Friday, December 30, 2005

GST exposed by WaPo

It's NYT's NSA wiretaps all over again. We just got done with talking about the Department of Justice probing those leaks. I guess they better put another shrimp on the barbie.

The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

Growing outcry? If you mean growing in that 64% of the country approved of the NSA wiretaps, then yeah, you're right. You would also be living in an alternate universe where up is down, left is right, and writing a article breaching national security gets you a pulitzer. Fortunately we don't live in that alternate universe so hopefully your ass gets nailed to the wall along with the NYT's.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

Haven't we covered all this stuff before? It's like talking to a three year old. Constantly repeating the same thing over and over, ad nauseum. There are no original ideas coming out of the left's attack machine.

[...] Bush has never publicly confirmed the existence of a covert program, but he was recently forced to defend the approach in general terms, citing his wartime responsibilities to protect the nation. In November, responding to questions about the CIA's clandestine prisons, he said the nation must defend against an enemy that "lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again."

This month he went into more detail, defending the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping within the United States. That program is separate from the GST program, but three lawyers involved said the legal rationale for the NSA program is essentially the same one used to support GST, which is an abbreviation of a classified code name for the umbrella covert action program.

Did you even think for a moment that you should publish an article about a program so secret that you don't know what GST stands for? What rationale in your warped mind led you to believe that this was in the best interest for our national security!? What on earth were you thinking?! You better hope that your small circle of lawyers will keep you out of jail because everything we've seen so far on the wiretaps says Bush acted within his rights as the president.

[...] "Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

Allows Bush to do anything? Really? If he could do anything, I think he'd much rather be nuking Iran so far back in time, dinosaurs would start walking out of their oil fields. If he could do anything, he'd be profiling Muslims to the extent that we did with the Japanese in WWII: internment camps. If he could do anything, he'd cut off the foreign aid to all nations not supporting us and refuse to fund anything the UN does until they agreed to help with the GWOT. If he could do anything, he'd be authorizing torture: electroshock, hobbling, cutting off fingers; not that "put a sheet on your head or strip you to your tighty-whities and make you pose for a picture" stuff. That's either embarassing or an average Tuesday night at the local frat house. Do you see any of these? Didn't think so. Next stupid point...

[...] Behind the scenes, CIA Director Porter J. Goss -- until last year the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee -- has gathered ammunition to defend the program.

After a CIA inspector general's report in the spring of 2004 stated that some authorized interrogation techniques violated international law, Goss asked two national security experts to study the program's effectiveness.

[...] The only apparent roadblock that could yet prompt significant change in the CIA's approach is a law passed this month prohibiting torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, including in CIA hands.

Goss is doing his job, which apparently has to now be ammended to to include defending covert programs to the press after they publish articles outing those secret programs. What do they expect? Of course they're secretly salivating at catching someone, anyone important associated in any way with the administration off guard, so they get that "deer in the headlights" look in their eyes on national television. That's what they're aiming for here. It's not about informing the public, and it's certianly not about national security. It's about the chance to humiliate the administration, about attempting to make them look stupid. And as far as the interrogation techniques... they work. 'Nuff said.

[...]Written findings are required by the National Security Act of 1947 before the CIA can undertake a covert action. A covert action may not violate the Constitution or any U.S. law. But such actions can, and often do, violate laws of the foreign countries in which they take place, said intelligence experts.

The CIA faced the day after the 2001 attacks with few al Qaeda informants, a tiny paramilitary division and no interrogators, much less a system for transporting terrorism suspects and keeping them hidden for interrogation.

Besides fighting the war in Afghanistan, the agency set about to put in place an intelligence-gathering network that relies heavily on foreign security services and their deeper knowledge of local terrorist groups. With billions of dollars appropriated each year by Congress, the CIA has established joint counterterrorism intelligence centers in more than two dozen countries, and it has enlisted at least eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe, to allow secret prisons on their soil.

Working behind the scenes, the CIA has gained approval from foreign governments to whisk terrorism suspects off the streets or out of police custody into a clandestine prison system that includes the CIA's black sites and facilities run by intelligence agencies in other countries.

First off, if one of our operations fractures a law in Syria or Iran, I could really care less. These are soceities where honor killings are still practiced regularly. Maybe the WaPo ought to think about what sacred laws they may be defending in those countries.

Secondly, what this really speaks to is the decrepit condition our intelligence agency was in after 8 years of Clinton. That we had nothing in place to deal with some sort of terrorist attack is truly sad. Quick way to fix it? Piggyback our clandestine ops on foreign intelligence communities that are in place until we get our own roots firmly planted in the area in question. That we had to abandon prisons in Europe because of the WaPo is sad, but what do you expect from the Europeans? Hell they run from a fight, made Arnold take his name off the stadium in his home town because he upheld the will of the people and executed Tookie Williams, and let a terrorist go to get a hostage released who decided she'd rather sympathize with the terrorists. We really care what they think?

The presidential finding also permitted the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world, according to a dozen current and former intelligence officials and congressional and executive branch sources.

In four years, the GST has become larger than the CIA's covert action programs in Afghanistan and Central America in the 1980s, according to current and former intelligence officials. Indeed, the CIA, working with foreign counterparts, has been responsible for virtually all of the success the United States has had in capturing or killing al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001.

That's the unfortunate reality of the world we live in that we need this type capability. But when you've got terrorists organizations that are now firing missiles at Israel, as opposed to just blowing their dumb ass' up at roadblocks, you ought to be able to see why they are a necessity.

[...]One way the White House limited debate over its program was to virtually shut out Congress during the early years. Congress, for its part, raised only weak and sporadic protests. The administration sometimes refused to give the committees charged with overseeing intelligence agencies the details they requested. It also cut the number of members of Congress routinely briefed on these matters, usually to four members -- the chairmen and ranking Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence panels.

As we discussed with the wiretaps (and this article confirms this as well, actually) Bush notified the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Republicans and Democrats, as well as getting authorization from the AG. How many more people in Congress do they want us to notify? Maybe we should just broadcast it on CSPAN. Would that satisfy the WaPo?

Attacking the CIA is common when covert programs are exposed and controversial, said Gerald Haines, a former CIA historian who is a scholar in residence at the University of Virginia. "It seems to me the agency is taking the brunt of all the recent criticism."

Duane R. "Dewey" Clarridge, who directed the CIA's covert efforts to support the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s, said the nature of CIA work overseas is, and should be, risky and sometimes ugly. "You have a spy agency because the spy agency is going to break laws overseas. If you don't want it to do those dastardly things, don't have it. You can have the State Department."

Someone who makes a little sense! Finally! That's the CIA's job, dirty deeds done very expensively. If we're not going to let them do their job, let's just dismantle the whole agency, save a bundle of money, and totally make ourselves vulnerable to another terrorist attack.

So, can we have the probes of the NYT and WaPo videotaped? If I can make a request, can we make sure the probes are painful? They deserve it.

UPDATE: Couterterrorism blog post an interview with Steve Emerson:

No, I do not want to imply that we shouldn't be debating them [Patriot Act, secret camps, wiretaps] nor do I want to take away the legitimacy of those who advocate those positions. What I am suggesting is that the debate itself has a natural consequence and that consequence is that we've now focused more on threats to our, quote, "civil liberties" as more of an imminent threat than we do focus of the threat of terrorism and that's a byproduct of all of these internal squabbles that have developed. Now, that's a natural development. I am not positing a moral statement on that. But, the reality is, Matt, that the War on Terrorism will naturally suffer. I am not putting in the war in Iraq in that, because I put that in a separate category. But I think that in terms of arresting people, in terms of identifying the radical Islamic groups overseas and trying to seize their monies, all of that has reached a much more difficult stage in the last four years. It's no longer cherry picking.

Arresting people, seizing monies... sounds like CIA ops to me.

When you read this, you'll understand why secret wiretaps are the least of our worries

American Future has an excerpt from a WSJ article outlining some of the aspects of Islamofascism that we a trying a combat. It certainly makes it seem like an uphill battle...

1) An aggressive program with clear ideological and political goals; 2) immense funding from oil-rich Wahhabi sponsors; 3) the ability to distribute funds in impoverished areas to buy loyalty and power; 4) a claim to and aura of religious authenticity and Arab prestige; 5) an appeal to Islamic identity, pride and history; 6) an ability to blend into the much larger traditionalist masses and blur the distinction between moderate Islam and their brand of religious extremism; 7) full-time commitment by its agents/leadership; (8) networks of Islamic schools that propagate extremism; 9) the absence of organized opposition in the Islamic world; 10) a global network of fundamentalist imams who guide their flocks to extremism; 11) a well-oiled “machine” established to translate, publish and distribute Wahhabi/Salafi propaganda and disseminate its ideology throughout the world; 12) scholarships for locals to study in Saudi Arabia and return with degrees and indoctrination, to serve as future leaders; 13) the ability to cross national and cultural borders in the name of religion; 14) Internet communication; and 15) the reluctance of many national governments to supervise or control this entire process.

Scary indeed.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The fetching Mrs. Wookie and I caught an evening show last night, and we both thoroughly enjoyed the film. My wife had actually not read the series, so was unfamiliar with the details of the story, other than the biblical parallels, but I was extremely pleased with how well they stuck to the book. I (like LLama Robbo who ironically saw the movie last night as well) also found the theater rather dusty as my eyes kept watering. I don't know what it is about war movies, sports/underdog movies, and father/son movies and the dusty, smokey theaters and homes they are shown in. Maybe they need better air filters.

Department of Justice to probe NSA leaks

I know the NYTimes thinks it's their duty to report anything that may smear this administration, but exposing an extremely sensitive, covert operation crosses the line to treason, and whoever leaked the story should be prosecuted.

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department has opened a probe into who revealed a secret domestic eavesdropping program authorized by President George W. Bush, an official at the agency said.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the investigation centers on the unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the New York Times, which first reported the spying conducted by the National Security Agency.

The Gray Lady has trumpeted this story as if it was its grave duty to expose top secret national security programs in an effort to smear the administration. And liberals salivated over the news like six year olds who got Christmas a week early. This was going to be their big moment, the chance to bring down the administration once and for all, with what now appears to be legal warantless wiretaps. But they won't let that stop them from shooting off at the mouth, expressing their disgust and outrage at this "abuse" of presidential power.

I really don't get the left on this one. They were infuriated at the leaking of information that blew the not-so-sooper-sekret cover of Valerie Plame, and immediately called for the prosecution of whoever leaked the "top sekret" info to the press. Now they're calling for the head of Bush who approved the national security warantless wiretaps that was leaked to the press. Notice the only similarity for the left in the two scenarios in is that the left wants the head of someone in the administration (preferably Bush). They could care less that national security was breached.

Hopefully the Department of Justice finds and prosecutes the leaker (in both cases) to the fullest extent of the law, as well as the complicitous NYTimes.

UPDATE: Macsmind reminds us of exactly what the person(s) who leaked and the NYT have in store for them (via In from the Cold):

Disclosure of classified information, to wit:

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—
(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Enjoy prison!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Still think torture should be banned?

It's been discussed a lot on the web lately. The hypothetical is tossed around a lot, that if the suspect had information about the location of a nuclear bomb that was about to detonate, to what lengths would you go to get information that could prevent the potential deaths of perhaps millions of people? This aritcle (via The Corner) shows that "aggressive interrogation" techniques have yielded treasure troves of information...

(Chicago Trib.) Moral and legal aspects aside, conventional wisdom is that torture simply isn't practical: that someone who is being tortured will say anything to make the torture stop, and that information gleaned through torture is therefore not reliable.

Some former military and intelligence officers say, however, that physically aggressive interrogation techniques that some human rights groups consider torture can be effective in the short term. When asked for specifics, the technique they cite is "waterboarding," in which water is poured over a subject's face to create the sensation of drowning.

Consider Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 39-year-old former al-Qaida operative who was the Sept. 11 mastermind and bearer of many al-Qaida secrets.

If anyone had a motive for remaining silent it was the man known to terrorism investigators as "KSM." But not long after his capture in Pakistan, in March 2003, KSM began to talk.

He ultimately had so much to say that more than 100 footnoted references to the CIA's interrogations of KSM are contained in the final report of the commission that investigated Sept. 11.

Not that everything KSM said was believable. But much of his information checked out in separate questioning of other captures al-Qaida figures.

What made KSM decide to talk? The answer may be waterboarding, to which KSM was subjected on at least one occasion, according to various accounts.

It's stuff like this that makes me want to join this group...

Sweet! Something else to do at work besides... well, working

Thanks to the other Cake or Death for tagging me for the quirks meme. No really... thanks. So apparently I'm supposed to display for the world to critique my 5 biggest personality quirks.

1) I have a small tendency of not liking to admit that I'm wrong. Call me self-righteous, call me perfect. Admitting I'm wrong is not something I do well, and it drives the fetching Mrs. Wookie "nucking futs." This includes for some reason punctuation. I do pride myself there. I had those rules drilled into my head in high school and have never forgotten them. I'm sure I've screwed that up a bunch of times on my blog (yet another reason not to post in haste), but I do have a tendency to be overly critical of others' punctuation mistakes. Not one of my better qualities, but I think I've gotten a little better since I've gotten the opportunity to vent my "always being right" nature on the blogosphere now for over a year. Sure, no one pays any attention to my humble little blog, but I can pretend that they do...

2) I also have been known to be a walking encyclopedia of music lyrics. Not that I'll find a music quote for every situation; it's more like if I hear the song I can sing the lyrics right along with the singer (and I can fake like I know the words pretty well too). My brother-in-law used to do this game with his teenage kids where they'd hit scan on the radio dial in the car and go around the car and we each had to sing the lyrics to whatever song came on. I won that on many occasions (except for the times I had got stuck trying to sing with the Mexican music stations. I still think letting those count was a crap rule).

3) I wasn't sure if this is a quirk or uncanny ability or both, but I can always seem to understand what my mother and wife are talking about. Let me explain, no there is no time, let me sum up... they both seem to have trouble finding the words to express what they're thinking, usually a specific person, place or thing. For example, my mother was trying to think of a person and said, "You know the guy, in the jeans, who sings that song." I say, "Billy Ray Cyrus," and she goes, "YES!" And now the fetching Mrs. Wookie has begun to talk this way as well. That I understand them is very frightening... help me.

4) I've got a snide, sarcastic, and funny comment for just about anything and I'm not afraid to let people hear it... Yet another quality that drives the fetching Mrs. Wookie crazy. It's led to me being told to sleep on the couch several times, but due to my pigheaded stubbornness and insisting that I'm always right (see quirk #1) my wife usually gives up, and since I won't leave the bed, she goes to sleep on the couch herself. Either that or if by some miracle I do go to sleep on the couch, I wait 30 minutes until my wife falls asleep, and then sneak back in bed. She sleeps in a state somewhere between coma and dead, so this always works until she wakes up in the morning and I wind up with a glass on water poured on my head.

5) I hate giving away the ending to movies that I've seen. I'll go so far as to make something off the wall up just to throw people off the right path. These tall tales usually end with everybody dying for some reason...
Someone: "So what happens with Spiderman and the subway train? I can't look! Does he save the people?!"
Me: "Nope."
Someone: "No?!"
Me: "Yeah, Doc Oc tears Spidey's arms off, crushes his head, and then the train goes off the tracks when it runs over his body and everybody dies."
Someone: "&*$#! you"

Well that's me. Hope those work as quirks... I'm sure the fetching Mrs. Wookie could have come up with much better quirks, because when I got the meme, I could instantly think of hers. Mine took me a little longer. Now I nominate (not like anyone is paying any attention to me, but I'll nominate anyway):
Army Lawyer
House of Wheels
Jason Coleman

The latest catch and release program

I sort of alluded to the point in a previous post, and I actually think it might be a good idea... as long as we get those devices in deep... somewhere they can't remove them from.

BERLIN, Dec. 28 (Reuters) - Known Islamic militants should be electronically tagged so their movements could be tracked, a regional German interior minister proposed Wednesday.

"This would allow us to monitor the roughly 3,000 Islamists who are prone to violence, hate-preachers and fighters trained in terrorist camps," the Lower Saxony interior minister, Uwe Schünemann, said in an interview with the newspaper Die Welt.

Mr. Schünemann said electronic tagging was a viable alternative to holding the militants in protective custody, as suggested by the former German interior minister, Otto Schily. Mr. Schünemann was quoted as saying that his proposal would not be against Germany's Constitution.

"It's practical for all Islamists who are prone to violence and who we can't expel to their home countries because they could be tortured," Mr. Schünemann said. Germany's federal and state governments share responsibility for security services.

I wonder... If the NSA was tagging terrorists on a catch and release program with the CIA, it might solve that whole wiretaps issue. But we do something similar with pets in the pound these days too. PETA might sue claiming defamation of the dog's character by treating them the same as a terrorist.

UN says Iraq vote was valid

Thanks for weighing in (finally).

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 28 - The United Nations stepped into the controversy over the Iraqi parliamentary election on Wednesday, declaring publicly that the results of the voting on Dec. 15 appeared valid, even as the vote tally continued here.

Craig Jenness, a Canadian who led the United Nations' election coordination effort in Iraq, said his agency believed that the elections "were transparent and credible." He added that although all complaints must be weighed thoroughly, "we at the U.N. see no justification in calls for a rerun of the elections."

What would we do without the UN. For the latest news and analysis of the Iraqi election, Iraq the Model:

Accordance, rather than elections will decide the shape of the new government.
Or at least that's how things appear to be heading till now...

As part of an expected series of meetings between the leaders of major political groups, today there’s a meeting between al-Hakeem and President Talabani and a number of senior Shia and Kurdish politicians.
In a speech before the Kurdistan parliament al-Hakeem expressed his sympathy with the Kurdish cause and promised to work hard in that direction because “we are 100 percent with the Kurdish people in finding a solution for Kirkuk’s issue”.

Al-Hakeem also spoke about good chances for the success of new federal states in Iraq, which makes one think that the UIA is seriously considering creating the federation of the south.
The UIA was sending signals suggesting that they will go on and form the government with the Kurds if negotiations with other parties failed, however, the Kurdish reaction to such remarks was rather cold and Kurdish leaders again said that it’s still too early for such plans.

The Kurds believe they can approximate the positions of the rivals in this critical stage, Mahmoud Othman a prominent Kurdish figure spoke in this direction when said “we are part of the solution, not part of the problem…Kurdish leadership wants to be part of a national unity government and the key is in the hands of the UIA who should agree to offer the Sunni parties and Allawi a good share in the formation, especially when it comes to the distribution of sensitive cabinet posts”.
Othman also mentioned that America is serious about seeing Iraqis find a solution “and the US is coordinating with the Kurds to get Iraq out of this crisis in spite of the deep differences between the involved parties”.

Perhaps an satisfactory accord can be reached for all parties involved. At least I hope it can.

File this under why are studies so stupid

Do we really need a study to tell us that eating a lot of fatty foods can lead to diabetes. I've heard doctors saying that for years as they lamented the diet of most Americans that consisted of too much fast food and other junk.

(BBC) Researchers say they have discovered how a high-fat Western-style diet may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

A team at the University of California, San Diego found eating lots of fat blocks production of an enzyme key to the production of the hormone insulin.

The study was carried out on mice, but the researchers hope their findings will lead to new ways to treat and prevent the condition in man.

Two things. One, it's my alma mater so I'm glad to see they're on the cutting edge of reasearch... sort of. I mean didn't they see Super Size Me? I think most 3rd graders could tell you fatty foods lead to diabetes.

Second, I get to use one of my favorite movie quotes from Music from Another Room (a good flick if you haven't seen it yet). "They injected a rat 10 times a day with the stuff, and do you know what it died from? Holes."

Mexican exorcisms on the rise

Great. That's just one more problem our border agents don't need... levitation and projectile vomiting. As if the job isn't bad enough.

Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Father Pedro Mendoza Pantoja, the Roman Catholic Church's highest-ranking exorcist in Mexico City, has never been busier.

Mendoza, 70, takes 15 phone calls a day from people who say they are possessed by the devil and sees about five of them for in-office consultations. They're part of the increasing number of Mexicans demanding exorcisms.

"Growing up, I don't remember a single person possessed by a demon,'' Mendoza said from his parish in Cuajimalpa, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City. "Every time a girl gets sick or acts strange, they send her over.''

Mexico is part of a global surge in exorcisms sparked by the Vatican's decision in 1999 to issue a new manual for the process, said Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta. Ninety-two percent of Mexico's 106 million people are Catholic.

Now I had thought that the Islamofascist producing countries in the Middle East like Iran were the source of all evil. Apparently it's Mexico.

[...] According to a woman called Rosey, who describes herself as a healer and goes by only one name, people who believe they are possessed also seek out treatment in places such as Mexico City's Sonora Market. The market is a gathering place for such healers, who also sell herbs and candles used in saint worship.

Rosey attributes the demand for demonic expulsions to the rise of infidelity and the breakdown in the Mexican family.

"I've had people come in and ask how much I will charge to kill their husbands,'' she said in an interview in the market.

I don't think the fetching Mrs. Wookie would go for a "the demons made me do it" infidelity excuse... not that I ever plan on finding out...

Rosey said she knows a person is possessed when she touches them and a cold feeling passes through her body that hurts her bones. That's when she performs a "breaking.''

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold on a second. Just what, praytell, are we breaking here? If she's looking for a demonic scream, I bet she gets one after a wife brings her cheating husband to her and she "breaks" it off. [UPDATE 12:01pm: Dammit, I just thought of a much funnier Howard Dean weird scream joke for this instead]

Rosey charges anywhere from 100 pesos ($9) for a cleansing to 7,000 pesos for a full exorcism, which involves the burning of herbs and wood and evoking saints such as Elegua, known as the guardian of the crossroads. The Catholic Church doesn't charge for exorcisms.

And she charges for "breaking" some poor cheating bastard!? And it only amounts to $9?! Ouch, talk about adding insult to injury. I don't know what's worse... getting it "broken" or it only being worth $9.

Healers such as Rosey are part of the problem, Father Mendoza said. Many people who are suffering from a mental illness or drug addiction turn to healers, "where they then really do pick up a demonic influence or possession.''

Mendoza said he looks for the tell-tale signs of possession described by the Vatican guidelines, such as speaking in a foreign language the person has "no reason to know'' or being "familiar with events in far away places or in other times.''

As long as it doesn't involve anything breaking, we're OK. Just as a general rule though, I think Mexico is safely off of my list of places to visit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

George Bush hates coypu... not black people

But do the coypu hate black people? That's the question. Jason Coleman has done the research on an overlooked possibility in the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

An individual nutria [aka coypu] will burrow a four foot diameter hole underneath the levee to make its den, they'll tunnel from 4 to 150 feet in before they carve it out. Multiply this by the thousands upon thousands of nutria living within the canal and levee system and you're left with levees that resemble swiss cheese more than they do the earthen dams they are intended to be. As I watch the investigations go forward into the levee breaches in New Orleans, I can't help but think that no one is really mentioning or considering the nutria and the damage they continually cause to the levee system. It's not like it's a secret that the nutria damage levees, the parishes and levee boards have been battling the critters for decades, but now they are mainly silent about them. I can only assume that the powers that be (mainly the media) is looking for anything they can find to blame the federal government (or man in general) and deflect attention from anything that may be considered natural causes or deficient local administration, management and animal control. I also think that because there's no direct evidence at the 17th St. and London Ave. canal breaches (hint hint: The burrows were washed away) that a policy of groupthink is setting in and people aren't seeing the forest for the trees.

Well a dam of swiss cheese is certainly no good, and it seems to me that this is the sort of obvious information that you'd expect the local government (mayor, city council) to be aware of. Jason points out the little, brown, fuzzy rodents were considered "vermin" in the area, putting them somewhere below ground hog but above New York sewer rat in the minds of the locals.

So George Bush began breeding coypu, put the in the levees 40 years ago, so that one day they'd erode the levees to a point where they'd colapse and kill lots of black people? I don't know. I doesn't seem to make sense. Maybe I ought to ask Kanye West to explain it to me...

Deep thoughts by Scott Adams

The man is a true comic genius, and his blog is a must read everyday for a good laugh. Take today's post for example. It's even funnier if you think like Jack Handey.

Here’s some more ammo to stir up things at your next gathering of inebriated relatives. Ask the following question:

Who is holier – Mother Teresa or Bill Gates?

Set the scene by pointing out that on Mother Teresa’s side of the ledger is her lifetime of spiritual inspiration and her good works helping the poor. Not too shabby.

On Bill Gate’s side, we have his targeted philanthropy – for vaccines and whatnot – that will probably end up saving the lives of 100 million people. And I think there’s a good chance he’ll convince his good friend Warren Buffet and perhaps others to do similar things with their own fortunes. So let’s add another 100 million for secondary effects. You could talk me down to an estimate of 10 million eventual saved lives, but still it’s a big number.

This should get the adults jabbering. Once they’re preoccupied denouncing Bill Gates as the Devil’s henchman (oh, it’ll happen), slip away and find where the smaller kids are playing. Round up the ones in the range of 5 to 8 years old and ask them this question:

If Santa Claus fought Jesus, who would win? Tell the kids that grandpa will give $5 to whoever comes up with the best answer.

Then leave the house as quickly as possible.

For no other reason than it's fun, I pick Mother Teresa as holier than Bill Gates. If he had siad who's done more good for humanity there'd be a serious argument for either, but holier I think points to Mother Teresa. And if Jesus fought Santa, the winner is Jesus... hands down. He'd mop the floor with Santa. Santa's on the tubby side (too many cookies). Sure he can suck it in to fit down the chimney, but that's not nearly good enough. And, hello... Jesus is God. Think bolts of lightning, water to blood, plagues of locusts, boils, burning bushes, and death of the first born. Isn't Santa an only child?

That's it, where's my $5?

Terrorist defense attornies will use NSA wiretaps as loopholes for defendents

They'll try at least. Anything for their clients

WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 - Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.

The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.

The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.

The question of whether the N.S.A. program was used in criminal prosecutions and whether it improperly influenced them raises "fascinating and difficult questions," said Carl W. Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who has studied terrorism prosecutions.

As Cheat-Seeking Missiles put it, the other shoe has dropped. Despite what I believe is a completely legal [UPDATE @ 4:31: more on their legality here] use of presidential authority, these measures enacted to ensure the security of our great nation will continue to be dragged from secrecy into the limelight. Hopefully it causes no further damage to the country's security (I say further because the simple "outing" of the program has made it rather ineffective for future use as the terrorists have no doubt heard of it at this point and will take countermeasures to combat the surveillance's effectiveness).

[...]Government officials, in defending the value of the security agency's surveillance program, have said in interviews that it played a critical part in at least two cases that led to the convictions of Qaeda associates, Iyman Faris of Ohio, who admitted taking part in a failed plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge, and Mohammed Junaid Babar of Queens, who was implicated in a failed plot to bomb British targets.

David B. Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Faris, said he planned to file a motion in part to determine whether information about the surveillance program should have been turned over. Lawyers said they were also considering a civil case against the president, saying that Mr. Faris was the target of an illegal wiretap ordered by Mr. Bush. A lawyer for Mr. Babar declined to comment.

Yep. Nevermind that the program worked, that it has helped lead to convictions of terrorists on our soil. Ah, lawyers. You can't live with 'em, and you can't shoot 'em.

Two more dead terrorists

This time the Saudis got them

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi security forces have killed two suspected top Al-Qaeda militants in clashes -- the bloodiest in more than three months -- in which five policemen also died, security sources said.

Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Siwailmi died of his wounds early Wednesday after being hit in clashes the previous day with security forces near Buraida, capital of Qassim province, 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Riyadh, said the interior ministry.

He was number seven on the kingdom's list of 36 most-wanted terrorists, and was considered a leading member of the terror network in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Meanwhile, Abdulrahman al-Motaeb, 26, who figured at number four on the same list, was shot dead Wednesday morning "in the desert," a security source told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Adios terrorists! Saudi Arabia's got a ways to go to eliminate themselves as a breeding ground for islamic extremists, but killing them when they surface sure won't hurt.

US sanctions companies that support Iran's military program

(BBC) The US has imposed sanctions on nine foreign companies, six of them Chinese, for allegedly selling missile goods and chemical arms material to Iran.

A US State Department spokesman said the measures were based on "credible evidence" but gave no details.

Secret, warantless, NSA wiretaps perhaps?

The US will not provide export licences to the firms involved, two of them Indian and one Austrian, and has banned the US government trading with them.

China has in the past denied selling weapons-related material to Iran.

The US and EU suspect Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and are considering whether to refer it to the UN Security Council. Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian energy use.

Hopefully this just ratchet's up the pressure on Iran. And as a bonus we get to poke China in the eye with this and say "Ah-hah!"

Washington said it had taken action against the companies concerned under the Iran Non-proliferation Act, passed by the US Congress in 2000.

The legislation aims to prevent international support for Iran's nuclear, chemical and missile-based weapons programmes.

Ahh diplomacy. I hope it works. Maybe we should give Kofi Annan some lessons; might make him a little less snippy.

UPDATE: This is too funny. Apparently these sanctions huwt da feewings of Austwia, China, and India.

China, India and Austria have condemned a US decision to impose sanctions on nine firms which it believes have supplied Iran with military equipment.

China, which is home to six of the firms concerned, has demanded that the US State Department lift the sanctions.

The Austrian interior ministry defended the sale of about 800 sniper rifles to Iran by an Austrian arms manufacturer as "unimpeachable".

India criticised the sanctions imposed on two of its firms as unjustifiable.

The measures - which will remain in place for two years - ban the firms from trading with the US government and prevent them obtaining export licences needed to buy certain kinds of technology from US companies.

TOUGH! Deal with it.

UPDATE: In from the Cold goes in deep cover style on the Iran nuclear talks, in particular the latest development, Russia's proposal. Initially dismissed by Iran, they are reviewing it with renewed interest. The US and EU have endorsed it, but Spook86 says don't jump for joy just yet.

There are a couple of problems with this approach. First, Iran seems to be adopting negotiating tactics perfected by the North Koreans. Let the west float a proposal, express some interest in the idea, stretch out negotiations for as long as possible, then reject the plan and start over again. Remember those recent negotiations between Iran and the so-called EU-3 (Britain, France, and Germany)? Those talks dragged on for almost a year until they reached a dead end, and forced diplomats to shift their focus to the Russian proposal.

If history is any indication, the Iranians will "study" the plan for a few months, then ultimately reject it, demanding complete control over all aspects of their nuclear program. At that point, the diplomats will trash about for something else, perhaps a resumption of the EU-3 talks. In the interim, Iran's nuclear program will continue to advance.

Curious what Dubya gave Laura for Christmas?

Sure why not...

For Christmas presents, First Lady Laura Bush is reported to have given her husband a book, clothes and biking gear, while he is said to have offered her jewellery and a DVD player.

The article though deals mostly with how the president spent his Christmas break: reading. On his list were Imperial Grunts (a book on my list as well, actually) and When Trumpets Call. Another article went into some detail analyzing the president's iPod playlist.

George W Bush is a fan of country music and classic rock, but he also likes "a little bit of hard core and honky tonk", his iPod playlist suggests.

His 250 songs include country greats George Jones and Alan Jackson, but also My Sharona by the Knack.

Mr Bush has an aide download music for him and listens to it while mountain biking, the New York Times reported.

Rolling Stone journalist Joe Levy called the playlist "feel-good music. The Sex Pistols it's not."

"It's safe, it's reliable, it's loving," Mr Levy said.

"One thing that's interesting is that the president likes artists who don't like him," he added.

That group includes former Credence Clearwater Revival singer John Fogerty, whose baseball anthem Centerfield is on the iPod.

I do think it's interesting that the president does listen to artists who not only disagree with him, but perhaps dislike him intensely. That is often something many of us on the right struggle with. Do we patronize the liberal blowhard artists? For me I think it's depends on several things: how vocal are they, and do they speak intelligently or just slander the president. I admit I struggle when it comes to seeing a Johnny Depp or Sean Penn movie or purchasing a CD by Dave Matthews or Green Day. Quite often my desire for the music or movie wins out, but at least I thought about it. That the president can get past artists differing political views I think speaks volumes and perhaps disproves that meme from last week that the president lives in a bubble.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mississippi's forgotten gulf coast

Blackfive brings to our attention an editorial discussing the devestation to the Mississippi gulf coast

As Aug. 29 recedes into the conscious time of many Americans, the great storm that devastated 70 miles of Mississippi's Coast, destroying the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands, fades into a black hole of media obscurity.

Never mind that, if taken alone, the destruction in Mississippi would represent the single greatest natural disaster in 229 years of American history. The telling of Katrina by national media has created the illusion of the hurricane's impact on our Coast as something of a footnote.

The awful tragedy that befell New Orleans as a consequence of levee failures at the time of Katrina, likewise, taken by itself, also represents a monumental natural disaster. But, of course, the devastation there, and here, were not separate events, but one, wrought by the Aug. 29 storm.

There is no question that the New Orleans story, like ours, is a compelling, ongoing saga as its brave people seek to reclaim those parts of the city lost to the floods.

But it becomes more and more obvious that to national media, New Orleans is THE story - to the extent that if the Mississippi Coast is mentioned at all it is often in an add-on paragraph that mentions "and the Gulf Coast" or "and Mississippi and Alabama."

I left a comment to suggest something similar to what Hugh Hewitt did, posting links to New Orleans shops online. I'd be happy to pay a little extra by shopping online and paying for shipping for something I need or as a possible gift. I did buy a couple gifts from one of the online stores (Laura's Candies) Hugh had linked, and plan to from a couple others (those cigar stores look too yummy to pass up)

US opposes many of 2005's treaties

Sure sounds horrible. We must be a nation of self serving bigots and racists... at least that's what the article seems to imply.

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 23 (OneWorld) - Twenty-six years ago, the United Nations adopted a treaty that is often described by human rights experts as the international "Bill of Rights" for women.

Today that treaty has been endorsed by more than 170 nations. However, while the entire industrial world fully supports the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the United States is the only developed nation that continues to oppose it.

Opponents of U.S. ratification fear that it might affect U.S. policies, but most women's rights groups in the United States and abroad reject this notion.

"There is no good reason why the United States is not ratifying CEDAW," says Ritu Sharma, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Women's Edge Coalition, an umbrella group representing 180 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"It simply lacks the political will" to ratify the treaty, she adds.

And how many of the 170 nations have actually done something to improve woman's rights? There are some women in Afghanistan and Iraq who got to vote recently for the first time thanks to the US and our allies that might disagree with the statement that the US "lakcs the political will". Actions speak louder than treaties you know. Who has signed this treaty? Afghanistan, back in 1980 signed because the Taliban was such a huge fan of women's rights. Cambodia [updated 12/28 new article via Bloomberg] signed back in 1980 a year after Pol Pot was in power. The Khmer Rouge is a big women's rights supporter (if there were any left). Cuba signed in 1980. Castro loves the ladies, but does he love women's rights? Cuba communists say yes. Jordan signed in 1980 because nothing says women's rights like an honor killing. Russia signed back in 1980. I can't remember... were they still communists back then? Rwanda signed back in 1980 because Hutus love Tutsi women. And the US signed back in 1980 (one of 98 countries to sign); we've just never ratified it. How about some of the countries that did ratify it? Haiti, North Korea, Liberia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Wow. What a powerful convention this must be. The women's lib movement is just oozing out of these countries.

Just out of curiosity what else didn't we sign?

[...]Recently, when the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to a adopt a new treaty that protects cultural rights worldwide, the United States stood alone in its opposition.

The treaty allows nations to maintain, adopt, and implement policies they deem appropriate to protect the diversity of cultural expressions on their territory.

The U.S. rejected the treaty by arguing that it could have a chilling effect on the ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"This convention invites abuse by enemies of democracy and free trade," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told UNESCO members in a letter in October.

Because people's cultures just diappear when they get to the US. Nevermind that we think there are trade implications that this treaty could hamper, we need to protect the culture. Do we need to protect all of the culture? What about cultural relics like the honor killings I mentioned above? It's part of the culture, but it isn't exactly condusive to women's rights. That's a catch-22, that is.

[...]Despite strong persuasion efforts from other nations, the U.S. persisted in its refusal to embrace the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement setting targets for industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Well, we just talked about 13 of the 15 EU nations who signed up for Kyoto couldn't meet the standards, so we'll let that one slide.

The list of U.N. treaties that Washington opposes goes on and on. U.S. leaders continue to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear weapons,

A large chunk of our foreign policy is dedicated to us keeping our nukes and preventing others who shouldn't have them from getting them. We need to sign a treaty to do this?

the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines,

Do we have large mines fields here in the US? Didn't think so. In fact I'm sure there are more than a few US citizens that would be in favor of the US putting a few mines along our borders. Hypothetically speaking of course...

a protocol to create a compliance regime for the Biological Weapons Convention,

Do we really need a compliance regime to tell us biological weapons are bad?

the Antiballistic Missile Treaty,

See the nuclear test ban treaty hooey above.

the International Criminal Court treaty,

You think the ICC would allow extradition to the backwards US that kills its murderers? That's why the Austrians love Arnold so much...

and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Rights of the child to, say live? I think we'd get in more trouble for signing that than not.

Washington is also not complying with the Chemical Weapons Commission and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and refused to let the U.N. Human Rights Commission conduct a probe into the alleged torture abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo and other detention centers.

Right, torture by allegedly flushing a Koran down the toilet and ruining perfectly good plumbing.

[...]Currently, the U.S. is locked in a diplomatic fight with the rest of the international community over U.N. finances.

Bolton wants the U.N. to make administrative and management changes before the U.S. approves the U.N. biennial budget before the end of this year, a demand that top U.N. leaders and other diplomats have described as unreasonable.

Hey I'm sure all these treaties and committees and meetings aren't cheap. Bolton does strike me as a "less treaties and meetings and summits and more action" type of guy.

[...]Meanwhile, within the United States, rights activists like Sharma from the Women's Edge Coalition wonder why their country stands so alone.

"The U.S. wants to protect women's rights around the world, including in the Middle East. It is supposed to be human rights leader," she says. "But that rings a little hollow if it does not sign a women's rights treaty."

Because we're the cheese... and as any child will tell you the cheese stands alone. I think I'll repeat my statement above for Ms. Sharma here: actions speak louder than treaties.

I think that just might be my new motto.

Kyoto Protocol so important most of Europe can't meet its standards

Gee. Who'd a thunk it?

LONDON (AFP) - Most of Europe, which has criticized the United States over its stance on global warming, looks set to miss a set of goals to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol.

The findings by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), revealed Tuesday, will make embarrassing reading for European governments that have berated Washington for its refusal to ratify the United Nations pact.

Of 15 countries in Europe signed up to Kyoto, only Britain and Sweden were on target to meet their commitments on reducing harmful gas emissions by 2012, said the IPPR, Britain's leading progressive think tank.

Don't you love the smell of greenhouse gases in the morning?

LA area school bans and human contact between students

Oh. My. God. Why not just ban breathing while they're at it?

(LATimes) Matthew Almodovar likes holding his girlfriend's hand during lunch or when they're walking to class. But at Culver City Middle School, that display of affection could land the couple in trouble.

At the only public middle school in Culver City, it is against school policy for students to hold hands, hug or kiss on campus. Perhaps more important, the "no contact" rule also prohibits students from hitting, shoving or pushing classmates.

Schools nationwide have policies to prevent violence and sexual harassment, but some go further — such as creating a rule against touching. In March, one middle school student in Bend, Ore., was sent to detention after repeatedly defying a teacher's warning to refrain from hugging another student. A similar situation occurred at a junior high in Euless, Texas, in 2003.

Many educators say the policy teaches students what is — and isn't — appropriate behavior at school, which they say is especially important during the middle school years. What's OK at the mall or the movies, some educators say, isn't necessarily OK at school, where the focus should be on academics.

This is absolutely retarded. I really think that you have to go to graduate school, perhaps even get a PhD, to think up regulations this moronic. Here's a revolutionary thought... if you want to prohibit hitting, shoving and pushing, why not ban hitting, shoving, and pushing? Sure they don't want the kids making out in the hallways, so why not tell the kids don't make out in the hallways? Why do they have to ban all contact? How about we just put all the kids nice plastic bubbles that way no one gets touched. And what about human contact as positive reinforcement? Can you pat the kid on the back? Can the kids give each other high fives (or whatever other congratualtory bumping, shaking, or clapping is popular these days)? Sure school administrators put these rules in place to help kids, but do they ever think of the unintended negative consequences. Positive reinforcement is in many instances a more powerful motivator than punishment or other negative reinforcements. No human contact is just a horrible idea. Need more reasons?

[...] Some students said it was their understanding that all hugs, even between friends, were banned; others said they believed only contact between boyfriends and girlfriends was forbidden. (Administrators say hugging between friends is permitted.)

"We can't touch each other. We couldn't even do this," eighth-grader Brenda Esquivel said as she put her arm around a friend's shoulder.

During a recent lunch, various couples on campus were holding hands; most declined to talk to a reporter, fearing they would get in trouble.

If Assistant Principal Hiram Celis saw them, they'd get an earful.

"When I'm out there and see something inappropriate, I'll let them know. I don't think parents know they have boyfriends and girlfriends," he said, adding that he believes holding hands could "lead to more intimate situations."

Ahh. The kids don't know exactly what is and isn't banned. That's not going to help. Oh, and don't forget that holding hands "could lead to more intimate situations." That's right... because there's a huge link between holding hands and middle school kids having sex. Are we trying to prevent the kids from feeling any emotions whatsoever? We overdiagnose ADD and then overprescribe Ridillin to keep kids from being overly excited. Then we ban name calling so kids don't get their feelings hurt, that way they are emotionally unequipped to deal with emotional pain (kids can be really mean. They ought to be able to learn how to deal with being called a 'wuss' by some other kid. Banning it won't solve that). Now all physical contact is banned so that kids can't get the excited feeling of that secret kiss (no making out, but no holding hands either?), or the comraderie and sportsmanship after a success in a game on the playground (what... are they just going to jump up and down, yelling without actually touching each other?), or the satisfaction and self-esteem gained after confronting a bully by standing up for yourself or others (yes, even if it means pushing or hitting the bully). Are we trying to create A Brave New World where everyone is at a constant drugged up emotional state with no highs and no lows? How about 1984 where they can't even say good and bad (plus, double plus), let alone any excitable, joyous words or actions for fear of discrimination or causing emotional pain to another?

Inconsistency in enforcing the policy could undermine it, said Paul Chung, assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA who also works at the UCLA/Rand Center for Adolescent Health Promotion.

"When you're trying to extinguish a behavior, the trick is to be absolutely consistent so that every time the behavior is experienced, they get knocked down…. They know they're never going to get away with it," he said.

Michael Carr, a spokesman for the National Assn. of Secondary School Principals, said the assumption that holding hands would lead to sexual behavior was far-fetched.

"At some point, they're going to hold hands. If they don't do it in the building, they'll do it at the mall or going home or at the ice-skating rink," Carr said. "You're not going to stop hand-holding. You're going to have to teach them what's appropriate so that when they're faced with a choice, they make the appropriate choice."

That's it! That's it! That's it! You actually have to teach them what's appropriate, meaning they need to be taught a value system, which totally goes against the moral relativism of the liberal teacher's unions. A value system might resemble something akin to a religion which of course has to be separated from all government programs. All this presents a very slippery slope if you're a liberal. Personal freedom can be a bitch. It might lead to kids hilding hands, or someone saying "God bless you", or someone (gasp!) choosing to smoke a cigarette. We can't have that now can we. Thank God kids are resiliant, and they do say the darndest things...

[...] Still, she said she and her friends didn't take the policy seriously.

"Kids were making fun of it," she said.

Even today, the rule causes some laughter.

At the end of a recent lunch period, eighth-grader Erica West left the table for a minute. When she returned, she bumped into a friend, and said, "Oh, no contact, no contact."

Both girls laughed.

Well done kids. Nothing gets through to stupid adults like well done satire.

Another mass grave found in Iraq

We need to start piling the charges on Saddam at that trial of his because I'll bet this isn't the last mass grave we find.

(BBC) A mass grave has been discovered in the predominantly Shia city of Karbala south of Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

Dozens of bodies have reportedly been found, apparently those of Shia rebels killed by Saddam Hussein's army after its defeat in the 1991 Gulf War.

The Shia revolt was crushed and as many as 30,000 people were killed, many of them buried in mass graves.

The remains were uncovered by workmen digging a new water pipe in the centre of the city known for its Shia shrine.

They called the police, who cordoned off the area. Clothing found with the bodies indicated that they included men, women and children.

It just makes me sick.

Poland to keep troops through 2006

Another ally extends their much appreciated help in the Iraq front of the GWOT.

(BBC) The new conservative government's decision reverses the previous leftist administration's plan to pull troops out in early 2006.

Poland, a staunch ally of the US, has about 1,500 troops stationed in Iraq, as part of the US-led coalition.

Among other US allies, Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine have already decided to withdraw their forces.

But Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, elected in October's parliamentary elections, has asked the Polish president to keep them there for another year.

"This is a very difficult decision, but we take into consideration the fact that the mandate of UN stabilisation forces has been extended to the whole of 2006 and, secondly, strong requests of Iraqi authorities that we stay there," he said.

That's what I call a Christmas gift! Thanks Poland!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas all! Hope you all have a chance to spend the day with your dearest friends and family.

And don't forget our troops who are far from their homes and families. God Bless them all... epsecially those who've paid the utlimate sacrifice (h/t Freedom Folks, via Ace of Spades)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Have a politically correct Chrismahanakwanzica!

From SixMeatBuffet:

“Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.”

Four-eyes meme

Since I'm at work with no work to actually do I figured I'd screw around for a while and Llama's 4x4 meme was as good as anything else...

Four jobs you've had in your life: Waiter, bookstore clerk, medical assitant, mortgage bank secondary marketing analyst

Four movies you could watch over and over: Tombstone, Fifth Element, Usual Suspects, Ferris Bueller.

Four places you've lived: Bishop, Los Angeles, San Diego, Temecula

Four TV shows you love to watch: House MD, 24 (Jack's back baby!), Lost, South Park

Four places you've been on vacation: Hawaii, Ireland, Seattle, Vancouver

Four websites you visit daily: Bloomberg, CNN, BBC, LATimes and a ton of bloggers

Four or your favorite foods: Steak, shrimp, french fries, swordfish

Four places you'd rather be: Caribbean, Hawaii, Adriatic Coast, New Zealand

Daschle says Bush broke the law

And we all know how huge a constitutional scholar Tommy Boy is, so yeah... take this op-ed with a grain of salt.

Power We Didn't Grant

In the face of mounting questions about news stories saying that President Bush approved a program to wiretap American citizens without getting warrants, the White House argues that Congress granted it authority for such surveillance in the 2001 legislation authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the president "was granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that's what we've done."

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

Catchy title there. This really sounds more like a Monday morning quaterback whining "oops, we didn't mean to allow the president to actually 'fight' terrorism. And if we absolutely had to 'fight' terrorism do we really have to like know what the terrorists are doing?" Well Tom some would disagree with you that the AUMF does authorize wiretaps as an essential component in the "use of force" including Alberto Gonzales and Cass Sustein. Krauthammer writes,

I am skeptical of Gonzales's argument [AUMF authorizes wiretaps] it implies an almost limitless expansion of the idea of "use of force" -- while the distinguished liberal law professor Cass Sunstein finds it "entirely plausible" (so long as the wiretapping is limited to those reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda). Sunstein maintains that "surveillance, including wiretapping, is reasonably believed to be an incident of the use of force" that "standardly occurs during war."
It's OK Tommy. This legal stuff can be tricky.

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.

Heaven forbid we give the man the tools he needs to protect us from terrorists. I can't remember... has there been another attack on the US? Has the Patriot Act or the AUMF violated anyone's civil liberties? Didn't think so.

The shock and rage we all felt in the hours after the attack were still fresh. America was reeling from the first attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. We suspected thousands had been killed, and many who worked in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not yet accounted for. Even so, a strong bipartisan majority could not agree to the administration's request for an unprecedented grant of

The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress -- but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language.

Your shock and rage after 9/11 was more of a reality check from your safe little world where the most important thing in your day is choosing which $5 cup of coffee you want in the morning. Actually having to make decisions regarding naitonal security make you a little queasy. And why didn't you get re-elected?

All Americans agree that keeping our nation safe from terrorists demands aggressive and innovative tactics. This unity was reflected in the near-unanimous support for the original resolution and the Patriot Act in those harrowing days after Sept. 11. But there are right and wrong ways to defeat terrorists, and that is a distinction this administration has never seemed to accept. Instead of employing tactics that preserve Americans' freedoms and inspire the faith and confidence of the American people, the White House seems to have chosen methods that can only breed fear and suspicion.

Aggressive... good. Innovative... good. Hamstringing our intelligence and saying they can only listen to suspected terrorists if they live outside the US is dangerous is bad. If they have phone calls outside the US, we can listen to those, but as soon as they set foot on US soil their phone calls are off limits. You'd think that they'd realize the suspected terrorists that are INSIDE the US are inherently more dangerous to the US than those outside. But in the democrat's defense, common sense isn't their strong suit.

If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate, the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after Sept. 11. For that reason, the president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions, Congress should fully investigate these actions and the president's justification for them, and the administration should cooperate fully with that investigation.

Well actually Tom it looks like most constitutional lawyer types kinda think that you're wrong.

Orin Kerr:
On the whole, I think there are some pretty decent arguments that this program did not violate the Fourth Amendment under existing precedent...

[T]he open question of whether there is a national security exception to the Fourth Amendment that permits the government to conduct searches and surveillance for foreign intelligence surveillance. Footnote 23 of Katz v. United States left this open, and Justice White's conccurrence in Katz expanded on this point:

Wiretapping to protect the security of the Nation has been authorized by successive Presidents. The present Administration would apparently save national security cases from restrictions against wiretapping. We should not require the warrant procedure and the magistrate's judgment if the President of the United States or his chief legal officer, the Attorney General, has considered the requirements of national security and authorized electronic surveillance as reasonable.
John Hinderaker:

The Fourth Amendment includes requirements for the issuance of search warrants, and many critics of the NSA program seem to assume that this means that all searches must be executed pursuant to a warrant. This assumption is wrong. There are dozens of situations where warrantless searches have been approved by the courts. The overriding principle is that searches of Americans (defined to include resident aliens) must be reasonable.

One of the many situations where warrantless searches have been approved is when the government is seeking foreign intelligence information, such as information relating to potential terrorist threats. Next to the Constitution itself, of course, the highest authority is the United States Supreme Court. At least three Supreme Court cases have discussed this subject.
John goes on to show all three cases refuse to infringe upon the president's inherent authoirty to conduct warrantless wiretaps for foreign intelligence information.

Hugh Hewitt:

The first question is the scope of the president's authority to order warrantless surveillance on participants in plots involving foreign powers against the United States. The president and his legal authorities have concluded that he does have that authority, even if the plot involves some American citizens. Apparently Congressional critics of the action do not believe it. There is no definitive Supreme Court precedent on the question, and the Congress cannot define the answer even if it wished to.

In the meantime, if the president believes the current legal architecture of our country is insufficient for the fight against terrorism, he should propose changes to our laws in the light of day.

That is how a great democracy operates. And that is how this great democracy will defeat terrorism.

From everything said thus far it looks as if the president went through the exact channels necessary by notifying the AG and the Intelligence oversite committee made up of a bipartisan group of Senators, and that should a legal case arise, the president appears to have a very strong case in his favor (Read all of Hugh's (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), Powerline's (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) and Kerr's arguments). One rumor I've heard floated is the timing of the NYT's article. Based on that they'd been sitting on this for over a year, the thought is they may have initially intended to run it during the presidential election, were convinced not to due to national security concerns and instead ran the story about missing weapons caches in Iraq that had been supposedly trucked out right under our noses in order to embarrass Bush (read it on a blog somewhere, couldn't find the link again). Interesting, no?