Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Costs of the NSA Exposure and Demagoguery

NSA is a heck of a place. I live just up the road from it, and for years, we have all joked that the acronym stands for "No Such Agency", because its existence was officially denied for so long. But when road signs off of 95 and 32 announce the exits for it, the half-hearted efforts to feign its secrecy became comical. Nonetheless, while everyone on earth knew it was there, we still didn't know exactly what went on there. Sure, we knew that it was the home of electrical intelligence gathering, cipher makers and breakers, and all sorts of technological cool stuff. And I have known many friends who worked there who could not tell me what they did for a living. Because that's the place that enables us to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. The less we know, the better.

But now, we have a bigger problem. We actually know what is going on there. We first heard that calls with one point outside the country were being monitored. We then learned that of those calls, there was a spiderweb-like matrix of telephone number sources created. And then we learned that NSA may be keeping a listing of each and every telephone number and the calls it makes and receives. We learned that these were the methods they used to track and tighten the net on terrorists and their operations within and without our nation.

Setting aside the emotional implications that the release of information like that might create for those of us who think that such a release of information is dangerous and for those who believe that the collection of such information is a violation of our civil liberties, it's important to first take a dispassionate view of the issue.

The first point is that NSA exists to protect us from our enemies by using technology to our advantage and to their disadvantage. But the critical element of that function is that the sources and methods used must remain undisclosed, to the point that we really don't even talk about the fact that we are even trying to undermine unfriendly folk. So when we have the kind of revelations that the past year has provided, those seeking to destroy us are able to adapt away from our efforts at interdiction. And then we need to spend all the more time and effort to find new ways to reliably detect them. To get a flavor of the cost of resuming the now lost chase, after the Walker spy ring was broken up, it cost us approximately one billion dollars to replace coding systems and military hardware which the Walkers had exposed. That was about 20 years ago. I can't imagine what it will cost for us to get back in the terrorists' baffles again today.

The second point is that it gives the terrorists some benchmark as to what is known or knowable by us. They now know that their international calls are compromised. They also know that we can track them and their compatriots by their use of telephones. So they probably just stop using them. They'll use intranational communications that can't be monitored. They'll use low tech and harder to monitor methods. They'll use the mail. They'll operate by old fashioned cold-war signals with predetermined meanings. A broken window. A skidmark on a curb, whatever. These people are not stupid. They make a point of exploiting perceived weaknesses. Now, we've tipped them off to our strengths.

And they don't give up. Because more to the point of that benchmark, they can now know which plans to abandon and can start anew on another plot. And let's presume that this puts a significant damper on a bigger attack and moves them to a point of desperation, instilling a fear that if they do not act soon, they will be caught before they can execute something spectacular like 9/11. Perhaps, then, they will resort to a series of attacks that are much smaller, but greater in number that require minimal effort, but will have the effect of unleashing untold terror at the personal and local level. Attacks on local gathering places for example. The kind of things that will cause people to react with abject fear in their daily lives. And we would be none the wiser.

But to bring it to a point, those doing the leaking of these secrets and those publicizing them under the guise of protection of civil liberties are endangering the lives of the people whose liberties they claim to be protecting by empowering the terrorists who were hoping that they would do just that.

With respect to the act of leaking, there have been several justifications offered for same, namely that in each instance a single individual feared that laws were being violated, and took the law into his or her hands and illegally disclosed state security secrets. As I stated in a prior post, there are legitimate paths to take in order to blow a whistle but maintain security--offices of Inspectors General, the Attorney General, or even Members of Congress and the Senate once clearances have been checked--excellent places to go to make classified concerns known, while maintaining secrecy. But going to the New York Times and The Washington Post are not. And by the terms of the law, doing so is a crime.

And it strikes me as peculiar that people are willing to put their freedom on the line in order to make some point about their political disagreement with the Bush Administration's efforts to fight terror. I don't mean to say that this is the sole cause of these leaks, but I do mean to imply that it is a chief cause, as it is fair to say that arrogance with a smaller measure of stupidity also play their own roles.

Because the people who know about these programs know full well that they are not about finding out what's for supper tonight, grandma' health, or hearing people's kids screaming in the background. They know it is all about fighting terrorism, and they have made absolutely no credible allegation that the program was being used to spy on Americans, meaning that the dangers they feared were of a phantom nature. And so to throw the program open for the enemies it targets to evaluate and adapt to it is, apart from the criminal aspects of leaking, completely devoid of any justification or reason, save for those offered above.

But I am more concerned about the message that this sends terrorists. It shows that our security can be very easily compromised by people who, for ideological reasons, adopt the ACLU standards of privacy and see no problem with breaching security in order to stick a barb in the side of the President and our security apparatus. Worse yet, the notion that the media is sculpting, that the NSA is actually a public enemy rather than a protector is a destructive one. And the basis for that presumption is that they have the ability to illegally harm the American people just as much as lawfully help them. But that same logic applies to our highly respected military, and nobody would ever seriously entertain the idea that they would ever attempt to do us harm. It is pure misinformation, conspiracy talk, and demagoguery.

Interestingly, however, that same logic can be very easily and sensibly applied to the leakers and the media who publish classified information leaked to them.

The leakers offer the excuse that they are whistleblowers, however misinterpreting the law, but trying to protect Americans. But they have blown the lid off of effective efforts to protect Americans and shown terrorists their exposure. They didn't grasp the Constitutional law which they claimed to be advancing, and apparently didn't take seriously enough the statutes which direct that classified material is not to be disclosed without proper authorization from the President or Vice President. And they get to be a hero in the media for a few moments.

The media is perhaps even more culpable. In their quest to advance their own political agenda, they are willing to report information known to be protected by a state security classification and add their own spin in order to cause problems for the President by casting such programs as Big Brother efforts to spy on Americans (presumably because the President is interested in what we are cooking for dinner or how long the kids played at the playground). They know the risks, but nonetheless release such information, ignoring the harm it may cause Americans in favor of the help it may bring their own political cronies.

For both, responsibility is ignored in favor of personal political gain. And there ought to be a consequence for all three. For the leakers, there need be no mercy shown, despite the fact that they put on the false clothing of a "whistleblower". They need to be prosecuted for breaking the law and for exposing state secrets. Send them to jail in a cell next to Robert Hanssen and the Walkers, and end any potential incentive that a misguided leaker may have to endanger the rest of us.

The media needs to be held to the same standard, and source protection needs to be abolished when it comes to the unauthorized disclosure of state secrets. In other words, the media needs to become part of the backstop so that there is no longer any benefit to the acts of the leaker. Only punishment. And publication of secrets needs to be treated with the same severity as the initial leaking. We know the media can keep secrets about their sources. They can do the same about the State. So for every Pulitzer Prize that a news outlet is hoping for, there needs to be the promise of a criminal sanction to create the appropriate incentive to obedience to the law.

Because keeping state secrets and maintaining a place like NSA, while sounding very cloak and dagger is what keeps us safe. And it's why our legislators are kept in the loop by the Administration. And if we distrust the government, we can overthrow it every 2-4 years, electing people with whom we may agree more.

But the business of exposing and tearing down our security apparatus for purely political reasons must stop. Because it's just what our enemies were hoping we would be stupid and naive enough to do.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Treasury Selection Is a Real Opportunity

It seems that the Bush Administration has room for but one Snow, that being White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Because Treasury Secretary John Snow is out. As of Friday, the President knew nothing about it. As of today, he's already named a replacement. Which seems a bit odd for someone who was surprised by the announcement, but I digress.

Snow was by no means a bad Treasury Secretary. But in this environment, where Bush's very successful economic agenda is overshadowed by a controversial foreign policy, Bush needs an exceptional Treasury Secretary.

The biggest issue facing this president is Iraq. Not New Orleans/Katrina, not immigration, not wiretaps, and not even the economy. Iraq. His legacy stands or falls on it.

Iraq is a hard, painful slog. And while it is progressing, with a new unity government, a military that is growing in aptitude, requiring less and less assistance from the United States forces, and a civilian population that can see the difference between the terrorists and their own elected government, clearly preferring the latter, it is portrayed as Vietnam in the desert by overzealous journalists and Democrats. The result is an America that, for reasons that really have no logical basis, believes that much is wrong, just because they see difficulties in Iraq.

Which brings me back to the Treasury Secretary appointment. In an era where unemployment is a very low 4.7%, and where the stock markets are flirting with record highs, and all of this in the wake of the huge loss of employment caused by Katrina and exorbitant fuel prices, we ought to be celebrating this remarkable achievement and our prosperity, not looking down in the mouth. But the media spillover from negative Iraq reporting is having the effect that the left intends--it is keeping attention away from the good which would buoy Bush's politcal fortunes and those of his party. It is the job of the Treasury Secretary to advance the Administration's economic policies, but also to trumpet economic successes. And in this department, the Administration has been lacking.

Paul O'Neill was the last person Bush needed as Treasury Secretary. His head was not in the game, he lasted for but 2 years because of it, and so after his dismissal, he wrote a "tell-all" that was so well received by Americans that it didn't even finish its first printing before the unpurchased copies were pulped for consumption by American dairy cattle. John Snow was a decent guy, but he didn't sell the economy effectively. It wasn't for want of effort but rather an inability to hold people's attention.

But Hank Paulson is a little different. As head of the most prestigious of investment houses, Goldman Sachs, he carries with him quite a good deal of respect in the financial community. Similarly, his ability to communicate will enable the Administration to tout the very obvious economic successes we have seen over the past five years. In other words, if there is anyone who can cut through the media's false flood of negativity on Iraq that has drowned out positive stories and soaked through unrelated issues to create in the American mind the false image of a bad overall picture, it's Paulson.

And it will enable Bush to open up a new front for Republicans in November, and to put Iraq in a little more context. Because a good economy tends to cure many wrongs, whether perceived or real. And while I don't see Bush being able to effectively correct the record on Iraq in time for it to have any significant effect for November, record correction need not be his only strategy. Because if Paulson is effective enough, a real belief in a strong economy may have its own unquantifiable spillover back into Iraq. Perhaps Americans will begin to see it for the good work it really is, or at the very least, see it as less of a concern to them than their nation's good economic position.

It's wishful thinking given the PR disaster that Bush has allowed during his second term, but it must be his Administration's goal.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ACLU Favors Political Censorship

One of the few things that has never ceased to amaze me is the unforgiving orthodoxy of the American left. They claim to be tolerant, but only of their lassiez-faire moral philosophies. They claim to support Americans, but not their right to be protected from terrorists. They support people's right to practice religion, but only in the confines of their own homes. And they support free speech, especially belligerent Anti-American speech--because those ideals square with their own. In no uncertain terms, they are the law firm of the American far left.

But the notion of free speech is not something that they are willing to afford their board members. According to a series of proposed standards for their directors, if a director disagrees with the majority of the board, he needs to keep his disagreement to himself. Per the guideline:

"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.

"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising"
So if political disagreement arises, keep it to yourself because it might make us look more stupid and backward than we already are and may choke off cash flow.

Now, I'll grant the ACLU the fact that it is a private organization with stated objectives and goals, and that they have a right to set internal policy in order to maximize their progress towards them. But it strikes me as just a little odd that an organization which claims to be the defender of America's free speech rights would want to stifle public expression of political opinions.

But the other side of that observation is the nature of the opinions being censored. If anyone believes that the ACLU board would ever adopt any policy which meets the ideals of main street America, namely such quaint social conventions as permitting public expressions of faith, allowing parents to make decisions about their children's education over teachers, allowing terrorists to be treated as illegal combatants rather than pickpockets, or supporting our nation's right to defend itself from terrorists who want to destroy it, they are nuts. The policies about which no dissent can be had are the leftist ones that the Board will surely adopt.

Because behind all of the silly rhetoric about supporting all Americans' civil liberties, they are really only about expanding the ideals of the far left to the exclusion of the rights of the rest of us. And just so you don't miss it, their claim that orthodoxy of message equates to a continuing cash stream should be a clue to anyone that the ACLU is above all a political organization which receives its donations from the individuals whose political causes it advances. And if those folks on the left see anything but strict ideological compliance, the ACLU fears that checkbooks will begin to close.

So take this as a lesson: the ACLU is certainly about the protection of civil liberties. Just not yours.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Truth of Katrina--You Won't Hear it from the White House

The horrid mess that Hurricane Katrina wrought across the Gulf Coast remains. It was truly a devil of a storm that flooded a major U.S. city, killed thousands, and destroyed billions upon billions of dollars in property. And while its physical effects are going to be felt for years to come, history does not have to be marred by false tales of alleged first responder incompetence which are alleged to have taken place in its aftermath.

This account by RealClearPolitics's Lou Dolinar sets the record straight. And while he notes that FEMA's response was nothing sterling, and that Ray Nagin's behavior was nothing short of flaccid as he sat in a hotel suite away from the action, he notes that the National Guard, Coast Guard, local police and firefighters and others were on the job as they ought to have been. He also states that rescue operations began nearly immediately, and as soon as they were safe for the rescuers to commence. The post is an excellent, although lengthy read, but certainly worth the venture.

But the final point made is the one that was echoing through my head all along--why the heck didn't the White House make these facts very clear as they became known? Why did they cede control of the story to the mainstream media who got nearly everything wrong, and to the Democrats who were using it as a cudgel to instill in the public their belief that President Bush is careless and incompetent? Why do they still allow themselves to be beaten up by the left when they know that the left does not have the facts to support their accusations?

One will never know. But it seems to me that this is one department where the White House needs to cure its reputation, and quickly. Because reports that we have another hurricane season coming which may be about as awful as the last one revive memories of New Orleans. And those memories recall the apparent lack of response to the disaster which the media and left blamed on the President. And the kind of tool that the Dems were looking for--a sort of time-release political poison--is just what they have created whenever the mentions of New Orleans, levees, Katrina, Gulf Coast, and hurricanes have created in the minds of many.

It is meaningless for conservatives to defend the President on this issue. His popularity has never recovered since Katrina, and unless he goes back on the offensive, which the new communications team doesn't seem to be doing yet, he won't. He can't let this go. He must set the record straight.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

No Red Meat, Just Serious Policy

President Bush's speech wasn't an earth shattering news-maker, but it was certainly better than early reports from the White House yesterday afternoon led us to expect.

But now, because of the speech, the President can state that he's the only person on record with a real immigration reform plan that is strong on enforcement, and which recognizes that we can't load all illegals up in a dumpster and roll them off in Tijuana. He also very appropriately cast the National Guard involvement as temporary until we get a permanent border security force to replace them. And it shows that Tony Snow had a hand in crafting the speech when Bush blunted the near-certain Democrat criticisms that using National Guard troops would affect the war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan or anything else they may use as ammo in their ever-present desire to be against anything Bush does.

The call for English to be learned was equally important, although he stopped short of calling for it to be the national language which would have been a coup for conservatives.

And the path to citizenship he described was an excellent way of dealing with those on the right who want to employ the aforementioned dumpster strategy. Amnesty means that we reward lawbreaking. The path to citizenship means that illegals must pay and then get at the end of the line if they want to be part of the program.

It's a very good middle ground strategy, but in this environment, it's hard to have a successful moderate strategy when one is upsetting one's own base. It's a problem that Hillary Clinton will have to deal with, and which ultimately bit John Kerry in 2004.

But Bush is not so much up to a moderate strategy as he is getting real and effective immigration reform. And he may just get it, but he needs to be wary of the Democrat snakes waiting in the weeds. Because while Ted Kennedy is touted as one of the leaders on immigration reform, Ted has never tacked anywhere close to the center in the last 25 years unless there was a bottle of Chivas there for him. And if Bush gets too cozy with these people who reward kindness with backstabbing in their insatiable quest for more and more state power for their own use, he will suffer his father's fate back in 1991 where cooperation with Democrats meant a betrayal of his base and one of his biggest political promises.

It was a very good start. But he needs to remain focused and very publicly engaged. He needs to be seen doing something on this issue, because its success or failure depends completely upon how he personally pushes this issue.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Is Bush Preparing to Touch the New Third Rail?

Monday night, President Bush is preparing to lay out an immigration plan, which leads me to believe that Karl Rove is planning yet another coup.

I said last week that it seems that Rove is positioning the pieces on the political chessboard to have the Dems deliver for themselves an election year embarrassment by reminding voters that they are only interested in appointments of ACLU judges to the federal bench, and that they favor abolishing terror-preventing national security programs in favor of ACLU standards of privacy for such terrorists by setting up the possibility of contentious confirmation hearings for former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director.

But is Rove planning a bold move to corner the immigration issue as well?

It's hard to imagine that he could score a reversal on the Dems, as immigration seems to be their strongest card at this point. But one of the first rules anyone should learn about Rove is that he should never be underestimated.

If the President comes out with a umpteen prong plan to fix the immigration problem, the speech is dead on arrival, and it will be marked as Bush's last stand. If his plan depends in any significant way upon action from Congress, ditto.

But if this is Rove genius at work, regardless of what Bush believes about guest workers and paths to citizenship, his big pitch will be enforcement--something he needs ask no permission to do.

The laws we have on the books at this point to combat illegal immigration are good enough. It is the Executive Branch's duty to enforce them with no further input from Congress. So the President needs to come out against border-crossers, drug smugglers and the like. He needs to make clear that he is doing this because a permeable southern border is a significant vulnerability in the war on terror because the Government of Mexico, which is unwilling to do anything to abate drug smuggling or illegal border crossing, but rather seems eager to assist in both (almost legalizing possession and use of drugs and printing how-to manuals for crossing the border), is an irresponsible neighbor and cannot be trusted to behave in anything but a treacherous manner. He needs to come down hard on enforcement of the laws we have, as they penalize nobody but those who seek to break our laws and enter our nation for their own self-interest, and likely to endanger our citizens. He also needs to make clear that we welcome people who wish to immigrate from Mexico to become U.S. citizens, and that nothing is ever going to change in that regard. And then we need a wall, a fence, whatever--some imposing physical barrier that actually prevents illegal border crossings.

With respect to a guest worker program or amnesty, he needs to remain largely silent. Americans really don't care a heck of a lot about helping people who want to take dollars south and who are here for the benefits but none of the social responsibilities of citizenship. And the protests over the past months as well as the national anthem being rewritten and translated into Spanish have done much to erode any good will that the illegal immigration lobby may have ever had. Bush need not pander to these folks, as he does so at the peril of the conservative base that won him 2000, 2002 and 2004.

And in a spinning dagger attack, Bush may wish to plunge one in the heart and then back of Harry Reid by dropping the very subtle veiled suggestion that the Senate Democratic leadership is all about blanket amnesty. It's a bit of a dirty trick, but there is little question that the left ultimately wants to forgive lawbreaking and punish those who have and continue to trudge through the system because they want to be U.S. citizens. So in yet another Rove Catch-22, this would be Bush's chance to make the Dems very publicly commit themselves to a position. It would have the effect of putting the Dems on the defensive for a change, by forcing them to either 1) demagogue the issue and call Bush a racist for not favoring some form amnesty--thereby implying that they do--sounding absolutely silly, leaving them open for easy attack as being pro-amnesty, and positioning them very poorly for November in tight races, or 2) disavowing amnesty altogether thus alienating the Che Guevara elements of their base whom we saw protesting in past weeks.

And it would position Bush on top of the biggest issue in the minds of Americans, potentially staying ahead of the Dems on security and the judiciary as well. Which are just the issues his party needs foremost in the minds of voters for 2006.

Nothing else will work. If Bush goofs it with a typical Washington response, this new third rail will zap him for the rest of his presidency. But if he plays it right, the power coming off that rail can really energize his party at a time when they badly need it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Debunking the Westboro Hate Group

If anyone is not familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church, here is a link to their site, which I place for information purposes only. They claim to offer the Gospel. In reality, the offer the veneer of Christ packed with nothing but good old-fashioned evil and hate. They have made a point recently of attending funerals for U.S. servicemen and women who have died in the line of duty, claiming that 9/11 and other international problems we now experience are the result of homosexuality in America. Their displays are repugnant--signs that declare that "God Hates America", "Thank God for 9/11", "God Loves Dead Soldiers" (presumably emphasizing the "dead"part), "Thank God for IEDs" and others. Enjoy their photo montage.

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a bill limiting their putrid displays at federal cemetaries by blocking their access to the sites. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) is likewise about to sign a bill that would have the same effect in her state. It's probably the best thing that can be done without creating a huge ACLU 1st Amendment controversy.

But their protests have sparked others to do acts of true love. A group of bikers called the Patriot Guard Riders who get between the Westboros and the grieving families at the gravesite to block the hateful displays, often with large American flags are making their mark of silent and respectful love. So in response to evil, love and goodness can abound.

But as a Christian, there is a particular offense I take to the use of my God's name to advance a hateful agenda. So let's get one thing straight. God loves gays. He's not thrilled at all with their lifestyle and practices. But like a parent who loves a child whose choices are not the ones they would make, so God loves gays.

And the salvation of Christ is open to gays. It's open to anyone on earth who will ask, regardless of how innocent or guilty they think they are, and regardless of how seemingly repugnant or venial their sins may appear.

And I direct the Westboro folks and all who sympathize with them to John 8:1-11. And once done with that, feel free to check Psalm 59:12.

Homosexuality is not a good thing. I fervently disagree with it, and I believe God does also. But God does not hate homosexuals. The blood of Christ was freely spilled for them as well. But what are we to say of the pride-filled and haughty? Those whose own righteousness--apart from Christ--is their delight? I turn you to Christ's admonitions to your predecessors who opposed him in his day.

There is more hope for the penitent gay than for them.

And for any who disagree, I invite you to post here, but I will delete all disparaging posts whose authors do not have the guts to leave return contact information.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Is Rove Laying Some Election Year Traps?

Many conservatives and astute liberals love to speculate when Karl Rove is playing around with the political chesspieces. And today will likely spawn about the same kind of thing, because Rove seems poised to feed the Democrats some raw meat, and it looks quite a bit like they are ready to jump into whatever traps he is laying if just to get in one more anti-Bush remark as we head into an election season.

If there are two areas where Democrats are weak, they are the judiciary and national security. And if Rove can get any two issues above the front page fold by October, it would be those two, which still retain a good deal of the public's interest after the other hot-button issue, immigration, which he would sooner have disappear, unless the Dems choose to run on an amnesty platform.

So in order to get national security at the top of the agenda, President Bush today named Gen. Michael Hayden to replace CIA director Porter Goss. And if you thought the Alito hearings were nasty, the Dems will be lobbing their best stuff at Hayden for his confirmation hearings as DCI.

Hayden was formerly the director of the National Security Administration and was one of the architects of the wiretap program that upset many ACLU Dems. Expect the hearings to be contentious, especially given the fact that its membership includes such left wing partisans as Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), and 2008 presidential candidate Russ Feingold (D-WI) who wants to censure the President for the wiretap program. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is already on record as being fairly supportive of the program, and Evan Bayh (D-IN) is a fairly conservative Democrat, but may very well need to put on a show, as he is listed as a contender for the presidency in 2008.

The questioning will be largely uninteresting and will cover much already-tilled ground about the wiretap program. The only part that may get our attention is the acerbic nature of the exchanges and the likely demagoguery by Rockefeller, Levin and Feingold as they try to portray an effort to protect the American people as a violation of those same people's civil liberties--which is just what Karl Rove wants.

The Dems want nothing more than to make the wiretap program appear as Bush's Big Brother reaching into America's homes, gathering civilian intelligence to enrich Halliburton, the Carlisle Group and any other whipping boy they can devise. But in such a transparent effort of selfish political gamesmanship, they will once again communicate to the American people that they are not at all serious about nor can they be trusted with securing the nation from terrorist and other threats--contemporaneously with their request that America to turn the Congress over to them.
And that leads to their agenda for a Democratically controlled Congress. If anyone can tell me what that is, I will gladly make an addendum to this post. But to pare down all of the language in which they will cast any proposals they offer, their plans are to impeach the President as retaliation for that of Bill Clinton, for 2000, 2002, and 2004, they plan a tax increase, and to put the brakes on any further judicial nominations. In other words, they continue to offer the same old bitter stuff they ran on in 2002 and 2004--"elect us because we're mad that we're out of power and because Bush is humiliating us."

And speaking of judicial nominations, the Republicans managed to get Bill Frist to behave like their Majority Leader and he is now pushing two judicial nominees who have heretofore been stalled by Senate Democrats. The Democrats are promising another unpleasant set of hearings for Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Given that he is a Bush staffer and a former member of Ken Starr's staff, the Dems will use the same political criteria to judge him as they have other Bush nominees. They are also all but promising a filibuster on Judge Terrence W. Boyle who has also been appointed for an Appeals Court position. And on this, there is no win for the Dems.

Both judges are indeed mainstream conservatives, but if that's all the Democrats can throw at them, they will have a very hard sell to the Gang of 14 who will likely not find any of this to be an exceptional circumstance enough to trigger their joining a filibuster.

But the show will be great in the summer and fall, and will be an excellent reminder to Americans why they have left the Democrats as the party out of power. And it seems all the more clear that the Democrats need us and our votes way, way more than we could ever need them.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Preferred Status

What's in a name?

Sure, it's an old Shakespearean question, but there is much validity to it. It stood for the proposition in Romeo and Juliet that one need not be shackled to relatives and traditions which they have outgrown. Of course, the flip side would be what we get when we look at young folks who insist on living under the family shadow, writing checks against age-old good will accounts into which such young people have never made a penny of a deposit.

To wit, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). Congressman Kennedy got himself in a spot of trouble early this morning as he drove his mustang in a reckless fashion up to the Capitol at 2:45 this morning, claiming to be rushing to a vote, and ultimately striking a construction barrier. He seemed intoxicated at the time, but claims that he was taking an anti-nauseant and the sleep drug Ambien. There are, of course, the hearsay accounts that there was an odor of alcohol on him, and the fact that he is a Kennedy brings a few snickers to many of us, knowing that that family's penchance for motor vehicle mayhem combined with substance abuse is legendary. But we really don't know what took place, although it is quite suspicious that Patrick claims that he was going to a vote (Members of Congress cannot be arrested on their way to a vote) when he was stopped. But there really has to be a vote, rather than his mistaken claim that there was one.

And while I've never had much regard for this rather whiny Cindy Sheehan look alike, whatever happened happened. Nobody got hurt, his car was banged up, and he'll have to pay to get it fixed.

But my major concern is the reason why this Kennedy didn't get a breathalyzer. Why wasn't he subjected to field sobriety tests? Why were the police directed just to take him home? And why does this kid's status give him carte blanche to commit an act which would have put any if the rest of us in jail for the night? Why dies his name get him treatment that the rest of us don't get?

The issue is over. And if he was drinking and driving, or combining with the meds, it doesn't matter anymore. The evidence of it is gone, and he will face no sanction.

But his family never does. And it seems that the good-will account from which this little boy writes his checks is getting depleted. He can thank his father's own problems for that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Our Drug-Supporting Enemy To The South

Imagine if the United States, in an effort to focus our efforts at eliminating child molestation and porn rings, legalized the possession of small amounts of child porn, so that the need to chase after the little guy is eliminated, allowing us to chase after the real offenders and eventually stop them. In other words, we let demand run wild so that we can go after supply. But in the meantime the market for that peculiar filth grows, more players enter the market in an effort to make an extra buck, resulting in the exploitation of children.

It makes about as much sense as stopping the illegal immigration problem by granting a blanket amnesty to all illegals, rather than making them jump through hoops and get to the back of the line. But given that that is the position of the increasingly uncooperative government of Mexico when it comes to their citizens who emigrate to the United States by dark of night, it makes sense that they would employ a parallel logic in their effort to fight drugs--surrendering to criminals in a pretend effort to fight them.

Until yesterday, the Mexican government was planning to legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and peyote. The reasoning was that legalizing small quantities would clear the courts and enable the government to more vigorously pursue the kingpins.

But the only people stupid enough to believe that are Fox and his allies in the Mexican Congress.
And I wonder just how giddy the drug cartels were, knowing that possessing and using their wares would be perfectly legal. It would take all fear out of using for those to whom jail was the only deterrent, and it would only help the current users to be all the more intrepid in their search for the next high. And it would encourage drug tourism. Rather than going to Cancun just for some inexpensive beachside fun, you could also go to do some perfectly legal lines of cocaine or to smoke a joint. Because anyone with a brain knows that if you end the demand, supply becomes unprofitable; conversely if you open the market, people will find a way to exploit it.

Rudy Giuliani knew this to be true, when rather than dismissing the occasional turnstile-hopper or pickpocket, he busted them, under the theories that 1) big criminals also commit little crimes, and that's an effective way to get them off the streets, but also, 2) getting the little troublemakers off the street often limits the market to which the big troublemakers play.

A failure to understand the principles of supply and demand, however, makes Vincente Fox guilty of nothing more than being kin to a Democrat in the United States or a socialist in Europe. But a failure to address crime in a meaningful way puts the criminals in the driver's seat. And it makes one wonder very seriously if the sovereignty of Mexico is not imperiled by the operational strength of drug syndicates.

Fox has remarked that there is little he can do to prevent the illegal immigrant and drug trafficking that the United States wants stopped. So either he is lying and supporting the cause of illegals (and there is significant evidence to that effect), or he is also influenced by the drug kingpins who want to get his population drugged for some pocket change, but more importantly to clear a path through Mexico into the United States.

Whatever the case, the fact that Fox and the Congress of Mexico even considered such a thing is astounding. So while it seemed five years ago that the Bush-Fox friendship would lead to a new era of cooperation and civility between the nations, it seems that Fox is about little more than letting his nation become a direct threat to the national security interests of its most important neighbor by allowing his nation to become a conduit for drug traffic into the United States and dumping his economically disadvantaged population onto the American taxpayer.

Adios enemigo.

Brinkema's Appropriate Closing

We all knew that Moussaoui got one final shot to prove what a disgrace he is to his own existence at the formal sentencing. But the day's winning remark was for a judge who has been professional and patient with this cretin for years.

So sayeth Judge Leonie Brinkema:

"Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun ... hear the birds ... and they can associate with whomever they want," she said.

She went on: "You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It's absolutely clear who won."

And she said it was proper he will be kept away from outsiders, unable to speak publicly again.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory," she said,
"but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper."

At that point, Moussaoui tried again to interrupt her, but she raised her voice and spoke over him.

"You will never get a chance to speak again and that's an appropriate ending."

Enjoy the long, interminable night which will be the rest of your life Mr. Moussaoui.

Mr. Moussaoui Goes to Azkaban

Zacharias Moussaoui, now sentenced to life in prison is going to get a treatment that may very well make proponents of the death penalty a little less disappointed with life sentences.

Our French terrorist friend is being sent to a place that is probably about as pleasant as the hell-prison of Harry Potter fame referenced in the subject line.

The Supermax prison is brand new, opened in 1994, and designed with the obnoxious prisoner in mind. Its cells are dimly lit, allow some sunlight through a slit window high in the ceiling, and is completely constructed of concrete, right down to the desk, stool and bed. There is no escape. But more than being a place of confinement, it is a place that will likely humble the obnoxious Moussaoui. For a peek into the daily life that he can be expected to enjoy,

most individuals are kept for at least 23 hours each day in solitary confinement. They are housed in a 7-by-12 foot (3.5-by-2 meter) soundproofed room, built behind a steel door and grate. The remaining free hour is spent exercising alone in a separate concrete chamber. Prisoners rarely see each other, and inmates' only human interaction is limited to that of the prison guards. Religious services are broadcast in from a small chapel.

Most cells' furniture is made almost entirely out of poured concrete, including a desk, stool, and bed covered by a thin mattress. Each chamber contains a toilet that shuts off if plugged, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink missing a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light, a 13-inch black and white television, and a cigarette lighter. Windows in rooms are small, set high up in the wall, and point towards the sky, confusing the prisoner as to his specific location within the complex.

The prison as a whole contains countless motion detectors and cameras, 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors, and 12 foot high razor wire fences. Laser beams, pressure pads, and attack dogs guard the area between the prison walls and razor wire. The facility is built into the side of a mountain, and visitors and prisoners enter through the same heavily-guarded tunnel.
And to get a flavor for the effect that spending the rest of one's life in this paradise will have, read the following input from a prison psychology expert:

Prisoners "become extremely depressed and lethargic -- sleeping, lying on their bunks, staring at the ceiling, declining to go out and exercise,'' he said. They begin to lose memory, can't concentrate and suffer severe panic attacks, he said, or become uncontrollably enraged over insignificant things.
In short, the sensory deprivation and the cold hard contents of the cell, as well as a lack of any meaningful human interaction whittle away the psyches of persons who have shown that they cannot be trusted to have contact with the outside world.

Sure, he'll rattle off his invecta on his concrete desk for a year or so, but soon after that the thoughts of al-Qaida and their aborted political revolution will blissfully escape his mind, as he relegates himself to obsessing over dust particles in his cell.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Finding the Silver Lining in the Moussaoui Jury's Verdict

The jury gave him life.

I am quite disappointed but there is some degree of peace in this result. Those of us who wanted to see Moussaoui meet a grim end in a sterile prison death chamber are indeed upset that this man gets free medical care, free cable, free meals and free recreation for the rest of his miserable life, all on us.

But if anything, part of the relief is the finality. He is being jailed. He will never get out no matter how good he pretends to be. And his appeals are over. He will no longer have a courtroom as a world stage to make his noxious beliefs known. He will now be known as a number; irrelevant and silent.

But this also tells us something somewhat comforting about our judicial system that is a lesson to the rest of the world that mocks us. Outcomes of trials are not predetermined. The State doesn't always get everything it demands. And the ultimate decision-makers are average citizens. The jury considered the evidence, and apparently even Judge Brinkema, who played no role in the decision, seemed to believe that Moussaoui was more of a misfit tag along than a player.

But a system, imperfect though it is, which relies on citizens to determine guilt or innocence and of punishment has stood the test of time. Yes, there are dumb juries, bad judges, and dirty litigants. I have seen them in action and it is a disgrace. But the system--despite the fact that it is a "system"--is still the best thing going. It still works.

Tomorrow is a new day, and we have more important work than dissecting this verdict.

Moussaoui lost. Regardless of the punishment he got, the people of the United States of America won.

Let's move on.

Verdict in on Moussaoui

We now get to find out if the Zacharias Moussaoui jury decided to let him meet the fate his victims faced or bought into the defense's silly reverse psychology that putting him to death gives him what he wants in the form of martyrdom.

Whether he wants it or not, a crime which kills over 3,000 Americans which could have been prevented.

And I don't buy the whole martyr thing anymore than I have for the likes of Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh died with few tears being shed, and of course, his zealot buddies would use him as a martyr whether he was put to death or not. And that should not be a concern of ours--fear of punishing crime. Rather, it should be a solemn duty that makes no distinction between the perceived political influence or lack thereof of any criminal.

Let's pray the jury made a decent call. Give Moussaoui what he says he wants. I don't want to pay for him to watch Jerry Springer on cable for the rest of his life.