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UPDATE - Frist's pandering Read Cowboy Kahlil's cogent analysis which perfectly explains the good Doctor's motives for publicly going on record as favoring a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. It is all about PANDERING to his constituency.

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Recent SCOTUS Ruling sends Cold Chill Down Senator Frist's Back - Is the Extreme Right THAT Paranoid About Gay Unions?? Senate Majority Leader Calls for Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriages.

Apparently so - according to Reuters. Sometimes is is quite entertaining to put oneself in the shoes of our political opponents and imagine what freaks them out. Is it Homeland Security, the possibility that the economy will NOT turn around just in time for the '04 election, or just WHAT is it that sends cold chills of fear down their spines.

Well, Senate majority leader Bill Frist lifted his skirt just enough to let us have a peak.

It is the frightening prospect of Gay Marriages which they see as the "threat to our nation's Western values" - but that is not PC-speak. So, instead, the HMO doc ran a different flag up the flagpole - concern that the 'privacy bubble' which the US Supreme Court validated indeed does exist inside the bedroom walls of two gay Texas men engaged in consensual sex, could ultimately bar authorities from interdicting other illegal activity, like prostitution, illegal gun sales [abortion, anyone??]- perhaps even terrorist conspiracies.

It is proper concern, but not even remotely connected to the US Supreme Court ruling - but even if he doesn't quite grasp that concept, the good Doctor nonetheless had the perfect remedy. Leave the Fourth Amendment intact, and instead organize a Constitutional Amendment banning gay unions.

What a non-sequitur!!

As though banning gay unions will maintain the ability of authorities to make reasonable searches.

If you see the nexus here, please let em know.

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(March 25, 2003 -- 9:40 AM EST // link)

Cliffnotes: Morality of War - via Tacitus.

'I lost a scout this morning to sniper fire and my first sergeant was hit by a mortar round yesterday. That means I am taking it a little bit personally. How am I meant to protect my men when the generals are denying me the ability to bomb enemy positions?".

On the outskirts of the central Iraqi town of Samawah, Capt David Waldron and his company of tanks are locked in a defensive formation. His men are under intermittent attack by snipers and mortar fire. They are also increasingly angry and frustrated.

From Basra to Karbala, south of Baghdad, coalition forces are under attack from soldiers in civilian clothes and Saddam Hussein's shadowy Fedayeen paramilitaries.

And yet 50 per cent of the coalition's desired targets are being vetoed by high command for fear of hitting a sensitive "no combat zone".

Original source: news.telegraph.co.uk

Reader Comments:
I'm glad we aren't targeting civilians, but it seems like there is a fundamental problem. If the goal is to minimize U.S. and civilian casualties, is that fundamentally incompatible with waging war? If you assume that the enemy will not fight, then it will work. Now that it has become clear the Iraqis will fight, what do we do?
Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on March 24, 2003 08:31 PM

Excellent commentary Tacitus, but what I fear is that this difficulty will lead many on the Right to begin arguing that we need to start fighting "dirty" in response and to drop our concern over civilian deaths. I understand this sentiment, but if we are going to be true to our stated intention that this war is being fought (at least partially) for the good of the Iraqi people, we need to resist these calls. Let's not let this turn into a replay of many Vietnam mistakes where our actions convinced many noncombatants that we were not really their "liberators", but just a substitute totalitarian regime.
Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on March 24, 2003 08:34 PM

The problem here is that we are getting caught up in the contradictions Dubya used to sell this war. The most successful pro-war points were and are all about liberating the oppressed people of Iraq. Democrats point out that dropping bombs on people and leveling their cities is a strange way to go about liberating them. So Bush, Rumsfeld and the gang decide to pursue a more cautious plan of attack which minimizes civilian casualties as much as possible. Unfortunately, that makes the task at hand, conquering Iraq, much harder.

So we are now trapped, essentially, between the rock and the hard place. Unleash our full power, and the war goes quicker, but thousands of Iraqi civilians die, world opinion swings even more heavily against us, and the surviving people of Iraq (who we'll soon have to govern as an occupation force) hate us all the more. Proceed as we are now, and the war takes longer and more of our soldiers are killed. I think this is one of the reasons why those of us on the Left thought this was a bad idea.
Posted by: KevinA on March 24, 2003 08:41 PM

That's it, folks - the Iraq War in a Nutshell. Neat, compact package. I can't add a thing.

Comment - except for one simple observation. Up until now, war has been war - and all wars are horrible.

We now must make the ethical distinction between a WAR - everything and anything goes within limits - and LIBERATION - where, it now is obvious, a greater sacrifice is called for. If all wars are horrible, what new word must we coin for the wars of liberation where the to-be-liberated, civilians and privates alike, fight us with dirty tricks of a nature shocking even Donny Rumsfeld.

Cliffnotes: How the Democrats can regain control of the Government - in three easy lessons.


There you have it. Thirty minutes of reading. If you follow the instructions, you and your friends will change the White House and Congress in '04.

If you skip the reading, status quo will remain.

It's up to you.



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What follows below gives me the creeps.

While stylistically, purists used to publishing journals in the traditional media, are apt to use style sheet conventions harking back to such 'hard copy' days, the retention of such publishing standards wreak havoc in a digital media where text is displayed on computer monitors. The combination of italics, especially, and a fixed small font, can be a real challenge to read. Combine this, then, with a choice of font colors and background which do not offer optimum contrast, and the piece becomes unbearable to read.

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Giving the User control over the size of the text appearing in the main blog is probably the feature taken away mostly by bloggers using Blogger. And it is the feature most desired by blog readers with lousy eyesight or monitors. The reason this happens - often inadvertently: the blog body font size is fixed in most of the Blogger templates I have looked at.

And yet the solution is so simple - remove the pre-set [unalterable] font-size parameter from the limited style sheet controls included in the template(s) - and voila - you've got user-defineable text. Even better, make all font sizes relative , and you have empowered the user to the max.

Try it out here - go to your browser, and try this site out using different View settings. You will notice that the main blog section text increases or decreases in size, depending on your wishes - except the grey background box immediately above which has been 'typeset' in fixed 7 point type.

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Website accessibility is one of my main interests. Website accessibility deals with issues as adverse as color contrasts (to permit visually impaired persons an easier read, using the 'alt' attribute on clickable graphics (critical for a blind person who uses text-to-voice conversion software to help him/her navigate a website), down to trite subjects like use (or rather, non-use) of italicized text (often very hard to read), and finally, user-defineable text size.

I am an old geezer, with weakening eyesight, and although I use 19' and 21' monitors, some of the fixed font-size blogs are hard to read, and the combination italics with 8 point type is practically impossibe to read.

One of my ambitions is to make this website a kind'a showpiece for what can be done, with the basic Blogger software, and the customizable templates Blogger permits you to use, to make a blog 'user friendly' - while still retaining some originality in terms of the 'look and feel'.

For starters, take a look at the one-page tutorial which speaks to a so-called web-based manual of style, differing from traditional 'hard copy' publication manuals primarily insofar as it discourages extensive use of underlining and italiziced text. It is a worthwhile read.

For some background on the use of styles, there are essentially three kinds of bloggers - oldtimers like Andy Rooney who still uses a manual typewriter - and hence is very fond of underlining text (since that is the only way you can differentiate text on a typewriter - other than ALLCAPS WHICH LOOKS TERRIBLE)

The next class are those professionally trained in 'hard copy' journals or articles, where quoted text is often italicized. While their retention of the perfectly proper use of italicized text is laudable, in a browser environment the result is less than perfect, primarily as a result of monitors' layout of pixels which favor straight lines, rather than cursive or tilted characters which often take on a jagged look in cursive mode.

Lastly, there are folks who shun conventional publishing wisdom or norms and find graphically pleasing ways to set off text from 'normal'.

More on this in the tutorial referenced above.

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This is a new blog - to Blogger, at least. I transferred the content, and the 'look and feel' of my old, hand-coded site, also known as Certerpoint.

I will continue to post [identical] content on both of these sites, while I find out which suits me better, Blogger, or my own free-form site.

Thanks for looking in.

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Go Visit Warblogs:cc , a neat 'compilation' website taking in the main headlines from founders — The Agonist— Back to Iraq — Warblogging — Stand Down — Daily Kos, plus headlines from major media houses.

If you want a quick look at what's 'appening in the Blogosphere, go check them out.

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Is the Smoking Gun at Sea? - this certainly is the most pressing question of the day. The British press and the blogosphere are abuzz with speculation that Saddam shipped all his WMD out to sea. But not a whisper in the American press about Iraq's three mystery freighters circling the Indian ocean in total radio communications silence.

Apparently, US military planners have given up all thought of attempting to board the ships, for fear that the crews are under orders to scuttle the ships, resulting in possible 'unimaginable' ecological disaster.

This needs more looking into. Give Hans Blix a life preserver and dock shoes and send him out on the high seas.

UPDATE. Apparently the US Navy is boarding ships. Only problem is: these are ships plying the waters within the Persian Gulf where the US is busy enforcing the embargo. The real smoking-gun-carrying vessels, are cutting large, lazy circles in the vast Indian Ocean.

Korea Can't Wait - thus intones the headline of a must-read article by Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush.

Of equal importance, Sam Nunn weighs in with his own advice.

The price of retaining global alliances certainly is on the rise. Turkey is holding out for $32 billion to rent a few airstrips to the US. But there is more to the story. Apparently, Turkey has its own, very unilateral agenda if and when it is permitted to send its troops into Iraq, outside of the coordination with any US troops.

UPDATE - apparently, the insouciance of the Turks [imagine, turning down an offer of $26 billion, for doing nothing] is causing all kinds of logistical problems for the war effort. Troops and war assets intended for deployment on Turkey's three air bases and en route to Turkey now apparently have become 'lost at sea', and must be shipped via the Suez canal to bases in Kuwait.

Speed-dial Diplomacy - is it losing the war?? Two opinions that should matter, by the Washington Post and the New York Times's own Tom Friedman, an exquisite analysis which deserves to be read, regardless of the reader's political leaning.

Powell Scolds France - but is he losing political clout abroad?? Find out here.

"It cannot be a satisfactory solution for inspections just to continue forever because some nations are afraid of stepping up to the responsibility of imposing the will of the international community," Powell said in comments that followed weeks of increasingly irate exchanges across the Atlantic.

The problem lies in the fact that these same nations Powell is accusing of cowardice, are, themselves, part of the 'International Community' - and one of them, in particular, has veto powers in the Security Council.

There are times when one can accomplish one's objectives by attaining a simple majority - that environment is called a 'Democracy'

There are other forums where unanimity is required. The UN Security Council voted 1 5-0 on Resolution 1441.

What has changed - have Germany and France suddenly done 180's??

Or have the US policies, increasingly dictated to the rest of the world from the bully-pulpit, and one-hurried-phone-call-is-all-we-can-manage-in-the-interest-of-diplomacy attitude made them dig their heels in??

Do as I say, not as I do - is the US planning to use illegal weapons or WMD, ourselves. Find out what the British press has to say on this subject. And here is another one.

US considers use of tactical nuclear weapons - always refreshing news.

Using Chemical Weapons on Our Own Troops? - yes, if you believe this.

Protests don't sway policy. Judge for yourself.

"Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion" but "it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security, in this case security of the people," the president added.

But then this??

President Bush often brags about how in his administration, "we don't take a bunch of polls and focus groups to tell us what we ought to do." So it came as something of a surprise to learn that before advising Americans to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to survive terrorist attacks, the administration ran the ideas by . . . a focus group.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge spilled the beans in a meeting with the Chicago Tribune editorial board. "Responding to critics who belittled some of the suggestions, Ridge said his department had worked for the last eight months, even using focus groups, to find the best ways to prepare the public in the event of terrorist attacks," the paper reported yesterday

Will Iraq Pay for its Own Reconstruction?? Says who? We do.

Trying to Figure out France Got You Stumped?? - here are some answers by the Agonist which put everything into proper perspective. If the small print of the linked article drives you crazy, we have archived it here.

And another thing - what's the story with the sweetheart deal concerning Poland's purchase of F-16 fighter jets?? Enough to stir up Chirac's gall?

Maturity of Military Planners - speaks for itself.

Your Tax Dollars at Work - how the Cheney inquiry was squashed by threat to cut funding of the GAO.

PatriotAct II commentary can be found here and, at greater length, here.

We, ourselves, commented on this subject in the context of participants in the New York City anti-war protest march being potentially in danger of losing their US citizenships.

Electronic Eavesdropping on all communications, not just the phone conversations of terrorists, but the email musings of ordinary citizens, is in store for all of us. Read all about it, and here.

It Ain't What It Used to Be - Redefining Citizenship. Read what H.R. 190 is all about.

Finally , the good and the bad about what is driving the Democrats.

(February 14, 2003 -- 9:40 AM EST // link)

A Martian in search of intelligent life within the solar system lands in New York City, on February 15, and sets down on the corner of 1st Avenue and 49th street, just as the anti-war protest demonstration gets underway.

"What's the hubbub all about," he asks. "I first thought it was a street fair, but I see no food booths, only hand-made signs."

"It is actually an anti-war protest rally," one of the UFP organizers tells the Martian. "Our country is about to go to war, and we disagree with our Government's decision."

"So you are demonstrating in front of your government offices, I take it," the Martian asks.

"Well, not really, we are showing our disapproval to the people living in that tall building down there, see the tall green building about five blocks South of here? It is occupied by delegations of all 133 nations inhabiting this Earth."

"Wow, that is a lot of countries. On Mars, we only have two nations, the Greens, and the Reds."

"You're lucky."

"Yeah, I see the tall building down there - but why aren't you demonstrating in front of the building?"

"Well, you see, the Imperial Wizard of this City is afraid that our enemy will take advantage of our rally and sneak people into our midst who could then throw grenades at the international delegations."

"Hmm, I see. So who are you going to fight a war against," the Martian asks, "one of your neighboring countries because you need the territory for your growing population? A country who would find it easy to sneak its agents across the border to infiltrate the protest march?"

"Oh no," the organizer explains, "we are going to war against a country clear on the other side of the planet."

"Why would you do that?"

"Well, they are supposed to have some terrible weapons, so-called fusion bombs, and rockets that can deliver bombs 150 kilometers. You familiar with the term 'kilometers'?""

"Oh yeah, we use the Metric system on Mars. But 150 kilometers don't seem like much. How does this far-away country... how do you refer to it?"

"Let us call it the 'I' country"

"So this 'I' country has short-distance rockets. How do the neighbors of 'I' country feel about their security?"

"Oh, they do not feel threatened."

"So they are allies of 'I' country?"

"Not really, they want to remain uncommitted. But they are allowing us to use their territory so that we can land our flying aircraft close to the 'I' country."

"That is very generous of them."

"Oh, I don't know - our country pays them a whole lot of money for the privilege."

"They are pretty cagey, aren't they?"

"Sure, they are getting the best of all worlds."

"How about your own neighbors, do they feel threatened by the 'I' country?"

"Oh no, they are pretty calm about it - if anything, they feel threatened by another country, let us call it the 'NK' country."

"And why would that be?"

"Well, the 'NK' country has powerful fusion bombs and long-range rockets."

"But they are friendly towards you, I suppose?"

"Oh no, they have announced plans for a preemptive rocket delivered fusion bomb attack against our country."

"And your country, again, is ....?"

"We call ourselves the 'US' country."

"I see. So the 'US' country is threatened by the 'NK' country, but the 'US' country instead is planning war against the far-flung 'I' country; meanwhile, what are you doing about the 'NK' country?"

"Diplomacy is what we have to count on. They are too powerful an enemy to attack."

"Now, you mentioned before that the Imperial Wizard of your city was afraid of enemy infiltration into your rally. Is he talking about the 'I' country or the 'NK' country?"

"Sorry, this gets complicated. The people he is actually worried about, we refer to as the 'AQ' group - an international group who has hurt us before."

"So what is he doing about the 'AQ' people?"

"I am terribly sorry, but it gets even more complicated. You see, two years ago, the Emperor of our country declared war on the 'AQ' group."

"So your country is actively engaged in one war, against the 'AQ' group, and is now starting yet a second war, against the 'I' country, while doing nothing about the threats from the 'NK' country, have I got that right?"

"Not really, maybe this would make sense on Mars, but here on Earth, we have actually deemphasized the war with the 'AQ' group - we haven't really shot any of them in the past several months, and we are spending all our money building up towards the war against the 'I' country."

"But I take it, then, that you have essentially won the war against the 'AQ' group, so that you can deploy all your resources and personnel to the new threat from the the 'NK' country, sorry I misspoke - I meant to refer to the 'I' country."

"I wish I could tell you, but the 'AQ' group is still as strong as ever - their leader is in the news fully as much as our own Emperor."

"And yet the Imperial Wizard of your city is not worried about agents from the 'I' country infiltrating your march, but instead only agents from the 'AQ' group, a group you have stopped fighting, and nobody does anything about the threat about fusion bombs raining down on your country from the 'NK' country.

"Yeah, I am afraid to tell you, that just about explains our situation."

"I think I have seen enough. My government sent me on a mission to investigate if there were intelligent life on the other planets. In so far as planet Earth is concerned, that certainly does not seem to be the case. Goodbye, and good luck on your protest rally."

And off he took, headed for Venus.

It reads like a Seinfeld Episode - three intertwining plots about 'nothing'. Except this is deadly serious. But 'plots' they may well be.

We are talking about

  • Code Orange - Elevated Terror Alert
  • NY City Stifles Anti-War Protest March
  • Patriot Act II
Code Orange - why now??

It makes sense, for several reasons. With the programmed onslaught of the Liberation War and the timing of yet another Muslim religious week coalescing in the February 15 time frame, there is a statistical likelihood that if any renewed terrorism uprising should take place, that's when it will happen.

Secondly, now that the invocation of Osama bin Laden's name as the boogeyman clue to give a lift to the Boy Emperor's popularity ratings, appear to have petered out (Bush has not publicly uttered Osama's name since July 8, 2002), the Administration has found several suitable alternatives.

In order of effectiveness, opinion panels at the White House have given weight to the following list of mention-at-will boogeyman chill-words, as follows:

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction (23%)
  • Saddam Hussein Torturing His Own People (34%)
  • North Korea Considering Preemptive Strike Against the US (54%)
  • Terror Alert Level Raised to Orange (64%)
  • Colin Powell Contemplating Retirement (82%)
  • Terror Alert Level Raised to Red (84%)
  • Air Force Shipping 'Noo-key-lear' Weapons to Middle East (96%)
While the White House shelled out close to $85,000 for the polling results, it considers the expense relatively modest, especially given its use as a public opinion 'thermostat' - meaning for the next six weeks, while the above list of boogeywords retain their spine-chilling characteristics, the White House can program offsets to the President's approval rating by inserting the necessary 'chill word' into Mr. Bush's prepared texts. Karl Rove has instructed the White House speech-writing team to leave blanks in every public address prepared for GWB, and Rove will personally fill in the blanks in the last minute, making judicial use of his choice of fill-in vocabulary so as to keep the President's popularity at an even keel.

Recognizing that all boogeywords, like "Osama" lose potency over time, the White House is also developing the next group of chill-words, to be used in the March-April time frame.

Insiders tell us that Germany, France and Belgium figure prominently in the next list. Could this be a harbinger of future Administration intentions to bust up NATO and add those 'Old Europe' nations to the Axis of Evil??

NY City Mayor Throws Up the Gauntlet Against Anti-War Protestors

Here is a reference to what this controversy is all about.

While this battle between Freedom of Expression and New York City's 'Police Powers' has drawn the expected division between liberals and hawks, the right to march has been defended by Eugene Volokh, a political conservative blogger well known for his hawkish attitude.

As a constitutional scholar and law professor, however, he commendably defends the right of protestors to exercise their First Amendment privileges

Read what New York's own Jimmy Breslin has to say about Bloomberg's Attempted Squelching of Protest Marchers.

Patriot Act - II

For background information, read one of the online articles pointing to this new [infringement of personal freedoms] terror threat:

(WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003) -- The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft, dated January 9, 2003, of this previously undisclosed legislation and is making it available in full text(12 MB). The bill, drafted by the staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, has not been officially released by the Department of Justice, although rumors of its development have circulated around the Capitol for the last few months under the name of “the Patriot Act II” in legislative parlance.

“We haven’t heard anything from the Justice Department on updating the Patriot Act,” House Judiciary Committee spokesman Jeff Lungren told the Center. “They haven’t shared their thoughts on that. Obviously, we'd be interested, but we haven’t heard anything at this point.”

Senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minority staff have inquired about Patriot II for months and have been told as recently as this week that there is no such legislation being planned.

Mark Corallo, deputy director of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs, told the Center his office was unaware of the draft. “I have heard people talking about revising the Patriot Act, we are looking to work on things the way we would do with any law,” he said. “We may work to make modifications to protect Americans,” he added. When told that the Center had a copy of the draft legislation, he said, “This is all news to me. I have never heard of this.”

After the Center posted this story, Barbara Comstock, director of public affairs for the Justice Dept., released a statement saying that, "Department staff have not presented any final proposals to either the Attorney General or the White House. It would be premature to speculate on any future decisions, particularly ideas or proposals that are still being discussed at staff levels."

An Office of Legislative Affairs control sheet” that was obtained by the PBS program "Now With Bill Moyers" seems to indicate that a copy of the bill was sent to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Vice President Richard Cheney on Jan. 10, 2003. “Attached for your review and comment is a draft legislative proposal entitled the ‘Domestice Security Enhancement Act of 2003,’” the memo, sent from “OLP” or Office of Legal Policy, says.

Comstock later told the Center that the draft "is an early discussion draft and it has not been sent to either the Vice President or the Speaker of the House."

Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of Terrorism and the Constitution, reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation “raises a lot of serious concerns. It’s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they’ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.” This proposed law, he added, “would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive ‘suspicion,’ create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups.”

Some of the key provision of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 include:

Section 201, “Prohibition of Disclosure of Terrorism Investigation Detainee Information”: Safeguarding the dissemination of information related to national security has been a hallmark of Ashcroft’s first two years in office, and the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 follows in the footsteps of his October 2001 directive to carefully consider such interest when granting Freedom of Information Act requests. While the October memo simply encouraged FOIA officers to take national security, “protecting sensitive business information and, not least, preserving personal privacy” into account while deciding on requests, the proposed legislation would enhance the department’s ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through FOIA.

Section 202, “Distribution of ‘Worst Case Scenario’ Information”: This would introduce new FOIA restrictions with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency. As provided for in the Clean Air Act, the EPA requires private companies that use potentially dangerous chemicals must produce a “worst case scenario” report detailing the effect that the release of these controlled substances would have on the surrounding community. Section 202 of this Act would, however, restrict FOIA requests to these reports, which the bill’s drafters refer to as “a roadmap for terrorists.” By reducing public access to “read-only” methods for only those persons “who live and work in the geographical area likely to be affected by a worst-case scenario,” this subtitle would obfuscate an established level of transparency between private industry and the public.

Section 301-306, “Terrorist Identification Database”: These sections would authorize creation of a DNA database on “suspected terrorists,” expansively defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups, and noncitizens suspected of certain crimes or of having supported any group designated as terrorist.

Section 312, “Appropriate Remedies with Respect to Law Enforcement Surveillance Activities”: This section would terminate all state law enforcement consent decrees before Sept. 11, 2001, not related to racial profiling or other civil rights violations, that limit such agencies from gathering information about individuals and organizations. The authors of this statute claim that these consent orders, which were passed as a result of police spying abuses, could impede current terrorism investigations. It would also place substantial restrictions on future court injunctions.

Section 405, “Presumption for Pretrial Detention in Cases Involving Terrorism”: While many people charged with drug offenses punishable by prison terms of 10 years or more are held before their trial without bail, this provision would create a comparable statute for those suspected of terrorist activity. The reasons for presumptively holding suspected terrorists before trial, the Justice Department summary memo states, are clear. “This presumption is warranted because of the unparalleled magnitude of the danger to the United States and its people posed by acts of terrorism, and because terrorism is typically engaged in by groups – many with international connections – that are often in a position to help their members flee or go into hiding.”

Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.” But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be “inferred from conduct.” Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act is the latest development in an 18-month trend in which the Bush Administration has sought expanded powers and responsibilities for law enforcement bodies to help counter the threat of terrorism.

The USA Patriot Act, signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, gave law enforcement officials broader authority to conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps, and gives the president the authority, when the nation is under attack, to confiscate any property within U.S. jurisdiction of anyone believed to be engaging in such attacks. The measure also tightened oversight of financial activities to prevent money laundering and diminish bank secrecy in an effort to disrupt terrorist finances.

It also changed provisions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed in 1978 during the Cold War. FISA established a different standard of government oversight and judicial review for “foreign intelligence” surveillance than that applied to traditional domestic law enforcement surveillance.

The USA Patriot Act allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to share information gathered in terrorism investigations under the “foreign intelligence” standard with local law enforcement agencies, in essence nullifying the higher standard of oversight that applied to domestic investigations. The USA Patriot Act also amended FISA to permit surveillance under the less rigorous standard whenever “foreign intelligence” was a “significant purpose” rather than the “primary purpose” of an investigation.

The draft legislation goes further in that direction. “In the [USA Patriot Act] we have to break down the wall of foreign intelligence and law enforcement,” Cole said. “Now they want to break down the wall between international terrorism and domestic terrorism.”

In an Oct. 9, 2002, hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher testified that Justice had been, “looking at potential proposals on following up on the PATRIOT Act for new tools and we have also been working with different agencies within the government and they are still studying that and hopefully we will continue to work with this committee in the future on new tools that we believe are necessary in the war on terrorism.”

Asked by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) whether she could inform the committee of what specific areas Justice was looking at, Fisher replied, “At this point I can’t, I’m sorry. They're studying a lot of different ideas and a lot of different tools that follow up on information sharing and other aspects.”

Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy Viet Dinh, who was the principal author of the first Patriot Act, told Legal Times last October that there was “an ongoing process to continue evaluating and re-evaluating authorities we have with respect to counterterrorism,” but declined to say whether a new bill was forthcoming.

Former FBI Director William Sessions, who urged caution while Congress considered the USA Patriot Act, did not want to enter the fray concerning a possible successor bill.

"I hate to jump into it, because it's a very delicate thing," Sessions told the Center, without acknowledging whether he knew of any proposed additions or revisions to the additional Patriot bill.

When the first bill was nearing passage in the Congress in late 2001, however, Sessions told Internet site NewsMax.Com that the balance between civil liberties and sufficient intelligence gathering was a difficult one. “First of all, the Attorney General has to justify fully what he’s asking for,” Sessions, who served presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush as FBI Director from 1987 until 1993, said at the time. “We need to be sure that we provide an effective means to deal with criminality.” At the same time, he said, “we need to be sure that we are mindful of the Constitution, mindful of privacy considerations, but also meet the technological needs we have” to gather intelligence.

Cole found it disturbing that there have been no consultations with Congress on the draft legislation. “It raises a lot of serious concerns and is troubling as a generic matter that they have gotten this far along and tell people that there is nothing in the works. What that suggests is that they’re waiting for a propitious time to introduce it, which might well be when a war is begun. At that time there would be less opportunity for discussion and they’ll have a much stronger hand in saying that they need these right away.”

A scathing and insightful critique can be found here. Conservative commentary typically scoffs at the notion that there are any sinister provisions in the proposed act. Here is an example.

 
A tempest is brewing over proposed amendments to the Patriot Act; the amendments, billed as "Patriot Act II," are being worked on by Justice Department staff. Someone leaked a draft of the possible legislation to a left-wing front group called the Center for Public Integrity, which published it on its website. (I would link to the site, except that a banner headline by Matt Drudge has made the Center's site inaccessible for the time being.) The Justice Department responded to the leak by saying that the draft is being worked on by staff, that no final decisions have been made, and the draft has not yet been presented to the Attorney General. Notwithstanding the fact that no legislation has yet been proposed, the leaked draft is being greeted with hysteria by the left--see, for example, Talk Left--and by condemnation from libertarians like Glenn Reynolds.
All of this seems wildly premature, but for what it is worth, I thought that the original Patriot Act was entirely reasonable and, with respect to many of its provisions, long overdue. (For example, prior to the Patriot Act, wiretap orders could only be obtained for specified telephone lines. This allowed easy circumvention by merely changing cell phones. The Patriot Act permits orders allowing all phone lines used by a particular person to be tapped.)
Due to the overwhelming traffic at the Center for Public Integrity's site, I have not yet been able to read the draft amendments, but to the extent I have seen them summarized, it is hard to see what the fuss is about.
The left's goal here, of course, is not to focus on any particular anti-terrorism efforts, or to engage in any serious discussion of how best to balance security and freedom from government intrusion. (This distinguishes leftists from responsible libertarians like Reynolds and many others.) What the left wants to do, through the hysterical repetition of "civil liberties" slogans, is to achieve political goals by demonizing John Ashcroft and George Bush. See, for example, the new advertising campaign just launched by the ACLU, which--in the ACLU's own words--"paint[s] Ashcroft as a zealous ideologue who has hacked away at American civil liberties using post-September 11 concerns about national security as a pretext." As usual, you can count on the ACLU for reasoned, constructive discourse.
posted by Hindrocket at 11:09 AM

Another conservative intones with yet another 'let us not lose our heads' admonition.

INITIAL THOUGHTS ON 'PATRIOT II': There's a lot of buzz today about what some are calling "Patriot Act II," a DOJ anti-terrorism proposal that was apparently leaked by critics and made available on the web (you can view a copy here, among other places). The usual suspects have already condemned it, and I wanted to at least offer a few very tentative initial thoughts on the proposal.

My initial reaction is that this is a mixed bag. The basic gist of the bill is to better integrate terrorism investigations into the rest of federal law. Up until 2001, federal law had one regime for criminal investigations, and another legal regime for investigations against spies of foreign countries. The Patriot Act started to break down that divide in response to the new threat of Al-Qaeda, and much of this bill is an effort to continue that reorganization by facilitating anti-terrorism investigations in light of the last year's practice under the Patriot Act. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? At least on an initial read, some of the sections seem pretty reasonable to me; others don't.

I can make one confident prediction, though: the press will focus on several provisions that don't really make much of a difference and will blow them way out of proportion, and then completely ignore other provisions that make a big difference but are too complicated for the press to understand or explain. To take two quick examples: much of the press attention I have seen so far focuses on Section 404 of the act (making it a crime to "willfully" use encryption in furtherance of another federal felony) and Section 501 of the act (dealing with revoking citizenship for providing material support to terrorist groups). I don't think either of these would really make much of a difference one way or the other -- I'll blog more about why soon, I promise -- but the provisions are easy to explain and easy to blow out of proportion, so they will be big targets. Meanwhile, other much more important provisions will sneak by without much attention one way or the other.

Finally for now, note that there is at least one provision of Patriot II that civil libertarians will like: Section 108 permits the FISA Court of Review to appoint a lawyer to defend the FISA Court when the government appeals a FISA Court decision to the Court of Review. In other words, no more one-sided FISA Court of Review proceedings.

So how do these three plots intertwine??

When somber-faced Ashcroft ratcheted the terror code from Yellow to Orange on Saturday (followed by the newly appointed Secretary of Homeland Defense, Governor Thomas Ridge), there was a moment while they exchanged places on the podium when the mike on off-camera Ashcroft remained ON, and he was heard musing that the

'safest place in America undoubtedly is in the middle of an anti-war rally'
since it would be unlikely that Al Qaeda would set off bombs in the midst of a large gathering of 'Pro-Saddam" protestors.

The Attorney General of the United States is not known for having a sense of humor, but undoubtedly this unrehearsed comment was an expression of his bitterness about being unable to do much to kill these rallies, as opposed to giving American citizens genuine advice how to 'be vigilant.'

The most chilling of the proposed Patriot Act Amendments certainly deals with the mechanism for expatriation of citizens.

Under the proposed amendments, the "mere act of giving comfort to the enemy" would be deemed to be an assertive relinquishment of the sympathizer's United States citizenship. This is, what the law calls an overt act, inferred from the sympathizer's conduct.

We will restate the provision below:

Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.” But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be “inferred from conduct.” Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.

The doomsday scenario therefore unfolds thusly:

  1. An American citizen, wishing to exercise his/her constitutional privilege of expressing an opinion in an open forum, decides to join the February 15 Anti-War protest in New York City. As most protestors, this person doesn't really care who sponsors the march - he merely wants to march. A certain 'fringe' organization joins the fray and asserts that it is among the sponsoring organizers. Nobody seems to mind. Hey, the more the merrier.

  2. The President, at the urging and recommendation of the Justice Department, declares a group of so-called 'Pro-Saddam" organizations as 'terrorist organizations' and therefore anyone associated with it, an 'enemy combatant'. Included in the secret, unpublished list is the organization asserting to be one of the organizers of the march.

  3. The effect of the foregoing means everyone marching in the parade is wearing a big 'bullseye' on his back, in the eyes of the ever-vigilant, overzealous Department of Justice. The act of participating in the march is tantamount to an irrevocable, written declaration by the marcher: "I hereby renounce my citizenship."

  4. Representatives from the INS and Justice show up at the home of the citizen, arrest him and detain him, at an undisclosed location, without a hearing, without access to counsel, and immediately strip him of his citizenship. Their only 'evidence' is a grainy videotape, set up on a rooftop to tape the entire parade. This tape is beyond judicial challenge, and will not be made available to the defendant under any circumstances.

  5. At this moment the former US citizen is a 'stateless person' - unless he has dual citizenship, there is no logical foreign country to which to deport him, so the US has its choice. It can send him to Canada, or Afghanistan, or Guantamo Bay, Iraq - any country which will take him.

    But there is more to it than merely taking the targeted ex-citizen to JFK and putting him on an airplane with a one-way ticket. There is always the issue of how the receiving nation will accept him. Without a valid passport, and without a visa (which requires a valid passport) it is not likely that any nation will take him, so chances are he may languish in a US-controlled detention camp for the rest of his life.

These things don't happen in the United States - that's what a lot of calm conservatives will claim. I hope they are right - certainly even Liberals would consider this scenario as unlikely.

But you know what??

In a country with a constitution based on a balance of power between the United States Supreme Court, Congress and the President, the weak link here is the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

What guarantees do we, the citizenry, have that a former drunk and drug addict, still suffering the after-effects therefrom in the speech-department, does not have some lingering, pent-up mental imbalance which could set him into acute paranoia and revengefulness. What if the president of the United States should happen to be a bilious control freak, with a misdirected sense of patriotism? If he ever stepped over the line, not a single person, not Congress, not even the unanimous US Supreme Court, could undo the damage done by a deranged commander-in-chief acting under the unprecedented powers of the Patriot Act.

We all better hope and pray that Bush's speech impediment is the only scar he carries from his drunken drifter days.

-- Paul Helgesen
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Who has first nips on on shaping the opinions of those who read our standard printed media newspapers as well as the political blogs??

Here is a Who's Who among the many distinguished or well-known political authors or bloggers I make it my practice to read every day (listed in alphabetical order).

If you wish to skip the bios which follow below, and proceed directly to the analysis portion, click here.

Thomas L. Friedman won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for commentary (his third Pulitzer for The New York Times). He became the paper's foreign-affairs columnist in 1995. Previously, he served as chief economic correspondent in the Washington bureau and before that he was the chief White House correspondent.

Friedman joined The Times in 1981 and was appointed Beirut bureau chief in 1982. In 1984 Friedman was transferred from Beirut to Jerusalem, where he served as Israel bureau chief until 1988. Friedman was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Lebanon) and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting (from Israel). His book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" (1989), won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1989. His latest book, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (2000) won the 2000 Overseas Press Club award for best nonfiction book on foreign policy and has been published in 20 languages. He also wrote the text accompanying Micha Bar-Am's book, "Israel: A Photobiography."

Born in Minneapolis on July 20, 1953, Friedman received a B.A. degree in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University in 1975. In 1978 he received a Master of Philosophy degree in Modern Middle East studies from Oxford.

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed Page and continues as Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Krugman received his B.A. from Yale University in 1974 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT and Stanford. At MIT he became the Ford International Professor of Economics.

Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes. His professional reputation rests largely on work in international trade and finance; he is one of the founders of the "new trade theory," a major rethinking of the theory of international trade. In recognition of that work, in 1991 the American Economic Association awarded him its John Bates Clark medal, a prize given every two years to "that economist under forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic knowledge." Krugman's current academic research is focused on economic and currency crises.

At the same time, Krugman has written extensively for a broader public audience. Some of his recent articles on economic issues, originally published in Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American and other journals, are reprinted in Pop Internationalism and The Accidental Theorist.

Andrew Sullivan has been around.

His bios generally run 2000 words, so I will paraphrase them here, in the interest of brevity.

If you wish to read his full-featured bios, try them here and here.

Education: At Harvard, a Master's Degree in Public Administration in 1986 and a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1990.

Authorship: Written books, with titles like Virtually Normal, and Same Sex Marriage (Editor)

Authorship: Numerous articles for The New Republic, New York Times and The Sunday Times of London

Honors: In 1996, Sullivan was named Editor of the Year by Adweek magazine.

As a 'practicing Catholic' and ditto homosexual, Andrew has written and lectured extensively on gay rights, Catholic gay issues, and love and hate in general. He is a foremost authority on subject matters as diverse as AIDS, IQ and national healthcare.

James Taranto is editor of OpinionJournal.com and former deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal. He joined the Journal in 1996 as an assistant editorial features editor after spending five years as an editor at City Journal, the Manhattan Institute's quarterly of urban public policy. He has also worked for the Heritage Foundation, United Press International, Reason magazine and KNX News Radio in Los Angeles. He attended California State University, Northridge.

'Asymetrical' is what comes to mind.

I read these guys because I have the strong feeling that within their respective camps, they take on leadership positions of editorial dictum. Yet their demeanors couldn't be more different.

Hardly a day goes by without the OpinionJournal and Sully going postal over something published by the New York Times writers. Very much a one-way street. I don't recall Tom Friedman ever taking potshots at anything James Taranto wrote.

Given the difference between being a three-time Pulitzer winner and a hardworking Wall Street editor, still working on his College Degree, who has been anointed with a high-pulpit position within the WS Journal organization, I find it amazing that the latter invariably has to seek refuge on the moral high ground while the guy who copped the Pulitzer three times just can't even bother with a clever riposte.

It begs the question - if James Taranto or Sullivan are not worth the investment of even a minute a day by Messrs Friedman and Krugman, for them to write rebuttals to the continual onslaught they receive from the righteous right, should I make it worth my while to read these supinely elevated bloggers, particularly those whose only claim to fame lies not in their academic excellence or honors bestowed, but solely by the truculent tremor of their voice??

Much has been said about the interview of Saddam Hussein by Anthony Wedgewood Benn, who is Britain's counterpart to Connie Chung. Andrew Sullivan feels giddy enough about Colin Powell's strong presentation at the UN today, that he actually quotes a parody takeoff of the Benn interview:

SH: Let me tell you my friend - and through you the world - that Iraq has never possessed such weapons. And those we had, we never used. And even when we used them it was purely in self-defence. And then we destroyed them. Except for some warheads and bombs that got lost. And if President Bush knows where they are then he should come here personally, as you have, and find them. That would be helpful. But he will not, and the world knows why. Because he wants Iraq's oil.

TB: Well, it's interesting you should raise that. America goes to war where there's an oil interest, as we did in the Falklands, because the Falklands was an oil war - there's more oil around the Falklands than there is around the United Kingdom. And, of course, some companies are now bigger than nation states. Ford is bigger than South Africa. Toyota is bigger than Norway.

SH: Bigger than Norway?

TB: Bigger than Norway. And I do not want a world which is safe only for oil companies and motor companies, but which is dangerous for my grandchildren.

SH: I too am a grandfather. I too think of my grandchildren, Raghda and Rana's fatherless children.

TB: Fatherless? What happened to their fathers?

SH: I shot them. But there were others I didn't personally shoot, you understand. Family gatherings in our country can sometimes become, how do you say, over-exuberant. We have much family: uncles, half-brothers, nieces' husbands. And they all want jobs in the secret services or running the Olympic committee. They get angry. Boom! What can you do? But you, Mr Bin Wedgwood, are a courageous horseman, a roaring tiger, for coming here to speak peace.

What the media did not report, is that Saddam, waxing poetic, penned a sonnet for the Western bloggers to publish. Here it is:

How do I bleat thee? Let me count the ways
I bleat thee by my count of germs I don't possess
My PR campaign aims at maximum distress
My weapons of destruction don't really exist
Despite the protestations by Powell and Hans Blix
Their cohorts have turned nary all Palaces to blight
But empty tubes is all that point to dirty tricks
I bleat thee therefore freely, as serves you oh-so-right

Credit: Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861)

Brain surgeons they are not - I am talking about NASA.

By now, it is highly probable that the Columbia disaster was caused by the following chain of events:

  • Columbia sits on the launching pad for 39 days - unusually long
  • Exposure to rain over this long period gives rise to water seeping into the so-called insulation foam
  • When the external fuel tank is filled with super-cool liquid propellants, the water within the hard-as-brick foam turns to ice
  • During blastoff, the 'small piece of insulating foam' which peels off the external tank and disintegrates in its collision with the underside of the left wing, is, in fact, a much larger chunk of ice/foam frozen into a giant destructive 'ice ball'
  • Flight controllers, seeing a video of the 'foam-impact' ascribe the incident as 'pretty standard' and belittle its potential impact
  • Offered the chance to look at possible damage to tiles under the left wing through use of Palomar Observatory, space controllers turn down offer, and tell observatory to 'look at stars' and 'leave the running of NASA to us'
  • Columbia spends 16 days in space, in an otherwise perfect mission
  • Fifteen minutes before touchdown, an area around the left wheelwell starts heating up, with temperature sensors 'going offscale'
  • One or more tanks of propellant, stored in the area directly behind the compromised tiles (and a thin layer of aluminum skin), explode, blowing up the shuttle

Could the crew have been saved?? NASA says "NO". There was 'zero' NASA could do.

Follow me through this analysis of NASA's official explanation.

Columbia could not have traveled to the international space station because the orbiting platform was too far away. The shuttle was circling about 170 miles above the Earth, while the station was 240 miles high and in a different orbit. Columbia did not have enough propellant to bring it to the station, say NASA officials, only enough to push it into reentry.

"It would have been impossible with the fuel aboard," NASA spokesman Petty said.

Moreover, even if Columbia had enough fuel to reach the station, it did not have the docking ports that would have allowed the crew to attach it to the platform.

The other three shuttles do have such capabilities, and NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Michael Kostelnik said yesterday that, "in hindsight, that is a good thought" -- to include in future flight plans enough fuel and the right orbit to get a stricken shuttle to the station.

Given the fact that some $3 billion of NASA's annual expense goes to salaries, is it unreasonable for us non-rocket-scientists to expect that the NASA planners would think out a "Plan B" scenario before a second space shuttle disaster prompted this casual remark (and I paraphrase):

"you know, in hindsight it would have been right clever of us if we had put in a simple emergency contingency which might have saved the crew".

Yes, 16 days into the flight, perhaps the shuttle's resources would be so limited as to prevent an effective rescue plan.

But how about assessing the potential damage on DAY 1?? Looking at high-resolution http://gummibear.netfirms.com/weblog/Images, rendered in almost 100% scale, would have enabled the planners to observe the condition of individual tiles.

How about leaving a few science experiments out of the payload area and packing an emergency roadway kit??

Like enough fuel to make it to the International Space Station, and the docking apparatus to enable the crew to check in for a stay which, in theory, could last six months or longer.

After 9/11, there was a lot of recrimination and finger pointing whether someone in an official capacity could have predicted the WTC attacks.

This is a different scenario - the planners absolutely knew the risks, and had memo after memo outlining the potential and dangers associated with tile damage during blastoff.

All they'd have had to do, was freaking LOOK, together with packing the fuel and supplies for an emergency linkup with the ISS, and the world's population would today be larger by a count of seven, and we would have three fully functional space shuttles, plus a fourth one, docked 240 miles up, with a six month or longer window for determining its separate fate.

If you like spine-tingling thrillers and sophisticated political plots, read Jerry Bowles' blog today on this interesting question: Who audits the automatic vote-counting equipment and results from our national elections, and should such audits be open to the public? Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has an interest in the largest manufacturer of vote-tallying equipment, an issue the Senate Ethics committee probably will pussyfoot around like it is not one of the most obvious conflict of interest slamdunks to hit it since the 'Pizza-for-Congress' laugher.

-- Paul Helgesen
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Collision between journalism and Business - thusly the Sydney Times describes the latest brouhaha over WSJ's Recruitment of Cheerleaders for War.

Speaking about the WSJ isn't it nice that opinionjournal's James Taranto lives in a glasshouse?? By maintaining an image-free website, the opinionjournal can pooh-pooh as "crass" other papers' graphic depiction of Space Shuttle debris. Even the Financial Times showed a piece of space debris on their front page this morning.

moreover , the opinionjournal has elected itself the Official Arbiter of the Nation's Mood. Under the heading America Sucks It Up James takes issue with the NY Times' sad, poetic sentiments of the Columbia disaster.

As James sees it, in these 'times of war' there is no room for maudlin sentimentality - as a matter of fact,

yesterday's disaster, while intensely sad, was not traumatic -- except of course for those whose loved ones died or who suffered some other direct loss.
The rest of us, presumably, take James Taranto's lead and suck it in, while toughening our mental attitude to get used to the notion of bodybags. Meanwhile, James' colleague at the Wall Street Journal Online sees the sentiment differently.
The tragedy is likely to darken the mood of an edgy American public and distract Bush , he intones
The old and the new Europe are apparently getting together again. The Financial Times reports that
UK and France to unveil defence initiative Britain and France hope to unveil ambitious defence plans for Europe when Tony Blair, UK prime minister, and Jacques Chirac, French president, hold their summit on Tuesday in the French coastal resort of Le Touquet.

The proposals will focus on military capabilities, flexibility in defence decision-making in the European Union and a "solidarity clause" for any member state threatened by a terrorist attack.

Their agreement comes at a critical point as Mr Blair seeks to persuade Mr Chirac to consider backing a second United nations resolution authorising a military strike on Iraq. Mr Chirac has made clear he does not believe an attack on Iraq is acceptable without the passage of a second resolution. The British prime minister must get one if UK support for a US military strike is not to cause havoc within the Labour party.

Mr Blair has won a concession from George W. Bush, US president, that the US will explore the possibility of getting a second UN resolution - but that it will not be bound by one.

-- Paul Helgesen
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beginning of the Blog - Wish me luck.

Any post for the foreseeable future will be essentially just t-e-s-t-i-n-g the Blogger methodology.