Thursday, November 30, 2006

Violent Criminals Enjoy Violence

I caught this at Of Arms & the Law.

The study is from Great Britain, but I don't think that this is much different here in the US.
Robbers increasingly carry out their vicious attacks for 'kicks' and street credibility rather than cash, a chilling study reveals.

The research, based on interviews with 120 sentenced criminals, said many simply had a desire for brutal violence rather than financial gain.

Past research has blamed a surge in violent robberies on offenders trying to get their hands on money, often to pay for drugs.

But Economic and Social Research Council said links to gangs and the need to gain 'street cred' were also a huge motivating factor.

Up to a third of those questioned - a group which included thugs arrested on more than 50 occasions - said they were involved in gangs or criminal groups.

The study, by Professor Trevor Bennett and Dr Fiona Brookman, added: "Both the amount and the severity of gratuitous violence used in street robbery are increasing in the UK.

I find this disturbing, though it does make some sense.

r provided a link to the report. (PDF)

Now I'll go and read it.

Iraq Study Group

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel’s deliberations.

The report, unanimously approved by the 10-member panel, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, is to be delivered to President Bush next week. It is a compromise between distinct paths that the group has debated since March, avoiding a specific timetable, which has been opposed by Mr. Bush, but making it clear that the American troop commitment should not be open-ended. The recommendations of the group, formed at the request of members of Congress, are nonbinding.
Do these results really sound any different than what the administration has been proposing all along? Well, I should caveat that statement with an understanding of a reasonable person that understands that the Iraqi war isn't about imperialism and the US wasn't trying to form a colony in Iraq just for the oil.

But your results may vary depending on your version of Tinfoil hat and how tightly you have it twisted on.

SCOTUS: Massachusetts vs. EPA

I linked the SCOTUSblog for the run down on the arguments. I'll spend more time looking at the blog entries by Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy. Like most legal fights, this one has limited arguments relative to the topic. The issue of "standing" appears to be a main arguing point, and one that I find particularly fascinating in the total context of the issue. This from the SCOTUSblog:
Four Justices -- Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens -- said enough to suggest that they would favor "standing" to challenge EPA. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Antonin Scalia revealed themselves to be unpersuaded that those who are complaining have shown either that they face "imminent" injury from EPA's decision, or that EPA could do anything about global warming even if it did act. Justice Clarence Thomas might be expected to share their reaction, although he said nothing. Thus, a 4-4 vote among those eight would turn over the conclusion, at least on "standing," to Kennedy.

In assessing Kennedy's role on Wednesday, it may be helpful to go back to a separate opinion he wrote in 1992, in one of the Court's most important test cases on who has "standing" to bring a lawsuit in the federal courts. That was the case of Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife. While the Court, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, sought to put tight limits on "standing," Kennedy's concurrence was more generous about showing a linkage between government action and private harm, and about opening the courts for more sweeping challenges to public policy.

I find it fascinating that the state of Massachusetts has two very senior Senators and several very senior Representatives, yet they haven't actually succeeded in passing any legislation on this topic. Kennedy and Kerry have proposed bills for altering auto emissions, but I don't see much evidence of success. It's also interesting to note that Massachusetts has had an overwhelming political blocking of the Cape Wind Farm. Funny how they want car emissions regulated by the EPA, but they are unwilling to sacrifice their view in order to reduce green house gases.

To Adler's blog on the NYTimes article.
Today's New York Times urges the Supreme Court to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. It is worth a careful read.
The Bush administration has been on a six-year campaign to expand its powers, often beyond what the Constitution allows. So it is odd to hear it claim that it lacks the power to slow global warming by limiting the emission of harmful gases. But that is just what it will argue to the Supreme Court tomorrow, in what may be the most important environmental case in many years.
This is a fair point about the Bush Administration, but it says little to nothing about the merits of the litigation. Whether or not the Administration is consistent in its assessments of federal regulatory authority should not be at issue.

It is also worth noting that the Administration's claim here — the lack of statutory authority has little to do with claims in other contexts about inherent executive authority under the Constitution. No one in this case claims the EPA has inherent authority under the Constitution to regulate greenhouse gases, nor is anyone claiming that such regulation would be unconstitutional. The issue here, instead, is the nature of Congress' delegation of regulatory authority to the EPA, and it is certainly consistent with various theories of the "unitary executive" to argue, as the Administration does, that this question should be answered by the EPA, and not the courts.

A group of 12 states . . . backed by environmental groups and scientists, say that the Clean Air Act requires the E.P.A. to impose limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by new cars. These gases are a major contributor to the “greenhouse effect” that is dangerously heating up the planet.
All true, but only part of the story. The EPA's position is also supported by several state intervenors, scientists, and non-profit public interest groups (not to mention many corporate interests and some labor groups). Nonetheless, the Times simply refers to "the states" throughout the editorial. It would be equally disingenuous for those of us who support the EPA to point to the "Bork Brief" or the "Taft Brief" (authored by noted air pollution law expert Arnold Reitze) and say the EPA is "backed by eminent legal scholars" without noting that there are eminent scholars on the other side as well.

It is also important to underscore that this case is not about the science of climate change. There is no dispute that human emissions of greenhouse gases affect the global climate. Rather, the fundamental issues are whether the Clean Air Act mandates the sort of regulatory action the petitioners seek, and whether these (or any) petitioners are entitled to bring these claims in court. As the Times summarizes the Administration's arguments:

The Bush administration insists that the E.P.A. does not have the power to limit these gases. It argues that they are not “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. Alternatively, it contends that the court should dismiss the case because the [petitioning] states do not have “standing,” since they cannot show that they will be specifically harmed by the agency’s failure to regulate greenhouse gases.
This is a fair characterization of the EPA's position, but it is also worth nothing that the EPA is hardly alone in this case. There is a virtual army of respondent-intervenors (here, here, here, and here), some of which make additional arguments worthy of consideration (just as there are many important amici filed on either side, most of which are available here).
Fascinating how the NYTimes has to snipe at the President's use of Executive Powers. Personally, I have no issue with that. The congress and the courts have been whittling away those powers for years and any push back strikes me as appropriate. I think Adler's statements otherwise stand very well without comment from me.

I recommend you read the rest as Adler does a very good job at taking the NYTimes to task for poor logic and a failure to reasonably posture the arguments of the case.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bloomberg's Hand Picked Judge

Yeah, it's a bit old, but it still is irritating.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry's trade association, said today it was outraged but not surprised to learn that Brooklyn, N.Y.-based federal court judge Jack B. Weinstein had appointed a lawyer handpicked by New York City Mayor Bloomberg to monitor several small out-of-state "mom and pop" gun stores that had been sued by Bloomberg earlier this year.

The lawyer, Andrew Weissman, is a partner with the Chicago- based law firm of Jenner and Block. The firm represents the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a Washington, D.C.-based gun control group known for its extremist positions, which include advocating a ban on civilian ownership of handguns. Jenner & Block filed a brief for VPC supporting the City of Chicago's attempt to obtain highly sensitive law enforcement data on guns traced by law enforcement during criminal investigations. Jenner and Block's brief for VPC argued the data should be released to the public despite opposition from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that it would endanger ongoing criminal investigations and a federal law that specifically bars public disclosure. A federal appeals court rejected Jenner and Block's arguments. Chicago had sought the data for use in its lawsuit against gun makers, which was ultimately dismissed by a state appeals court.

"Judge Weinstein's Halloween Day order appointing a lawyer handpicked by Mayor Bloomberg for whose firm has strong ties to a radical anti-gun group gives new meaning to the phrase, 'Trick- or-Treat,'" said Lawrence G. Keane, chief spokesperson for the firearms industry. "We fear it will be a nightmare for these small businesses."

In a series of earlier rulings in a related case, Judge Weinstein ruled the City of New York could have and use privileged gun trace data in its civil suit against gun makers. The case, originally filed in June 2000 by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani and continued by Bloomberg, is now before a federal appeals court in New York.

Gun makers have long been concerned with Judge Weinstein's bias and have even asked Judge Weinstein to recuse himself in the city's suit against the manufacturers. Weinstein refused to step aside.

Bloomberg's suit against 15 out-of-state "mom-and-pop" gun dealers claims they participated in "simulated straw-purchases." Bloomberg, despite promises made at a press conference announcing the suit, has failed to make available evidence of the alleged illegal conduct to the ATF, whom he had described as "asleep at the switch." The actions of Bloomberg's private investigators, done without the knowledge of either ATF or the New York City police department, interfered with as many as 18 ongoing criminal investigations and are now being investigated by ATF.

Simulated straw-purchases? Did they buy the guns or not? They did, and thus it was a straw purchase. No simulations, just more news that is a lie.

As for Weinstein, looks like NY has some judges in need of review as well.

And the ATF's investigation continues on it's glacial rate.

NSA Privacy Protections

Caught site of this at Captain's Quarters as well.

Looks like the NSA placed far more protections in place than the MSM led anyone to believe. Bet this bit of news will be quietly ignored by those most vehemently against the program. This article refers to the NSA "eavesdropping" specifically.
The briefing for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had been delayed because President Bush was concerned -- after several media leaks -- about widening the circle of people who knew exact details of the secret eavesdropping program.

The board, created by Congress and appointed by Bush, focused on other classified work since it was named in spring 2005, but continued to press for a formal briefing by the National Security Agency.

A breakthrough was reached in recent days, and the five members were briefed by senior officials last week.

Board members said that they were impressed by the safeguards the government has built into the NSA's monitoring of phone calls and computer transmissions, and that they wished the administration could tell the public more about them to ease distrust.

"If the American public, especially civil libertarians like myself, could be more informed about how careful the government is to protect our privacy while still protecting us from attacks, we'd be more reassured," said Lanny Davis , a former Clinton White House lawyer who is the board's lone liberal Democrat.

Let's see. Informing the public of a secret program to make the civil libertarians more reassured is stunningly stupid. The reason for the secrecy was to keep the program effective. The fact that the protections that were in place reassures this knee-jerk liberal should be reassuring to all that the government was doing its job in protecting citizen's privacy. Will it be seen that way? I doubt it.

This article discusses another briefing with regards to bank transaction monitoring. That's the SWIFT stuff.
The program, which gives American intelligence officials access to large volumes of banking data through a Brussels consortium known as Swift, has been attacked by regulators in Europe, who view it as illegal and have threatened sanctions. But the administration gave no indication at Tuesday’s briefing that it was rethinking the program, defending it as a vital tool in tracking terrorist financing.

The briefing, lasting nearly two hours, was held at the Treasury Department for the five members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created at Congress’s direction in 2004 to examine privacy issues related to the war on terror. The board received a similar classified briefing last week on the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program, created by President Bush soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The board’s only Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, who was a senior aide to President Bill Clinton, said that before the latest briefing he had had doubts about the Swift banking program. But “I was impressed with the lengths to which these people have gone to avoid infringing on people’s civil rights,” Mr. Davis said in an interview. “It was less of a concern than I expected.”
Alan C. Raul, a Reagan White House adviser who is vice chairman of the panel, said that given what he heard at Tuesday’s briefing, the government appeared to have tight controls to ensure that only people with clear terrorist links were made targets of the banking program.

“When you hear program operators tell you how carefully they make these judgments, it’s striking, and you’d have to say impressive,” Mr. Raul said. “The execution seems to be done with scrupulous attention to the privacy and civil liberties implications.”

Mr. Davis, the board’s Democratic member, echoed that assessment. “Based on what I’ve seen so far in both programs,” he said of the banking and N.S.A. efforts, “I think they have struck the right balance” between detecting terrorist threats and ensuring Americans’ civil liberties.

“But there’s a big caveat,” he added. “I don’t know what I don’t know, and we are looking forward to getting more information.”

Love that big caveat statement. Now just imagine what would happen if the workers in this secret agency could keep a secret.

Wonder where the leak investigation is going. Probably the same way the BATFE investigation of Mayor Bloomberg is. (See next blog entry.)

California Judges Doing It Again

Not that this is completely unreasonable, but the logic has some serious flaws.
A federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that the Bush administration violated the Constitution when it froze the assets of more than two dozen alleged terrorist groups after the Sept. 11 attacks.

U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins, in a ruling released Monday, held that an executive order Bush issued Sept. 24, 2001 — designating 27 groups and individuals as "specially designated global terrorists" — was "unconstitutionally vague."

Collins said the order was flawed because it failed to explain the criteria used to make the designations and because it included no process to challenge the decision.
The logic missing here is that this is an interference with the executive war time powers. The President should be allowed to freeze assets with a lesser criteria in a quick time reaction. Mind you, the Bush administration should have pushed these groups into the Treasury department classification system as well to ensure they met a more rigorous overview, which could then be given additional time for validation.
Collins' latest ruling could affect another one of the administration's most widely used authorities in its war on terrorism, although the full import of the ruling was not immediately clear.

U.S. officials have used the power to freeze the assets of hundreds of organizations and individuals around the world to try to choke off financing for what it views as illicit operations.

But Collins also said that many of the designations, especially those made by the Treasury Department rather than by Bush, were valid because they followed detailed procedures.
Denying the Executive branch the ability to make quick decisions is a major mistake. I would doubt that this would stop a president in the future from making the decision and passing it on to the Treasury Department for review and validation.

But as all things in law, why would they be concerned with the overall results of such findings.

Captain Ed points out some info on Judge Collins.
Collins, a Clinton appointee, gained notoriety two years ago when she became the first federal judge to strike down provisions of the Patriot Act. Interestingly, she found that act, passed by Congress, also to be too vague to be constitutional. In that case, one of the plaintiffs was -- the PKK again, which got its terrorist designation not from the Bush administration under the Patriot Act or this executive order, but by Madeline Albright's State Department in 1997.

Nor was that the first time Collins has had a problem with anti-terrorist legislation. During the Clinton administration, she struck down the 1996 anti-terrorism law passed by Congress in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Collins seems to have trouble reading the law, finding all counterterrorism legislation too vague to be understood. Perhaps the problem lies with Collins more than the laws themselves.

Sounds like there is a need for some judicial review of the findings of this judge.

Gingrich's Crusade

Yeah, Newt was in NH yesterday as well. Another voice that could be lived without. His message? Let's restrict first amendment rights.
"This is a serious, long-term war," the former speaker said, according an audio excerpt of his remarks made available yesterday by his office. "Either before we lose a city or, if we are truly stupid, after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people."

Mr. Gingrich acknowledged that these proposals would trigger "a serious debate about the First Amendment." He also said international law must be revised to address the exigencies posed by international terrorists.

"We should propose a Geneva Convention for fighting terrorism, which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous," he said.

There you have it. The technology must be really simple that would allow you to shut down the use of the internet to terrorists but not completely destroy the internet as it exists. The technology doesn't exist and you can be assured that if the government is involved in that "control" that the result will be an internet that is completely broken. Maybe he should talk to his buddy McCain and find a good way to legislate further suppression of speech to go along with McCain's suppression of political speech legislation.

Some times it's quite obvious when a law maker doesn't get it or does and should be left by the wayside.

Geneva convention for fighting terrorists? There is one dolt. The Geneva conventions have protocol II that would treat terrorists like legal combatants. By the standard in place today we'd be nearly totally disarmed. Fortunately the US hasn't ratified this protocol. Imagine trying to move the UN into forming a new protocol that allows for action against terrorists. It would go nowhere due to so many countries denying that the present groups like Al-Qaeda are terrorist organizations.

Go home Newt.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Politicians Posturing in NH

I'm not certain why Obama is coming to NH. Personally, I wish he'd stay away.
Most of the top presidential prospects for 2008 are familiar faces in New Hampshire, but Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is an exception.

That will change next month when Obama joins New Hampshire Democrats for a belated celebration of their big win in the Nov. 7 election.

"We are honored that Sen. Obama has accepted our invitation to celebrate the historic, tidal wave victory New Hampshire's Democrats experienced this November," state party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said Tuesday in announcing the visit.

Yep, He had nothing to do with the bluing of NH, but yet he's coming for the celebration. Why? Posture?
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, Obama trailed only former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in a popularity contest among 20 national figures, even though 40 percent of those polled said they didn't know enough about him. Giuliani, a Republican, got a 64 percent rating on a scale of 0 to 100. Obama was second with 59 percent and Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, was third with 58 percent. Giuliani and McCain also are potential presidential candidates for 2008.
Hell. I'm sick of the election crap that just finished. I really couldn't give a damn about the 2008 election at the moment. But the jostling that is happening in NH is just nauseating. John Edwards was in Manchester last night signing his book. Pathetic. Though I did get a laugh from this bit in the BoGlobe article quoting the NH Union Leader editorial.
In an editorial published Monday, the newspaper noted that the bookstore is located in front of a Wal-Mart. Though Edwards has frequently criticized the retailer, saying it should pay its workers more and provide them with health insurance, the newspaper argues that the Manchester Wal-Mart pays it workers $7.50 to start, compared to $7 at the book store.

And that Quinnipiac poll has our favorite, John Kerry as dead last.
The Quinnipiac University popularity rankings - based on interviews with 1,600 voters - come as Kerry struggles to recover from his “botched” attempt at humor when he made a reference to soldiers serving in Iraq.
Kerry ranked 20th out of 20 politicians, lagging far behind a slew of Democrats expected to seek the party’s 2008 nomination.
Not that he'll get the point, but at least he's not coming to NH any time soon. Now, with luck, the rest of them will give us a break.

Pelosi Got It Right

In a decision that could roil Democratic unity in the new House, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi passed over Rep. Alcee Hastings Tuesday for the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.

Hastings, currently the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, had been aggressively making a case for the top position, supported by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

If there are political repercussions from the Black Caucus about this, they may want to consider that this is in reality the right position if they hope to keep Dems in the majority.

Shotguns in War

Of Arms & the Law linked this PDF article that considers the legality of the use of shotguns in the military and looks at the historical perspectives.
There is a long history of the use of shotguns in combat. But in the closing days of World War I, Germany objected to the U.S. use of shotguns, claiming their use violated the law of war. Although the German claim was promptly rejected by the United States, questions about the legality of shotguns persisted. This article1 sets forth the history of the combat use of shotguns, the 1918 German protest and U.S. response, and an analysis of the issue in contemporary terms. The memorandum of law upon which this article is based was coordinated with the other services, Army and DOD General Counsel, and the Department of State, and it reaffirms the legality of the shotgun for combat use.
Interesting to read the perspectives on how the US dealt with Germany on this issue. The discussion looks at the Hague conventions related to the use of shotguns and the actual discussion between Germany and the US.

The reason for the article? The US military is looking to upgrade to a new shotgun.

Hezbollah Training the Madhi Army

Great. Hezbollah through Iran, is training the Madhi army. That's certain to facilitate a smooth transition to peace in Iraq.
A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria.

The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by his agency, and discussed Iran’s role in response to questions from a reporter.

The interview occurred at a time of intense debate over whether the United States should enlist Iran’s help in stabilizing Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, directed by James A. Baker III, a former Republican secretary of state, and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker, is expected to call for direct talks with Tehran.
Excellent. Wonder where this puts Baker's thoughts on talking with Iran and Syria? Probably won't change a thing.
The new American account is consistent with a claim made in Iraq this summer by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia had sent 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. “They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The specific assertions about Iran’s role went beyond those made publicly by senior American officials, though Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, did tell Congress this month that “the Iranian hand is stoking violence” in Iraq.

The American intelligence on Hezbollah was based on human sources, electronic means and interviews with detainees captured in Iraq.

American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say.
The Iraqi theater is more complex than ever. Iran provides terrorist training through Hezbollah, and provides money and supplies. You can be certain that Syria is doing the same for the Sunni populations.

Makes you wonder if Talibani was able to get any help from Iran. I'm still unconvinced that Iran has any interest in seeing Iraq succeed in its present form. Most news reports state that Iran is afraid of instability in the region, but that strikes me as especially odd with the above report on Hezbollah. They are interested in stability only to the point that they gain control, or at least a hegemony, in the region. They might have trouble with all out chaos, but that doesn't look like it's happening, nor does it look to be spreading more than minimally. The Kurds region and the southern Shiite regions are for the most part stable. Baghdad is the center of conflict with the neighboring Sunni areas causing some level of strife.

Iran's provisioning of insurgents and militias isn't stabilizing the region. The NYTimes article provides testimony from General Abizaid with regards to munitions that they are providing.
Among American officials, concern over the purported Iranian, Syrian or Hezbollah role grew recently when an advanced antitank weapon, an RPG-29, was used against an American M-1 tank in Iraq.

“The first time we saw it was not in Iraq,” Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters in September. “We saw it in Lebanon. So to me, No. 1, it indicates an Iranian connection.”

American intelligence officials said the source of the weapon was still unclear.

I find that a bit questionable. The source would have to be a nation state that has an arms relationship with Russia. It strikes me as unlikely that they were in Iraq for all this time and just arrived into the conflict now. And their arrival in Lebanon is even more indicative of a supporting state providing them to terrorists. The RPG-29 is fairly new, created in 1991. I suppose they could be black market items, but there is a simpler answer.

Civil War - A War by Any Other Name...

The more hysterical of the MSM have now fallen to calling the conflict in Iraq "civil war." I suppose there is sufficient cause to go there, especially as the definition of civil war is extremely vague. I don't really agree that it is as simple as MSNBC would have you believe, but, if you have to go there at least be honest about the definition. I'd say that the area of this civil war is fairly limited and mostly restricted to Baghdad.
Today, as Air Force One was halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, a White House spokesman protested a decision by several American news organizations, including NBC News, to call the violence in Iraq a civil war.

"While the situation on the ground is very serious, neither Prime Minister Maliki or us (Bush White House) believe that Iraq is in a civil war," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe

However, the U.N. reported last week that an average of 120 Iraqi civilians are getting killed every day. This weekend, the violence in Baghdad claimed the lives of 215 people in one day. Several experts say Iraq reached civil war status months ago. And now, the Los Angeles Times is calling Iraq a civil war and so is NBC News.

Does counting corpses qualify as a part of defining civil war? I'd say it must be a part, but putting a value on it as the definition at Wikipedia does seems just down right foolish. Worse, they pull their definition from a journalist's article in the NYTimes. Nice that the research there is so especially pathetic.
This morning, on the Today Show, Matt Lauer said, "NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas -- can now be characterized as a civil war."
So, the Bush White House has consistently argued against using that same terminology for Iraq. Last March, for example, President Bush undercut the credibility of Iraq's then-interim prime minister. A reporter referred to Mr. Allawi's comments and asked President Bush, "Do you agree with Mr. Allawi that Iraq has fallen into a civil war?" President Bush coldly responded, "I do not."

This fall, press secretary Tony Snow declared Iraq does not qualify as a civil war because the violence is different. "You do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it,” Snow said. “But it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force."

Several historians and analysts, however, say that a unified force is not a requirement in a civil war. Others argue that the roaming militias and death squads in Iraq constitute a unified force.

Bush answered "coldly?" Damn, that's great reporting, no slant placed in there. No opinion noted, move along.

Is there a requirement for unified forces to define a civil war. I'd say yes. I'm not saying that there must be two distinct opposing forces. I'm saying that the forces must be constant and identifiable. This can be seen in Iraq. I believe I can define several. In fact I found this article that defines some of them.
In May 2003 our enemy, the government of Saddam Hussein, was defeated. Our war against the leadership of the nation of Iraq was over. But as we all know the fighting continued, and has in fact increased year after year until today. The Iraq War’s second phase now consists of the following different types of violent confrontations:
  1. Iraqi insurgents fighting American and Coalition occupying forces
  2. Iraqi insurgents fighting Iraqi government armed forces, Iraqi police, and the Iraqi citizenry.
  3. Foreign fighters fighting all of the above.
  4. “Sectarian violence” between internal Iraqi factions.

Some people argue that numbers 2, 3, and 4 aren’t serious or intense enough to qualify as civil war. Again, that’s a semantic dispute. But what about number 1? Does that qualify as a civil war?

I also believe they are ignoring the inter-tribal warfare that is being seen both in the Sunni and Shiite regions of Iraq. The foreign insurgency fighters and the chaos they are causing is most obviously not part of a civil war. That falls under the category of 'other.' They have peripheral political purposes that are political and sectarian, but are mainly aimed at removing the US from the lands of Islam. Some of the tribal and sectarian fighting is revenge for the past Sunni domination by the Baathist party in Iraq. A great deal of the rest is various factions plying for local control. In the largest scope there is the fighting related to overall control of Iraq. I see the Mahdi Army under al-Sadr as part of this issue. I'd also note that this is likely the smallest actual influence in the present fighting.

In any case, this is not the first time U.S. troops have found themselves on foreign soil and caught in the middle of warring factions. In 1993 in Mogadishu Somalia, 18 U.S. Army Rangers were killed in a firefight with local warlords. The infamous “Black Hawk Down” episode, which includes the horrifying images of American bodies being dragged through the streets by an angry mob, came as U.S. troops were trying to help the United Nations police a civil war and distribute food and relief supplies.

Ten years earlier, U.S. Marines got entangled in the civil war in Lebanon. They were part of a multinational force trying to cool tensions between Lebanese Christians and Muslims in Beirut. On Oct. 28, 1983, a truck bomb blew up the marine headquarters in Beirut, killing 241 marines. It was the largest single day loss of life for the U.S. military since Vietnam.

There are two of the poorest examples I think they could have provided. The Marine Barracks terrorist attack was not part of the civil war. The civil unrest in Lebanon was fairly limited and never turned into a true civil war. The majority of the fighting was instigated by the PLO and drew Israel into an occupation of southern Lebanon. Then there was the Syrian occupation that left things just as unstable as before. I suppose you could call that civil war at a certain level. But in this case, there were a large number of external factions involved in the fighting that it becomes a much more complex scenario.

As for Somalia, I don't see any civil war in that event at all. Somalia is so finely divided between various war lords, and the complete lack of any central government of any sort, that it's a case where it falls away from the definition of civil war and becomes the poster child for anarchy.
Most recently, before Iraq's civil war, U.S. troops were in Bosnia trying to separate Croats and Serbs in what used to be known as Yugoslavia. That U.S. ground presence, however, was part of a multi-national force and came after U.S. air strikes had already pushed sectarian leaders to the negotiating table.
I'd also place the former Yugoslavia disintegration outside of the realm of civil war. The conflict was for control of the various pieces and trying to mine out as much of the territory as the various ethnic factions could get for themselves. There was essentially little by way of political control, and the ethnic cleansing was another example of tribal or sectarian strife. Politics didn't come in until the US coalition stepped in and forced the parties to negotiate.
In Iraq, U.S. forces are mostly on their own. And they are caught between rival Sunnis and Shiites as well as government security forces whose loyalties are often split. Meanwhile, the bombings, kidnappings, torture and execution-style killings are all getting worse. Some of the video we bring in to MSNBC these days from Iraq can not be broadcast on-air because it is too graphic.

Against all of this, U.S. troops in Iraq continue to die. The total number killed is now almost 2,900. Whether Iraq is a civil war or worse, the terminology doesn't really matter to U.S. service members. For them, Iraq is a chaotic killing field that has no end in sight.

I'm thinking that this last bit is a completely emotional tack. Not sure what relevance it could have to their topic, since people are dying everywhere and that includes troops in the US. The posture taken is that the troops are dying and don't care what you call it. Well, I find that unlikely. The troops do care about finishing the job that was started, and the MSM in placing the terminology at its worst for the US public further works the public mind set into the defeatist attitude. With that the troops will further understand that the public in general doesn't really care about their sacrifices, which will be in vain if Iraq collapses into a high level civil war.

So, is Iraq in "civil war?" Sure, but it does require qualifiers. A majority of Iraq isn't involved and the majority of the fighting is restricted to a very small region. Calling it a low intensity civil war would be accurate. Unfortunately, the press is deciding to call it "civil war" in the most simplistic of ways merely pushes the anti-war propaganda that Iraq is a failure and cannot be solved.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dems Want Investigations

Shocked, I didn't see anything like this coming.
WASHINGTON - The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is promising an array of oversight investigations that could provoke sharp disagreement with Republicans and the White House.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., pledged that Democrats, swept to power in the Nov. 7 elections, would govern "in the middle" next year. But the veteran lawmaker has a reputation as one who has never avoided a fight and he did not back away from that reputation on Sunday.

Among the investigations he said he wants the committee to undertake:

_The new Medicare drug benefit. "There are lots and lots and lots of scandals," he said, without citing specifics.

_Spending on government contractors in Iraq, including Halliburton Co., the Texas-based oil services conglomerate once led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

_An energy task force overseen by Cheney. It "was carefully cooked to provide only participation by oil companies and energy companies," Dingell said.

_A review of food and drug safety, particularly in the area of nutritional supplements.
I really like the one on the medicare drug benefit. Not naming the issue while declaring it a target of investigation is interesting. It declares that there is something illegitimate occurring without bothering to actually make any concrete claims.

Halliburton is one of those that no doubt is only due to the presence of Dick Cheney in some historical involvement with the company. I wonder if they'll look at the awarding of no bid contracts under the Clinton administration.
Rep. Barney Frank set to lead the House Financial Services Committee, said issues such as raising the minimum wage will be popular, even thought the idea has been identified with liberals.

"In my own committee, the biggest difference you're going to see is we're going to return to try to help deal with the housing crisis that blights so many parts of our country socially and economically," said Frank, D-Mass.

Frank, who in 1987 became the first member of Congress to voluntarily make his homosexuality public, also said he wants to modify the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The current policy prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.
Now why is Frank choosing to fight the "don't ask, don't tell" policy now? Wouldn't this have been a more appropriate fight during the Clinton administration when the policy was enacted? I'm sure it will have a better political posture now, since it will no doubt be used to further vilify Bush even though he didn't enact it and has basically left well enough alone.

It will be an interesting year with all this happening. I'm expecting there is going to be a lot of court cases defending executive privilege in this congress.

MSM Malpractice

The linked blog is FloppingAces which I found through a link at Wizbang.

The piece is pretty interesting. Partly for the rather extensive work done to try and verify the MSM sources credentials and partly for the rather thorough vetting that they seem to have done outside of the MSM. I'm not saying that they are 100% validated, but they certainly provide sufficient evidence to set your mind to reasonable doubt. I'd say I'm convinced.

They take the reports on the four burnt mosques in Iraq and the six people burned to death and try to find evidence of the same that is independently qualified. They don't find any. The source, a certain Capt. Jamil Hussein of the Iraqi police, appears to be the only witness. In trying to vet him as a source they go to CENTCOM and come up with a list of questioned sources that the government is trying to qualify.

Sounds odd to me. Read it for yourself. I'm not particularly surprised that the MSM isn't vetting their sources. God knows they are the journalists and must know what they are doing. Unfortunately, it has little to do with honest reporting.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Iraq is NOT Vietnam No Matter How Much You Whine

I read this Op-Ed by Kirk Caraway this morning and it's been irritating me ever since. I'm still astounded that Kirk seems to be taking Vietnam and the lessons learned there and then state that we didn't learn anything there. Worst of all, he doesn't actually provide any real evidence. His arguments are very thin for the most part.
History is written by the victors.

It is with this notion that I am trying to understand the statements of President George W. Bush during his recent visit to Vietnam, in the shadow of the ongoing war in Iraq.

Bush stated there are lessons we can learn from Vietnam to help us achieve victory in Iraq. His two lessons: That it takes time for freedom to triumph, and that "We'll succeed, unless we quit."

Trying to make sense of these lessons requires a greater leap from reality than I am willing to take.
In reality, history isn't written by the victors. The US failed in Vietnam, but yet the majority of histories written on Vietnam are written by Americans. I especially like that he discounts Bush's "lessons." They are in fact completely true. And Vietnam proved them. If you quit you lose. That's nearly a truism. Not sure how you can argue with that. As for time being a requirement for "freedom to triumph" that is also completely supported. Considering the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, can Kirk honestly argue that they got freedom in anything like a short time period? I'd say the huge quantity of deaths and forced "re-education" prove that freedom didn't come for a very long time.
Are we to assume that Bush thinks the U.S. could have won the war in Vietnam, and that country would be a better place today, if we hadn't left, if we were still there bombing them into oblivion?

But then, that contradicts Bush's other statements, on how Vietnam has improved since we quit the place 31 years ago.

"For decades, you had been torn apart by war," Bush said. "And today, the Vietnamese people are at peace and seeing the benefits of reform."

All of these statements are even more surreal when you add in the image of Bush standing in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh, visiting with government officials who defeated the American forces, handing the U.S. its most serious military defeat to date.

Another fascinating assumption that flies in the face of reality. The withdrawal from Vietnam was due to political pressures in the US. There were actual successful operations in Vietnam that could have ended with a success. The CAPs programs were very successful, but were abandoned when the troops had to withdraw. And why does he assume that we would have continued with the bombing as they had been using. Again, this wasn't a military defeat, it was a political one. Kirk's complete lack of understanding on that one lesson makes the majority of his discussion completely idiotic.

And Vietnam did change drastically over time due to the communist rule failing fairly seriously. The Capitalist economies of the world caused the changes in Vietnam more than anything else. Could the improvements have come sooner? I'd say yes, but the US public hadn't the stamina and the military made a major mess of the whole thing.
Let's take Bush's central strategy for victory, that "as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down." Boiled down, this means we train the Iraqis to take over the fighting so American forces can start coming home. This is Richard Nixon's Vietnamization doctrine with a new coat of paint, but the same tired engine under the hood.

If you want a lesson from history, here's a good one: Vietnamization didn't work, even with a far more cohesive military force than we have in Iraq, armed to the teeth with our best weapons. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is afraid to hand over any heavy weapons to the Iraqi forces for fear they will use them on each other, and on coalition forces.

What do you say when your current policy is failing worse than the old failed policy it was based on?

Maybe we should ask Henry Kissinger. He had a front-row seat for Vietnamization. He has also been one of the main figures advising Bush to stay the course in Iraq. Yet now, he has come out to say the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily. Maybe this old warhorse has started to learn from his own history.
This argument is so simplistic that it pretty much doesn't apply. Vietnamization was working, the problems with that strategy was that the US set them up to fight in the wrong way. This has been discussed by many military historians. Setting the Vietnam army to fight in the big battle style that was used in WWII. If the use of militias had been instituted for local control and policing against the insurgency and then additionally providing a strong military capable of quick reactions to attacks from North Vietnam they may have had more success. The problem was that they needed outside funding. The US abandoned that aspect quickly. The North Vietnamese continued receiving funding from China and the USSR. I understand that those are inconvenient facts for Kirk, but facts they are.

Kirk also misses the differences between Iraq and Vietnam. There is no external primary support country in Iraq. The issues that need to be solved are primarily political. The sectarian and tribal conflicts aren't being solved due to those groups posturing for control. They see themselves first as Sunni of Shia then as some tribal group then as Iraqis. These social mechanisms are making the environment in Iraq exceptionally complex. Unless there is progress in this issue there is little likelihood that the political solutions can succeed.
Perhaps the real lessons of history need to come from the winners of these conflicts. In The Associated Press story of Bush's visit to Vietnam, the reporter spoke to Huynh Tuyet, 71, a veteran of the war who lost a hand fighting against American forces.

"Even though the Americans were more powerful with all their massive weapons, the main factor in war is the people," he said. "The Vietnamese people were very determined. We would not give up. That's why we won."
The Vietnamese Insurgency was determined. The reason the won was because the US public wasn't. I'd say the US public was the greater factor in the end.
The Iraqi people seem very determined as well, and there is no sign of them giving up. A recent poll taken in Iraq shows that a wide majority of respondents feel American troops provoke more violence than they prevent, and they want us to leave.

Maybe another important lesson to learn from Vietnam is that the country didn't start getting better until after we left.
Yes, the Iraqis are determined. Determined to get their slice of power or revenge. Note that the majority of fighting is sectarian or tribal and very little against the US forces. There is insurgent attacks against the US military, but it has been fairly minimal compared to the sectarian conflicts.

As for Vietnam getting better after the US left, does Kirk have any concept of history at all? How many people died in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after the US left? The numbers projected variously from hundreds of thousands to over a million. That must have been better than when the US was in the region.
Bush didn't set out to repeat the Vietnam War game plan, yet it seems that is exactly what he has accomplished so far. The only real debate left is whether Iraq will end the same way Vietnam did. Are we doomed to defeat, or is there a way to put the pieces back together?

Whatever your viewpoint, it's clear we aren't going to achieve a result different than Vietnam unless we stop following the same script.

And that's the best lesson we can learn.
With this example of a complete lack of understanding of the lessons of Vietnam, it is fairly evident that Kirk doesn't actually have a clue that Iraq has very little in common with Vietnam. Difference in cultures, religions, environment and history pretty much indicates that there is little that was scripted that was similar between the Iraq and Vietnam. No doubt there have been a lot of mistakes in Iraq, but they are by no means the same as what happened in Vietnam. The main similarities seems to be that the MSM has facilitated the propaganda war, and the end result of the public failing to show sufficient determinations to finish a war.

There are many other lessons that can be drawn from other insurgencies and applied to Iraq. Algeria is probably much better a comparison. Malaysia has some lessons, but probably to a lesser extent since that insurgency was smaller and less complex in the cultural aspects. But Vietnam is much less comparable .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

UN Calling for Iraqis to be Nice

With the mess over the part couple of days, you'd think that the UN would have something more constructive to say.
A U.N. envoy urged Iraq's government on Saturday to halt a slide into civil war and stop the "cancer" of sectarianism from destroying the country, warning that the carnage of this week could tear Iraq apart.

As a curfew was extended until Monday, derailing a trip to Iran by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the U.N. envoy in Baghdad, Ashraf Qazi, said car bombs on Thursday that killed more than 200 Shi'ites and "blind acts of revenge" were "tearing apart the very political and social fabric of Iraq".

"No country could tolerate such a cancer in its body politic," Qazi said in a statement.
My question really comes to will Sadr and Maliki take responsibility for the removal of the road blocks that the US military was maintaining up until Maliki ordered them removed. Those road blocks kept the suicide bombers out as well as restricting Sadr's militia death squads.

I have to say I was surprised that the MSM actually admitted that this mess was instigated by the insurgency trying to destabilize the area. This has been obvious for some time, but the journalistic impartiality of the MSM must have been keeping them from reporting the actors and their motivations. Sadly, very few in the MSM report that bit.


You know, when I read this it really didn't make much sense. Why in the hell would you use an extremely rare radioactive element to poison someone? Talk about leaving a signature. I know it's used with beryllium to make neutron sources and as part of nuclear bomb triggers. That tells you some thing about the rarity and usually the level of control on the material.
If substantial amounts of polonium 210 were used to poison Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian spy who died Thursday, whoever did it presumably had access to a high-level nuclear laboratory and put himself at some risk carrying out the assassination, experts said today.

Polonium 210 is highly radioactive and very toxic. By weight, it is about 250 million times as toxic as cyanide, so a particle smaller than a dust mote could be fatal. It would also, presumably, be too small to taste.

British health authorities said it was found in Mr. Litvinenko’s body.

There is no antidote, and handling it in a laboratory requires special equipment. But to be fatal, it must be swallowed, breathed in or injected; the alpha particles it produces cannot penetrate the skin. So it could theoretically be carried safely in a glass vial or paper envelope and sprinkled into food or drink by a killer willing to take the chance that he did not accidentally breathe it in or swallow it.

Between the poison and radioactivity, this is really nasty stuff. I'm surprised that he lasted as long as he did.
“This is wild,” said Dr. F. Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist and director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System. “To my knowledge, it’s never been employed as a poison before. And it’s such an obscure thing. It’s not easy to get. That’s going to be something like the KGB would have it in some secret facility or something.”

In a quick search of medical journals, he could only find one article describing the deliberate use of a radioactive poison to kill. It was from 1994, he said, published but he couldn’t read the details because it was in Russian.

Polonium is extremely rare in nature. Named by its discoverer, Marie Curie, after her native Poland, it occurs in trace amounts in uranium ore and has been found in minute quantities in plants like tobacco, as well as in humans who ate caribou that ate lichens growing near a uranium mine.

But making the “significant quantities” described in Mr. Litvinenko’s body by the British Health Protection Agency would require a nuclear reactor that could bombard the element bismuth with neutrons.

I still want to know what they mean by "significant quantities." I'm betting it's far smaller than you'd think.

Then there is a question on what they do with the cadaver. Can't cremate it for obvious reasons, then burying it would require rather extensive controls, at least for about four years until the majority of the polonium-210 has decayed away.

Really strange event.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

If You Needed Another Reason to Hate the NYTimes....

You know I saw this at QandO and had to read it a couple of times. It really couldn't say what it does. Are these people really that clueless?
America’s confusion about the Second Amendment is now nearly total. An amendment that ensures a collective right to bear arms has been misread in one legislature after another — often in the face of strong public disapproval — as a law guaranteeing an individual’s right to carry a weapon in public. And, in a perversion of monumental proportions, the battle to extend that right has largely succeeded in co-opting the language of the Civil Rights movement, so that depriving an American of the right to carry a gun in public sounds, to some, as offensive as stripping him of the right to vote.
Yeah the emphasis is mine. You should really read the whole article.

The topic is on Senator Allen's bill to allow firearm carry in national parks. The old gray corpse appears to think that safety in a national park would be better provided by better funding the parks rather than allowing citizens to defend themselves.
If Americans want to feel safer in their national parks, the proper solution is to increase park funding, which has decayed steadily since the Bush administration took office. To zealots who believe that the Second Amendment trumps all others, the parks are merely another badland, like schools and church parking lots, that could be cleaned up if the carrying of private weapons were allowed. The concealed-weapon advocates are doing an excellent job of sounding terrified by “lonely wilderness trails.” But make no mistake. Senator Allen’s bill would make no one safer. It can only endanger the public.
Well, if you can't use logic, use really bitter rhetoric. This editor of the old-gray-corpse appears to miss the point that the "gun zealots" want to be able to defend themselves anywhere. Seeing that I can carry a concealed weapon on the busiest streets of any city where I can legally be licensed, why is it I can't carry when I am least likely to benefit from any police protection. (Not that I could profit from that in the city either, but they are a lot closer.)

I have no problem with this editor not wanting to be capable of defending themselves, but I take serious offense when they state I shouldn't have the right to defend myself.

Bloody idiots.

Men in Skirts

Ok, I know that it's a kilt. Especially with my Scots lineage, I can empathize.

In any case, Granted has company. I just wonder, where does he carry his concealed handgun?

My last day of work is today.

You'd think some folks have never seen a man in a kilt before.
Some of the comments at Bruce's blog make me nervous.
I assume that you shave your legs?
Yeah, that's not right.

Passports for All

I hate travel, and this isn't going to help.
Nearly all air travelers entering the U.S. will be required to show passports beginning Jan. 23, including returning Americans and people from Canada and other nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The date was disclosed Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an interview with The Associated Press. The Homeland Security Department plans to announce the change on Wednesday.
Nice that he decided to give so little notice. This, no doubt, will be a real friggin' mess when enacted. It's only for air travel for now, but will be moved to all travel, land and sea, in two years.
"Right now, there are 8,000 different state and local entities in the U.S. issuing birth certificates and driver's licenses," Chertoff said. Having to distinguish phony from real in so many different documents "puts an enormous burden on our Customs and Border inspectors," he said.

In a few cases, other documents still may be used for air entry into the U.S. by some frequent travelers between the U.S. and Canada, members of the American military on official business and some U.S. merchant mariners.

It will make it easier for the LEO who deal with people entering the US. And it will make it so that there is only a handful of documents that need be duplicated to get in fraudulently. The evidence on the RFID passports indicates that they can be duplicated and it isn't that difficult.
"Could James Bond and Q come up with a fake passport" that could fool inspectors? Chertoff asked, referring to the fictional British spy and his espionage agency's technical genius. Of course, he replied, "Nothing is completely perfect.

"Still, he said that with new technology, it is increasingly difficult to forge passports, and having just one document to scrutinize should make inspection easier for both inspectors and travelers.
I think Chertoff isn't very realistic. This hubris is a bit insulting. He misses the point that most systems that have been designed by man has been faked by others. This week Schneier has two blog entries, one on the UK RFID passport getting cracked and one on the ineffectiveness of the US RFID passport.

Does this make security better? Only in a very minor way. It does make law enforcement's job easier, which should help them at least.

Chemical Plant Explosion

Seen the aerial photos of this? Looks like someone dropped a really big bomb.

Fire crews raced to the scene of the explosion at CAI Chemical Company at 126 Water St., in Danvers and emergency teams searched the area looking for injured people.
"Everything right now is structural. From what we could see from the air, it didn't look like it was a flammable liquids fire. It was structural," Tutko said. "It looks like a war zone. It's devastating."

"It was a very violent explosion. Something went very bad, very quickly inside that building," State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said. "It's one of the more violent explosions I can think of in recent times.

"Authorities said some 90 nearby homes were damaged by the explosion and an estimated 15 to 25 may eventually have to be torn down. They said an estimated 300 people were at home asleep in the area when the blast occurred.
With the effectiveness of this destruction, makes you wonder what is really out there for really dangerous plants.

My point?

Think terrorist.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Recording of Theodore Roosevelt

Caught this linked at Cam Edwards.

It's a recording of Teddy.

So very cool.

They have recordings all the way back to Benjamin Harris.

Gun Owners of Massachusetts - You're SCREWED!

Seen this at Of Arms and the Law?

Let's see... Massachusetts has police permit requirements for obtaining any guns, including rifles, storage requirements, effectively a long waiting period (it takes weeks to get the permit), a year's mandatory imprisonment for first-offense carrying without a permit or with an expired permit, limits on large magazines, etc., etc.

But Brady Campaign hasn't folded its tent there and proclaimed it's gotten enough. Instead, it's calling for more.

"Dan Vice, a staff attorney with the Brady Campaign, which advocates for gun control, said Massachusetts needs to establish a statewide registry of legally owned guns. He also urged the state to restrict gun purchases to one per month.

"The good news is Massachusetts has been a model for the nation, but much more can be done," he said. "

With Devil Patrick as Governor, I expect that things are about to get very very bad.

From the linked article:
"In New Bedford, we regard guns as a weapon of mass destruction," Mayor Lang told the committee. "We think they are a weapon of mass destruction throughout our cities and towns throughout the United States."
Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, who co-chairs the committee, is gathering ideas for an omnibus gun-control bill that will be filed next year. He invited officials from Boston, Springfield and New Bedford, as well as state law enforcement and national policy experts.
Dan Vice, a staff attorney with the Brady Campaign, which advocates for gun control, said Massachusetts needs to establish a statewide registry of legally owned guns. He also urged the state to restrict gun purchases to one per month.
WMDs? You have got to shitting me. Nothing like a little unbalanced rhetoric to pave the way. Mayor Lang obviously likes his servants uh, citizens disarmed. Registry and one gun per month. Read the rest of the article, and you may actually feel doomed.

Nuclear False Alarm

I suppose it's a good thing he does commentary and not nuclear power.

VARIOUS PEOPLE ARE EMAILING ME, worred about the Watts Bar nuclear plant. It appears to have been a false alarm. Given that Watts Bar was closed for maintenance anyway, it pretty much had to be.
Reynolds seems to miss the point that you can have a coolant leak even when the plant is down for maintenance. Funny thing that they keep the fuel covered when the plant is down due to that thing known as decay heat. Plants still produce a lot of heat even when they are not in an active cycle.

US - The Unfriendly Country

Another "study" vilifying the US. What a shock.

Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country's already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.

To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world's worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.


The survey showed that the United States was ranked "the worst" in terms of visas and immigration procedures by twice the percentage of travelers as the next destination regarded as unfriendly -- the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

More than half of the travelers surveyed said U.S. immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the United States for a simple mistake in their paperwork or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official.

Makes you wonder how much that fear worked to the detriment of the US. A rude official? No say it isn't so. Has anyone been to a country where they didn't run into a rude official? And in context with the security changes for the US and the extra responsibility that these officials now have, can anyone wonder that they get rude?
"Between 2000 and 2006, the number of overseas visitors, excluding those from Mexico and Canada, has declined by 17 percent," said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership, "and business travel in that period has dropped 10 percent."
Well there's a shocking statistic. Anyone want to venture a guess as to why?
Travel Industry Association statistics show that the U.S. share in world tourism declined from 7.4 percent in 2000 to 6 percent last year. A one-percentage point increase, according to the association, would mean 7.5 million additional arrivals, $12.3 billion in additional spending, 150,000 additional U.S. jobs, $3.3 billion in additional payroll and $2.1. billion in additional taxes.

With about 50 million visitors a year, the United States is the world's third most-popular destination, after Spain and France.

"The problem is that since September 11, this country has viewed visitors more as a threat than an opportunity," Freeman said. "The entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is keeping foreign visitors away."

No kidding? Fear and frustration when security actually has to be taken seriously, unlike before 9/11? Wonder why the officials are anxious and then rude.

Another Voice for 'Cut-and-Run'

Nice to see the Democrats solidifying around a strategy.
llinois Sen. Barack Obama, called this afternoon for troop withdrawal from Iraq starting next year and negotiations with Iran and Syria over the war-torn country's future.

In a speech sure to draw political fire, the Democrat told attendees of a Chicago Council on Global Affairs event downtown that withdrawal should begin in the next four to six months and that those soldiers should be moved to Afghanistan to focus on terrorist groups again gaining strength in that country.

There you go. Afghanistan, in the hands of NATO is now considered the terrorist strong hold. Not that Iraq has far more terrorists or being far more unstable needs to maintain some US military presence. We should just all bug out and send all our troops to Afghanistan. Does this guy even read the news?
"We know these countries want us to fail and we should remain steadfast in our opposition to their support of terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions," Obama said. "But neither Iran nor Syria want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos, terrorism, refugees and violence as it could have a destabilizing effect on the entire region and within Iran and Syria themselves "
Well, that pretty much proves his complete detachment from reality. In fact, Iran and Syria would prefer Iraq to fall into chaos. Firstly, it would be a huge win against the US in the international political environment. Secondly, it would open easy terms for them to assist the various sides in any open conflicts and increase their influence in the region.

Destabilizing the region is almost funny, as there are most certainly Iranian and Syrian actors in the rogue militias and insurgent groups in Iraq. Both of these countries have seen destabilizing events, such as the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf War. I'd say that civil war in Iraq would be easier to contain since it would be internally focused and not related to external states. Turkey would be very concerned due to the Kurdish nationalist problems that they are having, but Iran and Syria would only benefit.

And what about those terrorists and non-Iraqi insurgents in Iraq? They are there to fight the US. Once the US leaves many of them will leave to other activities as well. This was seen in the USSR-Afghan conflict in the 1980's. No doubt some of them will stay for the civil war, but many of them don't see that internal strife as part of their jihad and would leave. This is what happened in Afghanistan when civil war broke out after the USSR left.

Obama is thinking about running for President? Maybe he should think again.

Reno Challenging Terrorist Trial by Military Commission

Here's an interesting twist in the Military Commissions.
Former Attorney General Janet Reno and seven other former Justice Department officials filed court papers Monday arguing that the Bush administration is setting a dangerous precedent by trying a suspected terrorist outside the court system.

It was the first time that Reno, attorney general in the Clinton administration, has spoken out against the administration's policies on terrorism detainees, underscoring how contentious the court fight over the nation's new military commissions law has become. Former attorneys general rarely file court papers challenging administration policy.

Suspected al-Qaida sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri is the only detainee being held in the United States.

The former prosecutors challenged the Justice Department's right to bring al-Marri before a military commission.

A citizen of Qatar, he was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He had faced criminal charges until authorities designated him an enemy combatant and ordered him held at a naval base in South Carolina.

The Justice Department said in court papers last week that a new anti- terrorism law strips detainees such as al-Marri of the right to challenge their imprisonment in court.
The thing that makes this one in particular interesting is that formerly the US has treated enemy combatants within the US legal system. I looked up some of the German Spy cases from WWII and it appears that they were tried in a regular constitutional court.
Two of the eight saboteurs who landed in June 1942 gave themselves up to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thus precipitated the arrest of the others. [On 13 June 1942, 4 agents were landed from U-584 on Amagansett, Long Island, New York; and on 17 June 1942, 4 agents from U-202 were landed on Ponte Vedra Beach, south of Jacksonville, Florida. A subsequent military trial of the 8 captured agents resulted in 6 death sentences, one life imprisonment and one 30-year sentence. On the recommendation of the Justice Department, President Truman granted executive clemency on condition of deportation to the two surviving agents who were deported to the American Zone of Germany in 1948].
I'm uncertain of why the al-Marri case is different. Though the signatories of this motion state this:
"The government is essentially asserting the right to hold putative enemy combatants arrested in the United States indefinitely whenever it decides not to prosecute those people criminally _ perhaps because it would be too difficult to obtain a conviction, perhaps because a motion to suppress evidence would raise embarrassing facts about the government's conduct, or perhaps for other reasons," the former Justice Department officials said.
That smells strongly of unsupported conjecture. Of course, they also phrase it in the most politically damning manner.

This gives one pause as to what will happen with the next sitting President on the Military Commissions. Now that it is law, how will it be enforced. There's little doubt in my mind that the trials of the "enemy combatants" won't get started for quite some time yet.

Changing the Guard at the UN

Appears the UN Politicos are starting their games.
The jockeying for top jobs in a new U.N. administration has begun in earnest with the arrival in New York of incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will take over the organization in six weeks.
Mr. Ban has begun a round of meetings with at least three dozen undersecretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general, as well as with key ambassadors, representatives of nongovernmental organizations and trusted advisers.

The Ban team is using the meetings mainly to gather information, but for many U.N. officials, the appointments serve as half-hour opportunities to impress the new boss and keep their jobs or trade up.
"He has a battery of appointments," said one person involved with the transition. "He wants to find out what is happening in [each] area and have a bit of look-see at these people: Can they walk and talk and shoot straight? The real emphasis is on sucking in as much info as possible."

Of course, the source added, "There are important personnel decisions looming."

Departing Secretary-General Kofi Annan has refused to approve long-term contracts for most senior management, leaving Mr. Ban a free hand to select his own heads of major departments. Most contracts will expire at the end of December or the end of February, according to current officials.
I can just imagine the panic of all the UN politicos trying to prove they are worthy of their positions. At least Annan proves that he wasn't completely incompetent by not allowing long term contracts.

Now let's see if Ban Ki-Moon can clean up the mess over there.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Going Long

Pace's military commission is recommending:
The Pentagon's review of how to improve the situation in Iraq has outlined three basic options: Send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, according to senior military officials.

Insiders have dubbed the options "Go Big," "Go Long," and "Go Home." The group conducting the review is likely to recommend a combination of a small, short-term increase in US troops and a long-term commitment to stepped-up training and advising of Iraqi forces, the officials said.

The military's study was commissioned by General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was conducted at a time when violence is causing Iraq policy to be reconsidered by both the White House and the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Pace's effort will feed into the White House review, but military officials are operating independently.

I'm betting the ranking of these options puts the "Go Long" option at the very end. I'm of the opinion that is the only option that will lead to success and longer term security for the US.
"Go Big," the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in US troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence.

A classic counterinsurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional US and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police.

I'm wondering what "classic counterinsurgency campaign" they are thinking of. Personally, sounds like Vietnam before it turned to the "Go Home" option. Classically, this one is a failure unless it adds the "Go Long" option.
The group has devised a hybrid plan that combines part of the first option with the second one, called "Go Long." It calls for cutting the US combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of training and advisory efforts. Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the US presence in Iraq, currently of about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said.

The purpose of the increase, they said, would be twofold: to do as much as possible to curtail sectarian violence, and to signal to the Iraqi government and public that the shift to a "Go Long" option that aims eventually to cut the US presence is not a disguised form of withdrawal.

Even so, there is concern that such a radical shift in the US posture in Iraq could further damage the standing of its government. Under the hybrid plan, the short increase in US troop levels would be followed by a long-term plan to radically cut the presence, perhaps to 60,000 troops.

I suppose I should read the whole article before I start writing. I don't know where they will use all those extra troops, but if they do go into stomp mode in some key places, they might get some balance. I'm wondering what they plan, but then we won't know from what we get from the MSM.

Well, we can only see. I really hope they push strongly for political agreement from Maliki. If they go to hard they will hurt the elected government, and that will be a step back in a big way.

Cracking Walnuts with Sledgehammers

I found this at the end of a link trail started at Wizbang. The blog is at Argghhh!
First from Ralph Peters:
What really matters is what our forces are ordered - and permitted - to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.

That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them.

And then from LTC Paul Finken:
If you want to win in Iraq, you have to take the gloves off like we did in OIF I and OIF II. We were aggressive and violently kinetic. It worked and the bad guys were deathly afraid of us and the people of Iraq respected us. Now we use kid gloves and the bad guys walk all over us and the people of Iraq don't think they should support us because we may pack up and leave and then they would be the object of reprisals. It's the hard right (lots of offensive action and firepower and not afraid to use it in a city) or the easy wrong (the kinder, gentler approach to dealing with terrorists to try and avoid casualties). I know which one works and which one doesn't. I know which one will solve this "problem". It will break a few eggs, but in the end we will have an omelet that will be passably good and tasty.
And lastly Captain David J. Baer
Massive firepower brought down on any transgressor is the answer. Sometimes you need to use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut if you want people to pay attention and learn the correct lessons in life. If an IED blows up outside someones house and the homeowners tell you that they don't know anything about, bulldoze the house and salt the ground. After you do that two or three times, Iraqis will shoot the terrorists themselves to protect their homes. I realize that this may not be totally in keeping with some people's concept of "the American way of war", but if we are in it to win it, we need to take all the steps required to totally destroy the terrorists ability to make war on us and turn the population against them. Right now, because of our kid glove approach, there is no threat to the average Iraqi that helps the terrorists or turns a blind eye.
I suppose I can understand the military's point of view on the topic. Unfortunately, history has a plethora of examples that show that this doesn't work. This type of actions were used in Malaysia and did nothing but increase the enemy forces. Cyprus showed the same thing. Vietnam is the strongest example of where this completely failed.

The problem isn't that you kill insurgents or "bad guys." The issue is that the collateral damage drives those who do support you away. Collateral damage is broadcast through the MSM in the Middle-east to increase the number of terrorists. Collateral damage is broadcast through the MSM in the US and loses your support at home.

There is also the issue with finding the "bad guys." Insurgents follow the basic principle set down by Mao for insurgencies.
The evolution of any phase in a mass-oriented insurgency may extend over a long period of time. A successful insurgency may take decades to start, mature, and finally succeed.
The classical phases of a mass-oriented insurgency are--
¡¤ Latent and incipient (phase I).
¡¤ Guerrilla warfare (phase II).
¡¤ War of movement (phase III).
An insurgency may not require all phases for success, nor are these phases separate and distinct from each other. Regardless of the number or the duration of the actual phases the insurgency undergoes, its leadership necessarily will initiate some type of final consolidation activities. These may include removing potential enemies or establishing additional control mechanisms. At a minimum, they will probably include educating the society about its new government. (Figure D-2 presents typical activities that may occur in each phase of a successful insurgency.)
Figure D-2. Typical Activities Within Phase of Insurgency
There needs to be a recognition that the people, in the country of conflict and at home are important for success. There is already a large enough population in the US that vilifies the military unjustly due to what they see in the press, using a sledgehammer will only provoke them to further levels of whininess.

The people of Iraq probably are for the most part happy that the US military is there. The problem is, the majority of them don't matter. Bulldozing their homes and salting the ground will not scare anyone, who is already terrified, into helping. That logic is just profoundly limited. You might have followed that proposal if you could provide security to those who you need to report IEDs. The problem is that they aren't getting that security. Militias aren't being established and controlled by the government, and the US military can't provide sufficient security, so the people will remain silent.

This tactic also misses the point that insurgencies require political solutions. They can never succeed by sheer military might. You could use military saturation to provide the security, but I'm guessing that the number of forces that would be needed are huge. The politics are also very complicated understanding the sectarian conflict that is also present in Iraq. Maliki's failure to pull the Shia tribal units into a consensus and control their militias are quite worrisome. With those militias like the Mahdi army out of control there are large numbers of death squads that can work with insurgent methods. And with the Shia militias on the lose, the Sunni militias are developing to counter them.

I can empathize with the desire to stomp them, but history shows that that never works.