Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
Monday, January 30, 2006
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Monday, Jan. 30, 2006 9:03 a.m. EST
9/11 Commission: FISA Court Too Slow
Bush administration critics continue to insist that the president could have gotten all the wiretap authority he needed from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to intercept terrorist communications as they plotted the next 9/11 attack.
But it turns out, the 9/11 Commission strongly disagreed.
As noted on yesterday's "Meet the Press" by National Review Online reporter Byron York, 9/11 Commission Report clearly states:
"The FISA application process continues to be long and slow. Requests for approvals are overwhelming the ability of the system to process them and to conduct a surveillance.”
In a passage not noted by Mr. York, the Commission blasts the FISA process even more harshly, complaining:
"The 'wall' between criminal and intelligence investigations apparently caused agents to be less aggressive than they might otherwise have been in pursuing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance powers in counterterrorism investigations.
"Moreover, the FISA approval process involved multiple levels of review, which also discouraged agents from using such surveillance. Many agents also told us that the process for getting FISA packages approved at FBI Headquarters and the Department of Justice was incredibly lengthy and inefficient.
"Several FBI agents added that, prior to 9/11, FISA-derived intelligence information was not fully exploited but was collected primarily to justify continuing the surveillance."
Since the media generally regards the 9/11 Commission as the ultimate authority on such matters, we trust reporters will now stop insisting that the FISA process was wholly adequate to keep America safe from terrorists.
Energy: Sens. John Sununu and John McCain are right to question America's reliance on foreign fuel. If barriers to U.S. drilling and nuclear power weren't so bad, we wouldn't see such oil-fueled menaces. This must change.
Right now, it's easier for big oil companies to drill in faraway places such as Nigeria, Russia and Iran than get a permit to drill in the U.S.
That's why we don't have many options when an unbalanced dictator such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez taunts his No. 1 customer as a "perverse, murderous, genocidal, immoral empire" and calls on the world's leftists to "bring it down" — as Chavez did last weekend.
He knows he has us over a barrel because our country is virtually off-limits to new drilling.
While 31% of total U.S. land is federal, about 78% of America's known oil reserves and 62% of its natural gas reserves are on that land, making it pretty much a federal issue, and plenty of legislators are to blame.
McCain called it right when he told Fox News last week: "We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela." In response, Venezuela's vice president, a radical leftist and friend of terrorist Carlos the Jackal, told McCain to "go to hell."
Sununu put his finger on the flip side of the problem when he criticized New Hampshire's rush to get cut-rate fuel in the absence of adequate supply.
"Hugo Chavez has used the recent spike in heating oil costs as an opportunity to grandstand on the world stage," Sununu said. "He is selling Venezuela's assets at cut-rate prices while his country languishes in poverty and essential infrastructure crumbles. This is a disgrace, and New Hampshire should take no part in such a tragic and misguided charade."
Is it a coincidence that high oil prices have created more than a few "wackos" out there?
Chavez is the poster boy for oil-powered consolidation of internal power and mischief abroad, as McCain said. But so is Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is an even worse threat. There are several warring African fiefdoms run by oil-profit-gorged tyrants. And it's no secret that Russians have lost many of their freedoms under Vladimir Putin as oil prices rise.
As the U.S. expends blood and treasure to spread democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, it makes little sense to see our imported-oil habit undercutting the effort. As we've noted before, we believe strongly in the free market — but the market for oil, dominated as it is by a handful of collusive oil-producing countries, isn't free.
Congress, so far, has been little help. Energy insiders say the worst opponents to drilling and diversification in Congress are from the New England corridor, with Sen. Edward Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Bill Delahunt and others blocking any legislation that will open up more of our offshore and interior to drilling.
Some, such as Delahunt, are little more than slavish apologists for Chavez. He was the first to accept Chavez's "charity" of cheap heating oil for select constituents in Massachusetts while voting against every major energy measure to lower energy prices and reduce the influence of Venezuela's dictator.
The Kennedy clan was in on the same Checkbook Chavismo through the family's Citizen's Energy Corp. These are the same people who veto natural gas pipelines through wintry New England and halt wind-powered farms near pricey real estate areas that just happen to be in their view.
That's why U.S. companies have been driven offshore, and with them a large chunk of U.S. GDP. It's not just Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that's out-of-bounds. About 90% of the U.S.'s energy-rich Outer Continental Shelf is off limits to our own companies.
It's no exaggeration to call this economic issue a matter of national security, no less so than any other nonterrorist threat we face. It needs to be addressed with urgency.
Based on what we've heard, President Bush will outline our energy choices in Tuesday's State of the Union speech. In it, Bush is expected to push tax breaks on new technologies such as fuel cells, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. That's a good start.
Some will no doubt be upset that Bush isn't trying to impose new taxes on energy use. What they perhaps don't understand, but Bush does, is the last thing Americans want — or need — is another tax.
We're glad to see Bush recognizes the urgency of this issue and is willing to take action. We only wish Congress would do the same.
Scandal: Sen. Harry Reid has been found with his hands in the Abramoff cookie jar. But is the problem too many lobbyists buying influence or that there is too much influence to buy?
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, hoping like most Democrats that charges of corruption and the depiction of Republicans as the party of Jack Abramoff will help them retake the House or Senate or both, said on "Fox News Sunday": "No Democrat delivered anything, and there's no accusation and no investigation that any Democrat ever delivered anything to Jack Abramoff."
Ah, but there is, as host Chris Wallace dutifully pointed out.
He asked Dean, "If we find that there were some Democrats who wrote letters on behalf of some of the Indian tribes that Abramoff represented, then what do you say, sir?" Dean responded: "Those Democrats are in trouble" and "they should be in trouble."
As Wallace hinted, one of "those Democrats" is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada, who, when interviewed by Wallace in December about acting on behalf of an Abramoff client who later donated to a Reid-sponsored political group, testily responded: "Don't try to say I received money from Abramoff. I've never met the man, don't know anything."
When Wallace persisted, Reid shot back: "Make sure that all your viewers understand — not a penny from Abramoff. I've been on the Indian Affairs Committee my whole time in the Senate."
What viewers should understand is that a little-noticed AP story last November showed that Reid accepted thousands of dollars from an Abramoff client — the Coushatta Indian tribe.
The Coushattas sent a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, the day after Reid interceded via letter with Interior Secretary Gale Norton over a casino dispute with a rival tribe. A second tribe represented by Abramoff sent an additional $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid in total received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related contributions between 2001 and 2004.
Before the Democrats get on their high horse regarding GOP finance scandals, let us remember that 90% of Senate Democrats took money linked to "Republican" lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That includes nearly $100,000 by Sen. John Kerry and $12,950 by fellow presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton.
As the sad case of Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Vietnam fighter pilot and "Top Gun" inspiration, reveals, political corruption is a human condition, not a political one. Absolute power does in fact corrupt absolutely.
Yes, lobbyist-driven contributions have been growing by leaps and bounds. But the cold fact is that during the same period, every facet of American business and American life has been subjected to increasing regulation regarding the environment, hiring practices, workplace hazards, ad infinitum.
The less power politicians have over the economy, the less incentive there is to influence their decisions. The less government spending there is, the less incentive there is to influence how money is spent — and to whom it goes.
Perhaps we should revisit the idea of term limits. There would be less temptation to influence the decision of someone who might not be there next year. The problem is particularly acute in the House of Representatives which, with its gerrymandered districts, has become a veritable House of Lords.
Or perhaps we could simply limit the fundraising that senators and congressman do to residents of their own district or state.
By far the best reform would be to let anybody give any amount to any candidate or related committee. They would just have to disclose it, immediately, on the Internet. As we've said before, nothing disinfects like sunlight.
Checks & Balances: Senate Democrats threaten to filibuster Samuel Alito to save the Constitution, but that unprecedented abuse of power would be undemocratic and driven by nothing nobler than liberal ideology.
The New York Times is goading Senate Democrats to show backbone and stage a filibuster even if it's unsuccessful. "Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination," its editorial page maintained last week.
That's the game right there. The left-wing activists who rely on the federal courts because they can't enact their agenda via the ballot box believe a failed attempt against Judge Alito will get the American public used to the idea that filibustering Supreme Court nominees is a reasonable weapon. A battle lost now will increase the chances of a successful filibuster of President Bush's next appointment to the high court.
The savvy Ralph Neas and his People for the American Way know Alito is a near shoe-in, yet they're dying to go down in flames over him. The group has a new slogan: "The filibuster is not a tool to be used trivially. Alito is not a trivial threat."
Filibustering a nominee for associate justice of the Supreme Court, however, would be a first in U.S. history. Democrats point to the Abe Fortas affair in 1968, but let's review that shameful episode of cronyism.
Fortas was being appointed Chief Justice of the United States, the head of one of our three branches of government. He was already serving as a Supreme Court justice, yet he was unethically moonlighting as a speechwriter for President Johnson, briefing LBJ on private Supreme Court deliberations and even lobbying senators in the president's behalf.
As a sitting justice, Fortas took $15,000 raised by his former law partner from business magnates disguised as a payment for seminars at American University.
LBJ's pal Fortas had a shady role in Johnson's corrupt 1948 Senate election, and by 1969 was forced by Chief Justice Warren to resign his Supreme Court seat after it came to light that he signed a deal for a lifetime annual consulting fee of $20,000 from financier Louis Wolfson, who was jailed in 1968 for stock manipulation.
The Senate's bipartisan action saving the country from such a sleazy character becoming chief justice was in the spirit of Alexander Hamilton's description of the Senate's role in the Federalist Papers as "an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the president."
What's more, if Democratic senators really consider the filibuster a legitimate tool against Supreme Court appointments, why didn't they use it in 1991 against Clarence Thomas, who won by the slim majority of 52-48? Answer: At the time, they thought character assassination would be more effective.
Alito's opponents simply can't accept that the country re-elected a conservative Republican president and that there's a Republican majority in the Senate. Just the threat of filibuster proves their lack of respect for democracy. But then, that's exactly why judicial imperialism is so important to them.
Middle East: Hamas is the duly elected ruling party of the Palestinians. But that shouldn't mean the U.S. has to financially support it.
Now that the Palestinians have made their choice in a genuine election, their first, there will be a swell of cries from within that the U.S. should aid the Hamas government — just as it does many other newly democratic governments. In this case, such pleas amount to madness.
It's obvious the U.S. government and the American taxpayers owe nothing to Hamas. It's easy to make that case.
The Hamas regime is, at its core, a terrorist organization. Three nations — the U.S., Britain and Israel — have designated it as such. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel, a freely elected and sovereign state that maintains friendly ties with the U.S.
The argument, then, might be reduced to this: The poor and oppressed Palestinian people are in desperate need, so they deserve our financial largess. End of story.
But many of those "in need" are the same people that put Hamas in power. They also gave the corrupt Fatah — which is linked to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the terrorist group that briefly took over a European Union office in Gaza City last weekend because it didn't like a Danish newspaper's portrayal of Mohammed in a cartoon — far more parliamentary seats than it deserved.
These same Palestinians largely ignored the Third Way Party, the only party that could have come close to being charitably labeled the "peace party" in last week's Palestinian elections.
One of the first lessons of democracy is responsibility. Those who vote must take responsibility for the results and their actions.
As such, there's no compelling reason for the U.S. support a government and a people that virulently hate the U.S., refuse to renounce terrorism, are hostile toward Israel, and foster a culture of hatred and death whose goal is the destruction of the West.
To give such people money would be taken by Mideast terrorists as more evidence of American weakness. And it's weakness, not strength, that invites Islamist attacks.
The Europeans — those on the Continent and the American elites who think like them — reflexively see the Palestinians as victims. They think appeasement is a virtuous foreign policy — and will howl on cue if Washington withholds aid.
But withholding aid is the least Washington should do. Even better would be to have no official ties with Hamas until it renounces terrorism and accepts the right of Israel to exist. Anything less will be completely and utterly unsatisfactory.
If the U.S. and rest of the West act as if the Hamas regime is acceptable as a governing party, radical Palestinians — as well as radical Muslims in general — will see it as confirmation they are right, that the West is full of weaklings who won't stand up for themselves.
The will of the Palestinian people has spoken. But the Palestinians, if they're going to talk like that, should not have the last word.
That privilege belongs to civilized nations that stand against terrorism rather than operate as part of it. Only when the Palestinians begin to understand and act on this distinction should Washington have any relationship with them at all.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics." - Thomas Sowell
Sowell is, of course, correct. Just as it's a fact of life that you can't please everyone, it's equally a fact that politicians will nevertheless pretend that they can spread the rewards around so that all are happy. Never mind that, at its logical extreme, this is known as Communism.
Over time, one of the favorite tools of spread-it-around politicians and their friends in education and private industry has been affirmative action.
Affirmative action--the giving of preferential treatment to those who had been severely disadvantaged in the past--was originally proposed with African-Americans as its target group, and with the goal of bringing them more into the mainstream of the nation's life. As such, it seemed like a noble idea since African-Americans were the only people brought here against their will, enslaved for hundreds of years, then forced to suffer another century of Jim Crow discrimination, which was nearly as bad as slavery.
However, the idea of affirmative action suggests a rather superficial reading of history. In the first place, the awarding of special considerations initially was based on skin color, rather than economic circumstances.
This ignored the experiences of virtually every immigrant group.
The Irish and Italians, for example, were the victims of terrible poverty and discrimination. Imported Chinese laborers were barely more than chattel. And economist Sowell (himself an African-American) wrote in his landmark 1981 book, Ethnic America, that in his opinion the living conditions endured by Russian and Eastern European Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the worst in the country's history, not even excluding slavery.
Yet today no one suggests that American descendants of any of these people are due some compensation for the affronts to their ancestors. This has not meant that no one else has wanted to jump on the bandwagon, though. Quite the contrary. A basic understanding of human nature would suggest that when some people are accorded special treatment, others will try to get it, too. Which is precisely what has happened.
Those minority groups clamoring for their own piece of the affirmative action pie have expanded to include Hispanic-Americans, the disabled, and even women (who, while they certainly have been discriminated against, are actually the majority of any population).
Affirmative action programs have persisted despite opposition from conservatives in Congress and a current presidential administration that has tied itself into intellectual knots trying to decide where it stands. The Supreme Court has narrowly upheld them, albeit with restrictions, from Bakke in 1978 to the University of Michigan case in June of 2004.
I got to thinking about all this as a result of the announcement a few weeks ago by the Census Bureau that the population of Texas, our second-largest state, is now estimated to consist of 50.2% minorities. In other words, there is no longer a majority against which to measure minority status.
This highlights the fact that the ethnic composition of America is changing, and changing fast. While the country is still predominantly white (or, more accurately, "non-Hispanic white"), that majority has fallen from 85% of the overall population in the 1960s to about 67% today. By 2050, if present trends persist, non-Hispanic whites will fall below 50%, and thus become just another minority. What will become true nationally is already the case in California, Hawaii, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, and now Texas, with five other states--Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Arizona--likely to follow in the next decade.
This trend has resulted in the coining of a new adjective, "majority-minority," to describe states in which it has happened. It has also ignited a debate over the very use of the term "minority" itself. Does the word, as applied to population groups, continue to have meaning? And, by extension, if minority groups are fast becoming extinct, then don't we have to redefine the purpose of affirmative action programs?
Regarding terminology, Haig Bosmajian, author of The Language of Oppression, thinks the word is still useful because "by 'minority' today we mean a disadvantaged group of citizens... There's power behind these terms." But Roderick Harrison of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank, counters that the word is "a confusing term as one thinks of today's population."
Star Parker (whom I have featured on this blog), a former welfare mother who put herself through college and now heads the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education puts it more bluntly: The word is "absolutely misused. It's become an entitlement word, a word for victimization."
As for affirmative action itself, defenders such as former University of Michigan president Lee Bollinger believe that we should not give up "the largeness of vision that defined the best of the civil rights era." Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Gregory Rodriguez of the New America Foundation couldn't disagree more. Rodriguez calls for "a thorough reconsideration of our collective notion of fairness and our society's duty to uphold it... in the more demographically complex post-civil rights era, there is no longer a coherent vision or a collectively held rationale for addressing social inequity."
My own view is that it's time to move on, and find new ways of looking at our collective problems, and dealing with them. In the end, each of us is a minority of one, with full responsibility for our individual lives. Support for that notion lies at the very heart of what the nation is supposed to be, a place where everyone has equality of opportunity.
Government has a role in making that happen, and in quashing the kinds of discrimination that impede the individual, but any attempt to guarantee equality of outcome is doomed to failure.
The great Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek hit the nail right on the head back in 1945, when he wrote in his classic, The Road to Serfdom: "From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently.
Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time."
While I too am against any type of International Government, I think there's an easier way to fight it say.....through global trade, which will lead to the creation of a global middle class and these people demanding their own governments give them the freedom and liberty for them to pursue their dreams.
Kenneth R. Timmerman, NewsMax.comTuesday, Jan. 24, 2006
In a country of religious zealots, the extremism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has even his own countrymen sounding alarms.
Dissidents within Iran say their country's president is such a crazed fanatic that he will try to usher in the end of the world as we know it.
On Dec. 16, gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he toured the southeastern province of Sistan, along Iran's border with Pakistan.
According to news reports, Ahmadinejad's personal bodyguard and driver were killed in the ambush, although the president was unhurt. The government-controlled media in Tehran attributed the attack to "bandits," a term used to denote a wide range of armed groups, from drug dealers to opposition guerrillas.
But in this case, the attack may have been part of a plot to remove the Iranian president by a faction within the ruling clergy. At least, so believes a Western source who has just returned from talks with top officials in Tehran.
The faction seeking to remove Ahmadinejad does not object to the substance of the Iranian president's repeated vows to "wipe Israel from the map" and destroy America. Nor do they believe Iran should abandon its secret nuclear weapons program, top Iranian government officials said, according to the source.
Rather, they object to the fact that he has made such comments openly and without ambiguity. They believe that his frankness dangerously exposes them to attack from the United States, Israel or both.
"This guy is not a politician," the source quoted one top Iranian official as saying. "He is certifiably insane. And he is obsessed with the Imam Zaman," the legendary 12th imam, or Imam Mahdi, whom many Shiite Muslims believe will return in the "end times" after a period of horrific battles, famine and pestilence.
Americans may find it curious that government officials in Tehran, who have actively supported the Islamic republic for years, object to Ahmadinejad's religious zealotry. After all, this comes in a regime whose constitution declares that the supreme leader is God's representative on earth whose edicts can not be challenged by elected representatives.
But for more than two decades, Iranian leaders such as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani have walked a fine line between openly defying the United States and conducting covert aggression through terrorists and sophisticated intelligence operations. Under Ahmadinejad, these officials believe, that fine line has been crossed.
Ahmadinejad's messianic beliefs and his obsession with the 12th imam have become an open subject of debate in Tehran. Meeting with his cabinet shortly after taking office last August, the new president reportedly had Cabinet members sign a loyalty oath to the 12th imam, which they dropped into a well near where the Shiite messiah is believed to be hiding.
In September, when Ahmadinejad took the podium to address the United Nations in New York City, he felt surrounded by light. It wasn't the stage lighting, he said. It was a light from heaven.
He related his otherworldly experience in a videotaped meeting with a prominent ayatollah in Tehran. A transcript of his comments and sections of the videotape wound up on a hard-line, pro-regime Web site, baztab.com
Ahmadinejad's "vision" at the United Nations could be dismissed as pure political posturing if it weren't for a string of similar statements and actions that clearly suggest he believes he is destined to bring about the return of the Shiite messiah.
The mystical 12th imam, who is venerated by many in Iran, disappeared as a child in the year 941. Shiite Muslims believe he will return and rule for seven years in perfect justice.
In a Nov. 16 speech in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said that the main mission of his government was to "pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi (May God Hasten His Reappearance)."
Reports in government media outlets in Tehran have quoted Ahmadinejad as having told regime officials that the 12th imam will reappear in two years. That was too much for Iranian legislator Akbar Alami, who publicly questioned Ahmadinejad's judgment, saying that even Islam's holiest figures have never made such claims.
At the same time he has made such statements, the new president has repeatedly vowed to pursue Iran's nuclear programs, in open defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Union negotiators.
While many Shiite Muslims worship the 12th imam, a previously secret society of powerful clerics, now openly advising the new president, are transforming these messianic beliefs into government policies.
Led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who frequently appears with Ahmadinejad, the Hojatieh society is considered by many Shiite Muslims as their own bona fide lunatic fringe. During the early years of the Islamic Revolution, even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini found their beliefs too extreme for public commerce and sent them scurrying underground.
Since taking the reins of government in August, Ahmadinejad has placed Hojatieh devotees in his Cabinet and through the bureaucracy, where they are leading a crackdown on students, women, Western music and religious minorities.
On Nov. 22, a Christian pastor was murdered after the president told a gathering of some 30 provincial governors, "I will stop Christianity in this country." Other Christians have been arrested and Bibles confiscated in recent weeks.
The president's opponents within the regime believe that the widespread replacement of competent bureaucrats with Hojatieh supporters having little government experience could prove fatal to him. "The new guys don't know what they are doing, and the fired people are angry," said the source who just returned from Tehran. "So there is a window of opportunity."
But hints of "regime change from within," carried by emissaries to Washington, may not be enough to deter the United States and Israel from using military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"The business community in Iran is afraid of two things," the source who just returned from Tehran told NewsMax. "They are afraid of international sanctions, and they are afraid of a military strike by the U.S. or Israel. And they believe Ahmadinejad is bringing both."
American Enterprise Institute scholar and former CIA operations officer Reuel Marc Gerecht agrees that the new president could be a blessing in disguise for those who would support regime change in Iran.
"The only way Iran is going to get better is for it to get a lot worse -- and Ahmadinejad may just possibly be the man to galvanize a broad-based opposition to the regime," he wrote recently.
Death penalty opponents thought they'd finally found their smoking gun — the execution of an innocent man that would lead to the abolishment of capital punishment. They were conned, and they are still looking.
Roger Keith Coleman was put to death in the electric chair in 1992 for the 1981 rape and murder of his 19-year-old sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. Miss McCoy's partially beheaded body was found in her home in the small coal-mining town of Grundy in Buchanan County, Va.
Like many cold-blooded murderers, including the liberals' beloved Tookie Williams, Coleman maintained his innocence until the very end. He graced the cover of the May 18, 1992, issue of Time magazine with the headline: "This man might be innocent. This man is due to die."
"An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight," Coleman insisted just minutes before he was executed. "When my innocence is proven, I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have." That hope was also expressed by many of his supporters.
With just two weeks left in his term, Mark Warner, Virginia's term-limited governor and presidential wannabe, earlier this month ordered a re-examination of DNA evidence in the case.
Greeting the possibility of proven innocence, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, opined: "I think it would be the final straw for a lot of people who are on the fence on the death penalty."
James McCloskey, executive director of Centurion Ministries, which had petitioned Warner to re-examine the evidence, had been fighting to prove Coleman's innocence since 1988. The two shared Coleman's final meal together.
After the new tests confirmed Coleman's guilt, McCloskey said the knowledge that Coleman had so successfully deceived him and others was like "a kick in the stomach."
The DNA tests in 1990 placed Coleman in the 2% of the population who could have produced the semen at the crime scene. Additional blood typing put Coleman with a group consisting of 0.2% of the population. His lawyers said the expert they themselves hired had misinterpreted the evidence. Turns out he hadn't.
What if Coleman had been found innocent? A miscarriage of justice, to be sure, but would it have been grounds to abolish the death penalty? The very technology that liberals hoped would prove an innocent man had been executed will help ensure no truly innocent person ever will be.
Death penalty opponents still cannot point to the actual execution of an innocent person. We do know that all murder victims are innocent. And using past errors to spare the lives of future murderers will only create more victims.
All the evidence we've seen suggests that when the death penalty has been held in abeyance, such as the de facto ban imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s, or when executions have declined, crime and murder rates have gone up dramatically. Conversely, after executions resumed and increased in number, crime and murder rates have dropped significantly.
In a March 2005 analysis from the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, University of Chicago law professors Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule cite a study released in 2001 by three Emory University professors on capital punishment's deterrent effect.
That study examined county-level data for 3,054 U.S. counties from 1997 to 2006 and found that each death sentence and execution leads to 18 fewer murders. Sunstein and Vermeule concluded that this and other studies suggest that "a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death."
Proper administration of the death penalty saves lives. If you doubt this, just ask the family of any prison guard slain by an inmate doing life without parole. Those who would abolish or curtail capital punishment must reckon with the innocent lives that will be lost if they succeed.
There were no candlelight vigils for Wanda McCoy.
The arrest in January 2005 of Noel Exinia and Cesario Nunez appeared on the surface to be just another drug bust. But court documents obtained by the Brownsville (Texas) Herald show the necessity of surveillance of overseas call and e-mails.
They also show why Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape warning of a new attack that Homeland Security won't be able to stop should be taken seriously.
Both Exinia and Nunez eventually pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, including moving more than a quarter-ton of cocaine from Mexico through the Rio Grande Valley and on to New York City. But court documents filed in Exinia's case contain details of a December 2004 incident where he allegedly tried to secure transportation for 20 Middle Eastern men waiting to enter the U.S. from Puebla, Monterrey and Chiapas in Mexico.
As the Herald reported, "Recorded conversations authorized under the U.S. Patriot Act and a court order captured the (suspect) referring to the 20 men as 'gente de Osama,' or 'Osama's people.' " During a Jan. 5, 2005, conversation, Exinia described the men as "Iraqis," ages 25 to 33, who were willing to pay $8,000 for transportation past Border Patrol checkpoints in South Texas and into the U.S. interior.
Could they have been terrorists? Coast Guard Adm. James Loy, who was acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security before the swearing-in of Michael Chertoff, told the Senate Intelligence Committee last year: "Several al-Qaida leaders believe operatives can pay their way through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons." Recent information, he added, showed "al-Qaida has considered using the Southwest border to infiltrate the United States."
They may already have. According to Olivia Albrecht of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., "Many of the people who have been identified as communicating with terrorist networks abroad have entered this country by means of illegal or fraudulent immigration, suggesting an illegal immigration problem so great in this country that the system cannot properly screen applicants and safeguard among terrorist-connected entrants."
In August 2004, as Leo W. Banks reported in the Tucson Weekly, Arizona rancher William Kolbe, brother of Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, in whose district he lives, was chasing some wild animals off his property when he found a backpack hooked to the barbed wire fence behind their house.
In the backpack was a diary largely written in Arabic. Looking through the book, Mrs. Kolbe noticed two names and two numbers — one listing in Canada, the other in Iran — with the beginning numbers being the international calling codes for those two countries.
Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Democrat from Corpus Christi and former sheriff of Nuences County, said the information found in court documents underscores the U.S.-Mexico border's vulnerability to terrorist infiltration. "We know there are terrorist cells in the United States," he told the Herald. "These guys are coming through the back door."
Ortiz reports that local ranchers have found clothing native to the Middle East and items such as Sudanese money in the South Texas brush and that al-Qaida is trying to use the MS-13 gang (Mara Salvatruchas) "to move high value al-Qaida operatives across the border for a large sum of money."
Is Osama so confident in his latest tape because he knows a new group of Mohammed Attas are already here and in place, having snuck across our southern border?
The price of liberty, it has been said, is eternal vigilance. The back door to the United States remains unlocked, and al-Qaida knows it. Not everybody coming here is looking for a better life. Some may be coming here to end ours as we know it.
My friend lamented that "we should do something" meaning, the government should provide for the elderly and take care of them in their twilight years.
Noting that ours is a throwaway culture and that most in most other cultures the kids either take their parents and grandparents in to spend their final days as a family, or they have them "put to sleep" as in Belgium and Denmark; my response to her was that "we already are providing for them.
As noted in a recent AARP report, the new medicare prescription drug plan is already proving to be an improvement over what seniors were faced with before.
The AARP report is based on five case studies of what U.S. seniors living in different states would pay out-of-pocket for prescription drugs under the least expensive Medicare drug plan available to them and what they'd pay for the same drugs through Canadian pharmacies.
Four of the five would pay at least $300 less out of pocket annually through Medicare. Those requiring larger amounts of drugs would save more. In only one case was buying from Canada cheaper.
A Republican Senate health policy analyst said the report held no surprises.
"After all, the benefit is insurance, leaving the consumer on the hook only for co-pays and other cost sharing, while buying from Canada means that you have to pay everything out of pocket," the analyst noted.
The AARP report also notes that the Medicare benefit provides low-cost catastrophic coverage once out-of-pocket expenses exceed $3,600. Buying Canadian drugs does not count toward that.
Advocates of cross-border sales were not impressed. Most said the sample in the AARP study was too small to be representative and appeared to be skewed in favor of the benefit.
"A case study of five people is hardly a thorough study," stated Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., who is sponsoring a Canadian drug importation bill.
But here is my point, it's hardly a savings for the U.S. citizen. Since the government does not make money through productive activities and therefore, only provides us with what it first takes from us, we the taxpayers are the one's footing the bill for the benefit.
More than half of students at 4-year schools and 75% at 2-year colleges lack the skills to perform complex literacy tasks, according to a study measuring the practical aspects of literacy.
The American Institutes for Research found that these students couldn't interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates or summarize results of a survey.
Still, literacy rates of collegians was higher than that of average U.S. adults.
Our only hope is for the States to mount a revolution of their own and rest control of this broken education system from the feds and bring it back to local control.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Mostly free: Green
Mostly unfree: Orange
What are their latest findings?
1. Economic freedom is gradually increasing around the world! (This will come as quite a surprise to doomsayers and those who think the world is headed toward imminent disaster.) For the first time, the world's average level of economic freedom has tipped from "mostly unfree" to "mostly free." Free markets are expanding!
2. There is a strong correlation between economic freedom and prosperity. Countries with the highest level of economic freedom have the highest level of per capita income. And vice versa. Nations with severe restrictions on investors, businesses and consumers struggle financially. See the chart below. Note that the more economic freedom a nation enjoys, the higher average per capita income goes up.
3. The greatest growth recently in economic freedom has been in emerging markets, especially in Europe (the Baltic States and other new members of the European Union), and Asia, where economic freedom improved in 10 countries. Even China and India, both still in the "mostly unfree" category, have improved in their economic freedom ratings. Latin America has also seen marginal improvement.
4. Beware the Middle East: Look at the World Map of Economic Freedom, and you'll see that there's still a lot of "red" (repressed) in this unstable region of the world. Closed societies are breeding grounds for intolerance, fanaticism and terrorism.
Heritage is planning to come out shortly with a report on how investors can profit from the Economic Freedom Index. Generally, it is believed that stock indexes tend to rise sharply in countries where economic freedom is improving. That has clearly been the trend in emerging markets recently.
What would I do? Buy the iShares Emerging Markets Fund (EEM). It's a basket of the best stocks from these markets picked by professional international investors. The diversification will protect you from any backtracking as we saw last year when Russia took over Yukos and threw the President of Yukos in jail.
In quotes sure to bring delight to Osama bin Laden and his followers, Sen. John Kerry said Sunday that the reason the U.S. homeland hasn't been attacked by al Qaida since 9/11 is because the terror group is having so much success against U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Many people surmise that one of the reasons we haven't been attacked here, is because they are being so successful at doing what they need to do to attack us in Iraq and elsewhere," the failed presidential candidate told ABC's "This Week."
Kerry was responding to comments Friday by chief White House advisor Karl Rove, who credited President Bush with "protecting America against attacks."
"He is winning the war against terrorism, promoting liberty in regions of the world that have never known it," Rove told a Republican gathering in Washington, D.C.
Rove complained that Democrats like Kerry still had "a pre-9/11 worldview."
On Thursday, bin Laden released an audiotaped message that seemed to echo comments by Bush administration critics, including Sen. Kerry.
Asked whether bin Laden had expressed "almost the same" sentiments that Kerry had in the past, "CBS Evening News" anchorman Bob Schieffer told WABC Radio's Mark Simone: "Well, he did. That's exactly right."
But Schieffer cautioned that he couldn't be sure whether bin Laden was consciously borrowing from Kerry.
"You can never know about things like that," the veteran newsman explained. "But [bin Laden's] people seem to have tremendous access. And television being what it is, and now with satellites and so forth, these things go all over the world. Perhaps he did."
Friday, January 20, 2006
Iran today began to extract its currency reserves from European banks. These represent an estimated US$25 to US$30 billion, which will probably find new harbors at Arab or Asian banks. The move indicates that Tehran is considering the threat of far-reaching sanctions - and the freezing of Iranian assets abroad - a probability. It would appear that investors all over the world followed their lead. After all, who wants to be caught with sensitive stock positions or buy orders over a weekend when another Near East conflict could turn hot?
Moscow and China have magnanimously offered to negotiate with Tehran on the matter of nuclear arms development. That is good. Because who is better equipped to discuss these matters than the people who sold the Iranians the equipment to begin with?
“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.”
--Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981
Monday, January 16, 2006
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore recently stated that global warming and the melting of glaciers is "positive" because it creates more arable land. Plus, the use of forest products drives up demand for wood and spurs the planting of more trees. He also favors reducing the reliance on fossil fuels by increased use of nuclear energy.
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. Barbara Streisand sings for you.
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?
You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.
You have two cows. The government seizes both and provides you with milk. You wait in line for hours to get it. It is expensive and sour.
CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.
BUREAUCRACY, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows. Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain.
You have two cows. You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one. You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses. Your stock goes up.
You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch and drink wine.Life is good.
You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.
You have two cows. You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.
You have two cows but you don't know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good.
You have two cows. You have some vodka. You count them and learn you have five cows. You have some more vodka. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.
You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two. You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons.
You have two cows. They go into hiding. They send radio tapes of their mooing.
You have one cow. The cow is schizophrenic. Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish. The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow. The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk. The cow asks permission to be cut in half. The cow dies happy.
You have a black cow and a brown cow. Everyone votes for the best looking one. Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one. Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither. Some people can't figure out how to vote at all. Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow.
You have millions of cows. They make real California cheese. Only five speak English. Most are illegal. Arnold likes the ones with the big udders
Thursday, January 12, 2006
James Madison, our 4th president, and a chief drafter of the US Constitution told us: "The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse."
The Washington political scandals dominating the news in recent weeks may be disheartening, but they cannot be considered surprising. We live in a time when the US government is the largest and most powerful state in the history of the world. Today's federal government consists of fifteen huge departments, hundreds of agencies, thousands of programs, and millions of employees. It spends 2.4 trillion dollars in a single year. The possibilities for corruption in such an immense and unaccountable institution are endless.
Americans understandably expect ethical conduct from their elected officials in Washington. But the whole system is so out of control that it's simply unrealistic to place faith in each and every government official in a position to sell influence. The larger the federal government becomes, the more it controls who wins and who loses in our society. The temptation for lobbyists to buy votes - and the temptation for politicians to sell them - is enormous. Indicting one crop of politicians and bringing in another is only a temporary solution. The only effective way to address corruption is to change the system itself, by radically down sizing the power of the federal government in the first place. Take away the politicians' power and you take away the very currency of corruption.
Undoubtedly the recent revelations will ignite new calls for campaign finance reform. However, we must recognize that campaign finance laws place restrictions only on individuals, not politicians. Politicians will continue to tax and spend, meaning they will continue to punish some productive Americans while rewarding others with federal largesse. The same vested special interests will not go away, and the same influence peddling will happen every day on Capitol Hill.
The reason is very simple: when the federal government redistributes trillions of dollars from some Americans to others, countless special interests inevitably will fight for the money. The rise in corruption in Washington simply mirrors the rise in federal spending. The fundamental problem is not with campaigns or politicians primarily, but rather with popular support for the steady shift from a relatively limited, constitutional federal government to the huge leviathan of today.
We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. It's time to reconsider exactly what we want the federal government to be in our society. So long as it remains the largest and most powerful institution in the nation, it will remain endlessly susceptible to corruption.
Ron Paul MC Washington, DC
Friday, January 06, 2006
From the Houston Chronicle:
Jan. 3, 2006, 1:45AMChild's playConfronting hateful fictions in Muslim textbooks is more than political correctness: It can mean the difference between war and peace.
AMERICANS may think we know about textbook wars: the petitions signed, school boards ousted, late-night PTA meetings over references to sex or Darwin. But in parts of the Muslim world, the contents of some textbooks can lead, literally, to bloodshed. In reaction, according to The Associated Press, "hate-hunters" from Pakistan to the Persian Gulf have begun to scour their nations' textbooks and demand that vitriol and intolerance toward other cultures be culled.
As with most reformers in the Islamic world, these activists do dangerous work. But they rightly see their efforts as a way to break Muslim countries' debilitating cycles of conflict with outsiders, as well as a way to modernize. "We are fighting for the future of Islam. Children are sometimes being force-fed a diet of hate, anger and intolerance," Pakistani Ahmed Salim, one textbook watchdog, said. Salim is the leader of a movement in his country to remove what it perceives as violent and extreme material from children's textbooks. Such activists were barely stirring in the Muslim world just a few years ago. But the psychological shock of 9/11, mixed with the material traumas of U.S. military actions in the region and internal terror, galvanized some Muslims to look critically at what their children learn in school. They're determined to excise messages that might twist those youngsters into violent or intolerant adults.
In Pakistan, the AP reports, Salim's Sustainable Development Policy Institute began demanding textbook revisions two years ago; this month it will release a report that criticizes national officials for their inaction. The group denounces the books' idealizing of "jihad" in its more violent interpretations. As "jihad" is taught in Pakistani schools, it can easily be interpreted as idealizing martyrdom or warfare with the West, or India, or between rival Muslim sects in Pakistan.
Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based group that keeps track of similar messages in Palestinian media, also monitors violent, pro-jihadi messages in children's schoolbooks. The Israeli-American Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace reports that standard Palestinian textbooks, which often praise jihad and martyrdom, never even mention the concept of peace with Israel.
Even leaders in Saudi Arabia, home of the most xenophobic form of Islam, acknowledge the need to modify their schoolbooks' hostile teachings about other faiths and cultures. But the changes so far are minuscule, outside monitors say.
It's essential that Saudi Arabia and similarly closed societies heed Islam's reformers and sap the poison that their children are imbibing in school. It can take a lifetime to teach — or reteach — adults how to live with neighbors who are different. The lesson must begin in childhood. Conversely, as the Saudis should well know, when a culture breeds fanatics, no one is safe from the explosion.