Friday, June 30, 2006

Latest in Stupid Firearms Safety

Now this is stunning in it's complete lack of intelligence in design. I caught this at Bruce Schneier.
Safety catches do not always prevent firearm accidents and even newfangled biometric guns, which check the identity of a user by their fingerprint, cannot stop thieves from using stolen ammunition in other weapons.

The way to make firearms really safe, says Hebert Meyerle of Germany, is to password-protect the ammunition itself.

Meyerle is patenting a design for a modified cartridge that would be fired by a burst of high-frequency radio energy. But the energy would only ignite the charge if a solid-state switch within the cartridge had been activated. This would only happen if a password entered into the gun using a tiny keypad matched one stored in the cartridge.

When they are sold, cartridges could be programmed with a password that matches the purchaser's gun. An owner could set the gun to request the password when it is reloaded, or to perform a biometric check before firing. The gun could also automatically lock itself after a pre-set period of time has passed since the password was entered.

The system would undoubtedly cost more than a conventional gun, but many firearm enthusiasts would surely pay a premium for such added security.

Yeah, there's intelligent design. Let's make the gun even more impossible to get ready in an emergency.

I have to love the comments to the blog entry on this one though.
TOMBOT stated:
I have a better idea. Mount a retina scanner below the barrel. If the retina scan doesn't match the owner of the gun and bullets, it fires.
And Bob:
Amazing, what an inappropriate use of technology. This would take getting a "blue screen of death" to a whole new level. I hope they subsidise them for purchase by criminals and terrorists; cops arent going to go anywhere near these things.
Hmmm, what trade-offs do we have?

1) Add extra cost to the firearm and ammunition to have a firearm that might not fire when I need it to do so.

2) Add complexity to a situation where I may need to react in a very short period of time.

3) Possible increase my safety if I was in a situation where the firearm would be removed from me and used against me.

Let's see if I am in a situation where the attacker can get physical possesion of my firearm then I am going to be harmed. The attacker may not use the bullets from my firearm but at this point the attacker could use any number of way to harm me. So the idea is to prevent the attacker from disarming me. Which would require me using a firearm that was proven reliable over time and have been reviewed by experts. The Colt 1911 style sidearm standard-issue handgun for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985.
A reliable firearm like the Colt 1911 is also very simple compared to the weapon described in the article. Hence what is the more secure weapon?

Does anyone have a solid set of trade offs to promote "Password-Protected Bullets" as more secure?

Also for "who" would "Password-Protected Bullets" be more secure.

Interesting that some in the security field get it.

Hamden Discussions

No top link on this one, because there are lots of blog entries to link, many with some very astute analysis. Most of these links are via SCOTUSblog.

Lets go chronologically:
Marty Lederman's analysis:
As I indicated here, the holding that the military commissions are unlawful -- although of enormous significance -- is hardly the most important holding of the Court today in Hamdan. At least three other holdings are likely of greater lasting significance:

1. That the President's conduct is subject to the limitations of statute and treaty (see, e.g., footnote 23, and the Kennedy and Breyer excerpts that Orin Kerr quotes).

2. That Congress's enactments are best construed to require compliance with the international laws of armed conflict, absent contrary legislative direction.

3. That Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. (See also the AMK concurrence: "The provision is part of a treaty the United States has ratified and thus accepted as binding law. By Act of Congress, moreover, violations of Common Article 3 are considered 'war crimes,'
Contrary to several blogs I've read, the Court did not hold that all of the protections of the Geneva Conventions apply to suspected Al Qaeda detainees, or that they are entitled to all of the protections of POWs. It held "merely" that the minimum baseline protections of Common Article 3 are binding -- which is a floor far, far higher than the practices of this Administration.
Interesting thought. I'd like to have had an explanation of that. I always believed that those minimum standards were protections for POWs and citizens who weren't continuing the conflict. And again, since this is a minimum standard that the illegal combatants aren't a signatory of, what protections does the Geneva conventions provide for our legal combatants? (and yes I understand that the GC still requires that we provide the protections even if the opposition isn't a signatory.)
And does this contention mean that Al-Qaeda is now recognized as a High Contracting Party?

This also strikes me as an odd reading of the Geneva Conventions, since the Conventions were added to in 1977 to include protections that would cover illegal combatants. Protocol 1 part III article 44 is part of the reason that the US is not a signatory to that protocol. If clarification and additional protections were considered necessary, why is it that the SCOTUS majority believes that the original conventions cover this topic?

Karl Blanke posts this:
Steve Vladeck, Professor at the University of Miami School of Law has these thoughts on today's decision:

But there's another entirely domestic theme that serves as a powerful undercurrent to Justice Stevens's decision for the majority (on this point, Justice Kennedy's concurrence is absolutely unequivocal): the constitutional role for Congress vis-a-vis the war powers. Over at his blog, Orin Kerr has his own preliminary thoughts, to which I'd add the following:

One of the great unanswered questions in the field of constitutional law has always been the extent to which Congress may intrude into/impinge upon/interfere with the President's war powers. Put another way, to what extent may Congress legislate restrictions on powers the President would otherwise be able to exercise during wartime? Can Congress place geographical or temporal limitations on the scope of a war? Can Congress impose manpower limitations? Can Congress require the troops to adhere to certain standards of humanitarian conduct?

Proponents of a broad executive war power have consistently and vehemently argued that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding "no" - that Congress cannot interfere in any way with the President's constitutional responsibilities as "Commander in Chief," and that any such limitation is unconstitutional. We've seen variations on this theme in the government's arguments in the enemy combatant cases, the FISA debate, Snoopgate, etc. In contrast, opponents of such a broad view of presidential power, often relying on the Supreme Court's routinely overlooked and misunderstood 1804 decision in the wonderfully named "Case of the Flying Fish," known to the U.S. Reports as Little v. Barreme, emphasize that the Supreme Court has long, if infrequently, recognized Congress's coordinate role in defining the scope of the war powers. There, because Congress only authorized the interception of vessels in one direction, the Court rejected the government's authority to act contrariwise.

I'm vastly oversimplifying a complex series of debates, but I think it is safe to say that opponents of a broad, unilateral executive war power received a powerful charge from the majority opinion in Hamdan, which, for the most part implicitly, concludes that the President cannot independently create military commissions such as those at issue here where Congress has itself acted. That is, the crux of the Court's decision is that Congress hasn't approved the commissions here at issue, with the mostly unspoken assumption that Congress can so approve, and, indeed, has to, at least where it's done something. Footnote 23 is one of the only places where the Court makes this point explicit, citing Youngstown for the proposition that, "Whether or not the President has independent power, absent congressional authorization, to convene military commissions, he may not disregard limitations that Congress has, in proper exercise of its own war powers, placed on his powers." I see this as one of the more important passages in the 177 pages and six opinions produced today, even with the ensuing caveat that "the government did not argue otherwise."

This I see no real issue with in the direct details. The question comes though in where is the line of the president's Article 2 powers with respect to carrying out war drawn? With this decision, won't many in the Congress decide that they now have the right to interfere in the president's realm?

But I suppose that is already happening with certain Senator's who are peeved:
Michigan Democratic Senator is encouraging the top U.S. commander in Iraq to tell Iraqi leaders the American people don't support President Bush on Iraq. Praising General George Casey's tentative plan to begin withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq next year, Levin claimed the president's policy is that U.S. troops will stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqis want them. That idea, says Levin has "got to be proven false," adding, "General Casey is the one who will hopefully carry the message that the American people do not support an open-ended commitment, do not support the administration's position that we're there as long as the Iraqis need us."
But then, I suppose Levin believes he is right to try and push a General to put forward a diplomatic message to Iraq that hasn't come from the President.

Lyle Denniston has a discussion on what wasn't decided in this case:
I'll abbreviate these a bit, and you can go read the full details at the link.
The Hamdan decision, however, is noteworthy for a host of other undecided issues, and they may be more practically meaningful. The next moves on legal issues on the war on terrorism may have to fill at least some of these gaps..

is the absence of a clearcut answer on what jurisdiction remains in the federal courts to decide the already pending challenges to detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the future challenges to military commissions if new legislation creates a version to satisfy the Hamdan decision's requirements.
: the Court does not decide whether terrorist suspects linked to Al Qaeda are entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Convention for prisoners in detention. It says it need not resolve that larger question, because it finds that one part of the Convention -- Common Article 3 -- does undermine the claim to legality of the military commissions.

: the Court does not resolve what a "regularly constitued court" must be. Justice Stevens expresses ideas on that issue, but, for those, he had only the support of three other Justices, and not Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Kennedy has thoughts on it, too, but those also are not final. A question remains as to what part of these musings amount to binding requirements for a future version of a military commission.

the Court leaves unresolved whether a new form of commission must follow the same procedures, and guarantee the accused the same rights, that would obtain in the regular military courts-martial system.

the decision probably should not be understood as having definitively resolved what kinds of charges may be made by and tried before a military commission. Justice Stevens would not allow a commission to charge or try a suspect on conspiracy charges, as Hamdan has been charged, but Justice Kennedy does not join in that conclusion.

Finally -- and this is a crucial unresolved issue: the Court does not decide -- as it did not in 2004 -- how long the government may hold a terrorist suspect in detention without any kind of charge, war crimes or otherwise. Justice Stevens says: "It bears emphasizing that Hamdan does not challenge, and we do not today address, the government's power to detain him for the duration of active hostilities in order to prevent...great harm and even death to innocent civilians." In 2004, the Court upheld the power initially to detain such suspects, but it indicated that, at some point in a potentially indefinite detention in an unending war on terrorism, that power might well cease to exist, or at least be narrowed in scope.
That's quite a bit to think on. Unfortunately, I understand, but don't like, the extremely narrow findings on a topic when many of these issues are still left for future litigation.

Amy Howe posts comments by Richard Samp:
I'd be surprised if any of the holdings in today's Hamdan decision end up having large practical significance. The one exception is the Court's rather cavalier treatment of the Detainee Treatment Act; the Court'’s counter-textual interpretation of the DTA means that all Guantanamo detainees who filed suit before last December challenging their confinement will be permitted to go forward in the D.C. Circuit. But other than that, the importance of today's decision is much more symbolic - it signals (assuming we needed any additional signals following Rasul) that the Court has abandoned traditional notions of deference when it comes to second-guessing the conduct of foreign and military affairs by the President and (to a lesser extent) by Congress.

In terms of the decision's practical significance, I disagree with those who suggest that the decision will significantly alter the way Geneva Convention claims are treated in the federal courts. Both the Stevens and Kennedy opinions make clear that they are not holding that the Geneva Conventions are judicially enforceable by aggrieved individuals. Rather, the Court merely held that the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires war crimes trials held before a military tribunal to be conducted in accordance with the law of war, and that the Geneva Conventions are part of the law of war. So, the Guantanamo detainees will not be able to use the Geneva Conventions offensively unless and until the courts hold that the Conventions were intended to be privately enforceable.

Well, that was a lot of work. Though this is a fairly import and and broad reaching topic. There are other comments that are of note:

Then we come to Orin Kerr on the AUMF portion of the decision.

And at the Volokh Conspiracy we have Stuart Benjamin discussing the interpretation of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3, and Randy Barnett on the president's one-branch war.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Military Commissions Invalid: SCOTUS

I've been reading the reviews and I'm not understanding some of the parts. But let's start at the beginning.
As I predicted below, the Court held that Congress had, by statute, required that the commissions comply with the laws of war -- and held further that these commissions do not (for various reasons). I have not yet read the complete opinions, but from what I've seen of not only the Stevens majority, but also the Kennedy and Breyer concurrences (see Orin Kerr with the relevant AMK and SGB excerpts here), it is hard to overstate the principal, powerfully stated themes emanating from the Court, which are (i) that the President's conduct is subject to the limitations of statute and treaty; and (ii) that Congress's enactments are best construed to require compliance with the international laws of armed conflict.

Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

I don't like the article three statement. In fact, I can't see how they could possibly have interpreted it that way. The terrorists don't meet any of the definitions of a legal combatant, so I am baffled that they should consider them to be such. Here's the article:
Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions: (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples. (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
Maybe I'm just simple, but weren't these detainees captured in the act of conflict with our military? Or are they saying because we forced them to stop fighting us, then we have to give them all of these protections? They certainly don't meet the definitions of a prisoner of war in article 4. I guess I'll have to keep looking at how they came to this conclusion.

SCOTUSblog , QandO and Orin Kerr have more on the opinions.

Counterterrorism Blog predicts that Congress and the President will legislate these restrictions away.
The news networks are proclaiming that the Supreme Court handed the President a "strong rebuke" in the Hamdan case by declaring the proposed Gitmo trials are illegal under U.S. law and international Geneva conventions.

Oh, really?

The decision is actually a huge political gift to President Bush, and the detainees will not be released that easily. The President and GOP leaders will propose a bill to override the decision and keep the terrorists in jail until they are securely transferred to host countries for permanent punishment. The Administration and its allies will release plenty of information on the terrorist acts committed by the detainees for which they were detained (see this great ABC News interview with the Gitmo warden). They will also release information about those terrorist acts committed by Gitmo prisoners after they were released. They will challenge the "judicial interference with national security" and challenge dissenting Congressmen and civil libertarians to either stand with the terrorists or the American people. The Pentagon will continue to release a small number of detainees as circumstances allow. The bill will pass easily and quickly. And if the Supremes invalidate that law, we'll see another legislative response, and another, until they get it right. Just watch.

Interesting thought that.

Network Neutrality Bill Dies in Committee

Why am I not surprised.

A US Senate panel narrowly rejected strict net neutrality rules on Wednesday, dealing a grave setback to companies such as, eBay and Google which had made enacting them a top political priority this year.

By an 11-11 tie, the Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve a Democrat-backed amendment that would have ensured all internet traffic is treated the same no matter what its "source" or "destination" might be. A majority was needed for the amendment to succeed.

This vote complicates internet companies' efforts to convince Congress of the desirability of extensive new regulations, especially after the House of Representatives definitively rejected the concept in a 269-152 vote on 8 June.

Republican committee members attacked the idea of inserting net neutrality regulations in a massive telecommunications bill, echoing comments from broadband providers such as AT&T and Verizon, which warned the rules were premature and unnecessary. Alaska's Ted Stevens, the committee chairman, accused his colleagues of "imposing a heavy-handed regulation before there's a demonstrated need".

What's more, Republicans warned, adding the regulations would imperil the final passage of the broader telecommunications bill, which is the most extensive set of changes since 1996. Nevada Republican John Ensign said: "This is absolutely a poison pill."

Democrats had rallied behind an amendment, adapted from a standalone bill they offered in May, which would have barred network operators from discriminating "in the carriage and treatment of Internet traffic based on the source, destination or ownership of such traffic". That could have prevented Verizon from inking deals to offer high-definition video and prioritising that on its network, for instance.

Wonderful. Let's move ahead with throwing taxes on Internet usage, and per mile user's fees, and access time fees. Next there will be a surcharge for accessing Google or Yahoo. But, hey, the Rethugs must know what their doing. Right.

Here's the Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act if you want to look at its present form.

Additionally, here is a discussion on Ted Stevens' "Internet Consumer Bill of Rights Act." Personally, I'm not impressed.
The new "Bill of Rights" would require the FCC to preserve "the free flow of ideas and information on the Internet;" to "promote public discourse on the Internet;" to "preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;" to "encourage investment and innovation in Internet networks and applications markets through a diversity of business models;" and to "promote deployment of broadband networks nationwide." It would also require Internet service providers allow each subscriber to "access and post any lawful content of that subscriber's choosing; access any web page of that subscriber's choosing; access and run any voice application, software, or service of that subscriber's choosing; access and run any search engine of that subscriber's choosing; connect any legal device of that subscriber's choosing to the Internet access equipment of that subscriber, if such device does not harm the network of the Internet service provider; and receive clear and conspicuous information, in plain language, about the estimated speeds, capabilities, limitations, and pricing of any Internet service offered to the public."
That is a lot of wording that ends up being very vague. Makes you wonder how the FCC will interpret that. The last sentence is just fascinating. I can't wait to see the fine print that the access providers dump to qualify that statement and still screw the end user. And I'm sure they won't charge you any more because of this.

Ward Churchill's Hawaiian Support


When three departments at the University of Hawaii launched an aggressive fundraiser in February of last year to bring Ward Churchill to Hawaii, they said they were doing so to protect his First Amendment Rights and extend support to the controversial Colorado University Professor who was beginning to come under fire nationally for anti-American views and his inflammatory essay, "Some People Push Back; On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," that condemned 9-11 victims and embraced the terrorists who killed them.

They are still standing by Churchill now, despite the fact that he is on the brink of being fired for extensive academic fraud and plagiarism from Colorado University. Haunani K. Trask of the Hawaiian Studies Department, notes several Hawaii professors from the U.H. sent Churchill a letter when Colorado University launched its investigation into ChurchillÂ’s academic research and claims that he had plagiarized art, writing and research. Trask says she is saddened by what has happened to Churchill -- a man she has great affinity for and considers to be like a "brother" and that Churchill is a victim of post-9-11 hysteria and "McCarthyism" -- something she says she understands well because she too has been victimized like Churchill. Trask maintains because professors like her and Churchill are outspoken enough to make the David Horowitz list of 101 Worst Professors in the Nation, they have become targets for removal from their tenured posts and that they are scrutinized by what they "do, write or wear" - "even down to examining our underwear."

It must be McCarthyism. I mean, these people have been dragged in front of a governmental committee and charged with activities they didn't committ or black listed because of associations. Oh, wait, That never occurred. Funny how McCarthyism is tossed around so flagrantly by those that really should know better.

And Churchill isn't being fired for his big mouth but because of plagerism and other related academic misconducts that are clearly outlined in the investigation. The investigation may have been started due to political pressure in response to his inflamatory remarks, but that doesn't negate his wrong doing. Funny how the academics who are his political supporters seem to easily forgive academic misconduct.
But Trask and other Churchill supporters don't believe they owe their students an apology or an explanation for what was said that night or what the CU investigation has turned up on Churchill, only saying he may have inadvertently forgotten to cite his research to the extent that he should have, but that he would have never been investigated in the first place had it not been for his statements and essay on 9-11 victims.
Funny how one's actions aren't allowed to have consequences in academia.

Strange how I'd like Churchill to turn on the slow spit for this one.

Greenpeace at their Best

Personally, I think the island of St. Kitts should have held these loving activists for as long as possible.

Newsflash: Greenpeace International has violated a code-of-conduct that it and ten other non-government organizations (NGOs) signed just 22 days ago. I am shocked and awed.

The much-touted Accountability Charter states that the NGO signatories “will take all possible steps to ensure that there are no links with organizations, or persons involved in illegal or unethical practices.” Nice words. But for the 39,129 citizens of the sovereign Caribbean Island Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, these words must be ringing a bit hollow.

According to government press statements and news reports, on June 20, 2006, a Greenpeace vessel, the MV Arctic Sunrise, violated the Federation’s territorial waters, illegally offloaded passengers and defied law enforcement officials by refusing to accompany them to police headquarters. Ten members of the invasion force were arrested; six of them spent the night in jail awaiting cash from Greenpeace to pay their fines. The captain and crew of the mother ship apparently abandoned their comrades and sailed off in the direction of St. Eustatius.

The apparent objective of the Greenpeace expeditionary force was to disrupt a meeting of the International Whaling Commission hosted by St. Kitts. Their defense lawyer told the local magistrate that the activists had not intended to cause trouble on the island—only to engage in non-violent protest. Federation officials had a different opinion; they issued a National Security release charging that Greenpeace had shown total disregard and disrespect for the Government “in utter contempt of its sovereign status.” The Federation’s release also noted that the Greenpeace vessel’s illegal maneuvers had threatened the marine environment, “jeopardizing the barrier reef which protects the Eastern Atlantic Coastline of St. Kitts and Nevis and other fragile near-shore marine eco-systems.”

I wonder why I find the claim that they didn't intend to cause trouble as a complete lie?

When Did WMD Get on the List of Small Arms?

The UN Summit on the illicit trade of small arms suddenly turned into a discussion of WMDs. For some reason Iran has taken, or more correctly, defined itself as a leader on controlling the spread of WMDs.

Now that you've had a chance to stop laughing, they also blame Israel for the problem.

Iran's foreign minister told a UN conference in New York on Wednesday on the illicit trade of small arms that Iran's priority was to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially what he characterized as a threat posed by Israel.

"Fighting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and combatting the threats posed by those possessing those weapons, particularly the Zionist regime, will always remain our greater goal," Manouchehr Mottaki said.

The minister said Iran wants to promote peace and security "on the basis of justice and free from any and all discriminatory and double-standard considerations."

Does anyone actually believe any of this? I'm fairly certain that the left out a lot of qualifiers from that last paragraph. You know, they want to promote peace as long as you are Islamic and Shiite and don't question their readings of the Koran, etc.

Reuters, to no big surprise, ensures that the Nuclear weapons topic is pushed into this statement. Though I can't find anything in the statement that specifies nuclear weapons.
Tehran says it is pursuing nuclear enrichment to produce electricity, but Western powers have demanded that it suspend this activity, suspecting it is using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for the production of atomic weapons.

Iran has argued repeatedly that the West is using a double standard against it by ignoring Israel, which is assumed to have about 200 nuclear weapons but has never confirmed having any and, unlike Tehran, has not joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Double standard? Well, Iran is a signatory of the NPT and Israel isn't. And there is loads of evidence that points to Israel's activities as a supporter of terrorism. Umm. Well, maybe the Iranian complaints aren't very logical.

Then there are the remarks by Amr Moussa of the Arab League on the topic:
The United States must check the internal voices of nationalism that are promoting a "clash of civilizations" with Islam, the head of the Arab League said Tuesday.

"You have to stand firm against all negative forces with agendas," Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told the US Arab Economic Forum in Houston, Texas.

"We fear it in the Middle East. Many of us read what they say and we are angry about this nationalist agenda that is gaining some ground."
Hmm, I wonder why the US would have a nationalist agenda related to the middle east?
"The Arab world is the friend of America. The question of hating America is not there. We’ve never hated America," he said while explaining that the Arab world may disagreed with US policies but does not project that distaste upon the country as a whole. Moussa vowed to fight extremists in the Arab world and asked US policy makers to do the same at home. "Let us not give the negative forces on both sides any chance to continue their policies and practices and achieve any success. Their success is our failure."
Yeah, we're doing our best to ensure those negative forces in the middle east don't continue. This guy seems to miss the point that our negative forces don't strap on a bomb and blow themselves up in a market place. So far the Arab Leagues work to control those negative forces seems to be having little effect. I'm also certain that those protests where the Arabs burn American Flags and scream 'death to America' isn't a negative projection on the US as a whole.

But the best statement comes with regard to Israel:
Moussa said the Arab-Israeli conflict is the greatest threat to instability in the Middle East.

"This conflict is the one that will make or break stability in the region," he said.

"There is no doubt that this conflict cannot be resolved without the active involvement of the United States as an honest broker."

Moussa said the United States needed to acknowledge that the conflict was not a result of "terrorists" but of a military occupation by Israel. The policy of aiming for "security now and peace later" will not work, he said. He said the United States needed to stand behind the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, deal with the issue of Jerusalem and push for the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions and the enforcing international laws.
I'd like to know what Moussa actually thinks the US should do as an "honest broker." Especially when he starts flinging about the "military occupation" rhetoric. As for the UN's involvement, well, they started this mess by waffling on the partition and creation of the Israeli state, I doubt that there is any reason to hope that their involvement wouldn't just make things much worse.

The article is fascinating in that it clearly shows the cultural divide and the complete lack of empathy for the views of the west. I don't doubt that there is a lot of unfair rhetoric against arabs in the west, but then, I can visit Al-jazeerah and view the inflammatory rhetoric their that claims to be news.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good News From the UN

Well, actually, it's from our representative giving the UN the big NO. [h/t SayUncle]
A remarkable thing happened at the United Nations yesterday. We, the United States, told the world "no." The messenger was Robert Joseph, the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Speaking before the dozens of nations that have gathered for the review conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Joseph told the world in no uncertain terms where the United States stood.

"The U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and there will be no infringement of those rights," he proclaimed to the dignitaries and functionaries. "The United States will not agree to any provisions restricting civilian possession, use or legal trade of firearms inconsistent with our laws and practices."

Now, if this sounds familiar, it should be. It was five years ago that UN Ambassador John Bolton said something similar during the first conference on small arms. Then, as now, many countries wanted the conference to discuss and implement controls on the civilian possession of firearms.
Nice to see that the administration has this one in the right spot. At least you can have a say with our government by electing the right representatives. At the UN, all the petty despots have more of a say than we do.

Blogcritics has a piece on topic as well. [another h/t SayUncle]
The chairman of the conference, Sri Lanka's Prasad Kariyawasam, maintains that the 2001 agreement on small arms and the discussion of the conference will focus on controlling the trade in illegal weapons, not on taking guns from private citizens, yet the wording of the original agreement which can be found in the UN Firearms Protocol does have some troubling elements. It is not a call for the outright ban of guns in the hands of private citizens, but it does clearly imply tight state controls on firearm ownership, including tracking of all guns in private hands and encouraging states to restrict private gun ownership as much as possible, saying:
Tighter controls over the possession of and access to small arms and light weapons by both authorized government bodies (police, armed forces) and by civilians would also help stem the illicit flow of arms.
For the UN the dividing line between privately held arms and illicit arms is a very fine one, merely the matter of the whim of a dictator or a future UN mandate. This may not be an outright gun ban as some have claimed, but it's a big step in that direction. And the real threat may come from the proposed legislation in Congress to implement the restrictions which the UN has mandated, legislation which includes rigid licensing restrictions for gun sales and severe penalties for the smallest infractions.
Interesting bit that. Go read the rest.

Presidential Signing Statements

Presidential signing statements. Yeah, I've heard of them before, but getting a whiff of how Bush is using them is giving me nausea. I'll note that there isn't any indication in any of these articles that Bush has actually bypassed any legislation with the statements, but then, there isn't any evidence that he hasn't either.
The White House on Tuesday defended President Bush's frequent use of special statements that claim authority to limit the effects of bills he signs, saying the statements help him uphold the Constitution and defend national security.

Senators weren't so sure.

"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," said Arlen Specter, a Republican whose Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings on the issue. "There is a sense that the president has taken signing statements far beyond the customary purview."
I'd be more convinced if it wasn't Specter complaining. To be honest, I think he's been doing his utmost to strip the presidency of it's constitutional powers and reserving them for the Congress. Just my opinion.
The bill-signing statements say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds. Some 110 statements have challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers combined from White House and the Senate committee. They include documents revising or disregarding parts of legislation to ban torture of detainees and to renew the Patriot Act.

Snow said presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton have issued such statements.

"The president has done the same thing that his predecessors have," he told reporters. "Presidents generally had the same concerns about defending the presidential prerogatives when it comes to national security."
I heard somewhere that Madison was the first to use the signing statement, and that is a long time ago. But I'm going to guess that he didn't do it 110 times instead of using a veto. I'm a bit disgusted that the president has refused to veto legislation and let it come down to use on normal operations that were intended for the government. I'm also displeased with the continued use of National Security as an excuse. Either the power is under the president's constitutional powers, or it's not. National Security is part of his responsibilities, and if a bill tries to strip presidential powers, then there is a veto or the courts.

Orin Kerr points part of the issue:
Watching the webcast of the Judiciary Committee hearing on Presidential signing statements brings up a broader point about the Bush Administration's approach to Article II powers. It seems to me that the Bush Administration's approach to Article II powers has two features: (1) an unusually broad view of Article II powers and (2) a refusal to explain in detail the Administration's broad view of Article II powers. Most criticism of the Administration's approach has focused on (1). I'm no expert on these issues, but my sense is that, from a structural perspective, the real difficulty is the combination of (1) and (2).

Imagine the Administration changed course on (2), and was very explicit about its interpretation of Article II. If that were the case, Congress could respond. Congress would know exactly how the Executive branch is interpreting the law, and would be able to respond accordingly. I believe John Yoo has conceded that Congress would be free to do this even under a broad reading of Article II; for example, Congress could cut funding to the Administration's efforts that go beyond Congress's prohibitions. The details of this may be tricky, but the basic idea is sound: When the feedback loop exists, Constitutional checks and balances can adjust to the President's vision of Article II powers. Think of it as the Coase Theorem of separation of powers.

I have to say I think that the thought of the President laying out his administrations exact policies regarding the constitution is just foolish. And for the exact reason that Kerr provides. If the president fully detailed his beliefs in his constitutional powers and the congress took this statement and used it to draft legislation to restrict presidential powers, the whole government would cascade into a dead lock. After seeing the ability of the Democrats to dead lock judicial nominees just because they want to or because they want some information from the president, I'm not surprised that the president holds his policy close to the chest. Kerr appears to be missing the point that feedback loops can be unbreakable.

He goes on with a more cogent part of his argument:
The problem with Presidential signing statements in their current practice is that they announce that the President will follow a constitutional vision that no one outside the Executive Branch understands. Take the McCain Amendment. Here is the Presidential signing statement that accompanied it:

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

Does anyone actually know what that means? We can read John Yoo's scholarship and take some guesses about what it might mean, but my sense is that for the most part we don't really know. And that's the difficulty: Less that the Administration takes a strong view of Article II than that it won't disclose precisely what that strong view is. Without the feedback loop, it's hard for the other branches to respond.

Personally, I don't see the various branches working in a feedback loop. It's more like a running battle. All the branches try to maintain their powers and try to restrict those of the other branches. I don't think the judiciary is quite as bad, but that could be because they are far more cryptic and quiet about how they do it. The most unfortunate part with the present president is the is the Bush Dementia Syndrome. Those that have the most hatred of Bush want to chop away his powers, and completely forget that their actions will have detrimental effects on any future president. The MSM has been playing that game, though they claim to be fair and balanced.

I'm certain the argument can be made for giving the president too much power, but I don't see that as happening at present. The NSA phone tapping issue is a perfect example. A large number of politicos have been briefed on the issue, and only one, Feingold, seems to still state that it is illegal. That in itself gives me an understanding that Bush is being responsible and restrained in that activity. If he was over-reaching his powers, you certainly haven't heard it from those that were briefed.

I'd be less disturbed if Bush were using the veto. He isn't, and just puts out these signing statements. That strikes me as being dishonest to the process. I haven't heard any accounts of excessive statements, but this topic hasn't exactly been overwhelming in its coverage.

The Cato Institute has a paper on the topic that I've only touched on. I think it's a bit of an over-reaction at first glance, but I'll have to finish it and then see.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

9/11 Deniers

I wish I had a lot more to add to this great article over on Salon, but I just can't come up with anything. I guess my only question is, why are so many people more willing to accept incredibly convoluted conspiracies requiring absolute secrecty of thousands of people, split second timing, absolute control over the media...
Barking moonbats. Loads of them.

Employer Assault

I'm just trying to picture my reaction to this:

The maid, Gaby Gibson, told the New York Post in April that Campbell whacked her in the back of the head when she was unable to find a pair of black designer jeans.

"She said it was to teach me a lesson," Gibson told the tabloid, which said Gibson worked in Campbell's Park Avenue in Manhattan apartment for three months. Campbell's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Law suit is probably the right path. But then, the desire to crush her spine probably would have been overwhelming.

Teach me a lesson? There is an interesting thought.

UN's Cannabis Crusade

Now the UN is getting on the boat with the evils of marijuana.
NEW strains of highly potent cannabis are as dangerous as heroin and cocaine and the drug can no longer be dismissed as soft and relatively harmless, the United Nations has warned.

In an implied criticism of Britain's decision to downgrade cannabis, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said countries got the drug problem they deserved if they maintained inadequate policies.

His comments indicated deep unhappiness with the British Government decision to reclassify cannabis from a class B drug to class C. Heroin and cocaine are class A, attracting the toughest penalties.

"Policy reversals leave young people confused as to just how dangerous cannabis is," Mr Costa said.

"With cannabis-related health damage increasing, it is fundamentally wrong for countries to make cannabis control dependent on which party is in government. The cannabis pandemic, like other challenges to public health, requires consensus, a consistent commitment across the political spectrum and by society at large."

Interesting. So the party in power, legally voted in a democratic process, shouldn't be allowed to set the laws? Sounds like another UN agency that is against democracy. I'm certain it would be far better if that brain trust of unelected bureaucrats at Turtle Bay had control of the world. Imagine the UN in charge of the war on drugs. There's a system to give you the creeps.

An interesting warning on those extreme versions of cannabis. I'll remain skeptical as to how wide spread the use is, not to mention just how powerful they are. I'm sure that Costa also believes that there should be harsher penalties for simple possession. Not that there aren't already far too many people in prison for this type of foolish over-reaction.

Ward Churchill Getting the Boot

Caught this at QandO.
The University of Colorado at Boulder's chancellor notified professor Ward Churchill on Monday that he intends to fire him, capping a 15-month investigation that began in the wake of Churchill's notorious essay comparing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to a Nazi.

Churchill, who was found to have plagiarized, falsified and fabricated in his research, was relieved of his duties by interim chancellor Phil DiStefano, but he will stay on the CU payroll until the termination is final.

The ethnic-studies professor has 10 days to appeal to the university's privilege and tenure committee for a hearing, a process that could last from a couple of weeks to several months.

Good idea, but not a sure thing yet.
Churchill will request a hearing before the six-member privilege and tenure committee, but he doesn't expect an outcome in his favor, said his attorney, David Lane.

When the last "rubber stamp comes down" on Churchill's termination, Lane will file a federal lawsuit accusing CU of retaliating against the professor for comments that were protected by the First Amendment, he said.

"They've been looking for a year and a half for enough window dressing so that when they fire him in retaliation for his speech, it will have the appearance of legitimacy," Lane said.

Yeah, they took a year and a half to perform a careful investigation, yet it's retaliation? Nice to see that lawyers still have no prerequisite to be in touch with reality.

Wonder when the professors will start protesting this?

Boston Globe on Campaign Finance Reform at the SCOTUS

I loathe the Boston Globe. This editorial will make you understand why. The main point, is that they just don't seem to get what the SCOTUS finding was nor have they made any apparent attempt to research it. Thank the blessed Brighid for blawgs.
STATES ARE the laboratories of democracy unless someone in Washington doesn't like what's in the test tube.

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court struck down a Vermont law that attempted to bring some sanity to the financing of political campaigns. It was a disappointing decision, especially at a time when the corrosive effect of money on politics is apparent in headlines nearly every day.
And with that I'll go to some reasoned commentary on the topic.

First, the Volokh Conspiracy has Eugene Volokh's commentary on money as speech.
Money and Speech:

This morning's campaign speech case from the Supreme Court, Randall v. Sorrell, leaves me with little new to say, which is fortunate because I have little time right now to say much about it. Still, Justice Stevens's repetition of the old saw that "it is quite wrong to equate money and speech" struck me as mistaken enough to be noteworthy. (The occasional argument of some critics of campaign finance law that money is indeed speech is equally mistaken.)

The reason that the Court struck down the law here — which, among other things, would have limited a candidate's total spending for Vermont state representative races to $2000 for both the primary election and general election put together — is not that money is speech. Rather, it's that restrictions on spending money to speak are restrictions on speech, and "money is speech" is, I think, a misleading way of expressing this claim.

Just consider some analogies. Would we say "money is abortion"? I doubt it, but a law that banned the spending of money would surely be a serious restriction on abortion rights (whether or not you think that the Court was right to recognize such rights). A law that capped the spending of money for abortions at a small amount, far smaller than abortions often cost, would likewise be a burden on abortion rights, and dismissing this argument as "it is quite wrong to equate money and abortion" would be unsound.

Interesting that. Pretty much exactly where I've been on all of the campaign speech repression legislation that has been popping up.

Volokh then links to a rather amusing synopsis of the findings at the Skepticseye. Just read it for the laugh.

Then SCOTUSblog has several opinions. Let's start here with Amy Howe's linking to Rick Hasen's first glance. I'll just list the headlines. You can go for the meat if you desire on the blawg itself.
1.Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito agree that some campaign contribution limits are consistent with the First Amendment.
2. Battles will rage across the country over the constitutionality of particular contribution limit laws.
3. Political parties may now start arguing for additional constitutional protections under the third factor listed above.
4. The nail in the coffin for expenditure limits.
My synopsis of the synopsis is: You can limit campaign contributions, but not too much, and still be within the rights or the First Amendment. You can't limit campaign expenditures. There is a new test on how much is "too little" for contributions. And lastly, this mess will be ricocheting around the courts for years to come.


Amy then posts Rick Hasen's additional thoughts here.
In the short run, Chief Justice Roberts' vote is good news for those of us who think contribution limits should be upheld. I think most lower courts examining most state and local campaign finance laws will uphold them. But not all will, and these cases will eventually work their way back to the Supreme Court. In the long run, it may not be good news at all. As I wrote in my South Carolina article: "It may be that in 2016, individuals, corporations, and unions will be free to give as much money as they want to any candidate or group, subject to the filing of disclosure reports."
So more on the thought that campaign finance reform will continue, but expect more fights.

Then there is the opinions of Mark Alexander.
Today, the United States Supreme Court unwisely rejected Vermont's campaign spending limits.

In upholding Buckley, the Court failed to find a compelling interest in upholding Vermont's Act 64. In today's opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court did not listen to the voice of the People of Vermont, and to provide meaningful campaign finance reform. Instead of deferring to the notions of federalism inherent in respecting a law passed by the State Legislature, the Court instead relied on notions of stare decisis to uphold Buckley's onerous restrictions on campaign expenditures.

In its nearly blind allegiance to stare decisis, the Court ignored the state of reality today, namely that elected are constantly torn from their official duties, in order to attend to the demands of fundraising. There is ample evidence that candidates focus their time on a limited number of people throughout their campaigns, in order to raise the massive sums of money needed to run effective campaigns. As a result, the people are denied the chance to have input into the process. Being removed in such a way hurts American representative democracy, in which the people are to be engaged in the electoral process.

Sounds like the BoGlo read this guys opinion alone. I'm afraid I disagree with his points, at least relative to the constitutional protections. The voters of Vermont can't vote down constitutionally codified right to free speech. The SCOTUS is the tool that ensures that the protections are maintained. There is a good point about the politician wasting the people's time by raising money for campaigns, but that doesn't mean that the first amendment rights should be forfeit because of it.

Additional opinions by Richard Briffault and Rick Pildes are also posted there.
Briffault give this synopsis of the original Buckley case and the Vermont legislation:
Expenditure limits: Modern campaign finance law begins with Buckley, which held that campaign money involves speech and association rights protected by the First Amendment but then determined that limits on contributions to candidates raise different concerns than limits on spending by candidates and independent groups aimed at influencing the voters. Buckley found that contribution limits place only a modest burden on donor speech and association which can be justified by the governmental interest in preventing corruption, but that spending limits "impose direct and substantial restraints on speech" which cannot be justified either by the interest in preventing corruption or the goal of promoting equality.

In passing Act 64, the Vermont legislature sought to force the Court to reconsider Buckley's rejection of spending limits. A Second Circuit panel held the Vermont limits might be sustainable on a combination of two theories not considered by Buckley. First, the appeals court found that a rule of limited contributions but unlimited expenditures meant that candidates are dependent on"“bundlers" - individuals and interest groups who could "bundle" and deliver to candidates large numbers of contributions - thus creating a kind of corruption danger not foreseen by Buckley. Second, the appeals court found the combination of unlimited spending and limited donations forces candidates and officeholders to devote excessive time to fundraising. The appeals court said this argument had not been considered in Buckley, either.

And Pilades points to what he considers the key point:
Here is the key point: the Court in this decision makes as clear as it has in any constitutional decision involving democratic institutions that the Court views itself as having an essential role to play in preserving the structural integrity of the democratic process. None of the harms noted above involve individual First Amendment rights in any conventional sense. That is, the reason Vermont's contribution limits are too low is not because an individual has a First Amendment personal right to contribute more than $200 to a candidate for state representative (the Vermont cap) but no First Amendment right to contribute a higher amount that the Court would find constitutional, such as $500 to the same candidate. This is precisely the point at which Justice Thomas' dissent, joined by Justice Scalia, press at the foundation of the Court's decision: the central principle of Justice Thomas' dissent is that, either individuals do have First Amendment rights to contribute, in which case no limits on contributions should be constitutional, or they do not, in which case the Court's opinion cannot be justified. Justice Thomas endorses the former view.

Instead, today's decision rejects the view that individuals have a general First Amendment right to make unlimited campaign contributions, just as the Court has rejected that view in the past. But at the same time, the decision holds that, at some point, limits that are too low threaten the election process itself. That is, the decision rests on the principle that there is a risk that those who currently hold office - current legislators -- can regulate elections in a way that insulates themselves improperly form competition and that undermines the integrity and accountability that should be central to democracy and democratic elections. Most importantly, constitutional law and the Supreme Court must play a role in responding to that risk, according to the principles of the Vermont decision.
Well, like usual, nothing is simple.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Just a reminder that the male spawn wants us to build one. Could be fun, could be a slog. I'll have to work on the plans & get the materials together anyway. The female spawn wants to know what colors we're going to use to paint it... If anyone thinks that there are not genetic differences between boys & girls...

DNA as a Geneology Tool

Most of the time I'm sharing a link from Salon it's because they've managed to, yet again, shoot my blood pressure through the roof. Today is that rare, but wonderful, occasion when they've published something really interesting.
The book under review, Before the Dawn, sounds like a good read. I'm also fascinated by the idea of having my DNA evaluated. Being a history nut, and lucky enough to have inherited a lot of other people's work, I've got my geneology back to the first settlers in the US on both sides (male, German-1750, female, English-1690-ish but not the Mayflower). It's mostly all like that, German & English mixed together, but there's supposedly one Native American woman, and an Irish woman, on the direct tree. It'd be cool to find out for sure. $180 for the test is a bit high though. Other than that, it's basically a long line of farmers & workers with one known bad boy (my grandfather on my fathers side died of a "stomach ailment" that I later found was directly caused by that bullet he received during a fight in a bar).

Withdrawal Plan Griping

This is just humorous.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the plan attributed to Gen. George W. Casey resembles the thinking of many Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution to begin a troop drawdown in December. That resolution was defeated Thursday on a largely party-line vote in the Senate.

"That means the only people who have fought us and fought us against the timetable, the only ones still saying there shouldn't be a timetable really are the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the Congress," Boxer said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Now it turns out we're in sync with General Casey."
Heh. So Boxer believes that the dems proposals are "in sync" with the military's planners. How interesting. Which proposal is she thinking is in sync? She must mean the Levin-Reed plan since the Kerry-Murtha run-and -hide plan doesn't sound anything like this. It also makes you wonder why so little credit is given to the military on their plans, since this report wasn't issued to the press, but leaked. Not that I don't think the "leak" isn't politics at play, but more likely that the generals had nothing to do with it and that they most probably have had this plan for quite some time.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the "worst-kept secrets in town" -- that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November.

"It shouldn't be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration," Levin said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there's going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory."

"It shouldn't be a political decision," he bellows, while pressing to attach a resolution saying the same thing to a military finance bill. It's only the administration playing political games here. Washington is like a room full of five-year-olds these days. (or maybe I'm just noticing it more.)

Of course, this statement strikes one as the bit of reality in all of the screeching:
A Pentagon official said his impression is that Bush and Casey had no lengthy discussion about troop reductions, and that any projections of specific numbers remain speculative. This source noted that Casey had said that he hoped U.S. force levels would be substantially reduced this year but has decided against such a move because of the continuing violence in Iraq.

"I think there will be a modest decrease between now and the end of the year," the official added. But, he concluded, "Nobody really knows."

So, Levin's predictions may not have any weight on the topic.

Then there is Kerry:
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored an unsuccessful resolution setting a July 1, 2007, deadline for the removal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, issued a statement saying the Casey plan looks "an awful lot like what the Republicans spent the last week attacking. Will the partisan attack dogs now turn their venom and disinformation campaign on General Casey?"
Yes John, the partisan bickering will be aimed at the generals. The ones that the Rethugs have been saying should make the decisions on troop levels all along. Of course, your run-and-hide resolution wasn't trying to force the generals into any action that they may have disapproved of.
But Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, played down the significance of the reported briefing. "The department's drawn up plans at all times, but I think it would be wrong now to say that this is the plan that we're going to operate under," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Warner counseled patience. "We have struggled and made tremendous sacrifice to give this nation its sovereignty," he said. "They are now beginning to exercise this sovereignty with a young government. Give them a chance to move out. We will consult with them. I'm confident our government will not let them make mistakes that would reflect adversely on troop withdrawals."

Oh, that's clever. The generals propose a course of action that has some viability, but another politico decides it's not the way to operate. Sorry, the generals have had enough guidance from the political set, maybe they should be left to actually run the details.

Funny, almost sounds like the congress is now in the job of telling the generals how to do their jobs. This is definitely a case where politics should stay out. Politics will set the end goals, no doubt, but implementation should be left to those that have the responsibility.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What Ya Know, They Do Have a Plan

I thought they did, just nice that they've decided to get around to telling us.

The top US commander in Iraq has drawn up plans that could lead to sharp reductions in American forces there as early as September, and cut the number of combat brigades by nearly two-thirds by late 2007.

The commander, Army General George W. Casey, presented the plan to Pentagon leaders and President Bush in confidential briefings made during a visit to Washington last week, according to an administration official. Other officials emphasized that no final decision was taken on troop levels, but said that the outline was likely to serve as the basis for future planning.
Well, that's something. But you can hand it to the BoGlo to make political conjecture against the evil republicans.
Not only would the first of the draw-downs come just weeks before November's midterm congressional elections, in which Republicans are facing the prospect of significant losses, due in part to the war's growing unpopularity. The plan also comes as some Democrats have been pushing the Bush administration to come up with a timetable for withdrawal.
No detailed withdrawal dates they start yelping about this being a political move. But for all they know there could very well be more troops at that point. But who listens to the BoGlo for unbiased news?

And then there is the BoGlo columnist calling for a draft. A draft?
REINSTATE THE military draft and see how quickly the United States ends its war in Iraq.

Imagine if all our sons and daughters were at risk for deployment to the desert. Imagine if all our children faced the Al Qaeda-style butchery that took the lives of two American soldiers, Private First Class Thomas L. Tucker of Madras, Ore., and Private First Class Kristian Menchaca of Houston.

If we feared our children were next up to be gutted like fish, we might be less likely to shake our heads at crazy antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. If turning 18 meant your kid's boots on the ground, a resolution to pull troops out of Iraq by a certain date might grab more than six votes in the US Senate.

A key difference between Iraq and Vietnam is the country's ability to keep this war at a convenient distance. We can turn from the front page headlines of war, death, and destruction to sports and celebrity gossip; a click of the remote, and the face of a young soldier, now dead, fades to "Friends" reruns or "America's Next Top Model." the US Senate.

Now that is disturbing. The suggestion that a draft would be good for moving the country from its complacency is appaling. Destroying our professional voluntary military and backsliding it to the mess that the military was in the Vietnam era strikes me as an idiotic idea.

But the mind trust of the Boston Globe knows no bounds.

British LSD Experiments

It's raining... again... so I'm just cruising the internet today (brewing later). I found this and just had to share it. Just curious, do you think those weapons were loaded?

Army Says 5.56mm is Adequate

I'm not a military expert and I don't play one on TV, but when it comes to this sort of thing, isn't listening to the troops on the ground the thing to do? If they don't like the stopping power of this round, shouldn't the military do something other than a research paper? I look forward to hearing the Marines report because if there is a serious tactical issue, they'll call it.
The one argument that I've heard for the smaller rounds is that it allows you to carry more and getting lots of lead down-range has long been the preferred tactical approach. Maybe this is changing?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Executive Order on Eminent Domain

I know this has been discussed on the blogsphere a bit already, but I'm not sure I understand why so many people see this as a worthless half-measure.

The executive order states:
Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.
Sounds pretty good to me at least to the effect it will have on the Federal level of Eminent Domain. I'll also note that like all Executive Orders, it can be changed with the next administration. Though I find it unlikely that that would happen considering the fire-storm that the SCOTUS caused with the Kelo decision.

I went and looked at the blawgs on the topic and they sound very underwhelmed. This is from Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy :
Read carefully, the order does not in fact bar condemnations that transfer property to other private parties for economic development. Instead, it permits them to continue so long as they are "for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken." Unfortunately, this language validates virtually any economic development condemnation that the feds might want to pursue. Officials can (and do) always claim that the goal of a taking is to benefit "the general public" and not "merely" the new owners.
I guess they have a point since the EO doesn't come out and make the rule very very specific. Though to be honest, I'm not certain that that is possible since someone (lawyers) will always weasel around the words. The specific exclusions section gives details, but doesn't eliminate the concern:
Sec. 3. Specific Exclusions. Nothing in this order shall be construed to prohibit a taking of private property by the Federal Government, that otherwise complies with applicable law, for the purpose of:

(a) public ownership or exclusive use of the property by the public, such as for a public medical facility, roadway, park, forest, governmental office building, or military reservation;

(b) projects designated for public, common carrier, public transportation, or public utility use, including those for which a fee is assessed, that serve the general public and are subject to regulation by a governmental entity;

c) conveying the property to a nongovernmental entity, such as a telecommunications or transportation common carrier, that makes the property available for use by the general public as of right;

(d) preventing or mitigating a harmful use of land that constitutes a threat to public health, safety, or the environment;

(e) acquiring abandoned property;

(f) quieting title to real property;

(g) acquiring ownership or use by a public utility;

(h) facilitating the disposal or exchange of Federal property; or

(i) meeting military, law enforcement, public safety, public transportation, or public health emergencies.

Somin also makes the point that most of these economic type seizures aren't at the federal level.
Even had President Bush's order been better worded, its impact would have been limited. The vast majority of economic development condemnations are undertaken by state and local governments, not by federal agencies. Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that the Bush administration has chosen to join in the charade of pretending to do something about Kelo while actually doing little or nothing.
I think this is a bit uncharitable, since Bush is trying to draw a line at the Federal level, and I'd conjecture that in the context of an Executive Order the President couldn't legally do anything to stop state and local Eminent Domain seizures. Some states have moved forward with their own legislation, but that doesn't make any guarantees nation wide.

I looked at MuD&PHuD hoping to see some commentary, since Tom has been outspoken on the topic, but he's been quiet lately, so I'll just keep looking.

AK, AR or Just a Mosin-Nagant

Personally, I'd like to have one of each, but since that isn't always possible, this checklist of the pluses & minuses of each design could come in handy. Favorite so far: "Recoil often used to relocate shoulders thrown out by the previous shot." This is especially true if you use that damned Czech machine gun ammo.
Anyone feeling really butch, I've still got a box downstairs. We'll get Nyarl to bring over the '44 carbine instead of one of my '91's or the 91/30 and then we'll give you a real education in PAIN! Of course, the eight foot jet of flame coming out the end of the barrel will be entertaining too.

Terrorists Invited to Massachusetts

While that title may be a bit over the top, I can't help feeling that the response, to Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to have state police arrest illegal aliens as part of their job, of the three Democrats running for governor basically boils down to that. After all, when you find that not only are many people who have committed, or are planning to commit, terrorist acts on US soil are not only here illegally, but that they have regular brushes with the law. Then we have the most recent example of home-grown terrorists, so called, including a Haitian here illegally. Well, then, clearly, our fine state is trying to advertise an open door policy for terrorists.
So please, all illegal aliens planning on blowing up Americans, you can stay at Tom Reilly's house (or Duval Patrick's or Christopher F. Gabrieli's). As a matter of fact, Tom would like to offer your illegal kids in-state tuition at our fine schools. You don't need to worry about Tom pursuing you on any of your crimes either. After all, he needs to spend his time chasing down Airsoft pellet guns, a much bigger danger than illegal aliens plotting to blow up federal buildings & giant hi-rises.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Six Nation Gun Survey

Here's an interesting survey. Note that the sponsor of the survey isn't exactly unbiased. So you can decide for yourself whether pollster had truth or desired results as a motivation.
Three in 10 people questioned in a six-nation survey have been the victim of gun crime or know someone who has been in the last five years, gun control campaigners said on Monday.

The survey of about 1,000 people in each of Brazil, Britain, Canada, Guatemala, India and South Africa found widespread support for tighter international restrictions on trade in firearms, the Control Arms campaign said in a statement.

Control Arms is a joint initiative by human rights group Amnesty International, charity Oxfam International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, made up of hundreds of groups from around the world seeking tighter gun controls.

The survey, carried out by pollsters Ipsos MORI in April and May, was released a week before a major United Nations conference on illicit trade in small arms opens in New York.

Control Arms says there are around 640 million small arms and light weapons in the world and eight million more are produced each year. Weapons kill more than 1,000 people every day, it says.

Control Arms called on governments to introduce global principles to regulate transfers of weapons and ensure that they do not end up in the hands of human rights abusers.

Thirty percent of respondents in the six countries said that either they, someone in their family or someone they knew had been threatened, injured or killed with a gun in the last five years.

The number of people answering "yes" to the question ranged from three percent in India, nine percent in Canada and 11 percent in Britain to 51 percent in both Brazil and Guatemala and 54 percent in South Africa.

More than 60 percent of those questioned said they were "worried about becoming a victim of armed violence", with Brazil recording the highest figure at 94 percent and Canada the lowest at 36 percent.

An average of 62 percent of all those surveyed said it was too easy to obtain a gun in their country.

Eighty-seven percent of all respondents wanted "strict international controls on where weapons can be exported to" and 89 percent backed better controls on arms coming into their country, the survey found.

I'd like to know why they chose these countries for the survey. Especially Brazil which seems inordinately nervous about gun violence. Didn't they recently have a referendum on gun control? And I'd say South Africa and Guatemala aren't exactly what I would call stable countries (See Below). Funny though that India, Canada and Britain were much less anxious about guns.

Check out Control Arms Website. You can also download the "Shattered Lives" report if you're a glutton for punishment. I honestly believe that this should be read. It's an interesting report on other countries and their small arms issues. I have yet to find anything in the report that would be considered a reasonable excuse for stripping Americans of their gun rights.

Here's some interesting bits that their own report states:
Guatemala continues to be a very violent country. Although the Peace Accords were signed in 1996, a survey in 2000 found that 75 per cent of people felt that insecurity was increasing, and 88 per cent perceived a marked increase in the acquisition and proliferation of firearms.20 Deaths from firearms increased from 69 per cent of all fatalities involving weapons in 1999 to 75 per cent in 2000, and firearms injuries increased from 52 to 60 per cent of all accidental injuries.
Hmm. Looks like the choice of Guatemala is indeed front loading the above Ipsos MORI survey.

And South Africa:
Guns can become so central to communities that their role goes far beyond their original purpose. In South Africa, AK-47s were used as currency and described as "Soweto Black Cheques"
In South Africa, illegal weapons ownership is increasing, all types of crime involving firearms have increased, and firearms-related homicide as a proportion of total homicides is increasing annually, from 41 per cent in 1994 to 49.3 per cent in 2000. In the USA, armed homicides have been declining from a peak in 1993, but the tide may be turning again, and gang activity and gun violence are re-emerging in some cities.
I'm not particularly surprised that they include a mention of violence decreasing in the US so that they can prod that fear that the trend is actually reversing. They don't actually provide much in the way on US stats, and they don't because they'd have to show that gun violence is increasing in areas with the most stringent gun controls.

Also look up Amnesty Internationals related website.

The issue I have with the gun controls by the UN is mainly that it refuses to acknowledge that there are legitimate personal uses for small arms. I'm fully aware that there are countries that have extreme issues with small arms, but that isn't a justification to force gun prohibition on countries that are fully in control.

Disarming American Intelligence

Here we go again. Assumption of illegality, disclosure of secret intelligence systems, and a business assuming they have a greater moral right to reveal the program than the government has to defend the country.
The White House vigorously defended today a secret program of combing through a vast international data base containing banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials said the program, whose existence was revealed on Thursday night by The New York Times, was both legal and necessary to deter terrorism.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, in his first public remarks about the program, called it "government at its best." He told reporters that the operation was carefully controlled to trace only those transactions with an identifiable link to possible terrorist activity.

"There can't be any doubt about the fact that the program is an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror," he said. "It's for that reason that these disclosures of the particular sources and methods are so regrettable."

Now, the fact that the US intelligence departments are known to track terrorist financial transactions, just as they are known to track terrorist phone calls. But giving the details of the who and how these things are being tracked is beyond the pale.

Then there are those ranting against the activity:
"I am very concerned that the Bush Administration may be once again violating the Constitutional rights of innocent Americans, as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attacks," Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has made privacy a signature issue, said in a statement.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony D. Romero, condemned the program, calling it "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."

Well, these two standing against the program does make one certain that this probably was effective and providing useful information. Markey's assumption that banking records are protected is fascinating in the depth of his lack of knowledge. In fact banking records don't require a warrant even within the country. And these transactions are coming from over-seas..

Counterterroism Blog came out on the topic:
By way of background, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) provides electronic messaging services that direct financial transactions worth trillions of dollars a day among around 7,800 financial institutions throughout the world. As detailed in the various media reports, the Treasury Department has been receiving SWIFT information since shortly after 9/11. Personally, I'm astounded that the program has remained confidential this long. It was an innovative and remarkable program. As custodian of the program, Treasury provided the SWIFT information to the CIA, who managed the program. The FBI, in conjunction with the CIA and Treasury, exploited financial information to thwart terrorists, exposing them to areas of financial vulnerability.

For my colleagues who have been skeptical of the U.S. GovernmentÂ’s efforts in terrorist financing, this program, the cooperation with other financial providers, such as First Data Corporation and Western Union, contributed significantly to the A- grade given the Government for Terrorist Financing by the 9/11 Commission. Many of the successes achieved in terrorist financing have not reached the public domain. The anonymity afforded, up until this point, has provided the interagency community the opportunity to continue to exploit terrorists through their financial vulnerabilities.

Nice that at least they can give some details of what is actually happening. Too bad the MSM hasn't been as clear nor as honest in its reporting. Read the rest.

On the topic of terrorism, I found especially disturbing hearing co-workers discussing the Liberty-City Seven. I understand I work in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, but the majority of them believe that this indictment was politically motivated or in reaction to the terrorist arrests in Canada. In addition they seemed to be baffled that they were arrested when they didn't have the means nor any detailed plans to actually commit a terrorist act. I had to ask what they thought law enforcement should do, and didn't they think that there could be a possibility that these young men may just have been trying to move ahead on their intent. I got a good laugh out of them and was called paranoid. I pointed out that there is a difference between being paranoid and being stupid. What is it going to take for people like this to lose their complacency?

Well, at least there was one redeeming part to these reports:
The press secretary made his remarks during a lengthy morning briefing, during which he at times grew uncharacteristically testy. At one point, he accused news organizations like CNN, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times of collecting personal data from visitors to their web sites without disclosing it. At another, he grew exasperated when Helen Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent, interrupted him, and told her to "stop heckling and let me conduct the press conference."
Funny, I'm starting to like Tony Snow more all the time.