Saturday, June 30, 2007

What’s Wrong in Iraq

No, that wasn’t supposed to be a question. Read the account below, which is taken from a BBC report.

US-led raids 'kill 26' in Baghdad

US-led forces say they have killed 26 militants in overnight operations in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in which four vehicles were destroyed.

Troops also detained 17 militants in pre-dawn raids on the area, a Shia stronghold, the US military said.

But Iraqi hospital and police officials put the death toll at eight and said civilians were killed in their homes.

The raids are the latest in a series of US offensives against militants accused of smuggling weapons from Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki criticised the raids on Sadr City, saying his government strongly opposed operations carried out by US-led forces without its permission.

Never mind the BBC's anti-U.S. spin; that isn't what this column is about.

I have ignored the Monday-morning-quarterbacking about whether we should have gone into Iraq, which deserves to be ignored, and I’ve tried to discount the more recent attitude against staying there, and even though I know intuitively and factually that the situation in Iraq is better than the media tells us it is, I am growing weary of this controversy. I find myself increasingly accepting of the suggestion that it is time for the U.S. to back off over there. I’m not saying, “Pull out,” nor am I endorsing the Democrat’s two-stage plan: 1 – Cut, and 2 – Run. But I am more and more coming to agree with the sentiment that the Iraqis aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. That sentiment just gained enormous strength with Prime Minister Maliki’s statement that “his government strongly opposed operations carried out by US-led forces without its permission.” (my emphasis) How’s that, again, Mr. Maliki?

If you and the boys would get off your duffs and take control, you wouldn’t have to worry about such things. The last thing the U.S. needs is some do-nothing wimp criticizing it for doing what the wimps haven’t the courage or wherewithal to do.

The danger of the U.S. backing off and leaving Iraq to the various factions to work out on their own is that those factions won’t be working things out on their own. Iran will have all of its fingers in the pie, as will other Middle East interests, and the future Iraq will be a detriment to peace and tranquility. Not that there’s much peace or tranquility in the Middle East outside Iraq, anyway. But enough is enough, and I’ve had just about enough of the Iraqi incompetence.

So, Mr. Maliki, it’s all yours, ol’ buddy, and good luck with that F Troop you have to help you.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Ever Heard of “Arrowhead Ripper?” I Thought Not

Reports of U.S. and Coalition casualties keep making the news from Iraq, but the Bush administration must have done an excellent job of keeping at least one secret: Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Or maybe there is another explanation.

According to Michael Yon, who is embedded with U.S./Coalition forces in Iraq, "interest in the war is waning back home, I'm told, which may explain the thinning ranks of reporters over here.” That’s one reason you haven’t heard about Arrowhead Ripper, and maybe not the most relevant one, but maybe you should know exactly what it is. Yon writes on his Web site, “The immediate goal of Arrowhead Ripper was to free Baqubah of al Qaeda, by trapping and killing its members, but according to American officers here, public remarks by senior military officials may have flushed many AQI leaders before the attack. Despite this frustrating and significant setback, progress toward the end-state goal of Arrowhead Ripper—turning over Baqubah to Iraqi government control—appears to be working, at least in terms of the removal of the current AQI leadership and its quasi-government.”

Anyone interested in knowing more than the mainstream media’s reports from Iraq ought to check out this site and read Yon’s reports. It will broaden your perspective.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Zoo Pics

These photos were taken at the Miami Metro Zoo on our recent trip to South Florida.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Rationalizing Life Away

Dr. Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute, whose letter to the editor appeared in Monday’s edition of our local daily, and must have been sent to dozens of other papers, either is badly confused or it splitting hairs to rationalize away the clear ethical implications of the type of stem cell research that President Bush has vetoed, and that Lockitch favors. (Photo: Embryo at 4 weeks)

Lickitch’s claim that “an embryo is a potential, not an actual, human being, just as canvas is a potential, not an actual, work of art” is a faulty comparison.

It is a primitive cluster of cells,” Lockitch tells us, “which is no more unethical to destroy than the cells that make up one’s appendix.” This is where it becomes evident that Lockitch is confused, or splitting hairs. You see Dr., the appendix does not have the potential to become a human being, as does the embryo, which anyone who has had a couple of biology classes knows is the first stage in the process of creating a human being. To produce the stem cells that Lockitch wants to experiment with, you first must create an embryo, and that is accomplished by uniting a human sperm cell with a human egg, which is how babies are created. In fact, up until fairly recently the only way to produce an embryo was for one human male and one human female to do so together. Only after beginning the process of creating a living human being can you “harvest” the stem cells for research, which of course kills the fetus.

It is clear that the Creator (if you believe in a Creator) or the evolutionary process (if you prefer the scientific explanation) developed the uniting of sperm and egg for the clear and singular purpose of procreation of the species.

Lockitch apparently believes that taking a process that was designed by our Creator, or that evolved through millions of years of evolutionary progress, to produce offspring and then moving it into a laboratory somehow changes the purpose for which sperm and egg exist, and for which the process of uniting of sperm and egg exists. But whether you believe that God created the process of birth, or whether you believe that the process evolved along with the rest of the universe, you can’t deny the plain truth that the uniting of sperm and egg had one purpose and one purpose only, until science came along and changed the rules.

The only rationale for starting a process that was designed or evolved expressly to create a life, and to then destroy it, is that you do not believe life is something special to be revered and protected.

What an odd circumstance for a scientist to willingly destroy life on the premise of trying to find ways to save lives.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Finding Excuses and Shirking Responsibility

The following news report appeared a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, I have lost the attribution information, however, it was from a reputable news organization Web site.

The mothers of five children killed in a house fire surrendered to police Thursday to face involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly leaving the youngsters alone while they went to a bar.

Wearing a T-shirt that read "Mommy Loves You" and "God Loves You More," Shakita Mangham, 25, arrived at municipal court early Thursday. Furaha Love, 25, turned herself in at police headquarters a short time later.

Mangham initially told police she left the children with a baby sitter, but later admitted she lied, according to a criminal complaint. Love also said later that she knew there was no baby sitter, and that the children had been left in the care of two 8-year-olds.

Authorities said the early morning fire June 12 was started by children playing with matches.

Love was taken from police headquarters in handcuffs to a patrol car and was expected to be arraigned Thursday. Her attorney, Ernest Sharif, said they were ready to fight the charges.

"We're in a very emotional climate right now," the attorney said Thursday. "Five children died. Automatically people want to make the connection it was her fault. But from a legal standpoint, it was not her fault."

He said Love was "a loving parent who did something she regrets, but she didn't kill the children."

Mangham was arraigned and was to be released after posting 10 percent of a $10,000 bond, said her attorney, Jim Ecker. A preliminary hearing was set for June 29.

Surely everyone recognizes that this is a tragic situation and that these two women are grieving heavily over the loss of their children. But I find it interesting the way Furaha Love’s attorney attempts to rationalize the women’s obvious and undeniable guilt in the deaths of those five children, as he announced that they will fight the involuntary manslaughter charges.

Are there no people left in this country that will simply face up to their mistakes without trying to wiggle out from under their responsibilities through some legal maneuver or another? And what about lawyers? There seems to be an endless supply of them at the ready to try to find some loophole or another to get people released from their proper punishment.

Monday, June 25, 2007

This Blog is Rated PG

After receiving an email from Texas Fred pointing me to a site that rates blogs like movies and TV shows are rated, I visited the site and typed in the URL for Observations. This is the result:

Online Dating

This blog is rated PG – Parental Guidance Suggested.

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

dangerous (2x)

death (1x)

If only the raters were as strict with movies and TV shows.

In case anyone is interested in seeing how your blog is rated, go here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bush Administration Considering Shutting Down Gitmo

Word is in the media that the military and administration advisors are considering recommending to President Bush that he close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for enemy combatants and suspected terrorists and transfer them to military detention facilities in the U.S. The only thing stupider and more dangerous than this is the Illegal Immigration Amnesty Bill now working its way through Congress.

Some have argued that detaining enemy combatants and suspected terrorists in Cuba is unfair, and perhaps it is in a few cases. However, giving these people, most of whom are miscreants bent on America’s destruction, the legal status and access to our court system that bringing them into the U.S. in a military prison would, is asinine. And, it’s not appropriate to bring these people to the U.S.

Imagine in World War II that the Japanese, instead of sending planes to Pearl Harbor, had dropped paratroopers on the U.S. mainland. Those that we didn’t kill would have been captured. Would we have put those enemy combatants in jail and tried them in a court of law? No. They would have been tried in a military court and imprisoned or shot.

The enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan or Iraq or where ever else they might have been acting against or plotting against the United States are no different: they are enemies of the United States, acting against the interests, safety and well-being of the U.S. government, its military personnel and citizens. They are not criminals; they do not belong in the criminal justice system. They do not deserve or qualify for legal representation from civilian lawyers (or perhaps any lawyers at all).

Sometimes the U.S. and its citizens are its own worst enemies. When we want to coddle our enemies, as we will be doing if we shut down Gitmo and bring our nation’s enemies into the country and give them access to our legal system, that is one of those times. Taking steps to treat our enemies better than they deserve or have a right to, just because this is the United States of America, is stupid, and worse, it is dangerous.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nancy and Harry Are Doing a Bang-up Job

USA Today reports “fewer Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job than at any time since shortly after Republicans impeached President Clinton, a Gallup Poll finds.” The story goes on to say that while fewer than one-in-two Americans gave Congress a thumbs-up last month, now only slightly more than one-in-three approve of the job the national legislature is doing, and only 14 percent say they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the Congress.

Disapproval ratings have risen from 48 percent in February to 53 percent. And that may be the good news. Other polls show approval ratings from 23 percent to 43 percent, and more polls are in the 20s and low 30s that in the upper realms.

So, what happened to the mandate Democrats thought they had after the November elections? Clearly, the American people did not mandate what they now see the Congress doing. And what is the Congress doing?

Not much, really. Aside from passing minimum wage legislation, the highly vaunted first 100 hours turned out to be a bunch of hot air, which is not unusual for Washington, even during the winter. And what has happened since then is even worse than raising the minimum wage. Democrats have squandered their thin majority with political dilly-dallying, wasting their time and our money on such boondoggles as trying to pass a no-confidence measure on the Attorney General, and both parties are driving the wrong way on the immigration highway, trying to pass a foolish immigration plan that hardly anyone outside of Washington likes, excluding the illegal aliens and their employers who will benefit from it.

Little wonder, then, that its ratings are in the tank. The 14 percent figure is an interesting number. According to the National Science Foundation, more Americans believe in UFOs (30 percent), or in astrology (31 percent), or in the theory that President Bush knew in advance about the 9-11 attacks (22 percent), or agree with Rosie O’Donnell that explosives brought down the world trade center (16 percent), or believe in Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster (17 percent), than believe in the job Congress is doing.

Congratulations for a job well done to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Good News about CAIR

By Fred Thompson
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've talked before about the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- most recently because it filed that lawsuit against Americans who reported suspicious behavior by Muslims on a U.S. Airways flight. Better known just as CAIR, the lobbying group has come under a lot of scrutiny lately for its connections to terror-supporting groups. This time, though, The Washington Times has uncovered some very good news about the group.

For years, CAIR has claimed to represent millions of American Muslims. In fact, they claim to represent more Muslim in American than ... there are in America. This has alarmed Americans in general as the group often seems to be more aligned with our enemies than us -- which isn't surprising as it spun off from a group funded by Hamas. As you know, Hamas has been waging a terrorist war against Israel and calls for its total destruction. It also promises to see America destroyed. Nowadays, Hamas is busy murdering its Palestinian political rivals.

Even with this history, and CAIR's conspicuous failure to condemn Hamas by name, it has been treated as if represents Muslim Americans by our own government. The good news is that the financial support CAIR claims to have among American Muslims is a myth. We know this because The Washington Times got hold of the group's IRS tax records.

CAIR's dues-paying membership has shrunk 90 percent since 9/11 -- from 29,000 in 2000 to only 1,700 last year. CAIR's annual income from dues plunged from $733,000 to $59,000. Clearly, America's Muslims are not supporting this group -- and I'm happy to hear about it.

Of course, every silver lining seems to have a cloud; and this cloud is that CAIR's spending is running about $3 million a year. They’ve opened 25 new chapters in major cities across the country even as their dues shrank to a pittance. The question is; who’s funding CAIR?

CAIR's not saying. The New York Times earlier this year reported that the backing is from "wealthy Persian Gulf governments" including the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Obviously, we have a bigger problem here than the one with CAIR.

Photo Credit: Carl Cox Photography

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Gore-y" Environmental News

Here is part of a piece from the BBC Web site:

Arctic spring's 'rapid advance'

Spring in the Arctic is arriving "weeks earlier" than a decade ago, a team of Danish researchers have [sic] reported.

Ice in north-east [sic] Greenland is melting an average of 14.6 days earlier than in the mid-1990s, bringing forward the date plants flower and birds lay eggs.

The team warned that the observed changes could disrupt the region's ecosystems and food chain, affecting the long-term survival of some species.

The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists assessed how a range of species' behaviour was affected by the changing climate in Zackenberg, north-east [sic] Greenland, between 1996 and 2005.

Observation of 21 species - six plants, 12 arthropods and three birds - revealed that the organisms had brought forward their flowering, emergence or egg-laying in line with the earlier ice melt.

What important information can we glean from this piece? Other than seeing some grammatical and punctuation errors that signal that the writers at the BBC don’t know the English language very well, not very much.

The piece equivocates: “The team warned that the observed changes could disrupt …” (emphasis mine). Okay. So the changes might disrupt things, or they might not. And, nothing in the piece delivers any substantive evidence that things occurred that would not be expected to have occurred through natural causes.

So, why did the BBC even bother to run this piece on its Website? Fair question.

But even as we say a polite and necessary “ho-hum” about the BBC piece, we should be secure in the knowledge that even if Al Gore has failed to persuade most thoughtful Americans that an environmental cataclysm is eminent, he has at least persuaded his daughter, Kristin, to his cause, according to a news story that one of my headline services posted a little while ago, and which has since disappeared from the Ethernet. If memory serves—and sometimes it doesn’t—Kristin Gore is a co-author of a screen play dealing with the sorry state of the environment. Like father, like son, er, daughter, they say.

While the story that I initially saw disappeared from the headline list, a determined search finally turned up a story:

(From NewsBusters): As reported Sunday by Variety:

Queen Latifah proves an amiably authoritative narrator [in “Arctic Tale”], and is allowed more personality than most script readers; Morgan Freeman never told his penguins they'd "best be goin'." (Co-writer Kristin Gore, Al Gore's daughter, is the only connection to Par Vantage's similarly themed docu hit, "An Inconvenient Truth.")

That doesn’t tell us much more than that Ms. Gore seems to hold the same view of man’s impact on the environment as her dad, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the impact of “Arctic Tale” actually is. But somehow I doubt that it will be more meaningful in the long run than either the BBC story, or papa Al’s “Inconvenient Truth.”

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nifong Gets His Comeuppance

In what likely is the most egregious example of prosecutorial malfeasance in recent history, Mike Nifong, the Durham County, NC district attorney who falsely accused and persecuted three Duke University lacrosse players, is finally beginning to get what he deserves. Few cases of bad conduct are worse than a judicial officer deliberately pursuing innocent people, charging them with crimes, and trying them on those charges for no better reason than political ambition. That is what Nifong did.

The lives of these three young men and their families were turned upside down for more than a year, they spent tens of thousands of dollars each trying to fend off the forces of the American judicial system, which was manipulated against them by a miscreant prosecutor seeking reelection. Duke University, which has its own shameful behavior to account for in this incident, also suffered from Nifong’s selfish crusade.

F. Lane Williamson, the chairman of the three-member disciplinary committee considering ethics charges against Nifong, commented, "This matter has been a fiasco. There's no doubt about it," just before it stripped the Nifong of his state law license. Williamson’s comment is classic understatement; it is impossible for me to find words to suitably describe what Nifong did.

Disbarment is an essential penalty for Nifong, but it should be only the first one. He should be made to repay all expenses incurred for defense of the three players and to repay North Carolina for the cost of their trials, even if that means that his every possession is seized and sold off. And if Nifong doesn’t have enough to cover the attorney fees, the State of North Carolina should pay the rest, and force Nifong to work for the State for free until he pays the rest. But not until he sits in a jail cell for a few years to pay his debt to society and to consider his disgusting behavior.

We Americans put our trust in the mechanisms of our government, and the people who perform duties for us through their government service. Breaching that trust, as Nifong did, is an intolerable injustice, an unforgivable failure of government to serve its citizens, and must be resolved with the most strenuous sanctions and penalties. Mike Nifong must become a symbol of what happens to government servants and elected officials when they break their trust with the American people they serve.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, June 15, 2007

There Is Talent, And Then There Is TALENT

A lot of people watch American Idol, and a lot of people like it. I watch it on occasion, but not regularly, usually toward the end of the cycle when the better singers are the only ones standing. There are a few truly talented people among all those wannabes, but not many. Even the winners sometimes are not top-flight talents.

In Great Britain there is a similar program, “Britain’s Got Talent,” with Simon Cowell as one of the judges, and Piers Morgan of “America’s Got Talent” as a judge, and a truly gorgeous lady named Amanda as the third judge. The following YouTube video shows one contestant on the British show that actually is a tremendous talent.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Subtle Bias Shows Up In Times News Story

News coverage, if it is done properly, delivers factual information straight and without bias toward any side. This is the job of the American news media: balance, fairness and accuracy, which are essential if Americans are to be informed well enough to make good decisions on important matters, and to have an accurate sense of reality.

It is not uncommon for today’s news media to stray from the straight and narrow path of honest news reporting and venture into the world of biased reporting, which, of course, destroys the objectivity and neutrality we depend upon. Some issues are more critical than others, obviously, and some examples of press bias are more damaging than others. The following example deals with an issue that is irrelevant to the security of the country, but is relevant as a political issue:

In Senate Vote, G.O.P. Fights Off Gonzales Rebuke
By David Johnston and Eric Lipton

Washington, June 11 — Senate Republicans blocked a symbolic no-confidence vote against Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Monday evening, dismissing the measure as an irrelevant gesture, though Democrats had hoped it might intensify pressure on Mr. Gonzales to resign.

"What’s wrong with that?” you might be asking. It seems innocuous enough, right? And, if you don’t stop and think about it, you might not notice the subtle jab at Republicans contained therein.

When you realize that the U.S. Senate has no role to play in whether Mr. Gonzales keeps his job or not, you ought to wonder why senators are wasting their time and our money on an irrelevant issue like a no-confidence vote on the Attorney General, instead of working on real problems. The reason, of course, is that Democrats score political points by pressuring the Republican administration to fire one of its main people and by doing so loudly in the press.

This story in The New York Times takes the Democrats’ side by placing the blame for the failure of this action on Republicans. However, when you consider that everyone in the Senate knew full well that it was a purely political effort, and for that reason was certain not to get many Republican votes, and when you realize further that there are only 51 Democrats in the Senate, nine short of the 60 votes needed for passage, there was never much chance of passing the measure.

So, while it is true that Republicans did not support the measure in sufficient numbers to pass it, given the political nature of the measure it is somewhat disingenuous to blame Republicans for the measure’s failure. It would have been just as accurate for the headline to be written: Democrats’ Partisan No-Confidence Measure Fails. But the most honest headline would simply have said: No-Confidence Vote Fails 53-38.

Having been written as it was, the headline and the story convey, however subtly, the idea that Republicans are playing politics by supporting the AG of a Republican administration, and in light of the enormous negative publicity against Mr. Gonzales, the Republicans appear partisan in their refusal to vote for the measure. It is one more piece of information that delicately colors perceptions, helping to firm up the idea that Republicans are not decent people who don’t play fair, and many people will react by thinking, “Those dastardly Republicans are protecting that horrible guy that fired those poor U.S. Attorneys for no reason.”

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Admire Harry Reid

No, I really do. I know regular visitors to Observations have perceived my mild conservatism, and that there are some Democrats that I’m not fond of, and some Democrats whom I really am not fond of.

But Harry Reid has earned my respect. You see, Harry Reid is not your typical politician. And what is really interesting is that I would not have made that statement as little as 10 days ago, and I also would not have had the high admiration for Sen. Reid then that I have today.

What has produced this flattering opinion of the Senate Majority Leader that runs so sharply contrary to expectations? It is the fact that Sen. Reid sticks to his guns; he doesn’t waiver in the wind; he doesn’t stick a wet finger up to see which way the political winds are blowing; he ignores polls in making decisions in the Senate. Case in point: Despite approval ratings about the same as Scooter Libby’s, the man sentenced to prison for maybe lying in an investigation that shouldn’t have occurred into a crime that didn’t happen, and not far different from President Bush’s marks, Sen. Reid insisted in pushing aside Senate work on important matters to push ahead on a matter that not only isn’t important, but also isn’t the business of the U.S. Senate. Nosiree, Harry Reid isn’t going to be deterred by the fact that the attempt to hold a no confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is meaningless, or that even if he could get the Senate to vote to take the no confidence vote, it will have absolutely no effect on whether Gonzales remains in the AG’s position. You’ve got to admire that kind of independence in our elected servants.

But that isn’t all. Sen. Reid, against heavy opposition from the majority of Americans who want substantive changes made to our immigration policies and control established on our borders, unilaterally labeled the 12-to-40 million illegal aliens in the United States today “undocumented Americans.” Undeterred by the U.S. Constitution, which does not bestow such authority in the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Reid plunged blindly ahead to reclassify these intruders as citizens who just don’t have the proper paperwork yet.

So, hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! That’s three cheers for Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid. He’s my D.C. Hero for this week.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

"The Story of Two Houses"

Like most people, I get a lot of emails, and some of them are junk. But a lot of them are good ones, and occasionally I get one the authenticity of which I question. Following is one in the latter category:

House #1

A 20-room mansion ( not including 8 bathrooms ) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool ( and a pool house) and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year.

The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in a Northern or Midwestern "snow belt" area. It's in the South.


House #2

Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every "green" feature current home construction can provide. The house is 4,000 square feet ( 4 bedrooms ) and is nestled on an arid, high prairie in the American southwest.

A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F. ) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer.

The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.


House #1 is outside of Nashville, Tennessee; it is the abode of the "environmentalist" Al Gore.

House #2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas; it is the residence the of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

We've all heard about Al Gore's house, the condemnation for hypocrisy, the staunch defense by supporters, but this is the first I've heard about George Bush's house. I've done a little checking and the description of both houses appears to be accurate.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Goose, the Gander and Libby

By Jay Ambrose

I don't get it. When Bill Clinton was in trouble for lying in a legal case, we were told that, oh, for Pete's sake, everyone lies.

But now, Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been sentenced to prison for lies. How can that be?

Of course, Clinton did take a hit. He was impeached by the House. But leftist scholars had told us that the constitutional criterion for evicting a president from office committing "high crimes and misdemeanors" was not satisfied by the crime of perjury for some reason, and the public seemed endlessly forgiving because, after all, sex was involved. You could almost hear a continental murmur: "There but for the grace of God go I."

So there was no eviction and, once Clinton was out of office and vulnerable to the criminal courts, no whisper of prosecution. It is true that, before his tenure was up, a federal judge found Clinton in contempt of court, ordering him to pay $90,000 for his lies, and that he later went along with the suspension of his license to practice law in Arkansas (which isn't exactly what he had been practicing in the first place). But that was about it, and Clinton has since been bouncing happily along.

It has been different with Libby, who has led a productive, important, decent life but made the mistake, first, of working for an unpopular vice president in Dick Cheney, a Republican, no less, and not so nice-seeming as Clinton, and, second, of running up against a fixated, Javert-like prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. This guy failed, you know. Fitzgerald set out to prove someone broke the law by leaking the classified identity of a CIA employee, but no law was broken, and he landed on the next best thing. That happened to be crucifying Libby for saying he had not done something that wasn't illegal anyway.

Did Libby knowingly lie during the investigation? As somebody whose own memory is far from what it used to be, I can almost believe that Libby may have suffered at least some lapses instead of engaging in outright fabrication. But the jury said he is guilty, and let's assume he is while also recalling what was going on here.

A former ambassador had said in a New York Times op-ed piece that the administration had misled the American people about Iraq trying to get uranium from Africa. The basis of his contention was a government-sponsored investigative trip that did not begin to demonstrate what he said it demonstrated. It turned out that his wife at the CIA had recommended his name for this trip in the first place. In Washington politics, when people come at you falsely and you discover behind-the-scenes facts that might illuminate what's really happening, you leak to the press.

It's an old game, and while there were claims of a CIA spy being dangerously "outed" in this case, that's a melodramatic, hyped-up interpretation of events at best.

Maybe a prosecutor looks at these circumstances and still says, you know, Libby really did obstruct the pursuit of justice and we need to make a statement about that. Then you learn that Fitzgerald knew even before the interrogation of Libby that the initial leak had another source, and you find yourself asking several questions. To what extent should we applaud anyone who uses the mighty apparatus of the federal government to keep bulldozing away until he can get a conviction of someone for something? Is that the kind of law enforcement we really want? And isn't a hanging judge's prison sentence of two and a half years wildly, even maliciously disproportionate to the offense?

Despite my disdain for much of the prattle in Clinton's defense, I thought eviction from the White House would have been disproportionate to his offense.

Yes, dishonest testimony subverts the means by which we arrive at just conclusions in court cases, and for Clinton to get off scot-free would have sent all sorts of wrong signals.

But he didn't. There were some consequences, including the impeachment. Libby, too, should face penalties of some sort, but not this, not 30 months in prison. This punishment is a travesty and an outrage.

Jay Ambrose is the former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers. He can be reached at

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back in the Slammer, Again

Well, it seems that the judge in the Paris Hilton case was a peeved as the rest of us with the unilateral action of the sheriff, who released the heiress to home confinement with only an ankle bracelet to supervise her.

As news reports tell it, the judge, along with the City Attorney, were both incensed at the action, and called Hilton back into court today and ordered her back to jail. Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer was calm but apparently irked by Sheriff Lee Baca's decision to release Hilton three days into her sentence due to an unspecified medical condition. "I at no time condoned the actions of the sheriff and at no time told him I approved the actions," Sauer said. "At no time did I approve the defendant being released from custody to her home." (Source: Fox News) She, reportedly, broke down in tears and cried for her mother.

Paris has her defenders, or at least some who think her 43-day jail sentence was over the top. Their opposition holds that no one who had be found guilty of driving while intoxicated had ever gotten 43 days in jail before. They are probably right.

But Paris did more than just get convicted of driving under the influence; she broke the terms of her probation by driving on a suspended license, kept the judge and the rest of the courtroom participants waiting for 30 minutes beyond the scheduled start time of her hearing, and then had the audacity, or lack of sense, to tell the court that she couldn’t be bothered with reading court documents herself, that she had her people do it for her. Obviously, she had no idea what those documents said, and that likely meant that the judge had to take additional time to make her aware of what they said.

Given all of that, it’s no wonder the judge sent her to jail. I feel certain he was trying very hard to get the self-absorbed girl’s attention, and send her the message that just because she is rich and doesn’t use, or have, any common sense, or care much about things, the rest of the world does not recognize that she is as special as she thinks she is.

I don’t blame the judge for giving her a tough sentence, and I hope that living in these sparse conditions of the detention facility for six weeks will get her attention, and make her stop and think a little about what a waste her life has been up until now, and just maybe the experience will propel Paris Hilton to make something useful of herself.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Paris Back in the Hilton

So, young, naughty Paris, who finally got what she deserved, and what might actually have benefited her, developed a reaction to jail and got sent home.

Originally sentenced to 45 days for violating probation on a drink-driving conviction, she was told there was no prospect of early release. But guess what? She got an early release; the sentence was cut in half after she was given credit for good behavior. Just what was good about her behavior? And why did that merit halving her jail time, given that she drove drunk, then ignored her probation, and then after that showed up late for court, and then, again, said that, no, she hadn’t read the court documents, that one of her “people” was supposed to have done that?

But the 26-year-old out-of-touch, self-absorbed heiress will now be kept under house arrest and must wear an electronic tag for another 40 days. Oh, the shame of it! The utter humiliation!

She was held at the Century Regional Detention Centre in Lynwood, California, where she was credited with having served five days, and where her lawyer said she spent 23 hours a day in a solitary cell. She was separated from the main prison population in a special unit for celebrities, public officials, police officers and other high-profile inmates.

So, what went wrong?

The decision to send her home was made as a result of a medical problem, but officials refused to give details of the condition, citing privacy issues. Other sources said that she cried all the time, that she said the jail was too noisy, that she didn’t eat, and the kicker: she developed a rash. What that says to me is that the therapy was working, not that she needed to be sent home to mommy.

I guess this is just one more pitiful example of what passes for justice, sometimes, in America.

But what message does this send to other young people? Or, to older people, for that matter?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

What’s Up in Russia?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to retaliate against a proposed missile defense system the U.S. wants to install by aiming Russian missiles at Europe.

It seems the Russians have returned to their Cold War mentality, when they objected to nearly everything enemy nations wanted to do, however innocuous it may have been. What threat, after all, does a system to destroy missiles that have been launched at the U.S. and/or European nations pose to Russia?

Here’s what the United States wants to build: a system that will knock out incoming ballistic missiles potentially coming from North Korea and Iran by stationing radars in Alaska and California in the U.S., one in the U.K., and one in Greenland, and a series of interceptor missiles based in Alaska (40 of them) and California (4), and 10 of them in Poland with a radar facility to fire them located in the Czech Republic. There would also be 130 interceptors based on ships. The interceptors would physically hit the ballistic missile in mid-flight. There would also be missiles to try to destroy incoming rockets in the final stages.

So, this plan generates threats from Russia? One wonders exactly what the Russians are planning that they are so adamantly opposed to a system designed to protect us and our friends from potential nuclear attack from North Korea or Iran? The Russian threat is somewhat like saying “If I take a swing at your nose, you had better not try to block it.”

Weird? Uh-huh. Suspicious? You betcha.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Amnesty: No
Enforcement: Yes

The amnesty bill now being debated in the U.S. Senate, the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007, doesn’t pass the smell test for those Americans concerned with their culture, the rule of law, fairness in bringing in new citizens, and a common sense approach to immigration.

We have some number of millions of illegal aliens—perhaps as many as 40 million, by some estimates—in this country thanks to the negligence of the federal government and the willful complicity of many cities, counties and states. Many or most of these illegal aliens are probably good people looking for a better life than they could make back home, but more than a few of them are not good people. They are criminals, drug dealers, drunk drivers and maybe—even likely—terrorists.

Each of these people, good or not good, is by definition a lawbreaker, a criminal.

It isn’t difficult to get into the U.S. if you want to get in. There are numerous checkpoints manned by the Border Patrol for those who want to do it the right way, but it isn’t much of a challenge for those who won’t or can’t come in legally. Our government has miserably failed in one of the very few legitimate duties it has: guarding its borders against interlopers. If you value your family and your belongings, you lock your house to keep the thieves out. That might keep only the less determined thieves out, but it is at least taking some positive action to protect your valued possessions. The United States hasn’t locked its doors; it left them wide open. And that isn’t the fault of the Border Patrol, it is a policy failure that goes back decades.

The amnesty bill is one attempt to correct all these problems, but it is a pitifully inept attempt that, among other things, rewards illegal aliens for breaking the law. That won’t fly.

What will fly with Americans that care about preserving their country and way of life is a plan that at the very least doesn’t reward bad behavior, and put gate-crashers ahead of paying customers; one that requires people who want to adopt the U.S. and its way of life as their own to integrate themselves into the existing society by learning about our country’s history and traditions, and learning to speak its language; one that expects people to earn their way in, not sneak in; a plan that says to all who want to come here, “we don’t take just anybody, you have to be worthy of becoming an American.”

Anything less won’t pass muster, and can’t be allowed by the people to get out of Congress. We must enforce our borders and our immigration laws, and we must deal with illegal aliens like the law breakers they are.

The pandering of the presidential hopefuls who have signed on to this plan is disgusting. Democrats see millions of new Democrat voters; Republicans want to throw a bone to Hispanics so perhaps their votes won’t go so heavily to Democrats. They could care less about what happens to the country with an influx of millions of Mexicans, Central and South Americans and God only knows who else that want to come here on their own terms.

This inane plan must be defeated, and each and every political candidate who supports it must also be defeated.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Prosecutorial Vendetta

May, 31, 2007
Dan K. Thommason
Scripps Howard News Service

What in the world did former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby ever do to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to make him so angry? Fitzgerald now wants the federal court to throw the book at Libby as the final step in one of the most graphically unfair, ridiculous investigations and prosecutions in the history of the Republic.

There really has to be something personal here. One would think the Chicago prosecutor with a reputation for self-righteousness had a bone to pick with Libby from the very start.

Fitzgerald has asked for a three-year sentence for Libby, who was convicted of obstructing justice and lying during an inquiry into the disclosure of a CIA undercover agent who hadn't been covert in some time. For heavens sake, the Watergate cover up conspirators didn't get that harsh of treatment for precipitating a constitutional crisis. There are convicted muggers, thieves and dopers who are doing less time.

Valerie Plame, the CIA operative, was about as important to the security of this nation as I am and that much seems implicit in the fact that Fitzgerald decided early on there were no grounds to prosecute anyone under a law making it a crime to reveal the identity of an American spy. But one would have thought that revealing her occupation was a serious breach in national defense that threatened us all and that her life has been ruined by that disclosure. Instead, she and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, seem to have thrived, becoming media celebrities and the darlings of liberal salons. If the court accepts Fitzgerald's demands, the couple can giggle all the way to the next Vanity Fair party while grousing that Fitzgerald didn't put away more White House aides.

But wait a second. Wasn't this essentially a victimless non-crime, the leaking of Plame's name that is? Then why continue to pursue the matter? That's anyone's guess but a legitimate surmise might be that Fitzgerald was interested almost from the first in getting someone to lie so he could prosecute anyway. In fact, there was almost immediate speculation to that effect after he was appointed. Badger anyone long enough and discrepancies in their stories are likely to appear. I'm sorry, but there has to be some personal motivation in all this.

Having chosen Libby as the scapegoat in this charade, Fitzgerald now wants to administer the coup de grace by putting him in the slammer for 30 to 37 months. Why not? We all know by now that Libby's crime makes him public enemy number one. At least that's the way it sounded in Fitzgerald's sentencing recommendation. He argued that Libby "showed contempt for the judicial process ... by repeatedly lying under oath about material matters in a serious criminal investigation."

He also said that Libby has shown no remorse for his actions. Well, in Libby's mind he feels he was unfairly made an example, wrongly prosecuted and wrongly convicted and there are a great many Americans out there who agree with him no matter what the special counsel says.

This is not a defense for lying nor should public officials be treated leniently when they disobey the law. But there are crimes and there are crimes and the impact of Libby's actions, even if accurately portrayed, which is in doubt, is without real significance except to demonstrate the diligence of those prosecuting him, another notch on the handle of the counsel's gun so to speak. It is difficult for the average person to see how a case can be obstructed when there is no case. Fitzgerald's mandate was to determine whether the law on CIA disclosures had been broken and he knew almost immediately that it hadn't but he kept going.

What about all those others who had a hand in outing Plame -- the former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who told columnist Bob Novak and began this travesty? Why was no one else but Libby pursued with this fervor. The prosecutors even jailed a reporter for not telling them what they already knew. So what in the world is going on here, Fitzgerald?

Perhaps Libby is fortunate that Fitzgerald didn't ask for the death penalty. He probably would have if he could have. Federal District Judge Reggie Walton will make the decision on June 5, and he needs to start asking questions about the severity of this request.

Haven't the taxpayers spent enough on this nonsense?