Thursday, August 31, 2006

UN Deciding Your Rights - Be Afraid

David Hardy at Of Arms and the Law has this blog on a report

submitted by Barbara Frey, Special Rapporteur, whatever that is, to the UN Human Rights Councils's Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
They are apparently having discussions on the "right" to self-defence. Here's just a taste of what is posted.
"20. Self-defence is a widely recognized, yet legally proscribed, exception to the universal duty to respect the right to life of others. Self-defence is a basis for exemption from criminal responsibility that can be raised by any State agent or non-State actor. Self-defence is sometimes designated as a "right". There is inadequate legal support for such an interpretation. Self-defence is more properly characterized as a means of protecting the right to life and, as such, a basis for avoiding responsibility for violating the rights of another. "
I'm trying to read for comprehension here, but this really appears quite clear. Sorry, but it is NOT a way to avoid responsibility of violating another's rights. Defence is REACTIONARY. Defence occurs when one is threatened. You may argue when defence is reasonable or not, but there is no question that self-defence is an action in direct relation to your right to LIFE. If I have no right to self-defence then do I have a right to life?

Please read the rest. It is rather disturbing that a HUMAN RIGHTS group would be dithering over the legalistic definitions in international law with regards to a subject that should be more than self-evident.

Also check out his post on that Jackass Bloomberg's round pound with regards to being sued by gun dealers.

Jemma and the Iranians

So Jemma is playing games again.
In an event that would turn a page in American history, former president Jimmy Carter has agreed in principle to host former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami for talks during his visit to the United States starting this week.

Carter's term as president was dominated by the rupture in relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution and the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days until the day that Carter left office.

Iranians made the overture for the meeting, but the Carter Center in Atlanta is currently working on possible timing, according to the former president's aide, Phil Wise.

"President Carter in his role since leaving the White House has made his office and services and center available to basically anybody who wants to talk. He believes that it is much better to be talking to people who you have problems with than not to, and that's the approach he takes now," Wise said.
Turn a page? How's that? Maybe turn a page for Carter and his utopian view of how the world should work. But that served him real well when he blundered about incompetently during the Iranian crisis that got him booted from office.

I'm sure he thinks talking is better than say doing anything at all. Let's look at this from a different angle. Could the Iranians be using Carter as a bit of leverage politically? Not just in the US but on their home front? And isn't Khatami the last president of Iran who was apparently an abysmal failure? Well, maybe they can sympathize over tea. Because nothing of any value will come out of this.

History of the Devil

I'm just getting kicks out of this Google book thingee.

Daniel Defoes "The History of the Devil."

Part I
A State of the Devil's Circumstances, From His Expulsion out of Heaven, to the Creation; with Remarks on the Several Mistakes Concerning His Fall.

Part II
His More Private Conduct Down to the Present Times; His Government, His Appearances, His Manner of Working, and the Tools He Works With.

Doyle's The Great Boer War
Churchill's London to Ladysmith via Praetoria

The Prussian report on the Russo-Japanese war

Yep. This is going to fill the hard drive quickly.

Terrorist = Pirate?

Interesting post that I caught linked at Schneier.

AT FIRST GLANCE, THE CORRELATION BETWEEN PIRACY AND TERRORISM seems a stretch. Yet much of the basis of this skepticism can be traced to romantic and inaccurate notions about piracy. An examination of the actual history of the crime reveals startling, even astonishing, parallels to contemporary international terrorism. Viewed in its proper historical context, piracy emerges as a clear and powerful precedent.

Piracy has flourished on the high seas for as long as maritime commerce has existed between states. Yet its meaning as a crime has varied considerably. The Roman definition of hostis humani generis fell into disuse by the fifth century A.D. with the decline of the empire. But the act didn't disappear with the definition. By 912, pirates along the coasts of Western Europe who styled themselves as "sea-warriors," or Vikings, had terrorized Britain and conquered Normandy. In the early Middle Ages, with no national navies to quash them, pirates held sway over nearly every trade route in Europe. Kings like Edward I of England then began to grant "Commissions of Reprisal" to merchantmen, entitling them to attack both pirate ships and any other merchant vessel flying the same country's flag as the one flown by the pirates they had seen before.
TO UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF DEFINING TERRORISM as a species of piracy, consider the words of the 16th-century jurist Alberico Gentili's De jure belli: "Pirates are common enemies, and they are attacked with impunity by all, because they are without the pale of the law. They are scorners of the law of nations; hence they find no protection in that law." Gentili, and many people who came after him, recognized piracy as a threat, not merely to the state but to the idea of statehood itself. All states were equally obligated to stamp out this menace, whether or not they had been a victim of piracy. This was codified explicitly in the 1856 Declaration of Paris, and it has been reiterated as a guiding principle of piracy law ever since. Ironically, it is the very effectiveness of this criminalization that has marginalized piracy and made it seem an arcane and almost romantic offense. Pirates no longer terrorize the seas because a concerted effort among the European states in the 19th century almost eradicated them. It is just such a concerted effort that all states must now undertake against terrorists, until the crime of terrorism becomes as remote and obsolete as piracy.

But we are still very far from such recognition for the present war on terror. President Bush and others persist in depicting this new form of state vs. nonstate warfare in traditional terms, as with the president's declaration of June 2, 2004, that "like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the United States." He went on: "We will not forget that treachery and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy." What constitutes ultimate victory against an enemy that lacks territorial boundaries and governmental structures, in a war without fields of battle or codes of conduct? We can't capture the enemy's capital and hoist our flag in triumph. The possibility of perpetual embattlement looms before us.
I see no issue with forming a legal structure for terrorists. Though I think Burgess is missing a point in that by calling it war, the US can bring military forces against nation-states that harbor terrorists or even assist them. This can be done at various levels of escalation from declared war as occurred in Afghanistan to more surgical attacks. It does get a bit fuzzy though in that the war on terror doesn't really have a clear declaration though the AUMF could be seen as just that. The problem with that is it appears that the Supreme Court has decided that war declaration is now defunct.

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist

So my Alma Mater, UNH, has its own local conspiracy idiot. And for some reason the Governor has decided that he has to rail against him. Not sure I would bother if I was him. Let the guy have his say, and as appears to be happening, the students will think he's a bit of a loon.
"We haven't had any direct complaints from students in the past about what content he chooses to include in his courses or how he presents that content," University Provost and Executive Vice President Bruce Mallory said in an interview Tuesday. "The conclusion we draw from looking at his 30-year history is that he's exercised appropriate academic freedom in his classes."

Woodward has said he suspects the U.S. government orchestrated or knew in advance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a theory Gov. John Lynch derided as "completely crazy and offensive." University administrators, including interim President J. Bonnie Newman and Board of Trustees Chairman Andy Lietz, have defended Woodward's right to express his views.

Thirty-one students in Woodward's advanced psychology classes responded to evaluation surveys during the 2005-2006 school year. On a scale of one to five - one defined as "poor" and five defined as "excellent" - Woodward's "overall rating" across all four of his classes was a 4.13.

Just less than 40 percent of students gave Woodward the top rating of "excellent." The same percentage rated him one notch below that mark.

He gets pretty good ratings, though from what I recall, most students filled out good reports for the teachers who were nice or had classes that weren't especially challenging. But then, I always seemed to run into the tough courses with teachers who were completely incompetent at teaching. They were good scientists, no doubt, but they had no clue how to teach.

But then, he's pushing his conspiracy theory in a course and uses crap like Zwicker's film as evidence.
In that course, he says, he introduces his 9/11 theory during a particular class session devoted to the subject of "state terrorism vs. individual terrorism."

Woodward said he shows a clip, roughly 10 minutes in length, from a film called "The Great Conspiracy: The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw." The film, produced and narrated by Canadian journalist Barrie Zwicker, contends the U.S. government's account of the 9/11 attacks is "the overarching fiction and crime and coverup of our time."

In the film, Zwicker claims the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and the attack on Pearl Harbor "all involved secretly contrived attacks on Americans planned or encouraged by American Presidents."

I love Zwicker. He's pretty much complete proof that you can twist a tin-foil hat on too tightly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rumsfeld v. Reed on History

Rumsfeld is ruffling feathers again. He does have some points though.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that critics of the war in Iraq and the campaign against terror groups "seem not to have learned history's lessons," and he alluded to those in the 1930's who advocated appeasing Nazi Germany.

In a speech to thousands of veterans at the American Legion"s annual convention here, Mr. Rumsfeld sharpened his rebuttal of critics of the Bush administration's Iraq strategy, some of whom have called for phased withdrawal of United States forces or partitioning of the country.

Comparing terrorist groups to a "new type of fascism." Mr. Rumsfeld said, "With the growing" lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?"

It was the second unusually combative speech by Mr. Rumsfeld to a veterans group in two days and appeared to be part of a concerted administration effort to address criticism of the war's conduct.

He does have a point. The behavior of many of the America-is-always-wrong crowd are making sounds exactly like those in the lead up to WWII. Appeasement has a place in international diplomacy, but when the enemy is emphatically stating its intention is your destruction, they are being much clearer than the Nazi's were in their intents.

Then of course you have Jack Reed.
While he did not directly compare current critics of the war in Iraq to those who sought to appease Hitler, his juxtaposition of the themes led Democrats to say that he was leveling an unfair charge.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a former Army officer and a Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee, responded that “no one has misread history more” than Mr. Rumsfeld.

"It's a political rant to cover up his incompetence," Senator Reed, a longtime critic of Mr. RumsfeldÂ’s handling of the war, told The Associated Press.

Mr. Reed said there were "scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical of his handling of the Department of Defense."

Interesting. If you are such a good patriotic American why are you so offended by his charge? Could it be that it is striking far to close to home? Then there is Reed's normal chant on incompetence. His usual method to parry criticism from Rumsfeld.

Obviously Reed doesn't agree with the Administrations methods, but let's be truthful here, that doesn't make their methods incompetent. Reed's desire to perpetually play the Monday-Morning-Quarterback on the Secratary of Defense is always entertaining. Rumsfeld and the DoD have made some big mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then they have done what most militaries that are successful do. They adapt and make progress. The problem with Reed and his ilk, is that they play the political game of requiring the right actions at all times. Anyone that has any understanding of military history, or any history for that matter, will understand that right action doesn't generally occur right from the start. But then, Reed, by his telling, must be a more honest historian than Rumsfeld.

Google Public Domain Books

Interesting. I think this could be a problem for me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bloomberg Withholding Evidence

This link was posted at the GunBlog by XD45_NH.

The article is confusing in that they seem to pose this as a disagreement between LEO on jurisdiction.
More than three months after Mayor Bloomberg's announcement that he had sent private investigators into five states to catch gun dealers making illegal sales, he is refusing to turn over the evidence they've gathered to the federal agency that investigates illegal guns.

Analysts said the impasse may have slowed the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in its investigation of and possible action against gun dealers that broke the law.

The city won't turn over the evidence, which includes videotapes of gun dealers allowing so-called straw purchases of guns, until the ATF signs an evidence-sharing agreement that would prohibit the agency from "publicly disclosing evidence without notice and consent from the city," the mayor's criminal justice coordinator, John Feinblatt, said.

The inability of the two sides to come to an agreement is due in part to what the ATF perceived as the mayor's infringement on its jurisdiction, analysts and law enforcement sources said.

Hello! The mayor and his cronies have broken the law. This has nothing to do with jurisdiction. The Mayor of NY has no jurisdiction in interstate law enforcement when they are the ones breaking the law. In fact this "investigation" was an independent sting operation attempting to produce evidence of wrong doing in a venue outside of the mayor's jurisdiction. As far as we know, the BATFE had no knowledge of these actions.
Because the investigators are private citizens, they would have broken the law if they actually made straw purchases or intentionally filled in incorrect information on the gun licensing forms. Also, some states have stringent rules about hidden video equipment. Law enforcement sources said it is unlikely the investigators would be prosecuted, but that the ATF was sending City Hall a message to stay off its turf.

A special agent with the ATF in New York, Joseph Green, said in a statement: "We have been in contact and working with the city and are awaiting all of the information they gathered so that we can evaluate it's content and, where necessary, forward the findings to the appropriate ATF and U.S. Attorney's Offices."

Mr. Green refused to say whether the ATF was investigating any of the gun dealers targeted by the mayor because it doesn't comment on open investigations.

Did they buy the guns or not? If they didn't then Bloomberg has no case for his lawsuits. If they did, they committed a felony and Bloomberg is an accomplice at least.
"Why would they have to sign some kind of agreement with the mayor of a locality?" a Second Amendment lawyer in Virginia, Steven Halbrook, said. "The feds don't have to sign an agreement if there's evidence of criminality. ... It demonstrates that Mayor Bloomberg lacks sincerity in this so-called crusade, because if he believes crimes have been committed, he would want them to take federal enforcement action."

Experts said an information sharing agreement is unnecessary because the ATF, like all law enforcement agencies, does not publicly disclose evidence about open investigations.

Something seriously stinks at the BATFE. The fact that the "investigation" is progressing at a glacial rate makes it clear that the BATFE is reticent to bring charges against the mayor and his crime spree. This federal agency has no need to reach any agreements on evidence. It should get off its dead ass and serve a subpoena for the information or start making arrests.

Again we are seeing that a politician is given special privileges that any average citizen would be denied. I'll make a prediction now, mayor Bloomberg won't see anything more than a stern private warning from the BATFE and the gun dealers that he's suing will get the shaft.

Annan in Lebanon

So Koffi is blathering about Lebanon. I'm certain he was somewhat worried whent he Lebanese booed him, but he didn't have any real fears since his stance on Hezbollah was so lame that it should have been viewed as off-handed support for their cause.
After talks with Lebanese leaders in Beirut, the U.N. chief faulted both Israel and Hezbollah for not living up to key sections of the cease-fire resolution, and warned that fighting could resume if the parties did not abide by the full resolution.

"Without the full implementation of resolution 1701, I fear the risk is great for renewal of hostilities," he said.

He also toured a bombed-out neighborhood in the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut, where hundreds of residents booed him as he toured the ruins.

Meanwhile, an Italian fleet gathered off southern Italy on Tuesday to carry troops and aircraft to south Lebanon.

Three landing platform dock ships also were departing the port of Brindisi, and a small frigate already in Cyprus was scheduled to join the Italian mission, the Defense Ministry said.

Italy on Monday approved sending 2,500 troops, the largest national contingent so far. The plan now goes to Parliament for approval, but the ships were to sail ahead of the vote and reach the coast of Lebanon on Friday.

The peacekeeping force was to grow to 15,000, according to the Aug. 11 U.N. cease-fire resolution that halted fighting between Israel and Hezbollah three days later.

Funny though that the reporting on this bit is so rare in the MSM. I caught it at
IDF forces from the Golani Brigade blasted open a Hizbullah bunker overnight Saturday some 400 meters from the security fence near Rosh Hanikra, it was reported on Sunday. The bunker was discovered a mere stone's throw from a UN post.

According to Lt.-Col. Jassem Elian, a senior officer in the Golani Brigade, "Hizbullah dug a 40-meter by two-kilometer pit, in which they built dozens of outposts."

Elian added that the bunker had "shooting positions of poured concrete," and that the combat posts inside were equipped with phone lines, showers, toilets, air ducts, and emergency exits, as well as logistical paraphernalia for Hizbullah.

ThreatsWatch also had this lovely link to The WeeklyStandard piece on the UN posting IDF troop movements during the Lebanese action.
DURING THE RECENT month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel, U.N. "peacekeeping" forces made a startling contribution: They openly published daily real-time intelligence, of obvious usefulness to Hezbollah, on the location, equipment, and force structure of Israeli troops in Lebanon.

UNIFIL--the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a nearly 2,000-man blue-helmet contingent that has been present on the Lebanon-Israel border since 1978--is officially neutral. Yet, throughout the recent war, it posted on its website for all to see precise information about the movements of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and the nature of their weaponry and materiel, even specifying the placement of IDF safety structures within hours of their construction. New information was sometimes only 30 minutes old when it was posted, and never more than 24 hours old.

Meanwhile, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hezbollah forces. Statements on the order of Hezbollah "fired rockets in large numbers from various locations" and Hezbollah's rockets "were fired in significantly larger numbers from various locations" are as precise as its coverage of the other side ever got.

The ThreatsWatch piece has a link to the UNIFIL press releases and you can read their intelligence reports for Hezbollah yourself.
This partiality is inconsistent not only with UNIFIL's mission but also with its own stated policies. In a telling incident just a few years back, UNIFIL vigorously insisted on its "neutrality"--at Israel's expense.
Uh. Yeah. Neutral. If you believe that, I have a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn for you.

Go read the Weekly Standard and ThreatsWatch pieces. They definitely won't make you pleased with the UN's involvement in Lebanon. Nor anywhere else for that matter.

Secret Senator

This is just amazing. I think the ability to put a hold on a bill without revealing who you are is so wrong that there should be new rules cast to require that they be named in the public record for placing the hold. The senator may have a very good reason, but without knowing who that is there is absolutely no way of holding them accountable.
A bill to promote government transparency faces an uncertain future because of a far-from-transparent hold placed upon it in the Senate.

An unknown number of senators have blocked legislation to create a public, searchable Web site of all federal grants and contracts. Senate rules permit any senator to anonymously block consideration of a bill on the floor, effectively killing the measure.

“Hopefully the person or persons blocking it will realize it’s important to promote transparency and not secrecy in government,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the bill’s sponsor.
Anonymous? You have got to be @#$%ing with me. What moron thought of that?

What irritates me even more is that it is more than one senator. Bet they're not running for reelection. Of course, the majority of the MSM is just ignoring this.

Here's a link to the Porkbusters site on the topic.

GOPProgress has a good piece on topic as well.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Liberals Desperate to Dismantle the Republic

The libs are trying to force a Presidential popular vote on the country without actually doing away with the Electoral College, just ripping the guts out of it. I hope and pray that this is destined to failure.

But last week the California Senate passed legislation to award the state's Electoral College votes to the candidate who has received the most popular votes nationally--whether Californians chose him or not. A similar bill passed the Assembly on May 30, so it will soon be up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign or veto the bill. Such a bill also passed the Colorado Senate in April, part of a national to change the way we choose our presidents. The mandate doesn't take effect until enough other states sign on to provide a majority of electoral votes. If it were in effect in 2004, George W. Bush would have taken California's 55 electoral votes, even though John Kerry carried the state by a margin of nearly 10%.
It is an odd idea, an "interstate compact" switching the Electoral College votes of member states from their state's vote winner to the national vote winner. And the direct election of presidents would be a political, electoral, and constitutional mistake that would radically change America's election system.

Al Manar: Propaganda/News

I'm having issues with this arrest of a cable provider who is transmitting Al Manar TV. I just don't see this as anything that can be supported by the law or the constitution, never mind logic. (I also can't stop thinking of the station as Al Manure. But that's another topic.)
Federal prosecutors who charged a man on Thursday with providing Hezbollah television access in New York made unusual use of a law more often employed to bar financial contributions to terrorist groups, legal experts said yesterday.

The broadly defined statute, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, is also used frequently to block the importation of goods and services that would directly support terrorist operations.

The law, which went into effect in 1977, was meant to put legal teeth in international trade embargoes with other nations, but once it was amended by the Patriot Act after 9/11, the government began to use it far more frequently against particular groups and individuals.

The use of the law, however, to focus on television broadcasts seemed to fall under an exemption laid out in a 1988 amendment to the act, several experts said, and it raised concerns among civil libertarians and some constitutional scholars about limiting the free marketplace of ideas.

The exemption covers publications, films, posters, phonograph records, photographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, compact discs, CD-ROM's, art works and newswire feeds.

"One person's news is another's propaganda," said Rod Smolla, the dean of the University of Richmond Law School and a First Amendment expert. "It runs counter to all of our First Amendment traditions to ban the free flow of news and information across borders, yet at the same time all nations have historically reserved the right to ban the importation of propaganda from a hostile nation."

Smolla has a point. Even if this is openly propaganda, the use by citizens of the US shouldn't be eliminated. I don't understand the posture that this "supports" a terrorist group when access to the same information can be obtained elsewhere with no restrictions.
Critics took a far harsher view. David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who frequently criticizes the Justice Department and is challenging several aspects of the act in federal court in California, said the case against Mr. Iqbal combined what he called tactics of the McCarthy era - punishment of speech, and guilt by association.

"Mr. Iqbal is being penalized for doing nothing more than facilitating speech, and is being punished not because the speech itself is harmful, but because it is associated with Hezbollah." he said.

This on the other hand is pretty good propaganda in itself. Throwing "McCarthy era" into the argument immediately slimes the discussion due to visceral reactions to the sledgehammer tactics that McCarthy used. And it completely ignores that McCarthy did in fact find real enemies during his witch-hunt. Of course, that has no real relevance here.

What threat does the showing of Al Manar really pose? I don't see any reality to threats like those claimed that they can be used to trigger attacks in the US. Those triggers would be more likely found on the internet, which has more open availability than the cable coverage of Al Manar.

I would like to see an explanation of how this supports a terrorist organization. I don't doubt that there is some valid arguments there. Such as the broadcasts spread the propaganda to sympathetic or semi-sympatetic minds within this country who could then be used to further support the terrorists goals. But seeing that the NYTimes and other rags are so responsible in their journalistic efforts, you can witness that no such portion of their news provides that equal balance on the information needed to make a learned decision.

Then you have to love the WaPo coverage. Such as this bit:
"This is a prosecution for importing information, basically," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "That raises serious First Amendment concerns because in a free society the exchange of information of ideas is at the core."

Lieberman said the case was another example of the Bush administration's push to expand its executive powers in the pretext of fighting terrorism.

I'd love to hear the logic on the Bush expansion of executive powers. Strange that this is the application of a law that was passed by the congress, and the Bush administration is providing the law enforcement duties that the law requires in their view. Could their view be flawed? Sure, but that doesn't make it an expansion of executive powers. But hey, why not throw in some scary words into the interview. Not trying to frighten anyone with that supposition.

But at least they provide a rebuttal of sorts.
But others following the case say the government must halt material support for terrorist groups, even if the transaction involves such activities as news dissemination.

Facilitating speech that advocates violence is not always protected by the First Amendment, said Andy McCarthy, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

"You can't help (a terrorist group's) ostensibly legitimate activities without making them more efficient in their brutality," McCarthy said. "The way to reform these groups is to ... choke them until they cease to exist."

I'm not convinced that this goes to that level. In fact, I'd say that the censorship of such "news" when it is equally available by other means is ineffective.

I'd find this less worrisome if the MSM in this country were less political in their own reporting. The US government is hardly allowed to make any clear declamatory statements that aren't immediately labeled as propaganda. If they aren't, they are quickly taken out of context or pushed through an opinion sieve that distorts the statements or twists the governments spin.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Boston Globe: Lying by Omission

Here's an article by that bastion of truth, the Boston Globe. This article distorts the facts of the Bloomberg sting operation and omits much other relevant data regarding his gun control methods.
Earlier this year, the city hired a private investigative firm to conduct a sting operation against these 15 dealers. Investigators, working in pairs, videotaped store clerks illegally selling guns to individuals whom the clerks believed to be straw purchasers. A straw purchaser is an individual who fills out the personal information required to pass a federally mandated background check in order to purchase a gun for another person, typically one who is legally ineligible to purchase a gun based on a felony conviction or other disqualification or may simply wish not to be recorded as the purchaser of the gun in the event that it is later recovered in a crime. Federal law prohibits licensed dealers from making a sale when they have a reasonable belief that the firearm being sold is not for the person who purports to be the purchaser.

In the New York City sting, one investigator would make all of the inquiries about purchasing the gun and the second investigator would show up at the counter only to fill out the background check information. The lawsuit alleges that by allowing such straw purchases, the 15 out-of-state dealers facilitate illegal gun trafficking that increases gun violence in New York City. The city alleges that the gun violence resulting from the way that these dealers do business constitutes a "public nuisance" - an unreasonable interference with public health and safety. While public nuisance litigation has traditionally been used to go after polluters, New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo has explained that just as the city might sue to stop the illegal dumping of sewage into waterways that flow into the city, it is now suing to stop the illegal dumping of guns into the black market that end up in New York. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and asks the court to put an end to the illegal sales.
If you care to read the article you won't find any mention of the fact that the investigators and Bloomberg are being investigated,(at a glacial rate) by the BATFE for this "sting." No mention that the investigators were the ones committing a felony by making the straw purchases. They were not law enforcement officials in any sense. There could very well be some question of the dealers not refusing to deal with obvious straw purchases, which would make this a legal issue for the BATFE.
The two dealers who have settled agreed to supervision of their sales practices by a court appointed special master chosen and paid for by the city. The special master will be given unrestricted access to the dealers' records and inventory and will be empowered to conduct ongoing surveillance. Five or six more of the dealers are currently considering a similar settlement. The remaining dealers have, for now, decided to fight the suit in court.
Now what is missing? No mention that Bloomberg is being sued for his illegal actions.

Not surprisingly, the writer provides his opinion that litigation is good for stopping gun violence.
Litigation complements these legislative and law enforcement efforts. Despite its troubled history in the courts, municipal gun litigation has played an important role in shaping public policies aimed at reducing gun violence. Gun litigation has helped to reframe the problem and the policy options for dealing with it. Whereas once gun violence was understood as a problem caused exclusively by street criminals and addressed primarily through tougher criminal penalties, civil litigation has focused attention on the role of marketing, distribution, and sale in facilitating illegal gun trafficking.
You'll note that the Boston Globe has an interesting section in their paper called "Ideas." Fascinating if disingenuous way of twisting opinion into news. Journalistic honesty be damned. But then, honesty in journalism has been getting thinner all the time.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cluster Bombs and Civilian Areas

Ok I'm confused. Seems to be an ongoing theme when I read the papers.
"We are finding many cluster bombs in the rubble -- they just blend in," he noted. One type commonly being found, he said, is shaped like a small green ball, larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball.

Clarke said the State Department was investigating whether Israel had violated U.S. guidelines for American-made cluster munitions that ban their use in civilian areas.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are also looking into the use of cluster munitions, he said. In a report released this week, Amnesty International said it had found huge craters in roads linking southern villages, attributing them to Israeli aerial bombardment and artillery fire.

Civilian areas? What is a civilian area during a war? Some place a civilian will be after the conflict? I don't understand how Israel could agree to that in the first place considering that vast majority of the areas in and around their country would fall under this vague definition.

Then there is the knee jerkers of the Human Rights groups and what a surprise, they're railing against the use of cluster bombs. Well guess what? Munitions in war aren't 100% effective or accurate. Some munitions will fail and leave risks on the field of battle. If the enemy chooses to fight from "civilian areas" then the collateral damage of the failed munitions should be expected.

I'm fascinated by human rights groups and their understanding of war. What other group expects, nae, demands that there be no collateral damages in battles where one combatant intentionally hides among non-combatants? Then they blame the defender for the casualties. Must be nice to live in their world.

Then you really get the point of the WaPo article.
But they really wanted to play again. Hassan unearthed a ball covered in dust and asked Sikna to throw it his way. It exploded between them. Hassan's intestines spilled out, splattering blood.

"I started screaming," Hassan recalled. "The bomb threw me two or three meters away. My legs, my clothes were soaked in blood."

"We are still afraid," she added. "The Israelis are still there, and the children cannot play there anymore."
Now you tell me why they went to this detail to tell this story. What was the end result? I'll tell you, the vilification of Israel. Note that no where in the article does the writer add any perspective of why the cluster bombs were used in these areas. All you get here is that Israel has intentionally poised extreme hazards on the Lebanese children.

Hezbollah is mentioned twice in the article, and once is a juxaposition of their deaths with the deaths of civilians.

Read the article for yourself, and tell me that this is a responsible and accurate piece of journalism.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Terrorism and Fear

Schneier has a piece discussing some of the recent over-reactions to the plane plots. He takes the stance that the terrorists are winning, which is completely correct.
Imagine for a moment what would have happened if they had blown up 10 planes. There would be canceled flights, chaos at airports, bans on carry-on luggage, world leaders talking tough new security measures, political posturing and all sorts of false alarms as jittery people panicked. To a lesser degree, that's basically what's happening right now.

Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat. And if we're terrified, and we share that fear, we help. All of these actions intensify and repeat the terrorists' actions, and increase the effects of their terror.

(I am not saying that the politicians and press are terrorists, or that they share any of the blame for terrorist attacks. I'm not that stupid. But the subject of terrorism is more complex than it appears, and understanding its various causes and effects are vital for understanding how to best deal with it.)

The implausible plots and false alarms actually hurt us in two ways. Not only do they increase the level of fear, but they also waste time and resources that could be better spent fighting the real threats and increasing actual security. I'll bet the terrorists are laughing at us.

Another thought experiment: Imagine for a moment that the British government arrested the 23 suspects without fanfare. Imagine that the TSA and its European counterparts didn't engage in pointless airline-security measures like banning liquids. And imagine that the press didn't write about it endlessly, and that the politicians didn't use the event to remind us all how scared we should be. If we'd reacted that way, then the terrorists would have truly failed.
What I don't like about his arguments is that he is ignoring that a secure public tends to be a complacent public. He should know this from his work with computer security. "Nothing bad has happened, so why should I take any precautions." That is the attitude that the US public falls into continuously. I'd even postulate that some fear is a good thing. The problem is that fear is something that is difficult to control the volume on.

Here's a thought experiment for you. Imagine that al-Qaeda successfully executed a dirty bomb attack in Washington D.C. What would the level of support for the Iraq war be? Not very attached in perspective, but the conflict in Iraq is related to the war on terror. Remember that the insurgency in Iraq has al-Qaeda support, and to a large extent is al-Qaeda personnel, and the terrorists there are fighting those who are best equipped to fight them, the military. The Iraq theater also is a PR front for the US. It does show the Muslim world that the US is not just after their oil, but believes in democratic states where the people run things and not despotic regimes. I know this is a minor message, especially since the MSM has ensured that it is just that, but it is a message that some Muslims are bound to understand. Fear in this instance would steel the public resolve to finish the job right. That resolve has gotten very soft in recent time, and fear of military deaths and failure is slowly creeping into the resolve of people to see success there.
It's time we calm down and fight terror with antiterror. This does not mean that we simply roll over and accept terrorism. There are things our government can and should do to fight terrorism, most of them involving intelligence and investigation -- and not focusing on specific plots.

But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show's viewership.

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

Well said.

Sadly, I doubt that the public in general, and politicians and the press in specific, will follow that advice.

Hezbollah's Victory

Informative piece at OpinionJournal. Goes into the problems that Hezbollah is having with their victory. Strange that the perspective here isn't news for the majority of the MSM. This is information that would provide a better balance in the publics opinion of what Lebanon is like at the moment. It also puts the Hezbollah hierarchy in a clearer light.
The way much of the Western media tells the story, Hezbollah won a great victory against Israel and the U.S., healed the Sunni-Shiite rift, and boosted the Iranian mullahs' claim to leadership of the Muslim world. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the junior mullah who leads the Lebanese branch of this pan-Shiite movement, have adorned magazine covers in the West, hammering in the message that this child of the Khomeinist revolution is the new hero of the mythical "Arab Street."

Probably because he watches a lot of CNN, Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, also believes in "a divine victory." Last week he asked 205 members of his Islamic Majlis to send Mr. Nasrallah a message, congratulating him for his "wise and far-sighted leadership of the Ummah that produced the great victory in Lebanon."

By controlling the flow of information from Lebanon throughout the conflict, and help from all those who disagree with U.S. policies for different reasons, Hezbollah may have won the information war in the West. In Lebanon, the Middle East and the broader Muslim space, however, the picture is rather different.

There are some interesting perspectives relating to 4GW here. Hezbollah's control of the media, not to mention their own media organ controlled how the world witnessed the effects of the Israeli attacks and completely eliminated any reporting on Hezbollah's tactics. Anything on Hezbollah's tactics coming from the Israeli press was heavily discounted. (That is clearly a win for Hezbollah)

Then there is the methods that they are now using to try to recover from their actions which play a negative role with the Lebanese people of the region.
Politically, however, Hezbollah had to declare victory for a simple reason: It had to pretend that the death and desolation it had provoked had been worth it. A claim of victory was Hezbollah's shield against criticism of a strategy that had led Lebanon into war without the knowledge of its government and people. Mr. Nasrallah alluded to this in television appearances, calling on those who criticized him for having triggered the war to shut up because "a great strategic victory" had been won.

The tactic worked for a day or two. However, it did not silence the critics, who have become louder in recent days. The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state. Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.

Mr. Nasrallah followed his claim of victory with what is known as the "Green Flood"(Al-sayl al-akhdhar). This refers to the massive amounts of crisp U.S. dollar notes that Hezbollah is distributing among Shiites in Beirut and the south. The dollars from Iran are ferried to Beirut via Syria and distributed through networks of militants. Anyone who can prove that his home was damaged in the war receives $12,000, a tidy sum in wartorn Lebanon.

I wonder at how effective the money will be, considering the level of destruction in some areas. The declaration of victory was obviously for the Arab neighbors, though this likely soured the Lebanese opinion. Not that that can't be recovered. You can be certain that large amounts of funding will find itself in the right places to fix infrastructure and deflect the responsibility for being the cause. This is grass-roots management of the after effects and is definitely a 4GW method. Keep the support of the public.

They do have some serious problems with the public on some issues though.
Hezbollah is also criticized from within the Lebanese Shiite community, which accounts for some 40% of the population. Sayyed Ali al-Amin, the grand old man of Lebanese Shiism, has broken years of silence to criticize Hezbollah for provoking the war, and called for its disarmament. In an interview granted to the Beirut An-Nahar, he rejected the claim that Hezbollah represented the whole of the Shiite community. "I don't believe Hezbollah asked the Shiite community what they thought about [starting the] war," Mr. al-Amin said. "The fact that the masses [of Shiites] fled from the south is proof that they rejected the war. The Shiite community never gave anyone the right to wage war in its name."

There were even sharper attacks. Mona Fayed, a prominent Shiite academic in Beirut, wrote an article also published by An-Nahar last week. She asks: Who is a Shiite in Lebanon today? She provides a sarcastic answer: A Shiite is he who takes his instructions from Iran, terrorizes fellow believers into silence, and leads the nation into catastrophe without consulting anyone. Another academic, Zubair Abboud, writing in Elaph, a popular Arabic-language online newspaper, attacks Hezbollah as "one of the worst things to happen to Arabs in a long time." He accuses Mr. Nasrallah of risking Lebanon's existence in the service of Iran's regional ambitions.

Before he provoked the war, Mr. Nasrallah faced growing criticism not only from the Shiite community, but also from within Hezbollah. Some in the political wing expressed dissatisfaction with his overreliance on the movement's military and security apparatus. Speaking on condition of anonymity, they described Mr. Nasrallah's style as "Stalinist" and pointed to the fact that the party's leadership council (shura) has not held a full session in five years. Mr. Nasrallah took all the major decisions after clearing them with his Iranian and Syrian contacts, and made sure that, on official visits to Tehran, he alone would meet Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei.

Their base is definitely religious. They have an issue with that religiosity on a couple of fronts. First there is the problem with recognition of Ayatollah's from outside the immediate region that is causing anger.
Mr. Nasrallah was also criticized for his acknowledgement of Ali Khamenei as Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Emulation), the highest theological authority in Shiism. Highlighting his bay'aah (allegiance), Mr. Nasrallah kisses the man's hand each time they meet. Many Lebanese Shiites resent this because Mr. Khamenei, a powerful politician but a lightweight in theological terms, is not recognized as Marjaa al-Taqlid in Iran itself. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Shiites regard Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq, or Ayatollah Muhammad-Hussein Fadhlallah, in Beirut, as their "Source of Emulation."
There is also a perception that they are a secular organization. The article fails to mention that they also have issues with the Christian public of Lebanon, which Israel used during their occupation. It is unlikely that they will ever get their support. Then there is the Sunni block that also doesn't want to play. So the religious variations are working against them in their 4GW tactics.

The situation may be a little better for Israel now that Chirac has, at least in appearance, gotten some testicular fortitude. Though I'm uncertain it will be of any value unless the UN can stop the dithering and actually provide a resolution that means something.
Jacques Chirac agreed last night to increase France's contribution to an international force in southern Lebanon to 2,000 troops.

The announcement gave much-needed momentum to international efforts to put UN troops on the ground before the fragile truce between Israel and Hizbollah unravels.

France was willing to lead the force after winning assurances from the UN that the troops would be able to defend themselves fully if attacked and could use force to protect civilians.

The announcement, in a televised address by the French president, followed a blizzard of international criticism over the initial commitment of 200 troops to join the 200 already serving in the UN Interim Force (Unifil).

The article does give some perspective on the French resistance to joining the force. No surprise, the problem was the UN mandate.
There was widespread disappointment at the UN last week when the French defence minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said her country, the former colonial power in Lebanon, would initially send just 200 extra troops. It had been expected to contribute up to 4,000.

The French army has painful memories of a Shia militant attack in Beirut in 1983 that killed 58 French soldiers and of the UN peacekeeping fiasco during the Bosnia war, where it lost 80 men under orders not to use lethal force. Mr Chirac has consistently said that he would send more soldiers only if the UN strengthened the force's rules of engagement, as well as clearly defining its mission and providing guarantees that Hizbollah would be disarmed.

Last night he said that he was satisfied that his concerns had been met.

I'm a bit baffled at any military force taking casualties and not at least defending themselves with lethal force. I guess I wouldn't make a very good UN soldier.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Stem Cell Harvesting Technique

Nice bit of work there. Maybe this can pass the morality test that is holding back funding from the fed.

In previous research, Robert Lanza and his colleagues at Advanced Cell Technology had shown that single-cell biopsies done on mouse embryos--similar to those used for genetic diagnosis prior to a human embryo's implantation--might allow for the cultivation of stem cell lines without discernible impact. The team thawed 16 human embryos that had gone unused by parents pursuing in vitro fertilization. The scientists separated single cells, known as blastomeres, from the embryos and cultivated them separately.

More than half of the blastomeres continued to divide and the researchers were able to cultivate specific target cells, such as endothelial cells. The shape, growth and abilities of these cells closely matched those of stem cells derived from other techniques. Overall, in 10 separate experiments, they created 19 embryonic stem cell-like growths as well as two cell lines capable of continuous production. "We believe the success rate can be further increased by optimizing conditions at the earliest stages of blastomere outgrowth," the researchers write in the paper presenting the finding, published online by Nature today.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this gets replicated and verified quickly. It would be nice to see some litheness from our government, but I won't hold my breath. Especially since I have a feeling that the moral qualms will be very hard to iron out.

Syria Tampering with UN Resolution

Bashar Al-Assad really should be a bit more subtle. Can anyone actually give credence to his claims?
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has expressed strong opposition to the deployment of U.N. troops along his country's border with Lebanon, saying such a move would be "hostile" to Syria and create problems between the two nations.

"This negates the sovereignty of Lebanon," Al-Assad said in an interview Wednesday with Dubai TV. "No country in the world accepts having soldiers of another nationality patrolling its border."

"They are taking sovereignty away from the Lebanese government and giving it to other forces while they talk about spreading that sovereignty," he said. "This is a hostile position towards Syria and will naturally create problems between Syria and Lebanon."

Funny, the Lebanese have agreed to this, so why would he assume that he can speak for the government of Lebanon? Not to mention that he completely misses the point that this is a UN force with no real direction. To prove that point, here's the quote from a French General.
"The Israelis cannot ask UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] to disarm Hezbollah. This is not written in our mandate," French Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, commander of the 2,000-member force, told reporters at UNIFIL headquarters in the coastal town of Naqoura, according to AP.
But Koffi is rushing to the rescue. I'm certain the issue will end with nothing happening, like usual.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit Syria as part of his trip to the Middle East -- which begins Friday -- as he pushes for adherence to the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah.

Annan will also visit Israel, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Iran and will talk with the Palestinian Authority.

"The focus of the trip" will be implementation of U.N. Resolution 1701, Annan's spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. "If other issues come up, they come up," he added.

Italy is still offering to make the French look like little girls, not that that is difficult. Though the Security Council's continuing to dither on an actual resolution is ensuring that nothing will happen.

Keep up the good work UN!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Human Rights Guardians - Dependable?

Dave Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy has a couple of entries on human rights groups and their decline.

See Amnesty International and HRW analyzed.

Nice to see that they are such dependable and honest reporters of human rights issues.

It Must Be the DRAFT!

I saw the reports on the military recall of 2500 Marines, and I just new that someone was going to start screeching DRAFT! Well, here it is. Not surprising that the LATims reporting it as such.
Marine commanders will call up formerly active-duty service members now classified as reservists because the Corps failed to find enough volunteers among its emergency reserve pool to fill jobs in combat zones. The call-ups will begin in several months, summoning as many as 2,500 reservists at a time to serve for a year or more.

The Pentagon has had to scramble to meet the manpower requirements of the Iraq war, which have not abated in the face of a continuing insurgency and growing civil strife. Earlier this year, the military called forward its reserve force in Kuwait, sending one battalion to Baghdad and two to Ramadi. Last month, the yearlong deployment of the Army's Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade was extended by four months to provide extra soldiers to roll back escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad.

For much of the conflict, the Army also has had to use "stop-loss orders" — which keep soldiers in their units even after their active-duty commitments are complete — as well as involuntary call-ups of its reservists. Both actions have been criticized as a "back-door draft" and are unpopular with service members, many of whom say they have already done their part.

"You can send Marines back for a third or fourth time, but you have to understand you are destroying their lives," said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "It is not what they intended the all-volunteer military to look like."
No surprise that they don't attribute that to any person, which makes it relatively evident that that is exactly what they consider it.

No political posturing here. Just good clean journalism.

Chinese Op-Ed on US Military Expansion

Now here's an insightful piece from the People's Daily Online. (china)

It analyzes the US movement in military expansion. Here's the finale.
The latest facts indicate that the six factors have joined their forces in pulling back US expansion. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavezo has been crying loudly for an anti-American course. Iran and North Korea have been in close interaction; Russian President Vladimir Putin has been vigorously proposing the establishment of a big energy triangular between Russia, China and India. According to reports, Iran has recently released Bin Laden's son. All these signals show that the United States is pushing all its enemies to the same trench by continuously putting her hands in many hornet's nests. As a result, the United States will have to deal with an anti-America array or a well organized network instead of some separated and dispersed attacking points.

However, in contrast to her strategic plight, the US major military moves this year were especially striking. An unprecedented scale of military maneuver, "Cyber Storm" exercise, global display of aircraft carriers, and proposing to equip her ICBMs with conventional warheads. The four branches of the United States military are vigorously promoting new military revolution or transitions. It is forecasted that by around 2025 the United States will complete its global instantaneous attack program. It appears that the American chariots are still "strongly powered". In fact, this is only a fanfare which reflects the helplessness and fear of the United States in her current strategic plight. Of course, it could also be an accumulation of military energy for the next phase. In the face of increasing and insolvable practical problems, far-off national strategic goal, and fundamental but insurmountable obstacles, the United States may be entering a new period of force adjustments. With the coming conclusion of the political life of current governmental administration, the 2008 US presidential election will bring an opportunity for international policy adjustments.

They also have an interesting bit on six factors that lead up to the US military expansion.

Interesting analysis, especially coming from a major party who is generally on the other side of the fence from the US on most issues.

Fourth Generation Warfare in the News

Pretty much all news related to 4GW has been substantially lame. Analysis seems to quite clearly either ignore that the we are under attack on many fronts from the use of 4GW or the analysis promulgates myths that further assist those who are utilizing it.

The linked article gives a brief and simplistic description.
Just as the world is watching Lebanon, trying to understand the conflict there, so are experts in modern warfare theory, who see in the battle between Israel and Hezbollah a living and dying test of their ideas.

And in many important ways, they say, Hezbollah appears to understand this war better than its opponent, one of the world's most highly trained and best-equipped militaries.

"I think it's something new, in that a nonstate organization has undertaken a major, sustained, broad-scale, and so far, the successful military offensive against a state," said William Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "What changes here ... is that nonstate forces are able to challenge states militarily _ and win."

Some experts call it "modern warfare," some call it "unconventional conflict" and others use technical terms such as "netwar" or "fourth-generation warfare."

The definitions differ, but all refer generally to conflict in which small, decentralized, nonstate groups can turn the advantages of large national armies _ overwhelming firepower, high technology, a clear hierarchy of command _ into disadvantages, and in which winning political and public relations victories matters more than counting casualties and bombing sorties.

Elements of that kind of war have been part of conflict since antiquity, but most experts say they moved to the fore in the Iraq war and even more so in the current Lebanon conflict.

"It's both a conventional and an unconventional conflict. It has aspects of both," said Army Special Forces Lt. Col. James Gavrilis, an expert in counterinsurgency tactics. "It includes both state actors and nonstate actors it pretty much has everything."

"Winning" and "losing" can mean far different things from the familiar imagery of swords surrendered and treaties signed. In modern warfare theory, the difference between strategic and tactical victories is crucial.

"Military tactics are the art and science of winning battles," said Thomas Hammes, a retired Marine colonel and author of "The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century."

I've been reading Hammes book and though I have some qualms about how he postures some of his arguments relative to reality, he makes many cogent points. I'm not going to get into any here, since I'm not done with the book.
"Political will is a central component of any combat. Pictures influence political will," Hammes said. It is a lesson, he said, the United States learned in the Vietnam War and Israel in the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, with its photos of boys throwing rocks taking fire from well-armed soldiers. "I really question why Israel didn't understand that in the first stages of the (Lebanon) war."

Its upper hand in the battle of perceptions also allows Hezbollah to make the most of its fairly limited military arsenal, composed mostly of Iranian-made rockets with limited range and no guidance systems.

Right there is a perfect example of an article making fact from fiction. They point out that this is a perception that Hezbollah is the underdog. They in fact have used missiles with sophisticated guidance systems including a version of a cruise missile that was used against the Israeli navy. Hezbollah has major state support and is not limited by the amount of weapons.

Hamme is correct that Israel didn't fight the Media war from the start. But let's be honest, they have lost that war and will always lose that war in the region. They also are losing it in the western press because the talking heads always route for the underdog irrespective of the realities on the ground. Should I also mention the grooming of the journalistic output? Reuter's tampered photos and other press organs using staged photos and film footage is a perfect example of the western press irresponsibility.

Then there is this article on 4GW in Lebanon. I especially like this bit:
The political will of Hezbollah is most worrisome for Israel. As the chief recipient of America's cutting-edge military technology, and as a possessor of its own impressive military-industrial complex, Israel is rightly perceived as a military superpower in the Middle East. What is more important is that it also has established a reputation of using disproportionate military responses to all sizes of military attacks from Arab states.

The list of those disproportionate responses is much too long to enumerate. Just look at what Israel did to the combined armed strength of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the 1967 war. The entire scope of the Arab-Israeli conflict changed, it seems, forever. The Arab states never forgot the humiliating defeat of their armed forces in the 1967 war. Consequently, there never really emerged an "Arab spirit of adventurism" that could challenge Israel on the battlefield.

Even the late Anwar Sadat's decision to start the 1973 war (which Israel calls the "Yom Kippur War" and Arabs call the "Ramadan War" since it was waged during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan) had a very limited purpose, as it turned out. Sadat really wanted to liberate the Egyptian territory lost in the 1967 war from Israeli occupation.

Now how can an honest commenter actually position the 1967 war as an example of disproportionate response? I suppose if you are being responsible, you wouldn't. Three countries simultaneously attacking a single country and losing doesn't indicate any use of disproportionate force to me. And the history of that war doesn't either. So is this a distortion of fact that further damns Israel unjustly?

Then there is William Lind and his analysis of what may happen in Lebanaon:
The cease-fire in Lebanon will last only briefly, its life probably measured in days if not in hours. Neither Israel nor Hezbollah has genuinely accepted it. The notion that the Lebanese Army and a rag-tag U.N. force will disarm Hezbollah is absurd even by the usual low standard of diplomatic fictions. The bombing and the rocketing may stop briefly, but Israel has already announced a campaign of assassination against Hezbollah leaders, while every Israeli soldier in Lebanon will remain a target of Hezbollah.

Unfortunately for states generally, Israel appears to have no good options when hostilities recommence. It can continue to grind forward on the ground in southern Lebanon, paying bitterly for each foot of ground, and perhaps eventually denying Hezbollah some of its rocket-launching sites. But it cannot hold what it takes. It may strive for a more robust U.N. force, but what country wants to fight Hezbollah? Any occupier of southern Lebanon that is not there with Hezbollah's permission will face the same guerrilla war Israel already fought and lost. Most probably, Israel will escalate by taking the war to Syria or Iran, and what will be a strategy of desperation. That too will fail, after it plunges the whole region into a war the outcome of which will be catastrophic for the United States as well as for Israel.

Before that disastrous denouement, my Fourth Generation crystal ball suggests the following events are likely:

  • Again, a near-term resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, with Israel succeeding no better than it has to date. In the past, the IDF has been brilliant at pulling rabbits out of hats, but this time someone else seems to occupy all the rabbit holes.

  • A fracturing of Lebanon, with a collapse of the weak Lebanese state and very possibly a return to civil war there (which was always the probable result of Syria's departure).

  • A rise of Syrian and Iranian influence generally, matched by a fall of American influence. If Israel and America were clever, Syria's comeback could offer a diplomatic opportunity of a deal in which Syria changed sides in return for a peace treaty with Israel that included the return of all lands. The crystal ball says that opportunity will be spurned.

  • A vast strengthening of Islamic 4GW elements everywhere.

  • Finally and perhaps most discouragingly, a continued inability of state militaries everywhere, including those of Israel and the United States, to come to grips with Fourth Generation War. Inability may be too kind of a word; refusal is perhaps more accurate.

Are there any brighter prospects? Not unless Israel changes its fundamental policy. Even in the unlikely event that the cease-fire in Lebanon holds and Lebanese Army and U.N. forces do wander into southern Lebanon, that would buy but a bit of time. Israel only has a long-term future if it can reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with its neighbors. So long as those neighbors are states, a policy of pursuing such an accommodation may have some chance of success. But as the rise of Fourth Generation elements such as Hezbollah and Hamas weaken and in time replace those states, the possibility will disappear. Unfortunately, Israeli politics appear to be moving away from such a course rather than toward it.

For America, the question is whether Washington will continue to demand that we go down with the Israeli ship.

Lind's analysis is close to accurate, if not pessimistic. I also have qualms with his last sentence. America isn't going down with the Israeli ship. Israel is a regional ally that should be supported and this recent Lebanese fiasco has not been helpful. The US allowed a far too nebulous a resolution to come out of the UN and that is causing even more trouble. In fact, I'd say it is working right into Hezbollah's favor, since Israel is still being postured as the aggressor with reports on the Israeli alleged violation of the ceasefire in general completely ignore that the action was in response to rearming of Hezbollah by Syria. The fact that this part of the context for Israeli action is minimized further strengthens Hezbollah's reputation unjustifiably.

Unfortunately, I am starting to believe that the US will continue to lose all 4GW conflicts. The reasoning is simple. In the long term, the citizens of the US have a distrust of their government that is well known. It also is unjustified in many cases. Conspiracy theorists are pretty much the norm in politics, whether they believe their delusions or not. This in itself limits the ability of the government to obtain successful resolution to conflicts. The government can't use propaganda in any form. This is obviously the case since any MSM body will report it as such irrespective of what the message is. I'm beginning to see the MSM less as the "fourth estate" and more as the "anti-estate." (Yes, that is me being especially pessimistic.)

In the short term, the Bush Dementia Syndrome has locked in so completely that at least half of the country is incapable of analyzing the Administrations actions with any honesty. Go to any Fever-Swamp-Left blog or posting board and you'll see that.

Hopefully Hamme will end his book with some reasonable suggestions for action to combat 4GW. I certainly haven't seen any in the news, and the web hasn't provided much but the same rehash on what 4GW is.

You Can Trust the UN - Really

Heard the one about the British night vision goggles sold to the UN that ended up in Hezbollah hands?
The night-vision equipment was sent to Iran in the fight against international drug smuggling before reportedly being used by the Shia militia group in southern Lebanon.

A source at the department said that the discovery, made by Israeli troops searching guerrilla hideouts, of apparently British-made kit was "worrying".

The batch received a special export licence because it was intended to be used by Iranian police trying to stem the flow of heroin and opium from Afghanistan into Iran.

The Foreign Office source said there was "nothing to suggest" that it was this equipment that had found its way to Lebanon but that it would take a few days for the investigation to be carried out.

The Iranians are prime sponsors of Hizbullah and are believed to supply much of the weaponry used against Israel during the bloody 34-day conflict.

When the night vision equipment was authorised for export, Patrick O'Brien, then a junior minister in the Foreign Office, told the Commons that it was intended for use on the Iranian border with Afghanistan to combat heroin smugglers.

The equipment was sanctioned and funded by the UN Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP).

I've been waiting to hear any more about verification of that these did indeed come from the UN program, but the news has been very quiet.

I'm sure there's nothing to this. Nothing at all. Nope.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Outrage You Say - WTF I Say

Caught this at SayUncle. He's outraged, and frankly I'm so baffled I'm not getting there.

How in the hell can this be?
A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez's story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez's story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, "We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion... Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."

Judge Donald Lay found the majority's reasoning faulty and issued a strong dissent.

"Notwithstanding the fact that claimants seemingly suspicious activities were reasoned away with plausible, and thus presumptively trustworthy, explanations which the government failed to contradict or rebut, I note that no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug records were recovered in connection with the seized money," Judge Lay wrote. "There is no evidence claimants were ever convicted of any drug-related crime, nor is there any indication the manner in which the currency was bundled was indicative of
drug use or distribution."

"Finally, the mere fact that the canine alerted officers to the presence of drug residue in a rental car, no doubt driven by dozens, perhaps scores, of patrons during the course of a given year, coupled with the fact that the alert came from the same location where the currency was discovered, does little to connect the money to a controlled substance offense," Judge Lay Concluded.
Does that make any sense at all? If he did nothing wrong and wasn't even prosecuted, how in the hell does law enforcement get the right to keep that money?

I guess this proves that there are cases when the law is FUBARed.

Fertility Gap - hee hee

Liberals aren't having babies, and the country's tilting red.

Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

Alarmingly for the Democrats, the gap is widening at a bit more than half a percentage point per year, meaning that today's problem is nothing compared to what the future will most likely hold. Consider future presidential elections in a swing state (like Ohio), and assume that the current patterns in fertility continue. A state that was split 50-50 between left and right in 2004 will tilt right by 2012, 54% to 46%. By 2020, it will be certifiably right-wing, 59% to 41%. A state that is currently 55-45 in favor of liberals (like California) will be 54-46 in favor of conservatives by 2020--and all for no other reason than babies.

Brooks goes on the point out that there is no guarantee that liberals will vote Dem and conservatives will vote Republican, and that many people consider themselves neither and will vote less predictably. But still, it does seem that the far-left's frantic pulling of the Dem Party away from the center, and the Party's willingness to go there, is not going to do them any favor in upcoming years. Which hopefully means the length of time I will have to watch the scary Ms. Pelosi speak on TV is limited. And while I don't like the idea of having only one party to choose from, I'm very happy that big "L" liberals may be a dying breed. 'Cuz they're just stupid, and I don't want them running my country.

UNIFIL Getting Direction?

This thing has been broken from the start. Calling for a ceasefire with nonsensical requirements on the use of force for the peacekeepers and the resolution of the Hezbollah issue has ensured that this will remain a mess. But our hero Koffi will make it better, or not.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to recommend Monday that the rules of engagement of the enhanced UNIFIL force to be deployed in Lebanon include opening fire on Hizbullah where necessary, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

While UN Security Council Resolution 1701 mandated an enhanced UNIFIL force to help the Lebanese Army deploy south and along the border with Syria, it did not spell out the operational procedures of this force.

Israel has been pushing for the need for an effective force, arguing that one of the criteria would be the ability to open fire on Hizbullah if the force saw, for instance, Hizbullah launching rockets toward Israel. This matter came up at a meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held last week in New York with Annan.

Sadly the only thing suggested by the article is that the UNIFIL force will be allowed to fire on Hezbollah forces if they are found violating the cease fire. Still no wording describing the requirement to disarm Hezbollah and what force is going to be allowed. Translate that as none will be allowed.

This continues to be a joke.

Iran Says No

Not unexpected. I'm going to guess that the formal response will follow this sentiment exactly.

Iran turned away UN inspectors from an underground site meant to shelter its uranium-enrichment program from attack, diplomats said yesterday, while the country's supreme leader said Tehran will not give up its contentious nuclear technology. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came on the eve of a self-imposed deadline to respond formally to Western incentives aimed at curbing its atomic program, deflating hopes that Iran will accept a UN Security Council demand that it freeze enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the possibility of sanctions.

Iran's unprecedented refusal to allow access to its underground facility at Natanz could seriously hamper UN attempts to ensure Tehran is not trying to produce nuclear weapons, and might violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, diplomats and UN officials said.

The Islamic republic has promised to formally respond today to an offer of economic and political rewards for it to freeze enrichment and negotiate strengthened monitoring of its nuclear program.

The proposal from six world powers -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany -- includes promises that the United States and Europe will provide civilian nuclear technology and that Washington will join direct talks with Iran.

But Iran's supreme leader again ruled out an enrichment freeze.

He accused the United States of pressuring Iran despite Tehran's assertions it is not working on nuclear weapons, as Washington and its key allies contend.

Where does the group of 6 go now? I'm pretty much certain that there are no sanctions that will change the Ayatollah's mind. I am betting that the UN will just want to talk more, and no one has any desire to take on any military conflict with them. Considering that Iraq needs to be stabilized, any muscular sanctions against Iran is going to cause an escalation in the meddling by Iran in the sectarian violence. Guess Iran will be joining the nuclear world in a couple of years.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Scapegoating the UN?

Paul Kennedy at the LATimes decrying the faulting of the UN for issues that they either cause or fail to do anything about. Scapegoating? I don't think so. If this organization is supposed to be the force to make the world play nicer together, it has completely failed.
So, is the U.N. good for anything? Could we, as U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton once claimed, lop off 12 stories of the U.N. headquarters building in New York (containing the offices of the secretary-general and his staff) and not notice the difference? What does the U.N. do that helps humankind?

Amid personnel scandals, the oil-for-food fiasco and a constant barrage of neoconservative attacks, that's a fair question. And anyone who holds a belief in the value of the international organization should be ready and willing to answer it. The easy way out would be to point to the many instances in which U.N. representatives have done well: negotiating the Central American peace accords of the early to mid-1990s; supervising elections in countries recovering from war; rebuilding infrastructure; advancing the international human rights agenda, establishing intellectual property rights, the law of the sea and climate accords; fostering cultural cooperation; gathering statistics and the like. But that would seem an evasion to the many observers who focus on the grinding struggles along Israel's borders or the war on terrorism. To them, the $64,000 question is: What can the U.N. do once and for all to settle the Lebanon crisis and assist the parallel Palestine-Israel peace process? And if the answer is "not much," then the critics will feel justified in their more general dismissal of the utility of international organizations.
Let's seek a balance here. Those "good things" that the UN is alledged to do are fairly vague. They are mediocre at recovery from disasters or wars, so that claim isn't really one of their claims to fame. Of course, if you hold them to the level that we have held our own politicians and responders too, they have done poorly. Human rights agenda? You mean screeching about US abuses while stocking the comittee with member states that are far worse abusers? Climate accords that are ineffective? Cultural cooperation? Don't make me laugh.
So, any defense of the U.N. has to be very careful in explaining what the organization can do, and what it cannot. It is, for example, useless (and ignorant) to blame the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) observer force for not disarming Hezbollah when its Security Council mandate expressly forbade it from taking such military action. And it is silly to blame the secretary-general for failing to exert powers that he does not possess — he is, after all, the "servant" of those two difficult masters, the General Assembly and the Security Council. The U.N.'s performance can only be measured against its existing capacities and authority, not against some mythical, nonexistent strengths. So let us ponder two basic truisms concerning the world organization, the first becoming increasingly obvious to U.N. supporters and detractors alike, the second a far more subtle and cynical point.
Yep, can't blame UNIFIL for being a waste of time when the UNSC failed to give them clear direction to use force. So, how does this not make UNIFIL a waste of time and money and how does this not prove that the UN is a waste? In fact, I would conjecture that the UNIFIL force is like that guy in a bar fight that grabs someone from behind to stop the fight and just happens to allow the other combatant an oppurtunity for a free punch. In this case Israel is the one being restrained and UN is the idiot that is holding him back. Do you really think Hezbollah isn't using the UN presence to rearm?

I love that bit about mythical, nonexistent strengths. They have no strengths at all. I believe that is the whole point of those neocon attacks. The liberals and many countries in the UN love to yell that the US can't go about anything unilaterally and that the UN is the place to take greivances. But then you get there and everything is at a full stop. How many times can you go back to an agressor state with negotiations before the talking is deemed worthless. Apparently, in the UN, there is no limit. Look at North Korea and Iran, is there any glimpse of a resolution to their issues? Let's talk some more, that will make everyone "feel" better.
The first truism is that the United Nations is not, and never has been, a large and centralized actor in world affairs. Despite its charter being based loosely on parts of the U.S. Constitution, and despite all the founding rhetoric about "the Parliament of man," its creators insisted that it be nothing more than an assembly of sovereign nation states. It is, if you like, a sort of holding company, with governments as the shareholders, and with some of those shareholders — the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council — having much more voting power than others. True, all signatories to the U.N. Charter agree to surrender some sovereignty, but always with reservations. There is no U.N. army and no U.N. Treasury Department, both signs of statehood. And, for all the charter's proclaimed purposes to deter aggression and halt massive human rights abuses, the language about using force is very cautious and guarded. Very little about the U.N.'s peacekeeping powers is clear-cut. Everything depends on the circumstances.
Not sure why he goes for this argument. This pretty much stands up and supports the contention that the UN is a waste of time. With no central power the major powers can and will not come to any concensus on any issue. In fact, the major powers have incentives to not help each other. Conflict politics on the world stage are beneficial to states that can't compete on a fair level. The US does this as well, but there are other states, China and Russia, that clearly benefit from the status quo.

As to the language about using force, the complete lack of clear direction is what allows continued "massive human rights abuses" to continue. Or maybe Kennedy has missed the problems in Somalia and Sudan. The member states refuse to get involved because force denotes risk and there is very little benefit from sticking your hand into a hornets nest. Hell if it were a bees nest, then action probably would have occurred since there is at least the prospect of honey.
The United Nations is a scapegoat for the failures of the leading governments to agree or to act. After all, it was not the U.N. that failed the peoples of the Balkans in the early 1990s; it was the quarrels between the United States on the one hand, and Britain and France on the other, about bombing as an alternative to heavy troop commitments, as well as Russia's veto threats on Serbia's behalf. It was not the U.N. that bungled the "catch Gen. Aidid" operation in Mogadishu in 1993, but the U.S. Central Command, which went ahead with that ill-fated venture without even informing local U.N. authorities. It is not the U.N. that has stopped a peace-enforcement mission from being sent to Darfur, but the objections of African states and the possibility of a Chinese veto.
Love that one. The US was actually doing quite well in Mogadishu until the UN came in and took over. The action status had been constant presence in the city and heavy patrolling to ensure that the citizens new there was a force in place. Then the UN came in and decided that they would take control and sequester all of their forces in small isolated bases. Sounds kinda like UNIFIL doesn't it? Staying sequestered away from the problem ensured that nothing would be done. The US even tried to stop the real trouble makers, like Aidid. I'd like to know if Kennedy honestly thinks that if the US told the UN about trying to capture him that anthing would have been different. With the UN's record of military effectiveness being abominable, I'd think that keeping them out of the loop was probably a good idea.
But if radical Muslim splinter groups resume firing rockets and Israel responds (as it usually feels bound to) in a sledgehammer way; if the permanent veto members quarrel about who is to blame, then the many promising U.N. activities on the ground in Lebanon will end, international staff will be withdrawn and the downward spiral will resume.
What promising UN activities? Promising to whom? Hezbollah? What a complete and utter moron.

And as to Israel's "sledgehammer way" you don't stop a rabid dog by patting it or using a loud voice. You stop them by shooting them. But I suppose I'm on the wrong side of the appropriate or proportional use of force. But then, I won't be the one begging for my life on my knees.

No doubt Kennedy has a couple of points about the failures being related to the failure of the member states, but I don't see how that eliminates the fact that as a whole the UN is a waste of time. If the member parts of a machine don't work together the machinery doesn't function at all. That is the point of why the UN is a waste.