Friday, December 30, 2005

Time for Prayer and Truimph

Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, lost his son James to an apparent suicide last week. I can only imagine--but choose not to--the pain that he has, is and will experience. There is nothing to say to the man and his family, but that we are terribly, terribly sad with him, we mourn with him, and we pray for the comfort that only Christ can bring to each of them, and to them as a collective. There are no easy answers, and over-sprirtualized responses don't help. This did happen on God's watch, there is no why that would make sense to us, and the whole thing, frankly, sucks. But the "why" is up to God. And so is the "what next?".

And along those lines, the Dungys seem to be made of some pretty strong stuff. Tony is back coaching, preparing his team to go to the Super Bowl. Sometimes work can be cathartic.

And while it is strange for someone from Baltimore to cheer on any team owned by an Irsay, I would love to see the Colts take it all the way. And I'd love to see Tony win the big one. It'll be a fun two weeks coming up. And I'll bet that Manning and his crew will put up a heck of a show for us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Prosecutions and Wiretapping

Tom Bevan made mention of this inexcusable behavior reported in U.S. News and World Report regarding the War on Terror:


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. [snip]

The nuclear surveillance program began in early 2002 and has been run by the FBI and the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST). Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

The act requiring prosecution? The leak.

It tipped off terrorists as to our methods and efforts to detect their activities. Even worse, it may have clued them in to what we are not doing, and that certain of their operations may not be compromised. But regardless of the stated intentions of these two officials, what they did was unethical (again, irrespective of their stated intentions) illegal, and put our national security interests at risk.

This is the same problem I had with Deep Throat. He reported his concerns to a reporter who told the story and revealed information gained in the process of an investigation (again, illegal), rather than to a prosecutor who could have handled the problem. He also retained his job and lived within the system that he claimed to despise, not so disgusted that he wasn't willing to take the paycheck.

And if these anonymous sources have such great problems with a program that they find illegal, they need to resign and in their resignation letter to their superiors, state that they believed that the acts taken in the interests of homeland security were unconstitutional. It would clear their conscience, they would have their grievances aired on the record, and secrecy would be maintained.

But what these people believe to be constitutional or otherwise requires some correction.

There is nothing unlawful about detecting smells, sounds, or sights that can be perceived without entry into a place of privacy. Much like the drug dog cases, people have no privacy interests in contraband, nor in emissions that come from such items that can be detected in the outside world. And methods that detect such emissions are not unlawful searches, United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983). Similarly, efforts to detect radiation and other harmful substances by emissions detectable in the public realm do not violate the Constitution if the measurement is done outside a place where there exists a reasonable expectation of privacy. And many of these places are not "private" they are businesses and mosques, open to the public and inviting people to enter. And if a detection of contraband occurs inside the public areas of such a place, it is likewise lawful.

But that explanation aside, these people have broken the law. Things are "classified" for a reason. And because a couple of people decided to play lawyer, they have gone public and exposed our sources and methods to get an answer to their burning legal question. Well, here's the answer. It's legal. Their breach of trust by leaking undoubtedly top secret information was not. And in an effort to make themselves feel just a little better, they made life just a little more dangerous for the rest of us.

The Benefit of Cost

For those who missed it last year, the Horserace Blog stands as a brilliant pre and post election analytical scorecard by a political science junkie, Jay Cost.

And now he is filling in over the holiday week for Tom Bevan and John McIntyre at RealClearPolitics.com. Read his posts, as they involve politics by the science. Jay's scholarly analysis is likely to make him the next Michael Barone.

Go, read, and enjoy political analysis at its finest.

Why Lieberman is Right--Why Liberal Republicans Aren't

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is a favorite of mine. He has been called the conscience of the Senate, insofar as the man is morally grounded, he takes his Jewish faith very seriously and tries to live its tenets, and is surprisingly unafraid to say what he believes. Which means that he is significantly divorced from the far left dogma of his party. And a failure to be anything but far left comes with a price. And now some Connecticut Democrats are trying to remove him from office in favor of the much more liberal Lowell Weicker.

Forgetting the fact that Lieberman is probably fairly safe and that there are fewer Democrats with more respect and credibility on a national level than he, this signifies the fact that the people in control of the party are significantly further left than the people whom they seek to govern.

I am honestly not worried about Lieberman's holding his seat, and if there was indeed a vote split between Lieberman and Weicker, putting a Republican in office, I would still much prefer Joe Lieberman to a Lincoln Chafee New England liberal Republican any day. Because Lieberman has what Chafee does not--the polite term is backbone, but any other will do.

And the comparison works with other liberal Republicans as well: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel, and John McCain. But where do I get off crediting Lieberman for what his party considers disloyalty and downing liberal Republicans for doing the same? It's a fairly critical question posed by one of my favorite readers, and it requires some attention.

And while the question is important, it presumes an incorrect assumption--that the economic, political and moral viewpoints of the left and the right are equal and perhaps even equally right. Let's dispel that one right away.

From both an empirical and moral standpoint, the left's policies are losers. Their welfare policies created a permanent underclass of urban blacks as a result of voluntary unemployment. Their education/union policies favored lazy teachers over students (again, usually black and in urban America) who graduate high school unable to read the diplomas they are given. Their defense policies resulted in an expanded cold war and emboldened Soviet Union in the 1970s, and the same for Al Qaida in the 1990s, both resulting in the need for expensive offensives to defend our way of life. And their moral policies taught us that abortion should be a norm, sex is free of consequences if one uses a condom, children should be exposed to their view of sex from an early age, and parents should have no role in the upbringing of their children if their views differ from those of the far left. All flawed concepts, all proven ineffective. And yet today's Democratic party remains wedded to them all, either too arrogant to admit failure or too myopic to see that no matter how executed, these social and economic theories have detrimental practical results. In short, the Democratic leaders of today are repackaging Marxist theory in an effort to effect their version of an ideal society. And if anyone thinks that sounds good, they need only look at its fruits as borne out over the past century in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Given that correction to the record, let's get to Joe Lieberman. It takes a tough individual to state as he did in November of 2000 that the absentee ballots of soldiers overseas should be counted when his running mate, Al Gore, disagreed. His decision was one of a few factors that ultimately brought the recount fiasco to a close. Two years before, he blasted Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky and his subsequent cover-up that got him impeached. And now, Lieberman, after a visit to our troops in Iraq, is repeating the same cadence offered by our soldiers who see the nation first hand--he believes, as they do, that we are winning the war, and that it is a war worth fighting. And it takes quite a bit of backbone to do that in this political environment.

The Democratic leadership, like many on the extreme left before them, permit no variance of opinion. Their mouthpiece, the media, headed by the now opinion-only New York Times roll out a smattering of bad press in order to encourage the errant "maverick" senator to rethink his position. And against such a tide, it is indeed hard to stand, so Joe Lieberman deserves a good deal of credit for stating what he believes is true rather than keeping his mouth shut in order to avoid flack from the left.

But caving into the left is a much easier prospect for those who can be wooed, and has fairly significant short-term rewards. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is a prime example. His New England roots predispose him to being a liberal, which is no fault of his necessarily. But he has proven that rather than engaging the Democrats on matters of principle, it just works better to go along with them, avoid a messy fight, and get a few days' worth of fawning press. The alternative, of course, would be the kind of press received by the Republican Leadership. But Chafee is a liberal at heart who doesn't have a single value for which he would fight a Democrat. And much the same goes for his twin sisters, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Neither of them ever had the gravitas to stand up to Tom Daschle, and they similarly cave for Harry Ried. I can forgive the Maine sisters, though. They make no effort to be in the spotlight, unlike Chafee who hoped after the 2002 elections to be a major power broker in the Senate. The results of that election, however, rendered him thankfully irrelevant.

And there are others, like Mike DeWine and Arlen Specter, who are moderate at best, explaining various silly acts, such as Specter's vote of "Not Proven" at the Clinton impeachment trial, which was a principle he hewed out of ancient William Wallace-era Scottish law (per Jonah Goldberg, he voted "Glenfidditch"), to avoid a vote to convict, but still making clear that he believed that Clinton did something wrong. Specter's clever but transparent effort at not offending anyone drew him no bad press from the MSM, as he did no real damage to Clinton, but did a beautiful job of highlighting the ineffectiveness of riding the fence.

But there are others who are lured away from conservative principles, not because they were squishy to begin with, but because cameras and good press are probably the best form of positive reinforcement that exist. The Democrats and the media know it, and they use it very effectively for this purpose.

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is a senator ripe for replacement in a primary. Hagel came to the Senate with a good military service and business record. And when it comes to tax and business issues, he is reliable ally. But that's where his conservative side has ended lately. And while his military record is admirable, he does not come with national security credentials as such. But that has not stopped him from commenting on the issue, and when it comes to the most critical foreign policy issue of our day--Iraq and the global war on terror--Hagel has his head in the isolationist camp. And while that's not where the left is on the terror war (they favor direct engagement in the form of negotiation with, appeasement of and apology to multinational terrorist groups such as Al Qaida), having a Senator generally believed to be a conservative come out in any way against the Administration's anti-terror efforts is helpful. Which is why the MSM tried to get as many appearances out of him this year as possible to discuss his misgivings about our presence in Iraq. And the glowing press he received was his reward. But Hagel may want to remember that he comes from very red Nebraska, as opposed to the more purple Minnesota or Michigan. And while Hagel may have rolled over on national security for some short-lived media glow, there remains an even more depressing example of how press rewards can corrupt a rising leader.

John McCain (R-AZ) is owed a significant debt by his nation. He was a Navy pilot during Vietnam who served his country admirably, was shot down over North Vietnam and spent time in the Hanoi Hilton being tortured and refusing release in favor of POWs who had been in captivity longer than he. He is a great American in the truest sense, but with regard to politics, he has become a bad Republican and a terrible senator. And as he has admitted in the very recent past, his biggest constituency is the media.

McCain is viewed as the anti-Bush, mainly because he wants what Bush has and is willing to be publicly critical of Bush in order to gain advantage. He and Bush have been bitter rivals since the 2000 primaries, but by and large McCain and Bush are not as different as the media would have us believe. But five years of very favorable media coverage has a way of changing someone, just as five years of cocaine use has a tendency to addict. If you doubt me, look at Bill Clinton's really pitiful effort to remain relevant in the public sphere. He already had a pathological need to be loved, but after leaving office, he has done just about anything he could to stay in the spotlight. And to a degree, that addiction will cause one to adjust their values to fit the adoring coverage they want, which is the kind of thing that ought to give Republican voters more than just a little pause with regard to any McCain candidacy.

It's just more attractive to and easy to go to the left when you're a Republican. The temporary rewards of good press outweigh the flack. But folks like Joe Lieberman, who go against the cultural tide from time to time to stand for a principle that will create no small degree of heat for him deserve special recognition.

Because the good things about America didn't come easily. And good press never made anyone free.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Trotting out the Losers to Defend the Terrorists

The next in a long line of Democrats to chime in on the wiretap issue is the former Senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle. And if all the Dems can do is bring out their big losers to get their message across, they are in about as much trouble as I thought. Tom Daschle lost his Senate seat last year because the Bush Administration did a very effective job portraying him as a leftist who fakes conservatism at home. But instead of learning and applying the lesson that losing his seat should have taught him, Daschle returns only to recycle the same unfortunate rhetoric that got him fired.

Daschle's op-ed piece in the Washington Post rails against what he calls, "a program to wiretap American citizens without getting warrants", "warrantless wiretaps of American citizens", and of course, "methods that can only breed fear and suspicion." But there is no evidence that Bush authorized a program to "wiretap American citizens" making the Daschle's article little more than an effort to create a Big Brother conspiracy straw man for him to rip apart. But a closer look at the former Minority Leader's words indicate that it is really he and his party that don't get it.

He notes that there are right and wrong ways to fight terrorism, but that Bush has never seemed to grasp that. But it is Daschle who is hopelessly confused.

If by "wrong" he means "ineffective," I would agree. There are ineffective ways of combatting terrorists, and the Democrats helped prove that in the 1990s. Ignoring the problem and treating it as a law enforcement issue is truly ineffective. We discovered that to our detriment on September 11, 2001. But I feel safe arguing that Daschle's point is that there are improper ways of stopping terrorists. And if those improper means involve violating rights that terrorists may claim, the debate has already taken a wrong turn.

Terrorists, as unlawful combatants, seek to commit acts of sabotage on our political, economic, and military infrastructure (or have we forgotten the targets of 9/11/01-- the WTC, the Pentagon, and presumably the Capitol?). Any effort to clothe them with civil liberties that will only be used to further their plots is borne of the mind of a simpleton. And terrorists CAN be American citizens. But Daschle makes a fairly significant category mistake in his short-sighted editorial.

There is a difference between protecting the nation from terrorist attacks and prosecuting the people planning and executing such attacks. Wiretapping people on our soil to gain information without a warrant may thwart a criminal prosecution under the Fourth Amendment, but it will not and should not prevent the interdiction of a terrorist plot in the execution phase. And that's the point that the left has been consistently missing. It's not about putting them in jail. It's about putting them out of the terrorist business. Because while terrorism does indeed run afoul of our law, it cannot be viewed as a law enforcement problem, but rather as a national security problem.

These are foreign agents, entering our nation for the purpose of destroying it. It is no different than if they had lobbed a missile from Iran, Syria, or even Saudi Arabia. But to the left, because this enemy lacks the sopistication and funds to produce rocket technology to deliver a devastating weapon and therefore must rely on subterfuge to enter our nation to wreak destruction locally, they are entitled to special rights simply because they are here. So not only do they fail to see terrorism as a national security problem (as their party's candidate for the White House proved last year), they see the fighting of terror within our borders as a civil liberties problem.

This is nothing more than politics over practicality. These are the same people who rush to court every Christmas any time a nativity scene or a Menorah is found within sight of a public place. And the same immoral attitude that fuels that engine is the same one that leads them to plead the case for terrorists' rights. Only at the ACLU does such logic make sense. And it is a logic that is uniquely un-American and unpatriotic.

And in that vein, it makes one wonder what is going on in the hearts of the Democrats and the media-left when they prefer to confer upon a terrorist a Constitutional right to privacy--as he plots to destroy the nation giving it to him--rather than the rights of his targets, the American people they are sworn to protect to live in safety.

Ask Tom Daschle. Losing an election over similar issues apparently didn't change his mind.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why the Wiretaps?

Why the President authorized wiretaps without warrants is a valid question. It's one that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will soon have answered. And unlike the scandal that the Dems are longing for this to be, the White House has been remarkably open about what it has done, and has taken the step of singling out the New York Times for committing what could be a very serious breach of national security, as our efforts to prevent terrorist activity may have been compromised.

But the Democrats are wise not to make too much of this issue. Because while it may play wonderfully at an ACLU meeting, it finds little sympathy in living rooms, because, to put it bluntly, Americans don't care about the rights of terrorists. And the fact that the Dems and their cohorts in the media and the legal left continue to try to breathe political life into this matter, rather than hurting the President, only reinforces the already forgone assumption that they are soft on national security, soft on terror, and much more anti American than even they appear now.

Most Americans have not had the unfortunate pleasure of enduring the preachings of liberal law professors as to the meanings of the Bill of Rights, and the doctrinaire leftist legal philosophy that they often peddle, and therefore, do not buy the myopic minority political opinions of the left. So when it comes to the rights of those who come to our land to destroy innocent people by the thousands (or millions), they take the very appropriate view that such folk are not possessed of the same rights under the Constitution as the rest of us.

This is an area of the law that is quite fuzzy. Presidents Clinton and Carter have done the exact same thing that President Bush has done, per the foreign intelligence wiretap law, making the Dems' calls for Bush's impeachment more than just a little disingenuous given that they were fine with their own luminaries holding and exercising that same power. But ignoring that bit of doublethink for just a moment, the notion implicitly advanced by Democrats in their assault on the President--that terrorists plotting to destroy us should be able to twist the civil liberties we enjoy into tools to further their goals by hampering efforts to protect our national security--signifies that they are no longer a party which reflects the views of the Americans they so badly want to rule.

And worse than appearing soft on national security, as John Kerry clearly did last year, it is becoming harder and harder for the Democrats to duck the notion that they regard George W. Bush as more of an enemy than Al Qaida, and would not waste a second to use another terrorist attack as an opportunity to blame Bush for the security breaches they worked so hard to create. I am not implying that their goal is to specifically invite another terrorist attack, but I would argue that they are so blinded by their own lust for power and relevance at any cost, that they are knowingly lowering our defenses in order to deal the President some form of defeat.

But the White House seems to have very little fear of the wiretap issue given how transparent they have been about it, and it leads one to believe that they would absolutely love to have the public understand the nature of the activity that warranted the warrentless wiretaps. And if it is revealed that the wiretaps were part of an effort that resulted in the capture of terrorists or more importantly the prevention of another attack on our soil, the public will not even hear the predictable legal nuances which the Democrats will concoct in their efforts to paint the President as a destroyer of civil rights and committer of impeachable offenses.

But such noisy and useless talk may indeed have some value--the American people may very well end up asking the Democrats which side they are on in the war on terror. A terrible place to find one's party, and just in time for the 2006 elections.

Getting the facts straight

I love my readers, but when one of them tells me my facts are wrong (as opposed to just disagreeing about what the facts mean), it requires a response. I was informed by the reader that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was told about the warrantless eavesdropping.

I encourage my reader, then, to call the NYT and Washington Post, among others to demand a correction. Because this would not have been an issue if he had. Indeed, my reader's facts are correct on their face that the court was told about the eavesdropping, but that was well after the fact.

Of course, the reader, ELAshley, who posted afterward did some nice research on the topic. And the President does have the power to act 72 hours before getting a warrant under the current law. I think what he did was probably fine, and I am certain that it was in the best interests of the American people. But great power wielded in the hands of one can be a terrible force in the hands of someone less responsible. So yes, I believe that there needs to be a reporting requirement to the other brances of government of each and every one of these warrantless intrusions.

Because I'm not nearly as concerned about the prosecution of terrorists (for which a warrantless search may be held to be improper under the 4th Amendment, should we be so politically obtuse as to allow them such rights), but more in their interdiction and eradication.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Patriot Act, the NYT and the Wiretap

In an effort to compare current events to the Narnia movie, I submit the above title to this post.

We now all know the story. The NYT claims that the Bush Administration told it to sit on the story that is now confirmed, that the President authorized the NSA to listen in in communications between various individuals in the U.S. and people in other nations. The White House more or less admits the whole thing, and yesterday, the President made very clear that he will do whatever it takes to protect us from a terrorist attack.

But the big problem with this issue is that the NYT released the story just as the Senate was preparing to reauthorize the Patriot Act. And predictably, a filibuster ensued.

And while the Times is no doubt trying to influence policy--which is its prerogative, despite its inaccurate claim that it is an unbiased news source--playing games with the Patriot Act is no joke.

I don't wish to be heard to argue that the Patriot Act should not be debated. It represents a sweeping change in the way that law enforcement and intelligence have access to information about private individuals, and impinges upon people's right to expect that the government will not intrude on their private affairs without first consulting a court. But a failure to reauthorize the thing and to play politics with national security is serious business. And whatever euphamistic terms are used to describe a filibuster, real "debate" does not occur under the current rules.

This represents nothing more than the left reinforcing the very reasonable public impression that they are soft on national security and more specifically soft on terror. But that's the topic of the next post.

Bush made clear that the eavesdropping was not the casting of a wide net to listen in to anyone's communications, but rather on conversations by people to foreign nationals believed to be involved in international terror operations. But that aside, the warrantless intrusion into private conversations raises a number of questions about where national security stops and Big Brother starts. Ignoring for a second the specific nature of the eavesdropping, I'm less concerned about keeping my calls about what time I'm coming home or what's for dinner private than preventing another terrorist attack on American interests. But as comfortable as I am with the Bush Administration holding this power, I would be frightened if it were held by Hillary Clinton, whose husband's administration was responsible for the infamous long-form 2000 census that pried into the minutae of Americans' lives. So where do we draw the line?

Bush was wise to consult Congressional leaders about his use of this power. He recognizes the importance of the separation of powers which protects the people from an overreaching government. That's a fine check to use. But I don't think that it is wise to set a precedent of leaving a judge out of the loop. Of course, there will be times when the evidence needed to interdict a terror plot requires instant action, and special exceptions can be made, and that is the job of the Congress to decide.

But the New York Times's decision to drop this story in an effort to scuttle the Patriot Act reflects a particularly inexcusable and irresponsible effort to undercut the law that has provided for our security for over four years. I understand partisan motives, but this effort on the part of the left on a literally life and death issue seems nearly treasonous. We can always amend the Patriot Act. But we can't live in this age without it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Beautiful Photographic Allegory

Forget the part about the fact that Valerie Plame is in her skivvies for just a second. Here is the full text of the Time Magazine featuring this picture (courtesy Drudge). Joe Wilson is looking victimized and serious and his wife looking awfully compromised in the background of this picture designed to create an eerie impression of violation. It does a very clever job of it, but I remain stuck on the issue that it was Valerie, not Joe, who was allegedly exposed. Nice imagery, but the artistic angle breaks down when one takes a second to remember that Wilson wrote this particularly hilarious piece, blubbering about how awfully his family was mistreated by the awful Republicans. And while the whole "outing" thing was supposed to be about her, her misfortune became his ticket to the media exposure and relevance in which he so willingly and frequently basked.

It all makes sense when one considers how much this Remington Steele-style marriage has worked to Joe's professional benefit. He got a job off of his wife, received notoriety when he attempted to overplay the value of that job, and contrived a hysterical claim that, a White House effort to set the record straight about his significance and that of his research, amounted to espionage. Then he accepted every opportunity to throw himself and, if convenient, his wife in front of every camera that would have him/them. And then, several unlikely sources, such as the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee, rebutted the claims underpinning his grandstanding.

And now, in another effort to remain valid, he takes center stage to the woman whom he claims was the real victim--all the while showing her off in her knickers in a national publication. Is there any exploitation to which Joe Wilson will not stoop in order to keep his name in lights? Because a really creepy move like this signals a degree of desperation, and frankly, smacks of a prostitution for popularity on a Clintonian scale.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The "Good" Religion

We all know that Christianity and to a significant degree, Judaism are at best regarded as quaint faiths among the secular left and Hollywood, and at worst, belief systems worthy of nothing but open contempt. It's why The Passion of the Christ had a hard time getting picked up by a studio, while those same execs scrambled to sign Brokeback Mountain, about gay cowboys.

But Hollywood is not completely anti-religion. In fact, this is what they consider acceptable. And look at the piety of the likes of Tom Cruise, and some of the lesser known "nuances" of Scientology. Follow all the links. It's great stuff

Aliens, engrams, prehistoric H-bombs, and a church that has a security division designed to prevent church members from leaving. Makes much more sense than the goofy notion of a supreme creator who sent his only son to pay the penalty for our sins, doesn't it?

A pretty decent measurement of just how twisted Hollywood has become.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Alternative Holidays

I am an unabashed Christmas celebrator, for all of the reasons one would expect, but as I was doing some research to back up what I believed to be the reason Christ's birth is celebrated on December 25, I caught what I found to possibly be the best alternative secular holiday.

Whoever said Seinfeld was about nothing?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Schwartzenegger Needs to Ignore the Threats of the Left

Stanley Tookie Williams may have awoken to his last sunrise. He is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. tonight/tomorrow morning. And California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger has gone down the very unnecessary and frankly dangerous path of seriously entertaining the matter of clemency. And in so doing, the Governor has made matters significantly worse than they needed to be.

The reasons for granting or denying same have already been set forth. And I think that, in a strange twist, Tookie's greatest liability may be his most vociferous defenders. It is no credit to anyone that a gaggle of motley celebrities--some of whom are no more than wealthy versions of Williams--comes out to his defense, and to some degree agitates publicly that he be spared with the veiled threat of civil unrest as the consequence. Which makes Tookie's alleged penitence regarding his involvement in gang violence a bit suspect to say the least.

Had Schwartzenegger gone silent on the issue, the execution would have happened as a function of the bureaucracy with the usual whining and complaining from the pro crime crowd (and to be fair, from others of good conscience who are hard on crime but feel that the death penalty is improper). But giving this issue unneeded consideration has not just caused agitation regarding the death penalty, but more to the point, has added some legitimacy to the aforementioned hoodlum-ism that underpins much of this effort to spare one who would not spare the defenseless and would not act to disarm a gang.

And if he grants clemency, he sets a precedent that emotional appeals and threats of violence from gangs and the entertainment industry can sway the law.

He should never have put his hand on this Pandora's Box. But now it's open. I only hope that the Governor follows the precedent of his deposed predecessor, Gray Davis, who, while one of the least effective governors in state history, refused to grant clemency in any death penalty case.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Time to Terminate Tookie

I have spoken in this space about the very poor justification for commuting the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams for the murders of four people in two separate events.

But Arnold Schwartzenegger seems to be entertaining the possibility of giving the man an unmerited break. He heard arguments from both sides about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of commuting Williams' sentence to life. And it seems to me that his consideration of same in such a serious manner is alarming in itself.

The arguments for clemency are cobbled together around the notion that Williams is a changed man. But the death penalty was not imposed with the provision that it could be pulled if the convict saw the error of his ways. Indeed, Karla Faye Tucker was put to death in Texas after admitting her crime and showing credible evidence of regret and repentance by becoming a born again Christian. But in 1998, then-Texas Governor, George W. Bush, refused to commute her sentence, focusing on the rule of law rather than the emotional pleas to spare her. As Bush's statement on Tucker notes, the rule of law--rather than some subjective sense of discomfort with executing someone who seems to have mellowed with age--is what must govern a grant of clemency.

Factors to be considered are the strength of the evidence against the convict, whether new evidence has been uncovered to cast doubt on that person's guilt, or the depravity of their heart at the time of the crime, among other things. Put another way, only factors inherent to the crime itself are appropriate considerations in any clemency decisions. And if Karla Faye Tucker's subsequent change of heart was irrelevant to the Governor's decision to allow her sentence to stand, the same ought to be the true for Williams. But that presumes that Williams' alleged epiphany is genuine.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney in a lengthy paper, focused on the particulars of the crime itself as they ought, but also on the misbegotten argument that Williams's alleged change of heart militates in favor of excusing him from death. Williams' behavior in prison raises an equally compelling argument in favor of maintaining the penalty imposed by the jury. The fact that Williams made threats to the jurors in his case, and more importantly refused to assist the police in gaining insight into the inner workings of the Crips street gang which he co-founded, exhibiting a greater loyalty to street violence and brigandage than to the law which he now claims to embrace.

But this issue has been brought to a head by the typical sympathists for deviants: the entertainment industry. These morally confused individuals who hold the values of the rest of the nation which they entertain in contempt are advocating for a murderer whose token efforts (and that's all they really are) to stem gang violence (in contrast to his refusal to provide inside information which could have provided the police the ability to break the back of the Crips) cause them to swoon. Hollywood and company ordinarily hold the justice system in low regard because as they believe that crime is the result of economic conditions, and is a justifiable response to living in a low income lifestyle. But I'll digress by asking the obvious: when was the last time one of these hypocrites gave away the majority of their fortunes to train the underprivileged in a trade or to provide a higher education so that the cycle of poverty can be broken? And where is their concern for the people Tookie murdered by his own hand and who have died as a result of his fetid gang legacy?

And now the fear is that these various entertainers are agitating the very gangs Tookie spawned, but whose violence he claims to decry in order to create a threat in the mind of Arnold Schwartzenegger: free Tookie or we'll get the gangs worked up, get them to riot, and create a real problem for you. A delightful dilemma from the left, but nothing new--give us what we want, or there will be violence and killing.

So what is to be made of this remarkably disingenuous and inconsistent position taken in favor of a reprobate criminal, who refuses to face what he has done? Tookie could fix it, of course, by directing Hollywood to stand down, and communicating to gang members that his circumstances and punishment are the wages of gang membership, and that gang members and those considering membership should take it as a lesson and a warning. His death would actually mean something and go to something greater than simply a single individual's punishment.

But I doubt that either he or Hollywood will do anything outside the political. It was easy to write some books. It is something different to do a greater act with real personal cost in order to deter gang activity.

So let's just get on with it and allow the sanction of the jury to go forward. Because if it doesn't, the message to gang members will be that they need only hold out, pretend to be reformed, and pray for Mike Farrell to come to their aid.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's Officially An Offensive

The entire Bush Administration is back. And it seems that they are taking the fight to the people who have been putting the screws to them.

Donald Rumsfeld, whose daily briefings were more adored that David Letterman's monologues, while defending (and I would dare say by the tone promoting) the Iraq War, lays it out pretty directly that the media have a duty to fairly evaluate this war. Most directly, he makes clear that war progress is not defined by war dead. The death toll in Vietnam for U.S. soldiers is 58,226 and an estimated 1,100,000 for the North Vietnamese and VietCong. We know what happened. But benchmarks for progress (beyond death tolls) need to be established so that when the media makes an issue of the war dead, it falls flat. The message was very helpful, but very late. The Administration has nobody but itself to blame for failing to set up the substantive milestones which would have been useful in determining the value of the investment we have put in Iraq. Had we possessed this information a year ago, along with the same vigorous defense we have seen over the past week, Bush's political fortunes would be much different.

And Condoleeza Rice responded in her usual professional manner to allegations that the United States is transporting terrorists to nations where torture is permitted in order to interrogate them.

It's a great follow up to the President's speech at the Naval Academy last week, and a sign that the Administration may just be on track to controlling the message once again. But it won't be on track until a decisive response from the White House to ridiculous stuff like this is a given.

It's a good start. We have several years until the finish. Press to get ahead. Then don't let yourself fall behind again.

Atheistic Jihad

There's always some pleasure in watching the Christmas specials where the Grinch sees the error of his ways and returns the town's lot of Christmas loot (which is curiously pulled up a mountain by that tiny but unfailingly loyal dog), or where Scrooge sees the physical and spiritual effects of stinginess, cruelty and the love of money alone. But I'm still waiting for the special where Barry Linn or some Newdow-style ACLU attorney sees the error of their ways. And by that, I don't mean that they become Bible-believing Christians (hold guffaws please), but rather, respect the right of the rest of us who celebrate Christmas to do so in a place outside our windowless basements with hushed voices, and yes, even in the public square.

The secular left has been on the warpath since the 1960s to eradicate religious practice in the public square, and to marginalize the influence of Christianity and Judaism in society. The reasons are obvious. The left has a social agenda which involves liberalized sexual practices, the elimination of the traditional family, legalization and normalization of the gay lifestyle, and abortion as birth control just to name a few. And when Americans remain God-minded, that agenda has no hope of finding any support. Eliminate it, and with it go the consciences that abhor the left's Huxleyan agenda.

Their opposition to public religious displays are that it may offend someone. But individuality offends in a free society, and the Founders did not intend to shield us from an offended conscience, but rather a government that dictated religion to us. If anything, the display of religious symbols indicates not a state-sanctioning of religion, but rather a state tolerance for religion. But try that argument on the secularists. Even if they buy your reasoning, you're wasting your breath. It is not understanding they seek, but orthodoxy.

The secularists attack religion underthe guise of tolerance, and an avoidance of state interference with religion. But state interference with people's practice of their faith is exactly what they seek.

Rather than preventing the state from advancing Christianity or Judaism, they are demanding that the state enforce atheism--a belief system just as much a religion as any other recognized faith. Athiests have a belief about a God--there is none. Atheism is exclusive; you can't take the position that atheism can have any comity with any other theistic religion or be just as valid or true. Either one or the other is flat wrong. And it has a value system which addresses the role and purpose of humans on earth, namely that there is none. We are accidents of a vast series of pre-historic chemical reactions. Life is meaningless, so we ought to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. So when you hear that they are trying to stop religious expression, that is false. They are trying to promote it--just theirs--which seems to look like a lack of religion.

By forcing out the recognition of the traditions of particular faiths, to the point of attempting to strike even the mention of the name of God from our Pledge of Alleigance and from our coins and currency, they are encouraging discrimination and exclusion based upon a viewpoint about God, and in a significant way, are engaging in a jihad of their own.

They have goals to meet, so no spiritual truth will cross their seared consciences. So we must fight them in every venue they seek, and not imagine that there are battles to be picked. When the coins of the U.S. offend them, these are obsessed extremists who want no middle ground. They want their way 100% and will not coexist with others in a peaceful manner. You may be comfortable letting them live their lives the way they choose, to the extent it does not affect you, but they are not content to grant you that same social courtesy. They want to eliminate the recognition of God from the public square, but they are heading for what goes on in your church and your living room too. They are all for privacy rights when it involves a 14 year old's abortion, but not your religious liberties.

So break out the Merry Christmas, wish your Jewish friends a Happy Hanukah, and praise God for the nation where it's still ok to do that. But have the guts to stand up to those who oppose your right to do so. Because while they find our displays offensive, their efforts to prevent us from doing it is equally repugnant and deserves a response equal to theirs. Because cruelty of this nature must be defeated. And it can't be until we stop being cowed by their religious intimidation and until we stand up to them and publicly call their actions exactly what they are--Goebbels style bigory and hate clothed in the appearance of tolerance.

Friday, December 02, 2005

They All Look Alike

If anyone caught Fox and Friends yesterday, they'll remember that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) showed up to advocate for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, a proposition which she voted against over week before. At the end of the interview, Brian Kilmeade committed a small error.

He congratulated her on her book.

A brief pause ensued until everyone realized that he had confused her with her Senate colleague, Senator Mensa, Barbara Boxer.

An easy mistake to make. Two California Bay-Area flaming liberal women. The only difference is that Pelosi is intelligent and worthy of some degree of respect. Boxer has the IQ of a Labrador. Close enough.

Corzine's Gambit

Sen. Jon Corzine, along with Sen. Frank Lautenberg tried to pass some silly commemorative resolution patting Bruce Springsteen on the back for his contribution to American culture. And Republicans blocked it because it seemed to be nothing more than giving a hand to a campaign contributor and booster.

Well now it seems that Governor-elect Corzine is considering appointing the Boss to the seat he is vacating. And as this development strips whatever veneer that there may have been off of the effort to recognize Springsteen, it raises a pretty significant question: What qualifications does he have for the office outside of the fact that he has been a loyal supporter of Democrat campaigns and can finance his own campaign next year?

But given that Barbara Boxer is qualified to be one of the two Senators from the nation's largest state, perhaps the Springer might fit in just fine.

The Importance of PR

Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics posts a great bit of insight on the President's speech. It was a successful speech as speeches go. He wasn't convinving any Harry Reids or Ted Kennedys, but he was trying to buy back the Joe Liebermans, and maybe even the Joe Bidens. But the success of his speech is much liek the success of pouring a level foundation for a skyscraper. It means everything to get it right, but it's pretty much a worthless slab of rock without a useful building on top of it.

I don't know why Bush gave up the public relations war this year. He let about nine months go by with no response to his critics. And the criticisms leveled were pretty harmless. A bunch of unfounded conclusory statements about his presidency, the economy and the Iraq War. But the axiom that an unrebutted accusation is an admission set in, giving feckless political comments and stunts a very real effect on his poll numbers.

Bush has made abundantly clear through his actions that he does not govern by polls. But his inaction on the PR front has proven that he cannot govern without them.

When public support shrinks for the single issue upon which Bush has staked his presidency (forgetting that it tanked on all issues), he loses any possibility of winning on any of his other legislative initiatives, such as making permanent the tax cuts that have helped the economy, or opening up new sources of domestic energy, or perhaps even a serious effort at real Social Security reform.

Without public support behind him, the President's opponents have no incentive to cooperate, nor any significant fear of reprisals from voters. Public support is the wind in the sails--and not the compass--of any successful presidency.

Another Meaningless Milestone

Per the media, it's time again to discuss the death penalty. As of this morning, 1, 000 convicts have been put to death since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Yes, 1,000, one-K, a grand, if you will. All put to death by the sanction of the state. Legally...

But why is the number news?

And while I don't remember the buzz about the 927th person put to death, with emphasis on the 927 number, I am wondering what makes this execution any different from that one.

So I'd like the media to do what they did when the death toll for the Iraq War reached an equally meaningless 2,000. Just please say what you mean. We hate capital punishment because we think it is wrong, racist, barbaric, or whatever. There is room to debate it, and of course for the left to avoid an intellectual discussion and just to demagogue the issue, as evidenced by this numbers game.

Because if 1,000 is relevant, why isn't 1? And why isn't 378? If it was right to put to death a convicted murderer at 1, it will be right at 10,000 (and please spare me the Barry Scheck and George Ryan arguments about disparate racial impact, please. They avoid the issue). But if somehow 1,000 is wrong because the death penalty is legally or morally wrong, then it will have been just as wrong at 1, and those going to the death chambers across America lack defenders who are able to intellectually make a cogent, reasoned argument for sparing them that steps well beyond the predictable chronic greivances rooted in racial or economic politics.

But I doubt it. If this was based in anything but soft-on-crime leftist ideology, death penalty opponents would have decisively won their arguments long ago.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Murtha's Next Disgrace

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) is bullish on terror. And when he characterizes the Army as "broken, worn out," it sounds a whole lot like he would like nothing better than to see a replay of the airlift from the U.S. Embassy during fall of Saigon take place in the Green Zone, with Al Qaida in Iraq leading the charge up the stairs of the building to kill whomever the helicopters could not carry.

Murtha has finally bought in to the MoveOn.org wing of the party, and as I noted before, has adopted the ways of Denothir from Lord of the Rings--a ruler who will not look at the potential for victory, but rather one who embraces defeat, and who works against anything that may turn the battle in his favor.

Murtha may have been a decorated Marine officer, but for this purpose, that history is irrelevant. Wes Clark, John Kerry and others have been used as mouthpieces for Democrat foreign and military policy, and have all resorted to the now predictable demagoguery that criticizing the merits of their ideas is tantamount to questioning their service and/or patriotism. And now the same is being done with Murtha. He is a man who is using the fact that he once wore the uniform to advance a notion that is patently false--the notion that a hard fight is not worth the effort. I don't know which individuals Murtha is talking to, but it seems to disagree with the general sense of resolve that is being reported from the soldiers in Iraq.

Of course, he is free to say what he wants, but Jack Murtha is doing absolutely no good for the military for he claims to advocate, by characterizing them as incapable and worn out. His vision for the war on terror involves a totalitarian government in Iraq and an unchecked Al Qaida. nd his vision for the military is a 1979 unequipped and demoralized Carter-era Vietnam-demoralized soldier.

I would ask all who can't get their heads out of the Vietnam funk to please allow our soldiers to do as they are trained and ordered, and to allow them see this war to completion without the failure-minded attitude of the overgrown 1960s baby boomer flower child getting in the way. If any of this describes you, your era is over along with your relevance.

It's our turn now. And we're choosing to win where you were only too happy with failure and disgrace.

The Speech We Needed Nine Months Ago

Bush finally did what he needed to do. He gave a speech that set the tone for the remaining portion of the Iraq War that laid out the course of the next few years. The bottom line, of course, was that we can't leave Iraq until the Iraqis can hold territory and interdict anti-democratic forces on their own. And we're getting there.

Of course, Harry Reid, before the speech was even over, characterized it as a recycled version of older talking points. But Reid offers nothing more than his usual "no". The Democrats have failed to offer any vision other than "George Bush is Wrong". And that's a positive for the President, as he gets the opportunity to win the war of ideas.

The speech, which was a success, along with the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq that has been released, will go a long way towards changing the nature of the debate about Iraq from one of pullout to one of completion.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) did us no favors by calling for an overnight pullout of Iraq. But with a strategy set forth, the President now has a substantive basis from which to argue for the completion of our mission in Iraq.

The problem was that Bush has staked his presidency on Iraq, but he was doing nothing to sell it to America. In the absence of progess reports, at best, people believed that nothing was happening. At worst, they believed the media's miserably anti-U.S., anti-military and anti-democracy reporting. With Bush on the offensive in the message game, he stands a very good chance of reviving support for completing the mission.

His speech indicated that it was only the first in a series of messages about Iraq progress. One would hope that it is the first in an ongoing bombardment of reports from the Administration about the successes we are seeing. Because while the "party of no" and their media cohorts offer no positive ideas other than a complete surrender to terrorists, when they are the only ones reporting, it becomes hard for public resolve for the war to hold.

In all, a good first step, and a necessary step towards bringing the War to a completion in Iraq.