Friday, December 30, 2005

Dave Barry's review of 2005

Since Dave Barry quit writing his column, I was afraid that we would never have another one of his annual reviews. Fear not, and for those of you whose paper does not carry it, the review is now open for review.

Angry Chihuahuas Attack Officer

Okay, this isn't really that important, but I loved the headline.

Maybe 2005 wasn't so bad after all.

In the link above, the writer points out a lot of what I had forgotten. Being a victim, I mean user of the Main Stream Media, I was really starting to get depressed. It took someone writing in a paper in the Middle East to remind me that things are really going pretty well.
Read and enjoy.

Bush and FISA

Matt still thinks that Bush broke the law by allowing NSA intercepts from outside of the US by those suspected of Al Qaida ties with someone in our country. I must admit, that I was puzzled by the lack of use of FISA to get warrants when they could be applied for retroactively. Because my job involves thinking about what else it could be, I assumed it had something to do with the fact that we are at war, and that Bush like most of the presidents before him, was looking to preserve the perogatives of his office.
I think that Bush suffers from the same problem that I have though in making his defense. I forget that what I know, may not be known to everyone. I tend to gloss over some things because I assume that everyone knows it, so no sense wasting time remaking the argument.
Now it seems, I have finally found out why he bypassed FISA. Apparently, if you got a FISA court warrant, it was limited to that side of the conversation that was outside of the country. Leaving you with only one side of the conversation. In fact, the NSA would not release the US side of the conversation even with a warrant.

A sample interecept might have looked like this:

Mohammed? It's me Osama, how's it going?

. . . .

Great, and the wives and kids?

. . . .

Yeah, I know, but what can you do? I've got that niece who is posing nude just to incite the Infidels, and I should have her executed, but I must be getting soft in my old age, that and sitting in this cave makes me remember her creamy skin, her. . . . Oops, sorry, got distracted.
Anyway, the reason that I am calling is, did you get the nukes we bought from Russia?

. . . .

Oh great. So where are you going to use them?

. . . .

Good plan. Now when are you going to set them off?

. . . .

Wow, that will be cool. How are you going to get them into place?

. . . .

That's brilliant. Well, it seems as though you have everything under control. Let me know if you need anything else. Bye, and best to your wives.

Now, a good analyst could tease out quite a bit of information. However, if you had both sides of the conversation, it would take even less time and be more accurate.
This explanation makes more sense than anything else that I have heard.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bush and spying

When the story first broke that Bush had authorized intercepts without the use of a warrant, I was really quite surprised. But his assertion that it was legal made me want to sit back for a little while to find out what the basis of his assertion was. So far, Bush has not adequately done so, but as shown in the link above, it has been done by several former members of the Clinton administration. Kudos to them for being intellectually honest enough to admit it, since they could have sat quietly by while the political maelstorm brings down the President.
Matt at Left inthe West is saying that the violations must result in impeachment. But Wulfgar is in really high dudgeon about the betrayal of this President. His outrage reminds me of the movie Casablanca, with the famous line: "Messieur Rick, I am shock-ed, shock-ed to discover that there is gambling going on here." Whereupon, a minion brings out his winnings, and the good French Captain profusely expreses his thanks. Wulfgar seems shock-ed that Bush has betrayed his investment of trust. Yeah right.
But the best line is in his comments, where someone says that they would rather have 1000 9-11s rather than have a violation of their civil liberties. While I am sure that this is hyperbole, I am also sure that the writer is not counting himself among the 3 million casualties that would occur in order for him to have an illicit Internet affair without government observation of his activities.
Matt also seems to be making a lame attempt to exonerate Pelosi and Reid by saying that they couldn't reveal the program without breaking the law. Hmmm, a quick review shows that the heirarchy of laws is: 1. The Constitution, which all public officers are required to uphold and defend; 2. The laws as passed by Congress and signed into law; 3. Presidential orders; 4. Administrative decisions and; 5. Precedent.
Now, while Pelosi is a box of rocks with a lot of makeup, if she felt that it violated the Constitution, she had an immediate duty to correct it, laws be damned. Her and Rockefeller's lamentations that they were afraid to break the law ring hollow if they thought it was a violation of the Constitution. Perhaps I am being cynical, but I see this as nothing more than another example of the use of partisan politics to drag down a President in the middle of a war rather than principled disagreement. That damned Rockefeller memo keeps coming to mind even though he has denied it, the Democratic Party actions do seem to be conforming with its outlines.
What would really interesting, is if the MSM is able to fan the outrage to the point that the Democrats are able to retake the Senate and the House and actually institute impeachment proceedings. If you thought that it was okay to lie about sex, just imagine the defense of it being okay to spy to save lives. Since the program has been blown, Bush would be able to show any and all of evidence that the intercepts were able to thwart terrorist attacks.
A piece of advice for the Democrats: Learn from your enemie's mistakes. You don't want to get caught up in the tar baby of impeachment.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An Arab view of the war in Iraq

Sometimes, it is best to step away from a problem to veiw it from another angle that makes for the best chance of solving it. Here is a really good perspective from someone who understands the situation better than those of us who aren't there.

Friday, December 16, 2005

On the Iraqi Election and what it means for US

I have deliberately refrained from commenting on the election in Iraq just to see what everyone else is saying. Predictably, those on the right are ecstatic, and those on the left remain silent.
To me, the most significant thing about this election is that the genie is finally completely out of the bottle. Too many racists in this country have said that the Arabs are unable to understand or appreciate democracy. We started out in January with 7 million people who stood up and said that "Today, I will control my future, not some despot." Now they have been joined by even more, and 11 million people are taking control of their future. How can this be anything but a victory for the human condition?
I realize that Howard Dean believes that it is impossible to win there, but I have to wonder if that isn't just wishful thinking on his part. After all, if the experiment fails, then Bush fails. Conversely, if it succeeds, then Bush will be the greatest political leader since Churchill. Hard to overcome that legacy, although the British Labor did oust Churchill after he won the war, so maybe there is some hope for the Democrats even if Bush does succeed.
My limited experience in the Middle East showed me that the Arabs as a whole were very cognizant of pride, sometimes it seemed to me to be unduly so. But imagine a year from now, when the Iraqis are making their Hadj to Mecca and start to sneer at all of the subjects of other despotic regimes. You don't think that isn't going to start some revolutions? Viva La Revolucion! Inshallah

Interesting take On the Iraqi Election

Here is an interesting analysis from an Isreali point of view. Why we think that we are losing is beyond me. Do we have units surrounded and being destroyed or captured? Have we lost key terrain, or been denied freedom of movement? Is the enemy supported by a majority of the populace, and are they being supported materially by outsiders in a way that we cannot counter?
All of these answers are no. But somehow, the public seems to believe that we are losing, at least as reported in the polls. Of course a larger percentage believe that UFOs exist, but I haven't seen them either. The problem with arguing that public opinion polls should be driving our foreign policy, is that it places too much power in non elected opinion shapers, rather than actual facts or our duly elected leaders.

Great Story

There are some reports that simply cannot be summarized, so here in its entirety is the whole report. (Hat tip to Will to Exist) If you can read through this without a tear in your eye, I have no belief that you can be human.

New Set of Wheels

During our last patrol through the shantytowns a young mother waited patiently outside the bustling throng of children hopping back and forth between our vehicles. I don’t remember seeing her arrive, she just suddenly appeared on the outskirts of the roiling flock of children. In that sea of motion she stood as still and resolute as a obsidian tower, her black burkha providing a mute contrast to the gaudy kaleidoscope of children’s clothing. She was clutching a toddler tightly to her chest, and I reflexively assumed she was trying to secure some candy for her child. I watched her for a moment and sensed that she was too proper to approach and ask for treats. I made a mental note to hand her some candy once the throng had died down, and put a few pieces of candy into my pocket to pass to her later. Then I turned my attention back to the happy shrieks of the children vying for our attention, and finished passing out the remaining supplies

Once our vehicles were stripped of humanitarian supplies the children started to settle down, happily splitting off to try to wheedle more candy from their favorite soldier. As the children filtered off I got my first good look at the young boy she held to her chest. And it was only then that I realized she hadn’t come here to ask for candy.

The young boy was clearly suffering from a congenital birth defect - he looked as frail as spun glass. His slender, atrophied limbs seemed to hang off his little body like limp banners, and his oversized head rested on his mother’s chest as if he needed help supporting its bulk. As I approached I greeted the sad eyed mother, and then bit the inside of my mouth and waited for her to ask me for the medical help I knew I couldn’t provide. The mother spent several minutes explaining her sons medical condition, and then asked the question that I knew was coming - “You have helped fix some children – can you help my son?”. I already knew the answer, but to avoid appearing callous I called my medic over and asked him if there was anything we could do for the boy. He took one look at the crumpled waif of a child and then said “Sir, we couldn’t help him even if we were in the States”. I turned back to the mother and explained to her that her sons condition was beyond our ability to help. Once my terp had conveyed the message she gave a small smile, and thanked me for trying to help. Then she turned away and made her way back to her tiny home.

The memory of that wisp of a boy stayed with me, and after a few days I asked SSG Spite if he could think of anything we might be able to do for the family. SSG Spite said that he would see what he could do and then disappeared for the rest of the day. The following day I knocked on SSG Spite’s door and when I walked in I almost dropped my coffee mug in shock. There sat SSG Spite quietly cleaning his weapon… sitting in a wheelchair. SSG Spite seemed to sense my agitation without even turning around and after a pregnant pause he said “Don’t worry sir, I’m fine. The wheelchair is for the kid”. Then he turned around, gave me a sly grin and said “But I had you worried, didn’t I?”. We laughed for a few minutes and then SSG Spite said “If I didn’t feel sorry for the kid I’d keep the wheelchair – this is the best seat in the barracks”.

The next morning we loaded up our HMMWVs with small Iraqi flags, candy, and a bulky wheelchair and set out for shantytown to bring SSG Spite’s favorite chair to the little boy. As our combat patrol came to a close we turned onto the long, dusty road leading to Shantytown to drop off our supplies. The entire town seemed to flood into the alleys to greet us, and in a few minutes we were swimming in a sea of smiling faces. As we passed each mudbrick compound the head of the household would anxiously flag us down and offer their advice on how to catch the AIF, and we spent long minutes trying to politely bring each conversation to a close. Several of our soldiers were passing out small Iraqi flags and toys to the children yammering around our legs, and in a few minutes our procession through the alley ground to a halt under the sheer numbers of children vying for a small flag. Usually the children are fixated on candy or toys, but not today. Today the big ticket item was Iraqi flags. As we passed out dozens of the little flags the kids seemed sated, and the alleys started to clear. We continued towards the house followed by a phalanx of children happily waving their flags. When I looked back at this strange procession I almost felt like I was watching a miniature parade - the kids were laughing and waving their flags as proudly as drum majors.

After the better part of an hour we arrived at the right house, and I rapped my knuckles on the tin gate to announce our arrival. I peeked over the gate to make sure we had the right house and noticed the little boy sitting in the dirt watching his mother prepare a meal. The mother must not have heard us knock, because she turned and looked surprised to see our kevlars peeking over her front gate. She recovered quickly and greeted us warmly, opening her gate and inviting us to come in for chai tea. We politely declined, but asked her to take her son and follow us to our vehicle. She looked a little confused at our request, but dutifully picked up her son and followed us to the HMMWV. When we arrived SGT Bard opened one of the doors and pulled and tugged until the wheelchair slid through the armored door. I wish I could describe the womans face when we gently picked up her son and placed him in the wheelchair - but there are some emotions words cannot hope to touch. We stopped to snap a quick picture as the little boy rested peacefully in the full sized wheelchair, and then we quickly said our goodbyes. As we loaded into our HMMWVs several of the local kids were arguing over who would get to take the boy for his first ride. I’m not sure who ended up shuttling him around, but as we left you could see his wheelchair weaving through the trash strewn alleys.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Another first person report about Iraq

I know that I have been droning on about people who are there in Iraq, but I believe that the ones who are there have a better sense of the events than those of us sitting comfortably at home. I suppose it is made worse because I have been arguing this same point for quite some time.
One of my favorite pieces of the article:
It is this false impression that has led us to a moment of national truth. The proponents of the quagmire vision argue that the very presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the cause of the insurgency and that our withdrawal would give the Iraqis their only true chance for stability. Most military officers and NCOs with ground experience in Iraq know that this vision is patently false. Although the presence of U.S. forces certainly inflames sentiment and provides the insurgents with targets, the anti-coalition insurgency is mostly a symptom of the underlying conditions in Iraq. It may seem paradoxical, but only our presence can buffer the violence enough to allow for eventual stability.

The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops would almost certainly lead to a violent and destabilizing civil war. The Iraqi military is not ready to assume control and would not miraculously achieve competence in our absence. As we left, the insurgency would turn into internecine violence, and Iraq would collapse into a true failed state. The fires of the Iraqi civil war would spread, and terrorists would find a new safe haven from which to launch attacks against our homeland.

Anyone who has spent even a day in the Middle East should know that the Arab street would not thank us for abandoning Iraq. The blame for civil war would fall squarely on our shoulders. It is unlikely that the tentative experiments in democracy we have seen in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere would survive the fallout. There would be no dividend of goodwill from heartbroken intellectuals or emboldened Islamic extremists. American troops might be home in the short run, but the experienced professionals know that in the long run, quitting Iraq would mean more deployments, more desperate battles and more death.

Sixty-four percent of us know that we have a good shot at preventing this outcome if we are allowed to continue our mission. We quietly hope that common sense will return to the dialogue on Iraq. Although we hate leaving our families behind, many of us would rather go back to Iraq a hundred times than abandon the Iraqi people.

A Good Definition of Heroism

Read the link, you will find that the real battle for Iraq is about fear. Fear by the Iraqis, the Arabs, and all of us in the West.
Heroism is not about acting rashly. It is about conquering your own fear to do the right thing. God bless all of the victims of historic terrorism.

Death penalty hype

I am amazed at the hype that Tookie got before he was executed, versus Mr. Maye. I do not relish the execution of Tookie Williams, just as I think that no one should enjoy the death of another human being.
But why is there not a greater outcry over this type of case versus a cold blooded killer? If I was on the jury, I would never have convicted. The right to self defense can never be denied. Here we have an actual case of racial prejudice and prosecutorial over kill. I only wish that this man recieved even half of what Tookie got for attention.
The fact that Tookie was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and all of the Hollywood superstars that came to his defense, versus this man, shows how little value we should place in either of these group's opinions.
Update More here.

Interesting advice for Democrats

Rather amusing, and insightful analysis on the state of the Democratic Party here. I have always found it offensive that in conversations with my Democratic friends, that if I do not adhere strictly to the party line, I am instantly labeled as a Republican.
Now, I find more aspects of the Republican party to agree with than the Democratic at the moment, but I am always willing to listen to other ideas. Apparently, no one who is a "good Democrat" is.

Another blog roll addition

Trevor Snyder has been added (I think) because he is one of the citizen soldiers that have posted in the past, and that I have linked to here. It never ceases to amaze me, that so many people can find out who is looking at your site, and who has linked to your site.
I don't add everybody to my blog roll for two reasons; 1. I am not that competent to get it right every time, and 2; I get lazy.
But the people on my blogroll are the ones that I will always look at every chance that I get.
If there are some that need to be added to help expand my horizons, I am willing to consider all submissions.

Pie charts of Iraqi attitudes

This is a synopsis of the recent poll on Iraqi attitudes. It shows a lot of hope for what we are trying to do there may just work out. I was especially interested in the low call for an Islamic republic. I think that their close proximity to Iran is why they are not so enamored with the idea of Mullahs ruling their country.
When you combine this with the earlier posting on the USA Today poll, you see a complex assessment that is taking place among the Iraqi citizens.
One interesting point: There seems to be a constant 20% who want the Americans to leave soon. Hmm, aren't the Sunnis approximately 20% of the population?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Another report from Iraq

Good analysis from someone who is recently back. Why is it that we never hear more of these stories? Are they so unique that they don't merit investigation and widespread reporting, or are they contrary to a message that one party wants to get out, even if it is not the truth?
It is difficult during war for any democracy, but ours is one of the strongest, and we have been able to deal with dissent. The problem with dissent though can be shown by a simple syllogism:
1. Dissent is patriotic.
2. Dissent aids our enemy by giving him comfort and the hope that we will leave defeated.
3. Therefore, giving our enemy hope of our eventual defeat is patriotic.

Hmmm, something just doesn't seem right here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Where is the 80% poll?

It has often been cited that 80% of the Iraqis want us out of Iraq. I myself have heard it enouogh that I didn't disbelieve it. But just for grins, I started to do a search for the poll. After all, if 80% of the Iraqis want us out, does that mean immediately, or after security is re-established. These are two different answers, at least as far as applied to us and our presence in Iraq.
Unfortunately, I have come to believe that the 80% number may be another of those urban legends, unsupported by fact. I did find the poll above that is from last Spring, but even that could be outdated, and the answer about whether we should leave immediately seems to be answered in the negative.
Was I fooled again? Anyone got a cite to the actual poll?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On taxes and debt

The Republicans have instituted budget cuts that are targeted at Medicaid and other social welfare programs to the tune of $50 billion. They are attempting to do this to try and salve those of us who are upset about out of control spending. This to me is the most ridiculous of all of the ways to cut the deficit. They have done nothing to reduce the pork spending that they have become so enamored with. This is not to say that it is ony targeted to the rich. Denny Rehburg has been touting some $350 million that he got for a local fire and police improvements. Those do not just benefit Republicans, but the community as a whole. So much for the usual Democratic rants.
This is not to say that what they are doing is enough, or in the right areas.
The problem that we face is that deficit spending has the same effect on the economy as increasing taxes. For instance, if you raise taxes, you pull money out of the economy that could be used for capital improvements which could improve productivity. On the other hand, increasing deficit spending means that the government has to increase its borrowing. This takes available money out of the pool that would be otherwise available to make improvements.
So, if borrow and spend is no different from tax and spend what are we supposed to do? The first thing that we need to do is identify that which we must have, either because it could result in the collapse or destruction of our nation, or that which is mandated by law. These two are different because you can always change a law, but if something could destoy the country, that is beyond the powers of Congress to control.
So, after we look at what is required, and what is left, what do we have? If there is anything left over, then we could set about prioritizing what we want to spend the money on. Spending the money on improving fire and police facilities is nice, but what would happen if we didn't? Could we wait four or five more years if that would mean lower borrowing rates?
And the local apportionmnet is not the only one. What about all of the festivals and other local trail improvements and such that are nice but not critical?
In order to improve the national productivity and improve our economy, whoever is in Congress will have to get control on spending. Incresing taxes or borrowing is really the same thing. What we need are those people who recognize priorities and can act on them. As a friend told me in the Army a long time ago, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On the Death Penalty

I am unique among criminal defense attorneys, in that I do believe that there is a need for a death penalty. Not the way that it is used now, but to acknowledge that there are some people that are just plain evil. Whether from being sociopaths, or whatever, they are a danger to everyone no matter who who they are. I remember that guy who attacked the woman at the Seeley Lake work center and almost killed her. While he was awaiting trial, he beat another guy to death in jail with an exercise bike seat. The guy he killed was in jail for a DUI. I don't think that DUIs merit the death penalty. His killer was sentenced to death but committed suicide instead.
On the other hand, there is the story linked above about an actual innocent man who was executed. So, how to deal with the twin paradox? My solution is to change the standard for a death penalty from beyond a reasonable doubt, to beyond any doubt.
Most juries don't understand the concept of reasonable doubt. They want to support the State in their prosecution on the defendant. Some brave souls will resist the herd mentality, but most jurors want only to get out of there and get backwith their busy lives.
Since a defendant's freedom is on the line, we require the highest level of legal proof. For their life to be on the line, maybe we need more proof.

Another letter from Iraq

I loved this, especally the example of using a timeline for treating cancer. Well worth the read.