Saturday, December 03, 2005

An Army Broken?

Major John blogged With all the eagerness of a dog returning to something it has vomited up, the conventional media has latched onto Rep. Murtha's rambling discourse about the Army being "broken" and "has done all they can." Unmitigated crap. And I don't say this out of defensiveness or service pride - I'll tell you about how far we have had to come in a bit. First, though, a little material for you to mull over.

The US Army is quite open about how it works, what it sees for its future, what it has been told to do in the future by the civilian authorities we serve. You can see its budget, strength, recruiting, retention, doctrine and philosophy. And not just official sources. US Army Soldiers tell the world about things that go right and wrong. Also, what we do on our own. We are our own strongest critics and staunchest defenders.

You criticize yourselves when criticism is earned, but you don't do like the MSM and people like Rep. Murtha do, and that is criticize the military unfairly, in an effort to harm the country.
What really infuriates me is that someone like Rep. Murtha knows better. Ask any veteran who served between 1975-1982/3 what the Army (or the rest of the Armed Forces for that matter) were like. Drugs everywhere, low pay, morale was non-existent, equipment was falling behind or scarce, there was no great sense of mission or purpose. Only the heroic measures of a few dedicated officers and NCOs saved us from absolutely bottoming out. We needed the Reagan Era build up (hell, even Jimmy Carter, not the brightest or strongest to even stumble across the White House threshold, realized things had gone down too far, too fast, by the last two years of his miserable term in office) but almost as important, we got our elan back - we were told we mattered, we were the shield of liberty against Soviet totalitarianism. I felt that deeply, and in March of 1985 I walked straight into a recruiter's office and signed up.
And let me thank you for your service.
Oh my Lord - I had joined an Army National Guard that was about to get dragged into readiness, professionalism and competence, whether it willed or no. The first field exercise I went to featured Miller High Life to wash down the first generation MREs. By 1988, things were WAY different. I remember taking a 14 hour convoy from central Illinois up to Ft. McCoy, WI. We went straight to the field site, tactically, and didn't come out for 12 days. When we did come out, it was just in time to take a strictly graded Physical Fitness Test, clean up, pack and convoy home the next morning. The look on some of the old-timer's faces was something I will NEVER forget.

But the Gulf War (I) showed that we still had a ways to go. The National Guard Brigade called up to go fight in Desert Shield/Desert Storm never made it. We still had work to do. Bosnia, 1996-onward showed that we were awfully close. I was part of the Army Reserve serving in Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor (my time was FEB 1997-NOV 1997). We didn't do too badly - even the Regular Army folks said as much. But we weren't finished yet.

The Guard and Reserve had been getting shoved through two of the worst places God made (to steal a line from Lawrence of Arabia) JRTC and NTC. I thank the Almighty I only had to go through JRTC, and not both. The same beat-you-to-your-knees-training that the Regulars had to do. It helped. You never get so good an insight into your strengths and weaknesses as when you have been worn down to exhaustion, attacked constantly and been living in a frickin' bayou the whole July.

As anyone who has read this blog knows, The Inner Prop and I served in Operation Enduring Freedom V (Afghanistan, March 2004-March 2005). We stood at the end of the longest sustained supply line in the history of human conflict. We were in war-torn Central Asia. Af-frickin'-ghanistan. We had decent food, e-mail, phone (OK, sometimes they weren't always working, but almost all the time) excellent medical support, good pay, regular (if slow) mail. We had a PXs at most of the larger bases, and coffee places sprang up too. We had so damned much ammunition that we needed to build a bigger ammunition supply point at Bagram, AF. We had so many vehicles that we were constantly squabbling over where to put them all - and we had enough up-armored ones too. Our supply warehouses were stuffed with clothing, boots, body armor and the like. "Living hand to mouth" is the worst lie of the bunch.

The constant stream of re-enlistments was a revelation to me. When I was the Executive Officer of the garrison at Bagram Airfield (a job I gladly traded away after 5 months) I had to find room to more than double the size of the Retention Office. I personally administered the oath of re-enlistment to an E-5 and an E-7. The E-5 was a mother of two young children and the E-7 was eligible to retire when we got home!
The constant stream of re-enlistments tells me that our military knows they are doing a good job, and a job worth doing. The lies the MSM has been spreading here may have hurt recruitment some (although as I understand it, all but the Army is above quota even with recruiting here, and the Army is not that far behind quota).
Broken? Hardly. Is it difficult work? Yes.
And you are doing a fantastic job. Thank you again for your service.
Do not mistake hard work for foundering. Respectfully, Rep. Murtha - you are wrong. Dead wrong.


Worst President or Best President

Richard Reeves wrote in Yahoo! News The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

  • He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;
    Actually we are winning the war; that is why the Dems are trying so hard to fool people into thinking Bush lied to get us into the war, and to force an immediate pullout so we won't win
  • He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;
    The rich now pay a higher percent of the income taxes paid than they did before the tax cuts, and the tax cuts are responsible for the extremely good economy we are experiencing
  • He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;
    All he has done is say that faith based organizations should have an equal chance of bidding to do jobs that secular non profit organizations bid to do.
  • He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;
  • He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans)
    It was the Democratic Mayor and the Democratic Governor that were the most incompetent in New Orleans
    and foreign (
    Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);
    We are winning the war in Iraq; they elected an interim government, wrote and approved a constitution, and are about to elect a 4 year government under that constitution, and we keep killing al-Qaida leaders, and have not had an attack on our soil since 9/11, while many other countries have been attacked.
  • He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;
    Unemployment is very low.
  • He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;
    Baloney. He just does not accept pseudo-scientific claims that have not been proven.
  • He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.
    The government is cracking down on overcharging, even by Halliburton.
Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over times as results and impact become more obvious
At which time I suspect he will be found to have been one of the best presidents we have ever had.


Videophone Calling Is Starting to Look Better

Los Angeles Times reported Skype Technologies, the Luxemburg company famous for its free Internet telephone calls, last week launched an update that brings us closer to an elusive technological dream: the videophone. The Skype 2.0 software offers the ability to see as well as hear computer-to-computer callers — provided that both parties have webcams. Video chats, as part of instant messaging services such as one sponsored by Yahoo Inc., have been around for years, but they offer only jerky, pixelated, postage-stamp-sized video that looks like it was transmitted from Jupiter during a sunspot eruption. They seem to be popular mostly among the cyber-sex crowd, but I'm not sure how those people can see anything well enough to get excited. With the Skype 2.0 update, the picture is far clearer, larger and more stable. So much so that this may be the long-awaited application that brings video telephony to the masses, especially now that webcams can be bought for as little as $30. It doesn't hurt that the software is free, like the computer-to-computer calls that allowed Skype to build up a subscriber base of more than 60 million. (The company makes money by selling other services, including prepaid plans for computer-to-traditional telephone calls at low rates.) Version 2.0 — which so far is available only for Windows PCs — retains the Skype desktop contact list that can be used to store information on people with whom you regularly Skype (like Google, the name has reached the status of a verb). If someone on your call list has the updated software and a webcam plugged in, a little video camera icon shows up beside his or her name. You double-click the name and, if your call is accepted, you'll see in a few seconds live video of the person you called, and that person will see you. At first, the image, although clear, is a tad disappointing — nearly as small as those on the instant message sites. But you can drag the image onto the desktop and enlarge it with no serious loss in visual fidelity. I found that I could expand the picture window to about 5 inches wide and 4 inches high for comfortable viewing. The audio quality, always good on Skype, remains excellent — sometimes better than even on a land-line phone.

I have not tried the video on Skype 2.0, but I agree about the audio quality. I have spoken to a friend in Australia, and you would have thought he was just next door.


IE Design Flaw Lets Hacker Crack Google Desktop

Eweek reported An unpatched design flaw in Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser could give malicious hackers an easy way to use the Google Desktop application to covertly hijack user information. Matan Gillon, a hacker from Israel, discovered the vulnerability in the cross-domain protections in Internet Explorer and published a proof-of-concept exploit to show how Google Desktop can be cracked. "The proof of concept works on a fully patched IE browser (default security and privacy settings) with Google Desktop v2 installed," Gillon said in a note sent to Ziff Davis Internet News. He also published a detailed explanation of the vulnerability and warned that an attacker simply needs to lure a target to visit a malicious Web page. "Much like classic XSS (cross site scripting) holes, this design flaw in IE allows an attacker to retrieve private user data or execute operations on the [user's] behalf on remote domains," Gillon explained. A spokeswoman for Microsoft acknowledged the flaw in a statement and said the company was unaware of active attacks against IE users.

Another reason to use Firefox. Microsoft is aware of the problem, but just is not aware of any active attacks being launched. Perhaps they should fix the problem BEFORE the attacks are launched.


A Vatican Retreat on Homosexuality

Ellen Goodman wrote in WaPo Somewhere along the way the dividing line over gay issues picked up and moved. It's no longer between red and blue states, or left and right wings, but between nature and nurture. Or, to be more precise, between those who believe that homosexuality is a choice and those who believe that homosexuality is innate. Remember the moment in the 2004 debate when CBS's Bob Schieffer asked George W. Bush and John Kerry whether they thought homosexuality was a choice? The president answered, "I don't know," and the senator replied, "We're all God's children." Well, it turns out that the more you believe homosexuality is innate, the more accepting you are of gay rights. A full 79 percent of people who think human beings are born with a sexual orientation support gay rights, including civil unions or marriage equality. But only 22 percent of those who believe homosexuality is a choice agree. The same line can be found in the religious world between those who regard homosexuality as a (bad) choice and those who see it as (biological) trait.

Even if it is a biological trait, could it not be a bad biological trait?
The most conservative Protestant churches that talk about the homosexual "lifestyle" prohibit gay men and lesbians from being ministers. Religious liberals who see sexual orientation as an inborn trait are more open to gays in the pulpit. All in all, Americans seem reluctant to condemn people simply for who they are.
I condem murderers and pedophiles for who they are? Don't you?
What, then, do we make of the Catholic Church's banning -- and perhaps purging -- of gay priests? On Tuesday the much-leaked and much-awaited document from the Vatican said the church "cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.' " What was painful to many Catholics was the obvious scapegoating of gays for the church sexual abuse scandal.
Why shouldn't they have been blamed (or scapegoated) for the sexual abuse scandal? Do you blame the children they abused? Were they "asking for it"
But there was something less obvious. Thirty years ago the Catholic Church accepted the view that some were definitively gay. Church teachings said that "they do not choose their homosexual condition." Nevertheless, the new document doesn't just ban gays who "practice" homosexuality, breaking the vows of celibacy. It bans all those with homosexual "tendencies."
Because they don't want any more priests abusing young children.
In the strange new backsliding language of the Vatican, homosexuality is a "tendency." The church doesn't define tendency, nor does it say whether such a tendency is biological. Voluntary or not, it marks a man permanently. As Matt Foreman, a gay activist who was raised Catholic, says, "Doesn't matter what you do or believe or practice. If you are gay there is no making that better in the eyes of the church." Ironically, the only exemptions are offered to men who were not "real" homosexuals but "transitory" ones. They're given a pass, in the words of a Vatican cardinal, for "some curiosity during adolescence or accidental circumstances in a state of drunkenness or particular circumstances like someone who was in prison for many years." A drunk or ex-con is okay; a chaste gay seminarian is not.
Actually I believe that if the seminarian has been chaste for a certain period of time (3 years) they let him stay.
Mean Dean blogged All this energy and hyperbole when in fact all that really recently happened was the Vatican extended its prohibition on sexually active priests and seminarians to include homosexuals.

Jimmie blogged To be nice, I’ll assume that Goodman is having problems reading, as opposed to purposefully deceiving you and slandering the Church. Read the Vatical sttement again and pay special attention to the verbs in the sentence: practice, present, support. Those are action words. They indicate an activity, not a state of being. Simply put, what the Vatican is prohibiting in its priests are homosexual acts, not the state of being of homosexuality.


Greta's views on Christmas

Hooah Wife blogged This Jews Views on Christmas

  • DON'T assume everyone in the world celebrates Christmas
    I have never assumed that. If I was in Israel, I would expect the primary emphasis would be on Jewish holidays, and I would be grateful for the ability to have any ceremony in Bethlehem on December 25. And if I was in Saudia Arabia, I would expect that the main holiday celebrated would be at the start and end of Ramadan. But this is the United States, where 80 percent of the people claim to be Christian, and here I expect to be able to celebrate Christmas
  • I did not grow up with a Christmas tree in my house, Santa coming down the chimney or presents on Christmas morning and I am normal (well you be the judge)
  • Hanukkah is NOT the Jews equivalent to Christmas
    As I understand it is a minor Jewish Holiday celebrating the the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days, and holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Purim, and Pesach (Passover) are much more important; Hanukkah just happens to come around the same time as Christmas. This year it is December 25 - January 1 (or is it Dec 26-Jan 2)
  • Having married a goy (gentile) I now decorate my house with a tree and lights for him - I would not take that away from him
    God Bless You
  • Just because I have a tree doesn't mean I accept Jesus as the savior - nope - still a Jew-one God - yada yada yada
    Christians just have one God as well, but this may not be the proper place for a discussion of the Trinity
  • I am NOT afraid of Christmas parties at school or holiday Christmas musicals that my kids participate in - but that is going back to number 1 - don't assume
    I would not fear a celebration of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Purim, or Pesach (Passover) either.
  • If you want to have a Christmas party at school or call it a "holiday party or end of semester party" I don't give a rats ass. School is for learning, socializing, being aware of other cultures
    I agree completely. That is why I would not object to a celebration and/or lesson on the true meaning of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Purim, and Pesach, or an explanation of what the festival of lights (Hanukkah) is all about or the Secret of the Driedel. Learning about another faith does not mean you are being pressured to join that faith. But I would like to see Christian children allowed to know that the reason they get off from school on December 25 is because it is Christmas, not the "Winter Holiday" and that they should be permitted to have religious songs along with the secular songs about Santa and his reindeer (as the Supreme Court has ruled)
    and people outside your own little family and if you choose to make religion a part of a "government school" and think that it is OK and written in the Constitution
    It is. The first amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;....
    then I don't really feel bad when the ACLU comes breathing down your back
  • Marketing the holiday - dumbass stores going PC is just plain stupid. It is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the ass. For crying out loud, Christmas sales can make you or break you, don't worry about being PC and wishing me a Happy Hanukkah.
    I do wish you, and every other Jew I know a very Happy Hanukkah.
  • Merry Christmas is a holiday greeting to me - it does not and should not offend me. If it does, then I need to re-examine my own values.
  • If I boiled your blood in any way - GOOD (evil laugh inserted here)!


The unheralded Islamist assault on free speech

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross wrote in Weekly Standard Last month, Islamic radicals threatened to kill actor and Muslim convert Omar Sharif. Sharif had recently played St. Peter in an Italian TV film and spoke highly of the role, saying that he "seemed to hear voices" during filming and that "it will be difficult for me to play other roles from now on." Although Sharif's comments seem innocuous, they prompted a death threat. According to the Adnkronos International news agency, a message on a web forum which has been used by al Qaeda in the past linked to another website that threatened Sharif's life. The website containing the threat said, "Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry. He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him."

And it shows yet again what a threat Radical Islam is.
This incident is relatively minor in the grand scheme of the war against radical Islam, but telling. It provides another glimpse into the Islamists' single-minded fanaticism and their willingness to punish any type of ideological non-conformity. The threat against Sharif largely fell below the media's radar. Indeed, aside from a few high profile examples--such as the fatwa directed at Salman Rushdie after he published The Satanic Verses and last year's slaying of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh--the mainstream media has given little coverage to the widespread Islamist assault against free speech.


Leaking At All Costs

John Hinderaker wrote in Weekly Standard The CIA's war against the Bush administration is one of the great untold stories of the past three years. It is, perhaps, the agency's most successful covert action of recent times. The CIA has used its budget to fund criticism of the administration by former Democratic officeholders. The agency allowed an employee, Michael Scheuer, to publish and promote a book containing classified information, as long as, in Scheuer's words, "the book was being used to bash the president." However, the agency's preferred weapon has been the leak. In one leak after another, generally to the New York Times or the Washington Post, CIA officials have sought to undermine America's foreign policy. Usually this is done by leaking reports or memos critical of administration policies or skeptical of their prospects. Through it all, our principal news outlets, which share the agency's agenda and profit from its torrent of leaks, have maintained a discreet silence about what should be a major scandal.

The CIA is famous for the Coup D'etats it has initiated in foreign countries to remove their leaders or replace their government; I believe the CIAs actions here represent a Coup D'etat attempt against the Bush Administration.
Recent events indicate that the CIA might even be willing to compromise the effectiveness of its own covert operations, if by doing so it can damage the Bush administration. The story began last May, when the New York Times outed an undercover CIA operation by identifying private companies that operated airlines for the agency. The Times fingered Aero Contractors Ltd., Pegasus Technologies, and Tepper Aviation as CIA-controlled entities. It described their aircraft and charted the routes they fly. Most significantly, the Times revealed one of the most secret uses to which these airlines were put:


Republicanism in decline

Tony Snow wrote in Townhall When Democrats gibber about Republicans' writhing in a culture of corruption, they're on to something -- but not what they think. The Republican Party in Washington is in trouble not because it's overrun by crooks, but because it's packed with cowards -- and has degenerated into a caricature of the party that swept to power 11 years ago promising to take on the federal bureaucracy and liberate the creative genius of American society.

That is absolutely true. Legislators elected on promises to cut spending now increase spending because they think they must to get reelected. They need to be challenged in the primaries by people who will really cut spending and push for smaller government.
The collapse stems from the simplest and most natural of causes, the survival instinct. Within months of seizing power in 1995, Republicans began backing away from Big Ideas, from tort reform to the necessary overhaul of the Social Security system. They started consulting pollsters to assay "correct" issues and positions. They played it safe -- or so they thought. Over time, imagination-grabbing ideas melted away. Gone was the Reaganite breadth of vision, and in its place stood the musty idol of Incumbency. Republicans drew the wrong morals from the decline and fall of Newt Gingrich. They thought his boldness got him in trouble, and chose to crib plays from the Bill Clinton playbook -- tacking left, at least oratorically, so as to appease, rather than confront, their critics.
They need to return to their roots. The extreme left does not allow Democrats to stray far from their extreme politics; why does the extreme right allow Republicans to grow spineless on matters important to the Republican Party
Hence, George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" -- a slogan that exceeded skeptics' worst expectations. That phrase, aimed at reassuring suburban white moms and queasy left-wing Republicans, became a white flag on the core issue of government size and might. Bush insiders even began boasting about "big government" conservatism -- oblivious to the fact that big government does not conserve or preserve; it crushes and digests, devouring institutions that challenge its supremacy. Leaders in the Party of Lincoln stopped talking about people, and started talking about programs and expenditures. They justified head-snapping shifts in policy by claiming the need to take issues "off the table." The multi-trillion dollar Medicare "reform" is a case in point. It was designed less to save a system than to deny Democrats a talking point. Yet, the only things Republicans really took off the table were their moral authority and the loyalty of their partisans.


Hil used to be strictly for the war

New York Daily News reported Sen. Hillary Clinton left one thing out this week when she tried to explain her views on Iraq - namely that she used to agree almost completely with President Bush, even after the war took a nosedive.

That is true, but she is worried that the extreme left of her party may support someone like Kerry, Dean, or Gore in the primaries, so she has to move back to the left, while still hoping to keep one foot in the center.
On Tuesday, Clinton wrote in a 1,600-word letter to supporters that her 2002 vote for war in Iraq was based on "evidence presented by the [Bush] administration." "The 'evidence' of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda turned out to be false," Clinton wrote.
Is she talking about Bush saying "Saddam has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."? Oh wait, that was said by Madeleine Albright (Nov 10, 1999). Is she talking about Bush saying "Iraq's search for WMDs has proven impossible to deter... it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power"? Oh wait, that was said by Al Gore (Sept 23, 2002). Is she talking about Bush saying "We know that he (Saddam) has stored nuclear supplies, secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons"? Oh wait, that was said by Al Gore (Sept 23, 2002). Is she talking about Bush saying "Saddam Hussein has engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process"? Oh wait, that was said by Nancy Pelosi (Dec 16, 1998). Is she talking about Bush saying "If Saddam rejects peace, and we have to use force, or purpose is clear: We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program"? Oh wait, that was said by Bill Clinton (Feb 17, 1998).
But just months after the bombs started falling, Clinton (D-N.Y.) called a Daily News reporter to insist she had no second thoughts about her vote for war. The war was worth it just to remove Saddam Hussein from power, she said. Clinton emphatically told The News in her 2003 call, "I felt that it was appropriate under the circumstances, which really went back to 1998 under the Clinton administration's conclusion that the regime had to change, that the President [Bush] had authority to pursue that goal." "Why was the intelligence consistent from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration?" Clinton added. "The intelligence was consistent for over a decade." On the eve of war, even the senator's aides echoed Team Bush's confidence in a swift victory, including one who boasted, "It's going to be a cakewalk."
All of that is true, but you must understand, to a Democrat, truth is whatever you need it to be at the moment, and at this moment, she is worried about the rabid anti-war wing of her party.
At the time of the 2003 phone call, the insurgency had blossomed and the White House had finally backed off claims that Iraq had rebuilt its nuclear bomb program. Some experts don't fault Clinton for her omission, but admit she is clearly "feeling the heat" over Iraq. "If the tide shifts, she's on the wrong side of the sea wall," said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio.
That is why she is sitting on the sea wall, with one foot on one side, and one foot on the other.
Flustered Clinton aides yesterday sidestepped the question of why the senator's letter ignored the intelligence from her husband's administration.
If you can't answer it, ignore it.
Spokesman Philippe Reines said she "laid out a thoughtful explanation to her constituents of her position on Iraq, reiterating her disagreement with the way the President has used the authority granted to him."


CIA missile strike kills al-Qaida No. 3

MSNBC reports The operational commander of al-Qaida and possibly the No. 3 official in the terrorist organization, Hamza Rabia, was killed early Thursday morning by a CIA missile attack on a safehouse in Pakistan, officials told NBC News.

This is good news. Earlier reports I saw indicated he had been blown up making a bomb, but as the photo indicates "Pakistani tribesmen are seen on Thursday displaying a piece of a U.S. made laser guided missile, found in the debris of a house which was destroyed after alleged American Predator aircraft, which flew from bordering Afghanistan, fired on the house, killing five people including a senior al-Qaida commander identified as Abu Hamza Rabia." I am happy that the CIA has good enough intelligence to know what house to target with an unmanned Predator, and that they can use this technology so they don't have to endanger American agents.
Pakistan's president later confirmed the militant leader's death. “Yes indeed, 200 percent. I think he was killed the day before yesterday if I’m not wrong,” President Pervez Musharraf told reporters as he arrived in Kuwait on an official visit on Saturday. While Pakistani officials publicly said Rabia died in a blast caused by explosives stored in a house for bomb-making, officials speaking on condition of anonymity told NBC News he was killed by a CIA missile strike carried out by an unmanned Predator airplane. Pakistan's government has always been reticent to admit that Predators are used in Pakistani airspace to hunt down al-Qaida operatives. The sources told NBC News Rabia was one of five men killed at a safehouse located in the village of Asorai, in western Pakistan, near the town of Mirali.

CAYankee blogged At Winds of Change, Dan Darling offers more about the significance of getting Rabia, as well as the capture of capture of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar and the suicide of Abu Omar al-Saif in Dagestan. This is another significant victory in the War On Terror.

Dan Darling blogged One thing that'll be interesting to learn is whether or not the US had anything to do with assisting the Russians in locating al-Saif, given both the precedent of our helping them to hunt down Ruslan Gelayev and al-Saif's status in al-Qaeda. Either way, the capture of Nasar and the deaths of Rabia and al-Saif represent both a potent blow to the enemy and an impressive counter-terrorist victory for the US and its allies.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Progress in The Mideast

Charles Krauthammer wrote in WaPo Because we Americans tend to gauge Middle East success by White House signing ceremonies complete with dignitaries, three-way handshakes and pages of treaty provisions, no one seems to have noticed how, in the absence of any of that, there has been amazing recent progress in defusing the Arab-Israeli dispute. First, the more than four-year-long intifada, which left more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians dead, is over.

Due in a great part to the death of Arafat
And better than that, defeated. There's no great Palestinian constituency for starting another one. In Israel, tourism is back, the economy has recovered to pre-intifada levels, and the coffee shops and malls are full again.
Due in great part to the Wall.
Second, the Gaza withdrawal was a success. On the Israeli side, it was accomplished with remarkable speed and without any of the great social upheaval and civil strife that had been predicted. As for the Palestinians, without any fanfare whatsoever, their first-ever state has just been born. They have political independence for 1.3 million of their people, sovereignty over all of Gaza and, for the first time, a border to the outside world (the Rafah crossing to Egypt) that they control.
Now let us see what they do with their sovereignty - build a country, or import weapons to attack Israel.
Third, on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian line, vigorous electoral campaigns are underway. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has abandoned Likud, established a new centrist party that leads all others in the polls, effectively marginalized those remaining Israelis who want to hold on forever to all the territories, and set Israel on a path to a modest and attainable territorial solution to the century-old conflict.

As a result, Israel's regional isolation is easing, as Islamic countries from Pakistan to Qatar to Morocco openly extend or intensify relations, while anti-Israel rejectionists such as Syria and Hezbollah are isolated and even condemned by name in the U.N. Security Council. How did this come about? Israeli unilateralism and Palestinian maturation. After a year and a half of unparalleled terror, culminating with the Passover massacre of 2002, the Israelis finally decided that they had to give up the illusion of a Palestinian peace partner and take things into their own hands. They did. Israel reoccupied the West Bank cities it had ceded to Yasser Arafat, who had used them as havens of terrorism; began an extremely effective campaign of targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders that ultimately induced their successors to declare a truce with Israel; and, most important, decided to unilaterally draw the border between Israel and Palestine.

Gaza is now 100 percent Palestinian. The security fence Israel is building in the West Bank will, in effect, create a second Palestinian sovereignty on 92 percent of that territory. Everyone knows what that fence means. Israelis on the Palestinian side of the fence will ultimately leave one way or the other. And, in a final settlement -- if and when the Palestinians ever decide to make their peace with a Jewish state -- that remaining 8 percent could be exchanged for pieces of Israel transferred to Palestine. (The New Republic of Nov. 28 has a must-read article on the land swaps that could once and for all end the Arab-Israeli dispute.)

The other great watershed has been the maturation of the Palestinian national movement. Arafat was a revolutionary who disdained nation-building. Revolutionaries destroy the old order. His mission was to destroy Israel. Which is why, to the consternation of his Western admirers, in 10 years he built not a single schoolhouse, hospital or road in the territory he controlled. Instead, he built a dozen private militias and a state propaganda machine designed to poison the new generation against Israel. Now that he is gone, the Palestinian cause can begin the demystification from revolution to nation-building.

The other demystification was Gaza. The Gaza Palestinians have just received exactly what they wished for: self-government, borders, openings to the outside world and an absence of any Jews. As a result, however, they are now faced with the distinctly unromantic task of creating their new state. It's not that many Gazans would not like to continue the romance of revolutionary terrorism and jihad. But they no longer have the means. The separation fence makes it almost impossible to launch attacks into Israel. And rockets launched into Israeli towns are met by retaliatory Israeli artillery barrages that make the rocketeers rather unpopular at home. A similar equilibrium will be achieved on the West Bank when the fence is completed next year.

Sharon represents the majority of Israelis bent on achieving that equilibrium. It will not only bring stability and relative peace, but it also offers the contours of an ultimate settlement. That's why even old regional antagonists see the promise of this moment -- all achieved, mind you, without a single Rose Garden ceremony.

Happy Carpenter blogged Good fences make good neighbors - The fence is working. Whodathunkit? Keep this in mind the next time a Lefty tells you your ideas are "simplistic". A long concrete fence achieved in months what nuanced diplomats could not in decades. A fence, and the will to build it.


Breech of Trust

Deroy Murdock wrote on National Review Online Politicians here should not undervalue two finite resources: first, the goodwill of Americans and their federal representatives, and second, taxpayer dollars. Maintaining the former boosts the odds of seeing the latter. Thus, Louisiana policymakers must recognize that news of local graft, favoritism, and incompetence will evaporate this city’s reservoir of empathy more swiftly than New Orleans flooded in the first place. Reverting to pre-Katrina mischief would condemn this area to rebuilding without much help from an exasperated Congress and appalled citizens. “In Louisiana, they don’t tolerate corruption; they insist on it,” laughs Louisiana native Fred Smith, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Then they should come up with ALL of the money to rebuild any levees or do any other infrastructure work from Louisiana citizens. No federal money should be spent unless
  1. We are sure that it will be properly accounted for, by people that are not in Louisiana, and
  2. No money should be spent either on construction in land that is 7 to 15 feet below sea level, or to protect such below sea level land from flooding
In that spirit, St. Tammany Parish councilman Joe Impastato was arrested in a November 15 FBI sting for allegedly accepting two cashiers’ checks totaling $85,000, after arranging for OMNI Pinnacle, LLC, to dump storm debris on a local businessman’s raw land. Despite facing federal extortion charges, Impastato told reporters on November 18 that there was nothing unusual about his Tammany haul. This was “no different than any other business deal,” he said, adding that he acted as a private citizen, not as a local official.
Regardless, he should go to jail.
OMNI’s influence stretched past St. Tammany, which is just north of New Orleans. In fact, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin rejected an experienced firm’s lower bid to discard storm debris and accepted OMNI’s pricier bid the day before Katrina struck. OMNI is perfectly connected. OMNI attorney Charles Rice was the city’s chief administrator until June. Rice’s brother, Terrance, has met with officials of the city and the Army Corps of Engineers. As municipal sanitation director, Veronica White oversees contract bids. She originally was hired by a former city official named Charles Rice.
Nagin and the others should join him in jail.
“People with familiar names and faces are making money — often in areas where they seemed to have no particular expertise before the storm,” the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on November 20. “Perhaps the Louisiana way wasn’t washed away with the storm’s floodwaters.”

Although it only recently acquired a new trailer sales license, Bourget’s of the South, a motorcycle shop, scored three contracts, worth $108 million, to provide FEMA with 6,416 trailers. Bourget’s owners are the father and uncle of the company’s registered agent, state representative Gary Smith, a member of the house’s Special Committee on Disaster Planning, Crisis Management, Recovery, and Long-Term Revitalization.


The 1,000th Victim

Nikolas T. Nikas wrote in National Review Online Early this morning, December 2, 2005, probably just a few hours before most readers were arriving at work or school, the 1,000th victim died, the result of a highly controversial Supreme Court ruling from the 1970s authorizing the application of deadly force to a human being. Despite the opposition (and for sound reasons) of many, the judicially sanctioned execution took place in a routine manner, just like the 999 deaths that preceded it. Despite the evidence of the natural and social sciences, establishing that such acts — besides the most-significant morality issues — only serve to corrupt civil society and do nothing to solve the nation’s most pressing social concerns, the relentless engine of death continued this day, like it has many times in the past, to reap its deadly toll of human life. Despite the long-established ethical principle that health-care workers should first “Do No Harm,” the instruments of medicine were used Friday morning, not to save a human life, but to take one. And, tragically, horribly, before the day is done, another 2,500 more human beings will be destroyed.

I am not talking about the execution this morning of the convicted North Carolina murderer, who became the 1,000th victim of capital punishment since its restoration by the Supreme Court in 1976, but about the 1000th victim of abortion on demand authorized by the infamous Roe v. Wade case in 1973. But it did not take almost 20 years to reach the gruesome milestone of 1,000 dead from abortion, for such a number is reached every day;it is reached several times a day.

I knew the number was high, but I did not realize it was that high.
For as bad as the execution of a convicted murderer may be, (and I realize that to many there is a fundamental difference between the destruction of the innocent unborn and the putting to death, after trial and appeal,
Not just one appeal, but years of appeal after appeal after appeal
of a convicted killer), the stark, almost-too-horrible-to-contemplate, reality is that, if averaged out over a 24-hour period, the 1,000th victim of abortion occurs approximately every 7 hours, of every day, 365 times a year.
And none of them got even a single appeal.
The math, a terrible calculation, is simple. Assume, conservatively that 1,300,000 abortions occur every year. (We don’t really know for sure what the total number is because of the lack of mandatory reporting requirements in many states, but even the pro-abortion side of this most important of all issues seems to accept that this number is not an exaggeration). If one divides that number by 365 days a year, the result is that everyday approximately 3,500 unborn children are killed.

Divide further the 3,500 abortions a day by 24 hours and the result is that every hour approximately 146 unborn boys and girls are deprived of the most basic of all human rights: the right to exist. And dividing 1,000 by 146, gives the ghastly statistic that the 1,000th victim of abortion is reached every 6.8 hours of every single day.
2.4 innocent lives every minute. No appeal. No DNA test. Not even a trial. Just execute them to preserve a woman's right to choice.
Almost four times in each and every day, a 1,000th-victim is offered up for destruction on the altar of desperation or convenience or radical autonomy. So, if 1,000 dead from capital punishment since 1976 deserves to be marked, what should we as a society do to mark the approximately 37,000,000 dead from abortion in that same period?
Apparently the left feels it should do anything it can just to prevent the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice who MIGHT vote to overturn Roe, even though if it was overturned, I am sure the legislatures in at least all of the blue states would legalize abortion in their states.
If capital punishment should be abolished for ending the life of 1,000 human beings, then what should we do about a practice that ends millions of lives? It's something to think about.



Mean Dean guest blogging on La Shawn Barber’s Corner said .... imagine being a judge on the California State Supreme Court or perhaps the Governator and getting hit on the left side by latter’s Hollywood peers with arguments of “do it for the children” knowing that the right will return with the argument “look at the message you’re sending.”

Precisely, especially when we know the left does not really care about children, or they would support allowing parents to choose the best school for their child, and letting the tax dollars the state is paying for that child's education go to the school the parent chooses. They just don't like the death penalty.
The message being, you can brutally massacre innocent citizens execution style without fear of suffering the death penalty so long as you write a children’s book about being sorry for starting a gang. Best part is, you don’t have to actually establish any sort of foundation or ‘turn in your bandanna’ campaign – just ‘feel’ sorry.
And you don't even have to be a good prisoner for all of your time in prison. Just write a few books when your appeals are about to run out.
Perhaps add to that the thought that you also don’t have to apologize nor pay back to the victims of your crime – provided you get to tell your story of your feel-good redemption on the silver screen … but I digress … If this is the case, if these are the messages we’re getting from the today’s tale of Tookie, then it is reasonable to speculate that the glitterati do their causes more harm than good. What do you think?


Iranian nukes unacceptable

Jerusalem Post reported Israel "can't accept a situation where Iran has nuclear arms" and "is making all the necessary preparations to handle a situation like this," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday.

That may be necessary, just as it was with Iraq.
Iran's enemies have "the capability" to use military force to disrupt Iran's bid for nuclear arms, he said at the annual Editor's Committee gathering in Tel Aviv, adding that "before exercising it, every attempt should be made to pressure Iran into stopping its activity." Sharon stressed that "Israel doesn't lead the struggle" to keep Iran nuclear-free, and he hoped the UN Security Council would neutralize "this great danger."
I would not count on the EU to do anything to stop them.
Sharon's comments raised Israel's rhetoric against Iran and came on the heels of assessments by IDF brass that, after March, diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program will be pointless. "Israel is not without hope and is taking all necessary measures, as it should," he said.


Plant News Stories in Iraqi Media

NYT reported The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee summoned top Pentagon officials to a closed-door session on Capitol Hill on Friday to explain a reported secret military campaign in Iraq to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media.

If it is a secret program, will the reporter who printed it be jailed until they reveal their source.
The White House also expressed deep concerns about the program.... Under the program, the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm working in Iraq, was hired to translate articles written by American troops into Arabic and then, in many cases, give them to advertising agencies for placement in the Iraqi news media. At a time when the State Department is paying contractors millions of dollars to promote professional and independent media, the military campaign appeared to defy the basic tenets of Western journalism.
News Flash: Iraq is not a western country. Rather than worrying about the military providing stories to the Iraqi papers, how about doing a study on why the American press only provides negative reports to the American public, and does not tell them about the many good things that are happening in Iraq
Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said he had directed Pentagon aides to describe and justify the program on Friday in a closed briefing for senators and staff aides.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Pox on Both Parties

David S. Broder wrote in WaPo To understand why the level of public disillusionment with politics is so high in this country right now, it helps to go back a dozen years. The Democrats took power in 1993 with a young and obviously talented Bill Clinton succeeding George H.W. Bush, who seemingly had played out the string on the shift to conservative government Ronald Reagan launched in 1980.

Actually GHWB lost because he went back on his word of "Read my lips. No new taxes"
Clinton took office as a plurality president, but with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate seemingly primed for action. His first year did not go well. His first budget -- with a tax increase for top-bracket earners and benefits for lower-income families -- barely survived in Congress. He found himself snarled in unproductive fights over gays in the military and other side issues, and in the fall, his big initiatives -- reorganization of government, approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement and passage of health care reform -- were piling up in Congress.
NAFTA did pass.
By the spring of his second year, the most politically important of those priorities -- the overhaul of the health care delivery system -- was hopelessly mired in committee, unable to muster enough support even to bring it to a floor vote in the House or Senate.
He tried to do too much, and wanted a government takeover of the Health Care system.
The problem that Clinton had recognized as most disturbing for families, for business and for all levels of government was left to fester, unsolved. In November 1994, with thousands of disillusioned Democrats boycotting the polling places, the Republicans won nearly everything, retaking the Senate, capturing the House for the first time in 40 years and boosting their strength in the state capitols.

The lingering effects of that failure in one-party Democratic government are still felt. While Clinton was able to win a second term and to avoid conviction on the Lewinsky scandal impeachment charges, he was never again able -- while campaigning for himself or others -- to persuade voters to entrust his party with the reins of government.
For good reason.
At some level, the message that many voters took away from the experience was that Democrats may talk a good game, but they don't deliver.
Exactly true.
It has not helped that the subsequent Democratic nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry, were people who had built their careers in the Senate, a place where the public knows that talk is cheap and action rare.
The American People know that a Governor is a much better choice for President than a Senator is. The Senate is filled with 100 people who think they should be President; the state Governor's mansions are filled with 50 people who have shown that they know how to run a government (write budgets, work with the legislature, etc).
Fast-forward now to 2005, five years after the voters (with a nudge from the Supreme Court) entrusted Republicans with complete control of the elected branches of the federal government. What do they have to show for it?
A very good economy, a failed state that allowed terrorists to have training camps in their country and who planned an attack on the US has been liberated, 21 million citizens of another country have been freed from a dictator, and they have had one election, written and approved a constitution, and are about to have another election under that constitution.
Well, as promised, taxes have been cut, more for the wealthy than for others,
Then why do the wealthy now pay a greater percentage of the total income taxes collected by the government.
but that promise has been kept. The overall economy has grown, but -- in part because of tax policy -- the gap between the rich and the rest has increased. The nation, caught unawares, has suffered a grievous homeland attack, and the chief instigator of that Sept. 11 savagery remains at large. We have invaded two countries seeking out terrorists -- and years later, violence continues to cost the lives of Americans trying to pacify both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Would you prefer our forces fight those terrorists on US soil?
President Bush's chief domestic initiative -- reform of the Social Security system -- suffered the same fate as Clinton's health care effort: so little agreement within his own party that he was never even able to bring it to a vote. The self-described "compassionate conservative" has been so lax in his budgetary policy that deficits have reached dismaying levels, and compassion was compromised by gross incompetence in the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Most of the "gross incompetence" was on the part of the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana.
Meanwhile, after 11 years of unbroken majority, congressional Republicans are displaying the same personal arrogance (in grabbing for favors) and the same penchant for petty scandals that plagued the Democrats after their 40-year run.
That is true, and we need to do something about it.
There is one difference. Congressional Republicans by and large have maintained greater cohesion and discipline than did the Democrats under Clinton. But the price has been subservience to White House whims and wishes. This has been the most compliant congressional leadership in modern times, one that until very recently
When the Hammer (Tom Delay) had to step down.
was unwilling or incapable of asserting itself against even a minor presidential preference.
What is wrong with that. Weren't both elected to work for the American people.
Now, with Bush weakened by the war and other problems, Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to scramble for safety by voting their districts, not heeding partisan commands. It is not an edifying spectacle. And the result may well be what it was for the Democrats in 1994, when the cry, "Every member for himself!" turned into a rout. Leaving behind one big question: When both parties have lost public confidence, where do voters turn?

David R. Remer blogged It is the quintessential question for voters given their disappointment and disgust with both party's. But, let's review voter's choices.
  1. Continue to vote for the two major parties in a revolving door of bad government in the hands of one party to bad government by the other party. In 2006, they can vote to keep the corrupt and horrible mismanagement of the public's resources or turn management over to the Democrats who can't agree amongst themselves on any issue including whether to criticize Republicans.
    Or perhaps the answer is in the Primaries. Republicans can run candidates that understand we really do want smaller government, and Democrats can run candidates that have new ideas.
  2. Don't vote at all. This option however, for all intents and purposes, is the same as option one above. For if only loyal voters of the Democratic and Republican party vote, we will just get more of what we are all dismayed and disgusted over.
  3. Vote for a third party.
    Like what Sharon is trying in Israel.
    Voting for a third party for federal office however, will not put that third party candidate in office. For if voters chose to vote third party, a percentage would vote for one of the two Reform Parties (it has split into two factions), the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, that is if these parties even put forth a candidate for Senator or Representative in their district. The net result however will be a small percentage of votes for each of these 4 third parties thus splitting the disgruntled electorate's vote into numbers too small to win against a Democrat or Republican.
  4. The last option, to vote out incumbents of any stripe, at first appears to make no sense for the same reasons as the 3 options above appear to be futile. But, what if voters who used to vote for Democrats or Republicans but just can't justify doing so anymore, were to, instead of voting for a Republican or Democrat, vote against whichever one is in office? And what if the third parties supporters, instead of not voting because their candidate does not have a chance, voted for any challenger of any party? And what if 1/4 of the eligible voters who have never voted before, showed up to vote against the incumbent and for any challenger. Well, that would constitute more than 25 million votes against incumbents across the land.
Since only 2 million anti-incumbent votes would have unseated the Republicans from the majority party in Congress in 2002, and only 3.5 million anti-incumbent votes would have put Kerry in as President today, instead of Bush, the impact would stunning. Suddenly, the Democratic and Republican parties would have a whole new voting constituent out there they would have to appeal to in order to hope to keep their incumbents in office. And to appeal to these voters, they would have solve America's problems like deficits, border security, education quality, providing affordable and sustainable safety nets for our elderly, disabled, and unemployed, and getting control of inflationary health care costs and lowering the hurdles to health care access.

And wouldn't America be a better nation and her future more secure and hopeful if our government's elected officials had to demonstrate success in these areas in order to insure their party's candidates could remain in office?

Doug blogged In 1992, they turned to Ross Perot, who turned out to be a megalomantic and false prophet and, at present, it seems unlikely that a viable third party will arise any time soon. More likely than not, the answer to Broder's question will be record-low turn out in the mid-term elections in 2006.


Jury Service

Waco Tribune reported Leading the free world during wartime and reporting for jury duty are both important public service responsibilities. While most would agree that serving as president of the United States is more pressing than serving as foreman of a jury, McLennan County officials are waiting for Crawford resident George W. Bush, potential juror number 286, to respond to a summons to report Monday for jury duty.

A summons for jury service is supposed to be random, but it seems strange that George Bush would be called for jury service right after John Kerry served, and was Jury Forman
"It is not uncommon that people don't respond for jury duty,"
That is wrong. Because of the security issues it would create for the Secret Service, I don't think Bush should serve, but most other people should definitely serve when they are called. I would even like to see lawyers serve, although they are usually excused during the Voir Dire
said 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother, to whose court the president has been summoned. "It is unique having the president in this situation, so I have never faced this issue before and I am not sure what is going to happen. I am assuming at some point that we will hear something from somebody on his behalf." White House spokesman Allen Abney said the commander-in-chief was not aware of the situation: "The White House has not received the summons yet." He declined to elaborate on how the president would handle the jury notice when it finally did arrive from Bush's adopted home county.... "The president actually appearing for jury duty, I think, would create all sorts of security issues for the Secret Service, for the sheriff's department, for the courthouse, so I anticipate that we will hear some type of response to the jury summons," Strother said.

Hugh Hewitt blogged What to do? If he gets out of jury duty, Dems will complain he's not reporting for duty, with inevitable allusions to his Texas Air National Guard service. If he does report and serve, he'll be slacking off in his Presidential duties, with inevitable allusions to his excessive exercise regimen and long Crawford "vacations." Decisions, decisions.

Hillel Levin blogged I have an interest in jury selection and composition, so I was intrigued by two recent stories. According to the first, John Kerry served as a jury foreperson in Massachusetts. According to the second, George W. Bush has been called to jury duty in Texas. I imagine the president will get a deferral for, oh, about three years.


100% Chance of "We Don't Know"

Kobayashi Maru blogged [Look at] the dramatic about-face shift in the headlines in the last 24 hours:

  • Wednesday: "The four hottest years on record [in Europe] were 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Ten percent of Alpine glaciers disappeared during the summer of 2003 alone. At current rates, three quarters of Switzerland's glaciers will have melted by 2050."
  • Thursday: "The ocean current that gives western Europe its relatively balmy climate is stuttering, raising fears that it might fail entirely and plunge the continent into a mini ice age."
The first bit of "news" is from a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), based in Copenhagen. The second is from findings of a study conducted by Harry Bryden at the Southampton Oceanography Centre in the UK (more here). So... which is it?
Global winter: another Ice Age is coming. Global Warming, the glaciers are going to melt, and we will all drown. Someone must do something. But what is the problem: too much hot or too much cold. Or maybe it is too much hype.
The funny part is, they could both be right... or totally off-base if they've extrapolated way too far (as I believe they probably have) from what in the perspective of geologic time and chaos is an extremely limited set of data. The only thing I find encouraging in this is that - at least with these headlines - we have for a moment returned to science as a fundamentally inexact zig-zagging phenomenon, always made stronger by disagreement and vigorous debate.

In the meantime, I submit that Europe has more pressing matters it ought to be concerning itself with. If in fifty years the Islamofascists have the run of the place and Sharia law is declared there, do we really care if Europe is a desert or an ice cube... or just the same as it is now, i.e., variable from year to year and decade to decade?

A very good point. Things may be getting hotter or colder ecologically speaking, but the Islamofascists are definitely going to make things hotter for Europe, and the rest of the world.


Why avoid using 'Merry Christmas'?

CSM reported The all-inclusive "Happy Holidays" greeting has become an annual December puzzler for towns, public schools, and businesses: How do we respect the holiday traditions of one group of citizens without causing detriment to another?

The answer is simple. If there are a significan number of Jews in your market area, have promotion for Jewish holidays. If there are a significant number of Muslims in your market area, have a promotion for Muslim Holidays. If there are a significant number of people that actually celebrate Kwanzaa (most don't), have a promotion for that holiday. And since at least 80% of your market area are practicing Christians, and since 96% celebrate Christmas, have promotions for that holiday, including not just Santa and reindeer, but also have nativity scenes, since it is Christ's birthday the Christians are celebrating.
While Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and in some years Ramadan and Diwali, share the same season, last year's polls show around 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. For a pluralistic nation that prides itself upon embracing both freedom of expression and the separation of church and state, the widespread public celebration of Christmas poses a unique quandary.
Why should it. The constitution does not say that Walmart, Target, or Sears may not celebrate religious holidays. (It does not even say that state or local governments can't. It just says that Congress cannot declare any particular church as State Church for the entire country.
Guiding public displays of Christmas cheer are a patchwork of inconsistent, local-level policies - the perfect conditions under which litigation emerges. Successive years of legal action by civil libertarians have effectively curtailed the public promotion of all things "Christmas," giving rise to more politically correct - and judiciously safe - "Holiday" observances. In doing so, public officials and retailers alike have nurtured a well-founded hypersensitivity to the opinions of a minority group. But just when the scales of political correctness seem to be gaining balance, along comes a new backlash. This year, it's the majority group of Christmas adherents who are alleging a persecution of beliefs.
Good for them!!!!!
After nearly two decades of watching community Christmas parades slowly evolve into Holiday parades, school Christmas vacation into winter break, and town hall crèches into snowmen, Christmas observers are revolting. Among the recent reactionary signs:
  • More than 800 lawyers are enrolled for the third year of The Alliance Defense Fund's Christmas Project initiative, which supplies legal aid to towns and schools nationwide that face challenges to their traditional Christmas celebrations.
    I wish them luck.
    Last year, the initiative successfully defended Christmas displays on public property by the town of Cranston, R.I., and the school district of Bossier Parrish, La.
  • During a Nov. 9 broadcast, FOX news commentator Bill O'Reilly launched the first volley in an all-out television-based offensive against retailers which shun "Merry Christmas" for "Happy Holidays," going so far as to list specific offending merchants that should be boycotted.
    And John Gibson wrote The War On Christmas
  • After threatening a boycott of Wal-Mart stores in early November, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights successfully won concessions from the retail chain after an employee offered up his own explanation to a customer via e-mail for the store's policy of wishing customers "Happy Holidays" in lieu of "Merry Christmas." Wal-Mart stood by its all-inclusive "Happy Holidays" greeting, but did publicly apologize and promptly fired the offending employee.
    They should reverse their policy, and until they do, we should boycott Walmart
  • The Rev. Jerry Falwell and the conservative Liberty Counsel have launched a "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Armed with 750 lawyers, the group promises to "reclaim Christmas" by filing suit against anyone who, in their view, limits the public celebration of Christmas. Reverend Falwell recently publically criticized the city of Boston for a reference on its website to the annual lighting of its "Holiday Tree."
    Good for them. The Congressional "Holiday Tree" is now a "Christmas Tree" again, thanks to Speaker Hastert
  • The conservative 150,000 member American Family Association has called for a boycott of Target stores for not utilizing the specific phrase "Merry Christmas" in their holiday advertising.
    Good for them. Boycott Walmart, Target, and all other stores that do not promote Christmas.
  • A California organization called "The Committee to Save Merry Christmas" has garnered national media coverage with a grass-roots campaign to boycott Sears and Federated Department Stores Inc. for changing their advertising from "Merry Christmas" to "Season's Greetings."
The fundamental message of today's Christmas crusaders is not new; merely the societal context has changed. In the early 1950s, groups of clergy first began organizing against what they considered the disturbing commercialization and secularization of Christmas. While their efforts were largely confined to using the power of the pulpit, today's pleas are most likely to leverage the power of the judiciary and the court of public opinion.

In the end, the balance between sensitivity and celebration may always be elusive. A CNN/USA Today/Gallop poll conducted last year showed that Americans were evenly split on whether the public shift from "Christmas" to "Holidays" was a change for the better.
That must have been a very biased poll. I would like to see a real poll.
Such societal ambivalence exemplifies how the masquerading of traditionally held beliefs with insincere modern sensitivity ultimately serves no one well. When towns hold "Community Tree" lightings, do we all - majority and minority alike - not understand on a deeper level that it is really an old-fashioned "Christmas Tree" lighting redefined for the modern, politically correct era? Is it any big secret that the $435 billion dollar "Holiday shopping" bonanza currently under way is comprised primarily of "Christmas" gift buying? And when school children go on vacation for "winter break," do we not accept that it will always occur during Christmas week? By softening the "Christmas" connection simply for December etiquette, we neither fully show sensitivity toward the views of the minority nor genuinely celebrate the traditions of the majority. We are left then with a sanitized holiday season, fraught with fears of politically incorrect missteps. Then, no one has a truly happy holiday of any sort.


Google's open skies raise cries

CSM reported When the popular search engine Google debuted a free global location tool in June, Internet users were given an opportunity to view full-color satellite photos from thousands of far-flung areas - from the Rocky Mountains to the Taj Mahal. But this fall, Google Earth encountered an unexpected backlash: complaints from government officials who believe easy availability of high- resolution satellite images compromises their national security. In India, President Abdul Kalam expressed concern that terrorists could use Google Earth to plan assaults on the Indian Parliament, which shows up clearly in one of Google's aerial photos. The program disproportionately endangers "developing countries, which are already in danger of attacks," Mr. Kalam said at an October meeting of police officials in Hyderabad.

The images are for sale by several agencies. Countries worried about terrorists getting them must be concerned about terrorists with very restricted budgets, if they rely on the free Google images, rather than paying to buy images with greater resolution.
Other nations have similar concerns. Operators of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia, have argued that Google's satellite data makes their facility a sitting duck for terrorists. In South Korea, officials have expressed concern that online images of its military bases and the presidential Blue House could give rival North Korea a strategic advantage..... But official concerns about satellite images offered by Google might be better received at the United Nations. A 1986 UN resolution states broadly that data-gathering activities such as satellite photography "shall not be conducted in a manner detrimental to the legitimate rights and interests of the sensed State." As a result, UN member countries must see to it that no nation feels threatened by the content of satellite images online
Corporations are switching to Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, offending the majority religion in this country, in an effort not to offend minority religions. And now we hear that the UN may crackdown on Google Earth, to avoid offending a nation that might feel threatened by the content of satellite images online.
, says Ram Jakhu, a professor of space law at McGill University in Montreal.


Redesigned Flight 93 memorial still an Islamo-fascist shrine

Alec Rawls blogged The redesigned flight 93 memorial, announced today, still contains all of the features that made it a terrorist memorial. Architect Paul Murdoch's infamous red crescent is still there, still planted with red maple trees, still inscribed in the exact same circle as before, and with the same two crescent tips still intact. Thus the crescent bisector defined by these crescent tips is also the same as before. It still points almost exactly to Mecca, making the crescent a Mihrab (an Islamic prayer station, where the believer faces into a crescent, towards Mecca, to perform his ritual prostrations). The design still incorporates a separate upper terrorist-memorial wall, centered precisely on the red-maple crescent. There are still 44 translucent blocks on the flight path to the crash site, matching the total number of dead, instead of just the forty translucent blocks that are dedicated to the forty murdered Americans. Lastly, the Tower of Voices part of the memorial is still an Islamic prayer-time sundial.

It sounds like the designer is so wrapped up in his design that he is just making minor adjustments to try to fool the American public to accept his design.
Start with the red crescent. In the original design, the lower crescent tip was defined by the furthest extent of red maple trees on the bottom, while the upper crescent tip was defined by the end of the inner of two concrete walls, between which trees were planted. In the redesign, the lower tip remains exactly as before. So does the upper crescent tip (the end of the inner concrete wall). The change is that there are now additional trees planted beyond the end of the concrete wall that defines the upper crescent tip. These additional trees, planted along and out from the circle line, make it look like there is now a bowl instead of a crescent, but both original crescent tips are still in place. The filling in of some trees, in places that blend the original crescent into its surroundings, but do not affect its defining characteristics, is apparently the only change in the entire "redesign." All of the original features of the terrorist-memorial remain. The new graphics show that there is still the same separate upper section of memorial wall as before. Like the lower wall, it lies along the flight path to the crash site. Just as the lower wall contains 40 translucent blocks, dedicated to the forty murdered Americans, so too does the upper section of memorial wall contain translucent blocks.

There is a lot more information at his site


Western white woman a suicide bomber

Times Online reported MIREILLE, who was born in Belgium to a white, middle-class Christian family, blew herself to pieces last month in a suicide attack against American troops near Baghdad. In one of the most extraordinary tales of Islamic radicalisation, she is thought to be the first white Western woman to carry out a suicide bombing. Belgian investigators, who arrested 14 people associated with her, are keeping the 38-year-old woman’s true identity secret, but details have started to emerge. She was from the southern Belgian town of Charleroi, married to a Moroccan and converted to an extreme form of Islam.

Most suicide bombers are still middle eastern males, but more and more they are using females, and now we see that even westerners that embrace radical Islam may be used.

“This is how she came into contact with the organisation which allowed her to become a fighter for jihad,” said Glenn Audenaert, the federal police director. Her Belgian documents show that she travelled with her husband to Iraq. On November 9 she blew herself up in a car bomb attack on a US military convoy, killing — according to conflicting reports — either only herself, or six people. Her Belgian passport was near by. Her husband was killed by American troops in a separate incident.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq

White House reports Speaking before United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq..... Not all Sunnis fall into the rejectionist camp. Of those that do, most are not actively fighting us -- but some give aid and comfort to the enemy. Many Sunnis boycotted the January elections -- yet as democracy takes hold in Iraq, they are recognizing that opting out of the democratic process has hurt their interests. And today, those who advocate violent opposition are being increasingly isolated by Sunnis who choose peaceful participation in the democratic process. Sunnis voted in the recent constitutional referendum in large numbers -- and Sunni coalitions have formed to compete in next month's elections -- or, this month's elections. We believe that, over time, most rejectionists will be persuaded to support a democratic Iraq led by a federal government that is a strong enough government to protect minority rights. The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. They lack popular support and therefore cannot stop Iraq's democratic progress. And over time, they can be marginalized and defeated by the Iraqi people and the security forces of a free Iraq. The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda . Many are foreigners who are coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. This group includes terrorists from Saudi Arabia, and Syria, and Iran, and Egypt, and Sudan, and Yemen, and Libya, and other countries. Our commanders believe they're responsible for most of the suicide bombings, and the beheadings, and the other atrocities we see on our television.

The Dems complain there is nothing new here, but they would not have been satisfied with anything other than an immediate pullout, and I think he makes a number of very good points


Primary poised to jump to front of line

Union Leader reported New Hampshire’s top election official says he will schedule the 2008 first-in-the-nation primary ahead of any new caucuses or primaries that will dilute its traditional key role in picking Presidential nominees. A national Democratic commission appears poised to recommend at a meeting next week that at least two caucuses be placed between Iowa’s leadoff caucus and New Hampshire’s primary eight days later. If the Democratic National Committee ultimately adopts such a plan, Secretary of State William Gardner said he is authorized by New Hampshire law to jump the primary ahead of the newly placed events. “The intent of our law is to preserve our tradition,” Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The intent is to preserve what we have had, and nothing less.”

Iowa and New Hampshire want to preserve their ability to be the first in the nation, despite the fact that neither is representative of the country as a whole. They should rotate and let different states be first each election.


Pirro Is Advised Not to Oppose Mrs. Clinton

NYT reported Jeanine F. Pirro's bid to unseat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton suffered an embarrassing setback on Tuesday when the State Legislature's most powerful Republican said she should call the whole thing off and run for state attorney general instead.

But if she does that, who is going to bloody Hillary up> A woman can do a lot that a man could not to bloddy her up in 2006, and thereby hurt her chances in 2008.
The remarks by the official, Joseph L. Bruno, the majority leader of the State Senate, forced out into the open simmering concerns about Ms. Pirro's candidacy, which has been beset by gaffes and fund-raising difficulties. And it heightened the sense that the state Republican Party is nervous about its future and riven by squabbles as its de facto leader, Gov. George E. Pataki, prepares to step down at the end of next year. Mr. Bruno said that Ms. Pirro, who was elected Westchester district attorney three times, would be a better fit as a candidate for attorney general. "I have said from the beginning, and I know a lot of my colleagues, and people within the party, share the thought, that she would make a great attorney general," he said. "By background, by her experience, by her prosecutorial record. And I hope that before this procedure gets too much further, that Jeanine Pirro would reconsider and run for A.G."


Run Stories in Iraqi Press

Los Angeles Times reports As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Good for them. At least the Iraqis are going to read about the good job we are doing.
The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country. Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments,
Don't worry. The American MSM only prints information that might reflect poorly on the US or Iraqi government. I wish they would print the good stuff, whether paid by the military or not.
officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.


Microsoft tests classifieds service

CNET News reported Microsoft is developing a free online service that will let people list items for sale, events and other classifieds-type of information that can be shared either with groups of friends or anyone over the Internet, the company said Tuesday. The service, code-named Fremont, has been in internal testing at Microsoft for about a week and a half, Garry Wiseman, MSN product unit manager, told CNET in an interview. He said he could not say when it would be available publicly. "Basically, it will be a free listing service, with a bunch of twists to make it very unique, such as integration with social networks, in particular integration with MSN Messenger," he said.

Sounds like Microsoft is going after Craigslist


RSS is Now Integrated into Yahoo Mail and Alerts

TechCrunch reported Yahoo gathered a small group of bloggers, press and others at Sauce in San Francisco tonight to announce the launch of two new RSS products. They have integrated an RSS reader directly into Yahoo Mail Beta, and are expanding Alerts to include RSS feeds. These are significant new products, aimed squarely at new and mainstream RSS users..... Directly below the email folders are “RSS folders”. Clicking on the top folder show all posts in a “river of news” format, meaning all posts for all subscribed feeds are listed in the order they have appeared in feeds. Each feed also has its own folder, allowing the user to read feeds individually (more like bloglines). A post from any feed is treated exactly like an email - any post can be forwarded as an email or dragged into a folder and saved. All of the great AJAX functionality already working in Yahoo’s Mail beta works with the new RSS functionality as well. Adding feeds is straightforward - include the feed URL or choose from a number of popular feeds.

This looks interesting. I believe that RSS will be more and more important in the future (especially if Microsoft's add-ins dont screw it up.


Unwiring the Ambulance

WiFiPlanet reports Next time the paramedic comes rushing in, don't be surprised to see a medical bag under one arm and a laptop under the other. Driven by the need for speed coupled with new regulatory pressure, ambulance-based Wi-Fi could be a thing of the not-too-distant future.

A palm unit would probably be more efficient.
Ambulance service provider American Medical Response (AMR) recently unveiled a technologically advanced vehicle that includes, among other features, an In Motion Technology system that pairs a cellular Internet backhaul connection with the Wi-Fi-driven ability to take information beyond the vehicle.

With their PDAs and laptops hooked up to home base via Wi-Fi, paramedics "can take those devices and go outside of the vehicle," says In Motion CTO Larry LeBlanc. "When they arrive on the site, they can take a laptop to the patient and fill in the care information that they are giving."
This sounds more efficient to me, especially if the ER is prepared to receive the electronic information. I doubt that many others would want it, but I would also like them to write it to a floppy and give it to me when they leave me in the E.R.
The alternative? Paper records, sometimes handwritten, that often must be transcribed either back in the ambulance or at the hospital. This has raised issues both in terms of efficiency and regulatory compliance, under government rulings such as HIPAA that set strict rules on the timeliness, accuracy and privacy of medical records.

Patient information must be readily available for audit, and the Wi-Fi connection can help make that happen, LeBlanc says. "Being able to collect that info in digital format from the start makes the process that much more efficient." The Wi-Fi-to-gateway solution also helps resolve security concerns that are pervasive in the medical community these days.

"Certainly, people are aware of the issue, and one of the things they like about this solution is that our mobile gateway is also an application server with an embedded hard drive," LeBlanc explains. "That means that instead of storing those data on a laptop that can be lost or stolen, the data can instantly be transferred to the gateway, which remains inside the vehicle, literally bolted down. It's a much more secure solution than just having all those records on portable devices."

While the idea of more and faster information is generally an attractive one, analysts note that a lot of the business rationale here seems to come from the back-end. That is, the Wi-Fi solution helps with efficiency and with compliance, but does it help the first responders?

"How much additional workload is it for the people working in these services? Is this simplifying their lives, or it is just another thing for them to do while they ought to be doing other things?" asks Eddie Hold, Vice President and Research Director of Wireless Service at the research firm Current Analysis.
I would think it would be easier to key the info in rather than trying to write in a moving ambulance.
If anything, LeBlanc says, Wi-Fi will make emergency personnel more productive, enhancing their ability to record information without pulling them away from other duties.

At the same time, the cellular gateway will be driving greater operational efficiency on the front end. Ambulance operators "want to give their drivers more accurate information, to give them routing capabilities in their vehicles," LeBlanc says. In the latest AMR vehicle, the dispatcher in the central office can push a button and give all the information about where to pick up a patient


Curb Terror Funds

NYT reported The government's efforts to help foreign nations cut off the supply of money to terrorists, a critical goal for the Bush administration, have been stymied by infighting among American agencies, leadership problems and insufficient financing, a new Congressional report says. More than four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, "the U.S. government lacks an integrated strategy" to train foreign countries and provide them with technical assistance to shore up their financial and law enforcement systems against terrorist financing, according to the report prepared by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

So the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch disagree; and is this something new?
The findings expand on earlier concerns raised by that agency and others in the past few years about the government's ability to cut off money to terrorists. The report is to be released Wednesday, and an advance copy was provided to The New York Times.
Another leaked report; empanel a grand jury, and imprison the reporter if he does not tell who leaked the report.
The findings produced sharp dissent from American government officials, who said Congressional auditors overstated the bureaucratic problems in curbing terrorist financing overseas and the level of dissension between agencies. They described the intergovernmental effort to cut off the flow of terrorist money as one of the hallmarks of the Bush administration's campaign to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"No interagency process is without flaws," the State Department said in its official response. But it said "there is much evidence" that the working group set up by the administration to combat terrorist financing "is one of the most successful examples of interagency cooperation." The government has identified 26 "priority" countries that it considered particularly vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist financiers, who may take advantage of lax financial controls and loosely regulated or nonexistent laws to launder money in support of terrorist attacks, officials said.

But officials at the State and Treasury Departments cannot even agree on who is supposed to be in charge of the effort to shore up defenses in vulnerable countries, the accountability office report concluded.
The Treasury Department should prevail. There are too many bureaucrats in the State Department that are too close to the countries they work with, and that work contrary to the interests of the US.
In at least one case, the State Department refused to allow a Treasury official to enter an unidentified foreign country last year to help with strategies to fight terrorist financing because of turf battles, investigators found. Because the country had recently been upgraded to a priority, State Department officials wanted to do their own assessment first before allowing the Treasury Department to conduct its work,
Helping the country cover things up
causing a delay of several months.