Saturday, December 31, 2005

U.S. Base in Germany Closes After 60 Years

U.S. Base in Germany Closes After 60 Years

I was at Rhein-Main the day of Reagan's inauguration; that is, the day the Iranian hostages were returned.

No word from Congressman Murtha's office on the delayed pullout of our troops in the German quagmire.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Justice Department opens probe into leak of NSA program

The inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said.

The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on its own, and the president was informed of it on Friday.

"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue. The fact is that al-Qaida's playbook is not printed on Page One and when America's is, it has serious ramifications," Duffy told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where Bush was spending the holidays." — PJM News - U.S. Justice Department opens probe into leak of Bush's domestic spying (6813051/AP)

This should be very interesting. How quickly do you suppose the Times will be able to turn and say this threatens civil liberties, and stop talking about the plame investigation?




The worked-over, obscure worries blur gold
In drying grass. Now that you’re back I’m jazzed.
From standing out in the electric field,
In your hand the cut wild flowers buzz.

We get to jump with poppies, as sex-crazed—
Such fluttering in warm wind, where the sun
Burns all the little lies I told away.
We’ve watched butterflies. Whose wing-edges burn

Frail in bright sunlight, frail... wearing away,
Like ancient wallpaper. Summer wears on,
Frayed at the edges.—Registering dismay
You turned your gorgeous face full on me. One

Was once a handsome swain, or city kid
Of average looks, perhaps. One wants to please
In some capacity, however bad.
I’m epidemiologist to bees.

But since I’ve failed to help them, the wild flowers—
Render their judgment, and, —I should be torn
To pieces by the coyotes, for hours
I haven’t put in, trying to heal the burn

My body’s made in what was once as pure
As arctic air—I mean that other world
We plunged into as kids, of chill water
We’d drink from swift, tea-colored creeks, unboiled,

To lie on sunwarm rock, a laughing noon
That agitates our quantum of the free
Happiness, showering photons, while the sun
Stands still a minute, where it’s supposed to be—

With nervous energy, surviving bees
Lay down their worry lines, find hanging bells
Chiming a kind of silence, a sweetness,
As from some lost city of golden cells.

Those who understand will understand

If you have ever had a severe back sprain, you can answer the following quiz with no problem. Which activity is most likely to result in the worst back pain of your life?

A. Skiing to outrace an avalanche
B. Lifting a car to save a baby
C. Kickboxing competition
D. Bending over to pick up a piece of Pringles™ you spit out while laughing at your own joke.

The Dilbert Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Housin' Bubble, or Blowin' Smoke

If you haven't heard, there's a housing bubble on. Speculators are driving up the price of housing, and when prices crash everyone will suffocate under the financial rubble. There are even blogs devoted to it.

So we're all doomed. Just thought I should let you know.

But wait! There's more...

Median home prices (the price of a home a reasonably prosperous family might buy) have historically closely tracked GDP per capita. That makes sense - as people make more, they spend more on housing.

So housing prices today are at historic highs relative to GDP per capita, right?

Well, not really. They're above the long run average, but about where they were in the late 70s and late 80s.

And with mortgage rates so low, they're quite affordable. In fact, the median home is as affordable as it has even been.

See, home prices are relatively insensitive to mortgage rates, which is why affordability and interest rates track each other so closely. But with rates at historic lows, people appear to be willing to spend a little more to buy a home now and lock in those rates.

But prices will drop, won't they?

Well, they've come down some already, and if mortgage rates rise precipitously, or the economy falls into recession, they might. Between April and September of 1990 prices dropped by 10%, and they didn't recover until the end of 1993. Would that be a disaster?

Now, there may be some markets that are frothy, and maybe high-end homes are going through the roof. But the median home, the one that median people like myself care most about, is well within reach, and looks like a pretty good investment right now - especially if you intend to stay for a while.

All we have to fear is fear itself

Fear, Complexity and Environmental Management in the 21st Century is the title of a November 6 speech given by author Michael Crichton on [among other things] linear thought and deliberate fear mongering. He begins with the "global disaster" Chernobyl and expounds upon a theme found in his book State of Fear. We are being fed opinion as if it were pure Science.

He makes note of the many times the so-called experts have been wrong about the end of the world.

People can say that Evangelicals preach the End Times but they have got nothing on the Media and certain members of the politicized grant driven community of Scientists.

via Roger L. Simon. I agree with Roger. Bravo.

Quote for Today

"Allow yourself to be curious about the world, and to find the mystery in the mundane." — Peter Boettke

The context is in a discussion of economics and the "economic way of thought", but the insight goes far beyond. We're in the time when the upstart monotheisms make a lot of their miracles — but what do we need for big miracles when we've got a universe that provides us with Abyssinian cats who love banana bread?


A top government health official visiting a psychiatric ward asked the head of psychology: “How do you determine if a patient is cured?”

The psychologist said: “We take them to the bath which is filled with water, hand them a spoon and a cup and ask them to empty the bath.”

“I see,” said the official. “The cured person would, of course, choose the cup because it’s bigger and will empty the bath faster.”

“Actually no,” replied the psychologist. “A normal person would pull the plug out.”
My question: when are we bailing with the spoon instead of pulling the plug?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Update on the Danish Cartoons

Just a reminder that the cartoons about the prophet Muhammed published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten are still an issue in Europe. Brussels Journal brings us up to date on current happenings as all of Europe piles on.

I thought the cartoons were in poor taste, but the over wrought response is beginning to drive me to the other side. Demeaning cartoons and art about Christianity are not rare, so what the heck is special about Islam? If you can insult the one religion you can sure as heck insult the other. It is required, in fact, if you want to demean religion per se. So why hold back?

The Insurgents are Winning

"Removing Saddam begins the reconfiguration of the Middle East, a dangerous, expensive process, but one that will lay the foundation for true states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted." — Austin Bay

Offworld Speaks Truth to Power

I received this exchange in email between our very own Offworld and a man whom I shall name Simplicio (HT Galileo). This states the case so well I deemed it worthy of front page publication.

I would like for someone to explain to me how Iraq is ground zero for the war on Terrorism. It seems to me that terrorism directed towards the US is simply the result of our mideast policies. If we want to avoid terrorism we have only to withdraw from the mideast. And thereby save the billions we are spending to set up our home defenses.

Blaming the victim is easy but it is wrong. When the victim blames his or herself, it only invites the continuation of violence.

In principle, I would prefer that we not engage in these foreign adventures -- I would prefer that we trade with everyone and not make war. History leaves us with a complicated mess though and our past policies are only one little piece of the picture. Pulling out of the Middle East, in the sense of not defending our interests there, is quite unrealistic for the next twenty years at least and would require us to build a lot of nuclear power facilities. Also we can not leave Israel all on its own. If we cannot stick up for our allies, then our alliance means nothing. How do we wish to be perceived? This is not about how we feel about ourselves based on others' opinions but rather of strategic importance. Other nations and peoples will deal with us accordingly.

We should be no greater friend, and no worse enemy. We should be slow to fight but fearless once roused. We should be magnanimous in victory. We should be open and generous yet keenly aware and defensive of our interests. When we have failed in any of these respects as we did in Yalta and Vietnam, the effects have been disastrous for ourselves and for others. Above all, we should not be feckless and fickle as this will invite disorder, chaos and violence upon us and many other good people in the world.

Evil exists and will continue to operate whether we stay home or not.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


WaPo's hit piece on Bill Roggio's freelance reporting in the Anbar province of Iraq (especially offensive to Roggio's readers and sponsors) prompted this interesting analysis from (fellow-Brit) Francis Turner, blogging at The Shadow of the Olive Tree. He suggests that the WaPo is doing what any "large incumbent company does when it sees a threat on the radar screen from a start up" by deliberately spreading "fear uncertainty and doubt" about the competition: Spreading FUD

Spreading 'fear, uncertainty and doubt' about the blogosphere in general, of course, is one way the MSM seeks to retain control of the dialog.

Sacco and Vanzetti Were Guilty

Or so Upton Sinclair wrote in a letter. But that didn't stop him from writing Boston, a novelization of the affair that promoted their innocence. But wait, there is more:
Ideale Gambera, whose father was a Boston anarchist in the 1920s, said he could empathize with Sinclair's angst about revealing his doubts.

Gambera, 80, said there was a strict code of silence to protect the group and hide the nature of their activities. He said his father, Giovanni Gambera, a member of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, told him before he died in 1982 that Sacco was one of the killers.

"They all lied," said Gambera, a retired English professor living in San Rafael. "They did it for the cause."

The hypocrisy of the Left seems endless. What good is served by lying? How can spreading untruth and damaging myths bring about a better world? The engineer in me rebels at the very thought. No good can come from ignoring what is real, only trouble and failed systems.

Photos from Cuba

Photos from Cuba have been posted on Argentinian Indymedia. They look like scenes from a post apocalypse SciFi movie, the cities decayed and falling apart. I kept thinking that this is how our cities might look if people disappeared and there was no maintenance for fifty years. No doubt the photos have been selected for their impact, but still. And they do look like other pictures I have seen posted. HT Harry's Place.

'nuf said

Click for full size.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Buddha in der Glorie

Rainer Maria Rilke

Mitte aller Mitten, Kern der Kerne,
Mandel, die sich einschließt und versüßt, -
dieses Alles bis an alle Sterne
ist dein Fruchtfleisch: Sei gegrüßt.

Sieh, du fühlst, wie nichts mehr an dir hängt;
im Unendlichen ist deine Schale,
und dort steht der starke Saft und drängt.
Und von außen hilft ihm ein Gestrahle,

denn ganz oben werden deine Sonnen
voll und glühend umgedreht.
Doch in dir ist schon begonnen,
was die Sonnen übersteht.

Buddha in Glory

Center of all centers, core of the core,
Almond that encloses and sweetens itself, --
one with the farthest stars,
your own sweet flesh: be known!

See! You feel, nothing hangs on you;
the Infinite is in your bowl,
the sweet juice flooding it.
Helped by a radiance from beyond,

overhead your full and glowing Suns
are overwhelmed.
Yes, in you, already begun, that
which outlasts the Stars.

Is Social Security Reform Dead?

IN August 2000 leading Democrats got together and produced the Hyde Park Declaration. Among other things the Democrats pledged to confront the fiscal problems that big entitlements will face in the future and to deal with the fact that their continued growth will bankrupt the programs. They also pledged to "honor our commitments to seniors". And they pledged to find a way to contain future costs acknowledging that Social Security and Medicare needed to be modified to reflect realities not envisioned when the programs were created.

Bill Clinton also stated that there should be greater emphasis on people creating their own wealth and their own retirement for the future. In fact the impending crisis in Social Security was one of the reasons given at the time for no new tax cuts.

Now these same Democrats claim there is no problem and so far have refused to offer any ideas for reform. Other than the usual raising taxes.

History did not begin when Bush took office and it will not end when he leaves office. The problems confronting the entitlement programs, once the baby boomers retire, could destroy the programs for future generations if not dealt with.

The question is, is government up to it? Or will we be like France? And once my generation retires and creates the largest voting block on Social Security in the nation's history...will it be too late?

Merry Christmas

Tapestry by Elizabeth Goodrick-Dillon

Have a happy and safe holiday.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Ten Over Par

Subtitle this item as 'The Strange Paths you can Follow on the Internet'. It starts with an item in the Australian, via Google News, entitled Dead as Dodo Find. Christmas is a slow news day, and so we're treated to the fact that a cache of some 700 bones has been found on Mauritius. These are a mixture of dodo and chicken bones and scientist believe they'll finally be able to reconstruct a full skeleton of a dodo bird from them.

The fact they don't have a complete skeleton, coupled with the mention in the article that the last stuffed dodo bird was destroyed in a fire in 1755, surprised me. There were thousands of the birds, and the 18th and 19th centuries were full of gentlemen naturalists classifying, stuffing, and mounting every exotic creature they could find. It must have been the speed of their extinction that kept the museum cases empty of samples of them.

Being a slow news day, I search the web for further dodo information. In our imagination dodo birds are exotic hulking creatures doomed by their very innocence. The Mauritius as a Garden of Eden, with lambs laid down next to wolfs, invaded and destroyed by blunberbuss toting Dutch sailors. That image is punctured by National Geographic's Extinct Dodo Related to Pigeons, DNA Shows. So the feathered things were nothing more than gigantic landbound pidgeons? Revealed as giant rats of the bird kingdom, some of the romantic pathos of their extinction drains away.

Continuing on, we find a suitably ridiculous end for our Christmas dodo research. Anyone for Tee shows the dodo is alive in the lexicon of golfers. Sadly, I've shot a dodo on more than one occasion myself. Will PETA ever forgive me?

The Insurgents Are Losing

There's a diner called Peggy Sue's about eight miles outside of Barstow, and as hard as Lt. Col. Kenneth Parks tries, he can never seem to pay his bill.

He orders a burger and a chocolate shake. But before he's finished, the waitress informs him the tab has been taken care of by yet another stranger who prefers to remain anonymous but who wants to do something for a soldier in uniform. — From Heckles to Halos - Los Angeles Times

Read it all.

You Are Beautiful

You Are Beautiful

Saturday, December 24, 2005

An Exhausting, Exciting, Joyous Saturnalia

Or whatever newfangled holidays you might be celebrating. — Seneca

The Fiend

On the long haul back from a four-day trip to the Middle East highlighted by a surprise trip to Iraq, Cheney made it a priority to get his iPod a little juice — commandeering use of one of the few power outlets on the jet.

The power grab aboard his own plane frustrated reporters traveling with him who were trying to file stories and pushed curious journos to find out what tunes Cheney was eager to groove to. — NY Post

Friday, December 23, 2005

Connect the Dots!

The NSA surveillance program has been the hot topic since the Iraqi elections. And during that period Bush's approval rating has steadily climbed.

Rasmussen has him hitting 50 today!

Now another leak has made into in the news. US News and World Report has this headline:

Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned.
Keep up the leaks, folks, and Bush will be at 100% approval by July!

Okay, shall we take bets on how long it takes for the Saudi funded Religious Police, er CAIR, to protest?

And when are we going to get some pushback from the government against all these leaks that affect national security? This one is especially egregious since now al Qaeda knows which cities we are NOT monitoring.

Whither the blogosphere?

A post on a prominent left-wing blog (HT: PJ Media) posits that the left-side of the blogosphere is growing faster than the right because it has a more permissive attitude towards allowing comments, and because it encourages development of "community
blogs." See here: Aristocratic Right Wing Blogosphere Stagnating

In other words, the theory goes, the right-side of the blogosphere is doomed by its oh-so predictable tendency towards an elitist, exclusive, top-down view of, and approach to, the world.

Given the distrust (noted here previously) that many prominent right-of-center bloggers (such as Hewitt, Reynolds, Malkin and the Powerline guys) have towards enabling comments; and given those bloggers’ obvious preference for a less-open forum, is there some truth to MyDD’s hypothesis? Or does the causality perhaps run in the other direction, such that consumers of right-of-center blogs prefer at least some of the blogs they read to be free of the acrimony associated with blogs, like this one, that are truly open? And just how open are left-of-center blogs anyway, given their reputation for quickly banning dissenting commenters?

Is the left-of-center blogosphere really growing faster? Do ‘lefties’ just have more time on their hands (in between WTO summits) to visit blogs and engage in comment threads? Is a right-of-center community blog such as Flares a contradiction-in-terms and doomed to failure? Or is it destined instead to conquer all and save the blogosphere (and the world) from the DU’s great leap forward?

"Compassion in Action"

When you see a Rastafarian-looking homeless advocate, you usually don't think Republican. Apparently, multi-millionaire retired attorney Milton Sidley never expected Ted Hayes to be a Republican, either. Sidley, you see, is the landlord for Dome Village, which currently pays Sidley $2,500 per month, plus property taxes, for the right to occupy the formerly blighted encampment site.

Unfortunately for the once-homeless who now live at Dome Village, the Los Angeles Times published an article earlier this month that mentioned Hayes's political leanings. Perhaps Milton Sidley--a partisan Democrat who contributed $4,000 to the John Kerry campaign in 2004--noticed the article: all of a sudden, the landlord has announced that Dome Village's rent will increase by over 630% when the lease comes up in late 2006. Each month, Dome Village will have to come up with $18,333 plus property taxes in order to stay afloat, or the residents will face homelessness once again.

According to a recent press release from Dome Village, when asked about the rent increase, Sidley replied, "This Democrat is tired of supporting Ted and his Dome Village."
Read the whole thing.

Always Good for Some Perspective

Our newest blogroll member, Maggie's Farm, had this picture showing yesterday. I had forgotten about it. There are some things it's good to look at repeatedly over the years.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Playing against type

At this point, I suspect that the "NSA flap" is more or less over. I'll have some thoughts later — I hope; the day job is about to let me loose for a few days — about what we've learned, in particular about how things are different now than, say in 1972.

In the mean time, though, I think I ought to capture a few important links on the NSA story, so that anyone who has been following it here (in the off chance you haven't followed it anywhere else) will have them.

it's also interesting that several of them are places where the author is "playing against type":

  • Pejman Yousefzadeh argues against the NSA program. His primary objection seems to be that he doesn't see the necessecity of a program that doesn't include the FISA court orders. I think he's mistaken in this; that will be another topic of my pending post.

  • Bruce Fein agrees with Pejman in the Washington Times.

  • On the other hand, Professor Cass Sunstein, a noted liberal law professor at Chicago, believes the President's program is at least plausibly legal.

  • So does John Schmidt, Associate Attorney General from Clinton's administration.

Playing more to type, John Hinderocker presents his full analysis of the issue. His analysis very closely matches the official Department of Justice position(note PDF file), although Hinderocker objects to the DoJ 's position paper because it depends more on statute and less on the President's inherent Constitutional powers.

My conclusion: I still think the various arguments in favor of the legality of the NSA program are very strong, but there are respectable legal authorities on both said. What's more, the authorities are coming to unexpected conclusions on both sides. More to the point, however, is that when you hear someone say the program was "obviously illegal", or that Bush "knew he was breaking the law", you can be confident that the conclusion is being driven by desire or ideology or simple political experdiency.

Some other comments of potential interest:

Behaving like an overgrown schoolboy

At NRO, Claudia Rosset tells us about The Blow-Up - Annan insults and distracts. You gotta love Rosset. Kofi, on the other hand...

So You Think Bush is Scary?

You have no idea.

Bush has supposedly authorized thirty or so warrantless wiretaps against al Qaeda correspondents. [Is that what we should call NYT reporters? --ed.]

Meanwhile Britain continues with its plans to watch every single car in realtime travelling along its motorways. Your British car spies on you and quietly sends a notice of all of your speeding to the authorities. No muss no fuss. You receive the ticket in the mail. Persistent surveillance on every car in Britain. The German government is launching a sophisticated satellite (TerraSAR-X) whose primary purpose is to check speeds on the autobahns. Watches all the cars. In realtime. Works day and night, through clouds.

Ah, but what about our friends right here at home? Log in here to see what Google knows about you. If you're like me, it remembers all sorts of things about you that you forgot already yourself. Think Google can't pinpoint you? A quick perusal of the results should convince you otherwise. We're all spewing digital information right and left these days and every credit card company, your operating system provider, your record company, your search engines, every retail store you shop at, are spying on you and collecting the information. Analyzing it. Tracking it long after you've forgotten about it. Oh, and don't forget that your cell phone company is tracking your location all the time.

Think this is all innocuous? Nowadays we hear almost daily of another breakin occurring in which all the data on students or customers is released to...? Nobody knows. It could be a teenager, it could be the Russian Mafia (said to be heavily involved in such cases), it could be al Qaeda, it could be the Chinese government. And what about all the breakins we didn't hear about? Ever heard of key-logging progrsms? They're set up on public machines to snatch your username and password when you log into a secure site. They're on the increase. Think you're safe? I have it on good authority that a local public library right here in Colorado has installed them. Has yours? Or, since lots of folks don't insist on encryption when they log in (do you??), passwords can be pulled right off the Internet by any number of free programs. Or how about clothes or shoes that phone home and allow you to be tracked all the time? Has your DNA been forcibly collected yet? Works in Canada, Germany, and the UK. Are third parties collecting it surreptitiously? Nobody knows.

Privacy has gone the way of the Dodo. We're all digitally naked, it's pretty disturbing, and it's getting worse. Those who fear Big Brother Bush are missing the real issue here. The elephant in this particular living room is that we're surrounded by Big Brothers of all sorts, many of whom do not have our best interests at heart and are not subject to Constitutional restraints at all, but the consequences are potentially so horrific and the situation is so new that the mind simply balks. Far better to fret the known and controllable mouse than the really scary mammoth whose name must not be uttered.

Important information for men seeking to attract a mate

According to this, men who dance well are more attractive to women. This is bad news for those of you who, like me, present a very real and potentially lethal danger to others when we're on the floor, for whom "cutting a rug" is likely to be perceived by others as "stomping a toe", "throwing an elbow", or, in the worse case, "simple assault".

The takeaway for all of you (and you know who you are) is this: DON'T DANCE! Not only will it quite possibly land you in jail (which you knew already), there is now scientific proof that it will cost you any chance you might have had with any women who happen to be in the room, even the ones you don't physically harm.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.


Who are your Google neighbors?

Are We No Longer Alone?

It's hard to say what this means. Allegedly, a robot in Japan, shown here, has become "self-aware". This means that it can see itself in a mirror and recognize itself. Could it be the first non-organic sentient life? Interesting, if not definitive.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Plame Platoon' is AWOL on new leaks

IT SEEMS like only yesterday that every high-minded politician, pundit and professional activist was in high dudgeon about the threat posed to national security by the revelation that Valerie Plame was a spook. For daring to reveal a CIA operative's name — in wartime, no less! — they wanted someone frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs, preferably headed for the gallows.

Since then there have been some considerably more serious security breaches. Major media organs have broken news about secret prisons run by the CIA, the interrogation techniques employed therein, and the use of "renditions" to capture suspects, right down to the tail numbers of covert CIA aircraft. They have also reported on a secret National Security Agency program to monitor calls and e-mails from people in the U.S. to suspected terrorists abroad, and about the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity designed to protect military bases worldwide. — Max Boot — Los Angeles Times

The Siege of Vienna (II, III, or IV)

I can't carry a tune in a bucket and barely know where the major composers fit on historic timelines, but I like Mozart just fine, thanks. Here's a guy (Norman Lebrecht) who claims Too much Mozart makes you sick.

The Belmont Club: The tightrope

Pajamas Media has a roundup of blog discussions, pro and con, on the subject of whether the President had the authority to conduct wiretaps, one end of which involves a US person, without a court order. However the legal arguments play out, a slightly different question already has a definite answer: the President does not, apparently, have the reliable ability to conduct surveillance of the enemy without the fact being revealed in the New York Times.—
The Belmont Club: The tightrope

Wretchard mentions the Medal of Honor citation of CAPT John P Cromwell. Useful reading. Especially for the Times' sources.

Are they really that stupid?

The usual suspects [Democratic leadership and their compadres in the media] seem bound and determined to make an issue of the fact that the President of the United States actually lived up to the oath he took to protect and defend the Constitution.

As John at Powerline notes even Carter and Clinton were authorized to use warrantless surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence. But the D behind their name stood for Democrat and not dictator and those silly rules that must be applied to conservatives like George Bush simply do not apply the bearers of the civil liberties torch.

No, their new motto, is Terrorists Have Rights Too.

The terrorists we are talking about here are folks like Zacarius Moussaoui who is awaiting trial right now.

He might have been apprehended sooner and his computer files with information relating to the September 11 attacks might have been investigated if law enforcement had been able to get a FISA warrant. It seems they tried and failed.

Dots were not connected. Remember the dots that everyone from Moore to Gore was ranting about? Well it seems we know now that if the Democrats have their way the next Moussaoui will not be caught in time either and the dots will go right on being unconnected, floating about in their own insulated little civil liberties haven.

Given a choice do most Americans want the President to do everything in his power to protect the public safety or do they want a bunch of hate mongering politicians and partisan media personalities to put us all at risk just to put the screws to George W. Bush?

Are they really stupid enough to believe that most Americans think they are big and bad and brave for trashing Bush and pandering to AlQaida? It seems so. In fact 62% of the people in this country want to see the Patriot Act renewed and there is Harry Reid bragging that he killed it.

Dumb as a bucket of rocks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are they out of their minds?

In Moral Relativism and Enabling Evil ShrinkWrapped takes us on a disturbing ride around the slum that is moral relativism. In addition to linking to previous posts on the topic (read 'em!) SW points to an article on, Express route to controversy in Atlanta which tells us:

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

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

A delicate, often heart-wrenching piece of theater, the show, which preems Jan. 22 at the Express, never descends to shock-value tactics as it explores volatile terrain, and its lilting country songs give the characters emotionally vulnerable texture. Should it manage to attract a crowd, "Love Jerry" could very well leave them cheering.

If only audiences weren't such prudes, the tale, set to music and song, of a pedophile might leave 'em cheering.

But how do you convince anyone to come sing along with a child abuser?
Beats me. I'm even more baffled trying to understand why Mark Blankenship feels some need to ask the question.

It's a double-edged question: Not only can untested musicals be notoriously hard to launch, especially when the writer is an unknown, but pedophilia (not to mention incest to boot) has proven anathema to ticket buyers.

Gee, whooda thunk it? Shrinkwrapped goes on to give us a psychoanalysts view of the underlying questions by which some seem to believe there is some justification for this level of human degradation. I'll give a knucklehead's view of what is at work here: their basket is packed two sandwiches short for a picnic, they are embarked on an elevator that does not go to the top, and the light is on but nobody's home. These idiots have, at best, one oar in the water.

Your Own, Personal, Weather Station

Have you ever watched the news and seen the weather in Indianapolis or Denver, knowing perfectly well that your own town is too far away for the official weather station to be very useful? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have fine-grained knowledge of the weather in each little area? Have you ever wished the official weather station were right in your own neighborhood? Now it is! Brought to you through the magic of Google Maps and its A(pplications)P(rogramming)I(nterface). (Type your Zip Code in the box.)

I had no idea there were these little micro weather stations all over the place. Amazing.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Extra! Extra!

Drudge has been flagging the latest NY Times scoop on the shocking abuses of power committed by ChimpyMcHalliburtonBushitler for a few hours, so naturally I have been waiting with bated breath for this breaking news.

Well the article is now up here .... hey, wait a minute -- I thought Drudge said it was in the NY Times, not the WaPo.

Must have been a bad keystroke...

Ahh, yes, here's the NY Times scoop. Front page, NY Times, byline Eric Lichtblau!

...Whoops, I must have entered the wrong date!?

Finally, here's what I was looking for all along. Eric Lichtblau's article. 2005! Wait... closer... but it's from July.

How can I find this NY Times scoop that Drudge is headlining?

I know!

Following on to the NSA leak

This may not be as coherent a post as the last one on the NSA case — which is kind of frightening in itself. But there's been a lot of discussion and I want to capture everything in one place again, plus we've accumulated over 400 comments on the previous post, so I want to close it off for performance reasons.

Operational Reasons for Avoiding the FISA Process

On this topic, I'll note that I've got about 20 years of experience in computer security, DoD classified stuff, and in particular, spent a number of years doing operational intelligence collection and analysis systems. So, absent soemone with a current clearance and active knowledge of this operation, I think I'm fairly well informed.

And, of course, anyone who actually has real operational knowledge shouldn't be talking about it anyway. (But more on that later.)

One of the questions that has been raised is "why do they need to act so quickly"? So, let's just discuss that for a minute.

Let's say, for purposes of illustration, that a known or suspected al Qaeda member, Alice, is captured in Pakistan. ("Alice", in this case, might be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a concrete example.) At the time of capture, Alice has a laptop computer with a number of phone numbers, email addresses, and possibly some IP addresses either stored in user files, or in some logging data. One of these phone number is a "disposable" cell phone belonging to Ben in the USA. Ben is a legal permanent resident of the US and therefore might otherwise be considered a "US person."

It is the nature of this kind of network that once a node is known to be compromised, all connections to that node are dropped. Ben would put the cell phone in the trash or give it to a rape crisis center or whatever. So the various intelligence agencies --- this lies somewhere in both the domain of CIA and NSA --- know there is a very small time, in the order of hours, to exploit this intelligence before it goes stale. They need to intercept communications. (It might even be as simple as holding the phone up to Alice's mouth when a call comes in.)

Now, assume they feel they need FISA authorization before they can do so. How likely is it that FISA authorization can be obtained in a sufficiently short time? Operationally, you need to be able to act in minutes, not hours, to exploit this intelligence; we have the former DIRNSA's statement that this has led to collecting intelligence they wouldn't otherwise have had.

Aside: As an intelligence guy, by the way, this disclosure does bother me quite a bit. What it's done it put on notice everyone from whom intelligence is currently being collected that we're doing the collection. They probably stopped. As the president said in his press conference today, we've had that experience before, with the bin Laden satphone intercepts. Which, by the way, were blown by Orrin Hatch, so he's picked an example out of his own party. It's also notified al Qaeda et al that in the future, they have a much shorter window before a captured channel could be exploited; they will probably change their procedures as a result. At least I sure as hell would. Personally, I'd think the Attorney General should be thinking about prosecution under 18 USC 793, not 50 USC 1801 et seq. But not prosecuting the Administration.

Legal Arguments

Legally, and now recall I'm not a lawyer, just a logician, but I note that §1801(a) defines who a "foreign power" is, and §1801(b) defines who an agent of a foreign power is. As I understand it, once you're defined to be an "agent of a foreign power" you no longer enjoy all the protections of a "US person." Since 1801(b) specifically includes people engaged in or supporting international terrorism, seems there would be an argument that the Attorney General could authorize surveillance and intercept on that basis using the procedures in §1802 et seq.

Now, this analysis seems to pretty much depend on whether or not a person engaged in international terrorism loses some of the protections of being a "US person". It seems to me from the standpoint of logic that if you're excluded from the class of "US persons" in §1801(a-b), then you lose the protections accorded a "US person" in §1802.

Annoyingly, however, §1802 also says you can only conduct warrantless searches on people defined under §1801(a)(1-3), which leaves out the "terrorism" parts. On the other hand, it may be that al Qaeda is a "foreign power" under §1801(a)(1-3), which would appear to make someone who is an "agent" of al Qaeda fit the definition of someone who is an agent of a foreign power. Then §1801(e) comes in and makes this "foreign intelligence information." So, if I were a lawyer, I think I might very well want to argue that it all adds up to suggest that the "US person" restriction doesn't apply, at least as far s collection goes.

It would also appear that, from that USA v bin Laden decision, the District Court specifically appears to give some strength to that argument, but then excludes evidence collected under such an exception from the trial. This seems, to my untutored legal mind, to make good sense --- and operationally, it's fine with me, because I don't want to try these people, I want to track down their superiors and cells and kill them. We can try the survivors; this is a war.

But, it also appears that this has been a question before --- the events in USA v bin Laden happened in 1997. US Signals intelligence Directive 18 lays out the procedure and seems to very closely match what was described in Bush's statement. (See sections 4 and 5.) This directive dates from 1993. It's been widely reported that there was a program called ECHELON that did collect intelligence throughout the 90's. And I've seen it reported that the Carter administration made a similar executive order in 1979.

So, again, I am not a lawyer --- but it seems like there's some precedent here.

Now, if we look a little more closely at §1802, I'll note that the title of the section is "Electronic surveillance authorization without court order." The whole section lays out the circumstances under which intelligence intercepts can be performed without a court order.

The fact that this section exists makes it clear the law does contemplate the possibility of doing intercepts without a court order (warrant). What's more, the code lays out two different procedures under which it can be done: first, under §1805, you can do it and apply later (within 72 hours, see §1805(f)); or, second, according to §1802, if you're not concerned with "US persons" under §1801 then you can collect without a warrant, and all you must do is file with the FISA court, under seal, a notice that you've done so, plus inform the Congress.

We know that the Attorney General certified this as needed; we know the Congress has been briefed; the actual certification would be classified, but I just don't see any reason to think the certification hasn't been filed.

Practically, it appears we've got a situation in which (a) the Administration received competent legal advice that it was permissible; (b) they followed the procedures laid out in the statute and USSID 18; and (c) that it is something that has been done in previous administrations, and if we have to be partisan about it, by administrations of both parties.

Given all of these things, I suspect that there's at the very least a pretty strong "good faith" issue here, ie, that the Administration could in all good faith believe it to have been legal.

Other People's Arguments

James Robbins more or less repeats my arguments about 1801, 1802, and so on.

I argued below that I thought the President, in his radio address, was more or less following that same argument. I still think so, but today in his press conference, he laid out an argument based on presidental powers under the Constitution; so did the AG. Hugh Hewitt lays that out. I usually find Hewitt a little too polemical, but he is an attorney, and his argument seems to match the one the AG used.

Byron York makes some pragmatic arguments.

Orin Kerr did a long post on it at Volokh; he addresses the §1801 issue, and argues:

So as I read the statutes, Congress was trying to give an exception for monitoring foreign governments (a1, a2, a3) but not terrorist groups (a4, a5, a6), so long as no citizens or lawful permanent resident aliens were being monitored. There are interesting questions of how that might have applied to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but I don't think we need to reach them. It's my understanding that the program monitored both citizens and non-citizens, so I don't see how the exception is applicable.

But then, when I look at this "USA v bin Laden" case, the District Court says

"this Court adopts the foreign intelligence exception to the warrent requirement for searches targeting foreign powers (or their agents.)"

It goes on to say:

The Court is also persuaded that al Qaeda was properly considered a foreign power. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relies on the definitions of "foreign power" and "agent of a foreign power" which were incorporated by Congress in FISA See 50 USC 1801(a)-(b).

They then go on to say that the collection of intercepts under the "USA v bin Laden" case was unlawful, but specifically because the Government didn't get the authorization of the President or AG. It follows logically that if they had the President's authorization, the possibility exists at least that it would have been lawful. (I think if I were playing an advocate I'd argue that more strongly, but I don't think it follows by syllogism.)

In any case, it seems to me that the District Court doesn't agree with Prof. Kerr. One of the attornies that hang around here might weigh in on this.


  • A former Air Force intelligence officer, Emily Francona, says:
    Whether the President acted under proper executive authority will undoubtedly be determined during hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But he did follow requirements for legal review of his orders by consulting with the NSA Legal Counsel and the U.S. Attorney General.

    He also followed congressional oversight requirements by notifying the appropriate congressional committees in a timely manner. And it is customary for more sensitive activities to be briefed only to a limited number of senior oversight committee members to avoid leaks of classified national security information. Our current system of checks & balances does not require congressional oversight committees to approve intelligence activities in advance, only that they be notified of significant activities in a timely manner.

    Perhaps the most improtant aspect of this debate is whether we, the people, are comfortable with executive powers being invoked in certain circumstances to protect the nation: I would argue that under certain national security related circumstances it is necessary to trust the President of the U.S. to do the right thing - we elected him to conduct the people's business to the best of his ability.

  • Interestingly enough, 50 USC 1811 broadens the President's powers after a declaration of war. But we're not at war, you say?

    Well, Joe Biden disagrees:
    M: (Inaudible) Talbot(?). Senator, thank you for this broad gauged approach to the problems we face. My question is this, do you foresee the need or the expectation of a Congressional declaration of war, which the Constitution calls for, and if so, against whom? (Scattered Laughter)

    JB: The answer is yes, and we did it. I happen to be a professor of Constitutional law. I'm the guy that drafted the Use of Force proposal that we passed. It was in conflict between the President and the House. I was the guy who finally drafted what we did pass. Under the Constitution, there is simply no distinction ... Louis Fisher(?) and others can tell you, there is no distinction between a formal declaration of war, and an authorization of use of force. There is none for Constitutional purposes. None whatsoever. And we defined in that Use of Force Act that we passed, what ... against whom we were moving, and what authority was granted to the President.

  • Interesting quote:
    "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," Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 14, 1994, "and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General."

    "It is important to understand," Gorelick continued, "that the rules and methodology for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the president in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities."
    (See Byron York today.)

  • Via The American Thinker today, I learn of this executive order authorizing the Attorney General to conduct warrantless searches for foreign intelligence information under 50 USC 1801 et seq. Who was the executive? Jimmy Carter.

Some pointers

Jim Miller On Politics has a pair of items that are of some interest to Yargbians.

First is a post on the Barret Report which contains several links to various articles about it. New to Yargbians, perhaps, are the articles,
The public needs to see the Barrett report
(by Emmett Tyrell) and
Publish the Barrett report now
(by Tony Snow) and a op-ed Novak: Protecting the IRS.

Second is a link to a UCLA study, Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist. But you knew that.

"Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11"

Long a stronghold for Islamic extremists and the world's second-most populous Muslim nation, Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11, while support for al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then.

"Our friends the Pakistanis" — Opinion Journal

Wealth, Capital, and Nations

Some 230 years after Adam Smith published An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the World Bank has published Where is the Wealth of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century (via Reason Online via Instapundit).

The World Bank's report is 200+ pages which, from an initial scan, seems quite interesting. One of the interesting items is the attempt define "capital". Reason Online summarizes:

The World Bank study begins by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and mineral resources), cropland, pastureland, forested areas, and protected areas. Produced capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital. It is the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land. The Bank then identifies intangible capital as the difference between total wealth and all produced and natural capital. Intangible capital encompasses raw labor; human capital, which includes the sum of the knowledge, skills, and know-how possessed by population; as well as the level of trust in a society and the quality of its formal and informal social institutions.
I'm no economist and I've only scanned the introductory sections of the report but Reason's summary seems an accurate reflection.

The United States ranks fourth among the 120 countries for which the report makes "estimates of the contribution of natural, produced, and intangible capital to the aggregate wealth."

The top ten nations, ranked by capital per capita (data are apparently as of 2000), are:

Nation/Population (millions)/Wealth




United States/282.2/$512,612






Other nations over the $400,000 mark are the Netherlands (15.9, $421,389), Finland (5.2, $419,346), and the UK (58.9, $408, 753). The "$300K" nations are: Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Italy. "$200K" nations are Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, and Spain. Once we get past the "Big 23" or so the wealth numbers drop rather drastically. (Notably missing from the table in Appendix 2 are some OPEC type nations such as Suadia Arabia, Kuwait, the UEA, and Oman.)

Only half of the top ten "wealthy" nations exceed 10 millions in population. With the exception of Japan and the US, no nations with 100+ millions population break the $100,000 per capita wealth number. Brazil comes closest (170.1, $86,922) with Mexico next among very large (population-wise) nations (98, $61,872). If I clickety-clacked my calculator correctly the total population of the top-ten, minus the US, is 312.6 millions. The total population of the top-ten is 594.8 millions.

The US and Indonesia are the only nations with more than 200 million population which break $10,000/capita (Indonesia; 206.2, $13,869).

I have no particular point here other than that, in terms of population, the US is the world's third largest nation. No other nation on earth brings so much wealth to so many people.

Progress more meaningful than democracy in the Middle East

Today is the launch day for the Falcon 1.

This guy took his dot com fortune and put about $100M into this. Now anyone can put up a satellite for ~$6M -- an order of magnitude cheaper than ever before. What a cool dude. He did exactly what I would do with that kind of money. When I sell my company I am either going to work for one of the new generation of space businesses or start my own.

Maybe we can finally slip the surly bonds and evolve to our rightful place in the universe.

I'm tired of it

I'm tired of arguing with Lefties. Their Bush hatred and defeatism does not, never has, and never will represent the majority in this country.

So why even bother. There is no need. I have better things to do with my life.

Think of the ordinary Americans going about their lives who don't pay much attention to anything. They just assume our government is protecting us and is keeping an eye on terrorists in this country. Common Sense.

And, look, that's exactly what Bush is doing! Great!

But, wait, some people think Bush should be 'in trouble' for doing so? WTF? Are they nuts?

Well, yes. And ordinary Americans agree they're nuts and that this is all politics.

You see I don't have to argue with the crazies and the civil libertarian purists at all because the majority of the American people just roll their eyes and give a dismissive shake of their hand in response to the silliness anyway.

They don't need me to do anything.

And how stupid are we if we think we can rationally argue with BDS sufferers as delusional as some of these people are? Here's a couple quotes from comments I found elsewhere today about the NSA thang. Many posted anonymously. I'm just cuttin' and pastin':

It's been going on for years. Too bad Dubya's gotten so out-of-control he thinks he can make his own rules up. Remember guys; Absolute Power currupts absolutely and Dubya is consumed by it. His impeachment should be a big hoot if it happens. We'll see who sings like a Canary and who screams like a banshee when all is said and done.


I mean, the guy basically came on the airwaves and announced, "Yes, I broke the law. Yes, I violated the Constitution. I will break the law again. And what the hell, exactly, are YOU going to do about it?"

Never forget that the Bush administration thought America's security would be at risk if Kerry were elected. They wanted this warrantless eavesdropping authority because no judge would ever issue a warrant for the people they wanted to monitor, like George Soros, Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, John McCain, Move-On, and the Democratic National Committee.

Yes, these people have a right to their opinion and a right to voice it. That doesn't mean they have a right to our undivided attention. They don't have a right to consume our mental energies or our time.

When you're sitting on a park bench and someone sits next to you who starts mumbling crazy things do you engage them in conversation? Or do you move to another bench? Or do you engage in a conversation with a friend and completely ignore them?

There are some members of the opposition who are worth engaging, I'm not saying all are not. But it's the crazy ones who come out in droves when they feel an issue has come up where they think they can bash Bush and his supporters. Then they leave the cellars of DU or KOS and wander the pavements of the Blogosphere looking for Cafe's on the Right side of the street where they down a bottle of cheap wine and start ranting.

The issue goes away, and so do they.

Except if they are not ignored, then they may stick around until Last Call.

I find it interesting over at JustOneMinute. There are a lot of regulars from both sides who post over there. But there are some 'crazies' who are mostly silent. Unless a new article from the Times comes out, or one of their favorite bloggers posts something like 'Boy, Rove is in trouble now!' then they come swarming in and dump little pieces of you-know-what all over the comments.

Their little worldviews have gotten a boost, or so they think, and they suddenly get some courage. They can't argue, they can only assert, and if they're ignored they go away again.

Until the next Times article gives them another fix and here they are again.

I'm going to try my best to ignore them all. And if that's somehow politically incorrect, then find me a law that says I can't move to a different park bench.

I'm just sick and tired of the Bush hate.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Karl Zinsmeister --- Dawn over Baghdad

What I basically saw was that the massive middle in Iraq - in other words, the Shiite majority - is much more moderate than anyone was giving them credit for. Many times when there a dreadful impasse, a sticking point or a scandal that would break, there would be predictions that the Shiites were going to desert us or go on a rampage and that we were going to have a true popular revolt on our hands. Every time this was predicted it failed to happen.

The most recent example is Muqtada Sadr. Sadr is a splinter figure with real followers - several thousand of them - but he is by no means a popular figure in Iraq. He’s kind of an Al Sharpton-type figure in Iraq, in the sense that he is real and does need to be listened to and taken seriously. But is he anybody who could become a leader of all of Iraq or all of the US? Of course not.

I don’t mean to make a comparison that is too direct, because obviously Sadr is a violent figure and Sharpton is not. But I’m just trying to give an analogy that Sadr is not someone who could ever become a real broadly accepted leader in Iraq, and a lot of the press reports gave the impression that he could and that he was really leading the masses against us. That’s not the case.

(How many times have we heard that?)

The actual story is very much more different than that. Two things have gone into those continuing blackouts. The first is that when Saddam was in power, he blatantly hogged all the electricity for his capital city. 57% of the electricity generated in Iraq used to go to Baghdad. When the Coalition came in they said, "that’s not fair. All Iraqis deserve to have access to power, they deserve to share the use that’s available in the country equally." So they redistributed it on a fair, per-capita basis.

As a result, Baghdad only gets 28% of the electricity right now.That means a lot of previously privileged neighborhoods in Baghdad are now in a less privileged position. You could present that as bad news, and be in a factual sense accurate, but you’re ignoring the fact that millions of other Iraqis in other parts of Iraq are in a much better position than they’ve ever been. So it’s not like the media story is wrong, it’s just incomplete and misleading in its totality. [That one sounds familiar too, somehow....--ed.]

The other aspect of the electricity story that’s interesting is the generation has actually has been increased and now exceeds what it was when the war started. So you say, "well why isn’t there enough?" The reason there isn’t enough electricity is because there’s a consumer boom going on in Iraq! There is an explosion of cell phones and washing machines and televisions. Something like a third of the country now has satellite TV, which is higher than in America.

There are all kinds of electronics being imported and bought by Iraqis who are beginning to have some kind of economic success. That is a very good thing. However, one of its side effects is that you have a sharply growing demand for electricity, which means that even with supply up, there is not enough to meet a growing demand.

Again, I will grant you there is a downside to this consumer explosion, but is it really sensible and accurate to talk about the downside without mentioning the very positive elements that are involved in creating that downside? I don’t think so. I blame the media for that, I don’t blame the Bush administration. That’s just crappy reporting. I don’t think there’s anything to be said about it other than that it’s something the media ought to be ashamed of.

Read it all. Now. We'll wait.

RealClear Politics - Commentary

"We must get on good terms with the Americans... we have no alternative."

"We now believe we must get on good terms with the Americans," Hemaiym said. "As Arab Sunnis, we believe that within this hot area of Iraq, facing challenges from neighboring nations who want to swallow us, especially the Iranians, we feel we have no alternative."

PJM News - Sunnis say they want to work with US (6710814/UPI)

A Good Point

If, at the end of September 2001 you had said that both Iraq and Afghanistan would have elected new democratic national governments by the end of 2005, I would have said you were a bit too optimistic.

Murdoc Online

Bush lied, people dyed.

Steyn: Iraq vote leaves Dems looking like the losers

Well, that old Iraqi quagmire just keeps getting worse and worse, if only for the Democratic Party. What was the straw they were clutching at back in January? Oh, yeah, sure, gazillions of Kurds and Shiites might have gone to the polls, but where were the Sunni? As some of us said at the time, the Sunni'll come out tomorrow. And so they did. On Thursday, they voted in record numbers, leaving Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats frantically scrambling for another disaffected Iraqi minority group they could use as proof that the whole crazy neocon war-for-oil scam was a bust.

(Extra points for "the Sunni'll come out tomorrow.")

The Democratic Party have contrived to get themselves into a situation where bad news from Iraq is good for them and good news from Iraq is bad for them. And as there's a lot more good news than bad these days, that puts them, politically, in a tough spot -- even with a fawning media that, faced with Kerry and Murtha talking what in any objective sense is drivel, decline to call for the men with white coats but instead nod solemnly and wonder whether Bush is living "in a bubble." &hellips;

It's not just that Iraq is going better than expected, but that it's a huge success that's being very deftly managed: The timeframe imposed on the democratic process turns out to have worked very well -- the transfer of sovereignty, the vote on a constitutional assembly, the ratification of the constitution, the vote for a legislature -- and, with the benefit of hindsight, it now looks like an ingeniously constructed way to bring the various parties on board in the right order: first the Kurds, then the Shia, now the Sunni. That doesn't leave many folks over on the other side except Zarqawi and Dean. What do the two have in common? They're both foreigners, neither of whom have the slightest interest in the Iraqi people.…

Bush lied, people dyed. Their fingers. That's what this is about: Millions of Kurds, Shia and Sunnis beaming as they emerge from polling stations and hold up their purple fingers after the freest, fairest election ever held in the Arab world. "Liberal" in the American sense is a dirty word because it's come to stand for a shriveled parochial obsolescent irrelevance, of which ''Good Night, and Good Luck,'' Clooney's dreary little retread of the McCarthy years, is merely the latest example. (Clooney says he wants more journalists to "speak truth to power," which is why I'm insulting his movie.)

Believe it or not, I haven't excerpted all the good parts.

One Way Trip to the Torture Chamber

Believe it or not I heard those words on the lead up to the Colts football game.

The announcer said in a disarmingly chipper voice to tune into 60 Minutes and hear about the secret CIA plane...was it a one way trip to the torture chamber?

My feller laughed. It was that silly.

And it struck me that we are getting to the place where media is absurd, surreal, banal, take your pick.

60 Minutes will do a fake but accurate story on a secret mission about torture.

Of course, it is not secret, there is no torture chamber and 60 Minutes is more about entertainment than news.

When I was younger I never missed 60 Minutes or Face the Nation. However, speaking of torture, I would consider sitting through either one of them to be just that today. And so I shake my head with disgust, my man friend laughs at the sheer stupidity of the tune in to torture lead in and it dawns on me:

Who watches this stuff? Most people I know are more concerned with detention of terrorists turning into R&R for terrorists than they are with a mass murderer suffering sleep who are they doing these socalled news stories for?

I have a step grandson who is going to be 4 year in February. This is the first Christmas he has really got into. His safety is my concern.

I have to admit I am more concerned about the fact that media uses classified information to sell books and advertising than I am with the delicate sensibilities of a terrorist who would gladly put a bomb in one of the toys I bought my little man for Christmas.

I bet that is true for a lot of other people as well.

Good News from Afghanistan

KABUL - Afghanistan’s first parliament after nearly three decades of brutal occupation, war and harsh Taleban rule is due to convene on Monday in the final step of a transition to democracy launched four years ago.

US Vice President Dick Cheney will head the guest list at what officials have promised will be a “glorious” opening ceremony in the newly renovated parliament building that was ruined in the 1992-1996 civil war.

Read the whole thing.

Although the New York Times and friends want badly to maintain the fiction that everything is going to hell under the Bush administration, there are still at lot of good things happening. We should not allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the latest phoney scandal.

Opening Act

President Bush in today's radio address, emphasis and annotations [in brackets] mine.

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.[1] Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.[2]

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.[3] Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad.[4] Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.[5] The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days.[6] Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.[7] During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general.[8] Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.[9] Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.[10]

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

Now, this is a very direct statement. If I had to guess, I'd guess that Bush is angry — livid, chair-throwing angry — about this revelation, especially since the Times said in so many words that they withheld publication for a year because publication could harm national security. This raises the interesting question, what changed? If it would harm national security on 1 December, what made it publishable on 16 December?

It would appear that the Times is admitting that they released this information, knowing it would damage national security.

18 USC 793 (emphasis mine):

(e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,
(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or
(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

That's the Espionage Act. Ten years. Expect a criminal investigation, and it's not going to require a referral from NSA — although I understand NSA has already made one.

Notes: Bush is saying —

  1. This is important. These are not communications internal to the US.

  2. It's based on other intelligence, establishing that the person involved is connected to a terrorist network. I'm not a lawyer (and that caveat should be read in all of this) but it appears to me that 50 USC 1801 (b)(2)(C) defines anyone who is believed to be part of a terrorist network is an "agent of a foreign power" under the act, and not a "US person".

  3. He's explicitly saying this revealed "sources and methods"...

  4. ... and that the sources and methods are the ones that the 9/11 Commission criticized the intelligence community for not having.

  5. It was legal and within Bush's power.

  6. This was done and reviewed periodically every 45 days.50 USC 1802 says:
    (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year....

  7. This defines them as "terrorists" under 50 USC 1801(c).

  8. It was reviewed by the government's lawyers.

  9. Congress was notified as required under 50 USC 1808.

  10. "Minimization" procedures required under 50 USC 1801(h) were in place and performed.

I don't think any claim that this was "illegal" will stand up to scrutiny.

Discussion: For some time, one of the topics of interest on this blog has been the question of what is happening with these leaks. It looks to me like this is a sign that the Bush administration has (finally?) decided to act. I think this is the opening shot of a "pushback" that may well involve criminal prosecution of both reporters and members of the intelligence community, and very possibly a Tom-Clancy-esque revelation of leaks from within the Senate.

It's going to be very very interesting indeed.


  • Jeff Goldstein has an excellent post up.

  • Make that two excellent posts.

  • 2005-Dec-17 12:43:27 — corrected a typo (1801 vice 1800) and a link atrocity from Blogger.

  • Silent Running points out Executive order 12333 as well.

  • Mark Levin has some interesting points.

  • RightWingNutHouse (Gods, I wish they'd picked another name for the blog):
    First, for the President to use the term “improperly provided” regarding a leak involving the National Security Agency is a monumental understatement. The NSA has extraordinarily strict rules about things like leaks. In short, if you’re an employee and you get caught leaking, you go to jail for a very long time.

    Very much my experience with the NSA, by the way.

  • Tom McGuire asks some interesting questions too.

  • Captain Ed weighs in, and points out that ...

  • The Washinngton Post wonders about the timing too.

  • Just continuing to beat this moribund ungulate, Baldilocks has some good words too.

Later update, 2005-Dec-18 15:08:46: In Stop the Bleating says:
Drop the specious arguments that the warrantless eavesdropping ordered by Bush somehow complies with FISA or some other federal statute. It doesn't. If it did, the White House would have issued a detailed explanation first thing Friday morning and would be repeating it loudly, ad nauseum.

But actually if you look at Bush's radio address, I think that's exactly what he did. I'm trying to track down legislative history, but §1801(a) defines people engaged in international terrorism as a "foreign power" and "agents of a foreign power". §1802 points to 1801(a)(1-3) in defining the exception, but I'm willing to bet that when that section was written, (1-3) were all there was of (a) ... and that a court would find that the intent of §1802 was to include all "agents of a foreign power" under §1801(a).

"USA v bin Laden" defined foreign terrorists as "agents of a foreign power" referring merely to (a)(1-2), so there's precedent to think that §1802 applies anyway.

As I show above, I think the radio address was exactly an argument that §1802 applies.

(This update, by the way, is a slight modification of a comment I left there.)

Okay, as I said I was planning to, I've closed comments on this now. Further comments can be applied to the post above.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dialing back on the seriousness meter ...

Man in Fiji Raised as a Chicken.

No, thats not a misprint.

And remember that it was a democrat who said all politics is local...

FEMA blames trailer slowdown on Louisiana politics

Local disputes such as one stewing in New Orleans are holding up the placement of thousands of temporary trailer homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday.

Acting FEMA director R. David Paulison's remarks came as Mayor Ray Nagin was telling reporters that his emergency powers will allow him to bypass a City Council ordinance requiring approval from individual council members before the federal government can place trailer parks for hurricane evacuees in their districts.

"I'm not going to get involved in local politics," Paulison said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "All I can say is we have a lot of mobile homes and travel trailers ready to install, and the city and the mayor need to let us know where they want them."

FEMA said only eight of Louisiana's 64 parishes (the state's equivalent of a county) are allowing the agency to establish trailer parks with no significant restrictions. Thirty-two have said no, and another 24 have set various restrictions. Some of the restrictions, Paulison said are unreasonable, such as a requirement that only evacuated parish residents be allowed to live in there.

All of the members of the New Orleans City Council want to approve the locations of the FEMA trailer parks in their districts. So, the mayor and the City Council are at odds about this. My homestate continues its tradition of corruption. That would be one thing, but they could at least be effective, if they are going to be corrupt.

I haven't been able to find an article concerning a situation I heard about from a resident. Apparently there are many Vietnamese that are living in tents near their homes in New Orleans East, because the local officials have yet to approve the spots for the FEMA trailers to go. The trailers, apparently, are ready and waiting.


So there's this old song - The Gentleman Soldier (sometimes also The Sentry Box) - containing the line "two wives are allowed in the army..."

Does anyone know to what army this refers, whether two wives actually were allowed, and if so, when?

Bush's Plan

" 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, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. "

Friday, December 16, 2005

"…he belongs on Mt Rushmore."

The full quote, from Chris Matthews: "If he [Bush] gambled on creating a democracy in the Arab Middle East and he does it, he belongs on Mt Rushmore."

This in the context of a conversation in which howard Fineman said the NSA thing was no big deal, but the Iraqi elections are.

We live in interesting times.


(Victor David Hanson, quoted from Instapundit:)
For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”). But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence. Our Katrina was hardly as lethal as the Tsunami or Pakistani earthquake. Thousands of Arabs are not rioting in Dearborn. American elderly don’t roast and die in the thousands in their apartments as was true in France. Nor do American cities, like some in China, lose their entire water supply to a toxic spill. Americans did not just vote to reject their own Constitution as in some European countries.

(Charles Krauthammer, quoted from Instapundit in the previous post:)
Lest you get carried away with today's good news from Iraq, consider what's happening next door in Iran. The wild pronouncements of the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have gotten sporadic press ever since he called for Israel to be wiped off the map. He subsequently amended himself to say that Israel should simply be extirpated from the Middle East map and moved to some German or Austrian province. Perhaps near the site of an old extermination camp? . . .

Today's Democrat talking points, courtesy of Harry Reid

In my inbox yesterday:

...Remember, in virtually every arena, Republican leadership in
Washington has chosen to put their special interests (sic) friends
ahead of the broad national concern and to blindly adhere to
their right-wing ideology, even in the face of failure.

* While they offer nothing more than recycled slogans, violence
continues in Iraq and serious questions linger about whether the
Bush administration distorted or misused intelligence to lead us
into war.

* Despite repeated promises and ongoing suffering, the
administration continues to drag its feet on the reconstruction
of the Gulf Coast after the devastation wrought by this year's

* The latest round of tax cuts for millionaires forced painful
cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and student aid, just when these
fundamental social programs are needed the most.

* They tried to privatize Social Security, threatening a hugely
successful program that millions of seniors rely on to make ends

* While oil companies are posting record profits, the
Republicans led the effort to pass an energy bill that does
nothing to cut the price of gas at the pump or to promote energy
independence in the coming years.


America can do better than this.

Only a Democratic Senate can force the administration to develop
a real strategy for success in Iraq and to work with our allies
to ensure real security for America in the face of international
terrorism. Only a Democratic Senate can advance an economic
agenda that focuses on educational excellence and opportunity
for every American, affordable health care for all, and a
commitment to retirement security for our seniors. And only a
Democratic Senate can address prices at the pump today and
ensure energy independence tomorrow.

With your help, I am confident that we can take back the Senate
in 2006 and achieve our agenda. Please make a contribution

Harry Reid