Friday, March 31, 2006

Feingold's Desire for Censure

Today's Senate Judiciary committee meeting was a farce. Political beyond belief.

The most relevant point I can't seem to find a quote for. There is no Constitutional allowance for Censuring the president. You only can impeach. The Senate can put forward a resolution stating they disagree with the president's position, but censure has no basis in the way the US government was created.

There also is the point that you can't Censure or Impeach on a topic where there is legal disagreement on what the legality is. Censure or Impeachment are related to known and understood illegal actions. Seems that the present debate pretty clearly shows that neither side has any standing judicial precedence on the topic.

Then there is John Dean. Not even sure why he's considered relevant. Well, he wrote a book that supports Feingold's contentions. Then there is his contention:
"I appear today because I believe, with good reason, that the situation is even more serious," Dean, whose testimony three decades ago help lead to Nixon's resignation in 1974, said in support of the seldom-used measure to discredit a president.

Dean is also the author of a book titled "Worse than Watergate," which slams the Bush administration as obsessed with politics and secrecy.

Wonder where he got his information? Or is he just shooting into the air to push his book? I don't see that this was anything more than political posturing and Feingold is getting all the free publicity and a big in with the fever swamp left.

Brady Bunch State Ranking

The reports are for 2005

NH got a D-. (Bah!)
MA got an A-. (Losers)
VT got an D-.
NY got an B+.
CA got an A-.(Losers)
AK got an F+. Good for them!
MT got an F. Even Better!

I was hoping for a better, read lower, grade.

Some Wisdom On Immigration From A Republican President

Great, great quote from Theodore Roosevelt.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people." --Theodore Roosevelt 1907

Love this Teddy. (Hate the current Teddy. Teddy the Tick, as we call him in our house.)

Stockholm Syndrome?

"Interview" of Jill Carroll. You decide.

A video posted on the internet, which could not be independently verified, showed Ms Carroll in an interview apparently conducted by her captors before they released her.

"Did you think the American army or the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) would save you at any time," a muffled male voice asked Ms Carroll in accented English.

"Sometimes I thought maybe that they might come, they might find me, they might find a way to know where I am and come get me," she answered.

"Why did not they save you?" asked the interviewer.

"I think the mujahedeen are very smart and even with all the technology and all the people that the American army has here, they still are better at knowing how to live and work here, more clever," she said

"Does this mean something to you?" the man questioning her asked.

"It makes very clear that the mujahedeen are the ones that will win in the end," Ms Carroll said in the video.

At the end of the eight-and-a-half minute tape, the same man read out a statement in Arabic.

"The mujahedeen in the land of the two rivers announce the liberation of the journalist Jill Carroll... after the US forces and the CIA failed to find her making their ineptitude obvious to the whole world," he said.

"We liberate this journalist today after the American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women prisoners."
Not that I'd give Ms. Carroll any credit as a reliable analyst of the Iraqi situation, but this does sniff a bit of Stokholm Syndrome. I've never much believed in SS, but sometimes I wonder. Especially if the person may have been predisposed to supporting their captors in the first place.

Though seeing that the "interview" was probably by her captors, I should give her the benefit of the doubt that her remarks were merely for self-preservation.

I found the link in an entry at the Belmont Club. Read their article on a broader perspective of the situation overall.

Radioactive Smuggling

Terence Jeffery column discussing the GAO report on the Border Security failures with Radioactive materials. I'm disturbed that they found it so easy to dupe the Border Guards.
"They are really not weapons of mass destruction, they are weapons of mass disruption," Gregory Kutz, managing director of special investigations for the Government Accountability Office told me. "They wouldn't necessarily have enough radiation to kill anyone, but they could require the shutdown of potentially large parts of the city."

Kutz was describing the sort of device terrorists could construct if they got their hands on the same type and volume of radioactive material that two sets of GAO agents working at Kutz's direction smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders in a covert test conducted on Dec. 14.

The two groups, Kutz told a Senate subcommittee in written testimony this week, each smuggled what the National Institutes of Standards and Technology determined was enough radioactive material to construct one "dirty bomb" apiece.

I suppose this is upsetting to lots of people. Though the Jeffery's source, Kurtz, seems put off that someone in Washinton D.C. could purchase a small radioactive source.
To demonstrate how easily terrorists could purchase the material to make these bombs, Kutz's investigators created a fictitious company based in Washington, D.C. The company ordered a portion -- but not all -- of the radioactive material needed for a bomb from a U.S. supplier over the telephone. They told the supplier they wanted the material to test personal-radiation-detection pagers (like those used by the U.S. Border Patrol). The supplier dropped the radioactive material in the mail.

"We did it just once to show that we could do it," Kutz told me. "We could have done it multiple times."

I asked Kutz: Where exactly in our capital city was the radioactive material mailed? "I can't tell you," he said. "I can just tell you that it was an address in Washington, D.C."

I've made a small effort to find the amount of CS-137 that doesn't require a license, but I'm certain from previous experience that the amount is quite small. But, with the knowledge and understanding of radioactive material in this country, I'm certain that the public will flip out even if the amount is negligible. Imagine if they had access to really powerful sources.

The border security issue is disturbing in that the guards couldn't verify the documents that they were shown were real. Worse, instead of stopping and waiting for the verification they just let them move on. In this scenario, the system should have failed shut, not open.
The monitors worked, and the CBP personnel did their jobs by the book. But then they fell for the ruse: The GAO agents produced counterfeit NRC documents indicating they were authorized to bring the material across the border. The customs agents did not have the means to check the authenticity of the documents.
There also is a touch of curiosity, on my part, to know if the border security guards let the material pass due to uneasiness with the fact that the material was radioactive. With this age of information, you'd think that the Government could have a database of such things that is open for security use. They don't, but what do you expect for a $9,000,000,000 budget?

The Dirty Bomb issue isn't really helping either. As soon as you say bomb, people freak. If I were a terrorist, I wouldn't use a bomb at all. Though I won't go into details of how I would do it. I'm not certain I want to attract that type of attention. Think about subtle ways of attacking and how to push mass hysteria and you can probably come up with some sick ideas of your own.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lobby Reform: Earmarks Change

Now this is a little bit (very little) surprising. I would have thought that the lobby reform bill would have ended up as mostly window dressing. The Earmarks reform is at least a little closer to real reform though they don't seem to have gotten quite far enough.
The bill, which passed 90 to 8, aims to eliminate some of the more high-profile connections between lobbyists and lawmakers. It would end the common practice of lobbyists buying meals for senators or providing gifts — such as tickets to sporting events — that many lawmakers said fed the public perception that Congress was swayed by these favors.
The measure also would for the first time enable senators to challenge funding of some special projects often tucked into bills at the behest of lobbyists. Still, many of these so-called earmarks that are attached each year to spending bills would remain exempt from challenge.
A touch of reform is better than nothing I suppose. It does still show that the legislature isn't honestly interested in reform.

Democrat's 'Real Security'

I went to the BoGlobe for the article, and even they don't come across as enthusiastic. I've read their 'Real Security' piece and it's pretty much what is being done at present. The details otherwise are really thin to the point of being non-existent.
In the strategy, Democrats vowed to provide US agents with the resources to ''eliminate" Osama bin Laden and ensure a ''responsible redeployment of US forces" from Iraq this year. They promised to rebuild the military, eliminate dependence on foreign oil, and implement the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. Those are many of the same proposals Democrats have offered before.
I suppose there is no real reason to listen to a party-line. When it comes down to votes in the end, I really prefer to hear what the candidate has to say. The party-line is just vaguery.

Well at least they finally have some semblance of a plan. It will be interesting to see what they actually propose for implementation.

Iran: 30 Days

Toothless resolutions and time tables. Nice combination.
The Security Council called on Iran on Wednesday to suspend its uranium enrichment program within 30 days, ending three weeks of deadlock between Western powers and Russia and China over how to pressure Tehran to prove its nuclear efforts are not aimed at making weapons.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a nonbinding statement on Iran after the United States and five other key countries finished difficult negotiations on its wording.

The statement does not commit the United Nations to action against Iran and was written to avoid language that might clearly set the stage for sanctions or subsequent military moves -– the sort of direct pressure that Russia and China have declined to support.

I suppose Russia and China will support some full-scale pouting if Iran doesn't comply. The EU worked diplomatically for two years and came up short. The IAEA says Iran is non-compliant with the NPT. What does it take for the UN to actually take action that is at least modestly aggressive?

Body Armor: Marines Don't Wear It

I was wondering when we'd start hearing about this.
Extra body armor -— the lack of which caused a political storm in the United States -— has flooded in to Iraq, but many Marines here promptly stuck it in lockers or under bunks. Too heavy and cumbersome, many say.

Marines already carry loads as heavy as 70 pounds when they patrol the dangerous streets in towns and villages in restive Anbar province. The new armor plates, while only about 5 pounds per set, are not worth carrying for the additional safety they are said to provide, some say.

"We have to climb over walls and go through windows," said Sgt. Justin Shank of Greencastle, Pa. "I understand the more armor, the safer you are. But it makes you slower. People don't understand that this is combat and people are going to die."

Staff Sgt. Thomas Bain of Buffalo, N.Y., shared concerns about the extra pounds.

"Before you know it, they're going to get us injured because we're hauling too much weight and don't have enough mobility to maneuver in a fight from house to house," said Bain, who is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. "I think we're starting to go overboard on the armor."

I'm not sure why the military hasn't done something to lighten the battle kit. Maybe it's just to the point that they can't. I'm skeptical though. If the rest of the kit was lighter the armor may get more use. Speed really is important. A moving object is more difficult to hit, but a slow moving object is easier to hit than a fast moving object.

The maker of the body armor is under investigation as well.
Congressional investigators have launched a review of the Defense Department's body armor program, including the "Interceptor" vests produced by Brooks' company. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Laura Kopelson, said government investigators -- spurred by congressional concerns that the vests may be inadequate to protect troops -- are expected to launch a full review of the body armor program by July.

In addition, lawsuits by angry investors filed recently in U.S. District Court in Central Islip allege Brooks and other top company officials broke federal securities laws with a "pump and dump" scheme designed to earn the officials large sums from stock sales while they issued "false and misleading" statements about problems surrounding the company's body armor. During one high-water mark for the stock in late 2004, Brooks, the company's chairman, sold off $185 million worth of his holdings; other executives also made millions.
Nice to have a sole-source of armor and then have questions on the quality or adequacy.

Must be a difficult command decision on requiring personnel to wear it. Especially when the commanders aren't likely to be putting it on and field testing it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


In a word... No. These are not immimgrants. I went and looked it up: A person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another. The people who did this are not leaving Mexico to settle permanently in the United States. No. These people are trying to turn the United States into Mexico. I have a problem with that. Let's saunter over to the Yahoo News for Mexico. At the time I went there, there were five stories under the News Section. First up, they're going to start to extradite drug traffickers to the US. Key word, start. Immigration, so called, is the next story. Then a story where the violence in a town is so bad the police chief quit. Next up a story about Vincente Fox saying what a great job he's doing. Then a story about how they're unable to stop drug violence, not in neighborhoods, but across their entire border as the dealers kill the police and military. Oh yes, please, let's make America just like Mexico. Two out of five stories are about completely out of control violence. The first five stories in the US section were about prosecuting Moussaoui an attempted killer, Katrina evacuees, prosecuting someone that attempted to kill President Bush, a prosecution in a case in New Orleans regarding a beating and a story about the walkouts in LA. In other words, three out of five stories about violence contained. Which country is better? I know the answer to that one. You do too.

All Politicians Stink...

...but currently, the Dems seem to stink a little more. This piece reminds us that, no matter how ugly the spending habits of the GOP have been these past 5 year, putting the Dems in charge is unlikely to change things for the better. No matter what they promise.

Mr. Corzine won the Trenton statehouse last year by running as a tax cutter who'd raise property tax rebates by 40% over four years. "I'm not considering raising taxes. It's not on my agenda. We have a very high-rate tax structure. I'm not considering it," the then-U.S. Senator had vowed in October.

Well, last week Governor Corzine removed the Steve Forbes mask and submitted a record $30.9 billion budget that increases state spending by 9% and includes $1.5 billion in new levies. He wants to raise the already high state sales tax by 16% and extend it to services; hike taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and expensive cars; and create a new state water tax. And just so Garden State entrepreneurs don't feel left out, his budget would impose a corporate tax surcharge and a commercial property transfer tax. "There are no immediate plans," joked one local paper, "to tax the air we breathe--not this year, at least."

When we fled NJ in 1998, we paid $3600 a year in property taxes on a condo assessed at $107,000. And taxes have gone up substantially from there. Jaw-dropping.

File Erasure Liability

Here's one that has a certain logic, but a very long stretch to find reality.
Disgruntled employees beware. Erasing files on your company laptop as you leave the firm could trigger expensive civil liability under a federal anti-hacker law, according to a recent 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Since 1984, Congress has expanded the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- which was originally intended to punish hackers who break into computer networks or send computer viruses -- giving employers new civil remedies.

Now, in one of a very few appellate interpretations of the anti-hacking law, a 7th Circuit opinion by Judge Richard Posner on March 8 adopts an expansive view of the law holding that permanently erasing files from an individual laptop computer could trigger federal liability. International Airports Centers v. Citrin, No. 05-1522.

"One interesting question is: Has the ruling really opened the door to federal courts for more employment disputes?" asked Ronald Marmer of Jenner & Block in Chicago who represents employee Jacob Citrin.

"What this means is anybody who destroys an employer's computer, even by new technology, exposes themselves now to this statute," said attorney Don H. Reuben of Chicago's Kane, Carbonara & Mendoza for International Airport Centers, a provider of warehouse space.

Even more reason not to use the company computer for anything but company business.

The problem with this comes down to what happens when someone deletes a file, empties the "trash-can" and the file is over-written. Does this meet the criteria? If it did, would that then mean that you can't even delete a file?

I prefer to use something like SuperShredder or UltraWipe ( doesn't seem to exist any more, so I don't know who really owns this any longer.) on a regular basis. Probably wouldn't help a lot, but at least it shows that I wouldn't be doing anything out of the ordinary.

(h/t How Appealing)

Iran Resolution at the UNSC

I've heard of 'carrot and stick' persuasion, but this strikes me as more of the "no action or fluffy pillow" inducements.
The five U.N. Security Council powers are close to a deal on Iran's suspect nuclear program and hope for approval of a new draft statement when the full council meets on Wednesday, diplomats said.

Britain and France, backed by the United States, distributed a revised text late on Tuesday to all 15 Security Council members that makes concessions to Russia and China. But it still calls on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts, which the West believes are a cover for bomb making.

But not all issues have been settled and a presidential statement, compared to a resolution, needs the approval of all 15 nations with seats on the council.

Negotiations have stretched over three weeks on the statement, which is nonbinding and threatens no punitive measures. But Russia, backed by China, fear Security Council involvement will lay the groundwork for tougher action, such as sanctions, which they have vowed to oppose.

Does anyone with two brain cells to rub together think that Iran is going to be moved by a resolution that has no possibility of punitive measures? Quite frankly, I don't see any logic in what China and Japan are likely to agree too. What action will be taken? A couple kind words and someone shaking their head?
One change in the text is a watering down of a phrase calling Iran's actions a possible "threat to international peace and security," a term that Beijing and Moscow said established an escalation of council involvement.

The new version notes the council's "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security" as defined in the U.N. Charter.

But this language has still not been approved by Russia, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of secret negotiations, and is considered the main obstacle.

Well, maybe I overestimated them. Looks like the person shaking their head won't be allowed.

Now I'm starting to think that there should have been a lot more money put into the missile defense technology.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

VDH List of Books on 20th Century Battles

I have only one of them.

1. "The Price of Glory" by Alistair Horne (St. Martin's, 1963).
2. "With the Old Breed" by E.B. Sledge (Presidio, 1981).
3. "The Face of Battle" by John Keegan (Viking, 1976).
4. "Stalingrad" by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 1998).
5. "The Fall of Fortresses" by Elmer Bendiner (Putnam, 1980).
He's got descriptions along with the list. I have #3.

More on the "to read" list.

Over Estimating Their Own Importance

I've listened to this a couple of times, and I have a hard time holding my lunch every time.
"I think Hillary Clinton is fantastic. But I think it is too soon for her to run. This may sound odd, but a woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. Hillary still has sexual power, and I don't think people will accept that. It's too threatening," Stone says in the new issue of Hollywood Life magazine.
Liz dishes on what Madonna said to Out magazine, a snippet that did not make it to the final print cut of the current cover story:

"Hillary should go for it. I don't think now is necessarily her time, or the Democrats' time, but she should certainly go for it. You've got to start somewhere, in terms of a woman leading the U.S. In Europe and Asia and elsewhere, women have ruled over millions, it's not an abstract concept. But in America, men are still afraid. And I don't think women are too comfortable with the idea of a female in charge. I find that really amazing."

Threatening? Afraid? Not bloody likely. What I'm afraid of is the fact that Hillary's stand on topics change with every shift in the polls. She's "always been a Yankees fan." The extreme shifts that she makes to appear a moderate held in contrast with what she publicly states to her far left constituents are enough to make any moderate, not to mention conservative, nervous.

But then, who really gives a #$%@ what a pair of especially liberal Californian pop-cultural types really think?

French Students are Revolting

I had to say it. They are actually protesting. Maybe they should do something about finding a job rather than protesting against reasonable labor laws.
Students and union members joined together on Tuesday in nationwide strikes that disrupted airline, train and bus services and sent thousands of demonstrators into cities across France.

They were protesting a labor law set to take effect next month that would allow companies to fire employees under 26 without reason within the first two years on the job. Opponents of the measure say the new law will destroy France’s longstanding workplace protections and cause havoc with the nation's culture and lifestyle.

Where do we expect this to all lead?

I'm betting on the Gallic economic death spiral.

Age of Profanity?

Heh. This one is too easy to make a snarky remark about.
You probably hear these words often, and more than ever before. But even though we can't print them -– we do have our standards -– we can certainly ask: Are we living in an Age of Profanity? Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week -– 74 percent -– said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word -– ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).
I don't hear that much profanity in public. But, then I don't spend a lot of time in public.

Kadima Wins?

I suppose they got the most votes of any party. (At least as of the present reports.) They don't have enough of a majority to form the government though.
Enshrining Ariel Sharon's legacy, Israeli voters today gave the largest number of parliamentary seats to the centrist party the stricken prime minister founded last year, setting Israel on a course toward relinquishing dozens of settlements in the West Bank. The Kadima Party, led by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since Sharon's debilitating stroke 2½ months ago, won between 29 and 32 seats in the 120-member Knesset, or parliament, according to exit polls -— fewer than forecast, but still placing it solidly in first place.
It will be interesting to see the make up of the new government. Hopefully they'll be able to continue the motion that Sharon started. With Hamas in majority in Palestine, I think the Sharon policy is the only one that appears to have any legitimacy.

SCOTUS on Hamdan

Looks like the Supremes aren't enthralled with the Military Commissions.

With Justice Antonin Scalia taking part -- and, in fact, providing the only clearcut signs of unstinting support for the federal government's arguments -- the Supreme Court on Tuesday probed deeply into the validity of the war crimes tribunals set up by President Bush, and came away looking decidedly skeptical. From all appearances during the 90-minute argument, the Court may have some difficulty fashioning an opinion, but perhaps not a result: the existing "military commission" scheme may well fail.
Looks like we'll have to see what other commentary shows on topic.

MSM and Iraqi Mosque Incident

They aren't quite to the point of yelping 'civil war.'
Shi'ite politicians raged at the United States and halted negotiations on a new government yesterday after a military assault killed at least 16 people in what Iraqis say was a mosque. Fresh violence erupted in the north, with 40 killed in a suicide bombing.

The firestorm of recrimination over Sunday's raid in northeast Baghdad will probably make it harder for Shi'ite politicians to keep a lid on their more angry followers as sectarian violence boils over, with at least 151 dead over the two-day period. A unity government involving Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds is a benchmark for American hopes of starting to withdraw troops this summer.
The BoGlobe is rather restrained.

The Old Grey Mare came out with this:
Frayed relations between Iraq's Shiite leadership and the American authorities came under increased strain on Monday as Shiite leaders angrily denounced a joint American-Iraqi raid on a Shiite compound and suspended negotiations over a new government.

The raid on Sunday evening, which killed at least 16 people, also prompted the governor of Baghdad to announce a halt in cooperation with the American authorities, and Shiite militiamen to brandish their weapons in the streets of eastern Baghdad and declare their readiness to retaliate against American troops.

The suspension of the difficult talks over the formation of a full four-year government prolonged a power vacuum that American and Iraqi officials said had created a fertile environment for a recent surge in lawlessness and sectarian violence.

They don't get to the particulars of the raid or statements from the US military until the bottom of the page. Mostly they report on the friction in the formation of the government and how this raid has screwed that up.

Well, nothing like sensationalism and poor reporting to ensure the American public thinks this is more blundering by the administration.

Just for a balance, here's an article by Frederick Kagan on how this isn't a civil war.

Immigration Protests and Legislation

After the protests this weekend, I have to say I have had a visceral reaction similar to what Thomas describes in his column.
Observing the pro-immigration demonstrations in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta and elsewhere in recent days, I wondered: whose country is this? Why are many illegal aliens who broke our laws to get here and who continue to break our laws to stay here, demanding that the United States not only allow them to remain, but support them with the taxes of law-abiding citizens? Have we gone mad?

"Thousands Rally For Immigrants' Rights" read a headline about the Phoenix march. What rights? If they are here illegally, they have the right to leave. They have no rights under our Constitution, anymore than I might expect the rights of a Mexican citizen should I choose to live illegally in Mexico. Marchers in Los Angeles carried Mexican flags, which should tell us about their primary allegiance.

There were work stoppages and school walkouts. Every person who left school or job should be required to prove they are in America legally. If they cannot, or will not, they should be deemed illegals and deported.

Nothing puts off the citizenry of a country like thousands of illegal immigrants waving Mexican flags, demonstrating against proposed legislation of the country they want to be in, but don't care to come in legally. My first reaction was, "don't like it, go the #$%& home."

Admittedly this country has large sectors that need the labor provided by these immigrants, but that employment could easily be filled with people who follow the laws. I understand the resistance of many conservatives on the issue of blanket amnesty. This was done before with nothing in place to quell the illegal migrations and has lead us to an even larger illegal immigrant population. The problem is that the economy needs those jobs filled, and just slamming the door doesn't provide a reasonable resolution. And having no process to stop illegal immigration is doing nothing to stem the flow of illegals.

Bill Frist's bill isn't the best, but it at least is trying to move in the direction of answering the issues. That is if he puts the whole thing forward. That sounds like it's not happening.
Frist’s bill requires company computer checks of employees’ legal status to winnow out the estimated 11 million illegals believed to be in the US. The computer checks would be phased in over a five-year period to progressively smaller companies. At the same time, opportunities to obtain permanent residency ‘green cards’ are sharply expanded. There would be an allocation for 100,000 H-1B "“guest workers"—far lower than the 400,000-500,000 proposed by Senator John McCain, R-AZ, or Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA. While Frist does not offer blanket amnesty, there would be a much greater opportunity for many who are now here illegally to obtain permanent residency by going through the visa application process.
The threat of a filibuster by Reid isn't helping any, but then Frist's attempt to bypass the Judiciary committee's bill isn't exactly politic.

Blanket amnesty won't do. That was tried before, and there were no protections added to quell the influx of illegals. This is setting up to have the same result. The McCain-Kennedy bill is another attempt at blanket amnesty with no real protections attached.
In other words, the Senate thinks as follows: In order to have fewer immigrants, we must admit more of them. In order to halt illegal immigration, we must legalize it. And in order to enforce the law, we must reward those who have broken it.

Until very recently the advocates of this upside-down logic -- Senators Kennedy and McCain, President Bush, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, various pro-immigration "experts," and almost all the nation's editorial writers -- maintained that immigration of all kinds, illegal and legal, was not a problem at all. It was a benefit from which all Americans and the U.S. economy gained enormously.
The frustrating part of this comes with the acknowledgement that the solution must address all parts of the problem. Some senators want blanket amnesty, which is just re-legislating a previous mistake. Some want merely some form of border protections, but fail to address the illegals already here. Then there are those that want to throw them all out, which denies that there is a need for the low wage labor that is provided.

First there needs to be a clearly defined guest worker program that addresses the labor pool needed. There should be employer requirements that the workers have the needed documentation to work in this country. Hell, I'm a citizen and I had to provide two forms of legal US identification to get a job in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. You'd think that this is something difficult for employers to enact.

Next there has to be some path to legality for those already here. This must allow the culling out of those undesirables who are more of a threat than a benefit to this country. Criminals should be purged with no say. And this has to come with some teeth to it. If the illegal doesn't come part of the program, then they should be a felon and deported.

Lastly there needs to be an escalation of border security. The present methodology is an obvious joke that isn't likely to get any better without reform and reinforcement.

There are likely more changes needed, but these are the most obvious and discussed in the MSM at the moment, so I'll leave it at that.

Krauthammer on Fukuyama

Another voice is heard on Fukuyama's change of heart. I quoted Niall Ferguson in relation to Fukuyama's book on Sunday. Krauthammer is a bit miffed, mainly due to Fukuyama taking him to task in his book related to statements that Krauthammer never actually made.
I happen to know something about this story, as I was the speaker whose 2004 Irving Kristol lecture to the American Enterprise Institute Fukuyama has now brought to prominence. I can therefore testify that Fukuyama's claim that I attributed "virtually unqualified success'' to the war is a fabrication.

A convenient fabrication -- it gives him a foil and the story drama -- but a foolish one because it can be checked. The speech was given at the Washington Hilton before a full house, carried live on C-SPAN and then published by the American Enterprise Institute under its title "Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World.'' (It can be read here)

Go read this piece and then go to the link that Krauthammer provides to his lecture transcript. That is an informative look at the various foreign policy methods that have been used in the US.

Monday, March 27, 2006

SCOTUS on War Crimes Commissions

The arguments are coming this week on the Military Commissions for the "enemy combatants" taken in the war on terror. Not unexpectedly, there is a lot of controversy popping up. The simple facts are:
Lawyers representing Hamdan, one of nine men at Guantanamo charged with war crimes, will argue President Bush lacked authority to create the commission two years ago, and that its design violates the rights of war prisoners under the 1949 Geneva Convention. The administration will argue that since al Qaeda is not a traditional army, men such as Hamdan who are associated with it are not POWs, but "enemy combatants," and thus not protected by the Geneva Conventions. It also will argue that Mr. Bush, as commander in chief, has constitutional authority to create such commissions -- an authority bolstered by Congress' passage of the broad Authorization for Use of Military Force shortly after September 11. Scott Sillman, a professor at Duke University Law School, contends that "many of the cases which the administration is using to justify its policies regarding the detention and trial of enemy combatants in the war on terrorism were decided after World War II, which was a decidedly different context." "Hamdan gives the court the opportunity to define this war on terrorism, to give us a more current view of the constitutional authority of the president in this new type of war and the tools available to him in fighting it," Mr. Sillman said.
I'm still not sure I see how the context of the WWII period is relevant to the use of these commissions. Is the "current view" really any different than that is WWII? Or is this author trying to push that more recent changes in the Geneva Conventions are more relevant, even if the US is not a signatory to those changes?

Controversy isn't helping. Scalia seems to have taken to talking on the case. SCOTUSblog has a discussion of the issue and whether Scalia should recuse himself.
Just over two weeks ago, on March 8th, Justice Scalia gave a speech at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, the school at which he spent hus Junior Year abroad in the mid-1950's. Apparently he permitted it to be filmed, because the video of the speech, a follow-up Q&A, and a short interview, can be viewed here. Justice Scalia is characteristically combative and provocative. For instance, in response to a question about Bush v. Gore, he responds: "Come on, get over it." He states that the real question in the case was whether the election was to be decided by the Florida Supreme Court or by the U.S. Supreme Court -- "not a very hard question," in his view -- and "there was no way we could have turned that case down." He then states that the Florida Supreme Court -- but not the U.S. Supreme Court -- was "politically motivated." And in response to a question about affording constitutional rights to Guantanamo detainees, he states unequivocally that "foreigners, in foreign countries, have no rights under the American Constitution" and that "nobody has ever thought otherwise." But see Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 483 n.15 (2004).

Of potential relevance to the current docket, in answer to one question from the audience (just after the 56:00 mark), Justice Scalia expresses incredulity at the notion that detainees captured "on the battlefield" should receive a trial in civil courts. It is, he says, a "crazy idea." To a follow-up question about the Geneva Conventions and other human rights treaties, he responds with evident disdain: "What do they mean? They mean almost anything." The questioner then refers again to a hypothetical Guantanamo detainee, at which point Justice Scalia interjects: "If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son. And I am not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy." (I believe that Scalia's son Matthew served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.)

I suppose Ed Whelan at NRO's bench memos makes a good case against recusal.
Many folks were surprised that Scalia believed himself obligated to recuse in Newdow. The mere fact that a justice has made public comments that would or might have some bearing on a case that comes before the Court has never been regarded as requiring recusal. What distinguished Scalia's comments regarding the Pledge of Allegiance -— and what I strongly believe led to his decision to recuse -— is that Scalia commented directly on the lower-court ruling that later came before the Court. By contrast, the comments that Scalia made in Switzerland that would or might have some bearing on Hamdan were not (from Lederman's account) directed at the ruling below in Hamdan.

One can quarrel whether this formalist line is sensible. But anyone who thinks it isn't would end up concluding either that Supreme Court justices for decades have been failing to recuse in lots of cases where they should or, far more plausibly, that Scalia should not have recused himself in Newdow.
Scalia's remarks are humorous in a way. He really does strike one as cantankerous. I have to agree that giving these enemy combatants a US constitutional trial is beyond reasonable. I have noted a lot of howling in the editorials about the amount of time that this has all taken to get the commissions started and process the detainees, but most seem to be missing that the vast majority of the delay has been caused by suits in the US justice system on the legality of the commissions. Hamdan itself has been in appeals for quite a long time.

Now the complicated ramblings of the case will finally begin. And in a few months we may actually have an answer.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

NeoCon Errors on Iraq

Niall Ferguson Op-Ed.

I agree that the neocons got it wrong, but my reasons are different from Fukuyama's, and they do not lead me to conclude that the Left was correct all along. The first big neocon error was their abandonment of realism. In particular, there was a failure to grasp the implications of toppling Saddam for the Middle Eastern balance of power. Kissinger was right when he said of the Iran-Iraq war: "A pity they both can't lose." By getting rid of Saddam, the US unwittingly ensured that Iran belatedly won. Now we confront the possibility that Iraq's political future will be determined in Teheran.

Secondly, there was a woeful lack of historical knowledge. Too many people in Washington bought the idea that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq would be akin to the post-Communist reconstruction of Poland. No one paid any attention to the difficulties the British had experienced in trying to govern Iraq after the First World War.

The third and perhaps worst sin of neocon omission was a lack of self-knowledge. In assuming that the US was in a position to do as it pleased in Iraq, the neocons failed to appreciate three deep-seated American weaknesses. (I argued this in 2004 in my book Colossus, and nothing has happened since its publication to change my view.)

There is, however, a fourth deficit that I forgot to mention, and that is the chronic legitimacy deficit it now suffers. The most recent findings of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey - a compendium of international opinion polls - reveal just how far the standing of the US has fallen in the eyes of foreigners in the past six years. And yet the logical conclusion from all this is not that the United States should pack up and march off home. For what precisely is the alternative to American hegemony, benign or blundering? Fukuyama pins his hopes on a new multilateralism, trying to breathe life into the corpse of the United Nations and other kindred institutions. The French fantasise that the European Union should somehow act as a counterweight to American power.

Yet when people in other countries are asked: "Would the world be safer if another country were as powerful as the United States?", they generally say "No". We and the Turks are evenly split, but a majority of Russians, Germans and even Jordanians, Moroccans and Pakistanis think the world would be less safe with a second superpower.

I agree with most of his points, though I would say that Ferguson assumes that his view of "realism" is more realistic. I guess that is an interesting view, but suffers from relativism. I wonder if his analysis is accurate on the Neocon players in Washington. Couldn't the analysis also be made that they saw the need for the action and weighed the knowledge that they had and decided that action was justified even with the deficits that existed?

What would have been the result of going the way of those in opposition to the war? Leaving Saddam in place would have had Saddam getting out of the UN sanctions in a short period of time. More records are now showing that there was official relations between Osama bin Laden and the Iraq government. The result would likely have given security and resources to Al Quaeda once the US was out of Iraq.

No doubt some assumptions of the aftermath of the removal of Saddam were unrealistic. But does the logic really carry that leaving him in place would be a reasonable alternative? Interestingly, Ferguson doesn't go there.

With the glacial reactions of the EU for most of the conflicts of the world, is it realistic to wait for them to be the primary actor when there is substantial risk to the US security? The situation in Iran is a fairly good indicator that the EU, as most of the other players, just don't wish to take action. Expectations of the UN having any effectiveness is just humorous.

Friday, March 24, 2006

NH Self-Defense Bill Defeated in House

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised at this, but I am pretty irritated about it.
The House yesterday defeated a bill that would have protected a person who used justifiable deadly force from facing civil penalities.

By a 194-138, members voted to reject the civil suit immunity language that sponsor Rep. Howard Dickinson, R-Conway, had hoped to salvage from an overall deadly force bill.

Opponents of the effort said state law already provides immunity if an Attorney General'’s investigation finds that the use of deadly force was justified.

The House split the bill in two. The first section expanding legal use of deadly force failed 290-36. It would have allowed the use of deadly force anytime a person was threatened with unlawful force in any place he had a legal right to be.

Dickinson said he realized after introducing HB 1354 that current law provides a person plenty of opportunity to protect self and family, so he went along with the move to kill the first section of the bill.

Rep. Stanley Steven, R-Wolfeboro, said that the second part of HB 1354 bill establishing immunity is already in state law. "“Lack of criminal charges is an absolute immunity"” from lawsuits, he said.

Dickinson argued that without specific language in the law, one could still have to hire a lawyer to handle at least the initial phases of a lawsuit.

"“This gets you immunity to start with so you don'’t have to go to court in the first place, and if do your entire court costs are taken care of,"” he said.

I suppose I'll have to say something to my local, hammer-head, uhh, representative. He voted against.

I love that contention on the lack of criminal charges being absolute immunity. Obviously it's not if they can drag you into court even for the first part of the suit.

I'm especially angry that they overwhelmingly voted against the right to self-defense for a person wherever they have a legal right to be. I still don't agree that there is sufficient protections already provided.

How Do You Retrofit a Nuclear Power Plant?

Appears that a nuclear power plant is having some legal issues. Mostly to do with its designed protections for earthquakes.
In a landmark decision, the district court here Friday ordered Hokuriku Electric Power Co. to halt operations of a nuclear reactor because the plant lacks the strength to withstand a large earthquake.

It is the first time in Japan for a court to order a suspension against a nuclear power plant in operation.

The utility plans to appeal the decision, meaning that the order cannot be carried out until all the legal proceedings are completed.

But the court's decision could affect other lawsuits over the operations of nuclear plants.

The reactor in question is the No. 2 at Hokuriku Electric's Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture.

It started operations on March 15 as Japan's 55th commercial reactor, and has one of the nation's largest power generation capacities.

But the court agreed with the plaintiffs in the suit against Hokuriku Electric that the reactor should be shut down because the facility falls short of the proper quake-resistance level.

Yikes. Makes you wonder what safety factor was built into the design. If they have to retrofit this thing, I'm betting on big big costs.
The judge noted that the central government's earthquake research committee warned about the possibility of a number of earthquakes occurring simultaneously on the Ochigata fault line, creating a magnitude 7.6 temblor that would rock areas of the plant.
The protection is probably justified though. If your plant is damaged by a 7.6 quake, I'm going to guess that the local population will be in pretty bad shape as well. I'm betting they won't need any more hazards in their lives.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Terrorist Attack Contingency Test

Interesting test, but some flawed logic. (h/t SayUncle)

16. Have you prepared a family communications plan that includes a meeting place away from your home, work and school, a family contact person outside of your area, a list of phone numbers for each family member?
No is not correct.
The answer is yes. A family communications plan should be a flexible plan that lists many different ways of communicating. It should include your child’s school phone number and an out-of-state contact, in case local phone lines are flooded. For more information and an easy-to-use family communications plan template, visit
Read the question. They asked "Have you," I have not, so the answer is NO. No matter what they think, I haven't, and won't, so the correct and only answer is NO.

Go and look at the rest. It's interesting, but not very informative.

SCOTUS on Conflicting Search Permissions

This is an entry from SCOTUSblog. I read several news reports and this is just more informative.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on Wednesday that it is unconstitutional for police without a warrant to search a home, if two occupants are present at the time and one consents but the other objects. The search may not go forward in the face of that objection, but the occupant must be present to have the objection count, the Court said in a decision written by Justice David H. Souter. The ruling in Georgia v. Randolph (04-1067) was the only decision of the day in an argued case.

"We have to admit we are drawing a fine line," Souter wrote, but added "we think the formalism is justified" and that it will be easier to enforce in practice. Thus, the Court held, If the individual who may be at legal risk of prosecution and thus does not want the police to enter "is in fact at the door and objects," the other occupant's consent to search will not suffice. But, Souter added, if the objector is nearby, and not at the door, an objection by him will not block the search. The Court stressed, though, that police may not take a potentially objecting tenant away from the home in order to be able to make the search with the other occupant's consent.

This argument does end up in the arguments that are more "nuanced" on constitutional law. Personally, I think they got it correct, though they are definitely dancing on the edge. I don't think this makes the Police's jobs any more difficult, which I'm sure is going to be an argument somewhere.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in his first written dissenting opinion, said the majority fashioned a rule that "does not implement the high office of the Fourth Amendment, but instead provides protection on a random and happenstance basis, protecting, for example, a co-occupant who happens to be at the front door when the other occupant consents to a search, but not one napping or watching television in the next room....The cost of affording such random protection is great, as demonstrated by the recurring cases in which abused spouses seek to authorize police entry into a home they share with a non-consenting abuser."

Much of Roberts' dissenting opinion was aimed at undercutting the majority's reliance on "social expectations" about privacy that justified the distinction drawn by the ruling. When property is shared by two or more people, privacy is shared and expectations of what privacy will be protected depends upon the discretion of the other individual, Roberts said.

I guess I'll have to agree with the "happenstance" statement. Though it does have a certain logic. the police don't go to the extent of tracking down all the dwellings occupants to get permission to search. If the person is there and denies permission, that should be the end of it.

Though I do find Roberts' view, as I see it, that the occupant giving permission is the one that gets authority is utter rubbish. If privacy is a right, then the enforcement of such a right to the strictest boundaries is what is logical. The person giving permission isn't losing any right to privacy, but the denier is losing that right when the police are allowed to come in based on the assenter's permission.

This also can't be viewed as limiting the ability of the police to perform a reasonable search. If a crime is evident and the evidence is known to be in the residence, the police have a reasonable expectation of entry to get the evidence.

NH Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendment

About freakin' time.

New Hampshire lawmakers gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a constitutional amendment that would limit government's ability to seize private property.
The state House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of identical resolutions. For the measure to win approval, both chambers must pick one resolution and pass it.

Then the amendment would be put to a statewide vote, probably in November. Two-thirds approval would be needed for ratification.
If this can't get a two-thirds vote in November I'm thinking its time to stop letting people from Massachusetts migrate here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Whiny Kids Become Conservatives?

Caught this at the Volokh Conspiracy. I hope someone can find and pass on the study.

I'm not sure why people are getting offended by this. Personally I could care less whether I was a whiny child or not. In fact my expecience tells me that the vast majority of children are whiny. Doesn't make my observations correct, but it does tell you something about the validity of data collection in the study.
Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding.

But the new results are worth a look. In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings.

A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
You got it, another micro-study that uses opinions, this time of teachers, to set the grounds for the conclusions. What ever happened to real scientific studies?

The article talks about the peer review that calls the study shoddy and the cries of political purposes. Probably both are true. Funny that the study was done in Berkeley. The article's author tries to offer some solace to the conservatives:
For conservatives whose feelings are still hurt, there is a more flattering way for them to look at the results. Even if they really did tend to be insecure complainers as kids, they might simply have recognized that the world is a scary, unfair place.

Their grown-up conclusion that the safest thing is to stick to tradition could well be the right one. As for their "rigidity," maybe that's just moral certainty.

The grown-up liberal men, on the other hand, with their introspection and recognition of complexity in the world, could be seen as self-indulgent and ineffectual.
I suppose I don't need such solace. I just hope that the study is true. If it is, California and Massachusetts are going to be the most rigidly conservative states in about 10 years. (And pigs will fly while spouting Shakespeare.)

War Crime or Good Insurgency PR

Another article where the evil Marines are murdering civilians. Another investigation in the works.
A videotape taken by an Iraqi shows the aftermath of an alleged attack by U.S. troops on civilians in their homes in a western town last November: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.

An Iraqi human rights group condemned the bloodshed in the town of Haditha, saying Tuesday that it could be "one of dozens of incidents that were not revealed."

The images were broadcast a day after residents of Haditha, 140 miles west of Baghdad, told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

Last week, the U.S. military announced that a dozen Marines are under investigation for possible war crimes in the Nov. 19 incident, which left at least 23 Iraqis dead in addition to the Marine.

Talal al-Zuhairi, who heads the Baghdad Center for Human Rights, said his organization feared the troops, if convicted, will not be punished severely enough.

The allegations against the Marines were first brought forward by Time, though the magazine noted that the available evidence did not prove conclusively that the Marines deliberately killed innocents.

The magazine said it obtained the video, taken by a Haditha journalism student inside the houses and local morgue, two months ago.

Nice article. Lots of yelling that the Marines will be let off for the atrocities, but no actual evidence that they committed any. Read the whole article and tell me that it's not bent against the troops irrespective of the little quote above.

Note also that the film has been broadcast in the Iraqi media with no proof of their context or veracity. Doesn't this have the slightest wiff of a lesson learned in Vietnam? Make sure the press reports our military as monsters in order to sour the public on the war. Remember the reports of unprovoked attacks on Mosques by US military? My question is, how many people are stopping to question the motivations for this press?

If the investigation proves malfeasants, than prosecute them. Then the accused will have gotten a trial and would be at least assumed innocent until proof is given. The least they press could do is use the work accused in the article.

Want to be disturbed by other online reports? Take a look at the Socialist Worker Online.

Future Iraq Withdrawal

Why is everyone in the MSM so surprised by this?

President Bush suggested yesterday that US troops might stay in Iraq beyond his presidency, which ends in 2009, saying at a press conference that the issue of removing troops from the country ''will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."
Asked whether his comments signaled that a complete pullout would not happen during the three remaining years of his presidency, Bush said the decision would be left up to the generals ''on the ground" in Iraq.

Bush's comments -- widely seen as an attempt to shift public expectations away from the notion of a quick pullout -- dovetailed with comments yesterday by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, the leading US ally in the war.

Where has the expectation of a quick pullout come from? Do these people even have a concept of what is going on there?

Maybe they have gotten the idea from the "cut-and-run" crowd led by Murtha. But I'm constantly amazed that these people don't have any concept of history surrounding wars. How many years did it take to fully withdraw from Germany or Japan? How about South Korea?

Then there is Helen Thomas. Why does a columnist get to pontificate at a Presidential press conference? And why did Bush call on her?
Yesterday, the president appeared intense when he was asked to explain why he decided to attack Iraq.

''No president wants war -- everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true," Bush declared, bristling at a question from longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who writes for King Features Syndicate.

He chided Thomas for interrupting him after he repeated his longstanding argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks justified aggressive action in Iraq. While some administration officials have sought to tie Hussein to the attacks, the White House has said the former Iraqi president had nothing to do with them.

Note the BGlob seems to ignore the exchange except for the interruptions. After seeing the exchange on the news, it was more than apparent that Helen wasn't getting the answer she wanted so she decided that she needn't continue listening to the answer and must put forth here view of why Bush was so screwed up.

Well, it was mildly entertaining.

Chemical Plant Safety

Not surprising, the government has been dragging their feet on this one, and this article shows a lot of the finger pointing going on. You'll note that the article fairly clearly blames the President. I'd have sworn that the Congress could move on such legislation on its own, but maybe I'm deceived.
Addressing an American Chemistry Council forum, Chertoff stopped short of endorsing a Senate bill that would authorize his department to shut down high-risk plants that fail to submit adequate security plans. But he backed its approach of assigning 15,000 U.S. plants to one of four risk groups, setting performance goals for each category and leaving details up to operators.

"Congress can pass a balanced, risk-based security measure for the chemical industry this year" that "relies ultimately on the expertise and the knowledge of the chemical sector itself," Chertoff said.

In speeches to industry leaders and the Senate this month, Chertoff has led a carefully choreographed election-year push to close one of the most lethal security gaps that experts say the Bush administration has neglected since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

No one else neglected these problems? You have to love when a fair and balanced article points the blame at a single party, when multiple parties are required to pass legislation and all of them have been doing more important things. You know, like passing large piles of pork into unrelated legislation.
"The public sector should set and enforce the homeland security standards that the private sector must meet," said the American Chemistry Council's president and chief executive, Jack N. Gerard, echoing Chertoff's call for federal standards for all industry members.
What? The public should trust the industry to manage itself? Doesn't that strike anyone as slightly STUPID? Security costs money. Industry is there to make money. So in order to maximize the money, they will minimize the security. They don't allow the Nuclear industry to set it's own standards, why the hell would you do the same for the chemical industry? (Well other than there will be unreasonable controls in various sectors put in place by legislators that don't have a clue about what they are talking about, but I digress.)
Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) said that Chertoff "outlined principles that are critical components" of the bill she introduced with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) in December, and that she looked forward to continuing talks.

Democrats and environmental groups, however, contended that Chertoff was offering a fig leaf to an industry that has avoided regulation for four years.

"If all the administration does is call for minimum standards, it will get standards that are minimal," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who instead proposed mandatory rules, on-site inspections, whistleblower protections and a controversial requirement that industries replace toxic chemicals with less dangerous materials when feasible.

"It still remains unclear as to whether the Bush administration chemical security plan will involve more than just paperwork," he said.

Here's the Collins' bill mentioned. Oh and here is the older bill that Markey is a co-sponsor of.

You have to enjoy Markey's comments. Who else would pull out such a moronic statement. Setting a minimum standard doesn't mean it is minimal by any means.

Oh sod, fire alarm, I'll finish this later.

Got to love fire alarm testing that no one is notified of.

Umm. Minimal standards. Markey is at his rhetorical best here. Does here really want us to believe that all the minimal standards set for all safety and security systems are minimal in the security they require? That is foolish beyond scope. Security and safety standards are set for a balance between providing insurance that the public safety is protected with reasonable processes. That means that the safety measure doesn't require unreasonable controls that go beyond the associated risks and threats. Chlorine bleach is a hazardous material, but you don't require it to be stored in 3 foot thick steal walled containers stored in a bomb proof shelter.

A seat belt is the minimum safety standard for driving in a car. So I suppose by Markey's statement he and his family all wear helmets and pads when they drive in the car. Or is that excessive for the related risk?

I also love his controversial measure that he wants to "require" that industry use less dangerous chemicals when feasible. Couple of problems there, who decides what is less dangerous and what is feasible? Should a chemical that is less dangerous, but impossible to dispose of be used in place of one that is more dangerous, but easy to dispose of? Well, I suppose after looking at Markey's stand on Nuclear Power the answer he would stand behind is an obvious yes.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who was appointed to fill out Corzine's Senate term and faces an election in November for a full six years, called Chertoff's suggestion that plants use a sliding scale of security standards instead of universal ones "unacceptable."

"Anything less discounts the grave risk these facilities represent in our communities," Menendez said.

Sliding scale? No information in this article as to what that means. I haven't been having luck finding anything else on that statement. I'm going to guess that this is a poor idea. It again sets up interpretations of the law that can be simply designated from the start. I'd really like to know more specifics on what they're talking about.
In response to questions, Chertoff generally backed an industry push to preempt state and local governments from enacting tougher rules. He said inconsistent rules that expose businesses to "ruinous liability" would create "a regulatory regime that is doomed to failure." He criticized as "interference with business" a proposal backed by environmental groups that would require industry to substitute "inherently safer" chemicals and processes.
I agree with Chertoff here. Patchworks of regulations merely make a mess by allowing conflicting legislation to exist side by side. This is no different than states disallowing local gun regulations that would preempt state laws. It ensures uniformity and protects people and industry from violating local laws that would require a database to keep track of. It wouldn't remove all local control either. Cities and the like could locally zone their location to disallow such businesses.

No doubt that something must be done to increase this security, I just find the idea that the industry should implement it as amazingly foolish. Even worse, this is going to end up with another large increase in the federal government to implement and audit the safety standards that are put in place.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Geeks and the HR Department

I really enjoyed this article. Being a bit of an oddball and frequently feeling like I'm one misplaced comment away from a trip to HR, although I'm not even close to being a genius and mode code FREQUENTLY fails to compile the first time (second, third, fourth...), I identify with and understand this point of view. It's frightening how many people fail to appreciate that the social misanthropes are the best at tuning out the world in order to address the unique problems that 1's & 0's present us. While I don't normally bring my geekier computer stuff over to this blog, I think this one is worth sharing.

Not a Hobby: Armed RC Helicopter

Here's a funny video that was linked at SayUncle.

The quality of the video wasn't great, so I don't know if they actually ever hit their target. Didn't look like it to me though.

I'm certain that the People's Republic of Massachusetts will have a law against this shortly.

Scientology Nutcases

This one has just had me scratching my head.
Two industry sources familiar with the situation told Reuters Comedy Central pulled the "Trapped in the Closet" episode from its "South Park" rerun rotation after Cruise threatened to cease promotion of his upcoming Paramount film, "Mission: Impossible III."

Cruise spokesman Paul Bloch said neither the actor nor his representatives "had anything to do" with the scheduling of "South Park" reruns and that Cruise had never said to anyone he would refuse to promote his film. Paramount spokeswoman Janet Hill denied any knowledge of such a threat.

"South Park," heading into its 10th season next week as one of Comedy Central's biggest hits, centers on the antics of four foul-mouthed fourth-graders in a small Colorado town.

Outlandish religious satire has been a mainstay of the show since its debut in 1997, poking fun at Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims. One early episode featured a martial-arts duel between Jesus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas.

I don't find it unreasonable that Cruise would actually do this. I suppose anyone can find religion, but finding one that was started by a Sci-Fi writer and whose dogma reads like Sci-fi can't be very tightly wrapped. But maybe I'm wrong.
In Scientology doctrine, Xenu (also Xemu) is a galactic ruler (of the "Galactic Confederacy") who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to cause problems today. These events are known to Scientologists as "Incident II", and the traumatic memories associated with them as The Wall of Fire or the R6 implant. The story of Xenu is part of a much wider range of Scientology beliefs in extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in Earthly events, collectively described as space opera by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Hubbard detailed the story in Operating Thetan level III (OT III) in 1967, famously warning that R6 was "calculated to kill (by pneumonia etc) anyone who attempts to solve it." The Xenu story was the start of the use of the volcano as a common symbol of Scientology and Dianetics from 1968 to the present day.

Much of the criticism of the Church of Scientology focuses on the story of Xenu. The Church has tried to keep Xenu confidential; critics claim revealing the story is in the public interest, given the high prices charged for OT III, part of Scientology's secret "Advanced Technology" doctrines taught only to members that have already contributed large amounts of money to the organization.

I suppose my confusion could be viewed as understandable.

Well, maybe they're right. But those "who shall not be named" say otherwise.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Iraq: Endgame Conservatives or Wilsonian Policy

This is a response by Jed Babbin to a Rich Lowry article on NRO(subscription).

Interesting stand points. No doubt the Bush policy is Wilsonian in nature, in that it's idealistic and promotional of democracy. I must say I don't mind idealism as long as your actions are firmly planted in reality. I'm not convinced that the Bush policy is as firmly set as I'd like.

Babbin makes me a bit nervous in that he seems to think the only way to stop an insurgency is to stomp the hell out of it and move on. I don't see this as very realistic, especially when insurgencies typically are hidden guerrilla fighters. You can do some things, but just shooting isn't going to be what wins. It strikes me as a misunderstanding of guerrilla warfare. Here is his discussion of the lessons learned from Vietnam.
We don't, like Lowry, completely mistake Vietnam. Lowry accuses us of missing the point that we only began to win in Vietnam when we "started to fashion a true counterinsurgency strategy focusing on hearts and minds, on holding territory and on training Vietnamese security forces." Endgame conservatives understand the principal lesson of Vietnam is something else entirely: if you fail to prosecute a war in the manner that will produce victory decisively, you will lose it inevitably. Iraq, by the President's and Lowry's formulation, is a self-imposed quagmire. They believe that unless and until we establish democracy there we cannot prosecute the war against the other national sponsors of terrorism. We are now at the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, almost five years since 9-11. If we had prosecuted this war as we did World War II, we would not be facing a pre-nuclear Iran, Syria's Bashar Assad would be only a bad memory and Saudi Arabia would have been forced to cease its support of terrorism. And Iraq would be a much more peaceful place, closer to the goal Messrs. Bush and Lowry seek.

The "hearts and minds" campaign in Vietnam was essentially irrelevant to winning or losing. What lost the war was President Johnson's gradualist approach to fighting it. LBJ was a stringless yo-yo. His stop-and-start, fight today, negotiate tomorrow and fight again the next day strategy, if you can call it that, was a disaster. When we pounded the North, we moved toward victory by depriving the insurgents (and the regular North Vietnamese forces) of the support on which they depended. When LBJ sputtered and stuttered, we lost what we had gained and gave the enemy time to recover and retake the offensive.

Lowry's formulation is, at its core, colonialist. He writes, "The project in Iraq is an attempt to shift the terms of the competition to who can better deliver peace, prosperity and representation." How shall we compete for hearts and minds of the Muslim world by offering Western democracy in a culture that, even at its most benevolent, cannot separate church from state? The only way would be to re-create the British Raj of colonial India. Would Lowry commit the hundreds of thousands of troops and tens of thousands of civilian bureaucrats to running a colonial government in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia for the next hundred years? I doubt it. And neither should anyone else interested in winning this war. We cannot and should not abandon Iraq. There, we should stay the course at least until the terrorist regimes that surround it are removed and their interference in Iraq ended.
I think that Babbin doesn't completely understand the benefit and purpose of the "hearts and minds" campaigns. You can go to the links I provided in this entry to look at a discussion of the British counterinsurgency tactics used in Malaya. He is correct that LBJ fumbled around and failed to allow the generals to fight the war. But then, the guerrilla war was in effect and would clearly have been run in the north when the US invaded. It strikes me that Babbin's view of fighting and winning in Vietnam is naively simplistic.

I understand that the Marine Corps Small Wars Manual has some policy on counterinsurgency and the tactics that include "hearts and minds." I haven't read it myself, but I did find the 1940's issue that will be interesting to review.

Go ahead and review the discussions yourself. I'd like to know some more information on the Wilsonian policy. I know I have to read up on WWI directly related to Wilson's policy, but that is still somewhere in a very large reading pile.

Is It Civil War?

The report is basically the press and politicians debating. That debate isn't very intelligent unfortunately. The MSM and the Anti-war groups screech that it's a full-fledged civil war, though they only have their reporting to base this on. Oh, and don't forget the polls. Obviously, if the US public thinks it's a civil war it must be so.
In statements to reporters, appearances on Sunday morning TV news shows and an op-ed article, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. George W. Casey, the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq, declared that the United States was making progress toward stabilizing Iraq and defusing sectarian tensions. But those upbeat assessments faced sharp skepticism from U.S. legislators from both parties and from a senior Iraqi political leader, former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has been a staunch American ally. They contended that Iraq was now in the midst of a civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. The issue of whether Iraq's sectarian fighting constitutes a civil war has taken on political significance. Polls have shown American support for the Iraq war dropping since the bombing last month of a Shiite shrine in Samarra led to widespread communal violence. Strategists in both parties have said that Bush will have a more difficult time sustaining support for the U.S. military presence in Iraq if the public believes that troops are caught in the middle of a civil war. On a day of sweeping arguments from both sides, the most dramatic comments came from Allawi. "It is unfortunate that we are in civil war," the former prime minister told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Allawi added: "Maybe we have not reached the point of no return yet. But we are moving toward this point. We are in a terrible civil conflict now."
I would take what Allawi says with a grain of salt. He obviously has political motivations to have the world believe there is civil war. Unfortunately, the facts are not very strong. No prolonged conflicts or battles, just small scale attacks and retaliations. And even the retaliations have been muted or controlled by the sect leaders.

George Will, who has been especially dour as of late, has recently commented on the conflict quoting Lt. General Michael Maples and comparing the conflict with the Spanish Civil War.
Maples delicately says that although Iraq is not "at this time" in a civil war, "the underlying conditions" for such a war "are present." But civil wars do not usually begin with an identifiable event, such as the firing on Fort Sumter, or proceed to massed, uniformed forces clashing in battles like Shiloh. Iraq's civil war -- which looks more like Spain's in the 1930s -- began months ago.

In Spain, the security forces were united and in three years were victorious. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. commander in the Middle East, recently said that Iraqi forces would cope with a civil war "to the extent they're able to" (Rumsfeld) and "they'll handle it with our help" (Abizaid). Their problematic assumption is that Iraq's security forces have a national loyalty and will not fracture along the fissures of Iraq's sectarian society.

This is fairly astute in my opinion. Maples is probably correct in that Iraq isn't in a civil war, but is likely walking that narrow ledge beside what could turn into such a conflict. Iraqi forces may be sufficient to stop or suppress such a civil war, but only if they themselves don't fall into the conflict. The comparison to the Spanish Civil War is probably apt in that it's not a conflict that has an obvious clear-cut start date. Though Will's belief that the civil war started months ago I think is guess work at best. I'd say that there is still insufficient indications to make such a definitive statement. In fact, I'd say you'd have to wait for more evidence to see if the present clashes and reprisals actually comes to a widespread conflict, like the Spanish Civil War, before you can definitively call it a civil war.

This doesn't mean that the US military doesn't have to treat the activity as the start of a civil war and take the necessary actions to suppress the problem. The suppression in itself may be what is needed to allow a political solution to come to grips.

Barry Rubin has a fairly realistic article on the potential of civil war.
There's been a big scare about the possibility of civil war in Iraq after a bloody terrorist attack on a Shi'ite Muslim holy site. With relief, despite a wave of violence after this event, everyone concluded that no civil war was starting now.

Yet this immediate relief should be coupled with a realistic assessment: There will almost certainly be a civil war in the not too distant future. More precisely, there already is a civil war going on that is merely masked by the presence of Western forces.

Insurgents - a blend of Saddam Hussein supporters, pro-Osama bin Laden Islamists, and Sunni communal nationalists - claim to be fighting the foreign "occupation" but are actually battling fellow Iraqis to ensure that no government led by the Shi'ite majority will succeed in ruling Iraq.

In what is still a relatively one-sided civil war, the aggressors are Sunni terrorist forces backed directly by Syria, hailed as heroes in media throughout the Arab world and receiving both volunteers and funds from abroad, especially Saudi Arabia. They attack American troops, target the Iraqi government, and often kill Shi'ite civilians. Simultaneously, they try to intimidate other Sunnis to keep them from participating in the government, or even voting. The insurgents attack when and where they choose.

On the other side are those relatively satisfied with the post-Saddam order. This includes the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites of the center and south. These forces have come together to run the regime so far.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government seems to be the major stumbling block in this whole thing. No firm control is being taken because no government is being formed. The squabbling is making the government look weak, which in fact it likely will be. The religious and ethnic fractures are going to remain. That doesn't mean that they can't form a government, it just means that it will always be unresponsive and divided on all topics.

From the original article, there is likely a way to force the government to at least form and get underway.
But Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States needed to move more aggressively to resolve the long-running negotiations over a new government, perhaps by threatening to begin removing U.S. forces if the Iraqis could not agree on a consensus government.

"The only leverage we have is our troop presence," Reed said on ABC's "This Week."

"And I think we have to make it clear to the Iraqi political leaders that if they're not able or willing to come together -… that our presence can't be indefinite there."
This leverage is apparently needed at this time. Pushing the government into some form of consensus will at least give them some place to start. The fact that they just are standing about and bickering about forming the government gets nothing done. It may not be the most efficient or diplomatic of governments, but they will at least start the ball rolling. In fact, that could very well begin unification if it is apparent that they will soon have less of a shield to protect them. They will then have to protect themselves.

Back to the Rubin article:
IT IS ESSENTIAL to understand that the two issues underlying a future civil war are not misunderstandings or easily negotiated differences of opinion but are absolutely fundamental: Who will rule and what kind of society Iraq will be. Nice as it is to hope that everyone can get along and share power, Iraq is not the kind of society where this is likely to happen. Either the Sunnis or Shi'ites, most likely the latter, will have the upper hand.

Iraq will either be a pluralist, Islamic-flavored, Shi'ite-led state with an elected government and a large element of Kurdish autonomy in the north (perhaps the best likely alternative), a radical Shi'ite Islamist republic with lots of Iranian influence, or a radical Sunni Islamist republic. Most Iraqis think these are distinctions worth fighting for.

As long as American forces are present the civil war will probably be staved off, but the insurgency will continue. However, the days for this situation are numbered. President George W. Bush maintains that the Iraqi government forces are gradually able to take on more of the fighting.

Stability is what must be established before the US can leave. It doesn't have to be perfect. But it has to be more than what is present to date. The question is, can the Iraqi government and military find sufficient self-interest in the present solution to force this stability?

The Sunni's are a bit of a surprise in their failure to understand that they will be the extreme losers if stability isn't formed. Self-preservation should be the motivation for them to get this government under way. They may not get a completely equitable set of terms in the new government, but if they delay too much longer, isn't it likely that they will get even worse terms?

The Kurds are in a way playing both sides. They are the least effected by the issue of civil war, thought they won't be completely untouched. Physical locality at present gives them some level of protection and their present autonomy doesn't give anyone major leverage to make them play nice.

The Shia have the majority and the most historical complaints. Now that they have a system that lets the majority control, I see very little reason for them to go out of their way to accommodate the Sunni. Though civil war will have drastic effects on the Shia public. That effect is less though than what the Sunni's will have. And past grievances make it obvious that they have little inclination to allow too much control to the Sunni's.

Will there be civil war? I'm going to guess, not for a while, and then only after a majority of US troops have left. Unfortunately, it really looks like the religious divisions and tribal variations are not going bring this to a clean conclusion. What the extent of the civil war will be is very hard to say.

Let's hope I'm wrong.