December 12, 2007

Web Reconnaissance for 12/12/2007

A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

In the News: (Registration may be required to read some stories)
Pentagon Critical Of NATO Allies - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO countries yesterday for not supplying urgently needed trainers, helicopters and infantry for Afghanistan as violence escalates there, vowing not to let the alliance "off the hook." (READ MORE)

Obama's Cheering Section Ups The Volume - COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Change. The word on which Sen. Barack Obama has staked his candidacy. A word that's peppered in all of his speeches and plastered around any Obama event. A word that attracts and enthralls and, in some cases, challenges. Change? What's going to change? Are voters going to change? (READ MORE)

Secret U.S. Intelligence Court Intends To Keep Wiretap Rulings Under Wraps - A secret U.S. intelligence court has issued its third public ruling in 30 years, declaring that while it agrees on the benefits of making its rulings on warrantless wiretapping public, it will keep them secret. (READ MORE)

Suicide Bomber Strikes Near Politicians' Offices - BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 -- A suicide car bomber struck in one of the capital's most heavily guarded neighborhoods Tuesday, killing two guards at a checkpoint near the home and offices of two prominent politicians. Both politicians were out of the country at the time. (READ MORE)

Bhutto predicts a ruling coalition - Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto yesterday said her Pakistani Peoples' Party will pick up additional seats in parliament in the January election, but likely will have to enter into a coalition to create a ruling majority. (READ MORE)

Fed cuts rate but dismays Wall Street - The Federal Reserve yesterday cut interest rates for the third time since summer on concerns that the deepening credit and housing crisis still threatens the economy. (READ MORE)

Clinton to be player on Hillary's team - Iowa voters say they expect Bill Clinton to stay involved in White House dealings should his wife win the presidency in 2008. (READ MORE)

From the Front:
This War and Me: Tis The Season - Well, I have been quite the grouch for a couple weeks now. I had planned on just trolling through the season, getting by without much thought about the holidays. I almost made it. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more I am reminded this is the season of good will toward men. Friends and family wish me well and send presents. My sister's class all made cards, drew pictures and sent letters. The local radio station in Baghdad plays Christmas music that I hear on the bus riding back and forth to work. We have a Christmas tree in my office and in my room. (READ MORE)

A Surgeon's Letters Home From Iraq: 12 DEC 2007 Trimming the trees - Well it is another cool clear day in Balad. I wore my long johns under my uniform for the bike ride into work today. The hospital is warm and toasty. We control the temperature in the brick and mortar hospital so much better than we used to in the old tent hospital. This is the kind of day where I would have worn my watch cap and insulated sleep shirt all night long in the hospital. The sky is clear. The only break in the morning pinks and blues was the column of dingy gray smoke rising from the burn pit. The recently concluded environmental found that the burn pit is releasing dioxin into the air. Shame it is upwind from the hospital, but guess they just wanted the particles to act as an irritant to help my post op patients cough more vigorously and expand thier lungs after surgery. (READ MORE)

Lt. Nixon Rants: Is our Drug War Fueling Narcoterrorism in Afghanistan? - The argument against the drug war was gaining steam pre-9/11, but the debate kind of got put on the backburner for obvious reasons due to the nation having higher priorities post-9/11. However, now I think it is more important than ever to frankly discuss how our long-running "War against Drugs" is running contrary to our objectives in the War on Terror. One of the key components of counter-insurgency is to eliminate the source of funding for the enemy. In Iraq, this involves targeting and disrupting extremist financial cells and discouraging foreign infiltration (in Iraq's case this would be from Syria and Iran). (READ MORE)

ETT PA-C: Family Time - The other day I said I was going to write some stuff about our little trip to Qalat. Well, after further review of pictures and the trip me, myself and I determined that more pictures of the desert and occasional camel wouldn't be worth taxing the carpal tunnel syndrome, so in lieu of that.....Camp Georgia is really coming along. Now that most of us have our own rooms, SGM and I have noticed that after we cook dinner and everyone gets food, no one is to be found albeit our intelligent SPC Allee that eats with us. Weird. Before we'd all eat together, chit chat about the day and plans for the next few. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
Jacob Sullum: And Everybody Hates the Atheists - The take-home message of Mitt Romney's recent speech on religion and politics was pretty clear: I may be a Mormon, but at least I'm not an atheist. Romney sought to strengthen his advantage as a presidential candidate known for being religious while assuaging the concerns of Americans who are reluctant to vote for a Mormon. He did so by reinforcing the public's longstanding prejudice against unbelievers, arguing that religion -- any religion -- is preferable to no religion at all. (READ MORE)

Walter E. Williams: Racial Hoaxes and the NAACP - Last May, firefighters at a Baltimore, Md., fire station came under scrutiny for displaying a deer with an afro wig, gold tooth, gold chain and a cigarette hanging from its mouth. Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, went ballistic, charging, "There is now and has been a culture of racism and white supremacy within the Baltimore City Fire Department." As it turns out, it was a black fireman who dressed up the critter. (READ MORE)

Thomas Sowell: Christmas Books - Books are good gifts to receive and even better gifts to give because you can get books without half the hassles involved in buying many other kinds of gifts. You can easily buy books from the Internet and avoid the mob scenes at the shopping malls. This has been a good year for books that shoot down false and nonsensical notions on major issues of our time. "The Immigration Solution" is an excellent new book that discusses illegal immigration without the political rhetoric, spin, demagoguery, and unsubstantiated claims that have become all too common in the media and among politicians. (READ MORE)

Terence Jeffrey: In Defense of the CIA - Water-boarding Abu Zubaydah as a last resort to find out what he knew about pending terrorist plots was a justifiable act of self-defense. Two weeks before the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the 9/11 Commission, a foreign intelligence service issued a report on the following topic: "Consideration by Abu Zubaydah to Attack Targets in the United States." That threat should have been taken more seriously. The commission described Abu Zubaydah as a "sympathetic peer" of Osama bin Laden. In the years before 9/11, he operated the Khaldan and Derunta terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Rich Lowry: Obama the Messianic - Barack Obama found the perfect booster in Oprah Winfrey. Not only can she fill a football stadium with 30,000 adoring people and put a hammerlock on a news cycle, she specializes in the warm-and-fuzzy uplift that is the very foundation of Obama’s candidacy. This was the pontiff of daytime television bestowing secular sainthood on the golden child of latterday liberalism. “For there is born to you this day a savior.” The Oprah- Obama match is made not quite in heaven, but in a haze of inspirational piety with heavy religious overtones. People had “Oprah for V.P.” buttons at this past weekend’s rallies. (READ MORE)

Paul Edwards: Hillary's "Home-Run" For the Purpose-Driven Left - The problem is not that Rick and Kay Warren invited Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the keynote speaker at their third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at Saddleback Church. The problem is that Rick Warren never engaged the Senator on the points where many evangelicals are at odds with her agenda. Giving Senator Clinton a platform in one of the largest evangelical churches in America exposes her agenda, allowing us to engage her in the arena of ideas on the social issues on which we fundamentally disagree, something conservative evangelicals should welcome. (READ MORE)

Alan Greenspan: The Roots of the Mortgage Crisis - On Aug. 9, 2007, and the days immediately following, financial markets in much of the world seized up. Virtually overnight the seemingly insatiable desire for financial risk came to an abrupt halt as the price of risk unexpectedly surged. Interest rates on a wide range of asset classes, especially interbank lending, asset-backed commercial paper and junk bonds, rose sharply relative to riskless U.S. Treasury securities. Over the past five years, risk had become increasingly underpriced as market euphoria, fostered by an unprecedented global growth rate, gained cumulative traction. (READ MORE)

Jeffrey Lord: That Does Not Compute - Mitt Romney loves data and lusts after process. In a recent cover profile in The Weekly Standard by the magazine's Fred Barnes, Mr. Romney is portrayed as the man who would be the CEO of America. Says Mr. Barnes, quoting Mr. Romney, a Harvard M.B.A.: "His idea of the perfect deal is not when one side wins but when 'you find a new alternative that everybody agrees is the right way to go. That doesn't always happen.' " Indeed. Mr. Barnes says Mr. Romney's "approach to government is not ideological." A Romney adviser is quoted as saying of his candidate: "He's super-pragmatic. He's an eclectic conservative." And Mr. Romney himself says flatly that as president he would "insist on gathering data . . . and analyze the data looking for trends." Uh-oh. (READ MORE)

Soccerdad: Familar unproductive editorial - The editors of the NYT are all for Starting the peace process: “Israelis and Palestinians are supposed to begin serious negotiations tomorrow after last month’s long-on-optics, short-on-specifics Annapolis peace meeting. Despite all the smiles and handshakes, both sides went home and fell back into some familiar, counterproductive patterns.” And what might those “familiar. counterproductive patterns” be? “Days after the American-led conference prepared the ground for the first serious peace talks in seven years, Israel announced that it would be adding 307 new homes to a settlement south of East Jerusalem, a violation of the spirit of Israel’s commitments.” A “violation of the spirit?” (READ MORE)

Kevin Aylward: Halliburton/KBR Gang-Rape Cover-Up Makes Waves - An ABC News story at The Blotter by Brian Ross has got lots of folks talking about the rape of Jamie Leigh Jones, a Halliburton/KBR employee in Iraq. RedState, Jezebel, others have reported on the story. Ben Domenich at Red State points, disapprovingly, to The Jawa Report and Ace of Spades, both whom question the story. Domenich states: “Given all of this, the fact that two writers I respect, Ace and Rusty, have taken to already questioning this case as if it was some trumped up anti-Bushco charge, when there is absolutely no evidence to support such a theory except their own perceptions, is particularly saddening to me. This is a report from Brian Ross, not Michael Moore. It is depressing when the immediate knee-jerk reaction to a sad case like this, by those you consider allies, is to view it solely through the prism of their political views.” (READ MORE)

Eugene Volokh: The Dark Side of Privacy Law - InstaPundit links to a story about someone who was "convicted of violating state wiretapping laws" for "conceal[ing] a camera to videotape a Boston University police sergeant ... during a 2006 political protest." That's pretty outrageous, but it's entirely consistent with a 2001 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in Commonwealth v. Hyde, which is based on Massachusetts' extremely broad privacy law: “This case raises the issue whether a motorist may be prosecuted for violating the Massachusetts electronic surveillance statute ... for secretly tape recording statements made by police officers during a routine traffic stop. A jury in the District Court convicted the defendant on four counts of a complaint charging him with unlawfully intercepting the oral communications of another ....” (READ MORE)

The Sundries Shack: CIA Agent: Waterboarding Saved Lives - Does waterboarding work? Without a doubt, yes. Abu Zubayda broke after 35 seconds of being waterboarded and, according to the man who did it, the information he gave let us stop “…a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks”. Is waterboarding torture? Well, this CIA agent believes it is, as do a number of other very well-intentioned and reasonable people. I am not so sure that it is. The word “torture” carries a certain number of very weighty connotations that I’m not sure apply to waterboarding. Should it be a regular part of our interrogations? Of course not, and I’m very glad that it isn’t. (READ MORE)

TigerHawk: The pope calls for more science, less dogma - It is getting very difficult to figure out who is on which side of the climate change argument. Jet-setting, mansion-living, mega-polluting activists want everybody else to stop grilling steaks on their back yard patio. Now, defenders of the faith are calling for more science: “Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology. The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.” (READ MORE)

Mark Steyn: The Hope of Change - What do you think is the critical issue in this election season? Personally, I blow hot and cold. I used to think the key issue facing the nation was "hope". But now I wonder if perhaps it isn't "change". It was only last year that I bought The Audacity Of Hope by this fellow called Barack Obama. How audacious hope seemed back then! How bold, how courageous! But now, a mere 12 months later, hope seems cheap, glib, easy. "There has been a lot of talk in this campaign about the politics of hope," said this guy in Iowa the other day. "But, understand this: the politics of hope doesn't mean hoping that things come easy." It turned out to be the same Barack Obama who'd been going on about the audacity of hope. But now he's fine-tuned his campaign, and he's running on "change". (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: A Crisis for the Left - A bedrock assumption for the Left is that unequal outcomes for people reflect environmental inequalities. This is the basic justification for affirmative action and for all the more subtle interventions introduced into our schools and throughout society which aim to minimize distinctions. The self-esteem movement, which has so successfully separated self-esteem from any requisite accomplishment, is a pervasive and damaging system for denying differences. There are two developments that are likely to create a crisis for the Left, and for the liberalism that has emerged from the left-wing matrix of Academia and MSM. In the New York Times today is a report of some recent research suggesting that the rate of human evolutionary change has been increasing: (READ MORE)

The Shield of Achilles: A CIA officer speaks on Zubaydah - This is a follow-up to the destroyed video tape story I wrote about earlier. When a CIA officer publicly speaks, you know that no matter what they say, somebody, somewhere, is going to put a political spin on the story. This one is no exception. We now know a little more now about Zubaydah, the subject of the destroyed tapes, because John Kiriakou, a retired CIA agent, recently granted an interview with ABC New's Brian Ross (full transcript here: part 1, part 2). This was a rather unique interview because, as far as I know, no CIA official ever admitted to actually witnessing a waterboarding or describing it as "torture". And maybe they still haven't. Because here's the problem - Mr. Kiriakou was not present during Zubaydah's interrogations (although he was present at his initial capture and questioning), and despite the sensational ABC News headline ("CIA Spy Calls Waterboarding Necessary But Torture"), he never actually calls it "torture". (READ MORE)

Right Wing Nut House: Was Matthew Murray Enabled by the Christian Bashers? - When the Warren Commission, looking into the JFK assassination, got around to examining the role played by the city of Dallas in the tragedy, the members were torn between issuing a blanket condemnation of the rank hatred directed against Kennedy (and the American government) that many of them felt enabled the killer or a wrist slap that would have only mentioned the atmosphere in the city as “a factor” in the tragedy that played out that awful day. Indeed, there was no more hate filled city that autumn in America than Dallas, Texas. Charges of treason against Kennedy and many in the government were on many people’s lips – the result of a series of editorials personally written by Ted Dealy, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, in which he regularly referred to the President and members of his administration as “traitors.” (READ MORE)

Dan Riehl: Great, Now For Planted Outraged Readers - The alleged outraged readers plant themselves, but that doesn't stop the Courier-Journal in Kentucky from propping them up in their opposition to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in what will be one of the closest watched races in 2008 behind the Presidential campaign. The Politico is already following the race here. This is the second smear campaign started by the likes of Think Progress against McConnell to make its way into the media. Here's the first. There would be no controversy if Think Progress hadn't lifted a McConnell quote out of context from what was actually a positive story for McConnell: (READ MORE)

Kim Zigfeld: Good News on Iran! - Christopher Hitchens of Slate magazine seems to have noticed in the recent news that Iran has been found to have suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 what few others have, namely that "our overthrow of Saddam Hussein had impressed the Iranians in much the same way as it impressed the Libyans and made them at least reconsider their willingness to continue flouting the Non-Proliferation Treaty." Hitchens further notes: "Given that the examination of the immense Libyan stockpile also disclosed the fingerprints that led back to the exposure of the A.Q. Khan nuke-mart in Pakistan, the removal of Saddam from the chessboard has had more effect in curbing the outlaw WMD business than it is normally given credit for." (READ MORE)

Pros and Cons: On intelligence, abusive interrogation and Iraq - As I made clear over the weekend, it is clear to me that soldiers deserve to be treated like soldiers, for both moral and policy reasons. Terrorists should be dealt with according to whatever works - subject to rules maintaining good order in our security and military services and those that continue to provide incentives to release the innocent (expensive in money, resources, attention and personaell to house them, after all) and not breed sickos who abuse for the fun of it (see the night shift at Abu Ghraib) and destroy good order and discipline AND make real interrogations that much more difficult. Just look how iconic the remarkably humane facilities at Guantanamo have become for similar purposes of dezinformatsia. (READ MORE)

John Hinderaker: Democrats' Hopes Foiled - There were two special Congressional elections today, in Ohio and Virginia. Both districts are generally Republican, but both states are also considered to be trending toward the Democrats. So the Dems were hopeful that they might increase their House majority by winning one or both of the open seats. Yesterday, MSNBC, which made a corporate decision to go in the tank for the Democrats a couple of years ago, was hoping that the Ohio election, in particular, would be a milestone: “If Democrats can win a special congressional election tomorrow in a GOP district in Ohio, doesn't that tell us that Ohio may not be as in play as the Republicans would like to believe for 2008?” So if the Democrat won today, Ohio could safely be tallied for Hillary in 2008! (READ MORE)

Scott Johnson: Inside the HLF jury - We previously took a look here at what went on inside the jury at the Holy Land Foundation trial. Now the Investigative Project on Terrorism has posted Michael Fechter's fasinating report (and accompanying video) on the "bullying" that took place during deliberations. Fechter's report is based on interviews with three jurors other than William Neal, the juror who apparently dominated the deliberations. The deliberations appear to have been compomised by Neal, a prosecutor's nightmare of a juror. The case resulted in a mistrial when some of the jurors disavowed the verdict read by the court. IPT provides this introduction to Fechter's report: (READ MORE)

William Teach: Global Warming Today: Peer Review Says Man Not At Fault - I hope these four climate scientists understand what they are in for. The climahysterics will assail them, calling them all sorts of bad names, demanding that their accredidations be pulled, and that they be terminated from their teaching positions (Canada Free Press and Science & Environment Policy Project) An inconvenient new peer-reviewed study published in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Climatology. “Climate scientists at the University of Rochester, the University of Alabama, and the University of Virginia report that observed patterns of temperature changes ‘fingerprints’ over the last thirty years are not in accord with what greenhouse models predict and can better be explained by natural factors, such as solar variability. Therefore, climate change is ‘unstoppable’ and cannot be affected or modified by controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, as is proposed in current legislation.” (READ MORE)

McQ: NATO being tested - and failing - I’ve said in the past that with the fall of the USSR, NATO was an alliance looking for a mission. With no conventional enemy facing it any more the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (note the first two words), an alliance which required all members to support any member who was attacked by the Soviets or their satellites, was functionally out of a job. Then the Balkans came along and NATO warped its defensive charter into a preemptive one with offensive overtones (a note to all who like to argue that Iraq is the first preemptive use of American troops, not quite). While none of the NATO members was attacked, NATO used the pretext of a possible spreading conflict to cobble together a reason to intervene. And, as usual, the biggest player in the NATO role was the non-European member - the US. In a conflict which should have been handled strictly by European forces, we somehow ended up right in the middle of it. (READ MORE)

Neptunus Lex: Piracy - US and British naval forces in the Horn of Africa have been monitoring the status of several merchant ships seized by Somali pirates over the last few months, always remaining hull-up and in radio comms with the captured vessels and in one case opening fire on a pirate skiff being towed behind a captured ship. Although the ships have often been seized just outside Somali territorial waters, the pirates have generally navigated the captured ships inshore. Ordinarily a ship within 12nm of a sovereign nation becomes the responsibility of the law enforcement arm of that country and may not be pursued by the armed forces of another state. Since Somalia is not so much a “failed state” as much as it is a fully-functioning hellhole, the niceties have been sometimes been omitted. (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: JROTC in San Francisco rescued - When last I reported to you on the fate of the JROTC program in San Francisco, which was targeted last year by moonbats and scheduled for cancellation, the school board had iced a resolution in November to give the cadets a reprieve. Reader Doug sends a bit of good news via the SF Chronicle: The board granted the program a year-long extension last night. Why? Because they haven’t been able to put any effective, acceptable substitute programs in place: “The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps gets to stay in San Francisco high schools for one more year, the district’s school board decided Tuesday night.” (READ MORE)

The Foxhole: No good news in the war? Make up something bad instead - Not that a study was necessary, but even a casual observer sees the disparity in the reporting, now that the success in Iraq and Afghanistan can no longer be denied by the leftwingnut media. The Media Research Center did a three month long study on the major networks’ war coverage. As long as there was violence and American body counts, the MSM did cartwheels. You never saw the massive amount of enemy al Qaeda and Taliban we killed, though. That isn’t news. When it became apparent that American military forces had erradicated the terrorists and gained the overwhelming support of the local populace throughout the Theater of Operations, the reporting went from grudging “yes, but” caveats to virtually nothing. (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Fixing FISA - The new Attorney General takes to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to call for immediate action to solidify FISA reforms. Michael Mukasey emphasizes the critical nature of FISA in the war on terror and lauds the compromise legislation passed almost unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, that bill has now stalled, thanks to attacks from the Left against Democrats who supported it, and Mukasey wants to see it passed: “The Senate Intelligence Committee's bill is not perfect, and it contains provisions that I hope will be improved. However, it would achieve two important objectives. First, it would keep the intelligence gaps closed by ensuring that individual court orders are not required to direct surveillance at foreign targets overseas.” (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Fixing FISA - Does the left care about protecting America? The debate over FISA is silly but instructive as to how little some on the left care about national security. Maybe they figure that if terrorists start winning then the left can take over and really push a “1984″-style government upon the land. It is really bad when a federal judge has to tell the ACLU that the proceedings of the secret FISA courts are just that: Secret. AP reported: “The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in a rare public opinion, said the public has no right to view the documents because they deal with the clandestine workings of national security agencies.” (READ MORE)

Lawhawk: Another Assassination in Lebanon - It's assassination season once again in Lebanon. This time, it was one of the top generals who played an important role in going after Fatah al Islam over the past year. Guess who many are looking at being behind this latest assassination. Syria. “A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top generals and at least two other people Wednesday, the military and state media said, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation.” (READ MORE)

Patrick S. Lasswell: Radio Goes BANANAs - My local radio station decided to freeze the poor this week. KINK radio broadcast their opinion regarding the ongoing plan to build Natural Gas facilities in and around Oregon. They decided that the best benefit to the public was to Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything, also known as BANANA. This is a safe opinion because those who risk nothing cannot be blamed for mishaps that don't happen. This attitude is in no small part responsible for our current energy dependence on the Middle East because exactly the same attitude is why no nuclear plants have been built in the US in the last twenty-five years. In the guise of asking reasonable questions, they denounce the possibility of risk. (READ MORE)

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