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12/21/2005
LIBERTY, PRIVACY, AND SURVIVAL IN THE AGE OF TERROR
CATEGORY: Government

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

At what point does a citizen’s right to an expectation of privacy end and the compelling interest of government to protect us from disaster begin?

To those who pretend the question is an easy one - right or left - a pox on you. This issue is much too serious to have liberals using the New York Times as a weapon in their hysterical war on sanity. Nor do my friends on the right cover themselves in glory by being so dismissive of what, at the very least, is a troubling shift in policy regarding how far the government can sidle up to the line of wrongdoing without going over.

The issue is one of transcendent importance for the future of liberty in America. The potential for mischief making by the government as well as private citizens and companies is so great that if the revelations surrounding the NSA intercept program prove anything at all, it is that the law has failed to keep ahead of the rapid, almost magical improvements in the technology available to invade the sacred space that all free citizens should be able to rightly call their own.

How important is the right to be “let alone?” Here’s Justice Brandies in a famous dissent (Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478) declaring in 1928 that the writers of the US Constitution conferred…:

…the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The key word in that statement is”unjustifiable.” When does the government have the right to violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights?” After all, for a document that can at times be frustratingly vague, the Constitution gets very specific when talking about a citizen’s right to be “let alone:”

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

What the Constitution has guaranteed is a private space - or a wall if you will - that the government is prevented from trespassing against except in “justifiable” circumstances. And even in those circumstances, the Constitution is extraordinarily specific about what the government can and can’t do. If the First Amendment was designed to be a sweeping guarantee of American liberty then certainly the Fourth Amendment serves a similar purpose as a guarantee of our privacy.

Clearly the framers of the Constitution didn’t believe you could have liberty without privacy. Which brings us to the present and the capabilities of government to violate our privacy in ways that the framers or Justice Brandies could never have imagined in their worst nightmares.

The American Thinker Editor Thomas Lifson dealt with one aspect of this explosion in the government’s technological capabilities for potentially violating our privacy in an article yesterday on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. This tracking technology is becoming more obtrusive as both businesses and government find new and novel ways to use it. Lifson asks the right questions:

Despite the technology’s apparent cost and control benefits for businesses and government, the use of RFID technology raises a plethora of important legal, ethical and privacy questions that as of today remain largely unanswered. For example, what legal rights do individual U.S. citizens have if they believe their privacy has been violated by an overzealous business or government agency? How will an already overburdened court system react to the almost certain influx of RFID-related cases?

Similar questions were asked a decade ago when, without much fanfare, the FBI increased their ability to wiretap citizen’s communications substantially. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) on its face, would seem to be a dangerous leap in the capability of government to spy on our private communications. CALEA mandated that the telephone companies aid wiretapping by installing remote wiretap ports onto their digital switches so that the switch traffic would be available for snooping by law enforcement. After CALEA passed, the FBI no longer had to go on-site with wiretapping equipment in order to tap a line—they could monitor and digitally process voice communications from the comfort of the home office.

But this is nothing compared to the truly frightening capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA) to capture, monitor, and even listen to the most private and personal of communications initiated by American citizens. Relying on technology that is almost magical in its ability to gather massive amounts of electronic communications and sift through them for relevant intelligence, it would seem inevitable that, even though the NSA is precluded from using this technology to spy on American soil, communications involving completely innocent American citizens would be caught up in this digital dragnet.

Although the actual workings of the technology is a closely guarded secret, the program authorized by President Bush probably uses some kind of voice recognition technology as well as something even more revolutionary; a new way to organize the data collected so that networks can be identified and uncovered. To do this kind of work, a system capable of collecting and analyzing trillions (terabytes) of pieces of information at once would be necessary. The system would flag hundreds of electronic communications at a time which may be a practical reason why the Administration wished to finesse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Even though warrants could have been issued retroactively, the massive number of intercepts may have made that a practical impossibility.

The above is speculation, of course, because no one really knows and, unless the we’ve all completely lost our senses, no one should know. For if our enemies ever learned how the system actually worked, they could take steps to neutralize it. Even the pitifully small amount of information that has come to light could have damaged our ability to track and thwart the designs of our enemies. And herein lies the great conundrum involving our liberty and our survival.

What good comes of insuring our survival at the expense of losing some of our liberty?

If one of our cities was destroyed by a nuclear weapon smuggled into the country by al Qaeda, I daresay the relatives of the dead would answer that question much differently than the arm chair civil libertarians who so blithely condemn the Administration’s actions in the aftermath of 9/11. There are even those who say that there is no choice to make, that our survival as a nation is not at stake at all therefore any argument that includes a loss of privacy rights as a way to head off an al Qaeda attack is setting up a straw man to justify oppression.

I don’t have much sympathy for that argument but I am troubled that our government has skirted so close to the line involving spying on innocent American citizens and may have in fact crossed it. Ultimately, it must come down to a question of responsibility. You and I are not responsible for the safety and security of the United States. The Constitution has vested that awesome responsibility in the office of the President. In the end, where you come down on this controversy depends on how much you trust the occupant of that office not to abuse his authority nor misuse the frightening power our technological prowess has bestowed upon his government to invade our most private and personal spaces.

For if in fact we are in a war for the survival of our republic - and our enemies themselves have made it abundantly clear that this is what the War on Terror is all about - we are in grave danger if we give in to the temptation to turn the issue of liberty versus security into a political club in order to beat one’s political opponent for acting dictatorially or just as bad, unpatriotically. The issue is too important for the kind of lazy generalities being tossed about regarding an absolutist position on civil liberties or aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war. In the end, we must trust each other or perish.

This compact of trust between government and its citizens has been mangled almost beyond repair both by the actions of overzealous intelligence agencies as well as a cynicism born of nearly 4 decades of Presidential misconduct. It is one thing to have a healthy skepticism involving those in power. It is quite another to automatically assume that the occupant of the White House is an evil, power mad Big Brother who would use the capabilities of government snooping for nefarious purposes. Even President Nixon’s criminal spying on political opponents was justified in his own mind as a response to what he saw as a domestic insurrection. The fact that there were tens of thousands of Americans in the streets waving the flag of an enemy that was killing thousands of American soldiers in Southeast Asia while calling for the violent overthrow of the government justified in the Nixon inner circle’s own thoughts, almost any wrongdoing that the President and his aides could imagine.

There have been no accusations against this President that the NSA wiretapping program has targeted political opponents. Instead, there have been serious questions raised about innocent Americans being insecure in their communications with each other. In short, the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment have been frayed around the edges by this intelligence gathering program not trampled willy nilly by an Administration hell bent on gathering unto itself dictatorial powers in order to quash dissent or secure political advantage.

And until evidence emerges to the contrary, is there any reason not to take the President of the United States at his word that the program targets foreign terrorists and not innocent Americans? At bottom, the trust we placed in Mr. Bush by re-electing him must have at its core a belief that he is doing his best to protect us while not violating our cherished rights. This is essentially what living in a democracy means. Anything else, and we might as well crown a king or anoint a dictator to protect us. That way, we would simply do as we’re told and not have to worry about trusting anyone.

By: Rick Moran at 9:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (24)

12/20/2005
CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #26

Am I imagining things or do the Christmas holidays seem to bring out the cluelessness in more people than normal?

Take your average sales clerk in a big department store, for example. That is, if you can find one. Modern American retailing has become pretty much of a do it yourself shopping experience these days. And if you’re lucky enough to find someone to ask a question about a lost price tag or something similarly unimportant about a product you wish to purchase, the chances are very good that the clerk won’t have a clue. They will give you “the stare.” Like a deer in headlights, they will freeze with a smile frozen on their lips while the only thing moving is their jaw as they speed up their gum chewing ever so slightly. Then comes the inevitable giggle followed by “I’ll have to ask the boss.” And off they go into the wilderness never to be seen or heard from again.

Since the only time I’m ever in a department store is at Christmas time, I am not able to ascertain whether this behavior is a year round cluelessness or a simple outgrowth of seasonal stupidity. Be that as it may, since many of our finalists for Cluebat of the Week don’t celebrate Christmas (many of them being foreigners who are unaware of our secular holidays) they can’t claim holiday stress as an excuse.

Here are a few of our more outstanding Cluebats this week:

* Nancy Pelosi for…well, being Nancy Pelosi mostly. Several posts this week cover the Democratic House leader’s latest exercises in rhetorical sophistry.

* How about Iranian President Mahmoud “Nuke ‘em” Ahmadinejad who is not only a Holocaust denier but has also just recently banned “western music.” I don’t like Eminem either but banning Mariah Carey is just taking things a little too far.

* Finishing a close second was South Korean’s clueless stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk who tried to carry out a scientific fraud the likes of which may not have been seen since Piltdown Man was foisted on clueless scientists as the so-called “missing link” between apes and humans.

In the end, I had to give the Cluebat of the Week award to a late entry. Jonathan Alter’s editorial in Newsweek where he calls the President a “dictator” and compares the NSA intercept program with the domestic wiretapping done during the Nixon Administration is the most clueless screed published in a mainstream press organ in quite a while. Full of hyperbole, exaggeration, wishful thinking, and outright lies, it was a no brainer to give the award to Alter.

Here are 34 more examples of cluelessness from both the right and the left. Click till you drop.

“It’s too bad that stupidity isn’t painful.”
(Anton LaVey)

Hey Tony! It’s clear you’ve never read Daily Kos!
(Me)

************************************************************************
Surprise! Mark Coffey catches the nutty professor Juan Cole in another flip flop. This time it’s on Sunnis participating in the democratic process in Iraq. Looks like Cole forgot to delete the evidence of his about face again.

One of my favorite new blogs found through the Carnival is Skeptico. In this post, he takes on Bill Maher’s outrageous position on western medicine in general and vaccines in particular. What. A. Dolt.

Gentle Batya of Shiloh Musings (sounds like a great name for a blog…and a C& W band!) has something to say about the efficacy of polls and how clueless politicians use them.

In addition to winning “The Most Christmassy Blog Skin” award, Wonder Woman has the jaw dropper of the day; convicted murderers “supervising prisoners on “community outings” and transfers. Read the article all the way through. But first, take your blood pressure meds. You are going to need them.

The lovely Mensa Barbie has a post about a scary future with devices that can track our every move and the clueless people who might misuse the information.

Here’s your dosage of Carnival satire for the week. First up, The Bear who gives us possible articles of impeachment against President Bush. Then, Carnival Satirist in Residence Buckley F. Williams presents “A Guide to Dealing with Your Family During Christmas, Part I.” Can’t wait for Part II! And while you’re in the mood, check out this uproariously funny piece at Conservathink about Ahmadinejad’s ban on western music for “phat beats” as evidence of vast Zionist conspiracy.

The Anti-Racists Losers blog gives a big shout out to McDonalds Corporation for stopping professed anti-American moonbat Michael (last name not included so that Technorati will not send him or any of his supporters here) from using an altered version of their logo to promote his nauseating propaganda.

Judith at Kesher Talk hands out a “Cluepon” to two cluebats who both exceed expectations when it comes to stupidity about the PLO-Israeli war.

I can’t tell you how jealous I am of Carnival Pin-Up Girl Pamela and her little soire with UN Ambassador John Bolton. That said, read this whole post, especially the part about the cluelessness of Syria and how they continue to treat Lebanon as a captured province.

Soccer Dad has a great post about the cluelessness of some institutions of higher learning and where they recently got a big fat “gift” in order to foster “understanding of Islam.” Sheesh! Talk about whores!

The Yaks Attack! This time, our intrepid Big Shaggies are stalking the Iranian Interior Secretary who was trying to backpedal furiously from Ahmadinejad’s incredibly stupid comments about Israel. BTW, did you know that the male wild yak can weigh up to 1000 kg (2200 lb) and reach a height of 6′5″?

XYBA has some state government cluelessness for ya with this article on an LA County website that will email your sexual partner about your “disease” problem - just in case you’re too shy to tell them yourself. Nice thing to wake up to in the mornin’, huh?

My Right Word has an article about a religious cluebat of a professor who doesn’t quite seem to understand what Hamas is all about.

AJ at The Strata-Sphere lays into Harry Reid and the Democrats for their cluelessness on the NSA controversy.

More Nancy Pelosi commentary from Jimmie K. Did she think no one would notice how really, really stupid she sounded by saying her party would not have a position on the #1 issue facing the country?

Josh Cohen wonders whether or not Congress had anything better to do last week than investigate college football and the annual cries of anguish from constituents that their favorite team didn’t make it into the Rose Bowl this year. Maybe next year for my Mankato State Mavericks.

Raven shows how “Never Forget” 9/11 can quickly become “Fagettaboutit” when clueless Democrats and their hard left allies are concerned.

Cao of Cao’s Blog has another vital post on the trials of Jack Idema. The fact that Cao has been under vicious attack for her defense of Mr. Idema from the far left should tell you all you need to know about why this case is so important.

Orac takes apart President Ahmadinejad for his clueless denial of the Holocaust. Back in ‘45 when Eisenhower toured the death camps, he ordered as many soldiers as possible to bear witness to the atrocities because he thought there would come a day when people would say it didn’t happen. Eisenhower was a very smart fellow.

When I received this entry from New York City.Com I thought it might be a spam website. It isn’t. This guy is hysterical. Read his “Three Stooges” script submitted by the Pentagon to the Iraqi press and you’ll agree.

Tony B. at More than Loans has an interesting take on Nancy Pelosi’s clueless comments about a unified position for her party on Iraq.

Mr. Right has the results of his Captions Contest that featured a picture of Cluebat Hall of Famer Howard Dean in a sort of pensive moonbat pose. Hilarious!

Here’s a blog made for this Carnival; Abolition of Stupidity has a post about the cluelessness of the New Zealand government about the Kyoto protocols.

The American Scratchpad writes about a brand new museum; The Museum of the African Diaspora. Cluebats only need apply for membership.

Fred Fry is blogging “The Apprentice” and has writes about the cluelessness of the winner.

The Maryhunter has the scoop on the South Korean scientist who tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by falsifying his stem cell research data.

Jack Cluth skins Bill Reilly alive for some of the bloviating one’s comments regarding the war on Christmas. As usual, good writing from Jack.

Those pistol-packing pachyderms at Elephants in Academia once again have Arlen Specter in their sights. This time, the Pennsylvania Senator opined about the NSA intercept program while he should have kept his mouth shut.

Adam is laying into the spammers for continuously trying to outfox him. Keep up the good work, man.

Finally, here’s my take on the clueless Mr. Alter and his editorial in which he calls the President of the United States “a dictator.”

By: Rick Moran at 10:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

JONATHAN ALTER IS A PIG
CATEGORY: Politics

Comrades, do you know who is responsible for this? Do you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? SNOWBALL! (The pig Napoleon in Orwell’s Animal Farm)

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter is a pig. But not just any pig. Alter is the perfect representation of Napoleon, George Orwell’s Stalinesque pig character in Animal Farm whose rhetorical obfuscation and hyperbole helps him manipulate the other animals on the farm:

As Napoleon was deceiving the neighboring farmers he was also tricking his own animals. The scapegoat was again Snowball. “Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball.” In fact many of the claims begin to sound ridiculous to the objective mind. Of course, Squealer’s mission is to keep everything subjective in the minds of the animals.

“If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal.”

Here’s Alter in Newsweek on the actions of the President of the United States following 9/11:

Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

In one paragraph, Alter manages to accuse the President of “clearly” acting like a dictator and ascribing delusions of grandeur to the President for thinking himself “like Abraham Lincoln.”

Of course, there is absolutely nothing “clear” about this wiretapping story except in the fevered imagination of Alter and the left. And what evidence does Mr. Alter have that Mr. Bush thought of himself as Lincoln?

Zero. Zip. Nada. It is an hysterical fantasy. And like poor Snowball, Alter has targeted the President and accused him of doing everything except perhaps losing the keys to the storage shed:

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

The President as “lawbreaker?” I’m sorry, but the absolute worst that can be said of the President’s actions in this case is that his legal standing on the issue of intercepting communications is open to debate. Alter implies that there is no argument. It is apparent he doesn’t read much because the debate currently raging on both the right and the left among some of the best legal minds in the country is far from having a “clear” resolution. The idea that the President authorized willy nilly the blanket use of the technical abilities of the NSA to spy on American citizens is an outrageous lie and Alter knows it. And as for the President’s legal standing regarding the Congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism where in God’s name has the President “scrapped the Constitution” in carrying out this limited intelligence program. It is rhetorical excess. It is hyperbole of the worst sort. It simply is not true.

Bush claimed that “the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy.” But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a “shameful act,” it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

Of course there is a “reasonable presumption” that by discussing any NSA operation we are helping the enemy. What kind of a nitwit is Alter anyway? Why does he think that the NSA has such extraordinarily strict rules against leaking? Letting the enemy know how we are keeping track of him is not “a reasonable presumption” that plastering this program all over the front pages of an international newspaper isn’t damaging national security?

And I somehow have the feeling that the leaker of this program will not be looked on by anyone except Mr. Alter and his defeatist friends on the left as a patriot. He will certainly not be looked at as a patriot by the law which will send them away for a very long time to contemplate the damage done to our ability to spy on terrorists.

This will all play out eventually in congressional committees and in the United States Supreme Court. If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.

Yep. Snowball did it. And while we’re at it, let’s raise poor Dick Nixon from the grave and trot out his rotting corpse one more time before everyone forgets what Nixon’s crimes really were all about. One reason historians 100 years from now will cut Mr. Nixon a little more slack than his contemporaries is that liberals always forget to mention that at the time of the domestic wiretapping scandals, there were literally tens of thousands of Americans in the streets waving the flag of an enemy that was shooting down American soldiers in Southeast Asia and calling for the violent overthrow of the United States government. What’s more, as we know now, the government was aware that much of this activity was funded and directed by a foreign power sworn to destroy us - the Soviet Union.

Nixon was in fact fighting a domestic insurrection which would seem to give the lie to Alter’s contention that there was anything at all “similar” between what Bush was doing and Nixon’s questionable use of wiretapping against both his political enemies and the internal enemies of the United States. The fact that Alter sees a similarity brands him as a certifiable loon.

Of course, the program launched by this Administration did not specifically target Americans unless they were working with a group that had just launched the deadliest attack on American soil in a couple of generations. But Alter and his hysterical comrades on the left just don’t think that this was any reason to get all bent out of shape and take extraordinary measures to protect ourselves. After all, what’s the big deal about a few thousand Americans being incinerated as a result of a terrorist operation planned overseas but carried out using established cells here in the United States?

Does Alter expect the NSA to intercept only one side of the conversation? That’s a ludicrous notion, of course, but since Alter is having a cow over any use of our technical abilities to stop the next terrorist attack if those capabilities would be used in any way to target Americans on American soil one must come to that inescapable conclusion.

Newsweek may be the first major news organ to give life to the accusation that the President of the United States has been acting like a dictator, a charge that previously saw the light only in the darkened corners of the left side of the blogosphere. It puts Mr. Alter and Newsweek in the same boat as people who have accused the government of carrying out 9/11 in order to establish a fascist state. I can’t believe that Alter is not aware of this. His deliberate use of the “D” word is the opening salvo by the left in the 2006 election battle. They are setting the stage for a possible Democratic takeover of one and possibly both Houses of Congress and have put both the President and his supporters on notice that they intend to impeach George Bush if given half a chance.

I hope the President has noticed this. The next 11 months he will be fighting for his political life and, in no small way, the life of this Republic. To allow this bunch of power mad hysterics to have their hands on the levers of government would be a disaster of the first magnitude.

UPDATE

Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers!

While you’re here, why not take a look at the newest edition of Carnival of the Clueless for some hilarious takes on the people who make blogging so much fun - the truly and completely clueless of both the right and the left.

Also, check out John McIntyre’s classic takedown of Alter’s lunacy. John has similar thoughts about the difference between Nixon’s criminal activity and Bush’s legitimate security concerns. (HT: Michelle Malkin)

UPDATE 12/21

First, I am more than a little amused that 3 different lefty bloggers saw the above headline and assumed I was calling Mr. Alter a pig. I was doing no such thing of course, except in a literary sense.

Secondly, Alter appeared on the Hugh Hewitt Show yesterday. The transcript is here. Mr. Alter is just a little out of his league in arguing the finer points of Constitutional law with Professor Hewitt. Also, read Mr. Hewitt’s further thoughts on the controversy here.

By: Rick Moran at 6:20 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (49)

12/19/2005
BLOGGER OF THE YEAR
CATEGORY: Blogging

Michelle Malkin has a post up recommending several writers for Blogger of the Year - an award that Time Magazine gave out last year to Powerline but, for some reason, failed to follow up with an award this year.

Here are some of Michelle’s nominees:

* Michael Yon. Iraq war coverage without peer in either Blogland or the MSM.

* Ed Morrissey. His coverage of the Canadian scandal “Adscam” was both courageous and had real political impact.

* NZ Bear. While controversy has followed the Bear’s efforts lately in his ecosystem rankings, he is an undeniable force in Blogland.

* Brendon Loy. The Notre Damer’s Katrina coverage deserves some kind of award for its prescience as well as its clarity.

Here are a couple more of my own nominees:

* Michelle Malkin. Is there anyone who writes with such fearlessness in the face of the most obnoxious, obscene, and nauseating criticism imaginable? A writer who bridges Blogland and the MSM. A true blogger in the sense that her roundups of the “Big Stories” as well as her original reporting are always a link-rich reading experience, a smorgasbord of thoughts and attitudes that give context to any story.

* John Cole. Some can’t take Mr. Cole’s acerbic wit and acid pen. A bane to both wingnuts and moonbats, Cole’s reasoned defense of the Iraq war as well as his strong criticism of America’s detention policies brings thoughtful people of all political stripes to his site. A rationalist with a romantic streak, his fearlessness in taking on both the religious right and the unhinged left always makes him an interesting read.

* Jeff Goldstein. Featuring a caustic, Pythonesque sense of humor as well as a sharp and penetrating writing style, Mr. Goldstein can dismantle an opponent’s argument piece by piece, and with an intellectual cruelty bordering on the sadistic, hand the poor unfortunate’s brains back to him on a silver platter with a smile. Much more than a humor blog.

* Gregory Djerejian. An independent minded conservative who has an astonishing depth of knowledge of foreign affairs. Simply a must read if you would like to understand the War on Terror. His policy critiques of the Bush Administration are both devastating and well reasoned. Great insight that can be found no where else in Blogland.

* Jon Henke. While Q & O is a group blog, I always enjoy Mr. Henke’s take on issues because he mixes passion with reason - something very hard to combine successfully when writing about politics (Witness my site!) A true lover of liberty, there has never been an occasion where I have seen him inconsistent with his core libertarian beliefs. A conservative critic almost as much as he is a liberal one, Henke has a smooth, clear writing style that crystallizes issues in an intellectually pleasing manner. A joy to read.

By: Rick Moran at 10:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

MY BELOVEDS PUT VICK & CO. IN THE DEEP FREEZE
CATEGORY: CHICAGO BEARS


BEARS QUARTERBACK REX ‘THE WONDER DOG” GROSSMAN TAKES OVER

Alright already, I’ll sip some of that Super Bowl Kool-Aid. The Bears have a football team that, if they remain healthy, have a shot at making it to The Big Game.

The ferociousness with which the Bears defense first attacked then destroyed Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons last night in the team’s 16-3 victory should make all NFC contenders - including Mike Holmgren’s Seattle club - devoutly wish that they get to face someone else in the first rounds of the playoffs. Not only did the Bears brutally manhandle Mr. Vick and the vaunted Falcon offense, but Bears coach Lovie Smith finally broke down and made the painful decision to bench rookie quarterback Kyle Orton in favor of playing the almost as inexperienced and oft injured Rex Grossman. The qualitative jump in the Bear’s offensive production when Rex the Wonder Dog entered the game in the second half opened more than a few eyes among NFL scouts who were in attendance in frigid Soldiers Field, scouting the Bears as potential playoff foes. In fact, the difference was startling.

Much credit should be given Orton whose performance during the first 13 games of the season was good enough to allow the Bears to eke out several important victories. Alas, professional football is a remorseless test and the refrain “What have you done for me lately” is especially relevant when talking about rookie quarterbacks with a highly paid first round draft choice who is healthy and sitting on the bench just waiting for a chance to prove himself. This is the way of things and Orton, to his credit, probably was aware of this dynamic.

Still, when Grossman entered the game to the relief and excitement of the 54,000 hardy fans braving the below zero windchill no one quite knew what to expect. What the fans got was a visual on why Rex Grossman was the Bear’s #1 draft choice three long years ago.

The difference between Grossman and Orton was night and day. With quicker feet, Grossman is able to make the 5 and 7 step drops with more speed thus allowing him more time to scan the field for an open receiver. His release is quicker and his throws seemed to have the confidence of someone playing beyond his limited experience. His judgment can be questioned - especially his red-zone choices - but not his talent. And if he can find pro-bowl quality receiver Mushin “Moose” Muhammed with any kind of regularity, he and the team will enjoy much more success on offense. An improvement in the passing game will open up the running game and allow Thomas Jones a few more seams to squeeze through.

And if the Bears can go from scoring 10-13 points a game to a team that scores 20+ PPG, the increased offensive output coupled with the take-no-prisoners defense could be a recipe for success come playoff time.

Michael Vick looked cold. I mean, he actually looked like he would rather have been somewhere else than playing in the freezer-like confines of Soldier Field. After a few hits by Bears linebackers Briggs and Urlacher, he was probably asking himself what the hell he was doing in this meat locker. Bears middle linebacker Urlacher played an extraordinary game, sprinting from hashmark to hashmark, espying Vick to keep the nimble footed quarterback from running wild. And the conga line danced by the Bear’s 8 quality defensive linemen as they shuffled in and out of the game will probably give Vick and his offensive linemen nightmares for days to come. The Falcons quarterback had a horrendous night passing, completing only 13 of 32 for an anemic 122 yards. The Bear’s D-line lived in the Atlanta backfield for the whole game, not allowing Vick to get his feet set which caused several of his deliveries to either sail harmlessly over the head of the receivers or fall incomplete at their feet.

And Urlacher’s yeoman work pretty much took away the gifted Falcon’s quarterback dangerous scrambling ability. The Bear’s employed an umbrella-like coverage of the line of scrimmage with Urlacher as the point. With one lineman staying home on the strong side at all times, the Bear’s sacrificed an all out pass rush in favor of containing Mr. Vick. All Vick could really do was retreat backward into the pocket. By my count, he deliberately threw 7 balls out of bounds rather than get sacked, a telling number indeed.

One truly remarkable aspect of the Bear’s defensive effort is that the team had 5 starters on the inactive list for the game due to injuries, including both standout safeties Mike Brown and Chris Harris. Their replacements - especially rookie Brandon McGowan whose infectious enthusiasm infused the team with some pep in the brutally cold conditions - played more than adequately. In short, the Bear’s defense is not only very good, it is deep.

The spark supplied by Rex the Wonder Dog lit a fire under the entire offense. But as of this writing, Lovie Smith is withholding any decision on permanently replacing Orton. This is probably a sop to Orton’s feelings. Rather than come out and say immediately after the game that Grossman is the man, Smith tactfully said he would wait until he reviewed film of the two quarterbacks before making a decision on a starter for next week’s Christmas day game in Green Bay. A smart move given the potential distraction of a grumbling Orton who would feel humiliated by the change if announced so soon after the game ended.

Make no mistake, however. The Bear’s have crossed the Rubicon and won’t look back regarding their quarterback situation. Grossman will play the rest of the way unless he is injured again, a circumstance too horrible to contemplate. All the promise showed by the young man will now have to be turned into concrete results or the baying hounds in the press and on sports talk radio will be screaming to give Orton another chance.

Such is life in the NFL if you’re a quarterback.

By: Rick Moran at 9:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

THANKS FOR THE VOTES
CATEGORY: Blogging

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who took the time to vote for The House in the recently completed Weblog Awards. The best I can say is that I didn’t finish last. But the real value to me is that my participation sent a good number of new readers my way. To those of you who stopped by and liked what you saw, I hope you visit often and feel free to comment or drop me an email to share your thoughts on matters large and small.

Thanks also to Kevin Alyward whose yeoman work on the contest too often is criticized and misunderstood. I am fully appreciative of the the effort put into making the contest as fair and as fun as possible. I just wish people would not ascribe motives to Mr. Alyward that they themselves would never have. It bespeaks a special kind of ignorance - and arrogance - that those who accuse Kevin of all sorts of selfish reasons for developing and putting on the Weblog Awards place themselves and their own motives for criticizing on the pedestal of self-righteousness while revealing a breathtaking pettiness of mind and heart.

For myself, I was honored and humbled to be nominated. And for purely personal and selfish reasons, it made me feel good. If that is a bad thing, I plead guilty.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks to all who voted for me.

By: Rick Moran at 7:29 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

BUSH SPEAKS - WHO LISTENS?

Like his other major addresses given over the past month, the President’s oval office speech last night was a calm, measured and fairly accurate portrayal of the situation in Iraq and the consequences of giving in to the Democratic party’s defeatism and surrender tactics. It was delivered in typical Bush style - which is to say that it didn’t put anyone to sleep but was hardly the kind of rousing, “Rally ‘Round the Flag” stemwinder that is probably needed to change the political dynamic and actually garner more support for his policies with middle of the road Americans. These all-important voters who have mostly abandoned the President on Iraq are the reason the Democrats have been smelling blood in the water all these months and will continue to work to undermine the war effort.

Unlike his last oval office speech in 2003 when the President enjoyed substantial support among independents for the war, today that number has fallen to around 37%. And to make matters worse, Rasmussen’s rolling average over the last month has shown a depressing steadiness to the President’s support from these “unaffiliated” voters.

Basically, this means that the President’s rising approval ratings are the result of Bush winning back Republicans who had strayed off the reservation and not indicative of a sea change in public attitudes toward Iraq.

While it is true that the President’s information offensive has been going on for only a month, the White House is probably asking itself what else they can do to reverse the decline in the support of independents before next year’s Congressional elections. The arithmetic is all too frightening. As it stands now, for every independent voter who makes a decision to vote Republican based on the President’s and the party’s support for the war, the Democrats will get two independents to vote for their candidates. Therein lies electoral disaster for Republicans in the Senate and perhaps even in the House, although the number of people who weight their vote based on a Congressional candidate’s foreign policy views is far fewer in House races.

Is there a way to win back enough independents to avoid a Republican debacle at the polls next November? The answer is a qualified “yes.” In the Presidential election of 2004, Bush received 48% of the independent vote with voter identification by party dead even at 37%. Today, with only 37% of independents supporting the President and party identification at a worrying 47% Democratic to 43% Republican, the President must not only find a way to win back at least some of those middle of the road voters but also energize the Republican party base so that enough conservatives go to the polls and keep Republican Senate candidates - especially in the south - from being swamped by a Democratic surge.

What the President must do is change the narrative on Iraq to reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground rather than the fairy tales being spun by the Democrats and their allies in the MSM. Recently, there has been some very small moves in this direction as a few media outlets have begun to compare the tone and tenor of their past coverage of the war with evidence that all is not as they have been reporting. The steady progress in reconstruction along with the obvious strides being made by the Iraqis in the political arena (and American-Iraqi military successes in slowly beating down the insurgency) have bestirred some in the mainstream press to grudgingly change the constant drumbeat of negativity that has permeated their coverage for more than 2 years. Ed Morrissey:

The Sunni participation puts the last of the building blocks in place for the establishment of a consensus democratic republic. The reporting of the Times indicates that the American media might finally start recognizing what will shortly become obvious to all whether they do so or not: that a free Iraq exists, thanks to an administration that steadfastly refused to listen to the Chicken Littles of the opposition and the whiners of the Exempt Media at home. The war may finally have turned the corner in the only place it could be lost — here in America.

It’s not enough, of course. While the Democrats have concentrated on undermining the President’s credibility on the war - with a great deal of success - they have either failed to realize the real world consequences of their defeatism or, more likely, could care less as long as it brings them victory in 2006. There follows a logical progression here; if the real story of what’s going on in Iraq can begin to be told, the President’s credibility will rise. If that occurs, the Democrats may be faced with an election day debacle of their own. Those same independents who have abandoned the President could return in large enough numbers to deliver a stinging rebuke to the Democratic party on election day 2006.

Several factors on the ground in Iraq could help the President and Republicans regain some momentum:

* Several insurgent groups lay down their arms and join the political process

* The Iraqis have a comparatively uneventful time of it in forming a new government

* Zarqawi is either killed or he announces a move out of Iraq to somewhere more hospitable, the former being more likely.

* A large and noticeable fall off in civilian casualties over several months.

* A rise in secularism with demonstrated unity between Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.

* Well publicized successes in fighting the insurgency by the Iraqi military.

* More public support from Arab governments for Iraqi democracy.

I would hope that two or three of these things happening between now and the 2006 election would secure a Republican triumph and, more importantly, drive a stake through the heart of the insurgency and hasten the day when our sons and daughters can come home.

UPDATE

Some react to the speech:

Michelle Malkin live blogged the address and, in something one rarely sees from a liveblogger, she gives the talking head response immediately following the speech.

Think Progress published a copy of the speech even though it was embargoed. Their explanation?

[Ed note: We’ll start respecting embargoes when they start telling the truth.]

Um…does anyone else see that as petty and childish? Par. For. The. Course.

Is Glen Reynolds being cynical?

BUSH DOUBLES DOWN: I just watched Bush’s speech. Nothing new there for anyone who’s been paying attention to the speeches he’s been giving over the past couple of weeks. But one big thing struck me: In this national televised speech, Bush went out of his way to take responsibility for the war. He repeatedly talked about “my decision to invade Iraq,” even though, of course, it was also Congress’s decision. He made very clear that, ultimately, this was his war, and the decisions were his.

Why did he do that? Because he thinks we’re winning, and he wants credit. By November 2006, and especially November 2008, he thinks that’ll be obvious, and he wants to lay down his marker now on what he believed — and what the other side did. That’s my guess, anyway.

Paul Mirengoff nails it:

He expressed respect for those who oppose the war, admitted to some mistakes, and conveyed how wrenching it is to be a war president and how determined he is to win the war. Bush also put the focus where it should be — on where we go from here. He has a coherent answer; the Democrats don’t.

Most lefty bloggers are too busy wetting their pants over the NSA story to write much about the speech. Does this mean that they care more about safeguarding the rights of terrorists than fighting and winning the war?

Of course not, don’t be silly. That would be unpatriotic and defeatist not to mention suicidal.

By: Rick Moran at 7:00 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

12/18/2005
IRAN’S MAIN MAD MULLAH: ” WE CAN WIN NUKE WAR WITH ISRAEL”
CATEGORY: Iran

Can someone tell me why when the theocratic, in-all-but-name-only dictator of a budding nuclear power casually mentions in public that his nation could “win” a nuclear war against one of America’s staunchest allies that the media yawns, scratches its collective scrotum, and goes back to sleep?

Supreme Iranian ruler Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said last Friday that the Muslim world would win a nuclear exchange with Israel, aggravating fears Tehran’s quest for atomic weapons indeed has one purpose: the annihilation of what it calls the Zionist “cancer.”

“[The] application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel - but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world,” Hashemi-Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the government-controlled Iran Press Service.

The spiritual leader, who wields ultimate power in Iran, made the comments during a prayer service in Tehran. It was the first time an Islamic leader of such prominence openly suggested a nuclear attack against the Jewish state, media analysts told the IPS.

(HT: solomonpanting at LGF)

I’m still looking for one western media outlet that has carried this startling statement. The Daily Star of Lebanon carried an entirely different story but one with a similar theme; if attacked, the radioactive mullahs will strike back - hard:

Iran on Friday warned its response to any attack by Israel would be “swift and destructive,” while European leaders warned the Iranian president’s remarks about the Holocaust could be grounds for sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“The policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is completely defensive, but if we are attacked, the answer of the armed forces will be swift, firm and destructive,” Mustafa Mohammad Najjar was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

He was responding to a question about Iran’s reaction in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities, already under scrutiny as international unease grows over the Islamic republic’s nuclear intentions.

“The doomed fate of (Iraqi ex-president) Saddam (Hussein) must be a lesson for officials of the usurping Zionist regime,” Najjar added in a reference to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war in which around a million people were killed.

The only world leader who seems to get it is, not surprisingly, the President of the United States:

Speaking to Fox News a day earlier, US President George W. Bush said his administration also views Iran as a true existential threat to the Jewish state.

“I’m concerned about a theocracy that has got little transparency, a country whose president has declared the destruction of Israel as part of their foreign policy, and a country that will not listen to the demands of the free world to get rid of its ambitions to have a nuclear weapon,” Bush told his interviewer.

“I called it part of the ‘axis of evil’ for a reason,” the president added.

Indeed. Too bad the rest of the world ridiculed you for making that statement.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “Iran: Running Toward the Gasoline Dump With a Lit Match” in which I asked the $64,000 question: Why would Khamenei name a fanatical, anti-semitic, holocaust denying, anti-American zealot like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President of a country about to get its hands on the most awesome power on earth?

The big question is why? Why would Supreme Leader Khamenei place the future of his country not to mention the world in the hands of someone like Ahmadinejad?

Ignore the mainstream press who have downplayed the more outrageous statements made by this terrorist by saying it is for “domestic political consumption.” Neville Chamberlain said exactly the same thing about Hitler.

The point is this; Ahmadinejad appears to have the experience, the temperament, the zeal, and ideological purity for one thing and one thing only – to confront Israel and the west and go to war if necessary in order to secure the regimes future. And that future and the future of the Islamic world as Iran sees it lies in their building a nuclear arsenal.

I am not an expert on Iran. I don’t pretend to be able to read the mind of Khamenei or Ahmanidejad or any other radical Iranian theocrat who has been delivering threats to Israel, the likes of which have not been heard on the international stage since Hitler was blustering against Poland back in 1939.

But you cannot convince me that we should not be taking the Iranians at their word when their President threatens to “wipe Israel off the map” followed a few short weeks later by their Head of State saying that Iran could win a nuclear war with the Jewish state. How can we afford not to believe the evidence of our own ears?

And why this dead silence from the western press? A nation - Iran - which influences and helps direct several powerful terrorist groups whose tentacles circle the globe, blithely and shamelessly threatens both our allies and the United States with nuclear Armageddon and the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the cable and broadcast networks are either unaware of it (shocking ignorance) or choose not to report it (unconscionable stupidity).

It’s getting very late in the effort to stop these madmen in Tehran from threatening the peace and security of the world. If the rest of the world, as usual, is waiting for the United States to solve their problems for them, it’s high time we take on the responsibility of doing what needs to be done and get on with it.

By: Rick Moran at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

12/17/2005
AHMADINEJAD TARGET OF ASSASSIN?
CATEGORY: Iran

Michael Ledeen is reporting this morning that there is a possibility of a failed attempt on the life of Iranian President Ahmadinejad:

I’ve just received a call from a usually reliable person saying that there was an assassination attempt in Iran against President Ahmadi Nezhad, who was in a car. His driver and guards were killed, and he is in the hospital, apparently likely to survive. I couldn’t get any details about the intensity of the blue energy waves flowing from his cranium…but if this story is true it suggests that there are powerful folks in Iran who have decided the president is more trouble than he’s worth…and they’d rather go back to the old deception of having someone who can lull the West into a false sense of security.

Ledeen notes “powerful folks” are upset with the President. Actually, there is really only one rival power center in Iran - the Rafsanjani-Khatami axis that has been increasingly strident in their criticism of Ahmadinejad in recent weeks:

Rafsanjani, who has already attacked the new government for a worsening of international tensions over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, also said he worried that national unity had been badly damaged during Iran’s dramatic shift to the right.

“Such attitudes will allow the enemies to reach their objectives,” the official news agency IRNA quoted Rafsanjani as telling a gathering of Muslim prayer leaders.

The term “enemies” is generally used to refer to the United States and Israel.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is a former President (as well as a former Supreme Leader, the position now held by Ayatollah Khamenei) and leader of the Expediency Council, a body that is supposed to iron out differences between the various branches of the Iranian government. Apparently, Rafsanjani has carved out a separate sphere of influence within the Iranian government and is challenging Ahmadinejad’s reckless and warlike moves - not on the basis that they are wrong but , as Mr. Ledeen points out, because the wild rhetoric puts the US and Israel on guard.

Rafsanjani is playing an extraordinarily dangerous game if he is in any way connected with an assassination attempt. As rich and as powerful as he is, the fact is that Ahmadinejad is Khamenei’s fair-haired boy and as such, the Supreme Leader will brook no attempt to overturn this radical shift to the right that the Iranian President has undertaken. As I’ve speculated in the past, the mullahs may in fact be forcing a confrontation with Israel and the west at this juncture because the correlation of forces - military and especially political - are so much in their favor. Israel has never been so isolated and for the foreseeable future, the bulk of America’s armed forces will be tied up in Iraq. If Rafsanjani thinks that his opposition to the recasting of the Iranian government into a hardline mirror image of its President is going down well with Supreme Leader Khamenei, he is sadly mistaken.

So, does Rafsanjani (who has apparently cast his lot with the reformers) believe he can overturn the whole applecart? Does he think he can tear down the Supreme Leader as well as kill the President?

He has been making a strong case recently that what Ahmadinejad has been doing is terribly damaging to Iran’s standing in the world. His opposition in no way lessens his own hatred for Israel and the US. And it is doubtful that even a President acceptable to Rafsanjani would slow down much less halt the Iranian drive to acquire nuclear weapons (Rafsanjani began the program when he was Supreme Leader back in the 1980’s).

Even if Rafsanjani had nothing to do with an attempted assassination, don’t put it past Ahmadinejad to seize the opportunity to arrest him anyway. It would make sense in light of the Iranian President’s drive to expel all moderate influences from the Islamic Republic and turn the once prosperous, modern country of Iran into a nuclear armed 15th century theocracy.

UPDATE

Via Ace, possible confirmation of the assassination attempt:

One of the bodyguards of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was killed and another wounded when an attempt to ambush the presidential motorcade was thwarted in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, according to a semi-official newspaper and local residents.
“At 6:50 pm on Thursday, the lead car in the presidential motorcade confronted armed bandits and trouble-makers on the Zabol-Saravan highway”, the semi-official Jomhouri Islami reported on Saturday.

“In the ensuing armed clash, the driver of the vehicle, who was an indigenous member of the security services, and one of the president’s bodyguards died, while another bodyguard was wounded”, the newspaper, which was founded by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote.

I doubt very much whether an ethnic conflict is at the bottom of this. But it sure sounds better to the masses than saying “My main rival for power is trying to whack me.”

By: Rick Moran at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

WHO LEAKED?
CATEGORY: Government

I’ll have much more to say about the right of privacy in the age of terror in an article I’m writing for The American Thinker but something the President said in his radio address today defending his eavesdropping program stuck out like a sore thumb:

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

The information was “improperly provided” to the New York Times. And according to the newspaper’s story, they had been sitting on this juicy little morsel of a secret for more than a year.

First, for the President to use the term “improperly provided” regarding a leak involving the National Security Agency is a monumental understatement. The NSA has extraordinarily strict rules about things like leaks. In short, if you’re an employee and you get caught leaking, you go to jail for a very long time.

Secondly, the fact that the Times sat on this information for a year may prove that whoever the leaker was, they are probably not with the agency any more. One would think that the eavesdropping operation was so compartmentalized within the agency, that discovering the leaker - or at least narrowing the list of suspects - would be fairly easy. That is, if the leaker was from the NSA. And this opens the question of who else knew about the surveillance program. There were a few attorneys at Justice and the White House along with some high-level FBI anti-terrorist officials. And of course, some Congress critters whose inability to keep a secret is matched only by their belief in their own superior wisdom in matters of national security not to mention civil liberties issues.

My guess would be that the leak came from someone on one of the Intelligence Committee staffs. It wouldn’t be the first time and it would be logical in the context of the hyper-partisanship on Capitol Hill. This leak was meant to damage not only the program itself but the Bush Administration as well. The consequences to our national security may prove that the leaker has bitten off more than they bargained for.

By: Rick Moran at 12:51 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)