One less opportunity to prevent the loss of life of potentially thousands.

Do the ends justify the means? No, but it appears that the Bush administration believed this was legal and even took steps to ensure that it was when questions were raised. Does it concern me when government acts in this manner? Yes, because as I noted, the tendency of government power is to expand. Those who continue to push to give the federal government more power and take it from the states should take note. However, one of the legitimate, enumerated powers of the federal government is to preserve and defend this nation. We are at war and it's good to keep that in mind before thoughtlessly dismissing this as some sort of power grab by an evil Republican President.

What we have here is yet another intelligence leak. Liberal blogs are already on the attack, but listen to how someone posting on the front page at the Daily Kos handles it.
No doubt we will see in coming weeks hair-splitting legal and constitutional debate over the precise wording of presidential orders, evocations of executive privilege and withholding of information in the name of national security, and mind-numbingly dull citations from dozens of obscure court cases. The administration will attempt to complicate, bluster, lie and attack its way out of answering for its spying on American citizens in the hopes that the electorate will give up on understanding the issue and will continue to sleep.

Essentially, SusanG is saying, "Never mind the legalities", which then, ironically, becomes here launching point for assuming it's unconstitutional, and get up in arms about it. The big picture and the salient points are eluding them.

(As an aside, further irony can be extracted from the fact that Democrats, in the case of Roe v Wade, consider precedent from court cases to be high holy words, but when there's a Republican in their sights, they're nothing but "dull citations".)

If we want to tackle precedent, John Hinderaker at Power Line notes this:
Under the Plame precedent, this case is a no-brainer. The intelligence officials who leaked to the Times should be identified, criminally prosecuted, and sent to prison.

Let's see how many Democrats come out for that. The "leak" of the name of a CIA employee who drove to and from Langley for more than 5 years (not exactly covert) is an outrage, but the leak of information that will help terrorists is no big deal and indeed should be encouraged. They've already made up their minds; blaming Bush is all that matters.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network and Comments welcome.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The polls have closed in Iraq on a day that is celebrated by many but disparaged by many as well. The purple finger of an Iraqi voter is something almost no one would have thought possible a scant 3 years ago, yet today they have a Constitution, and the voter turnout could quite possibly beat the United States' personal best. (Early estimates are around 70% turnout of Iraqis.)

Congratulations, Iraq. Welcome to self-government. Remember, though, the words of Paul Harvey: "Self-government without self-control is self-defeating." Argue--argue mightily--over things that are important to you, but don't resort to violence nor invest all your power in government. It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Hold on to your freedom, and don't let it be taken away by either foreign or domestic powers.

Let freedom ring.

UPDATE: Click here for a first-hand account of voting in Iraq.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Marine Major Ben Connable, writing in the Washington Post, is, along with most of the military, optimistic about how the war will turn out.
How is it, then, that 64 percent of U.S. military officers think we will succeed if we are allowed to continue our work? Why is there such a dramatic divergence between American public opinion and the upbeat assessment of the men and women doing the fighting?

Open optimism, whether or not it is warranted, is a necessary trait in senior officers and officials. Skeptics can be excused for discounting glowing reports on Iraq from the upper echelons of power. But it is not a simple thing to ignore genuine optimism from mid-grade, junior and noncommissioned officers who have spent much of the past three years in Iraq.

Maj. Connable goes on to talk about the first-hand knowledge that he and his comrades in Iraq have that the "armchair academics" and the "talking heads" don't have that give them that optimism. He understands why Mr. and Mrs. America might have a view of Iraq as a quagmire; the news reports.
Most of the violent news is true; the death and destruction are very real. But experienced military officers know that the horror stories, however dramatic, do not represent the broader conditions there or the chances for future success. For every vividly portrayed suicide bombing, there are hundreds of thousands of people living quiet, if often uncertain, lives. For every depressing story of unrest and instability there is an untold story of potential and hope. The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading.

(That liberal media.) He has harsh words for those who insist on continuing to put forth this dismal outlook (and you know who you are >grin<).
It is this false impression that has led us to a moment of national truth. The proponents of the quagmire vision argue that the very presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the cause of the insurgency and that our withdrawal would give the Iraqis their only true chance for stability. Most military officers and NCOs with ground experience in Iraq know that this vision is patently false. Although the presence of U.S. forces certainly inflames sentiment and provides the insurgents with targets, the anti-coalition insurgency is mostly a symptom of the underlying conditions in Iraq. It may seem paradoxical, but only our presence can buffer the violence enough to allow for eventual stability.

It's worth reading the whole thing. At the end, Maj. Connable notes that even those in the military who believe the war's outlook to be bleak still work towards victory.
Everyone in uniform does not share this sentiment. Thirty-six percent of military officers are less confident in the mission. But these officers will continue to work as hard as the rest of us toward success because they, too, are professionals. With men and women such as this, the United States has an excellent chance of success in Iraq.

Defeat-ocrats, take note.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

Welcome, visitors from the 169th Carnival of the Vanities. And thank you so much, Josh Cohen, for the kind words describing my submitted post.

Powerline has a great letter from a Colonel in the Army Reserve. Best part:
Still, the elections will be a success, some wind will be taken out of the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police will continue to improve, US combat units will begin drawing down, and Democrats will start a mad dash to take credit for the success. Just imagine, a Middle Eastern country holding three major elections in a single year, voting in a constitution guaranteeing individual rights, and electing a multi-ethnic, multi-religious government.

Who indeed would have imagined that just 3 years ago. We're winning.

25% of the pregnancies in Australia end in abortion? Safe, legal, and rare?

That's a lot of women who will have anxiety and guilt in the coming years.

This John Stossel article could be subtitled, "Environmentalists lied, millions died".

Talk about your cats and dogs living together.
Bono and Jesse Helms? Not only are they friends, but the Irish rocker and archconservative former North Carolina senator also share a common cause: fighting AIDS in Africa.

Before U2 opened to a raucous crowd of 17,000 at the city's new downtown arena, Bono had dinner with Helms.

"He (Bono) called us a couple of weeks ago and said he wanted to see his old friend the senator," said John Dodd, president of the Jesse Helms Center, who accompanied Helms and other family members to Monday's meeting.

Since they were introduced several years ago, the Republican Helms and Bono have become close allies in the fight against the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Great to see this kind of cooperation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

American and Britian do indeed have a plan for pulling out of Iraq
BRITAIN and America are planning a phased withdrawal of their forces from Iraq as soon as a permanent government is installed in Baghdad after this week’s elections.

In a move that has caused alarm in the outgoing Iraqi administration, American and British officials have made clear that they regard the end of Iraq’s two-and-a-half-year transitional period as the green light to begin withdrawing some of their combined force of around 170,000 troops as early as March.

A senior Western diplomat in Baghdad said yesterday: “One of the first things we will talk about (with the new Iraqi government) is the phased transfer of security, particularly in cities and provinces. It will happen progressively over the next year.”
The Americans have increased their troop levels to help to bolster security for the elections on Thursday. But they are planning to pull out 30,000 by the new year and may reduce their presence below 100,000 in the coming months. US forces have already handed over security in Najaf and Karbala provinces and in city centres such as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town.
This is quite a bit different from the Murtha plan, which would have started immediately and completed by May. Instead, it's a slower drawdown.
The moves appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush and John Reid, the Defence Secretary, who insist that coalition forces will not “cut and run” and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.

The London Times seems to have forgotten about the 400+ US Congressmen who voted against the cut-and-run strategy as well. And the second paragraph of this very article lays out the idea that the pullout of troops has been contingent on the final elections for the full government, not some artificial timetable worked up because John Murtha thought we were losing.

But guess who's not so hot on this idea?
Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told The Times yesterday that a hasty exit risked plunging the country into a new bout of violence.

“Those who advocate an early withdrawal do not know what is at stake. The huge investment in blood and money sacrificed by the US could be squandered.

“There would be regional interventions by neighbouring countries and others. The fate of this country and the whole region could be endangered,” he said.

The move to hand over security to the 225,000 Iraqi soldiers and police who have now been trained for active duty comes in the face of mounting public pressure in both Britain and the US to disengage from Iraq, amid the rising death toll and spiralling costs.

And it is the Left that is saying both that we should leave now, and that if there is a civil war in Iraq it's our fault, not apparently realizing that their cries for the former would cause the latter. But they blame Bush for both ends of the spectrum. I understand they don't think we should be there in the first place, but at this point in time it's incredibly disingenuous to Blame Bush(tm) for not doing what they want, and then Blame Bush(tm) for the results of doing what they want.

But the big news here is that a high-ranking Iraqi official wants us to stay, and essentially for the same reasons the Bush administration has been using. Frankly, you don't create a democracy--and especially all the concepts that entails--out of whole cloth overnight. If there was ever a place for UN peacekeepers, it would be here; in a fledgling democracy where the culture and the mindset regarding how to settle disputes needs to shift into self-government mode. (I doubt that will happen; it would be a tacit admission by the UN that there's a real peace to keep, and we can't have that.) But while that transition is happening, it's clear the Iraqi government would like us to stick around for a bit.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network and Comments welcome.)

Israel is sending out warnings about Iranian nuclear potential.
Iran will reach the point of no return and possess the capacity to build nuclear weapons within three months, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz warned today.

The ominous prediction comes just days after the London Sunday Times quoted Israeli officials who said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has instructed the IDF to prepare a military strike against Iran by the end of March.

Combined with the supposed plan for a military strike, the warning comes across as self-serving. At the same time, when it's pretty much a certainty that Israel would be target #1 for an Iranian nuke, self-serving quickly becomes self-preservation.

Was Rupert Murdoch influenced by a Saudi prince into coloring the news?
Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal boasted in Dubai earlier this week about his ability to change the news content that viewers around the world see on television.

FrontPage Magazine, a conservative mag, mind you, takes up the story.
In early September 2005, Bin Talal bought 5.46% of voting shares in News Corp. This made the Fifth richest man on the Forbes World's Richest People, the fourth largest voting shareholder in News Corp., the parent of Fox News.

This, in and of itself, is no big deal to me. I don't judge companies based on who owns their stock. Heck, Michael Moore has traded in Halliburton (in spite of his denials) but I don't hold it against them. >grin<

But then came the Paris riots, and here's where the story gets interesting.
After bin Talal purchased his voting shares in News Corp., on September 23, 2005, he stated in an advertising supplement to the New York Times, “When I invest in a group like CITICROUP, the Four Seasons, the News Corp. or Time Warner, my objective is not to manage those companies.” But this is not quite accurate, considering the Prince’s December 5, 2005 statement given to Middle East Online regarding his ability to change what viewers see on Fox News. Covering the riots in Paris last November, Fox ran a banner saying: "Muslim riots." Bin Talal was not happy. "I picked up the phone and called Murdoch... (and told him) these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty," he said. "Within 30 minutes, the title was changed from Muslim riots to civil riots."

So far, this could just be a bit of bravado on the part of the Prince. Indeed, as we'll see in a second, Fox did change the captioning, but were they really the result of a call from the Prince? Here's their side of the story.
News Corp did not comment, but referred us to FOX NEWS, which responded with the following statement: “Over the course of our extensive coverage, it became clear that the Paris riots were caused by a number of different factors which we characterized in various ways as we continued to report the story and discover new information. In fact, one of our contributors, Father Morris, who was in Paris covering this story, was prominently on our air saying this was a cultural assimilation issue, not a religious one.”

Notably absent from this explanation is a direct denial of the original assertion. They don't say the Prince didn't influence the decision, but they do note that an on-air personality did suggest the riots were not religious in nature, which, if that's the turn the conversation then took, would be a perfectly good explanation for the changing of the graphic. Unfortunately, Fox doesn't give us a timeline with respect to the on-air comment and the caption change.

Is this, then, an actual case of Saudi influence in American media? Certainly the FrontPage article shows that bin Talal is a big believer in getting the Arab view of the world out in the American press (even if his ideas aren't quite right; the article also quotes coverage of the riots to suggest that they had indeed primarily a Muslim contingent rather that being all the poor or immigrants in particular areas). If it's true, and even if it's not, it's one more reason to never get your news just from one place. In the age of the Internet, there's no excuse for that.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network and Comments welcome.)

Happy 15th birthday, World Wide Web, one of the few things in this world who's abbreviation (www) is harder to pronounce than the words it replaces.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Memo to Howard Dean: We're winning.
Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday's polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.

In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find.

This is as much about winning the hearts and minds as it is winning the fight, and we're winning both of them.

As I noted before, the creation of new governments in German or Japan wasn't done at nearly this break-neck pace. But come Thursday, yet another milestone will have come and gone on time and Democrats will still complain about not having some sort of timetable for leaving. I'm still waiting for our timetable for leaving Germany.

UPDATE: Via James Taranto, here's are dozens of political cartoons about the Iraqi elections. Note the overwhelming pessimism from the left. Of course, their pessimism was for nothing, as the January elections went off far better. (I believe all these cartoons are from that time frame; see the bottom of page 2.) Fortunately, there are a few examples of folks who did hold out hope.

Found this on Fox News: If you want more good news in your life, is apparently the place. This isn't just a place to find out about the latest cat rescued from a tree by the local fireman. There's international news ("Growing stability fosters respect for human right in Liberia"), national news ("Ariz. town will go wall-to-wall wireless"), health news ("Breast cancer patients may get less chemo"), science, environment, arts, opinion and a number of other sections. But they do have a section most other papers and websites don't; the hero section. Each section has dozens of stories and it seems to be updated regularly. Their credo is, "Real News, Compelling Stories, Always Positive" and it looks like they're living up to it. (Even with the stock report, which, on the front page, is covered up with a graphic that says, "Warning! Unhappy news alert, click at your own risk". Heh.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's all over but the blaming of this on Bush.
Earth's north magnetic pole is drifting away from North America and toward Siberia at such a clip that Alaska might lose its spectacular Northern Lights in the next 50 years, scientists said Thursday. Despite accelerated movement over the past century, the possibility that Earth's modestly fading magnetic field will collapse is remote. But the shift could mean Alaska may no longer see the sky lights known as auroras, which might then be more visible in more southerly areas of Siberia and Europe.

And it doesn't really matter that...
"This may be part of a normal oscillation and it will eventually migrate back toward Canada," Joseph Stoner, a paleomagnetist at Oregon State University, said Thursday at an American Geophysical Union meeting.

After all, the strength of the recent hurricane season was part of a well-known oscillation--the highs and lows of hurricane activity--but it's not stopping environmental extremists from blaming Bush for it. The magnetic pole issue seems right up their alley.

In 6 days, Iraqis will vote for their new parliament; yet another milestone hit on-time. The WaPo notes that the political game is afoot and it looks very familiar; campaign posters, 30-second TV spots, negative campaigning, the works.

What kind of government will Iraqis vote in? That question is really up in the air at this point. Some think that it may be a little too Iranian for their comfort, others think it may be quite amenable to the West. (I predict that liberals will be reliably defeatist with the outcome not matter what it is. If it's too sharia-like, they'll call it a failure of the Bush administration for not ensuring a friendly government. If it is a friendly government, they'll claim that it's a puppet regime and find a way to tie it to Halliburton.)

However, what's really the point is that it will be Iraqis deciding on how they want to be governed. This is, after all, self government, something they've not had in Iraq for a good long time. And no matter how it turns out, that's a win for them.

Will it be full of halting progress and missteps? Undoubtedly. This is all new to them, and the idea of governing by force is still too ingrained to be removed at the drop of a hat. We'll still hear of police overstepping their boundaries. But they are at least on the road, taking the journey, and not under the thumb of a ruling minority that would kill you if you looked at them sideways.

Will there be arguing and bad-mouthing and legislative logjams? Yup, just like here. That's part of being a representative democracy. Don't forget, this country was started because of an argument.

Will this spread? I certainly hope so. Iran could use some real democratic reforms. (When the mad mullahs, who hold the real power, talk about wiping Israel off the map, it's time.) The oppressive regimes in other neighboring countries are, I believe, the real reason the area is so unstable and volatile.

Let's stand with the Iraqi people as they begin their journey, and let's remember it's their journey to take, even if we may not agree with some of their choices.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

Looks like the United Nations has wiped Israel off the map before Iran had a chance to. (H/T Eye on the UN)

Federal tax revenues are rising after tax cuts? Yes indeed, and TaxProf highlights the Treasury Dept. graph to prove it. This won't be news to anyone who remembers that tax revenues rose after Reagan cut taxes.

For those in denial from the 1980s, this will, of course, be just another set of data to try and ignore or disparage. (And of course next time they'll continue the mantra that tax cuts reduce federal tax revenue, utterly ignoring history.)

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The new phrase to describe today's economy: galloping!

Just wonderful:
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday expressed doubt the Holocaust took place and suggested the Jewish state of Israel be moved to Europe.

His comments, reported by Iran's official IRNA news agency from a news conference he gave in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, follow his call in October for Israel to be "wiped off the map", which sparked widespread international outrage.

The latest comments also provoked quick condemnation. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called them "totally unacceptable" and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said "I condemn them unreservedly. They have no place in civilized political debate."

Ahmadinejad was quoted by IRNA as saying: "Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail."

"Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?" he said.

And yet there are people who still insist that the Iranian government can be negotiated out of its nuclear ambitions. Riiight.

And we keep hearing how the Right is trying to stifle dissent...
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter gave up trying to finish a speech at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday night when boos and jeers from the audience became overwhelming. Coulter cut off the talk after 15 minutes and instead held a half-hour question-and-answer session.

Yeah, there are times when I think Coulter crosses the line, but shouldn't she have the same freedom of speech that Ward Churchill and Howard Dean have?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor...or not.
Remember Pearl Harbor?

The battle cry that once stirred troops to action has become a question that now stirs anguish in vets.

These days, few cast their minds back to Pearl Harbor, and some people under 30 are hard pressed to recite what happened on that "Day of Infamy" exactly 64 years ago.

"I have no idea whatsoever," said Kristina Krakehl, 23, of Boca Raton.

"It's not really that significant," Brinsley Elliott, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, said after being told why Dec. 7, 1941, is notable in U.S. history.

Future interview, circa September, 2061:

"Remember 9/11?"

"Yeah, for calling the police, right? Oh the airplane thing! Eh, not really that significant."

One of the things John Murtha's "cut and run" proposal cited as a reason to leave Iraq now was the lack of progress in the Iraqi economy. Wrong again, sir.
"Iraqis are beginning to see that a free life means a good life. Reconstruction efforts have not always gone as good as we hope," Bush said, noting that rebuilding a nation takes time, and it's even harder when those opposing progress are "trying to blow up what the Iraqis are trying to build."

Bush said that in the past two years nearly 3,000 school renovation projects have been completed; more than 30,000 school teachers have been trained; 8 million textbooks have been distributed; drinking water has been improved for more than 3 million people; the Iraq stock exchange has been reopened; $21 million in microcredit and small business loans have been given to Iraqi entrepreneurs; and more than 30,000 new Iraqi businesses have registered since the country was liberated from Saddam.

"This economic development and growth will be really important to addressing that high unemployment rate across much of that country," Bush said. "Iraq's market-based reforms are gradually returning that proud country to the global economy."

That liberal media; the one that trumpets the bad news from Iraq while utterly ignoring the good news.

It's that global warming again.
Bitterly cold air poured southward across the nation's midsection Wednesday, dropping temperatures to record lows from Montana to Illinois. The mercury dived to a record 45 below at West Yellowstone, Mont., the frequently cold spot at the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the National Weather Service said. The old record for Dec. 7 was 39 below, set in 1927.

The cold even extended south to the Texas Panhandle, where Lubbock shivered at a record low 6 above zero, the weather service said.

The global cooling warming climate change folks are, of course, going to try to blame any change anywhere on humans.
While temperatures can only go up or down at any given moment, global warmers seem to want to have it both ways so that any change in climate, regardless of direction, can be attributed to human activity.

The British newspaper The Independent, for example, reported in its Nov. 30 article about the Nature study that "the real evidence does point to a possible one degree Centigrade cooling over the next two decades." But the newspaper reported in another same-day article that, "the [record hot] summer of 2003 was triggered by global warming caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases." Such contradictory reporting casually ignores the reality that greenhouse gas emissions can't simultaneously cool and warm Europe.

The second paragraph of The Independent's article on the Nature study stated, "Disruption to the conveyor-belt mechanism that carries warm water to Britain's shores was the basis of the Hollywood disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow." But two paragraphs later, however, the paper noted "Scientists say such predictions are fantasy."

It's cooling. It's warming. It's disaster. It's fantasy. Whatever "it" is, it can't be comforting to the Kyoto believers in Montreal who seem to think they know for certain whether and how human activity impacts global climate.

And how much do humans really contribute to changes in climate? A study says, not much at all.
A more sober reality, though, is that whatever slight impact humans might have on the climate, it is too small to measure - a point made in a study just published by Swiss researchers in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews (November 2005).

The study reviewed prior efforts to reconstruct global temperatures of the last 1,000 years. It concluded that natural temperature variations over the last millenium may have been so significant that they would "result in a redistribution of weight towards the role of natural factors in [causing] temperature changes, thereby relatively devaluing the impact of [manmade] emissions and affecting future predicted [global climate] scenarios."

"If that turns out to be the case," the researchers stated, "agreements such as the Kyoto protocol that intend to reduce emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, would be less effective than thought."

So senior U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson was on very firm ground when he stated this week in Montreal that, "I reject the premise that the Kyoto-like agreement is necessary to address the issue."

The U.S. stance angered the Montreal revelers. "When you walk around the conference hall here, delegates are saying there are lots of issues on the agenda, but there's only one real problem, and that's the United States," a Greenpeace International spokesman told the Associated Press.

But the U.S. isn't the "real problem" for global warmers - reality is.

Indeed it's a classic case of coming up with a conclusion and then proceeding to looking for data to confirm it. Not all that scientific.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Heh heh. Mickey Kaus notes that Rep. Murtha has been talking out of both sides of his the same time.

The economic news just keeps getting better and better.
he productivity of American workers shot up at the fastest pace in two years during the July-September quarter, helping to ease fears that inflation pressures were threatening to get out of hand. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that productivity, the key component for rising living standards, rose at an annual rate of 4.7 percent during the summer, a big upward revision from the 4.1 percent initial estimate made a month ago.

The big jump in worker efficiency help to push labor costs down by 1 percent at an annual rate in third quarter, double the 0.5 percent drop in unit labor costs that had originally been reported. The stronger productivity and falling labor costs should help ease fears at the Federal Reserve that overall inflation was on the verge of worsening because of rising wage pressures.

As someone else said, the Democrats better hope that the slogan for 2008 isn't "It's the economy, stupid!"

Irony Alert!

John McCain, Sept. 13, 2005:
Congress also provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. So, after spending millions of dollars in funding and additional spectrum for our nation's first responders why aren't we better off than we were on 9/11 when it comes to interoperable communications? Because the spectrum Congress provided to first responders in 1996 is being held hostage by television broadcasters.

The ABC network, today:
ABC's Diane Sawyer had the temerity on Monday's Good Morning America to lecture White House counselor Dan Bartlett about the length of time it's taking to get more radio spectrum allocated to public safety when it is television broadcasters, led by the National Association of Broadcasters to which ABC belongs, which have been fighting to delay the move of television transmissions to HD digital on new channels, a necessary step to free up TV channels 60-69, the upper end of the 700 MHz spectrum, for public safety. Citing a low grade from the 9/11 Commission, Sawyer complained that "four years after 9/11, police and firefighters still can't talk to each other. They don't have interconnected radios, which is something that could have been done right away." Unsatisfied by Bartlett, who could have pointed out that Congress stands in the way, Sawyer exclaimed: "But four years?" Later in the day, on ABC's World News Tonight, Martha Raddatz pointed out: "Why the holdup? The 9/11 commission says part of the problem is that broadcasters have not set aside part of the radio spectrum for emergency personnel, keeping it instead for commercial broadcasts."

Hat tip to the Media Research Center. This is why it's very useful to get their e-mail of liberal media bias (or liberal media ignorance, in this case). I think they too sensitive at times, and find bias where it barely or might not exist, but there are still plenty of examples of this sort of one-sided reporting to keep them in business. Today's CyberAlert includes the documenting of how the major networks handled the initial DeLay charges vs. how they handled yesterday's dropped charges.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson defends The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe against attacks by award-winning writer and atheist Philip Pullman. Pullman pulls no punches in his disdain and revulsion of the story and its themes. Nelson, however, point by point, shows that these attacks are without merit in the areas of sexism, racism, violence, death and love. In more than one case, Nelson notes that the very thing that Pullman professes to dislike about Narnia is also featured in Pullman's own children's literature.

The most ironic portion:
One of the books in Pullman's His Dark Materials series won the 2001 Whitbread Award both for best children's book and for best book of any kind published in England the previous year — the only time the main prize has ever been awarded to a work for children. Pullman wrote the series, he says, because "I really wanted to do ... Paradise Lost in 1,200 pages. ... It's the story of the Fall which is the story of how what some would call sin, but I would call consciousness, comes to us." Over the course of three volumes, Pullman wanted to celebrate, as he thinks John Milton does, our first ancestors' decision to rebel against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In Pullman's mind, rebellion from a loving God is better than (or at least a better story than) redemption and acceptance of the gift of eternal life from that same loving God. Read the whole review for some more good irony and a good defense of Lewis' story.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

Mark Steyn nails it on a number of topics.

Liberal Media:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, came out with a big statement on Iraq last week. Did you hear about it? Probably not. Everyone was still raving about his Democrat colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, whose carefully nuanced position on Iraq is: We're all doomed unless we pull out by next Tuesday! (I quote from memory.)

Inconsistency Among Democrats:
But Kerry drones that we need to "set benchmarks" for the "transfer of authority." Actually, the administration's been doing that for two years -- setting dates for the return of sovereignty, for electing a national assembly, for approving a constitution, etc, and meeting all of them. And all during those same two years Kerry and his fellow Democrats have huffed that these dates are far too premature, the Iraqis aren't in a position to take over, hold an election, whatever. The Defeaticrats were against the benchmarks before they were for them.

NewSpeak on the Iraq War:
These sad hollow men may yet get their way -- which is to say they may succeed in persuading the American people that a remarkable victory in the Middle East is in fact a humiliating defeat. It would be an incredible achievement. Peter Worthington, the Canadian columnist and veteran of World War II and Korea, likes to say that there's no such thing as an unpopular won war. The Democrat-media alliance are determined to make Iraq an exception to that rule.

Good News from Iraq:
In a week's time, Iraqis will participate in the most open political contest in the history of the Middle East. They're building the freest society in the region, and the only truly federal system. In three-quarters of the country, life has never been better. There's an economic boom in the Shia south and a tourist boom in the Kurdish north, and, while the only thing going boom in the Sunni Triangle are the suicide bombers, there were fewer of those in November than in the previous seven months.

And a View of History:
Islam and "the West" have a long history. And, without rehashing the last millennium and a half, the Muslim conquest of Europe and then the Crusades and the fall of Andalusia, if you take out a map of the world and look at the rise of the European empires you notice a curious thing: in conquering the world the imperial powers for the most part simply bypassed the Islamic world. They made Africa and South Asia and Latin America and everywhere else seats of European power, but they left the Middle East alone. And, even when they eventually got their hands on the region, after the First World War, they made no serious attempt to reform the neighborhood. We live with the consequences of that today.

So Bush has chosen to embark on a project every other great power of the last half-millennium has shrunk from: the transformation of the Middle East.

Great column, and worth the read. You won't get this side of the story from ABCCBSNBSCNN.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Today's Odd "Considerettes" Search Phrases: sound bites of bobwhite quail [#13 on AvantFind]
How to give a award to a great employee with a short speech [#91 on Yahoo! Search]

Friday, December 02, 2005

California Yankee points out that polls about the war are looking up, and it further shows why I really dislike polls.
Optimism about the War Against Terrorism rebounded smartly in the last month according to Rasmussen Reports polling released today:
Forty-eight percent (48%) [of] Americans now believe the U.S. and its Allies are winning. That's up nine points from 39% a month ago and represents the highest level of confidence measured in 2005.

Just 28% now believe the terrorists are winning, down six points from 34% a month ago.

There is more good news. Forty percent now believe that the U.S. is safer than it was before 9/11. That's up from 34% a month ago. The number who say the U.S. is not safer has declined to 43 percent, down from 50% a month ago.

Forty percent (40%) of Americans now believe that, in the long run, the U.S. mission in Iraq will be viewed as a success. Forty-five percent (45%) believe it will be viewed as a failure. Those figures also show increased optimism compared to last month.

The survey was conducted on November 30 and December 1, following the President Bush's speech outlining the Strategy For Victory In Iraq, and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Polls often are nothing more than measures of emotion, and sometimes they're asking folks questions outside their area of knowledge. What people, me included, think about whether or not we're winning the war in Iraq or in terror in general is way outside our expertise. All we have to go on are reports and speeches. The news can, and often is, slanted in what is reported and how it is reported. Speeches can be self-serving. That's why polls of public opinion don't generally carry much weight with me. It's more often a measure of how well the PR campaigns are doing.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index tracked with the rise and fall of gas prices. August was 105.5, September dipped to 87.5, October was 85.2 and November's preliminary number is back up to 98.9. A measure of emotion may be useful in economics for some things, but it seems to me that, generally, measures of emotion that are primarily reacting to $3/gallon gas don't really mean much. Actually, I think they can do more harm than good. There are folks who will immediately say, "prices are too high, government must do...something!" The resulting government action is often more self-serving than economically sound, as I noted with the whole "windfall profit" push against oil companies.

So the public was dour about the war when the Democrats were getting their message out, and now the public's opinion is rising now that the Republicans are getting theirs out. This tells us precisely nothing about the war itself. It is important to have the public behind a war effort, but is by no means a measure of that war's success or failure. And while I'm glad the the public is, in general, coming around to my opinion of the war, in the end, what the poll gives us is more often just a number.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

Something odd happened at my web host the night before last night. My admin password stopped working, and the whole web site including the blog looked like it was back in March of this year (which is really odd, but I have an idea why that happened). Anyway, if you see this, things have worked themselves out. Sorry for the Wayback Machine Effect. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another boost for the abiotic oil folks; NASA is set to confirm that the methane, a hydrocarbon, found on Saturn's moon Titan is not of biological origin.
"We have determined that Titan's methane is not of biologic origin," reports Hasso Niemann of the Goddard Space Flight Center, a principal NASA investigator responsible for the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer aboard the Cassini-Huygens probe that landed on Titan Jan. 14.

Niemann concludes the methane "must be replenished by geologic processes on Titan, perhaps venting from a supply in the interior that could have been trapped there as the moon formed."

The studies announced by NASA yesterday will be reported in the Dec. 8 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

Now, this may seem rather obvious that it didn't come from dinosaurs (one proponent of abiotic oil said wryly that he was sure there hadn't been any "big stagnant swamps on Titan"), but the idea that NASA is going public with this in a respected journal is a big deal.

The press release is here.

Still not even a cursory mention by the mainstream media as of today. WorldNetDaily seems to be the only news outlet paying any attention at all to this.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the hurricane folks (among a lot of other things), have a report detailing the record-setting hurricane season we've had (and it might not be over). In another report, they do note that this is not related to global warming.
The nation is now wrapping up the 11th year of a new era of heightened Atlantic hurricane activity. This era has been unfolding in the Atlantic since 1995, and is expected to continue for the next decade or perhaps longer. NOAA attributes this increased activity to natural occurring cycles in tropical climate patterns near the equator. These cycles, called “the tropical multi-decadal signal,” typically last several decades (20 to 30 years or even longer). As a result, the North Atlantic experiences alternating decades long (20 to 30 year periods or even longer) of above normal or below normal hurricane seasons. NOAA research shows that the tropical multi-decadal signal is causing the increased Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995, and is not related to greenhouse warming.

This information will not, of course, be as widely reported as the charges that Bush is to blame for not keeping Kyoto as policy.

Today's Odd "Considerettes" Search Phrase - cookie recipes that mail well to iraq [#1! on Ask Jeeves]

Odd, perhaps, but here's hoping you find it. Great idea.

Hey, did you know that Joe Lieberman, after returning from another trip to Iraq, said that we're making progress there? No? He said it over a week ago, but you didn't hear it? Must be because the front pages and the evening news spent far more time on Jack Murtha's angle.

That liberal media.

The Media Research Center has details on the news broadcast (or lack thereof) here.