[Regarding Iraq] Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.
-- Bush, delivering another good hit. And Amen at that - the Democrats haven't been a party to deliver any ideas or alternatives on anything from the War on Terror, to Iraq, to Social Security... that is, unless you consider obstructionism for obstruction's sake an "idea" or "alternative."
Speaking of, both the Democratic and Republican parties acknowledge that Social Security, in its current form, will burst unless a number of actions (painful, all but one - slow, but progressive privitization) are taken. Yet, there were the Democrats clapping and applauding when Bush stated the Congress had failed to pass his Social Security reform bill.
I suppose the applause means that the Democrats prefer a system that is destined to fail?
Remember, Adam Smith trumps all:
[Wall Street Journal] Though Mao Tse-tung's portrait still hangs in Tiananmen Square, a recent poll shows that the Chinese are crazier about capitalism than are Americans. In fact, they top the world-wide rankings in their zeal for free markets. No wonder Mao isn't smiling.
In a poll conducted for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes between June and August last year, fully 74% of Chinese citizens said they agreed with the statement "the free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world." The Philippines, at 73%, and the U.S., at 71%, were second and third. The poll, which surveyed 20,791 people in 20 countries, seems like a pretty good snapshot of current sentiment, as such things go.
The Wall Street Journal adds that - surprise, surprise - only half of the French found that capitalism was the way to go. Italians and Spaniards were a little higher - "with 59% and 63%, respectively, voting for free markets."
Isn't it sad, though, that the citizens of Europe could just 60 years after the Second World War take free marketism so for granted, especially the French? Doesn't it make sense, that like the citizens of Eastern Europe before them, the oppressed Chinese are so longing for the freedoms that persons in Western Europe take for granted?
By the way, a related report by ESPN finds that the jerseys of two American basketball players - Tracy McGrady and Allan Iverson - are hotter sales items than that of Yao Ming. Just more proof that pop music and McDonald's conquors all - as it did the Berlin Wall, we'll see likely see in our lifetime the Chinese "Wall" fall as well.
When people say, as they often do, with a glint of ethnic or cultural superiority in their angry eyes, that Arabs or Africans or Persians or Turks just aren't "ready" for democracy, that such people prefer tyrants, or that they have no history of democracy and are hence incapable of it, or they have no middle class, without which no stable democracy can exist, or they believe in Islam, which brooks no democracy, I try to remind them that some of the worst tyrannies came from highly cultured Christian countries with glorious democratic and humanistic traditions. And I don't think that Periclean Athens boasted a large and flourishing middle class.
It's silly to believe that a society without democratic traditions can't create a democracy; if that were true there would never have been any democracies at all.
-- Michael Ledeen
That's the difference: one party uses phrases like "a clear plan for victory", the other talks of "exit strategy". The left has a lot of linguistic advantages on social issues - all the touchy-feely vocabulary like "diversity" - but it's allowed itself to get landed with all the loser lingo on foreign policy.
-- Mark Steyn
Man, during Bush speeches there have been a few moments when I was truly proud of him - the impromptu visit to ground zero "I can hear you!" speech just days after 9/11. Unfortunately, there are mostly others where I thought he held back too much, or could have said "it" - whatever it was - better, or just missed an opportunity to hit a home run.
Regarding the Patriot Act, and warrentless wiretaps of suspected terrorists placing international calls Bush is just plain standing on the most stable of legal ground. He knows it. The Democrats - despite their empty cries (see Rich Lowry's comments below) - know it (thus why they'll never act to stop it, rather just complain and mislead). I think most of the informed public, even the Bush haters, know it. Perhaps not enough of the uninformed public know it -- which is why it's so important he says it.
Well, finally he got up in public and put the critics in their baseless place:
[Bush] It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack - based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute - I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have - and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority.
Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it - because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.
BAM! Outta the park, beeeotches!
Asked on ABC's This Week to respond to a Karl Rove speech saying that Democrats disagree with President Bush that al Qaeda members should be monitored when they call somebody in America, Sen. John Kerry declared, "We don't disagree with him at all." But he went on to blast the NSA program as illegal. Why not, therefore, cut off funding for it? "That's premature," Kerry insisted.
Democrats are the first party ever to talk of impeaching a president for creating a program they themselves seem to support. It's as if they had denounced Watergate, but stipulated that there was nothing wrong in principle with breaking into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychologist. "We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary," said Kerry, sounding ready to don earphones himself. Howard Dean agrees: "I support spying on al Qaeda, and I think every Democrat in America thinks we ought to attack al Qaeda, and spy on them."
Of course, Democrats say such spying has to be legal. Who disagrees with that? The wiretapping programs in the Nixon, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations that were so famously abused were extremely closely held. The Bush administration kept the NSA program secret, to be sure, but it was routinely reviewed by the top career lawyers at the NSA and the Department of Justice, who have no truck with lawbreaking.
-- Rich Lowry, NRO
Today's 58-42 vote to confirm Samuel Alito represents the second-highest number of votes against a confirmed Supreme Court nominee in the nation's history," boasts Ralph Neas, head of the extremist group that styles itself the People for the American Way. Remember how down in the dumps Neas and his crowd were back in 1987, when by an identical margin the Senate rejected the nomination of Robert Bork?
Ha ha, neither do we! That's because you don't get down in the dumps when you win, and only losers boast about how close it was. A statement from Nan Aron of the so-called Alliance for Justice repeats the trope:Instead of a judge who would garner wide support from both parties, President Bush chose a divisive nominee who was opposed by nearly every Democratic senator. Other than Clarence Thomas, Judge Alito received more no votes than any Supreme Court nominee in the last 100 years.
Yeah, well, instead of dividing the country, the Democrats could have voted for Alito--as 41 Republicans did for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and 33 for Stephen Breyer. (Voters rewarded Republicans by handing them control of the Senate at the very next opportunity.)
But who cares? As Neas says, "Moral victories are not sufficient." Actual victories, however, are.
in which Hillary is egregiously inaccurate:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday called President Bush's explanations for eavesdropping on domestic telephone calls "strange" and "far-fetched," launching a blistering attack on the White House ahead of the president's State of the Union address.
[#1] "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 [#2, and a classic at that] she did not yet know whether the administration's warrent less eavesdropping broke any laws. But the senator said she did not buy the White House's main justifications for the tactic. [emphasis mine]
[#3] "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.
"Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA [#4] operated very effectively and [#5] it wasn't that hard to get their permission," she said. The [#6] super-secretive 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 [#7].
So, here we go.
#1, Funny that Hillary and so many Democrats claim to support "tracking down" - notice she didn't say killing - terrorists when not a day passes where these Democrats focus their attacks not on terrorists but on the very tools - surveillance, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, etc. - used successfully since 9-11 to kill them. There's a reason why in exit polls of the 2004 election only 40 percent of voters trusted Kerry to combat terrorism, and a reason why only 14 percent of Kerry voters ranked terrorism/the war on terror as the most important issue - because Democrats ARE soft on terrorism. Period.
It is also very important to note the reverse argument of those who feel that Bush isn't justified based on his executive war powers in wiretapping suspected foreign agents on US soil (whether citizens or not) -- what they are really arguing is that terrorism, and the wire tapping of terrorists, is a law enforcement issue, not one of national security. Just one big freakin' problem with this philosophy: It led to 9-11!!! Recall that every 9-11 Commissioner, even the most liberal among them, even Democrats like Janet Reno, agreed that "The Wall" - as it has since been termed - between law enforcement (FBI, Police, civil agents) and national security (CIA, Pentagon, NSA) ensured that information never passed between the two groups that most agree would have led to the discovery of 9-11 before it occurred.
#2, Don't you just love this argument! "Well, we don't KNOW if he broke any laws but we're going to propagate to the media that he did! We're going to investigate! We're investigating! Congress will look into this... Really, we're going to get to the bottom of this... We can't say he did anything illegal but we know he did! I'm sure it's there somewhere... if we squint our eyes just right... and ignore Supreme Court precident... just you wait and see... I'm sure Bush did something, I just don't know what that is yet." They got nothing.
#3, Pardon me Ms. Clinton, but I recall your husband Bill's presidency argued the very defense Bush is using. John Schmidt, a Clinton Justice Department official from '94 to '97:
"President Bush's post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents... In the Supreme Court's 1972 Keith decision holding that the president does not have inherent authority to order wiretapping without warrants to combat domestic threats, the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president's authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad.
Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant.
...Every president since FISA's passage has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the act's terms. Under President Clinton, deputy Atty. Gen. Jamie Gorelick testified that "the Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrent less physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."
Schmidt, like Gorelick during her post as a 9-11 Commissioner, fully understands that the 1978 FISA Act cannot - indeed it would be unconstitutional - trump executive power in combating foreign powers, including al Qaeda.
#4, If FISA acted "very effectively" the 9-11 Commission would not have argued the dangers in treating foreign terrorists as law enforcement targets. If FISA had acted "very effectively" the Senate Judiciary Committee - that very Congress of which Ms. Clinton is a member - would not have had to have issued a report titled "FISA Implementation Failures."
Indeed, according to that report, "(1) The FBI and Justice Department were setting too high a standard to establish that there is 'probable cause' that a person may be an 'agent of a foreign power' and, therefore, may be subject to surveillance pursuant to FISA;" -- they're likely alluding to Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda agent whose laptop was not surveyed prior to 9-11 because of overblown concerns of civil liberty violations by FBI middle managers. This segues into the point that Bush's decision to use warrentless wiretaps isn't just about FISA, but about his obvious lacking confidence of the FBI. Had they their "stuff" together yet, would Bush need to circumvent them?
Thus, If FISA had acted "very effectively," as Hillary says, 9-11 would not have occurred, would it?
#5, Mrs. Clinton's argument that "it wasn't that hard to get their permission," is irrelevant. This isn't about the ease with which a FISA court may agree to wiretap - it's about speed and efficiency. Former Senate Intelligence Committee chief counsel Victoria Toensing set that straight days ago, saying, "there are no five-minute "emergency" taps...To prepare the two-to-three-inch thick applications for non-emergency warrants takes months. The so-called emergency procedure cannot be done in a few hours, let alone minutes. The attorney general is not going to approve even an emergency FISA intercept based on a breathless call from NSA." Wrong again, Hillary.
#6, It's quite debatable that the "super-secret" FISA court may itself be unconstitutional. Like the 1973 War Powers Act before it - a Congressional act which demanded a president terminate military action within 60 days should he mobilize the military without Congressional consent - it is a Watergate-era kneejerk reaction which all parties know would never survive a Supreme Court battle. This is, of course, precisely why Congress has never pressed too hard with these acts. Were I Bush, I'd demand his critics take him to the high court.
#7, Like #6 above, this is an AP comment, not necessarily attributed to Mrs. Clinton: Bush's primary argument isn't so much that FISA takes too long so much that he's stressing that this is a war, not a police roundup; that he has absolute authority to survey without warrent a suspected foreign agent under article II of the Constitution; and that Congress agreed to it after 9-11 and were brief by the president, and only now, four years passed, after a leak to the NY Times* are the Democrats issuing sound bites.
Mrs. Clinton being one of them.
* Where are the crys by Democrats to investigate this leak? There is nothing but silence.
You know, there's a reason why the founding fathers began the US Constitution "We The People," and not "We the Lawyers." The intent of the Constitution was for it to be a document for the masses, not for a select few on Capital Hill. Sadly, however, I for one would wager that not many people understand the most basic of our country's principles - the separation of powers.
This concept - separation of powers - is critical when it comes to understanding the role of the executive and legislative branches vis-a-vis warrantless surveillance. To wit - spying on terrorist agents is a wartime activity bestowed solely to the President, not Congress. Thus any attempt to curb that power is by its very nature unconstitutional. Conversely, Congress could cut all the funding. That is their right.
WASHINGTON - A majority of Americans want the Bush administration to get court approval before eavesdropping on people inside the United States, even if those calls might involve suspected terrorists, an AP-Ipsos poll shows.
...Yet 56 percent of respondents in an AP-Ipsos poll said the government should be required to first get a court warrant to eavesdrop on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when those communications are believed to be tied to terrorism.
Agreeing with the White House, some 42 percent of those surveyed do not believe the court approval is necessary.
...According to the poll, age matters in how people view the monitoring. Nearly two-thirds of those between age 18 to 29 believe warrants should be required, while people 65 and older are evenly divided.
One might wonder if our elders have a better understanding of separation of powers than our youth. One might also wonder how the poll question was asked (i.e., did they specifically ask "the Bush administration," or was it worded "a president" or "the executive branch"? Was the poll worded in a way that the populace knows that to date only 500 persons, or "1.7 ten-thousandths of 1% of the U.S. population" - a population with Al Qaeda on its speed dial - has been targeted?) Besides, it's one of those feel-good misnomers, right? What kind of maniac would actually argue that the president can spy on "people" without a warrant? Well, among others, perhaps somebody who had actually bothered to both read and ponder on the US Constitution.
A few days ago I mentioned that the opponents of warrentless spying often invoke the Fourth Amendment (search and seizure) but usually (and often purposely) omit the word "unreasonable" - our founders weren't dumb, they added "unreasonable" before "searches and seizures" to purposely state that there would indeed be moments in which the government would not need warrants to search or seize. Else, after all, why would they have bothered input the modifier "unreasonable" if they demanded a warrant precede every search and seizure!
Well, part of the reason people fail in this understanding is because the media and politicians both further propagate it. Take, for example, John McCain's seemingly reasonable opinion on Fox News this past Sunday:
[CHRIS] WALLACE: But you do not believe that currently he [President Bush] has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps.
[JOHN] MCCAIN: You know, I don't think so, but why not come to Congress? We can sort this all out. I don't think - I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it. And so let's have the hearings. Let's have the administration come to Congress. I think they will get that authority, whatever is reasonable and needed, and increased abilities to monitor communications are clearly in order.
Why not come to Congress? Sounds reasonable, right? Just two problems: First, Bush already did this - after 9-11 Bush briefed members of Congress that he would do this, and now, years later, at their convenience, his Congressional enemies politicize the very request to which they had previously agreed!
Here's Bush today:
Federal courts have consistently ruled that a President has authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance against our enemies. Predecessors of mine have used that same constitutional authority. Recently there was a Supreme Court case called the Hamdi case. It ruled the authorization for the use of military force passed by the Congress in 2001 -- in other words, Congress passed this piece of legislation. And the Court ruled, the Supreme Court ruled that it gave the President additional authority to use what it called "the fundamental incidents of waging war" against al Qaeda.
I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means. It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics.
No wonder Bush doesn't bother going to Congress a second time. Fool me twice...
Next, and more importantly, it is John McCain and Congress, not Bush, that is acting unconstitutionally.
Say what, you say? Say this:
[Mark Levin, president of Landmark Legal Foundation]: Having already challenged the detention and interrogation of the enemy, this Sunday on Fox News Sunday McCain said that he doesn't believe the president has the constitutional authority to intercept al Qaeda communications with possible saboteurs in the U.S. unless that authority is statutorily granted by Congress. There's nothing in our history to support that position. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt didn't seek congressional authority to secure intelligence against the enemy, because they already had the power under the Constitution. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act cannot and does not trump presidential authority. Moreover, the Fourth Amendment, and the requirement of probable cause and search warrants, has nothing to do with gathering intelligence on a declared enemy. Even in 18th-century Britain, from where we get the concept of probable cause, its application had no relevance to war-related investigations aimed at determining the enemy's next act. The idea that the president has the power to rain devastation on the enemy, including destroying entire cities as in World War II, but he doesn't have the authority to intercept the enemy's communications with individuals in the U.S. without judicial approval, is absurd at every level.
By the way, Levin justifiably takes McCain to task for much more than just his false propagation of his understanding of the separation of powers. To be fair to McCain, I think he's just trying to get Democrats and Republicans to meet in the middle, as it were. But, regardless, Levin is right - it's the FISA act, like the War Powers Act before that, and Congress which is not acting in the confines of the US Constitution.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy drives the point home, citing Myers v. United States (1926), whereby the Supreme Court struck down a Congressional law "by ignoring the Constitution's separation of powers" ("It passed a law purporting to make its approval necessary before the president could remove certain executive-branch officials"):
The president is not above the law, but neither is any other branch. The highest law in the United States is the Constitution. Congress is not above that law - and it if enacts a statute, a "law," that undermines or alters the Constitution's structure, it is Congress that has placed itself above the law. [i.e., FISA, among other, laws]
...to the extent FISA limits the power of the commander-in-chief to conduct warfare, to the extent it would transfer to judges the decision whether an essential incident of warfare may be used, it is no more constitutional - or rational - than if it had purported to put the courts in charge of military target selection, or other battlefield judgments.
A blank check for the president? That is preposterous rhetoric. The commander-in-chief power includes the incidents of warfare. Nothing else. The president cannot seize the steel mills. He cannot suspend habeas corpus. He cannot close the banks, raise taxes, or conscript minors. He is no king. Indeed, if we are to talk about "the king" - as in having no clothes - our eyes should be cast on Capitol Hill.
From the hysteria that abounds, one would think that if FISA was not merely ignored but repealed, we would be living in a dictatorship, with All the President's Men snooping into every phone call, every library, and every bedroom. It is nonsense. Congress retains the power of the purse. Nothing prevents it, tomorrow, from passing a law that denies all funding for any domestic surveillance undertaken by the NSA or any other executive branch agency.
The president could do nothing but veto such a bill. But if, as leading Democrats and civil-liberties extremists maintain, the NSA program is truly one of the most outrageous, execrable, impeachable acts ever committed in recorded history, that veto would easily be overridden.
So why doesn't Congress just do it. Why doesn't it, literally, put its money where many of its mouths are? Why don't the people's representatives bring to heel this renegade, above-the-law president and his blank check? Because they'd lose, decisively and embarrassingly, that's why.
Because they'd have to take an accountable position on life-and-death. Because such a vote, in the middle of a war in which millions of American lives are at stake, would say, unambiguously, that they actually believe the government should not monitor enemy communications unless a federal judge - someone no one voted for and voters cannot remove - decides in his infinite wisdom that there is probable cause. It's so much easier to carp for a scandal-happy media about "the privacy rights of ordinary Americans," as if that were really the issue.
Eastern Europe freezes in killer cold
WARSAW (AFP) - Bone-chilling weather claimed dozens of lives across Europe as glacial temperatures swept the Baltics to the Balkans, brought rare snowfalls to Istanbul and sparked a scramble for heating fuel.
The unusually low temperatures, which are predicted to last until Wednesday but probably not extend into western Europe, has left well over 100 fatalities in Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey and the Czech Republic.
"You'd have to go back at least 10 years, sometimes 20 years, to find
such sharp colds," said Patrick Galois, a meteorologist with Meteo-France.
Polish authorities said 27 people had died of exposure there since Friday, where overnight temperatures dipped to minus 32 Celsius (minus 26 Fahrenheit), bringing to 150 the number who have died this winter.
Nearly half of the dead were homeless, of whom 90 percent were drunk.
As there's a direct relationship between the amount of energy a country consumes and its overall health and wealth, perhaps the Europeans should be less consumed with the amount of CO2** they output and more concerned with increasing their economic output and energy production, which will in turn decrease the number of people who freeze to death.
**Indeed, the WSJ reported that 13 of the 15 original EU signatories of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 are targeted to miss their 2010 emissions targets. And while the self-righteous EU-Canadian envirobloc is high on condemnation for the US for refusing to sign Kyoto, US emissions - which declined .8 percent from 2000 to 2002, are actually much lower than say Greece or Canada (23 and 24 percent higher since 1990 than the US rate).
Continues the Journal: "Countries that reduce those emissions that are potentially damaging to health or property do so by investment in cleaner technology. That is made possible by policies that promote economic growth and industrial profitability. Unhampered by Kyoto targets, America's economy is more nimble and can adapt to regulatory demands. We always knew that Kyoto was bad for the economy. It now turns out that it's bad for the environment as well."
Even better is the analysis by Mark Steyn, who correctly notes that not only is there poor evidence that man is warming the environment, but by every indication that countries which limit their energy output commit economic suicide:
"Stop worrying about your money, take care of our planet," advised one of the protesters' placards. Au contraire, take care of your money and the planet will follow. For anywhere other than Antarctica and a few sparsely inhabited islands, the first condition for a healthy environment is a strong economy. In the past third of a century, the American economy has swollen by 150 per cent, automobile traffic has increased by 143 per cent, and energy consumption has grown 45 per cent. During this same period, air pollutants have declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent, and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Despite signing on to Kyoto, European greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2001, whereas America's emissions have fallen by nearly one per cent, despite the Toxic Texan's best efforts to destroy the planet.
Had America and Australia ratified Kyoto, and had the Europeans complied with it instead of just pretending to, by 2050 the treaty would have reduced global warming by 0.07 C - a figure that would be statistically undetectable within annual climate variation. In return for this meaningless gesture, American GDP in 2010 would be lower by $97 billion to $397 billion - and those are the US Energy Information Administration's somewhat optimistic models.
The notion of global warming isn't science -- no, if there's anything "man made" it's this "environmentalist" policy that seeks to import European economic socialism as a method to compete American capitalism. Can't beat them? Try to stunt their growth through junk science.
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Osama bin Laden warned in an audiotape aired Thursday that his fighters are preparing new attacks in the United States but offered the American people a "long-term truce" without specifying the conditions... He presented his message with a combination of threats, vows his followers can fight forever and a tone of reconciliation, insisting he wants to offer a way to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He even recommended a book for Americans to read - "The Rogue State," apparently a book of the same title by American author William Blum. He said it offers the path to peace - that America must apologize to victims of the wars and promise never to "interfere" in other nations - though it was not clear if these were conditions for the truce.
Bin Laden said he decided to make a statement to the American people because he said President Bush was pushing ahead despite polls which showed "an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq."
Man, were I an Islamic terrorist I'd be really embarrassed right now. This is the best they have? This is what's supposed to leave us quaking in our boots? More empty threats, combined with an offer of truce if we read a left-wing, washed up, anti-war, apologist's book? This is our biggest fear? This is our biggest enemy? What a joke Mr. Bin Laden has become!
Gosh, I have so many comments I don't even know where to start. First, I guess, with the William Blum referral. If you don't know, he's just your typical protesting hippy who never grew up. Here's how one supporting web site describes Blum:
William Blum left the State Department in 1967, abandoning his aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer, because of his opposition to what the United States was doing in Vietnam. He then became one of the founders and editors of the Washington Free Press, the first "alternative" newspaper in the capital.
* In 1969, he wrote and published an exposé of the CIA in which was revealed the names and addresses of more than 200 employees of the Agency.
* Mr. Blum has been a freelance journalist in the United States, Europe and South America. His stay in Chile in 1972-3, writing about the Allende government's "socialist experiment" and its tragic overthrow in a CIA-designed coup, instilled in him a personal involvement and an even more heightened interest in what his government was doing in various parts of the world.
* In the mid-1970's, he worked in London with former CIA officer Philip Agee and his associates on their project of exposing CIA personnel and their misdeeds.
* The late 1980s found Mr. Blum living in Los Angeles, teaching and pursuing a career as a screenwriter. Unfortunately, his screenplays all had two (if not three) strikes against them because they dealt with that thing which makes grown men run screaming in Hollywood: ideas and issues.
William Blum is currently living in Washington, DC again, using the Library of Congress and the National Archives to strike fear into the hearts of US government imperialists.
Striking fear since 1967 -- yes, I'm sure Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rove are petrified of a guy who's so far to the Left even Hollywood rejects his screenplays.
Wow, talk about a sore-loser failed Commie! This guy is an enemy of America, only without the balls of an al Qaeda agent. Seriously, he exposes 200 Valerie Plames and wears it like a badge of honor (any liberal suggest investigating that, or even want to condemn it?) Also, in the history of the world it's never been a tragedy for a socialist government to be overthrown (by the way, uberlefties, how's that "socialist experiment" going? Can you name us a success yet? You've had 100 years of "but this time we can make it work!")
Now, to top his miserable career, Blum gets a plug by America's most wanted terrorist.
I can assure you that those who have already noted the fascinating but bizarre marriage between the far Left and Islamic fascists will have plenty to say about the Blum-Bin Laden reference in the weeks ahead.
Anyway, next point. Does anybody, even the scores of terrorists out there, really give a flying squirrel's bottom what bin Laden has to say anymore?
Here's some headlines:
April 2004: Bin Laden threatens in audiotape
October 2004: Bin Laden threatens in audiotape
December 2004: Bin Laden threatens in audiotape
Notice a pattern here? He threatens. He talks. He bitches and moans. He threatens some more. Yaaaaaaawn.
Yet, we've had no new attacks on our soil, and are still firmly entrenched and spreading liberal, constitutional democracy with free market capitalism and Kelly Clarkson CDs on top to Iraq and Afghanistan.
What's most odd to me, however, is the reaction by our so-called experts. First, the CIA, with simple audio produced by Al Jazeera - the official P.R. machine of terrorists from Damascus to Bali - immediately concurs that it MUST be Osama bin Laden. I mean, they don't even wait a day or two to pretend to be analyzing the tapes. They just throw it right out there - "Yep! It's him! Gotta be!"
As I've said before I'm not buying that bridge. Here's a guy, bin Laden, who his entire terror career appeared via video. The guy was a camera ham of historic proportions. He makes George Clooney blush. Yet, last time Binny was on video was shortly before the US overran Afghanistan. Since then we've gotten nothing but audiotapes. And does anyone believe that the CIA, which can't seem to keep the most basic of secrets, and continually gets it wrong, from missing the mark with Indian and Pakistani nukes, to the summer before 9-11, to what North Korea is doing, to what Iran is doing, to what Iraq did, somehow knows unequivocally that the voice is that of bin Laden? I have more confidence in Mr. Bean than I do the intelligence gathering ability of the CIA.
I've said it before: Until bin Laden shows up on video, holding up a copy of today's NY Times (with Blum at his side) I won't really believe he's alive.
The "expert" analysis get better:
Former White House anti-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke said "the initial significance of this (tape) is that he's still alive."
Beyond that, he told the AP, "the only new element in his statement is that they are planning an attack soon on the United States. "Would he say that and risk being proved wrong, if he can't pull it off in a month or so?" Clarke asked.
Well, gee, Dickie, I guess he would since he's done it a half dozen times since 9-11! Sheesh! Anti-terrorism chief? They paid this guy money? Yep, our tax money too. Can we get a refund?
The truce offer may be aimed at making bin Laden "look more reasonable in Arab and Muslim eyes. He's a very sophisticated reader of world opinion and American opinion, and he obviously knows he can't affect American thinking. He's too reviled," he said.
Reasonable? Boy, if the day comes when Islamic terrorists have truly gone from hijacking planes to worrying about looking reasonable before the world than we've already won. (And, if you didn't know it, we're winning, and were from about 9/12/01 on).
Then again, this is how the Associated Press described bin Laden in a photo tagline today:
Exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is seen in this April 1998 file photo in Afghanistan.
An exiled Saudi dissident? As though bin Laden didn't murder 3,000 Americans... bad enough the AP refuses to give him the just deserved "terrorist" label, but they equate him with someone who might have organized a peaceful political protest against the Kingdom.
Wow! It's only 2006, people. Have we forgotten 9-11 already?
And to correct an oft-cited misconception, there are no five-minute "emergency" taps. FISA still requires extensive time-consuming procedures. To prepare the two-to-three-inch thick applications for non-emergency warrants takes months. The so-called emergency procedure cannot be done in a few hours, let alone minutes. The attorney general is not going to approve even an emergency FISA intercept based on a breathless call from NSA.
For example, al Qaeda agent X, having a phone under FISA foreign surveillance, travels from Pakistan to New York. The FBI checks airline records and determines he is returning to Pakistan in three hours. Background information must be prepared and the document delivered to the attorney general. By that time, agent X has done his business and is back on the plane to Pakistan, where NSA can resume its warrantless foreign surveillance. Because of the antiquated requirements of FISA, the surveillance of agent X has to cease only during the critical hours he is on U.S. soil, presumably planning the next attack.
Even if time were not an issue, any emergency FISA application must still establish the required probable cause within 72 hours of placing the tap. So al Qaeda agent A is captured in Afghanistan and has agent B's number in his cell phone, which is monitored by NSA overseas. Agent B makes two or three calls every day to agent C, who flies to New York. That chain of facts, without further evidence, does not establish probable cause for a court to believe that C is an agent of a foreign power with information about terrorism. Yet, post 9/11, do the critics want NSA to cease monitoring agent C just because he landed on U.S. soil?
All the talk on Capital Hill regards reform in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, which is certainly good and necessary. However, predictably members on both sides are engaged in a bait and switch where they attempt to placate voters over promises of big reform but only bother addressing the most innocuous of practices.
The Wall Street Journal opines:
Sometimes politics is too hilariously predictable. In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, the two parties are now competing to see who can most loudly denounce the least significant Beltway practices. So in addition to banning lunch with lobbyists, Mr. Hastert is also proposing a ban on "privately sponsored travel" by House Members.
We guess this means no more lobbyist-paid foreign-policy tours of the Middle East, or of the back nine at St. Andrews. Instead, taxpayers will pick up the tab for the air fare, and the Members will find some other way to finance their green fees. And this is supposed to make us feel better about Congress?
The Democratic reforms announced yesterday are just as amusingly slight. Take the "Tony Rudy Reform," which Ms. Pelosi named after the former Tom DeLay aide now under investigation in the Abramoff probe. Among other things, this epic legislation would "eliminate floor privileges for former Members of Congress." Presumably these lobbyists would have to use the telephone or email instead.
By the way, the Washington Post reports that the GOP lunch ban as proposed wouldn't apply if the Members also receive a campaign contribution as they tuck into their Dover sole. By this logic, it is corrupting for a lobbyist to dine with a Member merely to discuss, say, public policy. But it is not corrupting if the lobbyist brings along a pack of $2,000 checks that go to ensure the Congressperson's re-election. This fine ethical distinction would stump Thomas Aquinas.
The truth is that none of this will truly reduce corruption any more than the many previous lobbying reforms did, or the campaign finance reform of 1974 did, or the McCain-Feingold reform of 2002 did. Money always finds a way in politics, as the American people instinctively understand.
And because these reforms largely restrict the behavior of Americans who aren't in Congress, they have the cumulative effect of further insulating politicians from accountability by voters and their delegates, some of whom are lobbyists. We doubt it's an accident that the rate of incumbent re-election has only increased in recent decades along with the proliferation of lobbyist and campaign-finance restrictions.
If the Members were serious about reform, they'd put in place rules that restrict themselves. They could insist, for example, that at least three days pass after final legislation is drafted, so they could actually read the bills before they vote on them. Or they could eliminate spending "earmarks," which have proliferated under GOP rule and are now a preferred way that Members pay off lobbyists. At a collective cost to taxpayers of about $27 billion in Fiscal 2005, earmarks are a lot more expensive than a free lunch.
The Abramoff scandal is certainly a GOP-based scandal, but the corruption of the system is not GOP-based. Meaning: Both the parties take advantage of lobbying to the extreme, but at the end of the day, when they're through taking pot shots at each other publicly, they'll happily find loopholes together in private to continue the exploitation.
Most of the public will be as fooled by these "reforms" as they were by the McCain-Feingold "reform," and the Watergate "reform" before that, and so on, and so on. What's changed? Nothing, because these "reforms" sought to address false demons of lobbies and money and television advertisements by PACs, but never Congressional behavior. The answer isn't curbing lobbyists - they're as protected by the First Amendment as you and I and the press. The answer isn't curbing the flow of money - like water running downhill money will always cut another path. The answer is reforming Congress.
It's only natural that the GOP, at this moment in history, appears at the forefront of the corruption -- they do control both Houses, and so the lobby money shifts that way, just as before the Gingrich revolution, when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, it shifted their way. But you're a partisan fool if you think one party is worse than the other. Not to mention - so long as they keep that mindset in the public, they win, because a few of them may come and go, but without term limits (term limits - not that's a reforming idea!), most of these Congressional "leaders" are 20+ year veterans of the Hill. They're not going anywhere, no matter how often the majority and minority parties change. And so they have a financial interest in ensuring the system stays profitable to them.
In their never ending quest to pursue socialism another county school board is attempting to crush the competitive values that made America, in this case by eliminating the naming of a class valedictorian. Isabel Mascareñas - no relation to the Los Del Rio brothers - has the story from Pinellas Co., FL:
High achieving students often have that top honor in sight, valedictorian of their senior class. It's a distinction that may soon disappear in Pinellas County and it's a trend catching on across the Bay area.
For 11th grader Adam Rosenthal, getting straight A's isn't good enough. He hopes to be valedictorian of his Senior class next year.
Adam Rosenthal, 11th grader:
"For me, it's really important. Gives me something to strive for, the best I can possibly do."
Taylor Traviesa, 12th grader:
"I think it's good for the kids who work so hard for four years."
Guidance Counselor Connie Boyle says some parents are the ones pressuring kids.
Connie Boyle, Guidance Counselor:
"I have parents calling me, asking what courses are quality points courses, how can my students become val or sal."
Meggie Ford, a St. Petersburg High School IB student, sees classmates battling for the spot.
Meggie Ford, 12th grader:
"They try to figure out how to get the best grades, what classes to take."
Educators say classes that teens often pick do not make them well rounded students. And they say ranking students as #1 or #2 often leaves out kids who do just as well.
Connie Boyle, Guidance Counselor:
"Some of the students are separated by a fraction, fraction of a percentage point, fraction of thousandth percentage point. How fair is that?"
Well, boo freakin' hoo! Let's just get rid of competition. While we're at it we'll just get rid of all grading so that a handful of students don't feel left out. Waaa.
Can you imagine a race in which the runner who finished second also got a gold, or the runner who finished first didn't, because, you know, they runner who came in second only finished a fraction of a second behind the winner?
And, while we're at it, is it just me, or do the kids seem to want to keep the practice while worthless guidance counselors like Connie Boyle seem to be on a personal jihad against it. She says she has students' teachers calling her and "pressuring the student"? I suppose Ms. Boyle would prefer those disinterested parents who don't give a damn enough to pressure their kid to try their best! Shesssh! Brave new schools indeed.
Of what do I speak? Hold that thought.
Here's a quote from David Duke:
"This city [New Orleans] will be a majority white city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have it no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans... It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a white New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying in Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be white at the end of the day."
Oh, wait, I'm sorry. That wasn't David Duke. And everywhere you read "white," replace with "chocolate." That was New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, making comments on Martin Luther King Day. So much for "diversity," and MLK's vision of a color-free society, eh Mayor? Someone may also want to remind the mayor that while approximately 68 percent of the city was black, whites made up 41 percent of the Katrina deaths. I guess Katrina hated white people more. At least that's what Nagin seems to think, evoking a philosophy eerily similar to that of the always wacky Pat Robertson:
"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.
"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."
Right. God must be mad at America for spreading constitutional, liberal democracy, and economic and social freedom to Iraqis. He hates that. By Nagin's logic the US government must have really pissed off God in 1900, because the no-name CAT 5 hurricane killed about 8,000 people in Galveston, Texas, that year. Were we in Iraq then? Well, at least God's not as angry at us as he is people in South Asia - the earthquake that hit last October killed more than 79,000.
I'm curious which God Nagin worships, because right now it sounds like the same one to which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden pray.
Anyway, the point of the title of this post, "Willy Nagin and the Chocolate Factory," comes from some T-shirts that have cropped up since Nagin's remarks. Surely this must be the best design of 2006 and it's only January. Congrats, mayor!
Comes from National Review's Jonah Goldberg:
After 9/11, authorities found a bunch of e-mail addresses and phone numbers in the phones and computers of confirmed terrorists. They tracked down those leads. Most of the people the NSA started eavesdropping on - about 7,000 - lived overseas, and their phone calls were to other foreigners living abroad. But, according to Risen's book, "about 500 people" living in the U.S. who were in contact with suspected terrorists had their communications tapped. Risen calls this "large-scale" spying on the American people, even though, as The Weekly Standard recently noted, this constitutes "1.7 ten-thousandths of 1% of the U.S. population."
Now, forgive me for not loading up my car with bottled water and canned goods and heading off into the hills to fight with the partisans, but I just don't see what the big deal is. Yes, yes, "slippery slopes" and all that. Gotcha. What else do you have? Because that isn't enough. If you go looking for slippery slopes, you'll always find them. That doesn't mean they're really there. The Patriot Act was called a banana peel on the path to hell, and yet it has turned out to be very difficult even to keep it alive.
What makes this bout of St. Vitus's maniacal dancing seem so opportunistic is that after 9/11, we heard constantly about the need to be more flexible and creative. The 9/11 commission's chief complaint was that authorities suffered from a lack of imagination when it came to terrorism.
Before 9/11, the system for listening to conversations between terrorists abroad and their accomplices on our soil had all the flexibility and creativity of John Ashcroft at a disco contest. Even with warrants issued by the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, the National Security Agency usually had to erase the "American" side of the conversation between suspected terrorists before handing them over to the FBI.
Most Americans think that sort of thing is crazy. But, to keep the frenzy alive, we talk about spying on "certain Americans" - when in reality we're trying to stop barbarians from killing "certain Americans."
Amen to that. You know, what really kills me is how people so often underestimate the wisdom of the founding fathers - the people who put this balance of civil liberty versus presidential wartime power in place to begin with.
It's pretty clear to a guy like me, or what the founders called "We The People," that James Madison and company were purposely specific in some cases - such as when specifically noting "Congress shall make no law..," meaning Congress, not your local school board banning Christmas trees and citing a nonexistent separation of church and state clause as law - and then being purposely vague such as in the Fourth Amendment, the key to those who insist Bush is abusing his presidential authority.
Here's the Fourth: " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
What word do you see present that makes this amendment not so crystal clear in its application? What word is very broad, very subjective? That word is "unreasonable." The founders aren't stupid. They knew what they were doing when they put the word unreasonable before "searches and seizures." So, ask yourself, after 3,000 of your fellow citizens were murdered in a just a few hours of intolerable cruelty, is it "unreasonable" for any president of the United States to order the unwarranted wire tapping of "1.7 ten-thousandths of 1% of the U.S. population" who are having telecommunications with a suspected terrorists in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Hamburg?
The left has no argument here. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both executed this authority for much less reasoning, and have admitted as much. Indeed, if anything is unconstitutional it is the FISA law, crafted in 1978, which arguably usurps presidential power bestowed by the US Constitution.
Hey, if ESPN can have an awards show, why can't everything, right?
World Net Daily, a libertarian Internet daily, has compiled its list of the "10 most "spiked" or underreported stories of the last year," according to its reader survey. Maybe it should be called a "Spikie"? Check it out.
Topping the list is "Able Danger," a code name for a US intelligence operation that identified several 9-11 hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, in the summer of 2000. The big stink came when it was revealed by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer that the program existed but that the government (I'd love to say in its "pre-9-11 mindset" but frankly the minority party still hasn't seemed to have learned) failed to pursue the then suspected terror agents for fear of that old strawman - the civil liberties slippery slope. Worse, this information was passed to the 9-11 Commission, which apparently chose to avoid the topic altogether, and instead focused on how to best politicize 9-11 and the war in Iraq. Anyway, I've wasted enough of my life writing about the 9-11 Commission (in fact, looking back, pretty much the entire summer of 2004).
Back to the WND list, other 2005 notible topics include positive news in Iraq (an ever-running spike), Sandy "Socks" Berger, and a personal pet peeve of mine, a refusal to note the booming economy.
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