We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

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,

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

***Quote of the Day:

“There’s a new comic book coming out where Batman goes after Osama bin Laden. And you thought radical Muslims hated cartoons before. Holy Shiite, Batman!”

--Jay Leno, February 17, 2006

Shani Davis

You may not remember, but during the Alito nomination for the Supreme Court, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal opined that Justice Thomas wasn't really black since his ideas did not reflect those of "main-stream" blacks (I'll refrain here).

So given the opinion of Bryant Gumble on the Winter Olympics as stated on HBO, I'm wondering if the lib's will suggest that Shani get an astrisk by his name since speed skating is not a "main stream" black sport.

I'm constantly amazed when it is the lib's who look at someone like Mr Davis as something other than simply an American Gold Medal winner, yet it's the conservatives who are supposed to be the racists.

It was Peter Gabriel who wrote "We can't be in, if there is no outside", sadly that sentiment is as true today as it was in the 70"s.

Any Port in a Storm?

The interesting thing about this is that the liberals have forced us to strip search Nuns and 2 year old girls at airport security stations so as not to be accused of racial profiling. Yet here is Chucky Schumer standing up and saying no, simply because the buyer is Arab. Hypocracy anyone?

However, for once I agree with the ambulance-chaser, anyone who reads this should call the White House and tell them to get their heads out of their butts. This doesn't make sense on any level.

From IBD:
National Security: At a time when our seaports are considered the weak link in homeland security, the operation of six U.S. ports may be turned over to an Arab state from which two of the 9-11 hijackers originated.

In a deal that could not have occurred on Sept. 12, 2001, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, a Treasury Department interagency panel that reviews foreign investments, has approved a $6.8 billion deal granting a Dubai-based company, Dubai Ports World, management of the ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans.

Dubai is one of the seven small states that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is an Arab federation that Marwan al-Shehhi, one of the 9-11 hijackers, called home and where al-Qaida has recruited, traveled and roamed freely. Much of the operational planning for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took place inside the UAE.

The Bush administration considers the Emirates an ally in the war on terror. But the Treasury Department has been largely stonewalled by the Emirates in trying to track al-Qaida's bank accounts. U.S. officials have said money for the 9-11 attack was wired through the UAE banking system.

U.S. seaports handle 2 billion tons of freight each year, but only about 5% of containers are inspected on arrival. A container on one of these ships would be an ideal delivery system for a weapon of mass destruction such as an Iranian nuke.

True, American ownership is retained, and U.S. longshoreman would still roam the docks. But under UAE ownership, it would no longer be unusual to see young male Arab nationals lurking about.

Management of U.S. ports means entrusting foreign ownership based in a country known to have been penetrated by terrorists in the past with key information about U.S. ports.

As defense and national security expert Frank Gaffney points out, these ports are vital to our energy security. Philadelphia alone handles some 85% of the oil coming into the East Coast, and New Orleans is responsible for one-seventh of all our imported energy.

It's conceivable that some port manager would conspire to bring in a dangerous and deadly cargo in one of the uninspected containers. Al-Qaida is said to own a fleet of 15 freighters, one of which was used in 1998 to smuggle explosives into Africa for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

An al-Qaida training manual that was discovered in the United Kingdom said seaport workers would make good recruits. The Philippines, home to more than one terrorist group, is the world's biggest crew supplier, with Indonesia, another terrorist stomping ground, a close second.

Last week, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, urged the White House to reconsider approval of the deal in light of security concerns that have been raised. We concur.

Security at our nation's seaports needs to be tightened and enhanced. This will not be accomplished by outsourcing responsibility for their management to countries whose territory and banks al-Qaida once favored.

Patient Power

Are you willing to die, to save Medicare? Given the increase in life expectancy since the inception of the program the follie of this Ponzi scheme has been exposed. The Liberals want to "fix" the overall healthcare situation by a complete government takeover and the establishment of European style health care. But the dirty little secret is that the Europeans are willing to deny treatment to their aged and chronically ill in order to preserve costs for aiding the young who still have "value to the state".

Health Savings Accounts, the only good thing that came out of the Medicare Prescription Drug plan, offer an alternative that fits more closely with the idea of an ownership society driven by individual responsibility and self-sufficiency.

From IBD:
Posted 2/16/2006

Health Reform: President Bush, on the stump Thursday, again pushed for greater patient involvement in paying for health care. By the reaction of some, you'd think he was instead outlawing medical treatment.

When Bush signed the Medicare prescription drug benefit bill in 2003, he also made health savings accounts available to more Americans than ever. That put him sharply at odds with those who push a national health system.

As Merrill Matthews of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance says, "By expanding HSA options, President Bush has openly declared that patient empowerment is the centerpiece of his vision for the health care system — and liberals don't like it one little bit."

During his State of the Union address, Bush asked Congress to give poor Americans refundable tax credits to help them buy basic health insurance and to expand health savings accounts so that more small businesses can take advantage of them.

Should Congress follow Bush's lead, more Americans will have health care coverage, and costs, including insurance, will fall.

Critics say there's a big problem: As a Los Angeles Times editorial recently put it, "Nearly 46 million Americans live without health insurance," and Bush's plan doesn't "address the broader problem."

First, that 46 million figure is not established fact. It's an estimate. The Times could have just as easily used 36 million, a figure arrived at by a study commissioned by the federal government.

Or it might have used 19 million, the number determined by the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation.

But those numbers would not bolster the implication that there's a crisis that needs immediate attention — and lots of public money.

Second, the ranks of the uninsured are not necessarily swollen with those who have been "left behind" or are just too poor to buy insurance. A large number are uninsured out of choice: They're young and healthy and therefore don't see the need to buy health insurance. Or they choose to use their limited dollars elsewhere.

So the uninsured will be with us always. But their numbers can be trimmed. That's where health savings accounts come in.

"In just two years, more than 3 million consumers — many of whom were previously uninsured — have chosen health savings accounts," says Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans.

Third, expanding HSAs and allowing refundable tax credits for health insurance costs will not only address the uninsured issue, but also help bring down premium costs.

Obviously, by allowing a tax credit, as Bush proposed, the cost of medical insurance becomes much more affordable. That alone will shrink the ranks of the uninsured.

Not as obvious: how HSAs will affect costs of premiums.

Health insurance premiums are expensive because medical care is expensive, and medical care has high costs because the system is simply overused. HSAs will give people incentive to limit unnecessary trips to the doctor. As demand falls, so will costs. The laws of economics dictate that a dip in premiums will follow.

And as coverage increases through HSAs, premiums should fall even further. Why? There will be fewer uninsured, and so the costs of caring for those without insurance will shrink.

Unfortunately, some won't be swayed by logic. They prefer a European-style national health system, the kind Hillary Clinton favors. Such systems are falling into disfavor around the globe. We would be wise to avoid that mistake.

Nor should we let those who oppose HSAs wage a disinformation campaign against the one reform we know will work for health care, as it has for everything else: the market.

The UN's Last Chance

Americans are growing increasingly tired of the UN and it's failure to live up to the mission on which it was formed. Just like every other large bureacracy, it has become corrupt and ineffective at anything except enriching it's individual members.

From IBD:
Posted 2/17/2006

U.N.: Replacing corrupt Secretary-General Kofi Annan should be the first step of a top-to-bottom reform of the dysfunctional world body. Otherwise, the U.N. will lose what little confidence Americans have left in it.

Annan, whose term expires at the end of the year, last week once again displayed his institution's knee-jerk anti-American bias by calling for the closing of the United States' Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

Annan made a point of distancing himself from accusations of U.S. torture in a report released last Thursday by U.N. human rights officials. But he did echo the report's conclusion, saying Guantanamo should be shut down "as soon as possible."

In fact, the report wasn't an investigation of conditions at Guantanamo at all — its authors refused an invitation from the U.S. to visit the facility. It was just a warmed-over repetition of accusations previously made by lawyers for Gitmo detainees.

Smearing America never distracts the U.N. from gladly taking our money, though. The U.S. funds nearly a quarter of the U.N.'s budget and up to 27% of its peacekeeping operations. It turns out some "peacekeeping" U.S. taxpayers pay for includes sexual assault of war refugees by U.N. forces. Too bad Gitmo investigators were too busy to look into the matter of rapists wearing blue helmets.

A recent internal audit of U.N. peacekeeping operations found $298 million — 30% of the $1 billion total — "subject to waste, fraud or abuse," according to U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.

Annan, of course, presided over the biggest criminal fraud in history, the U.N.'s oil-for-food scandal, which allowed Saddam Hussein to receive as much as $4 billion in illegal payments, cushioning the impact of the U.N.'s sanctions against Iraq — with Kofi's son Kojo serving as a well-paid consultant in the middle of it all, and his top U.N. aide, Benon Sevan, accused of taking bribes.

The U.N. needs a new leader, but members are more interested in continuing a "tradition" of geographical rotation than finding someone to clean up the corruption. It's Asia's turn, they say, as they trot out a host of mostly obscure names for the top post.

Bolton has correctly countered that "the management question is far and away the most important qualification." He's also pointed out that no Eastern European has ever served as secretary general. Nor has a woman.

It might well be healthy for someone who has lived under communism to head up U.N. reform. His or her first decision could be to abolish the Economic Commission for Europe, an agency set up in 1947 "to give effective aid to the countries devastated by the war." News flash: they recovered quite some time ago.

(Another job for the next secretary general is to end the U.N.'s culture of animosity toward Israel. Bolton railed against the spectacle of U.N. officials on the Day of International Solidarity With the Palestinian People speaking before a map of the Middle East that left out the state of Israel. With Iran calling for the destruction of Israel, "this is more than symbolic," Bolton said.)

After investigating the oil-for-food scandal, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker called the problem at the U.N. a "culture of inaction." Replacing Annan with a serious reformer may be the U.N.'s last chance at action to prevent losing any credibility it still has.

Of Human Bondage

From IBD:
Posted 2/17/2006

Human Rights: A new U.N. report says the U.S. should close down the detention facilities at Guantanamo because of the torture that goes on there. That's not nice to say about Christina Aguilera.

The United Nations, which has let such champions of human rights and civil liberties as Sudan, Cuba and Saudi Arabia sit on its Human Rights Commission while doing next to nothing about genocide in Darfur and thuggery in Zimbabwe, to cite just two examples, has produced yet another anti-U.S. report mainly regurgitating old charges that terrorists captured in our war on terror and detained at Gitmo are subjected to torture.

The report's findings are based in part on interviews with former detainees, reports in the media and talks with lawyers — objective sources all. Among abusive interrogation techniques alleged: use of dogs, exposure to "extreme" temperatures, sleep deprivation for days at a time and prolonged isolation.

"Such treatment amounts to torture," says the report, which urges the U.S. "to refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

Oh, yeah, and al-Qaida prisoners have a right to an attorney. "The persons held at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to challenge the legality of their detention before a legal body," says the report. "That right is currently being violated."

First, this is a prison camp, not a summer camp. The 490 or so detainees now housed at Gitmo were captured on foreign battlefields trying to kill Americans or plotting to do so. They did not wear uniforms, fight in organized units or obey the rules of war as the Geneva Convention requires in order to be covered by its provisions.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, when asked about the report between questions about Dick Cheney's hunting trip, said: "It's a discredit to the U.N. when a team like this goes about rushing to report something when they haven't even looked at the facts. All they have done is look at the allegations."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.N. report "clearly suffers from their unwillingness to take us up on our offer to (visit) Guantanamo to observe firsthand the operation."

The U.N. panel that produced the report was invited to send a team to Gitmo last November, but it refused to go after being told detainees couldn't be interviewed.

There's a reason for that. Detainees lie, and have been instructed by al-Qaida to do so. An al-Qaida handbook captured in a raid by British authorities on a terrorist cell in Manchester, England, advises: "Prior to executing an operation, the commander should instruct his soldiers on what to say if they are captured."

The manual states "brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."

Time magazine whined in a recent issue that "torture" techniques used at Guantanamo in the interrogation of detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani included playing music by pop diva Christina Aguilera and having his "personal space" invaded by the physical presence of a woman.

Al-Qahtani is the so-called 20th hijacker of 9-11. Among the other "torture" techniques said to have been used in his interrogation was a display of photos of the burning towers, the incinerated bodies and the deaths of 2,973 Americans.

It might not be a bad idea if Kofi Annan and his brethren were forced to look at them again as well.

The New Eastern Front?

From IBD:

Posted 2/17/2006

Defense: The world is filled with security threats, any one of which could jump up and bite America — or its allies — at any time. Europe, however, doesn't have to worry. The U.S. will foot the bill.

When the Cold War ended, many predicted the start of a golden age, one in which the U.S. could slash defense spending and refocus on its own economy. That lasted all of, oh, six years. As usual, reality intervened.

First came Somalia. Then the crisis in the Balkans. Then 9-11 and the war on terror. Today, the U.S. far out-spends any of its allies or foes on defense. In fact, we spend more on defense than the next 14 nations combined — and now account for nearly half of all world military outlays.

What does this mean? We are, as the French like to say, the world's first "hyperpower." Yet as we take broadsides from Europeans for our warlike ways, we are in fact extending a form of welfare to all of our allies, especially those in NATO.

Anyone attacks you, we say, and we'll send U.S. troops and equipment to your defense — as we did, under rather different conditions, in World Wars I and II. Don't you worry.

It might be time, however, to rethink this policy — especially as the European Union continues its debate in meetings this week on what to do about its own defense.

This is an important question. One faction, led by France, wants to pull away from NATO — and, mais oui, the U.S. — and form a self-standing EU defense force. The other faction, led by Britain, wants to maintain the current NATO arrangement and close U.S. ties.

Actually, there are things to be said for both sides in this debate. But one thing's clear — Europe has to do more for its own defense, something it's not ready to do.

With an economy hobbled by massive welfare-state expenditures, declining fertility rates and a fast-aging work force, defense is the last thing Europeans want to worry about. But history shows that those who can't muster the will to defend themselves usually end up in thrall to someone else. For Europe, the U.S. is a very large crutch. To call Europe's current defense capabilities pathetic is almost too polite. True, it has about 2 million people in uniform. But current estimates say that only 3% to 4% are deployable for conflict — a miserable readiness that underscores the Continent's dependence on U.S. spending.

Remember the Balkans conflict in the late 1990s? Europeans were ashamed that, with chaos on their very doorstep, they were unable to do anything about it. They had to call in the U.S.

That's why some in Europe — again, mainly the French — are keen on having a Euro force separate from NATO. Yet, as we learned last week, the newly created EU defense agency is having trouble scaring up even $60 million to start its own weapons research. Clearly, Europeans are ambivalent about going it alone.

Of the EU's 25 members, 19 also belong to NATO. NATO, led and mostly funded by the U.S., guarantees its members' security under the doctrine of "an attack on one is an attack on all."

Unfortunately, since 9-11, as The Washington Times recently pointed out, virtually every significant U.S. ally in NATO has shrunk its active-duty forces and defense budget. The U.S. budget, meanwhile, has soared.

For now, NATO is the best bet for the defense of Europe and the U.S. But that doesn't mean nothing can be done about redressing the imbalance.

NATO's military is undergoing a transformation similar to that of America's. It has created a 25,000-member rapid deployment force, along the lines of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposed reforms for the U.S. This force would go a long way toward letting Europe share a burden the U.S. now carries almost alone.

The U.S. in 2003 had 126,000 troops deployed to NATO — more than half its functional force of about 200,000. We'd like to see that shrink considerably. Time for Europe to pick up its slack.

Even now, with World War II barely a memory and the Cold War over for nearly 16 years, 13% of all U.S. troops are still deployed in Europe — mostly in Germany. We should be sending them elsewhere. Eastern Europe — Hungary, Romania, Poland — might be better, and more welcome, homes for U.S. troops.

Europe today spends 2% of its GDP on defense — less than half the U.S. commitment. If NATO is to remain vital, Europe clearly will have to do more.

Our European allies complain — often and loudly — that the U.S. fails to heed them on matters of self-defense. That might be true. We'd be more inclined to listen if Europeans relied less on our largess and more on themselves.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bureacratic Think - Wind Power

As the price of oil and natural gas climb, the affordability of alternative sources of energy becomes greater and greater. However last years "Energy Bill" (see http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueItems.View&IssueItem_ID=3)shows us once again that just like the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Illiteracy, Social Security and Medicare, the Federal Government is the worst entity to address domestic and social issues.

Why? Because of something I like to call "Bureacratic Think". Instead of taking a great concept and promoting it's most effective use, they take the concept and try to fit it within their corrupt, bureacratic structure. For years I have said, and will continue to say that the best thing the federal government can do is let us keep our money and GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Take windpower:

Although they're more popular in Europe, "wind farms" are cropping up around the U.S., producing electricity, even if not in generous amounts. Domestically, our total wind capacity stood at 6,740 megawatts at the end of 2004, with large-scale wind turbine arrays operating in 25 states and others on the drawing board. (Among the latter is a cluster proposed for the waters of Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, a project that--in one of those ironic "Not in my backyard" twists--is being fiercely opposed by environmentalists normally in favor of green energy.) The American Wind Energy Association is predicting 100,000 MW generated in the U.S. by 2020.

Unfortunately, that's the only way politicians think about wind-generated power, as the megawatt output from acres of tall towers with slowly turning, rarely seen blades, somewhere in the desert or on a remote mountaintop.

But is wind power something that could become feasible on an individual home basis? Will you ever see turbines mounted on the roofs of your town? The answer, surprisingly, may be yes, two years ago while visiting Nicaragua, I noted that almost all of the new construction had small windmills generating all of the energy requirements for the household (including outdoor lighting at night and 24 hour air conditioning). Now if a small company in the president's home state has anything to say about it, the same concept may be quickly coming to the United States.

Sometime this month, Plano, Texas-based Mag-Wind Co. LLC will install the first of its five pre-production model rooftop turbines. The customer: Fort Worth real estate developer Ross Perot, Jr., who is putting one atop his office building in downtown Dallas.

Mag-Wind units can generate between 900 and 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month (depending, naturally, on the wind), enough to power an average household. They are built to a patented design, which features no gears. A platform of aluminum sails floats on magnets, and the platform's base rotates around a stabilizing, vertically fixed shaft. A circle of magnets spins past a sequence of coils to generate the electricity.

The device, invented by Canadians Jim Rowan and Tom Priest Brown, measures four feet square, weighs 250 pounds, and will retail for $6,599. Installed cost will be around twice that. Projected useful life is approximately two decades, and Mag-Wind estimates that homeowners will earn back their investment in 5-7 years.

According to Rowan, the two relocated to the States because of the business climate. "In Texas," he says, "you present an idea and they just roll up their sleeves and get to work. That's why we're here and not in Ontario."

Production of the units begins in March. Mag-Wind will sell exclusively through volume homebuilders, distributors of renewable energy products, and utility power companies, which will also handle installation and hook-ups to local grids.

Perot may be buying himself the first small, commercially produced wind generator in North America, according to Cory Lowe of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit energy consultant. "This is kind of new territory," he says. "If it does all they claim it will do, the potential could be there. Generating electricity on a smaller scale can be profitable for both the energy producer and the customer."

Adds Austin contractor Ray Tonjes, chairman of the greenbuilding subcommittee of the National Association of Homebuilders: "I hate to use the word revolutionary, but [Mag-Wind] really is. It promises to be a very cost-effective alternative to solar, and actually in some applications the two probably would be used together."

The physical construction will be done by Vector Systems of Richardson, Texas, a company that is a 5% stakeholder in Mag-Wind. Vector, which makes custom fluid-processing systems, is investing heavily in a new, larger plant, partly because of its contract to build 4,000 Mag-Wind units in 2006. All have been placed, with 1,700 going to a Canadian distributor and the balance to some unidentified U.S. homebuilders. So if you want one, you may have to wait a while.

Now, instead of subsidizing large companies like WE Energies to build huge, inefficient wind farms that no one wants in their back yards, (Even the "honorable Ted Kennedy is part of a group blocking an offshore windfarm in Massachusetts) why not allow ordinary citizens to write off the price of a system over 5 years against their income taxes? Because it doesn't fit in the Bureucratic Think model, that's why!

Now we know what is going to happen, ignoring the Government's efforts, private citizens will make the investment and in time, as more and more of us get squeezed by government-sponsored utility companies, these systems will break out. It's not a question of "if", only a question of "when".

So sooner or later, someday you just may listen to that breeze blowing through the maples in your front yard and think of all the money you're not spending on oil.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Do Only What You Do Well

In the late 1990's, the US Government entered into a race to map human genes. It wasn't even close, a private company (meaning for profit) blew them out of the water by almost a year.

Now in another case of trying to justify itself, the government has once again been skunked. Want to bet that they don't re-allocate the funds? That only happens to weapon programs.

Prescription Near For E-Health System?

Posted 2/14/2006

A doctor in California can get lab results from a hospital in Indiana much easier than some government officials and tech and health care executives have feared.

That's a key conclusion of a yearlong test of a health network.

The project suggests that no nationally standardized electronic health records need be in place in order for health care workers nationwide to share patient data and improve care.

There's a government push to develop e-health records for most Americans by 2014, and meantime to develop a network for exchanging medical data. That's a time-consuming and costly proposition — hundreds of millions of federal dollars are going to study and spur e-health.

These new findings are important because they show just how readily a useful network can be put together — with no need for a central database or standard record.

View larger image
"The first question we asked ourselves was, 'Is a national health record required for broad interoperability?' " said the project's technical director, Clay Shirky, a telecom professor at New York University.

No, they decided.

But networks and procedures are key, said participants at hospitals and health groups in three states on Feb. 8, in describing the results of their yearlong test.

Many Systems Used

The test looked at how well medical workers in the Boston area, Indiana and Mendocino County, Calif., could trade patient data with each other. For each of them, tech systems and patient record formats differ greatly.

In Boston, they use Microsoft's (
MSFT) .Net technology on Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL) servers.
In Indiana, they use Sun Microsystems' (
SUNW) Java, and Apache applications on a Linux operating system.
In Mendocino, they use open-source software and Dell servers.

The three medical groups involved are part of the nonprofit Connecting for Health.

The Markle Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fund the nonprofit.

Participants planned and built a secure network that could be reached through the Internet. For anonymity, they scrambled the data they used — 20 million records for some 500,000 patients. Then they started running tests.

The groups looked at things like how hospital A could find and get a certain patient record from hospital B using only basics such as a name, birth date and ZIP code.

They ran hundreds of thousands of queries via medical facilities that are part of MA-SHARE (the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium), the Indiana Health Information Exchange and Mendocino HRE (Health Records Exchange).

"We went to a number of institutions with multimillion-record collections, often across different databases. And we were able to get very high rates of matching with no false matching," Shirky said.

He says the network handles records much the way FedEx handles boxes. "FedEx doesn't have to know what's in any given truck or box," he said. "We would like to move the clinical record from point A to B without having to have each message's particulars."

That way, Shirky says, the network can run even as medical data standards change. When national health data records do come about, they can travel over the network just like others.

"When you request medical records, you get the medical records in whatever format they are," Shirky said.
Redundant, Unnecessary Work

The group focused on trading two common types of health data that often aren't handled well: medication lists and lab results. Shirky says that in Massachusetts roughly 15% of overall health spending is redundant or unnecessary. At times, tests are repeated because a worker can't get access to the original results.

"Not many people are aware of how fragmented health information is in the United States and how accustomed doctors are to working with almost no information," Shirky said.

The teams in the Connecting for Health project now plan to test data exchange in live clinical settings.
"We're taking what was demonstrated across three states and applying it to a lot of local-use cases," said Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer at Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Healthcare System.
CareGroup has a collection of Harvard-linked hospitals that took part in the test.

Halamka heads one such local-use case. It aims to electronically connect emergency departments and affiliated outpatient centers in the Boston area so doctors at each can get patient records right away.
Imagine a person comes into an emergency room unconscious, Halamka says. "Then you pull up the outpatient medical record," he said. "You find out they're a diabetic and probably took too much insulin. That lets you give them some glucose. And they wake up."

Halamka says better access to medical records changes therapy.

"With complete data, you're no longer flying blind," he said.

In November, the Health and Human Services Department awarded $18.6 million in contracts to four groups for development of national health information network prototypes.

The Connecting for Health project was part of one group, which also included Computer Sciences Corp., (
CSC) Microsoft and Sun.

"The power of the Connecting for Health model is it accommodates a variety of technologic solutions," said Dr. Marc Overhage, president of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, on a Feb. 8 conference call.

Better than Pam and Tommy?

Again, there are too many people in government who will be destroyed by this, so it will be a battle to get it out to the mass public. The left will ignore the facts, regardless.

From IBD:

Posted 2/15/2006
WMD: Did Saddam Hussein possess weapons of mass destruction? We've always thought so. But proof positive may soon be forthcoming if secret tapes of the Iraqi dictator turn out to be real.

The tapes in question, 12 hours in all, represent recordings of Saddam Hussein discussing the possibility of a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., and the use of WMD.

The tapes are held by John Loftus, a former U.S. prosecutor, who says they were given to him by a "former American military intelligence analyst." Loftus will officially reveal the tapes on Saturday, during the opening session of the Intelligence Summit, a private conference of former defense and intelligence officials from around the world. ABC News' "Nightline" scheduled a preview of the tapes for broadcast Wednesday night.

Loftus insists the tapes provide the "smoking gun" of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., head of the House Intelligence Committee, said the tapes are authentic and show "Saddam had a fixation on weapons of mass destruction and he had a fixation on hiding what he was doing from the U.N. inspectors."

That's not surprising, since the recordings fit with what we already know: that Saddam had a program to make WMD and likely had some stockpiled — though he also probably shipped them to Syria or Libya shortly before the March 6, 2003, U.S. attack.

That scenario has become clearer in recent days, as two former Iraqi military commanders have come forward to admit that, yes, Saddam had WMD and hid them.

Two weeks ago, we wrote here about Georges Sada, the former No. 2 in Saddam's air force who says Saddam moved his WMD to Syria six weeks before the U.S. invaded — a claim bolstered by Western intelligence at the time.

Now Sada's claim has been confirmed by Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, a key commander of Saddam's Fedayeen militia and a close, hometown acquaintance of the former dictator, who says this was all part of Saddam's plan.

Ibrahim told Worldthreats.com: "What we are witnessing now is many who opposed the war to begin with are rallying around Saddam saying, 'We overthrew a sovereign leader based on a lie about WMD.' This is exactly what Saddam wanted and predicted."

Yes, it worked. Americans have heard repeatedly that "Bush lied" about WMD in Iraq to justify war. War critics agree that Saddam once had WMD, but they contend he destroyed them when sanctions were imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In fact, inspectors did find WMD — 53 of them, to be exact, according to the Duelfer Report, the CIA's 1,500-page account of its intelligence mistakes in Iraq. And that report concluded: "We have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD production as soon as (U.N.) sanctions were lifted."

U.N. arms inspector David Kay's report found much the same thing: "We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the (U.N.) during the inspections that began in late 2002."

It'll be interesting to hear what's on Loftus' tapes. They may indeed be a "smoking gun." If so, the case that so many have made against the war for so long will have been blown out of the water.

Any Way to Make it Look Bad

If you listen or watch CNBC, you will always hear from the alarmists who try to find something wrong at every economic turn. Besides the current budget deficit which is fueled by out of control spending (see "Out on Their Ears") and not the tax cuts, much has been made of the current account deficit. I'm dubious as usual.

From IBD:

Posted 2/15/2006
Trade Gap: Warnings abound about America's record current account deficit, which for 2005 topped $700 billion. But is it really such a bad thing that the world wants to invest in the U.S. economy?

The Economist, for example, in its "Danger Time for America" cover story last month, quoted Ludwig von Mises in warning that our growing trade gap made us like the man who decided to "heat the stove with his furniture."

But students of the great Austrian economist will recall he also spoke of there being "no nobler task than to shatter false beliefs." And when it comes to beliefs, the one that equates a current account deficit — the broadest measure of a country's trade with the world — with a weak economy is one of the most specious.

Countries currently enjoying economic expansions — like Australia after years of conservative economic policies — also tend to "suffer" from importing a lot more goods and services than they export.

Australia's current account deficit is higher as a proportion of GDP than ours. Britain and Spain are also enjoying strong growth while experiencing trade shortfalls.

Meanwhile, the economies of Japan and Germany, each of which boasts a current account surplus, have economies that leave a lot to be desired. As the just-issued report of the president's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) points out: "Countries with higher rates of growth have tended to run current account deficits (and received net capital inflows), while countries with lower growth rates have tended to run current account surpluses . . ."

In recent years, net capital inflows increased for the U.S. and these other growing economies. From 2001 to 2004, Australia's rose by 4.1% of GDP to reach a total of 6.4% of its growth rate. Spain's rose by 1.4% over the same period, reaching 5.3% of GDP. In the U.S., net capital inflows have surged from 1.5% of GDP in 1995 to about 6%.

Despite The Economist's contention that a sizable share of American prosperity is illusory, the CEA report notes that nations with large trade gaps tend also to have high productivity rates: "OECD data comparing multi-factor productivity across countries for the period 1995-2003 indicate that the United States and Australia had relatively high rates of productivity growth, Canada, Great Britain, and Germany had more modest rates of growth, while Japan had a low rate of productivity growth."

Trade-deficit alarmists like former CEA Chairman Martin Feldstein complain that unlike in the late 1990s, the current account deficit we have now is not driven by stock-market investments, but by countries — like China and Japan — piling up trade surpluses and using the cash to buy U.S. Treasuries.

But the new CEA report finds the character of our trade gap encouraging. It notes that, even as the U.S. racks up huge current account deficits, it's earning more on its own foreign investments. From 1995 to 2004, the report said, the U.S. earned "over $200 billion in net foreign income despite current account deficits that totaled more than $3 trillion during this period."

Also, would it be impolite to note that our current account deficit was pretty much nonexistent during the era of super-high interest rates at the beginning of the 1980s?

The CEA contends — and many economists agree — that current account deficits could go on indefinitely, so long as our economy keeps growing and remains an attractive place to invest. "The key issue concerning U.S. foreign capital inflows is not their absolute level," it says, "but the efficiency with which they are used."

So instead of complaining about foreigners investing in the U.S., trade-deficit Chicken Littles should be fighting to keep the Bush tax cuts permanent and reduce federal spending — so that America can continue to be a great destination for global investment for many years to come.

Culture of Death

From IBD:

Posted 2/14/2006
Axis Of Evil: Now that the media have had their fun with Dick Cheney's hunting accident, maybe they can refocus on something truly important — like Iran taking the first steps to build a nuclear bomb.

We hate to be killjoys, but it seems that Iran's feeding of hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at its experimental nuclear facility at Natanz is a heckuva lot more momentous than someone taking birdshot from the vice president's hunting gun in what was clearly an accident.

Here's why: Hexafluoride gas, also called UF-6, can be refined into nuclear fuel by using Natanz's highly specialized centrifuges. Refine the UF-6 a bit more, and you get weapons-grade nuclear material — the kind used in bombs.

We'd like to believe Iran when it says it has nothing but peaceful intentions in wanting to develop nuclear technology. But somehow, we doubt it.

Maybe it's the way President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about annihilating his enemies — as he did over the weekend, when he led a group of Iranian fanatics in a chant of "death to America," and again later, when he vowed to "remove" Israel.

Let us repeat: We're not against Iran having nuclear power for peaceful purposes, such as electricity. But we're curious how a nation with the world's second largest reserves of oil and gas would suddenly find itself in an energy bind. Very curious.

No, we think the Iranians have something far more nefarious in mind — like the creation of an Islamic terror weapon, a nuclear device that could be put atop Iran's Shahhab missiles for lobbing at Israel or its Sunni neighbors, or given to terrorists to explode in London, New York, Los Angeles or any number of other major cities.

Those who think we should do nothing would do well to remember the dark days before World War II, when Britain's hapless Neville Chamberlain waved a piece of paper with Adolf Hitler's signature and vowed "peace in our time."

There was no peace, of course. Hitler was a madman bent on world domination and the destruction of inferior races.

Ahmadinejad, too, is a cunning madman. He despises others — infidels, but Jews most especially — and wants to wipe them out. He believes in jihad — a religious war to the death, pitting Muslims against infidels everywhere.

Ahmadinejad also follows the obscure belief that the 12th Imam of Shiite Islam, known as the Mahdi, will return to Earth and that right-thinking Muslims must purify the world for his return. In such a context, why not nuke Islam's enemies? Why fear anything?

As we discovered with Hitler — and Stalin and Mao — extreme nationalism, totalitarian thinking and racial or religious mysticism can be a potent combination, leading to the death of millions. We should have learned from our past mistakes.

We are dealing with a dangerous man — one who believes dangerous things and who certainly will act on those beliefs.

For now, it's good to know France and Russia are calling Iran back to the table for talks on how Iran might get access to nuclear technology but not build weapons. After rejecting those talks Monday, Iran said Tuesday it was just postponing them until Feb. 20.

We'll see. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. On Feb. 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible action. On March 6, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei will report back on the extent of Iran's nuclear program.

If Iran doesn't comply with legitimate requests to stand down from its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Europe will have little choice but to act. Better that than to wait for an American or European city to be incinerated.

Out on Their Ears

From IBD:

Posted 2/15/2006
Federal Budget: After years of abusing its power to spend, Congress is finally feeling some heat from the public. It's time to hold lawmakers accountable.

Members of Congress have developed the earmarking process into a fine art, skillfully asking for — and getting — dollars for specific local programs in their home states and districts without actually putting their names on the requests. Last year's mountain of earmarks — 13,997 of them — cost taxpayers $27.3 billion, says Citizens Against Government Waste.

Rep. Tom Prince, a Republican from Georgia, has introduced a sensible bill that amends House rules so that members who ask for earmarks will have to attach their names to the requests. Across the way, Sen. John McCain has introduced the Pork-Barrel Reduction Act, which has a provision that also requires the identification of lawmakers who propose earmarks.

The remainder of the bill is an attempt to make it more difficult for Congress to slip through earmarks.
Forcing disclosure won't end the problem of earmarks. Many in Congress strut and preen over their ability to bring home the pork. Shameless lawmakers such as Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, have never been shy about admitting they squeeze taxpayers across the country to pay for pet projects that they believe make them look good back home.

Porkbusters, a group at truthlaidbear.com that is dedicated to cutting the budget, has named these gentlemen Nos. 1 and 2 in the Pork Hall of Shame, but there's little chance that it bothers them.

Ideally, earmarks should be eliminated entirely. They are not legitimate federal expenditures. There are real people out there paying high taxes for goodies that others will avail themselves to.

Consider the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, which has lapped up $30 million in federal money through the years. One of its more worthwhile projects was to hand Alaska Airlines a $500,000 grant to paint a Chinook salmon on one of its Boeing 737s.

While we're picking on Alaska's mission to Congress, we should mention the $3 million that's been requested to make a documentary about the state's infrastructure achievements. And the infamous bridge to nowhere, which will likely exceed $300 million.

But Alaska has nothing on West Virginia, where the people, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, have been the recipients of more than $1 billion in pork,thanks to the tireless efforts of a single man: Robert Byrd.

Those are just a few examples of the many that would take more space than we have on this page if we covered them all.

It's all so typical statism: Concentrate the benefits, diffuse the costs. And it doesn't belong in this country. Earmarks should be eradicated, not merely brought into the sun.

Still, we need first steps, especially when the violators and the only folks who have the power to bring justice to the budget process are the same people.

Spies Like Us

My brother-in-law (the gun-owning, gas-guzzler-driving real estate agent whose livelihood won't exist without private property rights-"liberal") started ranting about illegal wire taps and the last president to do this was impeached. Well he was correct, Clinton was impeached but not because of illegal wire tapping. When I pressed my brother-in-law to tell me what FISA stood for or who signed the act into law, the "conversation quickly deteriorated since there was nothing about that on Michael Moore's website, so he had no answer.

Now Jimmy Carter is back on the bandwagon leaving one to question his mental health because it turns out that Jimmy Carter, of all people, also authorized warrantless surveillance when he was president. Ask not for whom Griffin Bell toiled.

At the recent funeral of Coretta Scott King, with George and Laura Bush seated right behind him, Carter went out of his way to condemn Bush's surveillance of potential terrorists with al-Qaida links. He did so by referring obliquely to "secret government wiretaps" of Mrs. King's husband, Martin Luther King.

(Unmentioned, of course, was the fact that those wiretaps were authorized under and carried out by Democratic Presidents Kennedy and Johnson under the auspices of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.)

The day before the funeral, at an event in Nevada where Carter's son Jack launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate, the former president was more direct. "Under the Bush administration," he said, "there's been a disgraceful and illegal decision: We're not going to let the judges or the Congress or anyone else know that we're spying on the American people."
Actually, that decision was made during Carter's own administration, when he signed Executive Order 12139 on May 23, 1979. It authorized the attorney general "to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order." This was after 1978's Foreign Intelligence Service Act set up a special and secret court for the purpose of granting foreign intelligence.

Two years earlier, Carter and his attorney general, Griffin Bell, authorized the warrantless surveillance of two individuals, Truong Dinh Hung and Ronald Louis Humphrey, who subsequently were convicted of spying for the Vietnamese government.

The two men challenged their convictions on the basis that evidence against them was obtained illegally using the wiretaps. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upheld their convictions, saying the executive branch has the "inherent authority" to wiretap enemies such as spies and terror plotters and is excused from obtaining warrants when the surveillance is "conducted primarily for foreign intelligence reasons."

Sound familiar? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used almost the same language recently in defending Bush's National Security Agency surveillance of suspected terrorists abroad and their contacts in the U.S.

Similar language also was used by Bell when he went to Capitol Hill in '78 to speak in favor of FISA. While the measure didn't explicitly acknowledge the "inherent power of the president to conduct electronic surveillance," he testified, "it does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution."

Yet Jimmy Carter, contradicting both his words and his deeds, and those of his attorney general, said after Gonzales' testimony that it was "ridiculous" for Bush's top law enforcer to argue that spying is justified by Article II of the Constitution.

If anything is illegal, it's the unauthorized disclosure of the NSA program. Former Congressman and now CIA Director Porter Goss, who co-sponsored the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act that protects those who report abuse of authorized surveillance programs, on Friday said that those who leaked the program's existence "are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk."

In an op-ed published in The New York Times, which publicly exposed the NSA program, Goss wrote that the law requires suspected abuses be reported to Congress, not directly to the media. "Those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic," he said, but criminals.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, courageously broke with her party and suggested that the Times should be prosecuted for its role in exposing the classified program. "If the press was part of the process of delivering classified information," she said, "there should be some limits on press immunity."
I agree.

And perhaps Jimmy Carter can be a character witness at the trial.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

West vs. East: 14 Centuries of War

From Former Congressman Bob Bauman:

Four months ago, Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper published 12 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. You know the rest.

A dictionary definition of "cartoon" describes it as a drawing depicting a humorous situation representing current public figures or issues symbolically, often satirically with irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

Having served in the US Congress, I'm familiar with this form of American free speech. Hanging on my wall is a cartoon from The Baltimore Sun , a liberal newspaper that generally opposed me and my conservative views during my public service. The cartoon depicts me pushing down the plunger on explosive charge about to blow up the Panama Canal as a ship passes through. This was a crude reference to my position as ranking Republican on the House Panama Canal Subcommittee and my vehement opposition to Jimmy Carter's treaties that gave the US Canal to Panama.

Granted I am not on a par with the prophet Muhammad, nevertheless I did not try to burn down the offices of the Sunpapers on Calvert Street in Baltimore to show my displeasure. (In fact I was flattered that The Sun cared enough to gig me, and it pleased my conservative constituents). Unable to escape 24-7 TV coverage of anything morbid, destructive and sensational, by now most of the world knows that groups of irate Muslims have rioted in the streets of cities from Damascus and Beirut to Kabul and Lahore to Gaza. Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen, calling for an apology and punishment of the editors. Danish products are boycotted in the Middle East, where state-run media talk about a conspiracy against Islam. Palestinian terrorists have declared Danes and other Europeans as legitimate death targets.
I love studying history. But I am concerned that most Americans (and others) these days do not realize the truth of Shakespeare's' observation that: "What is past is prologue."

These brainless street riots over what appear to be legitimate cartoons, (the "free press" wimps in the US media wont show them), were sparked because they depicted a certain segment of Muslims as advocating brutal violence and death to "unbelievers" -- non-Muslims. And it seems the majority of Muslims leaders openly encourage this insanity, passively allow it, or remain silent. The last time history saw rampaging street thugs advocating extermination of hated others it was on Kristallnacht , the Nazi prelude to the slaughtering of millions of Jews.

Yet the Bush administration and European governments, while paying lip service to "free speech" and a "free press," tut-tutted about the unfortunate offense of Muslims caused by with these truthful cartoons. Do these wimps recognize the wider issues here? Some things are just wrong and must be so described in uncompromising terms. Have appeasers forgotten the thousands of murders on 9-11, or the London, Madrid and scores of other bombings, all in the hijacked name of Allah?

The cartoon capers are just another skirmish in a clash of Western civilization and radical Islam that goes back centuries. The West finally won that bloody battle with the liberation of Vienna in 1683 from the Turks. Earlier at the Battle of Poitiers (Tours) in 732, Charles Martel and the Franks defeated a massive invading Islamic army. That battle stopped the northward advance of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula. Most historians view this as the end to the invasion of Europe by Muslims, preserving Christianity at a time when violent Islam was overrunning the remains of the old Roman and Persian Empires.

Historian Samuel Huntington, who popularized what has been called the "clash of civilizations theory," suggests that the struggle between Islam and Christianity has now lasted for some 14 centuries. He wrote: "It should by now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations - the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judaeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both."

Put simply, certain Muslims don't like us, not because of what we do, (which is provocative enough; Iraq, oil, Israel) but because too many Muslims reject the West's love of freedom and perhaps because they have been on the losing side for 300 years.

Muslims' refuse to be ruled by infidels and to many of them all non-believers are infidels. Read history and you will understand why these street riots are another stark symptom of a much deeper, chronic problem that will torment the world for a long time.

It already has.

Where Cutting Does Not Cut

Posted 2/7/2006 in IBD:

Government Spending: Politicians, as we know, sometimes have trouble being honest. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in how they use the term "cuts" in discussing the federal budget.
As noted here Tuesday, President Bush's new budget slows the growth of spending, but doesn't reverse it. Yet, listening to media pundits and even members of Bush's own party, you'd think spending was being slashed. It's not.

Sen. Arlen Specter, for example, decried Bush's proposed reductions for education and health as "scandalous." Another Republican — Maine's Olympia Snowe — said she was "disappointed, even surprised" by "cuts" in Medicaid and Medicare.

Among the media, CBS correspondent David Axelrod was perhaps typical. Using five-year budget forecasts, he recited the following misleading litany: "Education, cut 28%; Housing and Urban Development, cut 30%" and "$36 billion in Medicare cuts over the next five years."

In the fevered swamp that is Washington, rhetoric rarely matches reality. It's fair to say this budget isn't quite what critics say.

Federal spending, in fact, will increase this year by 2.3% to $2.77 trillion — capping a 43% surge since fiscal 2001. By 2011, the budget will be 20% bigger, at $3.24 trillion. Meanwhile, a lot of what some call "cuts" aren't cuts at all.

Take Medicare. Is Bush's request really $36 billion lower than this year's allocation? No. Under Bush's plan, Medicare will grow 66% from 2005's $294 billion to $489 billion in 2011.

As for those "cuts" in Medicaid, well, spending is set to climb 44% to $270 billion.

OK, you say, but what about education? Here, CBS' Axelrod has a point — in a way. Education spending will go from $56.5 billion in the 2006 budget to $54.4 billion in 2007 — a drop of 3.8%. It will also fall over the next five years.

Seems a little tightfisted until you realize that education spending in 2007, even after the 3.8% cut, will be nearly 36% higher than it was in 2001. That comes out to an average annual gain of 6% — the biggest sustained rise in education spending in U.S. history.

Bush does plan to cut or kill 141 government programs — many in education — that simply don't work. For this, he should be applauded, not cursed. Why waste money?

Truth is, after a spending binge, Bush is finally deferring to critics and holding down spending to shrink the deficit. If all goes as planned, red ink will shrink from 3.2% of GDP in 2005 to 1.2% in 2011. The average over the last 40 years has been 2.3%.

We're not fans of big government. Never have been. And sure, one of these days we'd like to see some cuts deserving of the name. Short of that, what the president has proposed sounds like progress.

Forgotten Reform

Posted 2/8/2006 in IBD:

Fiscal Policy: Forget tax reform, says Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. "The thing's dead," he told Treasury Secretary John Snow this week. "That's dead, Mr. Secretary." We hope not, for the economy's sake.

Wasn't it just last year that President Bush's commission on tax reform issued its report, calling for sweeping changes in the interest of fairness, simplicity and growth? That report contained many sound ideas. But Bush, perhaps shying away from a fight in an election year, hasn't pushed them very hard.

Pity. Because tax reform is important to the economy. So far, much of the debate has centered on the income, capital gains and dividend rate cuts approved in 2003 and whether they should be extended to 2010 or made permanent.

The argument is that the economy's three-year boom is due largely to those cuts. We concur. That's why we think it would be wise not just to extend them, but also to make them permanent by reforming the tax code once and for all.

That the Bush cuts have worked is no longer in dispute. The chart tells the story of two economies: one before cuts and one after. We chose to show GDP, the broadest measure of economic health. But other data points — investment, personal wealth, jobs, anything — serve just as well. All tell the same story: Bush brought the economy back to life with his bold tax initiatives.

Critics respond that the cuts also created massive new deficits. But as a news feature in IBD pointed out last week, that's not true. The cap-gains cut, for example, seems to have paid for itself in classic supply-side fashion. When the cut was approved in 2003, they assumed it would "cost" $3 billion over three years.

Instead, the government took in $45 billion more than forecast.

Ditto for cuts in income taxes and other levies. Maybe one of these years, someone in Washington will connect the dots: When taxes are cut, the economy grows, creating new jobs, more income and, yes, more tax revenues.

The record is clear. Since mid-2003, and in contrast with puny gains up until then, we've added 4.6 million jobs, $1.1 trillion in GDP, $400 billion in business investment, $738 billion in consumer spending and a whopping $12.1 trillion in personal wealth.

Imagine the possibilities if even broader tax relief were enacted and if the code was purged of its absurd biases against savings and investment. (We won't even go into the savings for Americans who shell out $140 billion each year just complying with the tax code's many rules.)

Sure, we'd love to see Congress extend the tax breaks until 2010. But we'd much prefer broader reform — the kind that will bring benefits for decades. That's why we hope reports about the death of tax reform, like those of Mark Twain, are greatly exaggerated.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

New Ice Age on the Way?

Al Gore, eat your heart out!

A year ago, British scientists went public with the dire forecast that climatic change will turn Britain into a frozen tundra. Just about a month ago, German scientists published findings that show plant life on earth contributes methane to the human output of “greenhouse gases” in unheard-of quantities.

Now a Russian astronomer predicts another “mini Ice Age” caused by low solar activity. According to his scientific research, temperatures will begin falling around 2012, with the coldest period occurring 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045.

His audacious observation: “Dramatic changes in the earth’s surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, and result from variations in the sun’s energy output and ultraviolet radiation,” according to United Press International.

Given that, since the seventies, forecasts of coming ice ages and global warming have alternated far more rapidly than cold and hot periods, this statement might be extended to say: “Dramatic changes in scientific opinion regarding the immediate future of the earth’s surface temperatures are an ordinary phenomenon, not an anomaly, and result from junk science being bandied about by agenda-driven alarmists using a lot of hot air.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How Do We Get Along?

Growing up in Cold War Germany, organized religion came in two flavors. There were Catholics. And there were Lutherans.


Sure, there were generational differences within each denomination: Both our old-school Pastor Nikolitsch of the Lutheran parish my parents belonged to and the ancient Silesian Jesuits teaching at my high school were figures of authority, stern and unbending like the Red Brick Gothic churches of the Mark Brandenburg. The younger generation of clerics, however, wore Earth Shoes, played guitar, insisted on jeans and white T-shirts in church-sponsored theater groups (“to symbolize that it could happen today”) and overall were indistinguishable from social studies teachers, eco-politicos or any other representatives of leftist pop and social culture in the secular seventies.

America’s plethora of religions and denominations is thus almost incomprehensible to a Continental European. When I get letters from European readers blaming everything that’s wrong with the world on America’s “religious right,” I feel compelled to ask whom exactly they mean: the Methodists, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Presbyterians, German or English Lutherans, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Catholics, Calvinists, Evangelicals, Armenian, Russian or Greek Orthodox, Reform Jews, Orthodox Jews, Amish, Herrenhuthers, Sunnis, Shiites, Boumis, Mennonites, Masons… or maybe the Indian Boy Scout who introduced our troop to the Hindu religion during the last campout as part of his “public speaking” requirement?

Because I pass all of them on my way into the office.

Given the variety of faiths in the States, one question inevitably arises: How do they all get along without cutting each others’ throats? Because, let’s be honest, ecumenical services and interfaith worship are inventions of modernity. If you take your religious convictions as seriously as you’re commanded to, everyone else’s beliefs must needs be filed under “deplorable superstitions,” heresy, or even blasphemy. Could it be simply the righteous consciousness of “the Force being with you” that allows people to nod at their infidel neighbor’s aberrations with a smiling show of tolerance?

If so, what can one say about the brouhaha over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed? It’s a Muslim’s good right to consider the depiction of the prophet as blasphemous or idolatrous. It’s his good right to decide to take his business elsewhere as a consequence and buy his yoghurt from the Yemenis instead of the Danes. But it’s also a Danish or other newspaper’s good right to publish whatever they darn well please - just as it is perfectly acceptable that a Dane eats Danish ham, drinks Faxe beer from cans the size of paint buckets, dances with his mother at his own wedding, and puts down the “Satanic Verses” after trying to make sense of the first two pages.

(A book, by the way, whose author was condemned to death for writing it, whose Italian translator was severely wounded during an assassination attempt, and whose Japanese translator was stabbed to death. I don’t know about you, but my Western sensitivities are still, shall we say, “outraged” at that!)

It is most interesting that especially left-leaning and liberal newspapers have thus far found very little reason to take a stand against what amounts to a proto-totalitarian interference with free speech rights.

The German-Israeli journalist Henryk Broder asks:

“How would the [ultra-left wing German newspaper] Taz react if Christian fundamentalists were calling for a boycott of England [because of Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’]? Something has changed in the consciousness of the public since September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks from Ankara to Madrid, after the Al Jazeera images of beheaded hostages. ‘Punish one, educate a hundred,’ Mao once said. Threaten one, cow a million, that could read today.”

One feels inclined to agree with Jihad Momani, editor-in-chief of the Jordanian weekly independent newspaper Al-Shihan, who wrote: “What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?”

J. Christoph Amberger

Where Libertarians Fail

Libertarians believe that you have the right to live your life as you wish, without the government interfering -- as long as you don’t violate the rights of others. Politically, this means Libertarians favor rolling back the size and cost of government, and eliminating laws that stifle the economy and control people’s personal choices.

While I tend to be libertarian on most of my views, the philosophy fails in it's basic premise that doing NOT on to others will in turn lead them to not do on to you. Thus, they are not in favor of the US engaging in the war against Islamic Fanaticism.

But, anyone who grew up with a neighborhood bully knows that sometimes turning the other cheek is just not enough.

What does one do when faced with an ideology that refuses to recognize your right to live your life in peace?

When even the Council for Islamic-American relations states that their goal is to establish Islamic law as the superior law in our land, passivism will not be effective in protecting our civil liberties.

Nobody in their right mind wants war. Nor do they want crime, pollution or pandemics, but it is simply naive to think that we can "will" these things away.

The history of the world is filled with leaders, movements and countries that sought world domination. The riots taking place all over the world over a cartoon, should be a wake up call that people who can react so violently will not go away if we lay down our arms. These people are stuck in the 12th century and are determined to drag us into it with them, or kill us if we refuse.

If we choose to ignore this now, the battle will only be more ugly in the future.

The Beltway Madrassa

Posted in IBD on 1/27/2006:

A stone's throw away from George Washington's home, Mount Vernon in Virginia, is a Saudi-run school for Muslims that investigators fear is a "breeding ground for terrorists," including one who joined al-Qaida and planned to attack the president.

The Islamic Saudi Academy graduated al-Qaida operative Ahmed Abu Ali, who was recently convicted of plotting to assassinate President Bush. Abu Ali graduated valedictorian and was voted by his class - are you ready? - "Most Likely to Be a Martyr."

When an American citizen who graduates at the top of his class would rather die fighting infidels for Allah than run his own Fortune 500 company or discover the cure for cancer, you can bet that school is not teaching the American dream. And if the feds hadn't caught up with him, he would have gotten his wish.

Abu Ali's case isn't the first time the Saudi academy - which is run by the Saudi government and chaired by the Saudi ambassador (Abu Ali's father, in fact, worked for the Saudi Embassy) - has attracted investigators' attention. In 2002, another graduate was charged with lying about plotting attacks on Israel. And last August an ex-comptroller for the school was arrested while videotaping a local bridge's structure for what authorities believed to be a terror attack.

The school, located just across a highway from where some of the Saudi hijackers stayed before 9-11, teaches from Saudi social studies textbooks that tell Muslims to kill Jews hiding behind trees and not to take Christians as friends. It also teaches students that Christianity and Judaism are false religions.

At Hatred High, kids don't have to study U.S. history or government.

But memorizing the Quran is mandatory, particularly the parts glorifying violent jihad. Geography apparently is also optional: School maps blot out Israel, which is renamed PALESTINE. Why is this academy still operating just across the Potomac from the White House and Capitol? Why are U.S. colleges still accepting its students?

More troubling, why is Fairfax County still leasing it an old high school building? That's right: ISA is in the county's old Mount Vernon High School. If not for the tiny, nondescript green sign (green being the color of Islam) out front of the quaint colonial building, you would never know a Saudi madrassa was holding classes inside.

If this school were run by the KKK and teaching Nazi-style hatred of Jews, would it be accredited? Would it get county support? Of course not. So why is an exception made for the Saudis' Islamofascist curriculum? Or, for that matter, the estimated 600 other Islamic schools in American that indoctrinate some 30,000 kids each day in the militant teachings of the Quran?

If Washington is serious about winning the war on Islamic terror at home - not just abroad - it should do a better job of monitoring and regulating these "schools" to make sure they're really not just hatcheries for future Osama bin Ladens.

Terror: As Washington calls on Pakistan and other Muslim nations to shut militant Islamic schools called madrassas, it's done nothing about one in its own backyard.

Long Twilight Struggle

From IBD:

Posted 2/6/2006
National Security: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon are planning for a "long war" against terror and the enemies of freedom. But then, President Bush told us that in the weeks after 9-11.

In a speech last week at the National Press Club that aides titled the "Long War," Rumsfeld rightly described our war against terror as a generational struggle not unlike our five-decade-long Cold War with the Soviet Union. And the stakes, he pointed out, are as high now as they were then.

Likening al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden to the fathers of other tyrannical ideologies, like Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin, Rumsfeld defined both the stakes and difficulties in the speech made on the eve of the release of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review. Mandated every four years by Congress, the latest QDR opens with the declaration: "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

This is not a statement or a policy that will sit well with congressional Democrats who whine about "exit strategies" and wonder not what it will take to win and bring democracy to the Middle East but what it will take to bring the troops home from Iraq.

These "white flag" Democrats no longer echo President John F. Kennedy's call to pay any price and bear any burden to ensure the success and survival of liberty. Instead, they embrace Rep. John Murtha's call for unilateral retreat.

Kennedy knew it would be hard to both confront the nuclear threat the Soviet Union posed and the guerrilla wars and Third World contests that Moscow sponsored and supplied. And certainly mistakes were made. But it was a struggle from which we could not shrink — from the Berlin Airlift to the Cuban Missile Crisis to "Star Wars" and the day President Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down that wall!"

Today we find ourselves in a not-unfamiliar situation. China is rising to become the global threat the Soviet Union once was. Iran seeks to join North Korea as a nuclear power even as it reigns as the prime state sponsor of terror, with Syria running a close second. Together they finance the terrorist group Hezbollah. And the equally dangerous and virulently anti-U.S. and anti-Israel group Hamas now rules the Palestinian state.

In our own hemisphere, thugs like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales have become the allies and heirs of Cuba's Fidel Castro. And then there are the terrorists who set off bombs at weddings in Jordan, discos in Bali, train stations in Madrid and subways in London, and who fly passenger jets into buildings in the U.S.

"Compelled by a militant ideology that celebrates murder and suicide with no territory to defend, with little to lose, they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs," Rumsfeld said.
In the war on terror, as in the Cold War, no unconditional surrender will be signed on the deck of a battleship. Success will be measured not by events that happen but by events that don't happen.

On Sept. 20, 2001, President Bush told Congress and the nation: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen." He continued: "Our war with terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

Like the Cold War, this war is going to be a long one and one we can't afford to lose.

Sensitivity And Apocalypse

From IBD:

Posted 2/6/2006
Diplomacy: As the worldwide cartoon war ended its first violent week, the State Department sought to put out the fire. The peacekeeping impulse was understandable, but just what principles did its statement uphold?
Foggy Bottom's reaction to the turmoil, in which Islamists across the globe torched European offices and called for the beheading of any Westerner who so much as drew an image of Muhammad, was painfully tepid. Suddenly, the clash of civilizations had become unmanageable by normal diplomatic means.

So, just what do you do across the polished tabletop when the earth itself opens wide and out fly all the ancient demons?

Here's the statement that poor Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman read: "Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief."
This was pure, unsophisticated universalism meant as balm.

Granted, something reassuring needed to be sent to our anti-terrorism allies — Afghanistan's Karzai and Pakistan's Musharaff, to name two — whose very survival was put at risk by Islamic demonstrators protesting cartoons that satirized Muhammad.

But did McCormack's statement send the right signals? For that matter, did Western commentators who echoed McCormack?

Answers: No, and no. For starters, it's out of place for the U.S. government to define acceptable journalistic content in our own country, let alone in another. The better signal would have been to defend, in no uncertain terms, the freedom of the press, especially now that several European journalists have gone into hiding.

Does any U.S. second-guesser, however committed to the intelligent prosecution of the war on terrorism, really think the conflict would have held off if only cartoonists had shown "sensitivity"?

Clearly, absent these cartoons, something else would have sparked the rage. The clarifying moment has arrived, sooner not later, catching the State Department and the most well-intentioned commentators unawares.

Indeed, we detect a "blame-the-West-first" reflex in all this. Few of our fussier commentators seem to have considered the likely hand of Tehran in this past week's rage. The fanatical regime, ubiquitous throughout the Islamo-fascist world, may well have helped stage the violent demonstrations.

The chilling news, reported in The Washington Times by Arnaud de Borchgrave, is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "is close to the messianic Hojjatieh Society," which anticipates an apocalypse within two years. Ahmadinejad's circle actually believes it can produce the "chaos on Earth" that will hasten paradise.
Somehow, sending cartoonists to sensitivity training doesn't seem to matter any more.

Size Matters

From IBD:

Posted 2/6/2006
Budget: "Downsizing" and "right sizing" have been all the rage in corporate America, helping to create a leaner, meaner economy. Maybe it's time for those ideas to reach the government, too.

The spending plan that President Bush has just unveiled does a lot of good things — preserving the tax cuts, for example, and trimming growth in Medicare, changing how we spend defense dollars, cutting nondefense discretionary spending by 0.5% and expanding Health Savings Accounts, an innovation that may have enormous impact down the road.

And we can't argue with the underlying philosophy as stated in the budget release: "(T)he American economy grows when people are allowed to keep more of what they earn, to save and spend as they see fit," the president said in his budget release.

We're also glad to see overall spending will rise just 2% in 2007, to $2.77 trillion. We only wish more were being done to keep the growth in government in check.

Take the $2.77 trillion. It will likely be even higher than forecast, and by quite a bit. The reason: Bush still must ask for an additional $50 billion for Iraq, maybe more. And he'll have to find a way to fund alternative minimum tax relief for middle class families.

It is true the White House proposes to cut or end 141 programs, which sounds like a lot. But that will save only about $14 billion. In a budget nearing $2.8 trillion, that's nothing.

Compare that with the 1995 budget, crafted at the peak of the Republican Revolution. That budget, says the Cato Institute's Stephen Slivinski, cut or killed nearly 300 programs and saved $40 billion. And that, along with shrinking defense spending after the Cold War and a surge in New Economy tax receipts, helped push the budget into surplus for the first time in decades.

As for Medicare "cuts" that have set special interest groups and Democrats squawking, they're not really that big. Under the budget, Medicare will save $36 billion — but its yearly growth will only fall from 8.1% a year to 7.7%. It's still growing roughly twice as fast as the overall economy — too fast, in our opinion.

It's also true the budget deficit is forecast to shrink from $439 billion in 2006 to $354 billion next year — or from 3.2% of GDP to 2.6%. Good news, we suppose. But, as John Berthoud of the National Taxpayers Union notes, if spending growth had been held to 4% since 2001, we'd have a $58 billion surplus in '07.

Yes, when it comes to the budget, size matters. The $2.77 trillion spent represents 20.1% of GDP. That's neither historically high nor low (the average since 1970 is 20.7%). But by recent standards it marks a big change. Just six years ago, government spending represented just 18.4% of U.S. output.

What's more, that 20.1% doesn't include certain things — like Katrina and the war in Iraq — where spending is still uncertain. So spending's share of the economy could rise further.

We give Bush a lot of credit. After years of big spending gains, he's offered a sensible, but hardly revolutionary, budget. When we see headlines like this one from Reuters — "Bush Aims to Tame Deficits with Domestic Cuts" — we know something must be right.

It's time to follow corporate America's lead and "downsize" government. Bush has taken a stab at it. But he's still spending way too much. And chances that his plan will get through Congress without being larded with treats for lobbyists and special interests are virtually nil.

We only wish Bush had wielded his veto pen once or twice in the past. Then, Congress would know he means it when he says he wants a smaller government, and it might just give it to him.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Dawn of the Hydrocarbon Age?

The first time anyone thought to use “rock oil” for anything other than patent medicine occurred because whale oil was outrageously expensive. Large whales became scarce. Whalers were killing smaller and smaller whales, and whale-oil prices spiked.

Many people would view that story as proof that oil’s reign as energy king is ending.

However, that view lacks the perspective on how hydrocarbons are knit into the fabric of our lives both literally and figuratively. I challenge you to find ten things in your house that aren’t a result of the use of hydrocarbons.

“Oh Matt, that’s silly,” you say. “Take this orange I’m eating right now, how can you say that this benefits from oil?”

Well, first, there’s the fertilizer for the tree, then the pesticides to keep off the bugs, then the wax to make the skin shiny, and the truck that drove it from California to your store.

Actually, even leaving out the obvious stuff like transportation, I am hard pressed to find stuff that doesn’t contain a plastic, wax, glue, or dye from petrochemicals.

As you can see, weaning ourselves off foreign oil is a lot more complicated than buying a hybrid and turning down the thermostat. I am actually excited, from a scientific standpoint, over the high prices of oil. I’ll tell you why.

I see these high prices as the spur for innovation in the hydrocarbon industry. We have a lot of marginal hydrocarbons, like oil shale and tar sands that are under-utilized. As oil gets more expensive, people will figure out a way to use them.

The high price of oil will bring further resurgence in coal. North America is rich in coal and it is contains a wealth of useful hydrocarbons. Gone are the days when we burned it for heat. I expect we’ll see coal become a source of hydrocarbons for petrochemicals and fuels.

Now, before my green friends out there string me up with organic rope, let me say that innovation works in several ways.

When Barbie’s plastic gets too expensive, Mattel will look to polymers made from corn and soy. Green diesel fuels are within reach, someone just needs to embrace them. Gas price woes ought to be directed at carmakers, who haven’t improved our gas mileage in decades.

I am seeing innovation in oil and gas exploration, and I’m excited. Old fields are being renewed and new ideas are being tested.

Some people see this as the end of the old oil regime and they are afraid. I see this as a paradigm shift that will foster creativity and reward forward thinking businesses.

With oil prices at all time highs, Big Oil companies are tripping over themselves to find new sources of oil. And they’re looking in places they never would have dreamed of a decade ago. Innovation in exploration techniques – using new technologies to extract oil once deemed impossible to get to – has become the new lifeblood of the industry.

Indeed, according the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil will spend nearly all of their record-breaking earnings from 2005 on finding new sources of oil… from the tar sands of Canada to the deepwater basins of the world’s oceans. Chevron, for one, will spend $3.4 billion over the next three years developing oilfields off the coast of West Africa that hold over 1 billion barrels of oil.

Better buckle up, because the new hydrocarbon age is coming!

Matt Badiali

Come Visit and Stay Awhile!

From the State Department (travel.state.gov)

Iran is fighting an uphill battle to improve its image as a tourist-friendly country. Officials recently announced plans to open tourist offices in seven countries; Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Complicating the country's tourism ambitions (besides their insistence on developing nuclear weapons and wanting to destroy Israel), authorities recently arrested two tourists who allegedly sailed into Iranian waters by mistake when fishing on a vacation in the United Arab Emirates.

The French and German tourists were sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Hate Vs. Life

From IBD:

Ideology: Do Islamic governments so revile Jews that they'd rather see hundreds of their own people die than get help from Israelis? That seems to be the case in the sinking of an Egyptian ferry.

After Friday evening's sinking of the Salaam 98 on its way from the western Saudi Arabian port of Dubah to Safaga in Egypt, 120 miles across the Red Sea, Egypt refused offers of search and rescue assistance from the Israeli navy. Hundreds of passengers were still missing after four Egyptian frigates arrived.

According to reports, the passenger load of 1,415 was 20% more than the maximum allowed on board. Some of the passengers were apparently returning from the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Since so many were still missing, Egypt can't say that its efforts to save people aboard were adequate and no outside assistance was necessary. So why say no to Israel's able help?

Were there fears that massive safety violations would be exposed, embarrassing the government? Were there worries about being shown up by the Israeli military?

Maybe the spectacle of Israel saving the lives of Arabs would contradict some of the anti-Semitic propaganda being taught in Saudi elementary schools. Or maybe it was just plain, old-fashioned hatred toward the Jews: Better to die than be involved with them.

Whatever the motivation of Egypt's behavior, almost anywhere else in the world such a tragedy would be met with unquestioned international cooperation. A maritime disaster endangering the lives of more than 1,400 men, women and children is not the time for politics, or ethnic tribalism.

But too many times, even in "moderate" Islamic countries, we've seen hatred for Israel and Jews take a front seat in politics and culture. In Turkey — viewed in the West as the world's most civilized, reasonable Islamic society — advance tickets are selling out for what is the most expensive Turkish film ever made, "Valley of the Wolves Iraq."

The movie opens with the true incident of a U.S. Army search for Iraqi insurgents during the raid of a Turkish special forces office in 2003. But attached to that is the fictional story: U.S. soldiers in Iraq machine-gun to death a little boy in front of his mother at a wedding, murder dozens of the wedding guests at random, shoot the groom in the head, and take those left to Abu Ghraib prison, where a Jewish doctor removes their organs and sells them in New York, London and (of course) Tel Aviv.

The film, said to have cost $10 million, features American actors Billy Zane and Gary Busey, which shows how far ill will for those who wear the uniform will take Hollywood personalities.

In his State of the Union last week, President Bush rightly pointed out that "democracies replace resentment with hope." But as we saw in the Palestinian election of Hamas, when Mideast minds subsist on a diet of hate, they can and will misuse their freedoms.

All The Leaks Fit To Prosecute

From IBD:

National Security: If the identity of Valerie Plame is worth sending Scooter Libby to prison, just what fate should befall those who disclose secret programs that just might have prevented the next 9-11?

Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was back in court Friday for a hearing on his indictment for allegedly lying to the FBI about how he learned the identity of Plame, a CIA desk jockey, and when he subsequently told reporters.

The day before, FBI Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding leaks of genuine importance for which no one as yet has been charged — leaks that have endangered not the lives of individual agents, as charged in the Plame case, but the lives of potentially millions of Americans.

A legitimately outraged Goss told the committee that leaks to the media about classified government programs, such as reported CIA secret prisons abroad, did "severe" damage to the agency's work.

"I use the word 'very severe' intentionally," he said. "And I think the evidence will show that."
Goss reported that the leaks have caused a major "disruption to our plans, things that we have under way" and that certain CIA "assets" were "no longer viable or usable, or less effective by a large degree." He also noted that foreign intelligence agencies have become more mistrustful of their U.S. counterparts, lest their secrets wind up on the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times as well.

The agencies wonder why we can't keep a secret. And so do we. We also wonder how Plame's identity is supposed to be a state secret, but the fact that we're tapping al-Qaida's communications is not.

It is inconceivable to us that newspapers like the Post and Times would have divulged during World War II that we had broken the Japanese code before the Battle of Midway, or that the Allies had a machine that was translating the Nazi Wehrmacht's battle orders.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who oversees all intelligence activities, strongly defended the NSA program, calling it crucial for protecting the nation against its most menacing threat.

"This was not about domestic surveillance," he insisted. No, it was about keeping the American people alive and free.

But when the Times in a Dec. 16 story revealed that the NSA eavesdropped on communications between terrorist suspects abroad and U.S. residents — a practice that every president since at least Jimmy Carter has considered legal, constitutional and necessary, and a practice that has already broken terrorist cells and their plots — it alerted al-Qaida that we were on to them.

The Times is not alone. On Sept. 28, 2001, USA Today disclosed that U.S. Special Forces were operating in Afghanistan, even as the Knight-Ridder organization, to its credit, held back the story so as not to endanger those hunting down the Taliban and al-Qaida.

In 1989, a famous debate took place on PBS in which this question was posed to a group of news people: If you were covering a war and traveling behind enemy lines and found out about a planned attack on American forces, would you warn the American troops?

The late Peter Jennings, to his credit, said he'd try to warn the Americans. But Mike Wallace of CBS said he was "astonished" by his colleague's answer. "No. No," he rebuked Jennings, "you're a reporter."

Don't warn the Americans. But it's OK to alert al-Qaida of our plans.

During World War II, the saying was that "loose lips sink ships." Today, in the age of potential biological, chemical or even nuclear mass murder and terror, loose lips can sink ships of state. But the attitude these days is that the public's "right to know" is greater than its right to be protected, and that freedom of the press is worth jeopardizing the efforts of those who defend it.

How many times do we have to say it? We are at war. Those who jeopardize its prosecution and jeopardize the safety of the American people by disclosing to the enemy information vital to our survival are far more worthy of investigation, indictment and incarceration than Scooter Libby.