Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ethanol vs Gasoline & Global Warming

Many have touted the switch to Ethanol from Gasoline automobile fuels as a major part of the plan to reduce Global Warming Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental & Public Works, and its Chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), authored or supported the Senate Passed Energy Bill which, according to a Press Release, included:
A $500 million grant program to encourage the production of advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol
But the Energy Bill also mandated expanded Corn Based Ethanol use to 36 billion gallons in the next 15 years. For any number of reasons, most of them increased consumer and/or production costs/expenses, the use of Ethanol as a fuel is not practical. More information HERE.

There is another reason why the Switch to Ethanol from Gasoline to reduce CO2 emissions is not practical. If I remember my College Chemistry correctly, each gallon of Gasoline produces about 19.37 lbs of CO2. Each gallon of Ethanol produces about 12.59 lbs of CO2. But Ethanol has only 2/3 the energy of Gasoline. Therefore, to drive the same distance on Ethanol, 18.89 lbs of CO2 is produced. Ethanol does produce less CO2, about 1/2 lb less!

Man-made CO2 emissions account for less than half of the total atmospheric Green House Gases emissions. Natural processes, like Volcanoes account for the other half, and considering that CO2 constitutes less than 1% of Earth's atmosphere, the total impact on the Global Green House Gas emissions is insignificant. Kind of like spitting in the Ocean.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Reason For Term Limits

The AP is reporting tonight that Senator Ted Stevens' (R-AK) Alaskan Home has been searched by the FBI and the IRS (FBI, IRS Search Home of Sen. Ted Stevens). Search Warrants were issued in an investigation of a 2000 remodeling project which more than doubled the size of the Senators home.
Stevens, 83, has been under a federal investigation for a 2000 renovation project more than doubling the size of his home in Girdwood that was overseen by Bill Allen, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators.
Stevens, the longest serving Republican Senator, has been elected to seven 6-year terms. This Senator is certainly not the only member of Congress to be charged or convicted of crimes which cost the taxpayers money, just the latest. Nor does either party have a lock on corruption. If we had term limits for Congress, we may not eliminate the bad apples, but at least there might be some house cleaning every so often. We already limit the President to 10 years. Why not limit members of Congress to 12 years. Thats two 6-year terms for Senators, or six 2-year terms for Representatives.

Update: According to another AP article (Lawmakers Being Investigated), besides Senator Stevens, also under investigation are House Republicans:
  • Don Young of Alaska, 18th term. Young is under federal investigation as part of an ongoing corruption probe, according to a federal law enforcement official. Part of the Young investigation involves his campaign finance practices.
  • John Doolittle of California, ninth term. The FBI in April searched his home in Oakton, Va., where his wife Julie ran a bookkeeping and event-planning business. Among her clients was now-jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
  • Jerry Lewis of California, 15th term. Prosecutors are examining his dealings with lobbyists and contractors during the time he chaired the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Gary Miller of California, fifth term. FBI agents have interviewed officials in two towns that purchased property from Miller about the nature of the transactions and the tax implications. Miller denies any wrongdoing and says FBI agents have not contacted him.
  • Rick Renzi of Arizona, third term. FBI agents recently raided his wife's insurance business amid reports that Renzi paid substantial back taxes to settle charges that his businesses improperly paid for his first congressional campaign.
The Democrats in the House that have been accused:
  • William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, ninth term. Awaiting trial in January on federal charges of taking more than $500,000 in bribes by using his office to broker business deals in Africa. He pleaded innocent in June to the 16-count indictment. FBI agents raided his congressional office and his home, where they found $90,000 in a freezer.
  • Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, 13th term. Mollohan stepped down from the House ethics committee after federal agents began a probe of federal funds he helped steer to nonprofit groups he founded.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Minimum Wage Increase

On July 24th the Federal Minimum Wage rose to $5.85/hr. And many states already have Minimum Wage mandates much higher. In my home state for instance the Minimum Wage is $7.50/hr. Raising the Minimum Wage is a "feel good" issue because it sounds good in theory, but in practice it actually hurts the people it is intended to help most.

The vast majority of Minimum Wage employees are unskilled or uneducated. Conditions easily remedied. Students, for instance may take such jobs to help pay for education. Upon graduation, they no longer make Minimum Wage. First-time job seekers may start with a Minimum Wage job, but soon gain the skills necessary to move into a higher paid position. Very few employees at the Minimum Wage Level are sole support of a family and most are 25 or younger. However, even if they are the family breadwinner, (a single parent for instance) there are Federal, State and Private money and training programs easily available to supplement income and educate (both academically and vocationally) those workers who wish to gain the skills/education necessary to advance.

Business is very competitive and as such maximizes profits by lowering costs or raising prices. One of the costs is Labor. Consequently if the Labor Cost goes too high to remain competitive, jobs are eliminated by automation or outsourcing. When this happens, the Minimum Wage earner is the first and deepest cut. These are the employees who, so the Politicians claimed, make up the families the increase in the Minimum Wage was designed to help. On June 24th the Employment Practices Institute published the following Press Release (Majority of Labor Economists Believe Minimum Wage Hikes Cause Unemployment).
An overwhelming majority of American labor economists agree that minimum wage hikes are an inefficient way to address the needs of poor families, according to a new national survey of the American Economic Association (AEA). The survey was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and sponsored by the Employment Policies Institute.
Just how deeply the increase in the Minimum Wage is going to lead to job elimination through automation and outsourcing remains to be seen. But it is clear that automation and outsourcing will produce an increase in the Unemployment Rate.
Research from David Neumark at the University of California at Irvine shows that for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, low-skilled unemployment increases by 8 percent. His results also indicate that states fully affected by a $7.25 federal minimum wage will see young minority unemployment rates increase by as much as 15.6 percent.
Rather than Minimum Wage increases, doesn't it make more sense to put that money into education and skill development? Complaints are already heard about the disparity in compensation. Higher Unemployment rates will make the disparity worse.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More Playing Politics

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Consequently the following is only my opinion. It is not Legal Advise and should not be relied upon as such.

It is clear that the Executive Branch of our Government (the President) is empowered by the Constitution to Nominate Judges to the Supreme Court. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states:
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law... [emphasis mine]
It is also clear that the Legislative Branch (specifically the Senate), as noted above, is empowered by the Constitution to use its powers to give advise and consent to the nominee.

What does that mean? In my opinion, this, in simplest terms, is how the system was meant to work. The President makes his choice. He may follow the advice of the Senate or anyone else as he wishes, but the choice is The Presidents alone. The Senate then determines the qualifications of the Presidents nominee to serve. Qualified by reason of Education and Experience should be the qualifications the Senate Considers. Obviously the ability to interpret the Constitution is necessarily a part of the qualifications. However, the Constitution is subject to different reasonable interpretations. No Senator should refuse to confirm just because the nominee doesn't agree with the Senators view, so long as the nominee's views are within the range of reasonable legal thought. And the Political views or party affiliation should not be part of the standard of judgment of qualifications, so long as the nominee demonstrates the ability to put personal feelings aside if they are inconsistent with legal documentation.

Now enter the words of Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY).
New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, said Friday the Senate should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush “except in extraordinary circumstances.”

“We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,” Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. “The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.”
This is an example of Senatorial obstructionism at its worst. Just as a CYA he adds the weasel phrase "except in extraordinary circumstances". But what does this mean. Based on the Senators past partisanship, it is reasonable to assume that he really means: Unless you agree with the Democrats, you will not be confirmed. Considering that Senator Schumer is part of the Democratic Leadership in the Senate, it is fair to infer that he is speaking for the Democratic Party as a Whole.

There is a process for the removal of a Supreme Court Justice. It is called Impeachment. But there is no talk of Supreme Court Justice Impeachment, so when the Senator makes the following claim, why doesn't he put his money where his mouth is?
Schumer voted against confirming Roberts and Alito. In Friday’s speech, he said his “greatest regret” in the last Congress was not doing more to scuttle Alito.

“Alito shouldn’t have been confirmed,” Schumer said. “I should have done a better job. My colleagues said we didn’t have the votes, but I think we should have twisted more arms and done more.”
The Senator is being disingenuous when he refuses to for strictly Political Reasons to vote for any nominee of President Bush.

The White House has justifiably fired back.
A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said Schumer's comments show "a tremendous disrespect for the Constitution" by suggesting that the Senate not confirm nominees.

"This is the kind of blind obstruction that people have come to expect from Sen. Schumer," Perino said. "He has an alarming habit of attacking people whose character and position make them unwilling or unable to respond. That is the sign of a bully. If the past is any indication, I would bet that we would see a Democratic senatorial fundraising appeal in the next few days."
Is it any wonder that Congressional approval ratings are in the crapper?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Playing Politics

Business as usual. Politicians practice the oldest political profession. Most of the time no serious harm comes from each party maligning the other. On the subject of monitoring electronic Terrorist communications however, we are dangerously allowing Political Considerations to outweigh common sense. Common Sense dictates that, should a cell phone call be made from Afghanistan to Syria, no Warrant is needed to legally allow the US to listen in. But in practice, A WARRANT may be necessary. This is Politics Gone Wild.

We are not talking about Domestic calls of US Citizens here. It could be Usama bin Laden talking to a known al-Qaeda operative in Syria or Iraq that we are prevented from monitoring without a warrant, and both ends of the call are OUTSIDE the US.

This is possible because the US leads the world in technology. Our Cell Phone networks are so efficient, that many calls are routed through the USA, EVEN when none of the parties is in the US. Under Current US Law, to monitor these calls requires a warrant. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot. This is clearly not the best way to fight Terrorists. But because the Democrats in Congress want to score Political points, they are willing to place all of us at greater risk by opposing changes and making mountains out of molehills.

An editorial piece (Wiretap Debacle) published on-line today at the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal makes the argument that we are less secure because Congress has pushed, and the President has caved on the Wiretap issue.
President Bush approved this terrorist surveillance not long after 9/11, allowing intelligence officials to track terrorist calls overseas, as well as overseas communications with al Qaeda sympathizers operating in the U.S. The New York Times exposed the program in late 2005, and Democrats and antiwar activists immediately denounced it as an "illegal" attempt to spy on Americans, à la J. Edgar Hoover.
Of course there is always the opportunity to use unlimited power to wiretap for illegal reasons. But proper co-operation between Congressional Oversight Committees and regular Presidential Briefings, abuse was not a problem prior to the New York Times disclosure. That's where the Politicians began to play the most dangerous game of Politics.
Democratic leaders were briefed on the program from the first and never once tried to shut it down. But once it was exposed, these same Democrats accused Mr. Bush of breaking the law by not getting warrants from the special court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Mr. Bush has rightly defended the program's legality, but as a gesture of compromise in January he agreed to seek warrants under the FISA process.
President Bush tried, unsuccessfully, to compromise, but the Democrats smelled blood in the water. Besides, all Politicians have found that emotional scare issues persuade voters. An assessment of how dangerous this game is came from recent Congressional Testimony.
Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell more or less admitted the problem last week, albeit obliquely, when he told the Senate that "we're actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting." That's understating things. Our sources say the surveillance program is now at most one-third as effective as it once was.
We have been both smart and lucky so far in that we have not had a serious Terrorist Attack on US soil since 9/11. Now with the smart part dangerously reduced, luck is what makes millions losers in the lottery. Politicians playing Politics with this issue are, with only a few exceptions, Democrats.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is holding any wiretap legislation hostage to his demand for Administration documents related to the program. This is part of the Democrats' political exercise to claim that Mr. Bush has somehow broken the law by allowing the wiretaps. Backed by grandstanding Republican Arlen Specter, in short, Mr. Leahy is more interested in fighting over how the program began than in allowing it to continue today.
We need to win the Global War on Terror Militarily, before a Political Peace can ensue.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Global Warming - Las Vegas, NOT

It is hot in Las Vegas, Nevada and the average temperature has increased each decade for the last 30 years. Carbon Dioxide is one of the Green House Gases. And over the last 150 years, atmospheric levels of Carbon Dioxide have increased. In all probability, Man's use of Wood and Fossil Fuels (oil and coal) have been responsible for much of this increase. Therefore, we can conclude that Global Warming is confirmed, right? Not necessarily according to the following National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) graph.

Avg Las Vegas Temperature by decade: 1940s 81.3, 1950s 80.2, 1960s 79.2, 1970s 79.7, 1980s 79.9, 1990s 79.9

Clearly this graph shows the average temperatures by decade since the 40s are still within normal temperature ranges.

Now consider this article from the AP, Study: Nevada has big temperature gains where this paragraph resides.
"The scientific evidence of global warming is incontrovertible, and Nevada is feeling the heat more intensely than most of the rest of the U.S," said Stephen M. Rowland, Professor of Geology at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. [emphasis mine]
Incontrovertible depends on you point of view, I guess. And that's my point, we need more research evidence before we can responsibly throw around absolute words like incontrovertible.

Global Warming (a better term is Global Climate Change) is still not established in scientific fact as outside the range of natural cycles. There are still sufficient reasons to believe that we need much more scientific research data before we make what the drastic, expensive life-style changes the "chicken little" types demand. The Global Warming supporters use scare and emotional arguments to move us to their side of the debate.
"Unless our elected officials act now to curb global warming pollution, Nevada will see more severe heat waves that increase the risk for wildfires, drought, and heat-related illnesses," she said.

The new report found Reno's average temperature from 2000 to 2006 was 3.4 degrees above the 30-year average, the second-highest reading in the nation for the period.
[emphasis mine]
We need to make sure there is water in the pool before we go off the high dive. The current hype tries to make Political Solutions to a possible Scientific problem.

There are at least four immediate problems with these Political Measures.
  • Man's controllable part of the Green House Gases are the emissions of Carbon, mainly in the form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). However, about half of the atmospheric CO2 results from natural forces (mainly volcanoes) over which we have no control.
  • CO2 is less than 1% of our atmosphere. CO2 emission reductions would therefore, have little effect on Global Climate Change.
  • Elimination of CO2 is very expensive and requires Drastic Life-Style Changes. See this post for more information (Cost of Global Warming Action).
  • A World-Wide Agreement or Treaty is required but countries like China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Venezuela and Mexico have economies based on OIL which would likely collapse.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Terror Dry Runs

A dry run is a simulation to test something which is good for only one use, a rehearsal. A fire evacuation plan for your home, for instance is a good example. Especially if you have children, you might want to practice escape procedures. This makes sense so that any problems can be corrected before an actual Life and Death situation presents itself. It also helps everyone understand what they are expected to do.

So it makes sense that part of the planning for another Terrorist Attack would be one or more dry runs. And like a fire drill, these dry runs would show what works, and maybe more important, what doesn't work. This technique of Dry Runs or Trials was used by the 9/11 Terrorists prior to the actual attack.

Consequently, when I hear that The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had issued an advisory (Experts Praise Airport Security Warning) about suspicious activity that may represent Dry Runs, my internal alarms sounded. Yours should too.
Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September.
This sounded ominously similar to an Usama bin Laden pre-9/11 Terror plot to blow up 11 airplanes, Shoe bomber Richard Reid and the more recent plot to blow-up airplanes bound for the US. Fortunately all of these plots were either canceled or foiled before they could be completed.

The TSA advisory was issued July 20th, and revealed today.
Citing four incidents since last September at the San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore airports, the agency said screeners had found in checked and carry-on luggage various combinations of "wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense clay-like substances," including block cheese. "The unusual nature and increase in number of these improvised items raise concern."
Hopefully these are the only incidents of possible Terrorist Dry Runs. Better if they turn out to be some idiotic sort of prank. There remains a troubling question, to which we have no answer, were there other Dry Runs which escaped detection? It's possible this advisory was released as an unclassified alert, to raise awareness among the ranks of professional screeners, law enforcement personal and the general public. If so, it is another reason to celebrate the recent Congressional actions to protect anyone who in good faith reports suspicious activity. See my previous post on John Doe protection (John and Jane Doe Could Face Legal Action).
...but if someone has a block of cheese with wires and a detonator - I want the FBI to be called in," said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at the security firm BT Counterpane.

Cheese is a good stand-in for explosives, such as C4 and Semtex, that are favored by terrorists because they can look similar to X-ray scanners, he said.
All these incidents and the people involved have been and continue to be investigated. As yet no connection to Terrorist activities or groups has been uncovered.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gore's Global Warming Profits

Al Gore is one of the leading supporters of the Global Warming is here and we must take drastic, immediate action now to save the Earth. Mr. Gore has won awards for his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". This is one of the greatest propaganda movies ever made. With distorted facts and scare tactics which predict impending doom unless we make drastic, expensive changes NOW. See this previous post "Another Look at Al Gore's Global Warming". Or this post examining the cost of action "Cost of Global Warming Action".

"Chicken Little" types talk about reducing carbon emissions, mostly in the form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), but CO2 is less than 1% of Global Warming Gases. See this post (Gore's - It's CO2. Unfortunately about 1/2 of the CO2 is from Natural Events over which man has no control! The biggest Green House Gas is Water Vapor (H2O), and it accounts for a whopping 95% of the Green House Gases. Please feel free to read through all the posts about Global Warming, but make this one part of your reading "More Global Warming er...COOLING".

As you can see from the sample of previous posts I have referenced, the Cause of Global Warming is not Settled. Nor is it settled that Global Warming is outside the limits of Earth's Natural Climate Change. Most experts will agree that atmospheric
Carbon Dioxide has increased in the last 150 years. And they will generally admit that the increase is probably due to man. However, there are a large number of unconvinced people who have remained largely silent. Many of these silent skeptics are Climate Scientists who question the hype simply because they don't believe there is enough evidence to justify a definite conclusion one way or the other. Others believe there is enough evidence and do question as fact that Global Warming is an impending disaster.

But whenever any scientist challenges the "Climate Change is a disaster preordained to occur in the very near future" forces, most often the charge of "Your expert gets his funding from the oil or coal companies" therefore he obviously skewed the research is thrown out. In other words, the research must be biased and therefore can be totally discounted. On the other hand, few have looked at who funds the believers. What's fair for the goose, is fair for the gander. So when NewsBusters published this story, Media Ignore Al Gore’s Financial Ties to Global Warming it's worth an examination.

This article takes us through many of the ways Al Gore will benefit from his stance and concludes with this:
When you add it all up, this is a flimflam of epic proportions:
  • First, Gore sets up a company that will invest in other companies that will benefit from global warming alarmism

  • Second, Gore gets some Hollywood types to fund and produce a movie designed to scare the c-c-carbon out of the population

  • Third, Gore travels the world promoting this movie, while pushing the view that a cataclysm is imminent if the world doesn't immediately act

  • Fourth, an adoring media falls for the con hook, line, and sinker. Rather than debunking the flaws in the theories, the media promote every word of it while advancing the concept that Gore's views represent those of an overwhelming majority of scientists

  • Fifth, scared governments and citizens across the globe invest in alternative energy programs driving up the shares of companies Gore's group has already invested in

  • Sixth, Gore and his cronies make billions as they laugh all the way to the bank at the stupidity of their fellow citizens
America -- what a country!
Can we totally discount Al Gore Now?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Executive Privilege

Executive Privilege is a concept which has been used by most if not all US Presidents to protect private Executive Branch discussions from disclosure. The Supreme Court has confirmed this President privilege is Constitutional. That is so long as the privilege is used only to protect Executive Branch Governmental business. As both Presidents Nixon and Clinton discovered, Executive Privilege does not apply to matters of a criminal or personal nature. President Bush is now claiming Executive Privilege concerning White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and political aide Sara Taylor concerning the firing of nine US Attorneys.

Be aware that I am not an attorney. So please do not rely on any of this opinion post to be anything other than the musings of someone who has dealt with many legal documents, both professionally and personally, and the attorneys and/or judges who created them. I am not attempting to practice law without a license, so do not take this as legal advise.

The US Attorneys (all 93 of them) are part of the Department of Justice and therefore are part of the Executive Branch. The President has the Constitutional Power to nominate whomever he wishes. The Senate has the responsibility of advise and consent, but does not have the right to be privileged or party to Executive Branch decisions about who and why. By reading Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution this separation of powers is clearly defined. This section defines Powers granted to the President as the head of the Executive Branch of Government.
He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. [Emphasis Mine]
This is confirmed by Title 28, Section 541 of the United States Code, which states:
§ 541. United States attorneys

(a) The President shall appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a United States attorney for each judicial district.
(b) Each United States attorney shall be appointed for a term of four years. On the expiration of his term, a United States attorney shall continue to perform the duties of his office until his successor is appointed and qualifies.
(c) Each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President.
On the subject of Executive Privilege and why we need to protect it, I refer you to this article (Contempt and Congress) by John Yoo who is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Some Senate Democrats say Mr. Bush is just "stonewalling" and insinuate that he must be trying to hide something, as Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) has darkly intoned. But as he well knows, executive privilege traces its lineage to George Washington. In 1796, the House of Representatives demanded all his papers related to the controversial Jay Treaty with Great Britain. Washington refused, saying that the Constitution barred the House from the making of treaties. Firing U.S. attorneys and any other executive officers, including those requiring Senate approval, rests beyond the constitutional powers of Congress, and totally within those of the presidency. This has been true since the first cabinet departments were established in 1789.
Senator Leahy is on a fishing expedition to embarrass the Bush Administration. This Politics at its worst. Until some hard evidence of an improper and/or criminal act is exposed, the senator has no more right inside the internal workings of the Executive Branch than President Bush would have access to the communications between Senator Leahy and his staff. No evidence has surfaced. In fact if sufficient evidence did exist, nine US Attorneys and their staff would have blown the whistle by now.
The Supreme Court held in 1959 that, "Since Congress may only investigate into those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate, it cannot inquire into matters which are within the exclusive province of one or the other branches of the Government." In the 1974 Watergate tapes case, the Supreme Court said that the president's right to protect information is strongest when law enforcement, national security or his other constitutional powers are involved. Under that rule, Mr. Leahy has no right to see the president's communications about the firing of federal attorneys, the nomination of John Roberts or Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court or the reduction of Scooter Libby's sentence.
This is a fight the President will win. When he does, we all should be glad that we have 3 separate, but equal, branches of Government.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

John and Jane Doe Could Face Legal Action

The next time you are on a plane, remember who guaranteed you the right to be sued for reporting suspicious activity. The Senate Democrats. Think about that for a moment. Reporting suspicious activity in good faith, can land you in court because the Senate Democrats removed the "John Doe" protection for those who in good faith report suspicious activity. This is Political Correctness on steroids.

"Investors Business Daily" published an excellent article on Friday, about this action. The article is in their Editorial/Opinion Section (Keeping The Flying Imams Airborne) and is a worthwhile read. The incident at the Minneapolis Airport in November 2006 shows why the John Doe provision is needed.
Last November, six Muslim imams leaving an Islamic conference were removed from U.S. Airways Flight 300 in Minneapolis when passengers reported that the imams had acted in suspicious ways. Both U.S. Airways and the passengers soon became targets of legal action charging discrimination and racial profiling.
What was the suspicious activity of these six Muslim imams? Here are some of the activities which alarmed passengers and crew.
While at the gate, according to police reports and witnesses, the six made anti-American comments and provocatively chanted "Allah, Allah, Allah." On the plane, they asked for seat-belt extenders with heavy metal buckles, even though none was obviously in need of them, and then dropped them at their feet.

Last time we checked, there was no tenet of Islam that required them to leave their assigned seats shortly before takeoff, a violation of federal rules, and occupy the exit and entry rows of a jet aircraft, a pattern associated with the 9/11 attacks. All six moved — two to front-row first class, two in the middle on an exit row and two in the rear of the cabin. [Emphasis mine]
These actions, especially in light of the 9/11 events, is certainly well within the limits of suspicious behavior. I would not be surprised if everyone, except the 6 imams, were suspicious. When the imams threatened to take Court action, the House took the reasonable action of adding "John Doe" protection to legislation.
So last March, the House of Representatives passed by a 304-121 vote the Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007, with language protecting from such lawsuits airline passengers who might report suspicious activity.
But what transpired last week in the Senate defies reason. Supposedly the Democratic Senators were trying to protect the Muslim imams from discrimination and racial profiling. Racial Profiling, Discrimination my ass. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's probably a duck. That's not discrimination or Racial Profiling, it's common sense. Apparently common sense is not the long suit of the Senate Democrats.
But last week, as Republicans tried to have the "John Doe" protection included in final homeland security legislation crafted by a House-Senate conference committee to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, they found Democratic conferees blocking its inclusion.

"Democrats are trying to find any technical excuse to keep immunity out of the language of the bill to protect citizens, who in good faith, report suspicious activity to police," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. "I don't see how you can have a homeland security bill without protecting people who come forward to report suspicious activity."
What about my right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness? Remember the Democrats the next time they say they are strong on security. Remember too what one Democrat said during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Democrat Zell Miller said this then.
Campaign talk tells people who you want them to think you are. How you vote tells people who you really are deep inside.
Remember this when you vote. Senator Miller was talking about John Kerry then, but it applies to the Senate Democrats now.

More at Wizbang

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Smoke, No Plame

This past week, a Federal Judge threw out the Lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson IV. Valerie is a Former CIA Operative and Joe is a Former Ambassador. Together Valerie and Joe have tried repeatedly, to besmirch the reputation of the Bush White House. In addition to the President, the Wilsons have targeted Presidential Adviser Karl Rove, VP Dick Cheney and Mr. Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

A considerable amount of innuendo, rumor, gossip and lies by team Wilson and their backers, have caused the General Public to suspect there must be some fire with all the apparent smoke. The smoke was really just dust. But, the din of protestations rallied the Political Anti-Bush groups to demand the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Not even this extraordinary event helped. Other than Mr. Libby's faulty memory of events and subsequent peripheral felony conviction, the Bush Administration has not been proved to have done anything illegal or even unethical.

What has taken place up to now? Joe makes an 8 day trip to Niger in late February 2002, at the request of the CIA, to determine if Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase refined "Yellow Cake" Uranium. Valerie suggests her husband for the trip on February 12, 2002. One day later, VP Cheney requested information from the CIA about attempts by Iraq to purchase Uranium. The Wilsons have hinted that Joe went due to the VP request. In July 2003, Mr. Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times Editorial Section. This article claimed that President Bush had politicized intelligence, because Ambassador Wilson found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase Uranium in Africa.

Later in July 2003, Robert Novak wrote a column which named Wilson's wife as CIA Agent Valerie Plame. Mr. Novak also asserts that Valerie suggested Joe for the trip. Joe later claimed that Valerie had no role in his selection and that the President had manipulated the facts for political reasons to justify going to War in Iraq. The bi-partisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee found Wilson wrong on all counts, and that it was Wilson who manipulated the facts. Concurrently Special Prosecutor Fitzpatrick was appointed to investigate allegations of criminally leaking the name of a Covert CIA Agent.

Joe and Valerie have maintained that the Bush White House had a deliberately and illegally outed Valerie Plame as a Covert CIA Agent in retaliation for Joe's editorial piece. However, Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, was the source of Mr. Novak's information about Valerie's employment. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald did not fine enough evidence to charge anyone with illegally revealing a Covert CIA Agent. In Fact Valerie was not a Covert Agent under the law.

Now, if this is not convoluted enough the Wilsons filed a Lawsuit in Federal court naming VP Cheney, Libby, Rove and Armitage as defendants. The claim according to an article (PLAME GAME LIMPS ON) in the "New York Post" dated July 21, 2007 is that the Wilsons Constitutional rights were violated by the defendants when they "outed" Plame.
They claimed a political conspiracy was hatched at the top levels of the White House to discredit Wilson for his criticizing the administration's pre-war Iraq policy - and that "outing" Plame violated the couple's constitutional rights.
Judge John Bates rejected the suit in a 41 page decision.
But the judge cited several reasons why the lawsuit shouldn't go forward - including the fact that these officials are legally immune from such suits, and that it was filed under an inapplicable act.

Judge Bates also made some substantive, non-technical points. Key among them: "Speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."
The Wilsons should give it up. They have been proved wrong in every aspect of this mess. It is time to fade away, before they do themselves any more damage. But I'm betting we will hear from them again. The Post article and I agree. It is Joe and Valerie Wilson who are Politicizing Intelligence.

Friday, July 20, 2007

UN's al-Qaida/Taliban List Outdated

The UN has allowed its list of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders to become outdated. This list has not been updated since 2003.
Several dozen important al-Qaida and Taliban figures have not been placed on a list of 490 people and businesses subject to a U.N. travel ban, arms embargo and assets freeze put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the monitoring team for the U.N.'s Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee.
This rather distressing information comes from an AP article, UN: al-Qaida, Taliban Sanctions Outdated, dated today. We continue to pay 22% of the UN's expenses. WHY?

Senate All Nighter Out Take

By now most people have heard about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) political grandstanding stunt of keeping the Senate in session all night last Wednesday/Thursday. The stated reason for this unusual event was the Democrats desire to force President Bush to agree to Time Lines for Iraq Troop Withdrawals. While the event did go all night, the Troop Withdrawal measures failed.

That much you have probably heard, but you probably did not hear about the Non-Binding resolutions which objected to the pardons issued by both President Bush and his Predecessor, Former President Clinton. The AP has the story though. The story title, Senate Bickers Over Libby Legislation, tells only half of the story, however. But that's OK because we know the MSM is not biased. The AP, after all, does report the Libby Pardon in paragraph 2.
In the heat of a partisan spat, Democrats forced a vote on a nonbinding measure to instruct President Bush not to pardon former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. But there's no record of the 47-49 vote in the daily record of congressional proceedings - or anywhere else. [Emphasis mine]
I'll come back to the reason there is no record of the vote a little later. But, 1st notice the bolded vote total. Even though it was non-binding, it failed. Now in its' fair and balanced reporting, it's paragraph eleven before the AP reveals the details of the offending pardons under President Clinton. Notice there's no mention of a vote total.
Republicans took their turn, offering a nonbinding resolution deploring the actions of Bill Clinton for issuing pardons to the likes of his half brother Roger, and clemency for members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group blamed for bombings in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now why was the vote not recorded? The AP explains.
That's because senators agreed less than an hour later to undo their vote and pretend it had never happened.
There was one measure during this Overwhelmingly Political event which passed by a wide majority.
They included a measure by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., approved 94-3, putting the Senate on record against transferring terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to "facilities in American communities and neighborhoods." That was a direct dig at Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has proposed shifting the detainees to U.S. prisons and shutting down Guantanamo. [Emphasis mine]
At least it was not a total waste of taxpayer money.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Global Warming Warning Gore Redux

Al Gore is at it again. According to the "Aspen Daily News" in an article published today titled Gore: human species in a race for its life we have less than 10 years to act. By act Mr. Gore wants us and other developed countries to reduce carbon emissions by 90% while a 50% decrease is the goal for the rest of the world. For that to happen,
... Gore said -- changes that will take major leaps of political will far beyond what current politicians see as feasible. That reduction, which would be mandated by a world-wide treaty, could happen through carbon taxes, cap and trade, technological innovations, and energy conservation and efficiency... [Emphasis Mine]
That's going to leave a mark and it's gonna hurt. Notice especially the Mandated World-Wide Treaty (Kyoto Protocol?), and Carbon Taxes, Cap, etc. which will be enforced by whom? If you expect the United Nations to be able to do enforcement, get real. The UN is composed of countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Mexico and other countries whose Economies are dependent on Oil and Fossil Fuels to survive. It is unrealistic to expect enforcement of any such world-wide treaty, and especially by the Corrupt UN.

Then there is the extreme cost and drastic Life-Style changes we all would have to make to achieve just a fractional reduction in Carbon Emissions. As I pointed out in an earlier post, (The Cost of Global Warming Action), the "National Review Online" contained an article (Economics in Reverse) which highlighted this point.
In order to decrease carbon emissions by 33 percent, we would have to remove every existing car and truck from the road (yes, that includes your hybrid), ground every airplane, and shut down every gas station in the United States. In order to bump up from there to a 73-percent decrease in emissions, we would have to shut down most of our electrical grid, with the exception of areas supplied only by nuclear plants, windmills, and dams.
We simply cannot afford to make these kind of drastic life-style changes for something that we are not sure is necessary. We're not sure these costly changes are warranted because the Scientific Community will not concur with Mr. Gore's "It is Settled" screed. There just is not enough Scientific Research Data to make the kind of hysterical claims Gore makes. See my previous post (Another Look at Al Gore's Global Warming) for a good argument against Al Gore's "Settled" claim.

Now let's go back to the original "Aspen Daily News" article for this.
"There's an African proverb that says, 'If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' We have to go far quickly," former Vice President Al Gore told a packed, rapt house at the Benedict Music Tent Wednesday.
OK, I don't disagree with that proverb, but what about this one: "If you don't care where you're going, you can't get lost." I don't remember who first said that, but I know we do care where we go on Global Warming. For that we need a map. And a large number of Scientists still do not believe the necessary Research Data exists to make an accurate map. We can't draw the map because there is insufficient data to prove that Global Climate change is beyond the range of Natural Cycles of the Earth. After all, the Earth has been at least 5° warmer than it is today.

Let's remember that Former Vice President Al Gore is talking about reducing carbon emissions, mostly in the form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). It is true that atmospheric CO2 has increased during the last one hundred and fifty years. And it is true that the most likely explanation for the increase is burning of Wood and Fossil Fuels by man. But as Tom Harris back in 2006 wrote in The gods are laughing and was used as part of this post (Gore's - It's CO2).
In fact, the correlation between CO2 and temperature that Gore speaks about so confidently is simply non-existent over all meaningful time scales. U of O [University of Ottawa] climate researcher Professor Jan Veizer demonstrated that, over geologic time, the two are not linked at all. Over the intermediate time scales Gore focuses on, the ice cores show that CO2 increases don't precede, and therefore don't cause, warming. Rather, they follow temperature rise -- by as much as 800 years. Even in the past century, the correlation is poor; the planet actually cooled between 1940 and 1980, when human emissions of CO2 were rising at the fastest rate in our history.
As the preceding quote makes clear, Carbon Dioxide is more of an indicator than a cause of Global Warming. Moreover, there are other facts must be included for any rational discussion of Carbon Emissions and their effect on Global Warming.
  1. Total Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is less than 1% (between 0.04% and 0.80% depending on who's measurement you like.
  2. One half or more of atmospheric CO2 is caused by nature (volcanoes for instance).
  3. Water Vapor (H2O) is 95% of the Earth's Greenhouse Gasses.
  4. Water Vapor is self-regulating. The more H2O in the atmosphere, the more clouds. Clouds reflect the Sun's warming energy, which results in Cooling.
Put all this together and it is clear. We cannot make the Life-Style changes Mr. Gore hypes. We cannot afford the expense of drastic action. We need more Research Data. We have more Time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Obama Supports Kindergarden Sex Ed

According to ABC News:
...Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told Planned Parenthood Tuesday that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is "age-appropriate," is "the right thing to do."
The right thing to do is not this. The right thing to do is to become a responsible parent and decide when Sex Education is appropriate for your children. As a parent, you will know when your child is "age appropriate."

This is a move away from the concept of accountability of the individual. This is a move towards complete Dictated State Education. If that's what we really want, why not just turn our babies over to the Government to Raise? We really do not want the Government mandating specific course work on this subject.

In this age of permissiveness and political correctness, do we really need to see "age appropriate" sex education long before puberty? A policy and procedural manual with complete lesson plans and anatomically correct descriptions and drawings, written by the Government. Who decides what is "age Appropriate"? This should be a Parent's responsibility.

Why not let kids just be kids for a while? There are enough things to learn before sex education of kindergarden students. These are 4 and 5 year old kids! Our schools are failing to teach reading, writing and arithmetic now. Health classes, with "age appropriate" sex education should wait until the natural curiosity of puberty takes hold.

Take it from a former Senior High School Sex Education teacher, a father of 3 grown daughters and a 7 year old grand-daughter, this is not a good thing to teach in kindergarden!

Earmark Murtha
Update to include Young

John Murtha (D-PA) has the reputation in the US House as the "King of Pork" because of the number and amount of Government Dollars (Our Tax Money) he has been able to bring to his district over his years of "service" to America. Recently "Drudge" revealed that another of Rep. Murtha's Earmarks was questioned by Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The amount of the Earmark is $1,000,000.00 for "Concurrent Technologies Corporation" but also mentioned in the request is "The Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure" was attached to a Bill submitted by Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN).

Rep. Flake's staff could find no web site for "The Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure" through a Google search. When Rep. Visclosky was asked if the Center existed, Rep. Visclosky's response was that "at this time I do not know" if it exists or not.

Information is intentionally vague about Earmarks, but one fact about Earmarks is the connection between the beneficiary recipient and contributions to a Campaign Fund. Following the "Drudge Link" brings up this post at "The Crypt".
Concurrent Technologies Corporation, [is] a nonprofit technological consulting firm. A brief search of campaign finance records shows CTC President and CEO Daniel R. DeVos, of alternately Central City and Johnstown, Pa. has contributed $7,000 to Murtha's reelection campaign since April 2002.
Earmarks are used by members of the House to restrict how Appropriated Monies (Our Tax Dollars) can be spent. The effect of an Earmark is to dictates where this money must be spent by carving a chunk out of an appropriation without regard to need.
Despite the money's uncertain destination, the House rejected Flake's measure to strike the funds, 326-98. And the Visclosky bill also sailed through, 312-112.
Don't misunderstand. I have no problem with Congress approving money for projects. But I do have a problem with the secrecy and hidden nature of anything this close to a legal bribe as is the Earmark System currently operating in Congress. If any measure is worthy of funding through Earmarks, it should be worthy of complete openness and debate by the entire House.

We need more transparency in Government. Earmarks do not provide the kind of openness that we are entitled to as voters.

Update: Today Reuters, through Yahoo News, released the result of a Reuters/Zogby poll which shows the approval ratings of Congress continue to stink. Even President Bush has improved his rating to 34%, but Congress has an approval rating declining to 14%.
In the national survey of 1,012 likely voters, taken July 12 through July 14, about 66 percent said Bush had done only a fair or poor job as president, with 34 percent ranking his performance as excellent or good.

That is up slightly from his low of 30 percent in early March and in line with other national polls showing Bush's approval ratings lingering at or near historically low levels amid continued chaos and bloodshed in Iraq.

But the marks for Congress, mired in gridlock over a series of partisan political battles after Democrats took power in the 2006 elections, continued to drop.

While 83 percent said Congress was doing a fair or poor job, just 14 percent rated it excellent or good. Last October, in its final days, the Republican-led Congress earned ratings of excellent or good from 23 percent of voters. [Emphasis Mine]
Update 2: Don Young (R-AK) today took exception to another Republican, Scott Garrett (R-NJ), attempting to strike Rep. Young's Earmark from Legislation.
"You want my money, my money," Young stridently declared before warning conservatives that, "Those who bite me will be bitten back." [Emphasis Mine]
That quote is found in another post at "The Crypt" titled North to Alaska.

The Money quote from this post sums the Earmark situation up completely.
"We legally steal," argued Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), defending her colleague from New Jersey.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bananas a Radiation Hazard?

No they're not, and that's the point. Bananas are a source of Potassium, including the natural radioisotope potassium 40. The point in the latest opinion piece at the "Energy Tribune", I Can't Hear You, I Have a Chenobyl(sic) in My Ear is summed up by this quote.
Living close to a nuclear power plant is approximately as dangerous as 1.4 bananas, as far as average radiation exposure is concerned.
Interestingly, if you are worried about Iran producing a Nuclear Bomb, or have decided that Global Warming is a fact, this article is for you.
Nuclear is truly carbon-neutral, well-proven (it provides 20 percent of America’s electrical power needs), relies on no nasty third-world types, and has the added benefit of burning the same fuel as nuclear bombs. Every nuclear power plant built means there will be slightly less uranium available for Armageddon, and that uranium’s world price will be high enough to make bomb-making ambitions less tenable. Why bomb Iran when we could just outbid them?
Well, the only real concern should be safety. According to this article, Nuclear Power Generation is very safe. You receive more Radiation from your night-time partner than from a Nuclear Power Plant. (Your mileage may vary on partners.) In fact a Nuclear Fueled Power Plant is safer than living close to a Coal Fired Power Plant.
According to the EPA, living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant increases one’s annual radiation exposure by about 0.009 millirems (mrem) per year. Compare that to living within 50 miles of a coal-fired power plant, which (because of the uranium contained in coal and thus coal smoke) exposes you to 0.03 mrem per year – more than triple the radiation exposure from a nuclear plant.
Then consider this fact.
[E]ven if we include Chernobyl, nuclear power has killed far fewer people than soot from fossil fuels.
Three Mile Island, the worst nuclear disaster in the Western World, exposed those living within 5 miles of that facility to about as much radiation as anyone who has flown a thousand miles on commercial jet liners.

It is expensive and improbable that we can significantly reduce CO2 emissions due to mankind, but Nuclear Power could be an attractive alternative carbon-neutral energy source.

Global Warming Weasel Terms

Warming may bring hurricanes to Mediterranean is the title of a current Reuters article.
"This is the first study to detect this possibility," lead researcher Miguel Angel Gaertner of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain, told Reuters on Monday.
How convenient that so many articles supporting a "Global Warming is inevitable attitude" are able to use so many weasel terms. May, could, possibly, there is a chance, are a few of the terms that allow most of the "chicken little" crowd to win either way. If hurricanes come to the Mediterranean, they will say told you so. If hurricanes don't come to the Mediterranean, they will say we only said ________ (insert favorite weasel term here).

I must point out one exception. Al Gore says with certainty that it is settled. But then that's a Liberal Arts Major, not a Scientist speaking. Mr. Gore is a politician. He can afford to turn weasel terms into facts. But the Scientist, like Dr. Gaertner must hedge his bets by introducing a qualifier into his findings.
Gaertner said a large number of uncertainties remained and it was not yet possible to say which parts of the Mediterranean would be hardest hit. [Emphasis mine]
This leaves you and me in a quandary. Who do we believe? For me I choose the Scientist over the Politician. And the Scientiest as well as the Science of Climate Change is still unsettled. We need more Research before we allow the Politicians to Legislate Expensive solutions for a problem we're not sure exists.

As someone a lot smarter than me once said, "Politicians and Diapers need to be changed often and for the same reason."

More Earmarks

When the Democrats took over the House this past January, I listened to Brand new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, claim that this would be the most transparent and ethical House ever. It has been said that the cream comes to the top, but in this case the milk was soured. Names of Nancy's buddies with long ties to corruption, Pork spending, and lack of ethical conduct surfaced. Names like Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Murtha (D-PA) and William Jefferson (D-LA) are all names with direct ties to less than ethical behavior and who are supported by Ms. Pelosi. It is not cream on the top of this morass.

In case you don't know, Alcee Hastings was Impeached and removed from the Bench. John Murtha was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Abscam sting. And William Jefferson awaits trial after being indicted on 16 counts of bribery because $90,000 of FBI money was found in his freezer. To be sure, there are Republicans in the House who deserve mention as part of the "less than honorable" club. Names like Roy Blunt (R-MO), Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Jerry Lewis (R-CA) for starters. If you want more info on these and other members of Congress, go here.

But today, as my title says, I want to point you to an article by Robert Novak about Sham Earmark Reform. The American Public was lead to believe we were going to have a new benchmark in transparency and open government, especially in the House. One of the ways transparency was to be instituted was to openly debate and vote on all Earmarks by the full House. But, that's not exactly the way it's working.
But the House the last week of June showed that the celebrated transparency is a sham. Each newly transparent earmark brought to a floor vote lost by a huge margin.
Meanwhile back at the House,
Considering the Interior Appropriations bill June 26, the House kept alive 11 egregious earmarks. Rep. John Murtha, king of Democratic earmarkers, kept $1.2 million for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission in Hollidaysburg, Pa. (by a 343 to 86 vote), and $150,000 for W.A. Young & Sons Foundry in Greene County, Pa. (328 to 104). The House voted 323 to 104 to retain $140,000 for the Wetzel County, W. Va., courthouse sponsored by Democratic Rep. Allan Mollohan, whose earmarks have provoked an FBI investigation.

Moving on to Financial Services Appropriations June 28, the House voted 335 to 87 to continue Murtha's raid on the Treasury: $231,000 for the Grace Johnstown (Pa.) Area Regional Industries Incubator. By 325 to 101, the members refused to remove a $231,000 Mollohan earmark for the West Virginia University Research Corp. to renovate a "small business incubator." As usual, dauntless Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona led the way in targeting colleagues' earmarks. He did not exempt Republican pork fanciers -- including 15-term California Rep. Jerry Lewis, ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee, whose past earmarking raised ethical questions.
There are some encouraging highlights, however. Notice that in the above paragraph, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took on fellow Republican Jerry Lewis (R-CA). What happened? Well ...
Flake opposed Lewis's $500,000 earmark for the Barracks Row Main Street project in Southeast Washington, D.C. Flake noted on the House floor that millions in federal funds have flowed into that neighborhood since 1999, including a $750,000 earmark last year. "I certainly hope," said Flake, "that we are not approving a redevelopment earmark today to redevelop last year's redevelopment earmark." Such comments led Republican leaders last year to purge Flake from the House Judiciary Committee.
And Then ... Lewis's earmark was retained, 361 to 60.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

NSA Electronic Surveillance

Over the past year, I have watched with considerable interest the debate and HYPE over Warrantless Wiretaps. There has been much discussion and cussing about the invasion of privacy and spying on the Citizens of the United States. It occurred to me that most people don't understand the NSA Electronic Intercept Program. Nor do most people understand that they are daily subjected to more intrusive programs, and that they pay for the intrusion, willingly.

Ironically we complain about Warrantless Wiretaps conducted by the Government (NSA and others). While, on the other hand, we are willing to install ADT® security systems in our homes and LoJack® and/or OnStar® blue buttons in our automobiles. Why the difference? ADT® allows their operators to use voice communication without a phone (the arming panel contains a microphone) and both LoJack® and OnStar® constantly track your vehicle by computer.

Does this make sense? We don't complain about Warrantless Intrusions ADT®, LoJack® or OnStar® make daily, while tracking our every move and listening to our private conversation. In fact we Pay these companies to do just that. NSA Electronic Interceptions of communications is by way of Public Access Points. How ironic and utterly ridiculous to complain about any Government Program which does not enter either our homes, businesses and automobiles, while paying for others to do exactly that.

Remember that NSA Electronic Interceptions are through Public Access Points. Therefore apply the label "Wiretapping" to what the NSA Intercept Program does, is totally inaccurate and misleading. Unlike ADT®, LoJack®, OnStar® and other similar services, which we invite and pay to come into our most private spaces, NSA Electronic Intercepts are from Public Accessible points and the Public Radio Frequencies. That's an important distinction.

The next time you hear the hype of the ACLU, Liberals and others, remember all these programs are intended to protect our lives, property and the right to the pursuit of happiness. Congressional Committee Oversight of the NSA sets the acceptable boundaries. It is far less an invasion of privacy than the Commercial Services we pay for. Continue reading for a better understanding of the parameters under which the NSA Electronic Intercept Program works for all of us.

Under the Constitution of the US, we have two independent and totally separate provisions for dealing with (1) actions against the Government and (2) actions against its Citizens. Actions against the Government is the primarily Military based method of gathering Foreign Intelligence. Actions against its Citizens is the primarily Civilian based method of gathering Criminal Intelligence.

The Military based NSA program purpose is to gather Foreign Intelligence. The Constitution grants authority for both Military and Foreign Intelligence activities to the President. Warrants are not required for these operations for much the same reason that CB Radio transmissions do not require a warrant. In fact the NSA has no standing in Civilian Courts because it is not a prosecutorial program. The NSA cannot bring charges against parties and therefore cannot obtain a warrant from any Civilian Court.

The NSA conducts three types of electronic surveillance activity
  1. Communications originated by Foreign Located parties and ending with Foreign Located parties
  2. Communications originated by Foreign Located parties and ending with Domestic US Located parties
  3. Communications originated by Domestic US Located parties and ending with Foreign Located parties
Foreign is defined as located outside US Politically controlled territory. Domestic US is defined as located inside US Politically controlled territory.

It is generally agreed that Item #1 does not require any warrant. Item #2 and #3 are further limited such that at least one of the parties be identified as Terror Connected. There is no evidence that the NSA is conduction any electronic monitoring that involves entirely Domestic US to Domestic US Locations.

The Civilian based prosecution of persons in the US (principally US citizens) operates under the authority of the various law enforcement agencies with oversight from the various Courts. The Constitution protects those parties in the US by prohibiting "Unreasonable Search And Seizure" and the Courts decide the conditions necessary for the issuance of warrants to gather evidence necessary to bring charges in a Civilian Court. Civilian Law enforcement agencies have no standing to bring charges in the Military Courts.

During the Clinton years, sharing of information between the Military and Civilian Law enforcement was prohibited. "The 9/11 Commission Report" referred to this lack of shared information between Domestic and Foreign Agencies of the Government (referred to as "The Wall") as one of the reasons we failed to connect the dots. And the failure to connect the dots, helped conceal the 9/11 terror attack.

The Bush administration rolled back "The Wall". Because "The Wall" no longer existed, the co-operative information sharing between the Military Foreign Intelligence NSA type programs and Civilian Law Enforcement programs reverted to what had existed prior to the Clinton Era.

In the simplest of terms, these two types of actions (one Military and the other Civilian) are separate and receive their authority from separate sources. They have both been separately operation for many years. However, the removal of "The Wall", suddenly raises the question of the necessity for warrants. Why?

This melding of two different operations is already being carried on with the FISA and other Courts issuing Case-By-Case warrants on Constitutional Basis. For example, if an NSA type program develops information of a plan to damage US parties or Property while electronically monitoring communications between a Foreign located party and a Domestic US party, and one or more of the parties to the communications has Terrorist connections, the information concerning the Domestic US party is shared with the FBI or other Law Enforcement Agencies. Upon further investigation by the Domestic Law Enforcement Agency, revealing a criminal event, an application is made to the FISA court for a warrant. Then if the FISA Court decides a warrant is justified, the appropriate activity continues and hopefully leads to charges being brought in a Civilian Court.

It is very important to understand that NSA is an Intelligence NOT a Prosecutorial Program. It is only when Civilian Court Crimes are being pursued that a warrant may become necessary. Those who say a warrant is necessary for NSA type monitoring do not understand the difference between the functions of the branches of our government. To require a warrant for NSA type electronic surveillance programs is an infringement on the separate functions of the different branches of Government. There currently is Congressional oversight of these programs, through various Military, Finance an Intelligence Committees in both the House and Senate. This oversight is part of the spirit and the meaning of the Language of the Constitution. It follows the ideals of checks and balances of the three branches.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Novak Exposes Plame Again!

Columnist Robert Novak started us down the path that lead to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald being appointed to prosecute someone for Criminally revealing the name of a Covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame. Valerie Plame is married to Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

The results of Mr. Fitzgerald's lengthy, expensive investigation was:
  1. Valerie Plame was not a Covert Agent under the Law
  2. Richard Armitage (State Dept 2nd in Command) revealed Ms. Plame's status, but he did not violate any law when he did so
  3. Mr. Fitzpatrick charged I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby with Obstruction of Justice and Lying to Investigators.
    • Mr. Libby stood trial and was found guilty of these charges
  4. No charges were returned for revealing Ms. Plame's status
Several Congressional Committees held hearings on the "Plame outing". Many witnesses, including Valerie Plame, testified. And in his column today (July 14, 2007), Robert Novak may have started another investigation.
Rep. Tom Davis, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is puzzled by the House Intelligence Committee's claim that Valerie Plame Wilson has been consistent in her sworn testimony. He is asking the Intelligence Committee for documents to back up their contention.

Davis last month noted that Mrs. Wilson had testified to his committee that she, as a CIA employee, had not suggested the fact-finding mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson. She earlier had told the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that she did not recall whether she made such a proposal. Davis also cited an internal CIA e-mail by her saying Wilson "may be in a position to assist."
Conflicting Testomy before Congressional Committees should be investigated.

Artificial Weather

China is in the middle of a drought. So they are using the same technology the US used in the 1940s and abandoned in the 1950s. Cloud Seeding. Ready, aim, fire and rain By Pallavi Aiyar in the on-line edition of "The Asia Times" provides some fascinating details of the Latest Chinese Efforts to help its farmers.
[Farmers] grab rocket launchers and a 37-millimeter anti-aircraft gun and begin shooting into the sky. What they launch are not bullets or missiles but chemical pellets. Their targets are not enemy aggressors but wisps of passing cloud that they aim to "seed" with silver-iodide particles around which moisture can then collect and become heavy enough to fall.
It's not surprising then that China has a Weather Modification Department.
According to Wang Guanghe, director of the Weather Modification Department under the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, each of China's more than 30 provinces and province-level municipalities today boast a weather-modification base, employing more than 32,000 people, 7,100 anti-aircraft guns, 4,991 special rocket launchers and 30-odd aircraft across the country.

"Ours is the largest artificial weather program in the world in terms of equipment, size and budget," Wang said, adding that the annual nationwide budget for weather modification is between US$60 million and $90 million.
Farmers are not the only beneficiaries of this controversial program. The 2008 Olympics, which will be held in China may be rain free. At least on August 8th, opening Day.
Zhang Qiang, the top weather-modification bureaucrat in Beijing, said her office has been conducting experiments in cloud-busting for the past two years in preparation for the Games' opening ceremony on August 8, 2008.
I don't know what the Global Warming crowd thinks of this development. Maybe someone will ask Mr. Gore soon. If I hear about it, I'll let you know.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We Get What We Pay For

Breaking News - The House was in session for 9 Minutes today. What happened to the 5 day work week Nancy Pelosi promised?


4:09 P.M. -
On motion to adjourn Agreed to by voice vote.

The House adjourned pursuant to a previous special order. The next meeting is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on July 16, 2007.

Mr. Obey moved that the House do now adjourn.

4:07 P.M. -
Mr. Obey filed a report from the Committee on Appropriations on H.R. 3043.

4:05 P.M. -
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE - The Chair designated Mr. Obey to lead the Members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

4:03 P.M. -
The Speaker announced approval of the Journal. Pursuant to clause 1, rule I, the Journal stands approved.

4:01 P.M. -
Today's prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Daniel Coughlin.

4:00 P.M. -
The House convened, starting a new legislative day.

Sorry That's All Folks

Gore's - It's CO2

Al Gore continues with his tirade about Global Warming. Remarkably he wants us to reduce CO2 emissions by 90% and the sooner the better. Yet the Research shows that Carbon Dioxide or CO2 is not so much a cause of Global Warming, as it is an indicator of the fact that the Earth is Warming. In June 2006, Tom Harris wrote in an article titled The gods are laughing:
In fact, the correlation between CO2 and temperature that Gore speaks about so confidently is simply non-existent over all meaningful time scales. [University of Ottawa] climate researcher Professor Jan Veizer demonstrated that, over geologic time, the two are not linked at all.
It does appear that the atmospheric increase in CO2 since the Industrial Revolution began can largely be attributed to our use of Wood and Fossil Fuels (coal, gas and oil). But the fact remains that a large part of the atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is caused by natural events such as volcanoes. Besides CO2 accounts for less than 1% of the Earth's Atmosphere. So legislating expensive Political solutions for reducing Carbon Dioxide will have little impact on Global Warming.

A much more significant part of the Greenhouse Gases that contribute to Global Warming is Water Vapor (H2O). Water vapor is 95% of the atmospheric Greenhouse Gases. An Inconvenient Truth about Water Vapor is that as the amount of water in the air increases, so do the clouds. Clouds are significant because they reflect solar energy and contribute to Global Cooling. Water vapor, due to cloud formation, is self limiting in its contribution to Global Warming.

Al Gore continues to make claims that are not backed by Scientific Study and Facts. Even worse, many preachers of Global Warming Doom, use short term weather events to make predictions of long term disasters. Tim Blair wrote in an article titled Fear of a global 'coldening' today (July 14, 2007) in the Australian Newspaper, "The Daily Telegraph" which pointed out that Australia had the Coldest June since 1950. Colder despite the fact that in the last six decades, Trillions of tons of carbon have been "horked" into the atmosphere.
Relying on such a tiny sample would be unscientific and wrong, even if it involves an entire freakin' continent's weather patterns throughout the course of a whole month, for Christ's sake.

No such foolishness will be indulged in here.

Sadly, those who believe in global warming - and who would compel us also to believe - aren't similarly constrained. A few hot days are all they ever need to get the global warming bandwagon rolling; evidently it's solar powered.
Tim is a little snarky, but he effectively makes the point that the Global Warmers formed their conclusion, then selectively twist the facts to support the conclusion. This is smoke and mirrors, not Science. Unlike the "Chicken Little" Global Warming crowd, the Climate Scientist gathers the facts first, then develops a hypothesis based on and consistent with all the facts, not just the convent ones.

John at "Blue Marble Climate" has more on this subject.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Congress - Surrender In Iraq

Today the House passed a measure to withdraw US troops from Iraq by a mostly party line vote of 223 - 201. Four Republicans voted with the majority, while 10 Democrats voted against this measure.
A few hours after Bush's remarks, Democratic leaders engineered passage of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008. The measure envisions a limited residual force to train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and fight al-Qaida and other terrorists.
This legislation still requires Senate approval before going to President Bush. The President has indicated he will veto any legislation with arbitrary time lines for US Military reduction. It is also dishonest for the Congress to play Commander In Chief of our Military. According to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution this authority rests only with the President.
Section 2. The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States
There is only one honest way for the Congress to force the Withdrawal of US Forces. The Representatives in the House have the legally honest method through the power of the purse granted by Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.
Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.
But Congress is unwilling to take this action because the House and Senate Members do not want to be on record as refusing support to the troops in Harms Way. That is how most voters would view pulling the funding from our Troops in Active Combat.

I am not a Constitutional Lawyer, or for that matter any kind of Lawyer, but it appears to me that the President would win a court challenge or Impeachment proceedings over any Congressional Legislation which did not meet the qualifications of Article I, Section 7. In other words, if Congress were to pass a piece of Legislation with arbitrary time lines, President Bush could justify ignoring said measure on Constitutional Grounds as Commander In Chief. Then we would see Impeachment and probable Supreme Court challenges to what many would call a Constitutional Crisis.

Related article on Iraq Time Lines.

Why Not -Timelines For Iraq?

When you want an answer to a question, it makes sense to go to the people who are best able to answer that question, does it not? So who is best able to answer the question "What should we do about Iraq?" I suggest that TF Boggs at Vox Veterana might be a good choice for starters. TF Boggs recently started a Milblog and in his Welcome post he asks this question.
Why is it the some of the most ardent supporters of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the very men and women who have actually been and fought there?
TF is currently a Sargent in the US Army Reserve, who has returned to the US after serving his 2nd tour of duty in Iraq. We should give serious consideration to this question and it's answer. After all these are the men and women who are voluntarily putting their lives on the line. They not only deserve to be honored, for their service, but valued for their POLITICAL opinions on the right or wrong of future actions. In the political arena, the military are no less citizens than we are; but they have the advantage of having been there, and done that. We don't.

In TF's most recent post "What's wrong with right?", we find the answer to the question of what's the right course generally for us to follow in Iraq, and why it is the correct course of action.
If people think that by setting a time line we are somehow encouraging the Iraqi government to shape things up they are dead wrong. How many times of late have we heard Iraqi officials say that they still need our help? How many times must they ask for our help before we realize that they are serious? If we leave Iraq now not only are we condemning decent Iraqi people to prolonged and intense misery, we are losing a possible ally in the Middle East (of which we so desperately need).
Sargent Boggs gives us a chance to "Walk a Mile in His Shoes" so to speak. We all want to get out of Iraq, but the method of withdrawal will determine our nation's character and reputation in the World Community. The politicians would do well to listen to those with experience, rather than the polls. At the very least, our political leaders should balance the polls with the voices of the members of our Military.

It will take both a Military and a Political/Diplomatic solution to solve the conflict in Iraq. All war is this way. It has always been the job of the Military to make it safe enough for a Political/Diplomatic process to succeed. One cannot exist without the other. Premature military withdrawal from Iraq will condemn to failure any hope of a political/diplomatic peace.

Hopefully all of you will visit some of the MilBlogers and read what they think about the GWOT because you will not find their opinions in the MSM. I have several excellent ones indexed on the BlogRoll, read them ask questions and learn.

So many have said that those who forget History are doomed to repeat it. The History of Vietnam is the most recent applicable situation. Millions of Vietnam and Cambodian citizens died as a result of our failure there, and 58,209 US military paid for that mistake as well. As of today, 3,898 US Military have paid for the beginning of a worthwhile US undertaking in the GWOT. We have made mistakes in Iraq, but we still have a chance for victory. To our Military, we owe our support, our respect and our gratitude. Most of all we owe them the chance to complete the mission they Volunteered to do for us.

Related article Congress Surrenders Iraq

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

China - Bush Internet Responsible for Teen Pregnancy

The internet is where nearly half of the pregnant teens in Shanghai (the financial hub of China) met their partners.
Zhang Zhengrong, a doctor who oversees the city's first-aid hotline for pregnant teens, said 46 percent of the more than 20,000 teenage girls who called the hotline over the past two years said they had had sex with boys they met on the Internet.
This accusation was made by China's State Media and reported by Reuters.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cost of Global Warming Action

How much are you willing to pay to decrease carbon emissions? Live Earth has asked millions to Answer the Call by making a commitment in six areas; commitment to actions designed to reverse or prevent the climate crisis. Five of the choices are things which all of us can do relatively easily and without much expense. These are things which we should do, today. But the sixth choice (the only default choice) adds your name to the Live Earth Pledge. Nowhere is the old axiom “read before you sign” more important than in this case. This pledge lists 7 itemized actions to which you agree. All require some degree of life-style change, but item 1 will result in the kind of radical life-style change none of us can afford.
1.To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth [Emphasis Mine]
I am sure most of us don’t realize what the actual cost of just this part of the pledge will be, and this cost alone is far more disastrous than the effects of man-made global warming.

According to the National Review Online (NRO) article Economics in Reverse to achieve just 1/3 of the 90% goal of Live Earth will have such disastrous economic impacts that the cost benefit ratio yields bankruptcy - figuratively and literally.
In order to decrease carbon emissions by 33 percent, we would have to remove every existing car and truck from the road (yes, that includes your hybrid), ground every airplane, and shut down every gas station in the United States. In order to bump up from there to a 73-percent decrease in emissions, we would have to shut down most of our electrical grid, with the exception of areas supplied only by nuclear plants, windmills, and dams.
Are you ready to re-enter the Stone Age. This is the way. Al Gore and his ilk have gained most of the press on this issue. They are using scare tactics to manipulate us to take action which at best can only have minimal effect on the Global Warming situation. At Worst, we will be required to make costly and most certainly impossible life-style changes. For what? Despite what Al Gore has claimed since 1982, not all scientists agree with the hype. Clearly man has some effect on Global Warming, but how much is the question not yet answered. We simply do not have enough evidence to cry wolf yet. There is hard to find, but available scientific evidence (see all my posts) that the current Global Warming is mostly a natural cycle for our Earth. We need more Scientific Research and less hyperventilating “Chicken Little” rhetoric before we take any irreversible and EXPENSIVE steps.

President Regan once said the most publicly feared words were “Hi. I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” We would do well to remember this admonition.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

More Libby

When President Bush commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's jail time this past week, many from both the Left and Right voiced strong objections. On the one hand, Liberals took the position that this action was an abuse of power and done only to keep a Bush insider quiet. Those on the Right meanwhile did not think the President should have granted anything less than a full pardon. In fact President Bush took the correct course of action. Mr. Libby is guilty of a crime, but the penalty was excessive.

Today, Clarence Page writing for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper, has attempted to do what he calls Beating back the myths of Libby-gate [Emphasis Mine].
Depending on whom you talk to, Libby is either a fine public servant or an evil co-conspirator in a plot to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband. Wilson famously blew the whistle on a claim Bush made about Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions that turned out to be bogus.
In the above quote, I have bolded Mr. Page's last sentence because it is ambiguous and creates a false impression. The US Senate found it was Wilson, not Bush who made false claims.

Mr. Page indicates that his e-mail box runneth over with comments about the "facts" apparently colored by the side you believe is right. He even invokes the quote of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." Mr. Page then makes the following statement about the "facts". [Emphasis Mine]
Valerie Plame was a covert agent under the relevant 1982 law that makes it a crime to disclose the identity of a covert intelligence officer. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald cleared up that dispute in a memorandum during the sentencing phase of Libby's trial. "It was clear from very early in the investigation," he wrote, "that Ms. Wilson qualified under [the 1982 law] as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press." Four days later, Fitzgerald filed an "unclassified summary" of Plame's CIA employment which described her work as including "at least seven" overseas trips as chief of a unit working on Iraq weapons issues.
Notice that it is Prosecutor Fitzgerald to whom it is clear. This is his opinion. However, it is not clear that a court would have found Mr. Fitzgerald's opinion factual. Actually, there is rather good evidence that the Prosecutor's opinion is wrong.

One authoritative opinion we might consider is that of Victoria Toensing. In 1981 she became Chief Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (chaired by Barry Goldwater), where she helped draft the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Clearly, one of the Authors of the Legislation would know the Legislation's intent. Ms. Toensing's opinion caries the weight of "someone who was there", and from her vantage point, Valerie Plame (Wilson) was not a covert agent under this Legislation.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate and prosecute violations of this Act. Mr. Fitzgerald did not bring any charges under the Intelligence Identities Identities Protection Act of 1982 because he correctly found no violation of this Act took place.

Let's recap. Since Valerie Plame (Wilson) was not a Covert Agent under the applicable Law, there was no crime committed when Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage revealed her name to Robert Novak and he printed it in his column. Mr. Libby was found guilty by a jury of a criminal offense. President Bush did not pardon Mr. Libby. The President did allow Mr. Libby's Felony Conviction stand. Also left standing is the $250,000 Fine and 2 years probation.

Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the President exercised his authority to commute a sentence he felt was excessive.

Earmarks Again

FYI The House was in recess last week. And it has been revealed that the “Do Nothing Congress” has at least done one thing. So far this year, 32,684 earmark requests have been submitted to the House Appropriations Committee. This committee is chaired by David R. Obey (D-WI) who attempted to further restrict debate on individual Earmarks by proposing that Earmarks only be added after the bill was in conference. Fortunately the proposal was defeated and Earmarks will still be subject of a Floor Vote. Mr. Obey’s idea would have been another backtrack on the promise to the voters that Congress would be more open and transparent.

Thirty-Two Thousand, Six Hundred Eighty-Four! That’s a number that doesn’t look any better no matter how it’s printed. With numbers like this, is it any wonder that the approval rating for Congress (currently about 25%) is at an all time low? Even lower than the President’s approval rating (currently about 30%).[Ratings from Real Clear Politics Poll Average] So many politicians are fond of saying “We can do better”, but as the long ago Burger King commercial asked, “Where’s the beef?”

Ironically the best quote came from Mr. Obey as noted by Washington Post on-line editorial, 32,684
"Members should be more than ATM machines for their district. They should be policy setters for the country."