Saturday, December 31, 2005

Day 337 of captivity...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Democracy 3 Terrorists 0

Not bad results for our struggles this year. Read the whole thing []

Predictions for 2006

  • By the end of 2006, the number of US troops deployed in Iraq will be reduced by the president to less than 100,000.
  • The democratic gov't of Iraq will continue to function. The army and security forces will continue to improve in quality and number. Both Iraqi oil exports and regular economy will improve at astounding rates. There will still be terrorist acts committed in Iraq, and NPR will lead their reporting with the daily death toll.
  • Bird Flu will not become a pandemic. Another natural disaster, predicted in advance, will befall us -- we will not be a prepared as we could have been. The left will earnestly place 100% of the blame on GW Bush. Leading candidates: Volcanic eruption in the Pacific NW, earthquake in LA, SF or other less likely US city (SLC, St Louis, Seattle).
  • 99% of all pundits will not be talking about truly significant developments in technology today that will revolutionize our live 20 years or more in the future. Leading candidates: biotech/genetic tech, nanotech material advances, data mining and internet tech.
  • Politicians will continue to swoon over hydrogen powered cars, solar photovoltaic installations and nuclear fusion research. Hydrocars, solar electric power and fusion power plants will continue to be very economically impractical. Economically practical energy sources and novel clean tech will quietly advance. Leading candidates: Hybrid cars, Wind power, non-traditional oil.
  • A major company in the computer/internet space will make a major stab at TV and movies on demand. The other majors will follow suit; Apple, Google, Microsoft. The content-owning entertainment companies will complain, complicate, and overprice all efforts ultimately hurting their own shareholders. Niche players on the internet, both legal and extra-legal, will drive the adoption curve.
  • Everyone will ignore the social security time bomb in 2006. Ultimately, while there will be much political hay made of it during the next 20 years, the problem will be solved by the surprisingly strong growth in personal income allowing the politicians to tax the struggling, low-turnout young to pay for the wealthy, retired, high-turnout, golf set.
Please add any predictions you have to the comments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Allies Stay the Course...

I previously reported that our allies in Iraq continued to stand with us. Now there is more good news: Poland is staying in Iraq through 2006, reversing a previous decision to withdraw.

Beyond Sloganeering; Analyzing the Patriot Act

John Hinderaker at PowerLine takes the Minnesota Star Tribune to task by going beyond sloganeering to quote and analyze the actual provisions in the Patriot Act. Most of us don't know what's in the Patriot Act; go and read the whole thing to learn more.

Here's a choice bit of media criticism from the article:
...claimed that the administration had cited no instances where the Patriot Act helped thwart terrorists, [not true --editor] while at the same time, they argued hysterically that the Act is a threat to basic American freedoms. But the Patriot Act has been in effect for four years now. If it were such a grave threat to Americans' civil liberties, then the Strib should be able to cite any number of instances where the administration has used it to infringe on those liberties improperly. Right? So how many such instances does the Strib's editorial cite? Zero.

Friday, December 23, 2005

CatBlogging: The Boys

The boys like to watch TV

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Lunch Crew reacts to the NSA wiretapping story

Based upon some informed speculations on what the NSA may be doing, we had a lively discussion at lunch over the propriety of domestic wiretapping without warrants. Marty contributed the following in an email afterward. I quote it here in its entirety, along with some editorial comments.
Well meaning people do not engage in secret, covert conduct when they believe their actions to be legal. [even spy agencies like the CIA, NSA, FBI?]

I believe that, under the law, wiretapping is intended as a tool to confirm and substantiate suspicions generated through other means. Wire taps are not, in and of themselves, intended as a means to generate suspicions or as a means to engage in evidentiary "fishing expeditions" where no other reasonable suspicion exists before hand. Therefore, its one thing to wiretap people in an emergency situation before going to a court, if at the time of the wiretapping there existed both a reasonable suspicion and a reasonable urgency, and that it can be subsequently demonstrated to a court that both reasonable suspicion and reasonable urgency existed at that time. Its quite another to engage in blanket wiretapping without prior court approval against large numbers of people when there exists no reasonable suspicion against any (or many) of them at the time the wiretapping is performed. [Well said. Is the context for these rules only domestic non-combatants or foreign terrorist overseas too? What about domestic persons knowingly cooperating with terrorists in a legal way?]

Should we really give that much weight to the legal opinions of lawyers who work for the Justice Department, or anywhere else within the executive branch, on matters dealing with the power of the executive? These are hardly unbiased opinions, whether prepared for Mr. Bush or one of his predecessors. After all, when is the last time a President solicited the opinion of congressional lawyers on matters relating to the power of the executive branch? When such opinions are tested before a court, and upheld by a court, then the opinion should be given its due weight. Not before. [Again, well argued and I agree.]

I also suspect that most of these 'opinions' written by lawyers in the executive branch, when drafted at the behest of a President, tend to be disingenuous, written not as a genuine expression of legal merit, but with the intent that they could later be used as tools to cover the President's ass. [Concur.]

Congress does not have the power to pass a law that allows the President to violate the 4th amendment rights of US Citizens. Congress derives its authority solely from the constitution, and such a law would be unconstitutional. Any part of a law that conflicts directly with the constitution is unconstitutional, and when Congress passes a law that contains elastic language such as "all necessary and appropriate force", the effect of the law is a) unconstitutional to the extent that its provisions would otherwise allow for the violation of the constitution and b) necessarily limited by the framework of the constitution. There are many examples of the courts striking down laws duly passed by Congress and signed by the president as unconstitutional. The notion then that any Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows the President to violate the 4th amendment rights of the US Citizenry is unfounded. [This is true as far as it goes. I would point out however, that the constitution is not limited to the 4th amendment.]

Any argument that using satellites to do the wiretapping without a warrant is legal under the 4th amendment is absurd - someone used the satellite after all. That's akin to arguing that the murder victim was slain by the bullet, or the gun that fired the bullet, and not by the man that pulled the trigger.

Commentary: First off, I'd like to make clear that it is in all of our interests to adhere to and respect our Constitution. We are a nation of laws, not men. The points raised above and in our discussion showed an understanding and passion for our ideals of personal freedom as protected by our laws.

It is my contention (and obviously that of the administration) that the NSA wiretapping actions are legal and proper. By this I mean to argue both the narrow case of legal by present rules and precedent, and the broad case of proper by the spirit of the constitution.

The constitution has remarkably little to say about Presidential powers. It is more explicit in defining the legislative branch powers. Congress has the power to define rules that the Executive must adhere to; even beyond what is written in the constitution. I would call out the explicit power granted to suspend habeas corpus "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." The 3rd amendment, rarely noted in modern times provides that "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." Clearly, the framers understood that one set of rules applied to civilized law and another to the conduct of war.

The 4th amendent provides explicit protections against "unreasonable searches":
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Through legislative rules and judicial case decisions we have properly come to define a framework for reasonable searches. That is to say that the constitution authorizes searches -- the details of which are defined by congress and judicial interpretation. It is a defensible argument that a new concept in searches (computerized data mining through the indexing of telephone connections) could be ruled a "reasonable search" given the probable cause provided by the existence of terrorist organizations. This would have to be legislated by Congress or be interpreted to exist within current legislation and stand up to potential post-facto court challenges.

Lastly, I would point out that I have blogged about the direct precedents for this type of wiretapping. The current understand of what is allowed has stood firm for 30 years. I don't believe this issue is settled sufficiently. I hope that through discussion we can provide a framework that convinces the majority of Americans that their freedoms and their security are protected.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NSA Wiretaps: Googling for Terrorists

There are excellent articles at Ars Technica and Winds of Change explaining how specific, hypothetical computerized "wiretapping" scenarios would be nearly impossible to pass through the FISA court system. The basic concept is that an automated computer program would tap many lines simultaneously, or automatically switch the wiretaps to persons of interest. The volume would be so tremendous so as to make the traditional court process literally impossible.

Such systems (think google for telephone calls) would amass and sift enormous amounts of data attempting to aggregate and discern patterns that would lead to the enemy. If you've used google, you already understand how effective such a system can be. If we had been aggressively using these techniques prior to 9/11 things might have turned out differently.

Of course there are costs. In these processes, regular citizens would have their calls processed by the monitoring system. Such information databases could be used expose many non-terrorist related connections. The gov't has used its intelligence agencies for political purposes before; cite 1 and cite 2. I don't downplay these facts. I do remember our 3000 dead Americans -- and I ask you: can't we use our best techniques against the enemy to protect ourselves from another 9/11?

Taking the Politics Out of National Security Issues

In an article from the American Thinker, Noel Sheppard documents and comments on extra-legal searches conducted under the Clinton Administration. Here are some key grafs:

...a number of key points:

*• The two searches of Ames'’ home were illegal under existing law at the time;

*• The Clinton administration authorized these illegal searches with full support of former Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department;

*• Former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick had stated at the time that if the Justice Department tried to meet all the strict rules imposed on police in criminal matters, it would "’unduly frustrate"’ America'’s counter-intelligence efforts;

* The Clinton administration ended up supporting changes to FISA, the Intelligence Authorization Act,– in order to protect it from future legal challenges to its espionage procedures.

Yet, there was little media coverage or outrage about this at the time. In fact, Byron York reported yesterday at the National Review that the Washington Post ran a story on this subject on July 15, 1994 entitled "Administration Backing No-Warrant Spy Searches"”:

“The Clinton administration, in a little-noticed facet of the debate on intelligence reforms, is seeking congressional authorization for U.S. spies to continue conducting clandestine searches at foreign embassies in Washington and other cities without a federal court order. The administration’s quiet lobbying effort is aimed at modifying draft legislation that would require U.S. counterintelligence officials to get a court order before secretly snooping inside the homes or workplaces of suspected foreign agents or foreign powers.

As this 1994 article buried on page A19 continued: that'’s right, this wasn'’t even front-page news! Post writer Jeffrey Smith referred to these searches in an offhand manner quite different from the press evisceration of President Bush today for instructing the NSA to listen in on international calls either from or to known members of al Qaeda:

“But government officials decided in the Ames case that no warrant was required because the searches were conducted for "foreign intelligence purposes",’ a goal of such vital national security interest that they said it justified extraordinary police powers.

Imagine that. " goal of such vital national security interest that [government officials] said it justified extraordinary police powers."” And this was more than seven years before al Qaeda terrorists killed almost 3,000 innocent Americans on 9/11. Isn'’t protecting the nation from further terrorist attacks at least as important as identifying a mole within the CIA working for a country that no longer exists or represents a threat to national security?

Bold Emphasis Mine.

Comentary: I've written on this subject before. I want to emphasize that I acknowledge that under the NSA wiretaps civil liberties are being treated differently than they would be under non-wartime conditions. However, as the story above demonstrates, wartime conditions can and do exist and have been used throughout our history to justify extra-legal searches.

We would all like to live in a free, safe and just society and we are blessed to be living under a remarkably well balanced system based upon our constitution. The civil liberties in our constitution are protected by the power given to the executive branch to wage war to protect and defend the constitution.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Reason number 47 for the Battle of Iraq...

The NYT reported the following. [Hat tip to Glen Reynolds and Ann Althouse]

Click graph for larger version

Commentary: From the graph it is clear that the human cost of war, while tragic, pales in comparision to the human cost of not waging war.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mark Steyn Pithy Extrodinaire

Mark Steyn has got to be the pithiest writer today. Here's a small excerpt from a real gem of a column. Read the whole thing.

...And the point is, even if I was in the mood for a story about two rugged insecure men who find themselves strangely attracted to each other in a dark transgressive relationship that breaks all the rules, who needs Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger when you've got Howard Dean and Abu Musad al-Zarqawi? Yee-haw! And, if that sounds unfair, pick almost any recent statement by a big-time Dem cowboy and tell me how exactly it would differ from the pep talks Zarqawi gives his dwindling band of head-hackers -- Dean arguing that America can't win in Iraq, Barbara Boxer demanding the troops begin withdrawing on Dec. 15, John Kerry accusing American soldiers of terrorizing Iraqi women and children, Jack Murtha declaring that the U.S. Army is utterly broken. Pepper 'em with a handful of "Praise be to Allahs" and any one of those statements could have been uttered by Zarqawi.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

GW Bush gives remedial lesson on 9/11 wiretaps

President Bush responds to the NYT smear campaign: [From The Corner at NRO Read the whole thing. ]

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.


This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Commentary: Amen.

In the post 9/11 climate where it is understood that the domestic vs. international intelligence "wall" caused great damage to our safety, I am surprised that there are Americans that would question presidential actions designed to improve intelligence gathering. There are other less damaging ways to argue that wiretapping terrorists is wrong; the Senate debate on the Patriot Act for one.

I am also suspicious of the timing of this story. The Iraqi elections should be dominating the news, but instead we have overly magnified attention on a story that the NYT has sat on, by their own admission, for 1 year.

The President has said to the NYT prior to publication that this story would hurt our security. What responsible paper would run with this? If you have a subscription to the NYT this would be a great reason to cancel it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Wire tapping Terrorists...

Think you heard the whole story concerning the NSA wire taps on NPR, on the DrudgeReport or in the NYT article? Perhaps not, here's some addtional information from Michelle Malkin, you be the judge.

Commentary: In the spirit of a national debate, we must tackle the issue of rights. What rights are inherent to a terrorist whose purpose is the destruction of our society?

In our society, enshrined in our constitution, we have recognized rights that protect us from excessive gov't intrusion and persecution. This is based upon the idea that we as individuals are part of a society that is living together in virtuous cooperation. If instead, there are persons that are bent upon undermining civil society and all the rights it infers then is it proper to extend those protections to the partys that intend the destruction of society?

No, it is not proper to extend such rights to terrorists. Society already recognizes the reality of war. In war, citizens are joined together into armies and explicitly empowered to violate civil rights of the enemy; in fact, the aim is to destroy the enemy.

The proper treatment of the enemy is always driven first by the primary goal; defeat and destruction of enemy threat. Only when that threat is rendered entirely destroyed (as in complete surrender) can some rights be extended to enemy combatants.

It would not be appropriate to extend special rights to this enemy as we do for soldiers of civilized societies that have signed and adhered to the provisions of the Geneva Convention. It is not appropriate to extend the enemy legal protections except to document and reassure OUR civil populations that they are, in fact, enemies. Capture on the battlefield, for example, is clearly evidence enough of enemy intent and action.

The present enemy recognizes no mercy. Beslan: School children targeted and murdered. Iraq: Aid workers captured and beheaded. London: Civilian subway riders bombed.

Our response as civilized (but threatened) society should be clear. Complete and utter destruction of the enemy encumbered by legalistic concerns.

Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.
-- Will Durant (1885 - 1981)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Raise a Purple Finger for Freedom...

Today is Iraqi election day. Pro-War, Anti-War, Democrat, Republican, American or Iraqi -- today is a day to celebrate. So raise a purple finger for freedom today.

Conflicting Reports of Iraqi Election Tampering Attempts from Iran

There are conflicting reports of election tampering originating from Iran. The NYT has reported "Police Seize Forged Ballots Headed to Iraq From Iran". While the Confederate Yankee points to an Iraqi source that denies the report. The NYT has a record of getting things wrong.

Commentary: It appears that the terrorists have changed tactics and decided to participate in the election (perhaps through illegal means). This is a good sign that the old tactics were not working.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Names of The Victims

The Names of The Victims


May they rest in peace.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Democracy Matters

A democracy is being born in Iraqi. Why is this significant? [read it all at Wikipedia]
The democratic peace theory ... is a theory in political science and philosophy which holds that democracies, specifically, liberal democracies, —never or almost never go to war with one another. A more general version is that all kinds of systematic violence is rare in and by democracies. Despite criticism, it has grown in prominence among political scientists and has become influential in the policy world.
Do you stand with democracy or with dictatorship?

Poll finds Iraqis optimistic

In the run up to the Iraqi election this Thursday I'll be posting about Iraq this week. There are some very positive signs in Iraq:
Interviewers found that 71% of those questioned said things were currently very or quite good in their personal lives, while 29% found their lives very or quite bad. When asked whether their lives would improve in the coming year, 64% said things would be better and 12% said they expected things to be worse.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

CatBlogging: BooBoo

Our best Christmas present

Friday, December 09, 2005

Our "Multilateral" Allies in Iraq

Our Allies in the battle for Iraq continue to stand with us. [Full Story]

Prime Minister John Howard indicated that Australia will extend the deployment of its troops to Iraq to continue guarding Japanese military engineers operating in the south of the country.

Japan announced on Thursday that it would keep its 600 troops in Iraq until late next year, around a year longer than planned.

Australia deployed about 450 soldiers in May to guard the Japanese contingent and Howard said late Thursday that they would pursue their mission in line with Tokyo's decision.
Commentary: This story provides facts that contradict the assertion that the battle for Iraq was unilateral. If the "unilateral" war isn't unilateral then can we trust the other descriptors attached to the battle of Iraq by anyone claiming we went in alone?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

War, what is it good for?

ABC news reports some pro-US, good news...

...77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction,— compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably.

Progress fuels these views: Despite the country's continued problems, 85 percent of Afghans say living conditions there are better now than they were under the Taliban. Eighty percent cite improved freedom to express political views. And 75 percent say their security from crime and violence has improved as well. After decades of oppression and war, many Afghans see a better life.



The survey also finds broad majority support for women's rights in Afghan society, albeit, as in other readings, with more modest strength of commitment behind it. Nine in 10 Afghans support girls' education and women voting, three-quarters support women holding jobs and two-thirds support women holding government office,— remarkable in a country where the Taliban so thoroughly repressed such rights. Perhaps surprisingly, support for most of these is nearly as high among men as it is among women.

Read the whole thing.

Commentary: I see a whole lot of bumper stickers here in Los Angeles that say "War is not the Answer". I pose the above story as exhibit number one that a just War, while enormously tragic, can lead to a better future that is worth fighting for. Perhaps the Feminist groups in the country could laud the great advancements for Afghan women that have ccurred under GWB's presidency.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Democrat Defeatist verses Democrat Warrior

Howard Dean: [quoted from WaPo]

(SAN ANTONIO) -- Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: [HT Red State]

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

Commentary: On this Dec 7th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor I can't help but be struck by the dichotomy between the Democrat defeatists of today verses the resolute FDR. There were defeatist in WWII too, and also those that betrayed their country. But history shows us that the resolute can recognize and confront the enemies of the US abroad.

Monday, December 05, 2005

John Kerry Slanders US Troops

John Kerry said on Nation TV: (Full Text PDF)
And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not...
Commentary: John Kerry is a US Senator and a ex-navy soldier. From the former he should know that his words are closely followed and carry heavy responsibilities. From the latter he should have learned to show some loyalty and respect.

Regardless if this was a rhetorical slip of the tongue, John Kerry has slandered the whole cloth of the US military. He should immediately retract his remarks and apologize to the brave and professional US military.

Thank God he is not President.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Reason #47 for the liberation of Iraq

Why isn't this story running in the NY Times, and WaPo? Did you hear this on CNN? Probably not.
The obsession of many journalists and commentators with the fruitless hunt for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons has meant much of the evidence of Saddam's atrocities in liberated Iraq has been under-reported. Sinje Caren Stoyke, a German archeologist and president of Archeologists for Human Rights, catalogues 288 mass graves, a list that is already out of date with the discovery of fresh sites every week.
Read the whole article.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Go Bruins

The game that defies prediction is being played today. USC vs. UCLA. The experts have USC highly favored based upon their impressive play to date: 11-0. UCLA has also played well this season with a record of 9-1. The UCLA defense has been almost non-existant at times, but our offense has averaged 40+ points per game.

My prediction: UCLA over USC 41 to 37. The UCLA defense stopping USC's last drive.

Go Bruins.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cat Blogging: Don't you Hate When that Happens?

Don't you hate when your cat's life if more interesting than yours? For the record, my three cats are safely inside my home.

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This is a joke, but I hear stuff like this everyday