Target Centermass

12/31/2005

Iraqi Leaders Agree in Principle to Enlarge Cabinet

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:16 am

The key phrase in that headline has to be the “in principle” hedging. Still, this is a promising development for those who saw the worst in the recent Iraqi parliamentary elections.

Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish leaders said on Thursday that they agree in principle to enlarge the next government’s cabinet to include representatives of other communities in a bid to push for a national unity government.

“The Kurdish coalition and the Shiite alliance agree in principle on a government of national unity,” Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told reporters after a meeting with Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in Dokhan, a mountain resort 400km north of Baghdad.

However, Talabani specified that there would be some restrictions in the forming of an enlarged cabinet, saying, “the other parties must believe in certain principles,” including “rejection of terrorism.”

While the move is obviously intended to allay concerns about election irregularities or the lack of support for secular entities, it is still a move in the right direction. Democracy is a series of missteps heading in the right general direction … hopefully; this is no different for the fledgling attempt in Iraq. Every effort toward inclusion should be considered a welcome one.

12/30/2005

U.S. to Investigate Leak on Spying Program

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:59 pm

As anticipated, the media has wasted nary a moment clamoring for the identities of those responsible for the leak of the Bush administration’s policy of monitoring domestic communications with suspected international terrorists without warrants. No, it seems their concerns about leaks go only so far as to hurt the Bush administration and not to defend national security.

Luckily, there’ll be an investigation anyway.

The Justice Department said Friday that it had opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a secret National Security Agency program under which President George W. Bush authorized eavesdropping on people in the United States without a court warrant.

The investigation apparently began in recent days following a formal referral from the spy agency regarding the leak, officials said on condition of anonymity.

The program, whose existence was revealed in an article in The New York Times on Dec. 16, has provoked sharp criticism from civil liberties groups, some members of Congress and some former intelligence officials who believe it circumvents the law governing national security eavesdropping.

Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have vigorously defended the program as a legal, critical defense against terrorism that has helped prevent attacks in the United States. They say the president’s executive order authorizing the program is constitutional as part of his powers as commander in chief and under the resolution passed by Congress days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks authorizing the use of force against terrorists.

Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where the president is on vacation, that Bush did not request the investigation.

“The leaking of classified information is a serious issue,” Duffy said. “The fact is that Al Qaeda’s playbook is not printed on Page 1, and when America’s is, it has serious ramifications.”

To be quite honest, we’re fighting this war with one hand tied behind our backs. It is no understatement to say I find it disgusting that we must struggle so mightily to keep our other hand free, as the media, war critics and political partisans seek to constrain all of our efforts.

Michelle Malkin has links, updates and thoughts on the matter.

Look for the Plamegate apologists to argue that the NSA leaks were “good” leaks, justified in the name of safeguarding civil liberties and the national interest, and should therefore be exempt from criminal prosecution.

By contrast, they argue that disclosures about Valerie Plame were “bad” leaks worthy of pulling out all prosecutorial stops–though no one has been charged with leaking classified info, and even if they did, the adverse effects on national security are infinitesimal compared to the damage done by the NYT/NSA leaks.

Actually, I expect a relative silence compared to the Plame leak cacophony. I would think rather that the apologists Malkin refers to will work instead to keep the focus on the Bush administration’s policy and ignore the leaking as much as possible.

12/29/2005

Poland Keeping Troops in Iraq Another Year

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:22 pm

Bully for the Poles, among our staunchest of allies.

Poland’s president on Thursday approved extending the country’s military mission in Iraq for another year, the prime minister said.

“The president made such a decision on the government’s request,” Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said on TVN24 television during a ski trip at a mountain resort. “The issue is closed and taken care of.”

Marcinkiewicz’s government requested Tuesday that President Lech Kaczynski, the commander in chief of Poland’s armed forces, reverse plans by the previous government to bring home troops serving with the U.S.-led coalition in early 2006.

[…]

Marcinkiewicz’s announcement offers some relief to President Bush, who has seen the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq dwindle and faced withering criticism at home and abroad over his handling of the war.

Ukraine and Bulgaria announced this week that their remaining soldiers had pulled out of Iraq.

In calling for an extension Tuesday, Marcinkiewicz called the move “a very difficult decision” but said that it was a step meant to help maintain stability as Iraq progresses toward democracy.

Though the mission will be prolonged, the number of Poles serving in Iraq will be cut from about 1,500 to 900 by March, officials have said. The Poles are based at Camp Echo in the central city of Diwaniyah, one of the nation’s more stable areas, where they mainly train Iraqi security forces.

Poland has been a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq. It sent combat troops to the country and in September 2003 took command of an international force that now numbers some 3,000 troops from 12 countries.

However, the deployment is unpopular, and some in Poland have complained that they have not seen sufficient rewards such as easier access to U.S. visas or more rebuilding contracts for Polish companies. Seventeen Poland solders have died in Iraq.

I feel that there is much merit to the idea of insufficient rewards to date, not only for Poland’s sacrifice but also for the growing importance the country seems willing to accept on the world’s stage.

Four months ago, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – a Washington-based think tank known for neo-conservative ideas – wrote a treatise urging US financial backing for further deployments of eastern European troops in Iraq, citing Poland as a particularly attractive candidate.

“The Polish military, unlike the public, is upbeat about its service in Iraq, recognising that the mission has done wonders for the army’s preparedness,” the AEI scholar wrote. “Does it always make sense to hire private contractors, with all their legal and political baggage, when you could have real soldiers for less money?”

It was a prescient suggestion. The writer, Radoslaw Sikorski, has since traded Washington for Warsaw, and in October became defence minister in Poland’s new centre-right government, which on Tuesday recommended extending the country’s deployment in Iraq for another year.

[…]

“What Poland has done is decided it wants to be a strategic player,” said Kurt Volker, the number two official in the State Department’s European bureau. “People always make the assumption a country does this to please the US . . . Poland sees this as valuable in itself for the role it can play globally.”

Poland, along with the UK and Australia, were the only international partners to provide combat troops for the invasion of Iraq. It has since commanded a multinational division based in the south-central city of Diwaniya, now one of the most stable regions in the country. In that role, it has overseen the troops of at least a dozen countries and trained the Iraqi army’s 8th Division.

The deployment has cost Poland money and personnel, however, with 17 soldiers killed, 45 seriously wounded, and financial costs of about $600m – a high price for a country with a $6bn (€5bn, £3.5bn) defence budget.

And while the deployment has given Poland international prominence, Mr Sikorski has also attempted to use the decision to win more US military aid, making the push most recently in meetings at the Pentagon this month.

The US has already spent about $300m assisting the Polish mission. Because Poland does not have its own long-range military transports, the US helped fly Polish troops and ship equipment to Iraq. In theatre, the US has supplied fuel, food and occasionally trucks and other vehicles.

I have long argued for military assistance for Poland, not only as a reward for the nation’s willingness to sacrifice but also as an investment for the betterment of a friend that can be trusted in time of need. In February I blogged the following:

Military assistance is entirely appropriate for a country with a backbone and a willingness to stand along side its allies. Certainly, Poland and other coalition nations, particularly those whose militaries were shaped and equipped during the days of the Warsaw Pact, could stand to have some martial modernization.

In many ways, Poland was the first crack in the Iron Curtain. They are now placing themselves towards the forefront of nations to which America can turn to and see a true ally, along with the steadfast friends we have in the U.K. and Australia.

12/28/2005

Surveillance: Mainstream Media Amaze Me

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:04 pm

… if only for their inanity.

I realize we’re currently riding out the latest media- and Democrat-driven tempest — location likely to be in a teacup, but let’s let the story play out as it may — about electronic surveillance without judicial warrants of international communications with suspected terrorists. But honestly, how much are you scraping the story barrel to come up with the following headline?

U.S. secret surveillance up sharply since Sept. 11

Well, I should freakin’ hope surveillance, both covert and overt, is sharply way the hell up since Islamist terror was brought to our shores! We slept too long, snug in the comfort of the ’90s while the radical Islamist bastards bared their fangs and drew American blood abroad. It is this headline that leads me to believe that the surveillance issue will either fizzle or possibly backfire in the 2006 Congressional elections for the Dems, as the Captain shows us some centrist Democrats already fear.

U.N. Asks Belgian to Take Over Assassination Inquiry

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:39 pm

The U.N. investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian former prime minister Rafik Hariri will continue under new leadership.

The United Nations has asked a Belgian prosecutor to take over its investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor and senior U.N. officials.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wants Serge Brammertz, the deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to succeed German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who will step down next month. Mehlis has led a six-month U.N. inquiry that has implicated members of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s inner circle in the Feb. 14 killing of Hariri.

A U.N. spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said that an announcement of the appointment will not be made until Jan. 11 but “we can confirm the secretary general has completed the selection process.” She said Annan “is satisfied there will be continuity in the leadership of the inquiry.”

Senior U.N. officials said that Annan is delaying a public announcement because Brammertz wants more time to assure governments that support the criminal court that his departure will not disrupt its war crimes investigations in Sudan, Congo and Uganda. They also expressed concern about Brammertz’s safety.

And what a rewarding position it is, replete with radicals wanting blood.

Mehlis has received frequent death threats since taking control of the U.N. probe in May. A Lebanese newspaper, An-Nahar, reported Wednesday that a pro-Syrian organization that claimed responsibility for killing the paper’s editor, Gibran Tueni, issued a new threat against Mehlis’s successor. The group said Mehlis is lucky it has not killed him.

There is more on the death threat here, including this juicy little bit of Arab rationalization of violence.

The statement described Mehlis, a German prosecutor, as a “filthy infidel” who had politicized the investigation to implicate Syria. It warned Mehlis’s successor, who has not been appointed, not to come to the same conclusions.

The statement ended with an ominous Arabic saying: “He who has given advance warning is excused.”

Good luck, Mr. Brammertz, as you try to both keep your head and nab the guilty.

Welcome to the World, VodkaBaby

Filed under: — Gunner @ 9:23 pm

Congrats to VodkaPundit Stephen Green and his wife Melissa on the birth of their son Preston. Hopefully he’ll grow into another fine libertarian blogger.

12/27/2005

Carnival of Liberty XXVI

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:02 pm

Welcome to Carnival of Liberty XXVI, smack in the heart of the holiday season.

But first, a few preliminaries.

This carnival is primarily, though not exclusively, the work of the Life, Liberty, Property community, and I’d like to thank its founder, Eric, for the opportunity to host this week’s round-up.

Postings are listed in the order they were received, so don’t stop reading after the first few. That said, as host I have again arbitrarily decided to designate a few personal favorites with the tank graphic from the classic Atari Combat game. Do check out the other entries, though, as personal tastes may vary.

And now, on with the show.

From The Unrepentant Individual, Surveillance. Brad worries about the precedent being established by the Bush administration’s policy of monitoring international communication with suspected terrorists without warrants.

Well, the big news in the blogosphere, on all sides, is the Bush wiretap problem. The Dems are yelling “impeachment!”, the Reps are circling wagons and staying silent, and we libertarians are in a quandary. It’s a matter of first determining whether the actions were legal, and second determining whether they step on civil liberties considering the wartime threat we face.

[…]

But what I’d like to focus on is the moral issue. Is this sort of behavior consistent with the sorts of civil liberties we enjoy as Americans? And being a pragmatic pro-defense libertarian, I have to ask whether the balance between defense and civil liberties has been tipped too far.

And in this case, I have to believe that we’ve crossed the line.

From Kira Zalan Blog, Iranian Intentions. Kira examines the recent Iranian policy banning Western music and tries to fit it into their president’s recent statements and the country’s ambitions.

In the latest theatrical example of anti-Western arrogance, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “has banned Western music from Iran’s radio and TV stations.”

According to Breitbart.com, popular classics like The Eagles and Eric Clapton – and perhaps less tragically George Michael and Kenny G – will no longer grace the airwaves of the Islamic Republic.

Though this particular development is on the surface entertaining, it is but one in many recent bold and calculated moves by Ahmadinejad. His statements that the WWII Holocaust is an engineered myth and that Israel must be wiped out – or at least relocated – are serious, considering that Israeli military intelligence and IAEA’s ElBaradei estimate nuclear weapon capability by March 2006 (few months away).

From Going to the Mat, Domestic Surveillance and Classic Liberalism. Matt also looks at the surveillance issue and ponders the quandry it causes for classic libertarianism.

I believe that my individual right to be safe in my own home and to be secure in the knowledge that my communications, mail or otherwise, are not be reviewed by the government is paramount. Further, those same concerns extend to other law-abiding citizens of this country. We each have a right to be secure in our privacy.

In addition, I know that I can protect myself and my family against direct threats to me. However, there are limits to my ability to protect my family and myself. Those limits include an inability to stop most crime, to protect myself against terrorist attack and attacks by foriegn powers. I have neither the resources nor the skill to take on those tasks.

The government, in a classic liberal sense, must be limited in the roles it undertakes, particularly when those roles infringe upon or even touch upon individual liberty. But one key role a government must undertake for those it serves is to protect its citizens against criminals, against terrorists (a criminal of a different stripe), and against foreign powers. The government is uniquely suited to perform that role.

From Different River, Carl Levin, Strict Constructionist, and the Exclusionary Rule. Different River also looks at the surveillance issue, but only after examining Senator Levin’s questioning of the program’s constitutionality.

I am tempted to answer: “Right after the sentence in the Constitution that guarantees the right to an abortion.” After all, Carl Levin is a well-known supporter of abortion as a Constitutional right. I’d love to hear him admit that there is no more explicit mention of abortion in the Constitution than there is of wiretapping suspected terrorists – a position that the so-called “strict constructionist” school of jurisprudence has been making for a long time.

Ah, but you say – no one ever claimed the right to an abortion was explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, writing the majority opinion in Roe vs. Wade, explicitly admits that, “The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy,” let alone abortion. Instead, he finds the right to an abortion by reference to the “penumbras of the Bill of Rights,” or as Justice William Douglass put it in Griswold vs. Connecticut, “penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”

So, there you have it, Senator Levin: The president’s authority to wiretap suspected al-Qaeda operatives in the United States comes from the “penumbras, formed by emanations” from the use-of-force resolution passed on September 14, 2001.

From The Radical Libertarian, The measure of a society. Francois Tremblay takes an interesting look at the difficulty of trying to judge a society by its treatment of its needy.

However, I find this highly problematic. Not because I think we should treat our “most vulnerable citizens” badly, but because we’re supposed to take this as the measure, the moral test, of a government or nation.

But charity, since this seems to be what we’re talking about here, cannot be a moral test. While there are plenty of reasons to give to charity, there is no challenge in giving money per se. The challenge is creating resources and making them available to all. That is what runs progress, not charity.

From Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds, Some Words of Wisdom from Morgan Freeman. Stephen Littau gives his thought on a recent interview given by the actor.

I have always appreciated Morgan Freedman’s talent as an actor, but I had no idea of his philosophical views on life. I’m sure that this is only a small look at what Morgan Freeman is all about, but from what I have heard from him so far…I am very impressed.

From OK so I’m not really a cowboy, On Freedom. A relatively new blogs posts an intriguing look at differing philosophies of liberty, focusing on positive and negative concepts.

Liberty, then, has enjoyed a long tradition of being thought of in a rigorously defined ‘negative’ sense. Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you. Government will make sure of that. Yay. We’re free. End of Story.

‘Positive liberty’ had a couple of false starts in philosophy.

[…]

A much younger conception of ‘liberty’. One that seems to be pulled out of thin air and isn’t readily connected to the earlier conception. The important phrase here is ‘freedom from the ills of wants and fear.’ This changes liberty from a default state to one that must be actively maintained. On one hand, government just sits around in case liberty is impinged upon. On the other, government has to work its butt off to give you ‘positive liberty’…and in order to do so must restrict and manage the lives of all…kind of contradictory.

From Searchlight Crusade, Amending the Budget Process. Dan Melson tries a new tactic in the fight against federal pork, not by attacking individuals instances but by overhauling the rules of the game.

Over at Q and O they’ve got a good anti-pork proposal – that of unbundling, mandatory separation of each line item on the budget from every other. Conjectures and Refutations has a good games theory treatment of one side.

Well, this is all well and good, and I support it fully, in the “Whatever fraction of a loaf we can get is better than none” sense. However, one thing overlooked is that the various legislative branches, both in Congress and the individual states, now have a long history of backing each other on this particular Prisoner’s Dilemma. It is the Way Things Are Done.

[…]

I have come to believe that the only way we are going to see real budgetary reform is to force the special interests and their pet congresscritters to fight each other by putting limits on what is available.

From Sophistpundit, Accountability and Mob Rule. Adam Gurri looks at the potentially dangerous effect on democratic governments by relatively small, very vocal groups.

When a system of government is ratified democratically, and officials are voted into that system, a majority of citizens have consented to be ruled in a certain manner and for a time, by certain people.

These days, there are those who take the idea of holding officials accountable to an extreme that would be laughable had it not the potential to be dangerous. Huge crowds of people band together to demand that things be done a certain way, and if politicians disagree with the demand and proceed with their original plans, they are branded as tyrants, traitors, sellouts, and any number of phrases which express an equal willingness to be reasonable.

This behavior is absurd. In a country of 300 million, why should we want our leaders to be so accountable to whatever group that can rally a few tens of thousands?

Mob rule is not the rule of the majority, and is therefore not the principle risk of democracy. Mob rule is the abandonment of rule of law whenever enough people are unhinged enough about something to make a formidable force. In this tree of a country, you can’t shake a twig without 10,000 people getting pissed off.

From Mensa Barbie, Congolese Vote Update. Mensa Barbie takes a look at the Congolese constitutional referendum and what it could mean for the long-troubled African nations.

The key importance of this event sees the Congo now receiving effective community pressure and strict intervention from neighboring countries who demand that Congolese disconnect from a decades old, war loop.

The path to find a better way to favor Peace and Democracy throughout many war-torn societies, has been a struggle. Perhaps this method to end decades-old conflicts, will be the solution of the future, re: lingering conflicts.

From Eidelblog, When government kills people. Perry Eidelbus considers the role of government in the field of medicine.

Don Ho […] underwent a highly experimental procedure for his failing heart. It was successful, and as he said, “It was my last hope.”

Are government bureaucrats God, or agents of the Almighty, that they can approve or deny this procedure, though the patient fully accepts any and all risks involved? These were Ho’s own stem cells. The procedure involves no embryos, so neither side of the “culture of life” debate applies here. Ah, but government steps in to save us from ourselves, because like Paul Krugman and big government’s other proponents say, government should reduce the risk in our lives. Even if we accept those risks, and even if we believe we have much to gain?

From Coyote Blog, An African Holiday is a Great Idea, But the Principles of Kwanzaa Suck. Coyote Blog takes an unfavorable look at the political underpinnings of the holiday.

Anyway, I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their history. However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism. Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by blacks.

Well, that wraps up this week’s Carnival. Now, I’ll hand over the reigns to next week’s host, Louisiana Libertarian. A final thanks to all contributors; I’ve enjoyed reading your work.

Happy holidays and liberty to all.

12/26/2005

Last Call: Carnival of Liberty XXVI

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:26 pm

The carnival will be posted some time tomorrow. Details and instructions for submitting entries can be found here.

Quote of the Week, 26 DEC 05

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:24 pm

An opinion can be argued with; a conviction is best shot.

—T. E. Lawrence

12/25/2005

Merry Christmas, Y’all

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:09 am

The stockings are stuffed and the presents are wrapped. Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, my all-time favorite holiday album, is playing. I’m enjoying just a little touch of Christmas and then postponing the rest until I’m no longer chained by the oncall pager and my fiancee returns from visiting with her family.

Here’s wishing a happy and safe holiday to all.

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