Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Confirmed!

The Vote Total 58-42:

Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. became the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, confirmed with the most partisan victory in modern history after a fierce battle over the future direction of the high court.

The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito _ a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey _ as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

I thought today was going to be interesting, but for some reason I expected the margin to be just a bit wider. Paul at Powerline was not so optimistic. I actually thought more than 4 Democrats would break ranks to vote for Alito, and while Lincoln Chafee's no vote was a dissapointment, it also wasn't much of a surprise.

Nevertheless, it's a great day for conservatives. Not so great for the 9th Circus Circuit Court:

Justice Samuel Alito is now the Supreme Court’s appeals link to the 9th Circus. BONUS!

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State of the Union Address- Live Blog

Bob Schiefer reporting that Cindy Sheehan has already been arrested. You would think she could have made it till the speech started

9:10PM- Bill Livingood introduces President of the United States. President Bush shaking hands as he moves up the aisle. Just shook Chief Justice Roberts and newly installed justice Alito's hands.

9:12PM-Huge standing ovation from entire chamber. Speech begins by remembering Coretta Scott King. "Grateful for good life of Coretta Scott King."

9:15PM- "It has been my honor to serve with you." "Business must be conducted in civil tone."
"Tonight, the State of our union is strong..."

9:17PM-"Democracies replace resentments with hope." "We will act boldly in freedom's cause."
"No on can deny the success of freedom, but some rage against it." "Terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear....they have miscalculated, we love our freedom and we will fight to keep it." (Applause)

9:25PM-"There is no peace in retreat and no honor in retreat."" The US will not retreat and will never surrender to evil. America rejects the false comfort of isolationism." "Iraqis are showing their courage everyday and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom." "We are in this fight to win and we are winning!" " The Road of Victory is the road our troops will take home"

9:27PM- "Second guessing is not a strategy." "Our nation has only one option, keep our word, and stand behind our men in this vital mission(?)" " Those who know the costs also know the stakes." Intoduces the family of Staff Sgt. Dan Clay. Standing ovation for family. Blogger hung up and I missed the quotes of Dan Clay

9:30PM- "Let us never forget the sacrifices of America's military families." "Hamas must recognize Israel, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace." "Democracies in Middle East will not look like our own, they will reflect their culture(?)" " The nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons."

9:35PM- (Note: Hard time keeping up, but I will continue.) Bush asks for reauthorization of Patriot Act. Defending NSA wiretaps, stresses international, Congress has been informed, essential to the Security of America. " We will not sit back and wait to be hit again!" (Well said)
"America is always more secure when freedom is on the march" Asks for support to lead world towards freedom. Economy is healthy and vigorous. Created more jobs than Japan and European Union combined.

9:40PM- Says economy could not function without immigrants. (Hope we was referring to legal, not illegal) Tax cuts have produced more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. Urges congress to make tax cuts permanent. (Left remains seated, I stand)

9:45PM- Proposes elimination of 140 programs not working, cut deficit in half by 2009. Urges passage of line-item veto. Hillary smirking. "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save social security", Left stands, cheers , acts like 3rd graders. "Problem not going away....we need to work together and get this problem solved" "No one can outproduce and out compete the American people" Nation needs open and secure borders. Must also protect borders. Need guest worker program. (Please, no!)

9:50PM- Asks congress to pass Medical Liablility Reform this year. America addicted to oil, best way to break it is new technology. Must change how we power our automobiles. Hydrogen, woodchips, ethanol, etc. Goal is 6 years. Also replace oil imports from middle East by 75% by 2025. Need to make dependence on foreign oil a thing of the past. (Applause) American Competitiveness Initiative (?). Proposes Research and Development Tax Credit. Encourage children to take more math and science courses that are competitive worldwide.
"If we make sure children succeed, they will make sure America succeeds in the world."

9:55PM-"Life of responsibility is a life of fulfillment." Parents have concern about our culture(politics, redefining marriage, etc.) . "We have proven the pessimists wrong before, and we will do it again." Introduces Justices Roberts and Alito. Calls them superb, thanks Senate for confirmation. Urges no legislation from the bench. America grateful for service of Sandra Day O'Connor. Urges bans on human cloning. "Human life is gift from our creator, should never be devalued, discarded or put up for sale."(AMEN!)

10:00PM-Introduces First Lady, Laura Bush. Cites her work with youth. Addressing Hurricane Katrina and disaster relief in general. Addressing AIDS:Urges Renewal of Ryan White Act.

10:05PM-"We must finish well" Closes: "May God Bless America"

No real surprises here. Half the chamber stands, the other remains seated. CBS coverage pretty much stinks, woe is Bush, blah, blah, blah. Remote on other side of the room. I had a hard enough time keeping up, much less getting up to get the remote. What can I say, my wife likes NCIS.

I think I got the gist of a lot of the quotes, but missed some of the substance. All in all, a mediocre effort, at best, in my first attempt at live blogging. I guess I expected more sustained applause than I saw tonight. I apologize for any spelling errors and incomplete sentences.

I won't live blog the Democratic response because frankly I don't care.

UPDATE 10:20PM: Made quick scan and corrected some errors in order to make it more readable. Not sure if it really matters now.

Tim Kain, Governor or Virginia is delivering Democratic Response. Bush bad, Democrats good, blah, blah, blah...I'm still not interested

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Zawahiri Releases Video Tape

Via (Fox News)

If this tape is confirmed to be authentic, then it looks as if we missed him:

CAIRO, Egypt — Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a videotape aired Monday that President Bush was a "butcher" and a "failure" because of a deadly U.S. airstrike in Pakistan targeting the bin Laden deputy, and he threatened a new attack on the United States.

A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape, which U.S. intelligence officials were analyzing. The official said the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed Al Qaeda believed it was important to convey that al-Zawahiri is alive.

In Washington, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said the bureau would ask agents around the United States to review ongoing cases and tips in light of the new tape, especially with two major events this week — the State of the Union in Washington and the Super Bowl in Detroit.

Al-Zawahiri, shown in the video wearing white robes and a white turban, said a Jan. 13 airstrike in the eastern village of Damadola killed "innocents," and he said the United States had ignored an offer from Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden for a truce.

I think we should remain vigilant given the State of the Union and the Super Bowl this week, but I still think it's smoke and mirrors. It's true if this is authentic that Zawahiri had to make this tape, if for no other reason than to reassure the followers that he is still alive.

I still maintain that the winning side in any war does not call for a truce and terrorists have absolutely no concern for our well being. The truce was offered because they are tired and need to regroup. They want us to accept the truce because they can't surrender and save face. Even if Zawahiri survived, I believe the hit was probably too close for comfort.

We should absolutely stay on our toes and take every threat seriously, but I do believe their ability to mount a 9/11 style attack has been seriously diminished.

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Filibuster Fails!

Alito filibuster fails on a 72-25 vote:

WASHINGTON - The Senate all but guaranteed Samuel Alito’s confirmation as the nation’s 110th Supreme Court justice Monday, shutting down a last-minute attempt by liberals to block the conservative judge’s nomination with a filibuster.

Republican and Democratic senators on a 72-25 vote agreed to end their debate, setting up a Tuesday morning vote on his confirmation to replace retiring moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

With at least 57 votes committed to Alito — 53 Republicans and four Democrats — approval by majority vote in the 100-member Senate is now seemingly assured.

It should be an interesting day tommorrow. All signs point to President Bush introducing the newest Supreme Court justice at tomorrow's State of the Union Address.

On a related note: Based on the spread, Kerry and Kennedy appear to be even worse mathemeticians than previously thought. Is it possible to have negative political capital?

To add insult to injury, Kennedy marked the occasion by throwing a largely nonsensical hissie fit. Will link to translation when and if it becomes available.

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Stein on Stein

Betsy Newmark points to a column by Ben Stein in which he offers an alternative view to that of Joel Stein of the Los Angeles Times:

Do I support men and women who are fighting Nazis who call themselves insurgents or Islamic militants? Do I support men and women who offer up their lives to fight the very same terrorists who killed three thousand totally guiltless Americans on 9/11? Do I support the troops who have more moral decency in their toes than I do or anyone I know does in our whole bodies? I support them, pray for them, am humbled just to be on the same planet with them. With every morning I wake up, every meal I eat, every walk I take in freedom, every night I sleep in peace, I ask God to look after the men and women who guard the ramparts of this blessed island of peace and decency called America. Without them, we would be nothing. Without them, Joel Stein would have his head sawed off. Saints in armor is what I call them and what they are. They are God's gifts to a wayward world.

Are you paying attention Joel? If he can read this and still have the same opinion of our troops as he had last week, then I suppose nothing will make a difference to him.
I'm not holding my breath.

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Assessing America’s Greatest Threat

Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles “Chic” Burlingame, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, writes this in Opinion Journal today:

One of the most excruciating images of the September 11 attacks is the sight of a man who was trapped in one of the World Trade Center towers. Stripped of his suit jacket and tie and hanging on to what appears to be his office curtains, he is seen trying to lower himself outside a window to the floor immediately below. Frantically kicking his legs in an effort to find a purchase, he loses his grip, and falls.

That horrific scene and thousands more were the images that awakened a sleeping nation on that long, brutal morning. Instead of overwhelming fear or paralyzing self-doubt, the attacks were met with defiance, unity and a sense of moral purpose. Following the heroic example of ordinary citizens who put their fellow human beings and the public good ahead of themselves, the country's leaders cast aside politics and personal ambition and enacted the USA Patriot Act just 45 days later.

A mere four-and-a-half years after victims were forced to choose between being burned alive and jumping from 90 stories, it is frankly shocking that there is anyone in Washington who would politicize the Patriot Act. It is an insult to those who died to tell the American people that the organization posing the greatest threat to their liberty is not al Qaeda but the FBI. Hearing any member of Congress actually crow about "killing" or "playing chicken" with this critical legislation is as disturbing today as it would have been when Ground Zero was still smoldering. Today we know in far greater detail what not having it cost us.

Critics contend that the Patriot Act was rushed into law in a moment of panic. The truth is, the policies and guidelines it corrected had a long, troubled history and everybody who had to deal with them knew it. The "wall" was a tortuous set of rules promulgated by Justice Department lawyers in 1995 and imagined into law by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Conceived as an added protection for civil liberties provisions already built into the statute, it was the wall and its real-world ramifications that hardened the failure-to-share culture between agencies, allowing early information about 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi to fall through the cracks. More perversely, even after the significance of these terrorists and their presence in the country was known by the FBI's intelligence division, the wall prevented it from talking to its own criminal division in order to hunt them down.

Furthermore, it was the impenetrable FISA guidelines and fear of provoking the FISA court's wrath if they were transgressed that discouraged risk-averse FBI supervisors from applying for a FISA search warrant in the Zacarias Moussaoui case. The search, finally conducted on the afternoon of 9/11, produced names and phone numbers of people in the thick of the 9/11 plot, so many fertile clues that investigators believe that at least one airplane, if not all four, could have been saved.

Ms. Burlingame goes on to point out how a lot of the tragedy that was 9/11, could have been averted had the provisions of the Patriot Act been in effect at the time and also how the press once considered the intelligence available at the time to be “missed opportunities” instead of “domestic spying”.

She also makes this key point:

More Americans should not die because the peace-at-any-cost fringe and antigovernment paranoids still fighting the ghost of Nixon hate George Bush more than they fear al Qaeda. (Emphasis mine)

In have their cake and eat it too fashion, the anti-war crowd and some members of Congress who once claimed we “failed to connect-the-dots”, now want to take away the pencil and still be able to hold the Bush Administration responsible the next time the dots aren’t connected. You can’t have it both ways!

To some people, politics trumps everything, including our very survival!

An underlying reason why they hate George Bush more than they fear al Qaeda is because they are victims of a self-imposed amnesia. They’ve blocked out the very events that started it all. They’ve either forgotten what happened on 9/11 or they simply don’t care. The media, whether intentional or accidental, has aided them in their cause by refusing to replay the footage of that tragic day in our history.

I admit that I too, secretly wished the networks and cable news outlets would stop showing the footage from that day because it was too painful to watch. I have since realized that I have never been more wrong in my entire life than I was when I made that wish. America needs to see the footage precisely because it’s too painful to watch. Without that constant reminder of what was taken from us that day, fringe groups and overly partisan politicians have been able to garner more support than otherwise would have been possible.

Most Americans seem to remember that day with great clarity and don’t need a constant reminder to remain eternally vigilant. Others seem to have forgotten our nation’s resolve and determination to stand together as one and defeat the enemy in the days following the attacks. They need a visual reminder of just who the real enemy is. They need to see the explosions. They need to see the jumpers who had to choose between two equally horrible deaths and be forced to make that decision for themselves. They need to put themselves at Ground Zero and decide whether their decision to make political hay out of tragedy is tenable or disgusting. They need to see the footage! Every last frame of it!

If they can do this and still see political opportunity, then they should consider their patriotism to have been officially questioned and be willing to accept the consequences that come with those actions.

Ms. Burlingame sums it up brilliantly:

The public has listened to years of stinging revelations detailing how the government tied its own hands in stopping the devastating attacks of September 11. It is an irresponsible violation of the public trust for members of Congress to weaken the Patriot Act or jeopardize the NSA terrorist surveillance program because of the same illusory theories that cost us so dearly before, or worse, for rank partisan advantage. If they do, and our country sustains yet another catastrophic attack that these antiterrorism tools could have prevented, the phrase "connect the dots" will resonate again--but this time it will refer to the trail of innocent American blood which leads directly to the Senate floor.

Read the whole thing.

Captain Ed has more.

Others: Stop the ACLU, Tiger Hawk, Sister Toldjah, In The Bullpen, Junkyard Blog

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Iraq WMD Moved to Syria?

(Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin)

Ira Stoll in the New York Sun yesterday:

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."

Many people, including me, have theorized that Syria was the most logical place for Saddam to move his WMD and now a high-ranking government official under Saddam is confirming this to be the case.

Mr. Sada provides additional details:

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

"Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming," Mr. Sada said. "They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians."

While it would be very difficult to verify these claims without actually putting eyeballs on the weapons, Mr. Sada was certainly in a position to know. The truck convoys referred to by Sada should ring familiar considering previous speculation that has pointed to this as the means of transport into Syria.

I’m still puzzled as to why the Bush Administration and various others were so quick to concede that the intelligence was faulty and give up an active search for the weapons. Maybe to some degree it was, but it provided fodder for the anti-war crowd to claim they were never there, which most of us know is not true. There is proof the weapons were there and had been used in the past. Simple logic would suggest they didn’t disappear into thin air.

The Administration has painted themselves into a corner on this one issue by acknowledging that the weapons were not found, instead of saying we’re still looking. It is the one aspect of the war they haven’t stood firm on yet there’s never been a compelling reason to back away from it. They have set themselves up to look rather foolish if and when the weapons are found in Syria or elsewhere. It all could have been avoided by trusting the instincts and intelligence that might yet be proven to have been correct all along.

Freedom from a murderous dictator brings with it a lot of things. One of those things is information. It has always been my belief that people will start to give up information as they begin to feel safer and less threatened. The information they give up will usually be critical, because it will involve things that were once a threat to them; things they never want to face again. I think that is what we are starting to see now and so far we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.

In the end, the Iraqi people, the people who know, will lead us to the truth.

Others Blogging: Rick Moran , Mac Johnson , Bryan Preston , Mark in Mexico

Also: Check out the 2006 Weapons Cache Databank at Camp Katrina. Phil Van Treuren maintains a current list of every bomb and gun taken out of the hands of terrorists by our military. Further proof that our military does much more than kill people and break things.

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Hey Teddy, I Found Your Other Brain Cell!

It's in Switzerland!

Sources close to Kerry, who lost to Bush in the 2004 race, told CNN that the senator was calling colleagues from Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum. He announced his decision to support a filibuster Wednesday at a meeting of his Democratic colleagues...

Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy also said Thursday he would support a filibuster, though he described it as "an uphill climb."

Two signs that your political career is officially in the toilet:

1) You start a war from Switzerland.

2) You can't count.

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Hat Tip: Stop the ACLU

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

You’d Better Think Before You Go Down That Road, Senator Clinton

Hillary Clinton yesterday:

"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," the New York Democrat said.

Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, told reporters she did not yet know whether the administration's warrantless eavesdropping broke any laws. But the senator said she did not buy the White House's main justification for the tactic.

"Their argument that it's rooted in the authority to go after al-Qaida is far-fetched," she said in an apparent reference to a congressional resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The Bush administration has argued that the resolution gave the president authority to order such electronic surveillance as part of efforts to protect the nation from terrorists.

"Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission," she said. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established by Congress to approve eavesdropping warrants, even retroactively, but Bush has argued that the process often takes too long.

First of all, I would like to point out to Senator Clinton that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and FISA is a court. As many times as I’ve read the Constitution, I’ve never seen the acronym “FISA” anywhere in it.

Secondly, in regards to whether the Constitutional argument giving the president inherent authority is “strange because we have FISA”, The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review didn’t seem to think so in their opinion decided November 18, 2002 :

It will be recalled that the case that set forth the primary purpose test as constitutionally required was Truong. The Fourth Circuit thought that Keith’s balancing standard implied the adoption of the primary purpose test. We reiterate that Truong dealt with a pre-FISA surveillance based on the President’s constitutional responsibility to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States. 629 F.2d at 914. Although Truong suggested the line it drew was a constitutional minimum that would apply to a FISA surveillance, see id. at 914 n.4, it had no occasion to consider the application of the statute carefully. The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power. The question before us is the reverse, does FISA amplify the President’s power by providing a mechanism that at least approaches a classic warrant and which therefore supports the government’s contention that FISA searches are constitutionally reasonable. (Emphasis mine)

Jamie Gorelick, didn’t seem to think so either:

"The Department of Justice believes -- and the case law supports -- that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the president may, as he has done, delegate this authority to the attorney general," Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick said in 1994 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

That same authority, she added, pertains to electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.

Based on my understanding of the opinion, FISA has no jurisdiction over the president whatsoever when it comes to conducting warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.

Senator Clinton’s husband, however, didn’t stop there. He actually extended warrantless wiretaps to American Citizens and made his intentions known publicly:

In 1994, President Clinton expanded the use of warrantless searches to entirely domestic situations with no foreign intelligence value whatsoever. In a radio address promoting a crime-fighting bill, Mr. Clinton discussed a new policy to conduct warrantless searches in highly violent public housing projects.

CBS “60 Minutes” even did a story on it:

In February 2000, for instance, CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft introduced a report on the Clinton-era spy program by noting:

"If you made a phone call today or sent an e-mail to a friend, there's a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country's largest intelligence agency. The top-secret Global Surveillance Network is called Echelon, and it's run by the National Security Agency."
NSA computers, said Kroft, "capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world."

Echelon expert Mike Frost, who spent 20 years as a spy for the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Agency, told "60 Minutes" that the agency was monitoring "everything from data transfers to cell phones to portable phones to baby monitors to ATMs."

Do the Democrats, including Senator Clinton, really want to follow this to its logical conclusion? For Heaven’s sake, they want to impeach Bush over this, and the only thing he’s admitted doing is wiretapping phone calls that have suspected terrorists on at least one end of the call?

Even if an investigation is done and it is found that some domestic surveillance occurred, hasn’t Clinton already set that precedent?

This is a slippery slope for the democrats. The American people overwhelmingly support what President Bush is doing, as long as it falls within the bounds the Administration has claimed. It will be much worse for the Democrats when the American people at large find out that the last Democratic President was spying on them as well.

If I were Senator Clinton, I might tone down the rhetoric just a bit.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Is This The Voice of The LA Times?

Joel Stein, who obviously is enjoying the freedom provided by our military to spew vomit from an air conditioned office without fear of having his tongue cut out by an evil dictator, writes this tripe in the Los Angeles Times today:

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

I'm sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.

I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

How gracious of you, Joel, for not advocating that we spit on the troops, but if I could make a suggestion: If you ever crawl out of the relative safety of your cubicle and face the real world, you might want to wear a fairly substantial raincoat because I'm quite certain there will be a line of people just waiting for the opportunity to spit on you.

I suppose I should give you at least some credit for being intellectually honest, but right now I'm too disgusted to make an honest assessment of your value to society, let alone your cause.


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The "Drum"beat of Derangement

Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly yesterday:

AMENDING FISA....Here's another point related to General Hayden's admission today that the NSA's domestic spying program isn't some kind of dazzling high tech black op, but merely garden variety wiretapping that was done outside normal FISA channels because NSA couldn't meet the "probable cause" standard normally needed to get a warrant issued.

Administration apologists have argued that the White House couldn't seek congressional approval for this program because it utilized super advanced technology that we couldn't risk exposing to al-Qaeda. Even in secret session, they've suggested, Congress is a sieve and the bad guys would have found out what we were up to.

But now we know that's not true. This was just ordinary call monitoring, according to General Hayden, and the only problem was that both FISA and the attorney general required a standard of evidence they couldn't meet before issuing a warrant. In other words, the only change necessary to make this program legal was an amendment to FISA modifying the circumstances necessary to issue certain kinds of warrants. This would have tipped off terrorists to nothing.

So why didn't they ask Congress for that change? It certainly would have passed easily. The Patriot Act passed 99-1, after all. Hell, based on what I know about the program, I probably would have voted to approve it as long as it had some reasonable boundaries.
So there must be more to this. But what?

Well since you asked, Mr. Drum, here it is:

On the question of, "Why didn’t they ask Congress for a change to FISA?" One answer is simply, They weren’t required to ask Congress for a change to FISA. The President doesn't need permission from Congress or FISA to do anything involving intelligence. Says Who? Lots of folks, including the court created by the FISA statute.

Robert F. Turner, co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law explains:

For nearly 200 years it was understood by all three branches that intelligence collection--especially in wartime--was an exclusive presidential prerogative vested in the president by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Marshall and many others recognized that the grant of "executive power" to the president included control over intelligence gathering. It was not by chance that there was no provision for congressional oversight of intelligence matters in the National Security Act of 1947.

Space does not permit a discussion here of the congressional lawbreaking that took place in the wake of the Vietnam War. It is enough to observe that the Constitution is the highest law of the land, and when Congress attempts to usurp powers granted to the president, its members betray their oath of office. In certain cases, such as the War Powers Resolution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it might well have crossed that line.

Keep in mind that while the Carter administration asked Congress to enact the FISA statute in 1978, Attorney General Griffin Bell emphasized that the law "does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution." And in 1994, when the Clinton administration invited Congress to expand FISA to cover physical as well as electronic searches, the associate attorney general testified: "Our seeking legislation in no way should suggest that we do not believe we have inherent authority" under the Constitution. "We do," she concluded.

Even Carter’s Attorney General and Clinton’s associate attorney general recognized the Constitutional authority granted to the president. Maybe they should have added the caveat: Democratic President.

There’s more:

I'm not saying that what the president authorized was unquestionably lawful. The Supreme Court in the 1972 "Keith case" held that a warrant was required for national security wiretaps involving purely domestic targets, but expressly distinguished the case from one involving wiretapping "foreign powers" or their agents in this country. In the 1980 Truong case, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the warrantless surveillance of a foreign power, its agent or collaborators (including U.S. citizens) when the "primary purpose" of the intercepts was for "foreign intelligence" rather than law enforcement purposes. Every court of appeals that has considered the issue has upheld an inherent presidential power to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence searches; and in 2002 the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, created by the FISA statute, accepted that "the president does have that authority" and noted "FISA could not encroach on the president's constitutional power."

(Above emphasis mine)

Other possible reasons the President didn't involve Congress can be found here , here, here, here, here and here.

We've done it this way for over 200 years. It was good enough for Carter, It was good enough for Clinton, but now just because it's Bush, it's somehow criminal. Now, while you may not like my answer to your question, I think we can probably call it even. I didn't much like the way in which it was asked. It assumes guilt simply because the president is Republican, without providing evidence to support the charge.

By the way, what exactly were the "reasonable boundaries" required of Carter and Clinton?
I'm just asking.

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Carnival of the Clueless #30

The Carnival of the Clueless is up at Right Wing Nut House. Go there now, Come back here later! I'm off to my son's school for Family Enrichment Night, but will be back later.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

It's Not Domestic Spying! It's Life or Death!

Andrew C. McCarthy on eavesdropping in the National Review Online today:

Imagine for a moment that we are at war. (For many of us, that will not require a very active imagination.)

Our military-theater commanders in western Afghanistan and central Iraq sketch out operations against the enemy. They account for the various contingencies that might arise when confronting stealthy terrorists who shun the laws of civilized warfare. They pore over the latest intelligence estimates one last time. They position their land and air forces accordingly, and ensure that they are properly armed and ready.

And then they go ... straight to court.

Where's the Probably Cause?

Why? Well, to make sure their activities meet the approval of a federal judge, of course. After all, they are about to embark on gross invasions of privacy. Lives are about to be taken, liberty deprived, property seized. Surely, in 21st-century America, such potentially overbearing executive branch behavior cannot be permitted absent approval of a court, can it? What about due process? Where is the probable cause?

Sound ridiculous? Yes, it does. But it is no more absurd than the notion that drives the current controversy over wartime electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency.

We are either at war or we are not. If we are, the president of the United States, whom the Constitution makes the commander-in-chief of our military forces, is empowered to conduct the war — meaning he has unreviewable authority to employ all of the essential incidents of war fighting.

Not some of them. All of them. Including eavesdropping on potential enemy communications. That eavesdropping — whether you wish to refer to it by the loaded "spying" or go more high-tech with "electronic surveillance" or "signals intelligence" — is as much an incident of warfare as choosing which targets to bomb, which hills to capture, and which enemies to detain.

Read. The. Whole. Thing.

For those of you, in particular Al Gore, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, both Clintons, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, and the rest of you who are opposed to spying on terrorists and think we need permission from a judge to open our underwear drawers, consider this:

I, along with millions of Americans will hold you personally responsible if so much as one hair on the heads of any of our loved ones is breathed on by any terrorist you helped succeed due to political ambition and blind hatred for our Commander in Chief in a time of war.

If you think you can do better, Win an Election! In the meantime, quit playing politics with our national security. Stand with the president and help defend this nation, or sit down and shut up!

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

I'm Sassy!

At least according to Argville, that is:

Clearly a Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity fan, Barry Ready runs a blog that echos pretty much what the conservative world thinks. Take for example the current bin Laden tape, where Barry, much like the conservative right, can't analyze it without taking shots at liberals: "Assuming for a moment that the majority of this audio translation was not taken directly from Howard Dean’s talking points and that Osama bin Laden is indeed still alive". Funny, you may have thought that terrorists are the enemy, but if you read Barry's site you'll find out they're not -- liberals are.

But this blog has a lot more than that. Barry applies his conservative thinking to many other issues. His opinions are well-documented and well-written and the site is a good source for how conservatives see issues like the Alito nomination, Ted Kennedy, Tom Delay, and the Iraq war, among many other topics.

I'm not sure whether this is a back-handed compliment or genuine praise, but I'll take it. I appreciate the obvious sincerity of the second paragragh, and if I'm truly viewed as advertised, it's an honor to be thought of in this light regardless of whether the author likes me or loathes me. It means I'm accomplishing what I've set out to accomplish. For my opinions to be considered well-documented and well-written, is the perhaps the greatest compliment a blogger of any stripe can receive. I sincerely appreciate it!

I would like to clear up a couple of discrepancies however:

Although I do like to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, I rarely get the opportunity. What you get from me is largely my opinion of the news of the day with links to my sources. If it "echoes what the conservative world thinks", it is most likely because I am...wait for it...a conservative.

I do believe terrorism presents the greatest threat to our security. Liberalism presents the greatest threat to our liberties. I know it sounds like the same thing, but it really isn't. Easy mistake.

As to why Bin Laden started using Howard Dean's talking points, I can't think of a good reason. They really haven't been all that effective for Dean. I guess that's something Ramsey Clark will have to ask him when he defends him at his trial, assuming the military doesn't introduce him to his 72 virgins first.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention: I can be a bit snarky on occasion, but that shouldn't be confused with insincerity.

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The Churchill Series

I meant to link this awhile back, but a regular reader and friend of this blog, John in Carolina, has been posting a daily series on Winston Churchill. It is a must read for those who hold Churchill in high esteem and value the contribution he made, not only to his country, but to the world, at a time when freedom faced its biggest threat.

John not only covers the well known facts about Churchill, but also some lesser known details that paint a more complete picture of the man. The determination and exceptional leadership qualities
Churchill displayed in times of crisis are a valuable lesson for all of us, regardless of political stripe.

The series started November 1, 2005 and has run daily since. It is well worth an investment of your time.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

In *GASP!* Defense of Chris Matthews

The left is having a conniption fit over a statement made by Chris Matthews in which he “compared” Osama Bin Laden to Michael Moore on Hardball yesterday:

On Hardball today, Chris Matthews compared Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden while discussing the newly released tape with Joe Biden.

Matthews: I mean he sounds like an over the top Michael Moore here, if not a Michael Moore. You think that sells...

Talk about pandering to the right wing let alone an out-right smear in the worst way. Not only is he making a comparison, but he's calling Michael Moore-"Osama." If he compared a conservative figure to Osama what do you think would happen? Chris Matthews owes Michael Moore an apology and fast.

Apology for what? Pointing out the obvious!

First, lets get the facts straight. Matthews, who I would argue could never be accused of pandering to the right wing, made the comparison that Bin Laden sounded like Michael Moore, not that Michael Moore was his equivalent.

Not that I would normally go out of my way to defend Chris Matthews, and its not likely to happen again in my lifetime, but a quick google search for “Michael Moore quotes” proves that Matthews has a point. If you read the Bin Laden text and compare it to some of Michael Moore’s most famous quotes, you can actually see where Matthews is coming from.

Below are some comparisons of portions of the translated audiotape of Bin Laden, to actual quotes made by Michael Moore at various times. It didn’t take long to spot some very interesting similarities:

Bin Laden:

However, what prompted me to speak are the repeated fallacies of your President Bush in his comment on the outcome of the US opinion polls, which indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of the forces from Iraq, but he objected to this desire and said that the withdrawal of troops would send a wrong message to the enemy.


A majority of this country opposes this war ... a majority of this country never voted for this administration.” –Michael Moore

Bin Laden:

The Pentagon figures indicate the rise in the number of your dead and wounded, let alone the huge material losses, and let alone the collapse of the morale of the soldiers there and the increase in the suicide cases among them.


“This film is full of American troops over in Iraq, telling you, the audience, how demoralized they are because the Bush administration has sent them over there on a lie,”
-Michael Moore

Bin Laden:

I say that despite all the barbaric methods, they have failed to ease resistance, and the number of mujahideen, praise be to God, is increasing.


“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the revolution, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow - and they will win.”-Michael Moore

Bin Laden:

There is no defect in this solution other than preventing the flow of hundreds of billions to the influential people and war merchants in America, who supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars.


“The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich.”-Michael Moore

(Emphasis mine)

Now you can say that Matthews shouldn’t have compared the two in any way, but to claim there is no similarity in the talking points of Osama Bin Laden and Michael Moore is completely absurd.

Sure, they aren’t identical word for word, but they don’t have to be for Matthews to be right. Osama Bin Laden only has to sound as if he has been reading Moore’s talking points for Matthews’s statement to be true. It just isn’t terribly difficult in this instance to meet that standard.

Of course, Matthews is still an obnoxious, self-serving jackass, but this is one of those extremely rare occurrences where he owes an apology to no one.

(He does, however, still owe one to Michelle Malkin and a host of others whose list is too long to publish here.)

UPDATE 10:33pm: Along the same lines, Tom Maquire notes this is not the first time Bin Laden has used Moore's talking points:

Well - if Osama has chosen to adopt Michael Moore's rhetoric, it would not be the first time. Bin Laden also made a reference to "The Pet Goat" after Moore popularized that Florida classroom incident in his film.

And why the fuss, anyway? Moore bashes Bush, Osama bashes Bush - surely the rhetoric might overlap at times, and if Osama is aping Moore, why should that be an outrage to Moore?

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Remembering The Inauguration And Lasting Legacy Of Ronald Wilson Reagan

***This post bumped to top, ala Captain Ed. Originally posted January 18, 2006***

I was sent an invitation by Mike’s America last week, asking for my participation in a 25th Anniversary commemoration of the 1st Inaugural of President Ronald Wilson Reagan on January 20, 2006. I am truly honored to have been asked to be a part of this commemoration, and will do my best in the space below to do this great man justice.

As many of my regular readers know, I consider Ronald Reagan to have not only been the greatest president of the 20th Century, but also one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with this assessment, but if you will indulge me for a moment, I will explain the reasons I believe this to be so.

The disagreement usually comes down to an argument between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald W. Reagan as to which was the greatest president of the 20th Century. I like to believe the answer is found by analyzing the questions each president asked.

Roosevelt asked, “What can the government do to lead the American people through this crisis?” Reagan asked, “What can the American people accomplish in the absence of government intervention?”

While a popular answer to the question is that each was the right man at the right time, I sometimes find myself wondering: How would history have changed had each president served the other’s terms in office? Would the American people have had the will to pull out of the Great Depression had Reagan placed the responsibility of recovery on their shoulders instead of the WPA programs of Roosevelt? Would Roosevelt have been successful using additional government spending in the 80’s to get America back on track?

In this hypothetical exercise, assuming a draw on national security, I believe Reagan wins hands down.

With all due respect to Roosevelt, I don’t believe his solution would have had the same effect in the 80’s as it did in the 30’s. The federal government was already so large and the taxes rates so punitive, that adding to it would have exacerbated the problem. On the other hand, I believe Reagan’s solution would have worked equally well in either era because it recognized that the true greatness of America is found not within her government, but within her people. Reagan knew if he removed the obstacles, the American people would respond.

Reagan’s goal was not to redefine government, but to make it more closely resemble its original definition and return it to its rightful owners,the American people:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

The words of his 1st Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981 demonstrate his belief in the power of the American people:

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price…

We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick -- professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, ``We the people,'' this breed called Americans…

So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed…

If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price…

We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are not heroes, they just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they're on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They're individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life.

Reagan’s vision for America began at noon January 20, 1981 on the West Side of the
U. S. Capitol. I think it is very fitting that his Inauguration was the first to occur here, because to me it symbolized a new beginning, or as Reagan himself would later call it; "Morning in America".

He has become affectionately known as “The Great Communicator”, but I also like to think of him as “The Great Motivator”. He took a nation that had lost faith in itself, dusted it off, injected a little optimism, then stood back and watched the train gather steam and roll steadily down the tracks.

On the 25th Anniversary of the 1st Inauguration of President Ronald Wilson Reagan, my hope is that all Americans will pause for a moment to remember the man who reminded us that the people are the reason America is, and always will be, the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

I know I will.

Thanks to: Stop the ACLU Weekend Open Trackback

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Bin Laden Offering Truce

Aljazeera has posted a portion of an audio tape on their web site. The voice claims to be that of Osama Bin Laden offering America a long-term truce.

The text of the letter:

"This message is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end those wars," it began.

"It was not my intention to talk to you about this, because those wars are definitely going our way.

"But what triggered my desire to talk to you is the continuous deliberate misinformation given by your President [George] Bush, when it comes to polls made in your home country which reveal that the majority of your people are willing to withdraw US forces from Iraq.

"We know that the majority of your people want this war to end and opinion polls show the Americans do not want to fight the Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their [US] land.

"But Bush does not want this and claims that it is better to fight his enemies on their land rather than on American land.

"Bush tried to ignore the polls that demanded that he end the war in Iraq.

"We are getting increasingly stronger while your situation is getting from bad to worse," he told the US, referring to poor US troop morale and the huge economic losses inflicted by the war.

"The war in Iraq is raging and the operations in Afghanistan are increasing."

"In response to the substance of the polls in the US, which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to.

"We are a nation that Allah banned from lying and stabbing others in the back, hence both parties of the truce will enjoy stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by war.

"There is no problem in this solution, but it will prevent hundreds of billions from going to influential people and war lords in America - those who supported Bush's electoral campaign - and from this, we can understand Bush and his gang's insistence on continuing the war."

Addressing Americans again, he said: "If your desire for peace, stability and reconciliation was true, here we have given you the answer to your call."

Assuming for a moment that the majority of this audio translation was not taken directly from Howard Dean’s talking points and that Osama bin Laden is indeed still alive; an honest assessment can lead to only one conclusion: We are winning and bin Laden knows it!

Here’s my take on the true meaning behind the words on the audio tape:

Bin Laden is attempting a rope-a-dope, but forgot to bring the rope. He is offering a truce, but in reality he needs time to regroup because he is running out of resources. Up to this point, he has been able to move around undetected and depend on his underlings to stir up trouble. The strategy has worked for some time, but he is slowly but surely running out of underlings.

The wake up call came the moment the unmanned Predator Drone dropped an uninvited guest into the Al Qaeda Dinner Party last week, killing some high-ranking members of his organization. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say he was close enough to the impact to smell the smoke and hear the explosion. The message delivered on the tip of that missile was clear: the noose is tightening!

Bin Laden knows his only hope is to appeal to the anti-war crowd in hopes of gaining some support and sympathy. He wanted to face the paper tiger after 9/11, but got a raging bull instead. He is hoping we accept the truce so that he can save face and declare a victory for the jihad, but in reality, he knows his days are numbered.

He wants us to admit defeat and lose our will before he runs out of places to hide; and he will run out of places to hide sooner or later. Most likely sooner!

He claims his side is winning because he knows that is exactly what our media is reporting. He knows the only way he wins this war is by breaking our will and he knows the media has long been his biggest ally in that regard.

When the world’s most notorious terrorist starts quoting polling data in an attempt to broker a truce, I can’t help but think there’s not much left in the tank. I’m not discounting the threat or even saying that the threat does not still exist, but there seems to be ample evidence that the threat is diminishing at an increasingly rapid rate.

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Also Blogging: The Jawa Report, Stop the ACLU, The Counterterrorism Blog, Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, Wizbang, Michelle Malkin, PoliBlog

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The al-Qaida Quagmire


Christopher Hitchens reports on a “new” phenomenon occurring in Iraq:

The best news from Iraq this year would certainly be the long New York Times report of Jan. 12 on the murderous strife between local "insurgents" and al-Qaida infiltrators. This was also among the best news from last year. For months, coalition soldiers in Iraq had been telling anyone who would care to listen that they had noticed a new phenomenon: heavy fire that they didn't have to duck. On analysis, this turned out to be shooting or shelling apparently "incoming" from one "insurgent position" but actually directed at another one.

That would be bad enough news for the video-butchers and the bombers of mosques, but there was worse to come. On Aug. 14 last year, the Washington Post published the following lead paragraph on its front page:

Rising up against insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, Iraqi Sunni Muslims in Ramadi fought with grenade launchers and automatic weapons Saturday to defend their Shiite neighbors against a bid to drive them from the western city. … Dozens of Sunni members of the Dulaimi tribe established cordons around Shiite homes, and Sunni men battled followers of Zarqawi, a Jordanian, for an hour Saturday morning. The clashes killed five of Zarqawi's guerrillas and two tribal fighters, residents and hospital workers said. Zarqawi loyalists pulled out of two contested neighborhoods in pickup trucks stripped of license plates, witnesses said

This is not the sign of a strengthening “insurgency”, but of one that is falling apart and losing influence. Different sects are joining together to defend themselves from what has become a common enemy. Iraqi people of all stripes have gotten a taste of freedom and are rising up in defense of it. Not exactly the picture the media has been painting, is it?

Hitchens goes into further detail then concludes by pointing out the significance of these events:

The significance of this, and of numerous other similar accounts, is three-fold. First, it means that the regular media caricature of Iraqi society is not even a parody. It is very common indeed to find mixed and intermarried families, and these loyalties and allegiances outweigh anything that can be mustered by a Jordanian jailbird who has bet everything on trying to ignite a sectarian war. Second, it means in the not very long run that the so-called insurgency can be politically isolated and militarily defeated. It already operates within a minority of a minority and is largely directed by unpopular outsiders. Politically, it is the Khmer Rouge plus the Mafia—not the Viet Cong. And unlike the Khmer Rouge, it has no chance at all of taking the major cities. Nor, apart from the relatively weak Syrian regime, does it have a hinterland or a friendly neutral territory to use for resupply. And its zealots are now being killed by nationalist and secular, as well as clerical, guerrillas. (In Kurdistan, the Zarqawi riffraff don't even try; there is a real people's army there, and it has a short way with fascists. It also fights on the coalition side.) In counterinsurgency terms, this is curtains for al-Qaida.
Which is my third point. If all goes even reasonably well, and if a combination of elections and prosperity is enough to draw more mainstream Sunnis into politics and away from Baathist nostalgia, it will have been proved that Bin-Ladenism can be taken on—and openly defeated—in a major Middle Eastern country. And not just defeated but discredited. Humiliated. Is there anyone who does not think that this is a historic prize worth having? Worth fighting for, in fact?

I’d say the significance is huge on all three counts!

UPDATE 11:50pm: After posting this entry earlier today, it came to my attention that Mr. Hitchens is one of the named plaintiffs in the ACLU's lawsuit against the NSA. In light of this information, I feel it is necessary to state unequivocally my opposition to this lawsuit. While I agree with his conclusions in the above referenced article, I do not support his involvement nor that of any of the plaintiffs in this effort.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Send in the Staffer, Teddy’s Lost It!

Via (The Boston Herald)

U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — who ripped Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for ties to a group that discriminates against women — says he’s going to quit a club notorious for discriminating against women “as fast as I can.”

Kennedy was outed by conservatives late last week as a current member of The Owl Club, a social club for Harvard alumni that bans women from membership.

In an interview with WHDH Channel 7’s Andy Hiller that aired last night, Kennedy said, “I joined when I . . . 52 years ago, I was a member of the Owl Club, which was basically a fraternal organization.”

Asked by Hiller whether he is still a member, Kennedy said, “I’m not a member; I continue to pay about $100.”

He then said of being a member in a club that discriminates against women, “I shouldn’t be and I’m going to get out of it as fast as I can.”

First, he hijacks the floor during the Alito hearings last week and demands a subpoena be issued for documents freely available in The Library of Congress.

Then, he conducts a character assassination on the nominee on the basis that he once was a member of a group at Princeton that discriminated against women.

Finally, he admits that he is a member of the Owl Club, which also discriminates against women, says he will “get out of it as fast as I can”, then says “I’m not a member; I continue to pay about $100.”

$100 for what, Senator Kennedy? Non-membership dues?

I rank Senator Kennedy's questioning the morality of others at about the same point on the scale as I would rank Satan teaching Sunday School.

Does this hypocritical windbag have even two cells left in that pickled brain of his? If so, they’re obviously not on speaking terms, and haven’t been for quite some time.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Tracfones As Detonation Devices

Hat Tip: Mike’s America

According to ABC News, individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan are buying disposable cellular phones in mass quantities:

Federal agents have launched an investigation into a surge in the purchase of large quantities of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan, ABC News has learned.

The phones — which do not require purchasers to sign a contract or have a credit card — have many legitimate uses, and are popular with people who have bad credit or for use as emergency phones tucked away in glove compartments or tackle boxes. But since they can be difficult or impossible to track, law enforcement officials say the phones are widely used by criminal gangs and terrorists.

"There's very little audit trail assigned to this phone. One can walk in, purchase it in cash, you don't have to put down a credit card, buy any amount of minutes to it, and you don't, frankly, know who bought this," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI official who is now an ABC News consultant.

Law enforcement officials say the phones were used to detonate the bombs terrorists used in the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.

"The application of prepaid phones for nefarious reasons, is really widespread. For example, the terrorists in Madrid used prepaid phones to detonate the bombs in the subway trains that killed more than 200 people," said Roger Entner, a communications consultant. (Emphasis mine)

It has always struck me as pathetically hypocritical that terrorists, who despise free and open societies, will utilize the technology that is the product of such societies, in an attempt to destroy those same societies. This is also what makes them so dangerous, and the need to eliminate them so critical.

The incidents that raised the red flag:

In one New Year's Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said.

In an earlier incident, at a Wal-Mart store in Midland, Texas, on Dec. 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.

The Midland police report, dated Dec. 18 and obtained by ABC News, states: "Information obtained by MPD [Midland Police Department] dispatch personnel indicated that approximately six individuals of Middle-Eastern origin were attempting to purchase an unusually large quantity of tracfones (disposable cell phones with prepaid minutes attached)." At least one of the suspects was identified as being from Iraq and another from Pakistan, officials said.

"Upon the arrival of officers, suspects were observed moving away from the registers — appearing to evade detection while ridding themselves of the merchandise."

Other reports have come in from other cities, including Dallas, and from authorities in other states. Authorities in Pennsylvania, New York and other parts of Texas confirmed that they were alerted to the cases, and sources say other jurisdictions were also notified.

The growing use of the throwaway cell phones has been cited by President Bush as an important justification for expanding the wiretap laws under the Patriot Act.

"Law enforcement officials can now use what's now called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones to get a message out to one of his buddies," Bush said on April 20, 2004.

Now, can we please move past worrying about the wiretapping Al Qaeda phone calls and take this threat seriously?

Other reaction:

Bryan Preston notes what was left out of the story:

The story points out that the Madrid bombers used pre-paid cell phones in their work. It doesn’t point out that the last time the press leaked operational information like this, it helped Osama bin Laden decide to move from satellite phones, which presumably the NSA had been using to track him, to harder-to-track means of communication including human mules hand carrying notes. That was quite a while before 9-11; the disclosure of the satellite phone tracking probably helped him stay alive long enough to make sure 9-11 happened.

Mike notes how the Patriot Act applies to these particular threats:

Democrats, who recently crowed about killing the Patriot Act, were also opposed to extending a provision for "roving wiretaps" which allows law enforcement to monitor individuals using any phone, not just wiretaps on specific phone numbers. Without that authority, the use of multiple disposable phones would make monitoring those calls nearly impossible. Law enforcement would have to go back to a court and get a new warrant every time a suspected terrorist grabbed another phone out of the bag.

Combine Democrat opposition to extending the Patriot Act with the leak describing the NSA program to monitor terrorist calls into the United States and you find Americans are at greater risk for terrorist attack.

Sister Toldjah issues a smack down:

When did the story on the NSA eavesdropping break? Dec. 16. I hope the “whistleblowers“ and those who once upon a time claimed to be so concerned about how leaks could damage our national security suffer some sleepless nights and restless days over this. A lot of them.

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Those Who Live In Glass Houses...

Need more proof Ted Kennedy is a hypocrite? Look no further than today's Washington Times:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy belongs to a social club for Harvard students and alumni that was evicted from campus nearly 20 years ago after refusing to allow female members.
According to the online membership directory of the Owl Club, the Massachusetts Democrat updated his personal information -- including the address of his home that is in his wife's name -- on Sept. 7.
The club has long been reviled on campus as "sexist" and "elitist" and, in 1984, was booted from the university for violating federal anti-discrimination laws, authored by Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy has spent much of this week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings interrogating Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. for his ties to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that is critical of admissions quotas but was formed in the early 1970s in opposition to the admission of women.
Judge Alito's "affiliation with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation for the need for full equality in this country," Mr. Kennedy said Wednesday.

Would it be out of order for me to proclaim any hearing in which Ted Kennedy is given a forum to question the morality of others a complete joke? I mean, I'm just asking.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bravo, Senator Graham!

My Senator, Lindsey Graham(R-SC) issued an apology to the family of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito during his time with the nominee today:

GRAHAM: If you don't mind the suspicious nature that I have is that you may be saying that because you want to get on the Supreme Court; that you're disavowing this now because it doesn't look good.

And really what I would look at to believe you're not -- and I'm going to be very honest with you -- is: How have you lived your life? Are you really a closet bigot?

ALITO: I'm not any kind of a bigot, I'm not.

GRAHAM: No, sir, you're not. And you know why I believe that? Not because you just said it -- but that's a good enough reason, because you seem to be a decent, honorable man. I have got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you, African American judges -- I've lost my quotes.

Judge Higginbotham -- I don't know where they're at. But glowing quotes about who you are, the way you've lived your life; law clerks, men and women, black and white, your colleagues who say that Sam Alito, whether I agree with him or not, is a really good man.

You know why I believe you when you say that you disavow those quotes? Because the way you have lived your life and the way you and your wife are raising your children.

Let me tell you this: Guilt by association is going to drive good men and women away from wanting to sit where you're sitting. And we're going to go through a bit of this ourselves as congressmen and senators.

People are going to take a fact that we got a campaign donation from somebody who's found out to be a little different than we thought they were -- and our political opponent's going to say, "Aha, I got you!"

And we're going to say, "Wait a minute. I didn't know that. I didn't take the money for that reason."

And you know what? I'm going to believe these senators and congressmen for the most part, because that's the way we do our business. We meet people here every day. We have photos taken with people -- and sometimes you wish you didn't have your photo taken.

But that doesn't mean that you're a bad person because of that association.

Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this.

I suppose it goes without saying that I haven't been Senator Graham's biggest fan of late, due primarilly to his participation in the "Gang of 14 filibuster focus group", but I have to say his decency as a human being and his willingness to stand behind principle, whether I agree with it or not, has never been in question with me.

Today, he took from his scheduled time with the nominee to issue an apology for the despicable bloviating and character assassination Alito and his family have had to endure during this process. It's a shame he had issue this apology on behalf of those who have neither the class nor the conscience to issue it themselves.

Sadly, it's the only moment in this pointless debacle that's been worth a pixel of my posting time.


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