Date ►►► January 29, 2009
Military Judge Shockingly Chooses to Follow Law, Not Obamic Decree
Military Judge Col. James Pohl decided to continue with the arraignment of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of planning the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, an attack that killed seventeen American sailors and wounded fifty.
Nashiri, one of the Big Three who was waterboarded, is about to be arraigned by a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. But President Barack H. Obama wants to personally "review" all 245 cases before allowing the George W. Bush policy of trying the detainees by military commissions to proceed. To that end, Obama signed an executive order calling for a delay of at least 120 days, while he decides whether to:
- Close the facility, drop all charges against everybody, and release all the terrorist detainees in the United States;
- Close the facility and rendite all the detainees to European allies -- who refuse to accept them;
- Or close the facility and transfer all the detainees to ordinary federal courts -- which will promptly order the feds to produce all classified data from the war on the Iran/al-Qaeda axis in open court, thus conveying it all to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Jemaah Islamiya, and every other militant Islamist terrorist organization in the world... and when even the Obama administration refuses to do this, the civilian courts will dismiss all charges against each detainee, releasing them into the United States.
But bizarrely, Judge Col. Pohl has ruled that his military commission will follow the law, which mandates an arraignment hearing by a certain date, rather than Commander in Chief's the hastily drafted delay:
The government, Pohl wrote, sought a delay because if cases went ahead, the administration's review could "render moot any proceedings conducted during the review"; "necessitate re-litigation of issues"; or "produce legal consequences affecting options available to the Administration after completion of the review."
"The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration," said Pohl in a written opinion, which was obtained by The Post. "Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future."
How can mere law trump the pronunciamentos of the One We Have All Been Waiting For? What's the matter with that judge... didn't he get the memo?
The judges in 20 other military-commission cases that were set to proceed within the next 120 days have purportedly agreed to the postponement; Nashiri's is the only case where the judge denied the prosecutor's motion, at least so far. Now an ordinary reasonable person, one would imagine, would take the obvious compromise: accept the postponements of the other cases and order the prosecutor to proceed with the Nashiri case, as Col. Pohl ordered.
But the One is not to be thwarted or ignored. He is determined that Nashiri will not be arraigned during that period, and they're willing to use any means necessary to ensure that President Barack H. Obama, not Judge Col. James Pohl, wins this standoff:
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said at a briefing today that "this department will be in full compliance with the president's executive order. . . . And so while that executive order is in force and effect, trust me, there will be no proceedings continuing down at Gitmo with military commissions."
So where does that leave us? What means are necessary? I shall have to tell you what the Obama administration is considering, because you would not guess it in a thousand tries: They are looking into the prospect of withdrawing all charges against Nashiri; and then, 120 days from now, trying to refile them.
With the charges withdrawn, obviously Col. Pohl could not proceed. If they're able to refile the charges after the review period, Obama's advisors on military law evidently believe that the case can simply pick up again and proceed as normal. Or else maybe they would have to start all over again; but in any case, Obama will have asserted his authority and shown the military who is boss.
When military defense attorneys heard what was in the offing, some of them said they may force the administration to withdraw all charges against all detainees in Gitmo; I think what they are saying is that they would change their minds about stipulating to the postponement, thus forcing the hand of "the Pentagon official who approves charges and refers cases to trial."
That person is none other than Susan J. Crawford, of course, who came to our attention most recently when she flatly declared that at least one detainee in Guantanamo Bay had been "tortured;" she could not point to a single interrogation tactic that she would argue was torture itself; but she decided the concatenation of tactics bothered her delicate sensibilities:
You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.
She decided not to file charges against the detainee (Mohamed Mani Ahmad al-Kahtani, the "twentieth 9/11 hijacker") in that case. Of course, many, many other prisoners were interrogated using "a combination of things" and could claim it had "a medical impact" on them; thus, they, too, can claim they were "tortured" according to the unique, subjective, virtually iconoclastic standard set by the Pentagon's own convening authority. Thus, she had already set us up for the kill even before Obama's order.
If Crawford now withdraws the charges against Nashiri, and if the military defense attorneys follow through on their threat, Crawford will be caught between the Devil and a deep, blue, hard place:
- On the one hand, if the defense obects to the postponement, many military judges may follow Pohl's lead and side with the defendant's right to a speedy trial, thus denying the prosecutors' motions;
- On the other hand, Obama has issued marching orders to his staff that "there will be no proceedings" until the review period is up, no matter what.
This may leave Ms. Crawford with no option but to withdraw all charges against each detainee. But on the third hand, that path is also fraught with peril: If the arraignment is begun and the defendant pleads not guilty before Crawford can navigate the Pentagon labyrinth and formally withdraw the charges, then at least some defense experts claim that jeopardy attaches... and the Obama administration might not be allowed to reinstate the charges later.
At this point, the Supreme Court rulings of Hamdan and Boumediene, so eagerly praised and even sought by liberal Democrats such as Barack H. Obama, may rear up and bite the country hard. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006), the Court held that it retained jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus filings under the law that created the first set of military commissions, created under the authority of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005; it also struck those commissions down. The case was decided 5-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts recusing himself, as he had been on the appellate-court panel whose decision was under review by the Supreme Court; but considering his vote on the Boumediene case below, I suspect this would otherwise have been a 5-4 decision.
Then just last year, in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___ (2008), the Court decided a straight-up habeas corpus case arising out of the second stab at military commissions, this time under the authority of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, enacted by the Republican-controlled Congress in October 2006 as a specific remedy for the problems the Court found with the first version of the commissions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for yet another 5-4 decision, held that the prisoner did indeed have habeas rights; and further, that such rights could not be stripped by subsequent legislation unless that legislation included a "substitute" method for determining guilt that included, well, all the protections offered by the Constituition to defendants in civilian trials.
Therefore, I doubt that the Court as presently constituted (it won't get better with Obama making future appointments) will allow Susan Crawford or Barack Obama or anyone else to keep Nashiri and all the other detainees in indefinite detention if they have withdrawn the charges and are prevented by double-jeopardy from refiling them later.
I suspect the only remedy available in such a case will be the immediate release of all such prisoners... right here in the United States, since no other nation will likely take them. We can't even deport them, because they would clearly face execution and likely torture in their host countries -- and that violates the same section of the Geneva Conventions that so impressed the justices in the majority on both cases: John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, Stephen Bryer, and of course the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy.
Oh well; that the way the cookie bounces when conservatives stay home and refuse to vote for a Republican Congress and president.
The only solution here will be for President Obama to suck it up and just allow the Nashiri case to proceed, ordering Crawford not to withdraw the charges against that detainee. Without the precedent of dropping the charges for one, the other defense attorneys won't have a snowball to stand on trying to force the withdrawal of charges in other cases. If they refuse to agree to the continuance, then those cases will also simply move forward.
So what are the odds that Obama will accept defeat on this issue, with the mild humiliation and political hit it will bring, rather than jeopardize the centerpiece of the defense against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis -- the detention and trial of terrorist murderers and conspirators? I suppose it depends upon which weighs more heavily in the president's mind: the good of the country or his own personal authority.
Date ►►► January 27, 2009
Still Stuk in Irak
Good news! More Americans are joining the military. Last fiscal year, all components of the military -- active duty, reserve, and National Guard -- met or exceeded the recruitment goals, for the first time since 2004. "And the trend seems to be accelerating," quoth the New York Times.
The NYT has its own idea why; the Gray Lady believes recruiting success is due to a recent sluggish economy... in other words, more people getting "stuk in Irak." As we all know, only uneducated slobs would join the military; so when times are tough, and all those morons cannot compete in the regular labor market, recruiting skyrockets. Simple!
Needless to say, I'm quite skeptical of that analysis. From previous research for earlier blogposts here, I know that our active-duty military has met or exceeded its recruiting goals except one branch in one year -- the Army in 2005. (Note that the links in first table apply to all tables; where the data simply says a service "met" its goals, we entered a score of 100% -- though it could of course be higher):
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, our active-duty military has consistently met or exceeded its goals, with only that one blip in 2005. Even in the militarily tough years like 2004 through 2006, when things were not looking good in Iraq, our active duty units only once failed to recruit enough new soldiers. (And bear in mind, the recruiting goals themselves were increased under President Bush; the military services met them anyway.)
But here is the most astonishing point, given the breathless tone of the Times article: If you look at the chart for active duty units, the rate of recruits for fiscal year 2008 is essentially no different from previous five years.
It is true that sometimes our reserve units (and often our National Guard units) had difficulty meeting their goals:
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
|2003||104%||(no data)||(no data)||(no data)|
|Fiscal year||Army||Marine Corps||Air Force||Navy|
|2003||(no data)||N/A||(no data)||N/A|
This is easily understood: During wartime, it's highly likely such units would be called up; this creates problems in life-planning -- you know you'll probably end up going, but you don't know exactly when. Therefore, potential recruits might as well enlist as active duty: The benefits are much better, and life is more predictable.
Contrariwise, as the Iraq war wound down, and it became less likely that reserve or Guard units would be nationalized and sent abroad, the easier career planning would attract more people to such units. The sluggish economy may be a minor factor, but the main reason for the rise in reserve and Guard recruiting is simply that we achieved victory in Iraq.
Too, we cannot neglect patriotism as a motivator: While we're actively fighting a savage and bitter enemy who has vowed to kill us all, American patriots who feel their honor and resolve questioned want to join active-duty service to show the militant Islamists how an American fights, wins, and if necessary, dies. (I haven't looked into it, but I suspect that after V-E Day and V-J Day signalled that we had won World War II, recruitment into the active-duty military dropped significantly in favor of a rise in National Guard and reserve forces.)
But what about all those stories in the elite media, month after month, year after year, crowing that the Army had missed its recruiting goals? There were hundreds of such stories... were they all lies?
Not exactly, but they were highly misleading: If you paid attention, you'd have noticed the reports almost always came out in the months of June, July and August. During the summer, recruiting always drops; kids coming out of high school or university typically want to take their last summer off instead of rushing to join the service. Therefore, recruiting often falls short in summer months.
But those numbers were invariably made up during the month of September, the last month in the fiscal year; and the Army (and all other branches of the active-duty military) always ended up meeting their goals for the year anyway. This same pattern happened every year, surprise surprise.
Contrary to the agenda of the New York Times, military service has never been unpopular in the United States, and particularly not during wartime (at least since Vietnam). The Army and Marines Corps -- where recruits are virtually guaranteed to see action during wartime -- often exceeded their goals and never (except once for the Army) had problems attracting young, patriotic men and women. Even more telling, the retention rate of all branches of the military are also very high, typically exceeding goals, and have been so throughout the Iraq-war period... and recall that by definition, service members who are "retained" (reenlist) past their current enlistment include a great many who have actual combat experience. Evidently these non-coms and commissioned officers don't think of themselves as simply "stuk in Irak."
In other words, there is no new trend. Nevertheless, the Times insists upon explaining “the trend”:
As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.... ["Lured?"]
The Army has managed to meet its goals each year since 2006, but not without difficulty.
As casualties in Iraq mounted, the Army began luring new soldiers by increasing signing bonuses for recruits and accepting a greater number of people who had medical and criminal histories, who scored low on entrance exams and who failed to graduate from high school.
Actually, the Navy actually tightened its test requirements during this period. But there are several problems with this non-explanation for non-failure that didn't happen:
- I immediately object to portraying our military as an evil organization which "lures" young, lazy bums who hate going to school with the promise of high pay (heh) and scholarships, turns them into donkeys, and sends them to the salt mines.
For one obvious incongruity, why would lazy bums be attracted by college scholarships?
- The Times forgets to mention that this entire time, we have been growing our military by tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
These recruiting goals are actually moving targets, increasing each year. Yet all active-duty branches and nearly all reserve branches have still met them anyway, with only that one exception one time.
- During wartime, actual combat, especially the Special-Force dominated combat of contemporary warfare, is inherently more dangerous than any job in the civilian world; and it takes money to recruit people into dangerous jobs.
...Though not as much money as recruiting people into dangerous civilian jobs, such as policing, fire-fighting, or underwater welding, because of the benefits of American patriotism, which is higher than any other country in the West except perhaps Israel.
But the fact some recruits are attracted by higher benefits doesn't diminish or taint the job of recruiting. Except for missionaries, we all expect to get paid well, even if we love our jobs; why expect our warriors to be any different than any other American? Why shouldn't they be compensated generously for the vital work they do defending the country?
The point is, there are many reasons why young people join the service, and all are equally valid and equally honorable. But the Times does not even consider the possibility that our nation's youth is excited about winning the Iraq war and wants to continue defending the country from Islamic terrorists and other enemies. Love of freedom and a sense of patriotism does not even enter into the minds of drive-by journalists, still gloating that they won in November.
Did they ask the recruits why they want to join the military? The Times gives us a handful of self-serving anecdotes:
Sean D. O’Neil, a 22-year-old who stood shivering outside an Army recruitment office in St. Louis, said he was forgoing plans to become a guitar maker for now, realizing that instruments are seen as a luxury during a recession. Mr. O’Neil, a Texas native, ventured to St. Louis for an apprenticeship but found himself $30,000 in debt. Joining the Army, his Plan B, was a purely financial decision. With President-elect Barack Obama in office, he expects the troop levels in Iraq to be lowered.
Going to war, although likely, feels safer to him. “I’m doing this for eight years,” he said. “Hopefully, when I get out, I’ll have all my fingers and toes and arms, and the economy will have turned around, and I’ll have a little egg to start up my own guitar line.”
Ryen Trexler, 21, saw the recession barreling toward him as he was fixing truck tires for Allegheny Trucks in Altoona, Pa. By last summer, his workload had dropped.... As the new guy on the job, he knew he would be the first to go....
Just a few months ago, Guy Derenoncourt was working as an equity trader at a boutique investment firm in New York. Then the equity market fell apart and he quit....
“I really had no intention to join if it weren’t for the financial turmoil, because I was doing quite well,” Mr. Derenoncourt, 25, said, adding that a sense of patriotism made it an easier choice.
This is a classic elite media debate trick; the quotes were clearly selected to reaffirm the paper's agenda, as shown by the complete lack of numerical context. How many soldiers primarily joined because of "eight years of the worst economy since the Great Depression" (as so many Democrats in Congress have put it) -- and how many joined up because of the traditional reasons Americans have always enlisted: patriotism, learning leadership skills, wanting some direction in their lives, learning discipline, getting mentally and physically stronger, and so forth?
These paltry few tendentious personal stories don’t tell the whole story. The Times could have surveyed a representative sample of recruits, asking them to list five reasons why they want to join and score them one to five. But that wouldn't serve the primary purpose of showing that our military recruits are still "stuk in Irak" because of the catastrophic economic policies of the incompetent Bush regime, would it?
Second Epistle of St. John the Empowered
John Hinderaker has (yet another) excellent piece up on Power Line; this one views more-in-sadness-than-in-anger the not so recent phenomenon of the wanton and tendentious politicization of ostensibly party-neutral cultural congregations, such as classical concerts and sporting events. He concludes the post thus:
My only contribution to the discussion is to note that this is nothing new. Years ago, I attended many more cultural events than I do now. During the 1980s, I was a season ticket holder at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater. Over time, I became deeply offended by the fact that no matter what the play, whoever put the program together would find a way to work in an attack on the Reagan administration. The last straw was when I went to King Lear at the Guthrie. It was an excellent production, but my enjoyment of it was ruined by the fact that the program was turned into an anti-Reagan tirade. I wasn't even much of a conservative at the time, but the inappropriateness of the whole thing was too much for me.
I didn't "boo loudly," as Glenn [Reynolds] suggests; I just quit going. I wonder how many millions of conservative and mainstream Americans have stopped supporting cultural organizations because of this sort of wanton left-wing politicization.
I don't know whether John feigns naïveté here for dramatic purposes, but it's perfectly clear to me that driving conservatives and other antiliberals out of the arts and other cultural events is precisely the goal at which the Left aims with great deliberation.
The strategy is straight out of Uncle Joe's playbook, and they have done it for generations in other arenas -- such as the Civil Rights Congress, which began its life right after World War II as a perfectly legitimate, albeit labor-liberal, civil-rights organization. The Communists (e.g., Stalinists) infiltrated enough people into the group to get themselves elected to the important offices -- and turned it into a Soviet-Communist front group. One element of the strategy is to drive as many dissenting views out the door by aggressively boorish, even thuggish behavior.
How is what happened with King Lear, or what happened to Jay Nordlinger at a string-quartet performance upstairs of Carnegie Hall (see John's post), any different? It should be clear that when people with a history of thuggishly politicizing non-partisan political events or organizations are caught thuggishly politicizing non-political cultural events, we can safely conclude it's neither astonishing coincidence nor puzzling happenstance. It is, as Ian Fleming wrote, enemy action.
I have my own dreadful experience of just such a phenomenon, which I thought I had written about here at some length but can't seem to find. Some years ago, I attended the retirement party for my favorite teacher, whom I will simply call Fitz, at my old junior high school. Fitz was a math and science teacher, shaggy-haired and reliably absent-minded, and nearly everybody who had him as a teacher loved him.
His retirement party was held in a public park and attended by at least 1,500 people, including current and former students and their families. Lots of what is now called middle-school age children in attendance.
The other teachers in the special program in which Fitz taught got up to deliver encomiums, including one teacher from long after I matriculated on to high school and eventually university. This teacher -- I never met him and cannot now remember his name (nor would I want to do) -- allegly taught history and politics; but this was a simple retirement party for a math and science teacher. Nothing prepared me and a number of other attendees for what was to come.
Touching only momentarily on things related to Fitz, this other fellow chose not to linger. Instead, amidst what should have been a Fitz speech, he launched into, I rib you not, an obscenity-laced tirade against George W. Bush and his administration, the Iraq war, Republicans in general, conservatives in particular, and specifically, religious conservatives in a string of venomous personal attacks, using language more suited to a muleteer or a dockwalloper. It went on and on, occasionally punctuated by the lemming-like applause from similarly slope-browed products of consanguineous marriage who thought the venue perfectly appropriate for Democratic demagoguery of the brass-knuckle variety.
I rose from my front-row seat and strode angrily up the aisle and away, abandoning the field -- because the only alternative I could envision was to walk the other direction, up to the speaker's lectern, and see if I could refute him with a right cross... a course of action I was perilously close to undertaking.
I am still enraged at that fat, Franken-like buffoon for ruining a simple party in appreciation for a quarter-century of teaching high-level math and science to junior-high kids; at the liberals in the audience for not only tolerating but cheering on the hijacking; and at the LAUSD for hiring such a scumpuddle to berate and bitch-slap pre-pubescent 12 year olds into aping the Communist agitprop with which I'm certain he fills their "history" hours.
And don't think for two consecutive seconds that his rant was spontaneous; if you're anxious to give that bipedal toadie the benefit of the doubt, first buttonhole David Horowitz and ask him what he thinks (not Horowitz the consumer advocate but Horowitz the former editor of Ramparts and leftist agitator turned conservative agitator). This is deliberate. This is planned. This is the visible wake of a subaqueous leviathon conspiracy to drive antiliberals out of every sphere of public life, until we can speak our minds, or even exist, only in caverns and catacombs, like the Jews and early Christians in ancient Israel under the bootheel of the Roman Empire.
And a seredipitous advantage to the Left is that it sounds so fantastic that anybody stepping forward to tell you that lefties politicize the non-political precisely in order to drive out traditional Americans sounds like a raving madman with delusions of persecution and grandeur. (Believe me, I've seen the glances askance.)
I think the only viable solution is to continually and loudly call them on their impropriety, insensitivity, politicization, and tribal partisanship... but we should only do so in appropriate venues, or we risk falling into the very trap they set for us.
Date ►►► January 26, 2009
Do You Want Yer Old Lobby Washed Down?
President Barack H. Obama has decreed that there will be no earmarks in the bulging Democratic "stimulus" package (which contains virtually nothing that might actually stimulate the economy); and indeed, he will probably be true to his word... the pork will not be doled out in relatively transparent earmarks, but by the utterly opaque decisions of local Democratic elected officials behind closed doors in formerly smoke-filled rooms:
President Barack Obama's ban on earmarks in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill doesn't mean interest groups, lobbyists and lawmakers won't be able to funnel money to pet projects.
They're just working around it -- and perhaps inadvertently making the process more secretive.
The projects run the gamut: a Metrolink station that needs building in Placentia, Calif.; a stretch of beach in Sandy Hook, N.J., that could really use some more sand; a water park in Miami.
There are thousands of projects like those that once would have been gotten money upfront but now are left to scramble for dollars at the back end of the process as "ready to go" jobs eligible for the stimulus plan.
The result, as The Associated Press learned in interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and state and local officials, is a shadowy lobbying effort that may make it difficult to discern how hundreds of billions in federal money will be parceled out.
Change we can believe in!
It's a sad turn when we find ourselves pining for the good old days of earmarks, which at least were spelled out somewhere (even if inserted during the joint reconciliation conference between the Senate and House versions of a bill and never specifically voted on by the general membership of Congress). But even that is preferable to the nightmare that Obama's facile and naive prohibition of "earmarks" has wrought: Now, the anticipated $800 billion of new spending will simply be listed as a series of block grants to states or even individual cities, to be spent as the locals see fit... which means the same lobbyists that once courted Congress are now busily buddying up to local elected officials instead.
The latter will spend their share of the giveaway without any public accounting of where it went; and the only "oversight" will be by Democrat-dominated committees in Congress and la Casablanca. But I'm sure they'll apply just as strict a scrutiny to money spent by the Democratic governor of New York (David Paterson) or the Democratic mayor of San Francisco (Gavin Newsom) as they will to the Republican governor of Mississippi (Haley Barbour) or the Republican mayor of Oklahoma City (Mick Cornett)... don'tcha think?
Note the new category tag for this post; I expect to be using it incessantly for the next four years...
Date ►►► January 22, 2009
Dear John Hinderaker;
You close your otherwise excellent blogpost on the Obamic executive orders today with the following:
Today's executive order can charitably be described as meaningless, but it illuminates the least attractive side of Barack Obama: his tendency to combine self-righteousness with lack of seriousness.
Now, you're a real lawyer, while I only occasionally play sea-lawyer in the blogosphere; I am not even up to the level of an egg on legal matters; yet still, if the New York Times is accurate that the executive order says that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order" -- then doesn't the order mean that, notwithstanding whether or not the administration has figured out what to do with the terrorist detainees, if the order is not countermanded by a later order, by congressional legislation, or by judicial decision, Gitmo must close as of January 22nd, 2010?
Even if that means transferring the detainees into civilian prisons or even just dumping them onto the streets of some city in the United States?
I don't understand how an executive order signed by the president can legally be ignored by the federal agencies and departments that run the facility. Please help me out!
"Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards"
Curiouser and curiouser, to continue the Alice references; President Barack H. Obama has just signed three executive orders ordering the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility closed within a year, along with all other "secret overseas prisons" run by the CIA, and banning the use of harsh or undisclosed interrogation techniques. And then, after signing these executive orders, he subsequently "ordered a cabinet-level review" of whether any of this is even possible:
But even as he reversed the most disputed counterterrorism policies of the Bush years, Mr. Obama postponed for at least six months difficult decisions on the details. He ordered a cabinet-level review of the most challenging questions his administration faces -- what to do with dangerous prisoners who cannot be tried in American courts; whether some interrogation methods should remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them; and how the United States can make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured.
Fiddle-faddle; don't bother the president with such engineering details! I'm sure if we just put on our thinking caps, we'll come up with the easy, obvious solution that somehow escaped everyone's notice all these years.
Fortunately, Obama is in deep consultation with important leaders of the military and intelligence communities and following their unbiased advice:
As Mr. Obama signed three orders in a White House ceremony, 16 retired generals and admirals who have fought for months for a ban on coercive interrogations stood behind him and applauded. The group, organized to lobby the Obama transition team by the group Human Rights First, did not include any career C.I.A. officers or retirees. [Why invite the opposition to confuse matters by participating in the discussion?]
“We intend to win this fight,” Mr. Obama said, “We are going to win it on our own terms.”
So how, exactly, are we to induce agents of al-Qaeda, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to tell us what they know even if they really don't want to? That much, at least, the president has already figured out:
“We believe we can abide by a rule that says, we don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need,” Mr. Obama said.
¡Si, su puede!
His cadre of retired flag-rank officers have even more detailed plans of just how to encourage, cajole, and jolly terrorist detainees into spilling their guts without in any way inconveniencing them (which would be unconstitutional):
John D. Hutson, a retired admiral and law school dean, was at the signing ceremony “He really gets it,” Mr. Hutson said of Mr. Obama in an interview a few minutes after the ceremony. “He acknowledged that this isn’t easy. But he is absolutely dedicated to getting us back on track as a nation. This is the right thing to do morally, diplomatically, militarily and Constitutionally. But it also makes us safer.”
Who can argue with that?
Republicans feebly protested that Obama is being unrealistic, that he has no plan, that he simply announced the decision and will leave it to others to find a way to make bricks without straw. Bitter cynics... don't they understand this is a new era of hope and change?
Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close Guantánamo by a year from now “places hope ahead of reality -- it sets an objective without a plan to get there.”
He said that in briefings for Congress on Wednesday, administration officials “could not answer questions as to what they will do with any new jihadists or enemy combatants that we capture.”
“What are we to do with these people, bring them to the very place they hoped to attack: The United States? What do we do with confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow terrorist conspirators, offer them jail cells in American communities?”
I was always skeptical of Paul Mirengoff's belief that Obama doesn't really mean what he proclaims, that we should eschew all of George W. Bush's extraordinarily successful policies to fight terrorism in an insane rush back to the failed policy of Bill Clinton to treat terrorism as just another civilian crime. And I'm still not convinced that Obama is an utter fool: Perhaps in the end, he'll be overtaken by events and be forced to adopt Bush over Clinton. But the madness of these executive orders shakes my normal optimism.
Will it take another 9/11 to awaken the Somnambulant One? Will the Student Prince come to his senses -- returning to the combination of free-market Capitalism and gritty, determined national defense that has served us so spectacularly for so long -- before another few thousand Americans are slaughtered by an enemy who isn't cowed by thirty days detention and doesn't seek plea bargains?
Or will even that be enough? Alas, I suspect that rather than drive us back towards Bush's measured but relentless prosecution of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, such an attack would so shock the American people that they would demand we use any means necessary to protect our country.
Desperation and impatience gives statist Democrats a blank check to seize control of everything everywhere -- "for the duration" -- so as to allow Barack Obama to rule by decree, as previous presidents did during national crises, both real (the Civil War, World War II) and imaginary (the "100% Americanism" of the Woodrow Wilson administration). This is precisely the kind of circumstances that leads to what Jonah Goldberg calls liberal fascism, or (he hates this shorthand term) fascism with a smiley face.
The details of Obama's first executive orders do nothing to alleviate nervousness; it is now clear that those prisoners currently held in Gitmo will be moved to facilities in the United States itself:
The order calls for a cabinet-level panel to grapple with issues including where in the United States prisoners might be moved and what courts they could be tried in....
Mr. Obama had suggested in the campaign that, in place of military commissions, he would prefer prosecutions in federal courts or, perhaps, in the existing military justice system, which provides legal guarantees similar to those of American civilian courts.
Trying the detainees as defendants in the United States -- whether in civilian courts or military courts-martial -- ensures that the federal judiciary will have its full jurisdiction, as it would of any prisoner held for any civil offense. I believe that ultimately, the courts will demand nothing less than full "constitutional rights" for all terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield -- including Miranda warnings and the requirement that all evidence must be collected pursuant to a search warrant issued by a judge or magistrate... even during combat.
Any evidence that isn't collected with the same measured legal rigor that police departments across the nation are required to use will almost certainly be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Terrorists will have the right to demand reams of top-secret, code-word classified intelligence at their trials; and when the CIA or DoD refuses to release that information to terrorists (and to their attorneys, supplied by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Iran), federal judges will decide they have "no choice" but to set the accused free... every time.
I don't know how we recover from such a catastrophic error in judgment, even if later President Obama eventually realizes what he's done: Once we allow ordinary federal courts jurisdiction in such cases, the Supreme Court will never allow us to take it away again; the camel's foot is already in the door. We shall become the first nation in history -- but alas, probably not the last -- to extend full constitutional rights and privileges to prisoners captured during wartime, even to unlawful enemy combatants.
But at least, thank goodness, liberal "human rights" organizations and the world's elite news media will cheer us. Our precious national reputation will no longer be in "tatters." And once again, America will be a nation of "ideals."
Until the next attack, after which the pendulum will swing hard in the other direction; and we shall become a liberal-fascist state again, as we did under Franklin Roosevelt and under Woodrow Wilson before him.
Date ►►► January 21, 2009
Obama's Inarguable Address - Interlude
By the way, here's something even more interesting than Coldplay ripping off Joe Satriani (tip of the hat to Michael Medved)...
Anybody remember this unforgettable line from Barack H. Obama's inaggravating address?
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
Of course, Fred Astaire's character really was supposed to be able to dance; he fakes being a novice, falling down repeatedly, so he can trick Ginger Rogers into "teaching" him (his interest is purely amorous). Two minutes later, he saves her job by pretending that she has managed, in a single lesson, to turn him into -- well, into Fred Astaire! (Pause the video the moment it starts, let it load fully, then slide forward to about 2:36 to see how the scene above continues.)
I certainly don't begrudge the student prince in old Washingberg cribbing from the best -- Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields; though I strongly suspect Obama or his speechwriters heard the Natalie Cole version instead: I just can't picture that crowd of po-mo lefties actually watching Fred Astaire movies from the 1930s.
But couldn't they at least have given attribution?
Date ►►► January 20, 2009
Obama's Inaugural Address: 1313 S Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92802
Part I: Tuesday our prince will come
I'm afraid I overslept and missed the president's inaugural address. Sorry. But I did bite the medicine and read the whole thing.
I admit I was reading with an eye towards fisking it; but I realized I was too late, for President Barack H. Obama beat me to it. But as I read through his pot of message (toothpicks holding my eyes open, like a cartoon character desperately trying to keep awake), I noticed a recurring theme, a leitmotif in some fantasia that continued bringing me related imagery. Let's run through a few excerpts and see if our gentle readers have the same reaction.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
This invocation is so stirring, so specific and direct, that it surely moves us to action, reminding one inexorably of those great moments with Mr. Lincoln that we all imbibed as little children in our little government schools. I can almost hear the second movement of Rossini's overture to William Tell -- the storm-tossed grain, the shutters of the farmhouse flapping in the gale -- followed by the grand, heroic theme of the fourth movement (the "Lone Ranger" part). The heart leaps!
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.
We mustn't live like Peter Pan and his lost boys in a Never-Never Land of political argument; rather we must finally grow up, just as Wendy, John, and Michael Darling finally did, to the post-racial, post-partisan, post-ideological, post-national, post-modern world of Barack Obama.
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
Let John Smith and Pocahontas marry and gain their full measure of happiness; it will bring all peoples of the world together, uniting us; for indeed, though the mountains divide, and the oceans are wide, it's a small small world.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less [like Mittens the cat in last year's "Bolt"]. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted [like Ichabod Crane"] -- for those who prefer leisure over work [like those blubberballs in space that we saw in WALL-E], or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame [à la Captain Jack Sparrow]. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated ["what a boon, what a do-er, what a dream comer-truer was he, Daniel Boone!"] but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom [all those "little people" who dig for gems of greatness amid the lightless mines of obscurity].
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life [Obama speaks of the Pilgrims, including John Smith, op.cit.].
For us, they toiled in sweatshops [like those cute ants in "a Bug's Life"] and settled the West [as did Joe Crane and Andy Burnett]; endured the lash of the whip [just like Quasimodo!] and plowed the hard earth [as Mulan's father did, before he was drafted].
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn [Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, lays down his life at the Alamo].
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction [or species... "It's the Circle of Life, and it moves us all."]
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.
"Through despair and hope, through faith and love..."
Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed.
"Till we find our place, on the path unwinding..."
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
"In the Circle, the Circle of Life!"
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. [We could really use an extra big pinch of pixie dust right about now.] We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. [All right, maybe a handful of the stuff.] We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. [Double handful; maybe a bucket.] We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. [Tinkerbell scowls, scrounging through pocket after pocket for the last few grains.] And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do. [Tink! Come on everybody, quick -- clap your hands! Better yet, find a pixie-sized defibrillator; I think poor Tink has suffered a myocardial infarction from an overdose of magical demands.]
That's it for now, Obamateers; tune in tomorrow for the conclusion.
Bee-Ay-Are... Are you ready for change you can believe in?
Ay-See-Kay... ¿Qué? ¡Si, se puede!
Date ►►► January 19, 2009
But in Theory... part Deux: the Virtue of Hypocrisy
Thursday, we explored the psychotic nature of Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct, wherein liberals reject all facts, observations, and measurements that conflict with the liberal "theory" about something. (Here "theory" is one component of what Saint Thomas Sowell refers to as "the vision of the anointed;" the latter is the collection of all the liberal theories, a liberal "Theory of Everything.")
Today we see a perfect example of how this theoretical construct turns into a policy prescription, to the catastrophic endangerment of our country.
Let's dress the stage: Just before his inauguration, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was poised to ban all "harsh interrogation" of terrorist detainees, based upon the liberal theory that clever interrogation that stays within the bounds of ordinary criminal investigation will uncover all the same information as harsh interrogation -- and do so even quicker!
President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans.
The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the officials said. The plans would also have the effect of shutting down secret "black site" prisons around the world where the CIA has questioned terror suspects -- with all future interrogations taking place inside American military facilities.
This is utter madness; why would any terrorist detainee talk if he knew there was nothing the interrogator could do to him if he refused? How does a smart man like Obama justify grafting naive theoretical idiocy onto the necessary hard policy of defending the United States from terrorist attack?
Simple: He doesn't! Instead, in perhaps the most breathtakingly exercise of sanctimonious doubletalk of my lifetime, the incoming administration punctuates their absolute exclamation point with a question mark:
However, Obama's changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said.
Obama vehemently rejects the "harsh" interrogations of the Bush regime; this gives the incoming administration the cheers and jubiliation from the international community to which the One believes himself to be entitled by birth. And then, on the other shoe, he lets his aides announce publicly that he will actually continue the exact, same techniques that he just condemned.
What an operator! If Niccolo Machiavelli (or P.T. Barnum) were alive today, he would be rolling in his grave.
I was partway through writing this post when I suddenly found myself in a quandry (or if you prefer, a quagmire): Paul of
Tarsus Power Line put up his own post, saying more or less what I had been in the process of writing; later that same day (Saturday), John followed with another that enunciated the rest of what I'd been about to say. I was about to delete my post unpublished.
But something wasn't quite right about the two Power Line posts; something was missing.
It took me a couple of days, but I think I have it: John noted the "hypocrisy" of Barack Obama, making a cause celebre of saying that he will "end harsh interrogations," thus garnering a verbal jamboree and hootenanny from the internationalists in Europe and Asia... while at the same time hinting that of course he will be willing to use those techniques if ordinary interrogation doesn't work.
But I think John is wrong to call it hypocrisy: It's not even honest hypocrisy; it's something cruder and viler.
Honest hypocrisy ("the tribute vice pays to virtue") is itself a cultural virtue, in that it reinforces our cultural norms. Hypocrisy arises from a sense of one's own guilt; a senator knows he shouldn't, e.g., favor political donors with earmarks; so he goes to great lengths to conceal what he's done. It may not be illegal, but it looks bad; he feels that he has done something wrong (guilt), so he loudly protests his innocence -- and points a finger at some other senator.
But what has Barack Obama done here? He condemns George W. Bush, who always stated up front that he was willing to engage in "harsh interrogation techniques" if that's what it took to gain the intel that would keep the nation safe; Obama thus advertises himself as nobler and more moral than Bush, because Obama believes in international law and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
This is 99 44/100% pure sanctimony. But then Obama compounds the felony -- by allowing his advisors to openly state, in the name of the One We Have Been Waiting For, that he has every intention of violating his own prohibition whenever keeping it would inconvenience him.
He makes no attempt to conceal the dichotomy between what he says and what he does; hence Obama does not even have the consciousness of guilt: He sees nothing contradictory or wrong about attacking Bush's morals and character for doing something Obama calls a crime against humanity (torture), but then turning about and doing the exact same thing himself, and quite brazenly.
At least one of the following conclusions must be true; all may be true simultaneously:
- Barack Obama, and every liberal who fails to denounce him for it, is guilty of situational ethics, a game of moral "conjugation" -- "I am an ethical pragmatist; you cut ethical corners; he or she is a war criminal!"
- Obama understands that Bush only did what he had to do to protect the country; yet Obama sees nothing wrong with trashing his predecessor's character, reputation, and legacy for transient political advantage.
- Obama has utter contempt for the intelligence of the American people and thinks they'll never figure out his verbal judo move; in fact, he's laughing up his sleeve at his rhetorical end-run around the truth.
(3) is especially troubling, because if true, it would make Obama akin to the megalomaniacal supervillains of comic books, at least in the way he mocks the ability of the average Joe or Jane to understand the rare ratiocination of the Obamic oracle. Like the Riddler, Obama delights in dropping little clues to his own villainy that he believes will be utterly opaque to the American voter, giving him further proof (as if any were needed) of his own genius compared to everyone around him.
This is not a good quality to have in a President of the United States. But what do people expect when well over half the country voted for a man with no experience to prepare him for the presidency, no background in the great issues of the day, and who refused to enunciate a single principled policy, treating the election as a rolling coronation?
The danger to the country is very real. First, without clear guidance of when to use such harsh interrogation techniques, I doubt that military or CIA interrogators will be willing to bet their jobs and their freedom on the loyalty of a man with a needle-less moral compass.
Second, to the extent to which our captured militant-Islamist enemies believe Obama, they will be emboldened to laugh in the faces of their interrogators... and to the extent to which they disbelieve Obama, they will see him as weak and spineless, afraid to "own" the very methods that might actually work to gain the intelligence we need. Either way, they drink Obama's milkshake.
Finally, it will give our fainthearted "allies" ammunition to use against the Obama administration when (inevitably) they find themselves still less willing to fight and more willing to appease than even a Democratic America; and considering how devastating such a charge would be to a man who has already billed himself as holier than any number of thous, Obama would, I think, be more inclined than was President Bush to bow to the wishes of the defeatists and make his ersatz prohibition genuinely absolute. He will have painted himself into a hole for which he has no key.
Such is what we, the people, reap when Barack Obama sows mendacity and character assassination from the bully pulpit.
Date ►►► January 15, 2009
But in Theory...
Of all the crazy memes flogged by Democrats and liberals, this one is, I believe, the most psychotic:
Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.
It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.
The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.
It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."
As a practical matter, Holder said torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. And on principle, he said the United States needs to live up to its own high standards, even in the face of fear and terrorism.
Let's walk it through; what exactly is Holder saying? Many members of President George W. Bush's administration have testified -- from those interrogators who were directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, each in 2003 (the only time evidence indicates we ever used waterboarding), to experienced military and intelligence experts, to high officials (including, op.cit., Vice President Dick Cheney) -- that waterboarding those three top terrorists in fact yielded a wealth of intelligence; that intel directly led to hundreds of arrests and the disrupting and interdicting of scores of follow-on terrorist attacks against the United States, saving thousands upon thousands of American civilian lives.
Numerous people are in custody in Guantanamo Bay today because we caught them red-handed in the midst of plotting terrorist attacks -- with ample physical evidence to back up the charges -- on the basis of searches and investigations sparked by the intelligence gained from waterboarding Mohammed, Zubayday, and Nashiri.
But no... the Left considers waterboarding to be "torture," and the Left's theory about torture states unequivocally and without exception that "torture does not lead to reliable intelligence."
Ergo, none of the foregoing ever really happened: We didn't actually get intelligence from waterboarding the Three Amigos; we didn't really disrupt any terrorist plots; we didn't actually arrest anyone (or if we did, they were necessarily innocent bystanders); and in fact, we didn't stop further attacks on the country; thus, by a simple deduction, we actually were hit again and again by the terrorists -- and the Bush regime just covered it all up, yet another Bush war crime!
Sure, physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.
Oddly, this is the same argumentative technique used in the globaloney debate; perhaps it needs its own name: How about Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct?
- Your so-called "measurements" claim that the Earth's temperature rise since 1900 correlates almost exactly with solar activity, and there has been no global temperature increase since 1998 (in fact, a decrease). But the theory of anthropogenic ("human created") global warming -- which every legitimate scientist accepts -- belies that claim. Therefore, your measurements must be in error... go and fix them, and don't come back for more funding until you do!
- According to all supposed observers in Iraq, including those vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, since the Bush regime implemented the surge, military and civilian deaths have plummeted to the normal base-level of violence found in Arab countries. But as we told you repeatedly, the "surge" could not possibly work, because there is no military solution to military defeat. So who are you going to believe -- the considered weight of expert opinion from nearly all foreign-policy professionals, including some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize... or your own lyin' eyes?
- All those revisionist historians and economists have been busy tarnishing the reputation of the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, producing fact after evidence after measurement indicating that none of his New Deal programs did anything to end the Great Depression, that it continued unabated until the beginning of World War II; but it's utterly impossible in theory that programs with such good intentions -- implemented by a brilliant president who was not only the darling of liberal, compassionate professors and socialist progressives and reformers but even of the masses -- could possibly fail. Clearly then, FDR's NRA and other programs restored the American economy and ended the depression... and any claims to the contrary are just mean-spirited attacks by frustrated conservative Republican robber-barons.
- John Lott and other eggheads have published numerous books purporting to show that increasing civilian ownership of guns decreases, not increases, the homicide and other violent crime rates; but this is absurd on its face: The only purpose of a gun is to kill; and everybody knows that guns are useless in self-defense because the criminal will simply take it away from the victim (and get very angry). So the only explanation for the spate of pro-gun books is... Lott, et al, are being paid off by the NRA! (The other NRA, the bad NRA -- not the good one of the previous example. Nitpicker.)
Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct: Add that one to the list; it will crop up again and again.
Date ►►► January 14, 2009
The Movable Feast of "Torture"
At last, the Democrats believe they finally have "proof" of what they have contended all along: The Bush administration "tortured" at least one detainee at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp!
Their star witness is Susan J. Crawford, a fifteen-year veteran of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; according to the New York Times, Crawford is "the convening authority of military commissions," "the senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees." She recently gave an interview to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, and the Post and Times have really gone to town on it. Liberals will be dining out on Crawford's admission for years and years, as they try to paint the adminstration of George W. Bush as out of control torturers, abusers, molesters, warmongers, and Constitution-shredders.
But the reality is far more quotidian: As with nearly every other example of top government officials determining, concluding, or holding that terrorist detainees were "tortured," what Crawford's decision not to prosecute the "victim" via the military commissions actually reflects is the ever-shifting sands of what legally constitutes torture in the first place.
The facts, as the elite media see them, via the Times:
The public record of the Guantánamo interrogation of the detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has long included what officials labeled abusive techniques, including exposure to extreme temperatures and isolation, but the Pentagon has resisted acknowledging that his treatment rose to the level of torture.
But the official, Susan J. Crawford, told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that she had concluded that his treatment amounted to torture when she reviewed military charges against him last year. In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.
“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution, Ms. Crawford was quoted as saying in an article published in The Post on Wednesday.
First, it's critical to remember who, exactly, Mohamed Mani Ahmad al-Kahtani is. He is generally acknowledged to be the missing "20th hijacker" who was supposed to be the fifth man on the hijacking team on United Airlines flight 93, along with Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. (The other three planes hijacked -- United flight 175 and American Airlines flights 11 and 77 -- each contained a five-man Einsatzgruppe). Kahtani was "muscle," one of the dim-witted thugs whose job was to brutally suppress any resistance by the passengers during the ritual human sacrifice of thousands.
We note that although Crawford won't let the case be prosecuted, she emphatically does not suggest that the evil mass-murderer-wannabe Mohamed Kahtani be released. "There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001.... He’s a muscle hijacker.... He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’" But Crawford is the only Bush administration official to conclude that we tortured Kahtami. So the next question is, What is "the legal definition of torture" anyway?
The United Nations General Assembly enacted a Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1984; this included (as one might expect) a definition of torture:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
This would ban not only obvious torture, such as Saddam Hussein regularly engaged in (Iraq was not a signatory), but even any form of questioning that coerced, frightened, or indimidated detainees into revealing information they would rather keep secret; it would essentially ban any interrogation harsher than polite asking.
But are we legally bound by that definition? We signed the convention in 1988, and it was ratified by the Senate in 1994... but it was ratified with a list of "reservations" and "understandings":
- First, we held that the convention's reference to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" would be interpreted in the United States as, and was only ratified under the definition of, "the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States."
In other words, we officially and formally rejected the wider, expansive defintion of torture, inhuman treatment, or degrading treatment. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see how the U.N. defintion can legally be enforced here.
In other "reservations" to and "understandings" about the ratification, we:
- Rejected article 30 (1), which allowed any country to take a dispute about torture to the International Court of Justice for adjudication or arbitration;
Enunciated our own definition of torture:That with reference to article 1, the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
Note that this definition would not, it appears, ban waterboarding; while waterboarding does involve "the threat of imminent death," there is no evidence for (and a great deal against) the proposition that its use induces "prolonged mental harm." In fact, those who are waterboarded, either in earnest or in training, appear to fully recover within a minute or two of the procedure ending.
- Expressed our understanding that any sanction would be enacted according to U.S. law, not tried by an international court, unless in a particular case we agree to do so;
- Fiddled with the rules of when and to where we could rendite prisoners, interpreting "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture" to mean "more likely than not that he would be tortured";
- Noted that international law does not prohibit the death penalty, and that we do not consider capital punishment to be torture;
And finally, the most important proviso attached to our ratification:
- "That the United States declares that the provisions of articles 1 through 16 of the Convention are not self-executing."
Articles 1 through 16 comprise Part I of the convention, which defines torture and details all the legal procedures available to supposed victims and the sanctions that must be applied to supposed perpetrators. Had the (Democratic!) Senate not included this final, important caveat, then all of the provisions of Part I would have attained the legal status of the Constitution itself, and supposed victims could sue for injunctive relief (a court order requiring the U.S. government or a state government to do X, Y, or Z to pull themselves into compliance with "international law") whenever they claimed any jot or tittle of the U.N. definition had been violated... spelling the end of U.S. sovereignty whenever we didn't obey the International Court of Justice.
Whew! Let's return from our forray into the jungle of domestic and international law and the Convention Against Torture to Kahtani himself. What exactly did we do to him at Gitmo? According to the Times:
Military documents show that Mr. Qahtani’s repeated interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003 included prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold and involuntary grooming. He was also forced to dance with a male interrogator and to obey dog commands, including “stay,” “come” and “bark.” [I can only assume that "involuntary grooming" means forcing the malodorous bastard to wash, and perhaps washing him with a firehose if he refuses.]
A Pentagon inquiry in 2005 found that the methods were “degrading and abusive.”
Prolonged isolation sounds suspiciously like solitary confinement, which is definitely not considered "torture" under American law. Sleep deprivation is somewhat harsher; but it's routinely used even by domestic police interrogators, at least so I understand. Again, doesn't seem to be unconstitutional.
Exposure to cold... well, depends how cold. Since this is all taking place in Guantanamo Bay -- in Cuba -- unless they're putting him in a meat freezer, I can't imagine it's all that cold. Probably just cold enough to be uncomfortable for a thug who grew up in Saudi Arabia. And of course, involuntary grooming is a staple not only in American prisons but also the American military, American restaurant kitchens, and American public schools... which last also sometimes require involuntary groin protection in the same gym classes that do the involuntary grooming business (showers).
Forcing him to dance with men and even obey doggie commands seems merely irritating; I cannot imagine that it would produce "prolonged mental harm," except insofar as, being a Moslem -- a religion that tends to inculcate virulent misogyny -- forcing Kahtani into a female role might make him feel inferior and could lead to "shrinkage."
Finally, we have the only interrogation technique that might -- might -- constitute degrading treatment (contrary to popular belief, even in the Wahabbist and Salafist sects of Islam, soap and water are not considered "degrading"): forced nudity. But even here, while it may be humiliating, is it really credible that laughing at his insignificant manhood would produce "prolonged mental harm?"
I believe that Crawford herself more or less agrees with the specifics of the above, differing only on the impact of the totality. In the original Woodward interview, here is a more complete version of her remarks:
Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.(The Post also gives a more complete accounting of how he was interrogated, which I quote here to be completist but relegate to the "slither through" to not interrupt the narrative.)
So if it's really dicey whether any of this constituted torture, why does the Pentagon claim it did? Well, in fact, it didn't until quite recently; several previous investigations exonerated the interrogators:
In a statement Tuesday night, the Pentagon said that more than a dozen prior investigations had concluded that the interrogations were lawful.
“However, subsequent to those reviews,” the statement said, “the department adopted new and more restrictive policies and improved oversight procedures for interrogation and detention operations.”
“Some of the aggressive questioning techniques used on al-Qahtani,” the statement continued, “although permissible at the time, are no longer allowed in the updated Army field manual.”
And there you have it -- our interrogators were not engaging in torture as we officially understood that word at the time; rather, we have retroactively changed the definition to make what we did torture ex-post facto. And that is what Susan Crawford meant when she said, with important caveats added back in, "His [earlier] treatment met the [years later] legal [re-]definition of torture."
That is the nut of liberalism -- moving the goalposts and condemning by retroactive judgment. I'm not claiming that Susan Crawford, long-time military appellate-court judge, is a liberal; she clearly is not. But she does suffer from Lindsey Graham derangement syndrome (or JAGitis), seeing everything through a judicial prism.
For example, Crawford believes we should never coerce any sort of testimony; after all, "you don't allow it in a regular court," she says... either unaware of or ignoring the irreducible facts: (a) We need intelligence to keep Americans safe from terrorist attack, but (b) most terrorists will not voluntarily cough up such information.
So what are we to do? Crawford has no answer. She knows we should never coerce testimony, but she also knows we must somehow extract all the intel we need to thwart attacks, and she doesn't appear t notice the glaring contradiction between those two goals. ("I must... but I cannot... but I must!") Certainly she makes no effort to weigh the importance of each and decide which must prevail in a given circumstance.
So she is not a liberal, but she is also not a counterterrorism hawk. However, it is liberals like Bob Woodward and the editors at the Post and the Times who have seized upon her unhelpful and misleading claim that we "tortured" detainees; and it is liberals who have used that charge as a bombast to cripple the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.
At least Crawford has the decency to agonize over her pronouncement; Democrats are practically beside themselves with triumph and glee, if these articles are any indication.
But that's the liberal way, whether it's redefining torture after the fact in order to accuse the Bush "regime" of war crimes -- or redefining the word "lie" to include "statement later proven to be partially in error;" setting the bar a mile high for their political enemies yet an inch high for themselves; redefining "science" to mean "accepting without question liberal shibboleths on 'sillicon disease,' 'secondhand smoke,' and of course the deadly poison gas carbon dioxide; and redefining what is and is not a legally cast vote in a presidential election. More than any other idiosyncratic form of argument, liberals love Argument by Tendentious Redefinition; it fits perfectly into their traditional disassociation from the "reality" they reject as too limiting.
And that is just what they are engaging in here, with the reluctant but useful connivance of a mushy-moral, compassionate-conservative military jurist who cannot separate what we must do to collect intelligence from what we should do if we plan to try terrorists in civilian court... which is a great argument for not bothering to try terrorists in civilian court, an important point that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ought to have considered before joining the liberals in the Hamdan and Boumediene decisions.
From the Woodward article in the Washington Post:
[Kahtami's] interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.
"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."
At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks," the report shows.
The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.
Date ►►► January 13, 2009
Only the UnAnointed People Pay Taxes
Continuing the passing parade of embarassing Obamic appointments, the One's nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, is in a bit of hot water. As it turns out, he failed to pay thousands of dollars in self-employment tax for several years -- in the 2000s; and despite an IRS ruling in 2006, he continued to fail to pay them (plus interest and penalties) until scant days before he was nominated by Barack H. Obama, after the transition team discovered Geithner's little faux pas:
Timothy Geithner paid most of the past-due taxes days before Obama announced his nomination in November, an Obama transition official said. The unpaid taxes were discovered by Obama's transition team while investigating Geithner's background, the official said....
Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes for money he earned while working for the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003, the transition official said. In 2006, the IRS notified him that he owed $14,847 in self-employment taxes and $2,383 in penalties from 2003 and 2004.
Transition officials discovered last fall that Geithner also had not paid the taxes in 2001 or 2002. He paid $25,970 in taxes and interest for those years several days before Obama announced his nomination, the transition official said.
Geithner can hardly plead honest ignorance (as Leon Piñata might argue, when he inevitably makes some boneheaded mistake as CIA Director); Geithner has had a long career in financial circles, including fourteen years at Treasury, culminating with a three-year stint as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs; and he has been President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since 2003. One would think that he would have a competent accountant doing his taxes by this point... or would at least had learned how to run TurboTax, which handles SE tax quite nicely (as I know from personal experience).
Was it the late and unlamented Leona Helmsley who was reputed to have said, "Only the little people pay taxes?" I have no idea what were her politics, but she should at least be named an honorary Democrat.
In the present case, Geithner joins former Commerce Secretary designate Bill Richardson -- withdrew due to a corruption investigation he forgot to mention to anyone -- and the aforementioned Mr. Piñata, named CIA Director despite having no intelligence experience whatsoever, on the grounds that he's really good at political infighting (politicization of intelligence, anyone?)
(Of course, Obama has made a few very good appointments; but they all seem to have been appointed by George W. Bush -- and retained by the president-elect.)
You'd think that someone who has focused virtually every waking moment upon making himself president, by hook or by crook -- rather than doing anything that would actually merit his election -- would have spent at least a smidgen of that effort selecting nominees who don't have any Zoe Baird-like scandals dangling over their heads.
But of course, being liberal means never having to say you're sorry -- if anybody was inadvertently offended by well-intentioned mistakes that were made in an environment of the economic devastation and Constitution shredding wrought by eight years of the Cheney-Rove regime.
George Voinovich Retiring. Can We Get a Republican Instead?
George Voinovich (RINO-OH, 48%) has announced that he won't run for reelection. He joins Mel Martinez (R-FL, 80%), Sam Brownback (R-KS, 95%), Kit Bond (R-MO, 83%), and possibly Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX, 88%) in the list of Republican senators who have either announced they won't run for reelection in 2010 or, in Hutchison's case, appears ready to resign to run for governor of Texas.
Voinovich has been a thorn in the eyes of the GOP for his entire tenure as U.S. senator. Probably for that very reason, his prospects for reelection in 2010 were already dicey.
While Voinovich gives the usual phoney-baloney reasons for not running for reelection -- wants to do the work of the people instead of campaigning, wants to spend more time with his family, yak blah -- the real reason for his departure may be somewhat more prosaic:
In announcing that he would not seek another term, Mr. Voinovich avoids what could have been a difficult re-election fight. As recently as December a Quinnipiac University poll found that fewer than half of all voters in the state -- 44 percent -- said he deserved to be elected to a third term. And voters were nearly evenly split on the question of whether they would vote for him or an unnamed Democrat.
Voinovich won handily the last time he ran, winning by 64 to 36 against Mike Fingerhut; but this was in 2004, during Bush's successful reelection. He also won fairly easily the first time he essayed the Senate in 1998, 56 to 44; in that election, he "ignored" (Michael Barone's word) the attacks of his opponent, County Commissioner Mary Boyle, and ran on his record as Governor of Ohio, winning the seat vacated by American hero turned Clinton lickspittle John Glenn.
But in the new, more Democratic Ohio of 2006 (Sherrod Brown beats Mike DeWine at the peak of the Ohio GOP scandal) and 2008 (Ohio narrowly goes for Barack H. Obama as the financial "cratering" -- George W. Bush's word -- looms); with tepid polling; and with Voinovich being already 72 years old (74 when the next election is held), he evidently sees the "mene mene" on the wall.
But I'm not convinced that the public is rejecting Voinovich because, with his 2007 48% rating from the American Conservative Union, is too conservative. It's much more plausible that his low ratings derive from Republican reluctance to reelect yet another tax-hiking, gun-grabbing, war-defeatist surrender monkey RINO back to the Senate.
I'd love to see an actual Republican run to replace him in what used to be the Republican state of Ohio. The question is, can an actual Republican be elected? I say Yes, Rob Portman can -- for reasons detailed below.
The $1.2 trillion question is this: Has Ohio fallen fully under the sway of the Dark Side, or was 2008 just a "Democratic year," with the normal pattern of favoring the "out" party returning in 2010? Is a GOP election victory in Ohio even possible?
First, note that Obama beat John S. McCain there by only half the margin (4%) last year that Sherrod Brown beat Mike DeWine by (8%) in 2006. While there certainly are confounding factors, I would imagine that Obama nevertheless was at least as appealing a candidate to Ohioans as Brown... implying that the taint of the Gov. Robert Taft corruption scandal and the Jack Abramoff-related scandals in that state may not be long lasting.
Whether or not a real Republican can win, I still want to see a more conservative -- or libertarian-conservative -- nominee for the Voinovich seat than the departing man himself. At the very least, I want to see what happens, how well an actual Republican like Portman does in that state. I suspect that he will begin with an approval rating north of Voinovich's current 44%.
Rob Portman is, in fact, the supposed favorite to replace Voinovich on the GOP ticket; Portman is the former director of OMB under President Bush and a former Ohio congressman:
Among those who are reportedly angling to replace Mr. Voinovich is a former Ohio congressman, Rob Portman, a Republican who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget and United States Trade Representative during the Bush administration.
Mr. Portman has not yet announced his candidacy, but Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sought to pre-empt him on Monday.
“It’s jaw-dropping,” Mr. Miller said, “that Republicans would seem to turn to a Washington insider like Rob Portman who was one of the architects of the Bush economic policies that have run up trillions in deficits and shipped jobs overseas.”
That "trillions in deficits" argument may not fly as well as a pig in 2010, after two years of Barack Obama's "stimulus" package.
Portman's last ACU rating (2004) was 88%, nearly twice that of Voinovich. Everyone seems to "expect" him to declare his candidacy today. He won all of his elections (general and primary) easily; but the second district of Ohio is staunchly Republican: Portman's successor, Jean Schmidt, even won in the debacle year of 2006 (albeit narrowly), then won reelection more substantially last year.
Even so, my intuition tells me that we're considerably better off in 2010 running Portman than Voinovich in the senatorial election, for all that we're swapping an incrumbent for an open seat.
The other states mentioned where Republican senators have decided not to run in 2010 (or in Hutchison's case, might decide to resign) seem reasonably safe to me: Only Florida went to Obama last November, and that extremely narrowly; Kansas and Texas were solidly for McCain, while Missouri remained red in the election's closest squeaker, 0.13%. But no congressional seats changed parties in MO in the 2008 election. (Several did in Florida, but they were nearly all attributable to the individual Republicans being personally enmeshed in either the Mark Foley or the Jack Abramoff scandals.) I don't see any projectable trend in those states from red to blue.
So far, at least, the retiring GOP senators have probably done us more good than bad by getting out now. I think that's certainly the case for Sen. Voinovich.
Date ►►► January 9, 2009
Low Blow to Slow Joe
Today saw the formal nomination of intelligence ignoramus Leon Panetta as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Panetta will be working under now formally nominated Director of National Intelligence designate Adm. Dennis C. Blair, who also appears to have no specific background in intelligence, other than whatever he picked up as commander of PACCOM -- mostly under Bill Clinton or George W. Bush prior to the September 11th attacks, during a period when intelligence gathering on terrorist groups was not exactly treated as a vital military task... what a team!
This strikes me as a good occasion to return to the subject of the surprise announcement of Panetta, and what it says about (wait for it) Vice President-select Joe Biden.
(Huh? What's the connection? Well hang your horses and I'll tell you.)
My friend the cybercolumnist Rich "Mullings" Galen made a brilliant point that I think worth repeating. Not because I have nothing else to say, but just because I really like it. Let's boil it down to a nuthole...
Galen notes that the VP select confessed that the incoming administration of Barack H. Obama made "a mistake" when it announced Panetta's appointment publicly without having troubled to discuss the matter with the incoming chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%)... or for that matter, with the outgoing chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 89%), either. Biden went on, in the Washington Post article linked above, to explain his fundamental philosophy on notifications:
"I'm still a Senate man. I always think this way. It's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress. I think it was just a mistake," Biden said after being sworn in today for another Senate term (he will resign his seat in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration).
According to Galen, who authors the wildly popular cybercolumn Mullings and a seemingly abandoned blog (which I suggested, to adder's ears, should be called "bluggings"), there are only two possibilities here, given that Biden says it's "always good" to talk to members before making such announcements:
- Obama didn't even bother to discuss the matter with Joe Biden, his own selection for vice president. If so, then Biden has to rank as one of the least important VPs in American history, only one step above those VPs who were notable mostly for being non-existent (such as Truman's vice president for his entire first term). Obviously, if the president-elect didn't even mention the appointment to the Biden-select, then Biden couldn't recommend that he discuss it with Feinstein and Rockefeller.
- Obama did discuss it with Biden. But as Galen points out, this would make the non-notification of the chairmen even worse than in case 1... because Biden would surely, given that he's "still a Senate man," have urged Obama to bring Feinstein and Rockefeller into the loop -- and Obama must therefore have said that he couldn't care less what the two Democratic chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee had to say about the appointment of the Director of the CIA. And Biden must have meekly said, "Oh. Okay." Wow.
Two conclusions are apparent: First, Barack Obama appears to be the most arrogant president-elect since FDR... but we already knew that.
And second, that the Vice Biden grows more transparent and wisplike with every passing day; by the inauguration, I fully expect him to be as invisible as the summer Santa Anna zephyr from the Inland Empire here in Southern California... an appropriate coda to a content-free congressional career.
I suspect folks will remember Truman's first-term vice president long after Slow Jow is consigned to the dustbin of history.
Hoping the Long Computer Nightmare Is Over...
As I think I've hinted, we've been having terrible computer problems since about mid-November. This is the worst I've ever personally experienced... but with brute determination -- perhaps better phrased as mulish stubbornness -- I was finally able to put everything back together, with only a few minor setbacks caused by listening to experts.
For those who are interested in these sorts of things --
-- It all began with a crash that prevented me from booting into Windows. It seemed that some boot file had gotten corrupted. Slumming on Sachi's Mac, I found a copy of it on Microsoft's website and replaced it; and for a day or two, it appeared to be working. But then another crash, and this time it was another boot file that wouldn't run.
(I'm not going to bother editing this; so if you find some stupid tyop, or if you some missing verb, feel free to comment on it and embarass me in front of my peers. Go ahead; I'm too relieved to care.)
More noodling around the web convinced me that part of the problem was my ancient motherboard, an Asus P4S8X from the Pre-Cambrian epoch. Replacing that file too, I got Windows up and running again; but this time, I was sure it would only be temporary. I decided that now might be a good time to upgrade the motherboard... so I bought a nice Gigabyte Ultra-Durable 3, which had gotten very good reviews by both professionals and consumers.
I naively assumed that Windows -- being an operating system -- would live on the Operating-System layer, not the hardware layer; therefore, it shouldn't care what hardware sat beneath it. After all, there is the network layer (a.k.a. communications layer) sitting there in between them!
Computer Architectural System Layers
Foolish me. In reality, Windows is so fragile, so badly designed, that changing the motherboard out from under the OS caused Windows to have a complete nervous breakdown, hysterically complaining that everything was changed and it didn't know what to do.
At this point, I decided to contact the real professionals, the geniuses at the Microsoft help desk... located, as they all are, in Bangalore, India. They informed me that Windows is integrated with the hardware (what a great design!) and could not be run on a new motherboard. They suggested I should simply buy another copy of Windows (the one I have was an upgrade from Windows ME, not a full-install version) and install it. This, they swore, would take care of the whole problem.
It took a while -- everybody is frantically flogging Windows Vista, not Windows XP -- but I finally found a full-install version of Windows for about $100. As instructed, I installed it in a different partition from the old Windows.
Surprise! While Windows did come up, it had no knowledge of any of my 126 applications. None of them. Thus, I would have to reinstall them all; naturally, I didn't have disks for each of them; while I have no illegal software here, I have certainly not kept tabs on each and every set of CDs (or in some cases, floppies) of every legacy program I have and use.
At this point, I belatedly remembered that I had used Norton Ghost to make disk images of every partition on my drives, just about three days before the crash; they were sitting on my terabyte Apricorn external USB hard drive. Aha, I thought, perhaps I can restore the system by just copying the disk images onto the partitions of my hard drive, replacing the new motherboard with the old one, and firing it up. There was only one catch: My Norton Ghost program was, of course, an application on the system of which Windows was unaware. In fact, I couldn't even run it by going to its directory and double-clicking the application file.
The only solution -- suggested by new help-deck experts from Bangalore, this time working for Symantec (which owns Norton Utilities) but sounding suspiciously like the previous experts allegedly working for Microsoft -- appeared to be to buy a new copy of Norton SystemWorks. Well, all right; my old copy was from 2005, perhaps it was time to upgrade. But I was beginning to notice that all "solutions" seemed to begin and end with buying more software from the experts' employers. Odd.
Skipping lightly over the fact that the new SystemWorks conflicted with ZoneAlarm, when I tried to restore the ghost image to the partitions, both the C: and D: drives had serious errors. The Norton experts assured me this was due to the hard disk itself, on which they say, being old, decrepit, decayed, and in a bad way generally.
I bunged out and bought a new drive; but the only drive I could find big enough to put all the partitions on one physical drive (to avoid buying two new ones, you see) was made for a SATA bus -- a different, more modern sort of connection to the motherboard than the old IDE 13,226,425-pin connectors we've all come to know and loathe. But again, I got the same errors.
I decided to heck with it; I would go with what I had. I rereplaced the motherboard with the original, hooked up the new drive (with the error-riddled, restored ghost images), booted, and --
Nothing. Nothing at all. It was as if there were no hard drive there whatsoever. Which was actually the case, as it turned out that the SATA connectors on the old motherboard were just there for show, I suppose, and didn't really work. Neither did the SATA card I installed. It seemed my only choice was to put the old drives back in; but when I did that, they failed.
At this point, all that mulishness set in; I decided I would put this bloody, blasted, tanstaafled system back together if it killed me. So there.
I had to (a) find a working IDE drive that was big enough, then (b) somehow partition it and get the Ghost disk images onto it, then (c) put it in the original motherboard, and finally (d) fix whatever errors were caused in the drives by all this nonsense. That meant removing the old board and putting the new one back in again, just long enough to run through the recovery-restoration procedure with the new SystemWorks. After doing this, I again replaced the new with the old, plugged in the new IDE drive, and turned everything on.
Nothing. I couldn't see a thing. Of course, one of the problems was that the old board wasn't quite installed correctly (it couldn't be), and the video card didn't sit low enough to be screwed tight. I tried poking at it, and for a brief moment, I saw some video. That meant that the current problem was a lack of a working video card.
I bought a replacement; I've always used nVidia GeForce cards... but this time I was misled by reviews to buy a Radeon whateveryoucallit instead. Surprise surprise! The card not only didn't work in my system -- it made such a mess misinstalling its drivers that it scragged the disk again!
Again I had to remove the old board for the new, restore the disk images for the fifth or sixth time, swap back to the old board, and plug in the drive again. (I did return the Radeon and get my money back, thank you very much for asking.)
Now I was stuck; a month and a half had passed, and I was still stealing time on Sachi's machine. We trundled out to Orlando, Florida, to see Brad (lurking at the threshold of his ancestral manse in the nearby Florida town of Brand New Arkham), leaving the computer disembowled all over the living room. Upon our return, I wearily returned to the seven-weeks war.
Shortly before leaving, I found a guy in Hong Kong offering (on eBay) the very last GeForce video card made to fit into an AGP slot -- which is what the old board had for its graphics port. By the time we returned to stormy SoCal, this GeForce 7600 had arrived. Alas, when I tried it out, it failed to work. He was rather nice, agreeing to exchange it for another... so long as I sent the first one back to HK.
In the meanwhile, I discovered that I could unscrew part of the mounting assembly on my old GeForce Ti 4200 and, by bending the metal mount into a pretzel, get it close enough that I could screw it tightly to the chassis. But it still wouldn't work... and neither would any other card, not even in the normal PCI card slots. Somehow, in the course of all this removal and replacement, sticking cards in an out of the slots, the board was damaged -- and dead.
This is starting to sound like that children's book Fortunately, by Remy Charlip: Fortunately, I was able to make the video card fit. Unfortunately, the board broke. Fortunately, I found some guy -- also on eBay -- selling the identical motherboard. Unfortunately, that was more days delay, first for the auction to close (though I was the only bidder) and then for the USPS to get it here by (ho ho) "next day" air.
The end is in sight. The board finally arrived; I put it together, and everything seemed to work well. Except, not being able to leave well enough alone, I decided that maybe everything would be really all right if I just flashed (upgraded) the BIOS, the little chip that tells the system how to interact with the outside world -- with disk drives, keyboards, mice, monitors, and so forth.
You're way ahead of me. I downloaded the latest BIOS program, ran the "E-Z" flash system -- and the flash failed. Not only did it fail, it left the board unable to recognize the existence of such a thing as a "keyboard!" At this point, I was looking for some cholera-infected water to drink. None was to be found, unfortunately.
Fortunately, I contacted Asus (the board maker), and they agreed to send me a new BIOS chip. Feeling sorry for me, they also agreed not to charge me the $20 they normally charge for such chips, because it was their fault; but their sorrow did allow them to charge me $25 instead -- for overnight delivery by FredEx.
Well, the chip arrived today. I managed to prise the old one out and install the new, and now everything looks fine. I installed my new external sound card (the old one died somewhere in the midst of all the monkeyshines), had to re-activate Windows (which grew suspicious at all the new hardware it was seeing around itself), and I think -- hope -- pray, if I were a believer, that is -- that I have finally fulfilled my vow.
And I didn't even have to be killed.
(Published raw without editing. Read at your own risk. Wash your hat and coat.)
Date ►►► January 7, 2009
Coldcocked Coleman vs. Hammerin' Hal
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line has a great post up about the failings of Sen. Norm Coleman's (R-MN, 64%) post-election campaign: While failed comedian Al Franken fought vigorously to find every, last vote that could possibly end up being counted for him, Coleman's campaign sat back "a bit like an NFL team sitting on a two-point lead in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and playing zone defense."
(I don't actually understand what that means. To me, football comprises 22 men suffering from gigantism battling each other for a peculiar, little pointy object. But I surmise from Paul's analogy that such a strategy in such a situation would be politically lame and fraught with danger.)
One overlooked aspect of the process is the different approaches the two campaigns took once the recount began. From the outset of the recount process, the Coleman campaign has been remarkably passive in its approach. They have improvised strategy from day to day and spent too much time "spinning" the Franken campaign's activities, while expecting their lawyers to protect them. They have not appeared to me to have a handle on what was happening or on what was likely to happen.
Franken's campaign recognized immediately the opportunity to "find" more votes with the "improperly rejected" absentee ballots. The Coleman campaign may have erred at the outset when it failed to initiate its own efforts or craft a countervailing strategy.
The Coleman campaign appears to have bet they could create a legal firewall that would prevent the "improperly rejected" absentee ballots from getting counted. In any event, the Coleman campaign appears to have been caught flatfooted when the Minnesota Supreme Court decided these ballots should be included in the recount subject to agreement of the parties (and also subject to the possibility of sanctions for withholding agreement in bad faith).
Actually, I bring this up to make two points, the first purely mathematical, the second purely political. Paul notes the only source of votes left for Coleman:
The Coleman campaign has nevertheless identified 654 "improperly rejected" absentee ballots from Republican counties that were excluded from the recount (and that may be included in the election contest).
This is in addition to the 130 Franken votes that were evidently counted twice. Let's assume, as is likely, that these 130 double-counts are reversed; that reduces Franken's 225-vote majority to only 95 votes.
- How strongly must Coleman win among those 654 "improperly rejected" absentee ballots in order to overcome that remaining deficit and win the election in the end?
The answer depends upon how many of those ballots are finally counted. If it's all of them, then Coleman must win them by a 58% to 42% margin. But if only, say, two-thirds of them end up being accepted by the courts, so that the pool shrinks from 654 to 436, it will be much harder. In this scenario, Coleman would have to win that ballot pool by a somewhat larger 61-39 margin.
So Coleman must generally win those ballots by about 60-40 to have a shot at prevailing. As these mostly come from Republican-Coleman districts, that's not impossible or even improbable... but we'll see.
Now to the more interesting political point:
- Democrat opposition to Coleman has skyrocketed, and they appear prepared to prevent him being seated even if he wins the election, court or no court. At the same time, the Democrats have softened their opposition to the seating of Roland Burris, nominated by embattled and soon-to-be-impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojovich's to take Barack H. Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate; swearing Burris in as a senator now appears inevitable, and the Democrats don't even seem to be very upset about it.
First, the Burris story:
Senate officials in both parties, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for Senate members, said there is a growing expectation on Capitol Hill that the saga will end with Burris being seated....
Burris met for 45 minutes Wednesday morning with [Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 85%, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, 95%]. Only days ago, both senators were arguing that Burris' nomination was so tainted that he should not be seated and would be blocked.
"Only days ago..." But think how many momentous events related to this appointment have happened in the past two or three days! For one thing, the Democrats suddenly discovered that Roland Burris is black, like Barack Obama -- and that after President-elect Obama left for Washington D.C. to be sworn at, there wouldn't be any other black senator.
Surely that's enough to cause anybody to change his mind about Burris; any political objection they had to a man nominated to a Senate seat by a governor indicted for trying to sell that Senate seat has been quashed by the abrupt realization of Burris' race, and any qualm they had about his ability to effectively legislate has been soothed by the "D" after his name.
But we see a far less conciliatory Reid in the Politico piece:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered the toughest language he has ever used in arguing that Norm Coleman’s career in the Senate is finished.
“Norm Coleman will never ever serve [again] in the Senate,” Reid told Politico’s Manu Raju. “He lost the election. He can stall things, but he'll never serve in the Senate.”
Taking the Majority Leader at his word, I must conclude that Reid is saying that even if the court ultimately declares Coleman the winner, Reid and his Democrats will overturn the court decision by refusing to seat Coleman. This would give Democrats one more seat in the Senate, and near immunity to a filibuster, if they can hold ranks and gain but a single GOP turncoat for cloture.
They still must contend with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 70%-D), of course, as well as several other nominally "conservative" Democrats elected in recent years... e.g., Jim Webb (D-VA, 85%) and his incoming fellow Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (as yet unrated); but Democrats have a much stronger history than Republicans of drowning their own ideals and principles in the ocean of "party discipline."
These two political about-faces open a brand, new phase of Democrat resistance to and aggression against the GOP, indicating that the Democratic Party plans to continue its warfare against the opposition unabated from the level they hit during the 2004 election and after, when the pandemic of Bush Derangement Syndrome swept through the Left like ebola. BDS has clearly mutated and metastisized into RDS; any and every Republican is now hated by the Democrats with the fervor previously reserved for Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and of course the idiot-savant "mastermind" of the "criminal Bush regime," Bush himself.
This is not only bad news for the country -- no respite from the Left's politics of perpetual personal destruction -- but for the incoming President Obama as well... who had clearly signalled that he planned to govern as much more a centrist than his campaign rhetoric implied. Evidently, the congressional Democrats intend a far more serious challenge to Obama from the Left than their previous acquiescence to Obama's charge to the center implied.
Given that Obama is a political tabula rasa who will probably move, like Bill Clinton, in whatever direction offers the least resistance, I think it now likely that Obama's previous moves notwithstanding, the radicalized Democrats in Congress will push him into a far more strident, shrill, and deeply partisan presidency than he intended.
Obama clearly thought to "Deleno-ize" himself -- fireside chats and liberal fascism with a smiley face. This might have allowed him to set up, for the 2010 midterm elections, the "1934 scenario," in which the Democrats, instead of losing seats (as the norm), picked up nine seats in both the Senate and the House, dropping the Republicans to 26% in the former and below 24% in the latter. But if Obama is pushed far left by the congressional Democrats, this may very well set up the "1994 scenario" of the Gingrich revolution instead.
This would be very good for the Republican Party, of course -- but woe to the country in the interim! Expect a very tense, anxious, crisis-ridden, and "interesting" (in the sense of that fictional "Chinese proverb") next two years.
Leon Pinata - Intelligence Not His Long Suit
(The name in the title should be Leon Piñata, of course; but I can't make that Spanish character appear in the title of a Movable Type post.)
Yesterday, Gov. Bill Richardson, who is Latin, mucked his hand, announcing that he would not accept the nomination as Secretary of Commerce, which had been considered a done deal for some time. Oddly enough, on or about that same day, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was appointing a different Latin -- our Mr. Piñata -- to be the Director of the CIA; this despite the fact that he has no background or training in, and evidently no knowledge about, the intelligence field... a fact so glaring that even the New York Times and Ape News took note. [I originally wrote that Piñata was "Hispanic;" but I am reliably informed by commenter John Cunningham that the man is of Italian heritage instead. So I cunningly changed the term to "Latin," which surely nobody can deny! But he's still going to be treated like a piñata in his confirmation hearings, so that appellation stands.]
From the former:
The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.
One of those "senior lawmakers" is Gloriana herself, the AbFab DiFi (D-CA, 90%); she particularly spread herself on Leon's limitations:
Among the lawmakers who expressed skepticism about the choice was Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the new chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ms. Feinstein, who would oversee any confirmation hearing for Mr. Panetta, issued a statement that signaled clear disapproval and said she had not been notified about the choice.
“My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time,” she said. [As opposed to a dilettante amateur.]
A second top Democrat, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the departing chairman of the Intelligence Committee, shares Ms. Feinstein’s concerns, Democratic Congressional aides said.
On the whole, it is a puzzling nomination: Why pick a complete naif in intelligence matters -- at the very moment we're fighting a life and death struggle with an enemy who strikes by stealth and terror, against whom our only hope for victory (perhaps even survival) is strong, effective, and robust intelligence-gathering?
The Piñata appointment seems to fly in the eyes of the other major cabinet-level appointments of the One, which by and large have been substantive and centrist and have stressed continuity with the Bush administration, rather than the radical U-turn Obama promised during the campaign.
So what is really going on here? It should be obvious. While in many other areas Obama can simply follow in George W. Bush's footsteps, in the realm of intel, he is constrained not only by his own gormless and hypocritical maunderings but by his party's deepest held belief: By definition, aggressive intelligence-gathering violates the sacred constitutional rights of terrorists. Thus:
The choice of Mr. Panetta comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama had otherwise wrapped up his major personnel moves. It appears to reflect the difficulty Mr. Obama has encountered in finding a candidate who is capable of taking charge of the agency but is not tied to the interrogation and detention program run by the C.I.A. under President Bush.
Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
My second favorite blogger at my favorite blog, Power Line, summed it up:
I don't mean to suggest that intelligence gathering is peripheral to the CIA's mission. But it does seem these days that the CIA is a political actor first and an intelligence operation second. The selection of Panetta may reflect this "post-modern" reality.
The Left might forgive Obama for allowing our troops to remain in Iraq for a few years, or longer if things seem to settle down to a dull roar. They might yawn at his decision not to tax "the rich" into oblivion, not to demand that Israel commit national suicide, and to blow off "card check" and socialized medicine... at least for a while. But they would never forgive him did he not utterly repudiate -- by deed as well as word -- treating terrorist captives any worse than accused carjackers or shoplifters.
Obama must, must return to the Clintonian status-quo ante, where terrorism is just another crime to be tried in civilian court, with all the rules of evidence and rights for the accused. If he does not do this, the Left will abandon him in 2012, and may abandon the party itself in a scant two years.
Thus Incoming Obama selected Leon Piñata for two reasons:
- He is Latin, to "replace" the disappearing Bill Richardson, allowing the P.E. to check the "L" box;
- He has never had anything to do with intelligence, so he is not "tainted" by the highly aggressive, effective, and successful techniques employed by the Bush administration to keep us safe from attack for the last seven years.
The American Left has chosen to make its stand on the constitutional rights of foreign terrorists striking at this country, just as in times past they chose to make their stand on embracing Stalinism (or even Naziism, during the Hitler-Stalin Pact). As a man of the Left, who owes his election to the anti-Bush, anti-GOP rage stirred up by his leftist allies, Barack Obama cannot stand in their way... at least not on this particular issue.
Date ►►► January 5, 2009
The World Has Gone Mad part XXIII
Today, walking home from the gym, I had to dodge a car that intruded unpleasantly into the crosswalk.
It was a Ferrari, horsey logo and all: a Ferrari SUV.
Is it just me?
Date ►►► January 3, 2009
One Side Fits All
Perhaps I just missed it...
I read this story about the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU filing a lawsuit to overturn the will of the voters in that state (stop me if you've heard this before) to restrict adoption to married couples. I read all the way through it, all the arguments advanced by the plaintiffs in that and several other lawsuits, all the fulminations about how the new law is "unconstitutional."
But nowhere, in the entire article, does the Associated Press even trouble to ask any supporter of the law why he thinks it's legitimate... a new citizens initiative that (stop me if you've heard this before) merely returns the law to the status quo ante, undoing the state Supreme Court decision that struck down the traditional understanding and ordered adoptions and fostering not to take into account the marital status of the new parents when awarding custody.
In fact, the only time they even admit that anyone supports the law (which passed 57-43) is to introduce a couple of bare facts:
The Arkansas Family Council, a conservative group that campaigned for the ban, said it was aimed at gay couples but the law will affect heterosexuals and homosexuals equally.
Jerry Cox, the council's president, said he had expected a lawsuit to be filed if the measure passed.
"We are confident this lawsuit will fail and Act 1 will remain on the books," Cox said.
By contrast, shills for the Left are allowed (encouraged) to explain their side:
"Act 1 violates the state's legal duty to place the best interest of children above all else," said Marie-Bernarde Miller, a Little Rock attorney in the lawsuit....
The group filed the lawsuit on behalf of 29 adults and children from more than a dozen families, including a grandmother who lives with her same-sex partner of nine years and is the only relative able and willing to adopt her grandchild, who is now in Arkansas state care. [So marital status is irrelevant, but a blood relationship is vital? How barbaric.]
The plaintiffs also include Stephanie Huffman and Wendy Rickman, a lesbian couple raising two sons together who want to adopt a foster child from the state.
"It's just wrong. It's an injustice," said Huffman, who lives in Conway. "I'm being denied an opportunity to provide a home for a special-needs child."
The families claim that the act's language was misleading to voters and that it violates their constitutional rights.
Evidently, the anti-marriage ACLU's side is so self-apparent to AP that asking them to allow the "opposition" (i.e., the traditional, American pro-marriage side) to respond is as outlandish as inviting an unrepentent, anti-American terrorist to be interviewed in a puff-piece published in the elite news media. Oh, wait...
As to being "misleading to voters," here is the text of the "ballot title" of the Arkansas Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban; the ballot title is the description of the initiative act that the voter sees at the top of the page (please excuse the all-caps; that's the way states seem to publish these things):
A PROPOSED ACT PROVIDING THAT A MINOR MAY NOT BE ADOPTED OR PLACED IN A FOSTER HOME IF THE INDIVIDUAL SEEKING TO ADOPT OR TO SERVE AS A FOSTER PARENT IS COHABITING WITH A SEXUAL PARTNER OUTSIDE OF A MARRIAGE WHICH IS VALID UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THIS STATE; STATING THAT THE FOREGOING PROHIBITION APPLIES EQUALLY TO COHABITING OPPOSITE- SEX AND SAME-SEX INDIVIDUALS; STATING THAT THE ACT WILL NOT AFFECT THE GUARDIANSHIP OF MINORS; DEFINING “MINOR” TO MEAN AN INDIVIDUAL UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS; STATING THAT THE PUBLIC POLICY OF THE STATE IS TO FAVOR MARRIAGE, AS DEFINED BY THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THIS STATE, OVER UNMARRIED COHABITATION WITH REGARD TO ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE; FINDING AND DECLARING ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE THAT IT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN IN NEED OF ADOPTION OR FOSTER CARE TO BE REARED IN HOMES IN WHICH ADOPTIVE OR FOSTER PARENTS ARE NOT COHABITING OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE; PROVIDING THAT THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES SHALL PROMULGATE REGULATIONS CONSISTENT WITH THE ACT; AND PROVIDING THAT THE ACT APPLIES PROSPECTIVELY BEGINNING ON JANUARY 1, 2009.
I'm not sure which part of this is misleading or even unclear. As to denying the "constitutional rights" of foster-parent or adoptive-parent wannabes... which constitutional rights would those be? Is there actually a constitutional right in Arkansas to adopt a kid? I rather doubt it.
Since AP appears unwilling to allow the pro-marriage side of the debate to speak, I must take up the conservative man's burden (despite my not being a conservative) and explain exactly why we should not allow same-sex couples or other sundry unmarried cohabitators to adopt a brood -- unless there is simply no other option (which is quite rare). So here goes:
Children ideally should have both a (male) father and a (female) mother:
(a) Every person has both "male" and "female" components to his personality that require training and nurturing by the corresponding sex parent... every child needs both sexes in his life, preferably as parents. Since the State is picking the parents, why not satisfy this need?
(b) Girls learn best how to be women from their mothers, while boys learn best how to be men from their fathers... women best know the special problems girls have, while men best know the special problems boys have.
- Children ideally should have parents whose commitment to the family extends at least far enough to get legally married. (The question of who is legally allowed to marry should be taken up in a separate initiative or legislative bill all its own.)
- The State has a vested interest in promoting and encouraging family arrangements that most closely approximate the ideal, and in discouraging or even prohibiting some arrangements -- polygamy, underaged marriage, etc. -- that swing dangerously far away from that ideal.
- The State has no authority to take children away from their birth parents, but it does have the primary responsibility to ensure that those children under its own care -- adoptive and foster children -- are placed in families that satisfy (3) above.
- The people of Arkansas have the right, and I argue the duty, to enact such laws by initiative when the state legislature is pathetically unable or unwilling to do so.
I don't undersand why this should not be obvious to at least 90% of the adult population; but at least it was obvious to a majority, and the Arkansas initiative passed by 14 points.
Evidently, however, it is not obvious to the Associated Press... which obtusity, when generalized, may go a long way towards explaining the financial quagmire in which the elite news media in this country finds itself in recent years.
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