Monday, August 31, 2009

A New War Against Radical Islam - Part II

This is the continuation of a previous post, Part I.  Also, see Intro.

The never-utilized CIA program of creating assassination teams, shut down by the Obama administration, should be revived and expanded. Even the current administration accepts the utility of assassination as a weapon against our terrorist enemies. Obama has expanded and escalated the drone assassination program which strikes at suspected Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Despite the clumsy nature of such operations, the misidentifications and incorrect targeting, the regular collateral damage to innocent civilians, and the risk of destabilization to Pakistan, we persist in using such methods, because they represent one of the few ways to strike directly at our enemy's leaders.

Teams of assassins and individual operators would be a potent weapon in the type of asymmetric warfare involved in fighting nebulous terrorist enemies, who often do not present good targets for conventional military operations. Using the military is expensive, public, and is often overkill, creating more problems than it solves. A bullet through the brain or the heart of key individuals is cheaper, cleaner, and could be more effective. 

Deploying assassins to kill terrorist enemies is something we should already be doing, and should have put into place right after 9/11. It is also worth considering directly targeting radical Islamic clerics who preach jihad against Americans and openly support terrorism. Such clerics believe they can inspire terrorism and send suicide bombers to their deaths with impunity, remaining secure themselves while others blow up civilians or install roadside bombs. It's time they started dying also.

HOT5 Daily 8/31/2009

1. "Full Transcript of Dick Cheney Fox News Sunday Interview" Cheney causing leftist heads to explode again.

Representative Sample: Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all the Al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States.

2. "The map is not the territory" Someone who understands that terrorists are not common criminals.

Representative Sample: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi should never have been tried in the first place. The man was not and is not a terrorist. The man was an is an agent of the Libyan "government". Lockerbie was not an act of terror. Lockerbie was an act of war..

3. "Megrahi’s Release: Another Shoe Drops" The Obama administration wasn't really that concerned about his release.

Representative Sample: I think it’s time to stop complaining that the president no longer uses the phrase “war on terror.” Truly: the war is over as far as the U.S. and U.K. governments are concerned. Why pretend otherwise?

4. "Proof That Not All “New Atheists” Are Condescending Jerks" Links to a good article about the difficulties of letting go of religious beliefs.

Representative Sample: When you reject religion, its not like - rejecting the earth is not flat for example. With something like this you can say "Oh ok, now I know" - but religion has a much darker and deep rooted hold on a person, and a much more profound effect.

5. "Obama Sees A Right-Wing Conspiracy To Thwart Health Care Reform" Obama, just as clueless as the rest of the left -- apparently believing his own propaganda.

Representative Sample: Whether or not you think the Republicans are motivated solely by a desire to regain political power (they’re no better or worse than the Democrats in that regard), attributing the VERY real opposition that voters have to what he is proposing to do as coming from nothing more than cynical political motives is a huge mistake.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A New War Against Radical Islam - Part I

Following up on my last post, here is my first proposal.

The first thing we need to do is fundamental for having an intelligence service that can serve as a truly effective weapon against our enemies abroad. The U.S. needs a far greater emphasis on secrecy regarding intelligence operations. Many complained about too much secrecy during the Bush administration, which in my view is exactly backward. There wasn't too much secrecy, there was far too little. All of the details we know about CIA operations: the "secret" prisons, interrogation techniques, use of rendition, information about the drone assassination program, operators violating internal rules, and many other things -- all should have been kept secret. Many of our problems could have been avoided if we had simply done a better job of keeping the secret operations of a secret intelligence agency secret.

Some will immediately counter by making one of two arguments. The first is that a high level of secrecy is unrealistic. In an open society, with a free press, and the number of people involved in large intelligence operations, some information is bound to leak. This is true. Total secrecy is not possible, but leaks can and should be minimized. Even if true information does leak, the government should never confirm it, and instead refrain from commenting, leaving it unclear whether a leak is true or merely rumor.

The second argument against secrecy is based primarily on a well-founded distrust of government. If the government is allowed to do things in secret, it will do abusive things, therefore minimal secrecy is to be preferred. The problem with this argument is that many intelligence operations require secrecy to be effective -- it's just their nature. Secrecy of this type is a necessary evil. That doesn't mean it has to be totally secret. CIA operations are and should be monitored by oversight, particularly through bipartisan Congressional committees. But information should not be released to the public.

If there isn't one already, an internal CIA unit should be created to suppress leaks. Harsh criminal penalties should be put into place for anyone, including members of Congress and their staffers, who reveals classified intelligence information to the public. (This does not include the press, just those leaking the information. It would be nice if the press were more responsible, but an irresponsible press that reports anything is one of the prices of freedom). The only people who should be informed about secret operations are the appropriate oversight committees.

Any leak of information that does occur should be met with the following refrain: we do not comment on classified intelligence matters. This should be repeated religiously by all involved government officials until it is clear that they mean it -- there will be no comment on classified intelligence leaks. Any and all attempts to break secrecy, by crusading federal judges, by individual members of Congress, by terrorist rights supporters such as the ACLU, or by anyone else, should be resisted on grounds of national security and fought all the way to the Supreme Court.

Reestablishing a veil of secrecy around the CIA and its operations would probably do more than any other single action to magnify the power and impact of our intelligence efforts abroad. Although it would take some time until they saw we were serious, another obvious benefit would be that foreign intelligence agencies would again be able to cooperate with the U.S., without the same risk of exposure. At the moment, other intelligence agencies would be insane to cooperate with the U.S. on anything remotely controversial.

A New War Against Radical Islam - Intro

Now that the U.S. has returned to a pre-9/11 mentality, where terrorists who want to obliterate American cities are to be given rights and treated as criminal defendants, our first line of defense, the CIA, is under assault for doing its job, and Democrats, with their secondary concern for national security, are in charge, it is worth considering what the U.S. should be doing to prevent another attack.

I have a list of several proposals, none of which would be acceptable to the current administration or its supporters -- who apparently believe that pandering to the Islamic world, downgrading our defenses, and only remaining on the offensive in one area -- Afghanistan -- will prevent another devastating attack on U.S. soil.  You will note that all of my ideas involve offense, or actions designed to facilitate an offensive posture -- and no doubt many will find them offensive -- taking the fight to the enemy outside the U.S.  There has been much whining and sniveling by terrorist rights supporters about civil liberties. No one is doing more to undermine civil liberties than civil libertarians, with their misguided attempts to extend rights which properly belong only to U.S. citizens to hostile aliens, their efforts to destroy necessary secrecy, and their willingness to cripple our premier intelligence agency. Unfortunately, if there is another major attack on the U.S., it is almost certain that the country will react in part with defensive efforts -- security measures which by their very nature restrict the rights of Americans.  There will be more surveillance, more travel restrictions, more government databases, new calls for documentation and identification, and all sorts of other state infringements on normal life. And they will have strong bipartisan support.

The best way to avoid that scenario is to prevent another attack. And the way to do that without compromising the rights of Americans is take the offense, unleash U.S. power abroad, and destroy & disrupt our enemies before they can strike. Rather than foolishly trying to be liked, a policy pursued by both Obama & Bush, the U.S. needs to instill fear and terror in those who would use terror against us. Our enemies should know that killing Americans will bring not rebuilding efforts, humanitarian aid, or attempts to spread democracy, but death and destruction.

This post will be followed by some specific proposals.

HOT5 Daily 8/30/2009

1. "The Commander in Chief Hides"  Too gutless to take responsibility for his attempt to cripple the CIA.

Representative Sample: One thing the Right and Left can agree upon: this is a shameful performance. If Obama is fine with Holder’s witch hunt, he should say so. And if not, he should act like the president and put an end to it, or Holder’s tenure.

2. "Whatever happened to the term 'Culture of Corruption'?" Here's my theory. Corruption is expected of Democrats, so it's only worth reporting and labeling if Republicans are involved. Also, it's one of the many things that is only bad if done by Republicans.

Representative Sample:The Democrats are in power now. Which means that the....wait for it....Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee...can revise his tax filings and show (oops!) a doubling of his actual net worth. And keep his Chairmanship

3. "Little-Known Bible Verses: Predestination" I've long maintained that a supposedly omnipotent, omniscent God has to imply predestination, making free will meaningless. This post points out some verses backing that up.

Representative Sample: This long verse makes it clear what Paul's views on free will are. Salvation is "not of him that willeth", but the choice of God, who selects some people and shows mercy to them. The rest, like Pharaoh, he "hardens" so that they will reject him and be condemned.

4. "A man's instinct for violence can never be 'cured'" It's who we are. Links to an interesting article.

Representative Sample: There was a time when British schooling programmed such activities into the education of boys: competitive sport, military cadet training, and even open competition in the classroom were all legitimate channels for civilising the sort of instinct which was accepted as not only an inevitable but also an admirable part of what it meant to be a man.

5. "Does ideology matter in art?" An interesting question and discussion.

Representative Sample:The consensus of the commentary on that post was that reading was an important skill to encourage critical thinking and an interest in the world. Then controversy arose when one commenter called Orson Scott Card “a Motherf*cking Bigot”

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Washington Post Acknowledges Reality

The Washington Post today reported what everyone paying attention pretty much already knew, that coercive interrogation, including torture, produced a significant amount of useful information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The people with full access to all classified proceedings have been making that point for years. 

Naturally this acknowledgement of reality has produced hysterical shrieks of outrage from leading terrorist rights supporters, like Andrew Sullivan and Glen Greenwald.  According to Sullivan, by publishing this piece, which is pretty straightforward reporting, the Washington Post has now become part of the "hard right." That makes about as much sense as most of the other nonsense Sullivan spouts on a regular basis.

The evidence is overwhelming that extensive interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed produced a great deal of information, some of it good, and some bad. Given the amount of coercive interrogation employed on this particular terrorist leader, it would be pretty likely, even just based on nothing but odds, that some of the good information was produced by such methods.

The only people who deny that coercive interrogation or torture -- call it whatever you want -- produced some useful information, are those living in their own little fantasy world, where torture isn't allowed to work. Pretending that it doesn't is much easier than facing reality. 

Why Is He Still Alive?

According to the Australian, Hambali, Al Qaeda's "chief of operations" in Southeast Asia, can't be prosecuted for the Bali bombings because of "lack of evidence." There's near "universal consensus" that he was involved, but apparently direct proof is lacking. Since he's a known leader of Al Qaeda, and tied to other terrorist attacks, he is "almost certain to remain in custody." Isn't that reassuring?

Hambali was captured by the U.S. way back in 2003, and has been at Guantanamo ever since. According to the article, he is
implicated in a string of attacks across Indonesia, including the 2003 attack on Jakarta's Marriott Hotel that claimed 12 lives and a series of Christmas Eve church bombings that killed 19.
This situation is a prime example of foolish legalism, and the stupidity of pretending that non-state terrorists should be prosecuted as if they were a normal criminals. This individual is a leader of an organization at war with the U.S., one which deliberately targeted our civilian population, has signed no treaties, obeys no laws, and deserves no consideration or rights whatsoever. 

We have held Hambali for six years, and are currently wasting time and resources trying to prove him guilty of crimes, as if his status as an Al Qaeda leader were somehow in doubt. He should have been summarily executed long ago, after we extracted every bit of useful intelligence that he had.

HOT5 Daily 8/29/2009

1. "DC Liberals Imploding On Their Corruption And Lies" Let's hope he's right about the level of backlash in 2010 and 2012.

Representative Sample: This country has had it with liberal arrogance backed up by Looney Tunes concepts. It is one thing to hold naive views, it is another to try and ram those views down everyone else’s throats through lies and deceits.

2. "Eric Holder's Spicy Tuna Roll "Tough choices.

Representative Sample: It's a series of graphics.

3. "Answers to a Simple Question" I still think bringing weapons to a political rally is a bad idea, but here are some legitimate reasons.

Representative Sample: A political protest attracts large crowds of people, and not all of them are there for legitimate political protest. Some may well be pickpockets. Some will be drunk or high. Some of these people might not be the peaceful sort

4. "Proposed Legislation Would Give President Expanded Power Over Internet" Sounds like a great idea, huh?

Representative Sample: For all the whining and complaining about the Bush executive branch expanding its power, it appears now the Senate, at least in the guise of one Senator Jay Rockefeller, can’t wait to expand this president’s power.

5. "Why Do We Persist in Trying to Turn Afghanistan Into Colombia?" Good question.

Representative Sample: This is treating the drug campaign in Afghanistan as if it didn’t exist before this year. The quest to turn Afghanistan into Colombia is several years old at this point—and since importing a vigorous eradication team from Bogota didn’t work, I guess now they’re trying to replicate all that success

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sikhs, Turbans & Religion in the U.S. Military

Sikhs have a long and respected tradition of military service. But they are not allowed to wear their religious symbols in the U.S. military. Sikhs have been lobbying Congress in order to change Army policy.  Now 43 members of Congress have written a letter to Defense Secretary Gates urging that Sikhs be permitted to wear turbans in the army. The letter includes this statement:

"We do not believe that any American should have to choose between his religion and service to our country
That's a patently ridiculous belief. Obviously people have to choose between their religious practices and service to the country when there is a conflict. Do Quakers serve in the military? How about Jehovah's Witnesses? They don't, because their religious beliefs are not compatible with military service. 

It is not the job of the military to accommodate the beliefs of various religious groups. There are too many religions, and too many beliefs that would require special treatment. If you make exceptions for one religion, even one with a noted warrior tradition, you cannot reasonably deny the requests of others.

Sikh organisations led by Sikh Coalition have urged Secretary Gates to end this discrimination by the US army.  ... The coalition said they will continue their 'Sikh right to serve' campaign till the US military changes its "exclusionary policy" against Sikhs.
They have it exactly backward. There is no discrimination and no exclusionary policy. Instead, they are asking for special treatment. Rather than wear the same headgear as everyone else, they want to wear turbans for religious reasons. Sikhs should accommodate their religious practices to the rules of the U.S. military or they should not serve. The Army should remain firm in rejecting this demand for religious preference.

Good Quote of the Day

"It’s truly an upside down world when 'The Association of Retired Al-Qaeda Operatives' and the 'Organization of Former Guantanamo Detainees' get in on the act to demand prosecution of CIA operatives." - David Dastych, former Polish Intelligence Agent, CIA double-agent, and now journalist.

HOT5 Daily 8/28/09

1. "Central Investigation Agency: Protecting America Until They Are Put in Jail" Good analysis of the CIA situation. Debunks ridiculous editorial by Dan Froomkin.

Representative Sample: It is easy to criticize an agency tasked with national security without mentioning why it did what it did in order to provide protection and whether or not its methods were effective or not. If you want to advocate a high level investigation of CIA officials and former administration members, you at least must acknowledge the national security, agency morale, and future administration ramifications.

2. "A “Lost” Fact in the “Rathergate” Mess — Part 1" Remember all the left-wing smears about Bush getting out of Vietnam because of his family connections? CBS News has evidence that he actually volunteered to go-- but they concealed it from the public. Yeah, that liberal media bias.

Representative Sample: Mary Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that George W. Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam. Who says? The outside panel CBS brought into to get to the bottom of the so-called “Rathergate” mess says.

3. "Democrats afraid of their main benefactors" That would be trial lawyers. Why there won't be tort reform.

Representative Sample: Democrats will never consider tort reform because they are owned lock, stock, and barrel by the huge special interest group called the American Trial Lawyers Association (i.e. slip-and-fall ambulance chasers).

4. "The War on Terror is over" Crippled by fools who think we can't treat someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed too harshly without violating his "rights."

Representative Sample: He sawed the head off of Daniel Pearl as he screamed in fear and terror knowing what was happening. Then, when he finished, he held the man’s head up to the camera that was recording the event. He sent the video to the world.  KSM, by his own admission was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. He killed thousands of Americans on a peaceful morning.

5. "Kentucky Can’t Teach That Safety Depends On God" Kentucky's egregious violation of the establishment clause finally reversed.

Representative Sample: A Kentucky judge on Wednesday struck down a 2006 state law that required the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security to stress “dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the commonwealth.”

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Atheists Wrecking the Environment?

I was surprised to learn that "atheism and secularism" are linked with "environmental destruction." If there is one thing we atheists and secularists appreciate, it's destroying the environment to make a profit. Guess who makes that claim? That's right, the Pope.
inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied
That's because for those of us who don't have a "relationship with the Creator,"
the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.

Atheists, wrecking the environment in a race to accumulate possessions. That's our object for existence. Or the Pope could just be making another of his stupid, unfounded assertions. After all, what's a religion without unfounded assertions?

I was going to write more but I need to go cut down some trees, after I dump some waste oil and old batteries in the lake.

The Impact of Blind Legalism

Daniel Henninger has an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal declaring that "The War on Terror is Over." But more to the point is the subhead, "Lawyers are about to smother [it]." Henninger points out the idiocy and danger of relying on a legalistic outlook for questions of national security, in the wake of the Lockerbie bomber release, and the Obama administration's assault on the CIA. And he offers this appropriate quotation from Oliver Twist,
Faced with a similarly fastidious assertion of the law's triumphal self-regard in "Oliver Twist," Mr. Bumble replied: "If the law supposed that, the law is a ass—a idiot." Mr. Bumble added something acutely relevant to what is happening to the war on terror: "The worst I wish the law," said Mr. Bumble, "is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience."
That passage comes to mind every time I hear some naive fool bleating about the "rule of law," and applying that concept to things where it has no real relevance, such as secret operations by the CIA outside the U.S. Henninger notes the real impact of the classified document dump from the CIA.
What the release of the Helgerson report mainly does is open the dams on detainee lawsuits. 

This litigation nightmare, together with the chilling effect of the special prosecutor's potential indictments, has as its goal making the price of aggressive interrogation too high under any circumstance, including a one-hour-bomb scenario.
Read the whole article, but here's the conclusion:  
The message of Scotland's release and the Holder decision is that the will born in the wake of 9/11 is waning. The war on terror is being downgraded to not much more than tough talk. Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranians, not yet converts to the West's caricature of its own legal traditions, will take note. In time, they will be back. The second war on terror is in the future.
Many of us have argued for years that 9/11 has effectively been forgotten by much of the U.S. If it hadn't been, ridiculous notions such as rights for terrorists and prosecuting CIA agents for attempting to defend the country would never have flourished. This should be obvious, but you can't fight terrorism with lawyers. The legalistic nonsense which is stifling efforts against terrorism simply gives another weapon to our enemies. American law should be interpreted to protect America and its citizens, not to create rights for hostile alien terrorists, and not to restrict or cripple the operations of an organization designed to operate largely outside the law. 

HOT5 Daily 8/27/2009

1. "Instead of Universal Coverage, Reforms that Will Work"A call for conservative health care reform.

Representative Sample: conservatives need to push for choices in healthcare, and the two steps most needed to create real healthcare markets are 1) ending huge tax subsidies for employer provided benefits and 2) replacing state-by-state regulations with one national regulator. These will open the door to a much more competitive insurance market, and much lower costs for individuals.

2. "The Ethics of Ferocity" Interesting argument.

Representative Sample: Political strategy aside, America needs to resolve its argument about the morality of self-defense, and quickly. It’s my contention that a peaceful democracy has a moral imperative to demonstrate ferocity in defense.

3. "Agitprop II" Some observations on the differences between left and right regarding protest.

Representative Sample: What with all the tea parties and town hall meetings over the course of the last year we’ve had the opportunity to see a thing rarely observed in our lifetime – normal people, people of all races, classes and creeds, even people of conservative ideological bent protesting. Because conservatives don’t protest, they don’t gather in the street.

4. "Religious Police Crack Down on ‘Evil’ Circuses" More religious lunacy in Saudi Arabia. I know,  big surprise.

Representative Sample: “These acts contradict the faith and must not be done, taught, spread or encouraged,” religious police spokesman Abdullah al-Mashiti told al-Watan daily this week, referring to circus acts such as fire-eating and lying on beds of glass that he believes is a form of magic outlawed by Islamic Sharia law.

5. "French Nukes For Brazil" A major increase in Brazilian naval power, including a deal for a nuclear submarine.

Representative Sample: Brazil says it is will to spend all this to improve its fleet, in large part because oil has been discovered off the coast of Brazil, and must be defended.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kennedy's Death

Kennedy entered the Senate a couple years before I was born, and for most of my life he has been the embodiment of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. I can remember my father complaining about the Kennedy family as a whole, and Ted Kennedy in particular, when I was too little to really know what he was talking about.

About the best thing I can say about Senator Kennedy, was that he was a powerful opponent of my side, and an effective spokesman & advocate for his positions -- the vast majority of which I strongly disagree with.  I won't pretend that he'll be missed, any more than anyone on the left mourned the passing of Jesse Helms.

Skeptic Cards

Crispian Jago at Science, Reason and Critical Thinking has created a Simpson's-inspired set of cards featuring well-known skeptics.  He did a really nice job. Here's a sample:

h/t Phil Plait at Skepticblog

HOT5 Daily 8/26/2009

1. "He’s Got Their Backs All Right" Yeah, with a knife.

Representative Sample: The Obama administration sees the CIA as the enemy, not the terrorists. It chooses to employ the full force of the federal government against our own protectors, not those who seek to murder Americans. This has long been the pathology of the Left, a conviction that efforts to defend ourselves are evil and that our enemies are figments of our imagination.

2. "Why I Argue About Atheism" Some good reasons. My main reason is that I just like to argue if I have a strong opinion about something.

Representative Sample: Why do I argue for atheism? Many reasons. But let me share my most personal reason. I argue for atheism because the best thing that ever happened to me happened because other people took up the burden and argued for atheism.

3. "Another Story the MSM Won’t Report to You" Criminals pick the wrong senior citizen to rob.

Representative Sample: the two men attempted to shove Mr. Lovell into a bathroom and rob him as well. They got his money, but then Mr. Lovell pulled his handgun and opened fire. He shot one of the thieves in the head and chest and the other in the head.

4. "Dogs, Pigs and Death" Why do humans have a special relationship with dogs, as opposed to other animals such as pigs?

Representative Sample: Our early survival and eventual triumph over other hominids may well have been due to the presence of dogs. In addition to possibly helping us hunt, the early dogs, which were first domesticated wolves, helped to dispose of trash by eating scraps, and assisted in protecting human settlements with their sense of smell and barking.

5. "On War # 313: War of Exhaustion or War of Maneuver?" An interesting strategic perspective on Afghanistan.

Representative Sample: The fact that we cannot turn the Afghan war into a war of maneuver on the military level need not, however, be the end of the matter. Instead, it poses a new question: how might we turn this war of exhaustion into a war of maneuver on the political or moral levels?

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fidel Castro, A Left-wing Democrat?

It's pretty hard to tell the difference between the language of long-time communist dictator Fidel Castro, and the average left-wing Democrat. Castro blames Obama's problems on Bush and right-wing racism.
"the extreme right hates him for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country," Castro wrote.

"I don't have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost," he said.
Leftist Democrats often react with hysterical outrage when called communists, Marxists, or even socialists. Yet they use the same language and the same false accusations of racism as a communist dictator. It must just be coincidental.

Killing Children is OK, But Don't Threaten Them

This past Friday a U.S. drone strike killed twelve people in North Waziristan, Pakistan, according to the New York Times. Pakistani authorities report that "women and children were among the dead." This strike was part of the ongoing assassination campaign that has been escalated by President Obama, the same President Obama whose Justice Department thinks that making mere threats against the children of prominent terrorist detainees for interrogation purposes constitutes a prosecutable offense.

To recap: 

Blowing children apart with a hellfire -- not a problem. 

Scaring a terrorist by threatening his children -- abuse that needs to be prosecuted.

Laughable Claims of "Abuse"

I have to laugh when reading reports of some of the so-called "abuses" that supposedly warrant crippling the CIA through politically-motivated prosecutions.  The New York Times, a major enemy of the CIA, lists some in an article called, "C.I.A. Abuse Cases Detailed in Report on Detainees." Most of the things mentioned aren't abuses at all, but nothing more than mild scare tactics and a little rough handling. In addition, from the Times article, most of these techniques were apparently used on two known terrorists, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri. Let's look at some of the claims.  

suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family, staging mock executions, intimidation with a handgun and power drill, and blowing cigar and cigarette smoke into prisoners’ faces to make them vomit.
"Suggestions" about sexual assaults? Seriously? Making a threat which wasn't going to be carried out is some sort of abuse? Get a grip. Here's an example used on al Nashiri.
According to the report, the interrogator wanted Mr. Nashiri to infer for “psychological” reasons that his female relatives might be sexually abused.
And why not? This is merely a psychological ploy. The idea that it constitutes abuse is simply ridiculous, especially given the individual under interrogation. And then there is KSM. This person was a known leader of Al Qaeda, and was responsible for planning an attack that murdered 3000 Americans. But making some threatening statements about his children is somehow abusive. The Obama administration has no problem actually killing children in drone missile strikes designed to assassinate Al Qaeda & Taliban leaders, but mere threats used as an interrogation ploy are worthy of prosecution.

I already dealt with the mock execution issue in a previous post. It was apparently used as a trick to deceive terrorists under interrogation, making them fear that they might be executed. From what I have seen so far, there are no reports that prisoners themselves underwent mock executions. Then there is "intimidation" by gun and drill. Now the CIA isn't allowed to intimidate terrorists under interrogation? Keep in mind they they weren't actually harmed. No one drilled into their legs with the power drill, or blew off one of their fingers with a gun. Those items were simply used as props to scare them. That doesn't even approach anything that could be considered abuse.

And finally, blowing smoke into someone's face. Wow, that's just horrifying isn't it? Worse happens every day in our prisons to U.S. citizens, many times to people convicted of non-violent offenses. But we are going to prosecute members of our premier intelligence agency for what they did to some terrorists in an attempt to gain information to protect the country.

HOT5 Daily 8/25/2009

1. "CIA Memo’s Released – More Evidence Why We Need To Support Our Intelligence Community, Not Throw Them To The Wolves" Freeing terrorists and prosecuting the people working to protect the U.S. -- that's the Obama way.

Representative Sample: Dick Cheneys words need to be quoted over and over again. “The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions.”

2. "Marine Earns Navy Cross for Valor Under Fire" This could easily have been a Medal of Honor, but fortunately he survived.

Representative Sample: Weinmaster shoved Wilkerson out of the way then jumped toward the grenade to try and smother the blast. As he jumped, the grenade exploded sending the majority of its shrapnel into Weinmaster.

3. "First High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIP) Log Obtained" Great minds think alike.

Representative Sample: Session begins. Detainee is given a mocha latté grandé and offered a selection of croissants and pastries. Detainee sips mocha latté grandé and complains that it is too hot. Detainee spits mouthful (appr. 2 oz.) into SGT R 's face, calls him "infidel goat-lover".

4. "US and UK Outreach, Public Diplomacy To Iran Backfire Spectacularly"" Surprise! Projecting weakness somehow not effective.

Representative Sample: It is interesting that there are foreign policy experts who ritualistically intone that Iran's paranoia over foreign interference is "unfortunately" justified and foreign policy experts who insist that we have to embrace public diplomacy and those are often the same foreign policy experts.

5. "Women as soldiers – an update" Links to several articles.

Representative Sample: Women represent 2.4% of the casualties and 11% of the troops. If these numbers are accurate, men are 5.1 times more likely to be killed than women. Including mercs, tens of thousands — mostly men — probably raises the ratio even higher. This ratio might have changed during the past 8 years, as the role of women has changed.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Monday, August 24, 2009

War Against the CIA Heats Up

 Terrorist rights supporters have conducted an extensive campaign to cripple the CIA.Their efforts will get a big boost when, as reported, Attorney General Eric Holder names a special prosecutor to investigate supposed abuses during prisoner interrogations. The Obama administration is full of bad ideas, but this is by far one of the stupidest and most dangerous. 

Actions taken by the CIA should by their very nature be kept secret, particularly methods used to interrogate prisoners, the identity of operatives, and the details of operations. Making such information public automatically diminishes the CIA, limits its flexibility, and constrains future operations. Digging up past actions and looking for violations that can be prosecuted is pointless and counterproductive. CIA operatives who violate agency rules should be dealt with within the organization, by whatever administrative punishment is appropriate. If the government at large believes that the agency is unresponsive and unwilling to police its own, the CIA leadership should be held responsible. Having an outside agency such as the Justice Department investigate individual CIA operatives strikes at the heart of the agency's function as a secret intelligence organization, destroys its cohesion and status, and inhibits current & future intelligence gathering.

The CIA and other spy agencies exist in large part in order to break laws. Actions such as eavesdropping, fraud, blackmail, extortion, forgery, sabotage, bribery, soliciting treason, kidnapping, assassination and many othes tend to be illegal. This is one of the main reasons that the CIA's actions within the U.S. are tightly restricted. When operating abroad, the CIA has & needs much wider latitude because of its very nature. It is not the military, or a law enforcement body. It's an intelligence agency. If it's chained down with legal restrictions, with operatives who need to check with a lawyer before they can do anything, it will become more or less useless. 

It is possible that President Obama will try to distance himself from his Justice Department's actions, by pretending that Holder has the sole authority to make such a decision. This is of course nonsense, since Holder works for Obama. The president could shut down any investigation, if necessary by firing the attorney general -- which is exactly what he should do. 

The Dangers of Mainstream Islam

A current situation in Malaysia illustrates why even mainstream Islam is a problem, with its claims to governance and law. Malaysia has not been known as a barbaric backwater such as say, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. It isn't noted for violence, supporting terrorism, or any of the other things associated with radical Islam. In some ways it could be said to be a typical moderate Islamic country. It's only majority Muslim at that, with something like 40% of the population being of other or no religion. But this mainstream Muslim country is caning a woman for drinking beer.

The 32-year-old mother of two was sentenced to six lashes with a rattan cane after being caught drinking beer at a hotel in Pahang state in 2007.
The victim herself, her ability to reason apparently clouded by her religion, says she wants the punishment to be public in order to "deter other Muslims from drinking alcohol." 

Here's a former prime minster of Malaysia, commenting on criticism about the caning sentence.

[He] said in his blog Monday that Malaysia's Muslims have nothing to explain to the rest of the world. "As Muslims, we do not have to care too much about the view of others toward Islam when doing what the religion calls for,"
When a religion explicitly rejects separation of church & state, as Islam does, this is the type of situation which results -- religion acting with the force of law to impose actual secular, as opposed to purely spiritual, penalties, based on a particular interpretation of doctrine. The article notes that
Malaysia's non-Muslims, including large ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities, are free to drink and aren't subject to Shariah law.
That's great, for now. But if you are a non-Muslim Malaysian, you'd have to be crazy not to have some worry for the future. 

The Obama Intelligence Agency is Real!

Well, at least in the form of a new unit to interrogate terror suspects,
Obama signed off late last week on the unit, named the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the interrogation unit will be housed at the FBI but will be overseen by the National Security Council -- shifting the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.
I wrote about this last month in my post, "The Obama Intelligence Agency." I think that pretty much covered it. 

HOT5 Daily 8/24/2009

1. "Health Care: When "the Worst" Is Enemy of "Bad Enough"" Explaining why Democrats don't understand the basics of capitalism, or pretend not to.

Representative Sample: we should find all the barriers to true competition in the market -- and eliminate them, one by one, until there are no impediments left to a true, free market in health insurance.

2. "Afstan: A "war of necessity"?" Debunking the "war of necessity"/"war of choice" nonsense.

Representative Sample: there is a deeper reason, as well, for Obama to claim necessity in Afghanistan. It is part of what increasingly seems to be a striving for moral purity in international affairs by this administration. Obama and his top advisers apologize for America's past sins, implicitly suggesting they will commit no new ones. And that goes for fighting wars.

3. "Seventy Years Ago Today: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact" Signed 70 years ago today, dated the 23rd. An interesting look back.

Representative Sample: A key feature of the agreeement, however, was the secret protocols that accompanied it, by which the USSR and Germany divided eastern and central Europe into “spheres of influence”

4. "Sorry, No Pity Here" One story about the housing bubble.

Representative Sample: You do not buy products with money that you do not even have, and expect me to pity you. Of course, the best thing that the stupid liberals can say, is that this is all Bush’s fault.

5. "Old Barackee Beer" Stupid yet funny.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hillary "Revolutionizing" U.S. Foreign Policy?

So says David Rothkopf writing in the Washington Post. I read Rothkopf's columns at pretty regularly, and normally find him one of their better analysts. But this particular article is basically just assertions without much evidence.  Rothkopf makes some sweeping statements, which he fails to back up.  
what is Clinton actually doing? Only overseeing what may be the most profound changes in U.S. foreign policy in two decades -- a transformation that may render the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush mere side notes in a long transition to a meaningful post-Cold War worldview.
Really? What profound changes? He's pretty short on details. Most of the things he mentions are nothing special, and things any administration and secretary of state would be doing.
The secretary has quietly begun rethinking the very nature of diplomacy and translating that vision into a revitalized State Department
Rethinking the very nature of diplomacy? Hmm, that's sounds like ridiculous hyperbole. Again, what does that mean? He even throws in a strange assertion about Obama.  
More unusual has been the avidity with which the new president has seized the reins of foreign policy
That's funny. Many think Obama is far more interested in domestic affairs and generally clueless about foreign policy. Obama has done very little other than irritate some of our allies, and pander to our enemies. Some of his positives moves, such as outreach to developing powers like India, are continuations of things done by the Bush administration. We have two wars going on, and Obama's vision is apparently to close his eyes and try and make Iraq go away in 2011, and keep escalating in Afghanistan -- not exactly great innovations.
In searching for answers, Clinton is leaving behind old doctrines and labels.
Yeah, pretty much like every new administration and secretary of state. When things change, new doctrines and labels are necessary. The whole article reads like a puff piece glorifying Obamariffic hope & change in foreign policy. It's hard to even take it seriously. I was actually laughing out loud at parts of it. Toward the end of the piece Rothkopf returns to reality by noting,

It is still early, and a president's foreign policy legacy is often defined less by big principles than by how one reacts to the unexpected, whether missiles in Cuba or terrorism in New York. Promising ideas fail because of limited attention or reluctant bureaucracies, and some rhetoric eventually rings hollow, as the self-congratulatory "smart power" already does to me.

No kidding. It would have been nice if he'd remembered that before he wrote all the ridiculous fluff that precedes it. You love Hillary & Obama. Fine, just say so, without jumping to all sorts of wild conclusions about a revolution in the "very nature" of foreign policy.

HOT5 Daily 8/23/2009

1. "Remember During WWII When FDR Praised Japanese Enemy’s Religion?" More on Obama's Ramadan idiocy.

Representative Sample: “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings”? Is this pandering fool kidding? As the loudest practitioners of Islam infest the whole of the world cutting off people’s heads, stoning women who’ve been raped, hanging homosexuals, spending millions of dollars world wide to sponsor terrorism, bombing people into oblivion and sponsoring riots to force their ideological desires on democratic societies one has to wonder

2. "Obama Administration Cracking Down On…Garage Sales?" There's no area safe from the encroachment of the nanny state.

Representative Sample: Big government types will defend this as a necessary move toward consumer safety. Because who can be against safety, right? And how did we ever manage to get along before we had the federal government regulating the safety of garage sale items?

3. "Render this" First rendition under Obama?

Representative Sample: The Obama administration has rendered its supposedly first alleged bad guy, "supposedly" because we obviously do not know whether there have been secret cases. The case involves naked photographs and allegations of food deprivation and other abuse. Bizarrely, the target is not accused of terrorism per se

4. "Why I oppose government programs" The superiority of the free market.

Representative Sample: Contrary to popular belief, those of us on the economic right do not advocate market solutions because we have some arcane faith in mythical powers of the market. We do so because they actually work better—even when they're politically unpopular.

5. "Mexico decriminalizes drugs …"Mexico actually does something positive for a change.

Representative Sample: The first recent drug policy action taken in the Western Hemisphere that actually makes sense. Hopefully this a start of a changing dynamic that leads to an end of the absolutely disastrous “war on drugs” on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Newsweek's CIA Story

Newsweek reports that that the CIA conducted "mock executions" and tried other methods to scare terrorist suspects into providing information. Naturally I had a couple of thoughts when reading this story. First, none of this information should be public. Methods used during secret intelligence operations to interrogate prisoners should be tightly guarded secrets. You'd think that should be obvious. The people making this information public, and those publicizing it are actively damaging U.S. national security by providing current and potential enemies with information about CIA interrogation methods. 

Second, the Newsweek writers are using a broad definition of "mock execution." In normal usage, a mock execution is when a prisoner is prepared for execution, led to believe he will be killed, and a simulated execution is performed. Generally this is done to break down the prisoner psychologically. Here's what Newsweek describes as a mock execution:  

a mock execution was staged in a room next to a detainee, during which a gunshot was fired in an effort to make the suspect believe that another prisoner had been killed.
A gunshot in another room where the prisoner is told someone has been killed is a trick, but not exactly a mock execution. The idea that the CIA shouldn't be allowed to deceive or scare terrorist suspects through such methods is laughable. 

Finally, we already know that the CIA used at least one actual physical torture method -- waterboarding -- and a number of other borderline techniques that could be defined as torture, depending on duration, severity, and subjective judgment. The reason such actions were authorized was that in the aftermath of 9/11, the need for intelligence was considered to be so great, that some extreme measures were permitted. In addition, the subjects in question were in some cases known foreign terrorists, individuals who many believe, including myself, were entitled to no rights or consideration. Given that waterboarding was used, is the use of milder psychological techniques such as execution tricks and various types of threats in any way remarkable?

HOT5 Daily 8/22/2009

1. "Introducing the Tenth Amendment" A seemingly forgotten amendment.

Representative Sample: the government is limited to the powers carefully and explicitly listed in the preceding document. Pretty simple. It remains a block on federal usurpation of powers, and despite two hundred years of working around it or ignoring it, in quiet gentleman's agreement fashion, the amendment has never been repealed.

2. "ACLU and Jihadi Defense Attorneys Expose Under Cover CIA Operatives to the Enemy" All in the service of imaginary "rights" for terrorists.

Representative Sample: This makes the whole Valerie Plame thing seem like a damn tea party. ACLU and attorneys defending jihadis who plotted to bring down our country on 9/11 took secret photos of CIA operatives, some in front of their homes, so those jihadis currently being held at Gitmo could identify them.

3. "BHO explains Ramadan to all of us ignorant non-Muslims. F.O. to that, I say." More shameless & inappropriate pandering to Muslims from Obama.

Representative Sample: There are so many things that are the responsibility of the President of the United States of America. Teaching the American public about Muslism celebrations and traditions just isn’t one of them

4. "Friday Unfunny" Baptist minister (not from Westboro) supports execution of gays. This guy needs a one-way ticket to Iran. Clearly he'd be happier there.

Representative Sample:This is a pastor saying this. Somebody who stands up in front of a crowd and supposedly teaches them what's 'moral.' And he's advocating the killing of gay people.

5. "The Quantitative Effect of Spray and Pray" Interesting article on firearms lethality in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Representative Sample: Why are bullets more lethal in Iraq than Afghanistan?

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peters' Latest on Afghanistan

Ralph Peters has a new article up on Afghanistan, "Blood Investments," which I think is one of the best he's written. As many are doing, he questions our strategy in that country, and makes some key points, drawing a clear analogy to business investment decisions.
Consider Afghanistan as an investment proposition. Initially, we had to make a short-term outlay to shatter a cut-throat competitor's business model. But then, without even reviewing the books, we conducted a hostile takeover of a huge derelict factory (where our rival had briefly squatted) that had been a chronic money pit for every previous owner. 

As we try to modernize the Afghan plant, local managers steal us blind and the workers sabotage our efforts. Even if we break the Taliban "union," the labor is unskilled and the product line is worthless. We'll have to subsidize this factory forever. 

Does that make sense to you?
He asks again what many wonder. Just what exactly do we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan? And is it worth it?
Our troops can beat the Taliban every time, and we can remain in Afghanistan as long as we want, but where's the return on our investment?
Here's his conclusion,
We shouldn't leave Afghanistan entirely. But we need to balance our investment with the potential return, maintaining a compact, lethal force to continue killing our enemies. But let's not sacrifice more soldiers because our leaders decline to think things through.

In war, soldiers die. But our soldiers shouldn't die because politicians put less thought into our wars than you put into your retirement account.
I highly recommend the whole article. Although I don't always agree with Peters, I think his criticism of our lack of a coherent Afghanistan strategy is right on the mark, and somewhat unusual in that it comes from the right. Most on the right support President Obama's escalation of the war, even as they oppose almost all his other policies. But this support is misplaced, and based mainly on reflexive patriotism, hope that a surge in forces will produce similar results to Iraq, and of course the desire for victory.  In my opinion, these beliefs tend to obscure the fact that Afghanistan is much different that Iraq, and that hope & support for higher troop levels isn't a substitute for a strategy based on well-thought out and defined U.S. national interests. If such a strategy exists, it has yet to be articulated by the Obama administration, any more than it was by his predecessor.

NYT Publishes about Current Secret Operations

Not content with revealing classified information from CIA programs which were never implemented, the New York Times today published a piece on current operations.  In a highly irresponsible piece of reporting, the Times wrote about the use of Blackwater, now known as Xe, contractors in the ongoing drone assassination campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. 

Rather than just acting as a useful idiot for our enemies, as is typical, the Times is now directly publicizing classified operational details of a major intelligence operation directed at at Al Qaeda and its allies. Remember the hysterical outrage at the so-called "outing" of Valerie Plame, a non-covert analyst working at a desk in Langley? What are the chances that the same people who were so upset about that earth-shattering breach of security, will be outraged at the unnamed "officials" who provided this information to the Times? I won't hold my breath waiting for them to weigh-in.

HOT5 Daily 8/21/2009

1. "Obama would like you to see government as religion." Ridiculous religious references are ok as long as a liberal Democrat is using them -- otherwise we are in danger of theocracy.

Representative Sample: Bearing false witness? Breaking the 9th Commandment? So his opponents are sinners. I'm trying to imagine the separation-of-church-and-state freakout if George Bush had taken this approach to arguing for one of his policies.

2. "The Health Care Debate We’re Not Having" It's not much of a debate when one major perspective is entirely excluded.

Representative Sample: no serious debate about the subject can be had using the status quo as a starting point. The programs already in existence distort the health care market such that no determination can be made as to its effectiveness. Moreover, the assumption that these bloated, wasteful programs must continue to exist and grow must not go unchallenged in any serious debate.

3. "Kaplan on Sri Lanka" Long but interesting article from a first-hand observer.

Representative Sample: Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected in 2005 to win the war outright, and he succeeded in the most brutal fashion: by abducting or killing journalists and lawyers to silence the media, even as he conducted a counterinsurgency campaign that had no moral qualms about the deaths of the thousands of Tamil civilians that the Tamil Tigers were using as human shields

4. "The Ultimate Atheism F.A.Q." Answering numerous questions about atheism and atheists.

Representative Sample:{2.02} You must hate God, right? ... Could you hate Odin? It’s hard to hate someone you don’t believe exists. Then again, you might hate the idea of Odin, and many atheists hate the idea of Yahweh, an insecure, cosmic dictator who convicts us of thoughtcrime.

5. "Counterterrorism in Obama's Washington" Incoherence & weakness, as outlined in John Brennan's speech.

Representative Sample: We learn that Obama considers nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists to be "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security." Fine. But how does he respond? With three feeble and nearly irrelevant steps: "leading the effort for a stronger global nonproliferation regime, launching an international effort to secure the world's vulnerable nuclear material …, and hosting a global nuclear summit."

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yawning at the Tom Ridge Story

Many people have breathlessly seized on the supposed revelations from former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge's upcoming memoirs, despite the obvious lack of credibility of most political tell-alls. Ridge apparently claims that he was pressured to raise the terror alert level before the 2004 election, and that he believed that senior administration officials -- specifically John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld -- were trying to manipulate the terror warning level for political purposes. Naturally the usual suspects -- primarily on the left, but some others as well -- have swallowed his assertion without hesitation, despite the fact that they will quickly reject anything Ridge has to say that differs from their preconceived notions about what went on during the Bush administration.

Here's what Ashcroft and Rumsfeld will say, if they bother to comment or even acknowledge wanting to raise the alert level in 2004. They'll maintain that the intelligence picture at the time warranted raising the threat level, or that the very fact of a presidential election automatically meant that the chances of an attack were more likely. Maybe they'll be lying and the whole thing was purely political. Maybe it was at least partially political. Or maybe they'll be telling the truth as they saw it. There's really no way to tell.  The opinion of one former administration official writing the usual self-serving memoir is hardly anything definitive. That might be something to keep in mind the next time some advanced BDS case starts screaming, "see, see, this proves that Bush was manipulating the terror alerts for political reasons!!"

Disgracing Scotland

As everyone probably knows by now, the Scottish government released the Lockerbie bomber, who returned home to a hero's welcome from his fellow terrorist-loving Libyans. Al Megrahi should have been executed years ago, and his release makes a travesty of the claim that life in prison is an acceptable substitute for the death penalty. Even many in the UK recognize that releasing such a terrorist is insane. Conservative Party leader David Cameron described the action as"a product of some completely nonsensical thinking."

Here in the U.S. we've seen repeated misuse of the phrase"rule of law," to the point where it has become almost meaningless. Scotland is doing its part to destroy the meaning of "due process." Here's Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, talking about U.S. opposition to the release,

"But I think they recognise that we followed due process, we listened to their representations and listened to the feelings of their relatives as well as listened to the feelings of relatives here."
Apparently due process means arbitrarily releasing convicted terrorists who are supposed to be serving life sentences.

Another Big "So What"?

The New York Times has a front page story today reporting that the CIA plan for assassination of Al Qaeda leaders, shut down by current director Panetta, involved Blackwater contractors. Leaving aside the the fact that none of this secret information should have ever been made public at all, this is another story about the CIA just doing its job.

As the article points out, assassination has been banned by executive order since 1976. Presumably that means that the CIA doesn't have a bunch of assassin teams just waiting around for a president to reverse that order.  Therefore, putting together a program to assassinate Al Qaeda members would require the CIA to find enough assassins, or people with the necessary skills to act as such. One of the obvious places to look would be private military corporations such as Blackwater. PMCs hire former military personnel, particularly ex-special forces operators. By dealing with a private corporation that has people with the needed skills, the CIA could actually be more discreet than having to go through another government agency such as the Department of Defense. And using private operators rather than direct government employees would add a level of deniability should the program be exposed, or an assassin get captured. In short, the CIA was apparently doing exactly the sort of things that  it should have been doing in order to put together an assassination program.

HOT5 Daily 8/20/2009

1. "It's funny how these supposed champions of the Enlightenment can't grasp that people can disagree with them for honest reasons " When you have a holy crusade, disagreement must be evil.

Representative Sample: Lashing out at the town hall protesters, playing the race card, whining about angry white men and whispering ominously about right-wing militias is almost always a sign of liberalism's weakness — a failure of the imagination

2. "It Started with Plato" The intellectual roots of statism.

Representative Sample: The controversy is almost as old as civilization. It began in ancient Greece, almost four hundred years before the Christian era, with the doctrines of Plato. He was the first of the "planners" and the true founder of the communist economy which deifies the state. In his Republic the Athenian philosopher set out a virtual blueprint for the evolution of what has come to be called the "Welfare State."

3. "Why lunar cities are still science fiction" Good article that advocates NASA partnering with private aerospace corporations to help overcome the obstacles.

Representative Sample: the ideas for how to make a lunar city are on the right track, in reality they face two major problems that could prove to be too much to overcome. To build something on another world, even one just a quarter million miles away, requires a lot of money and a lot of commitment.

4. "Magical! Obama has a great new idea on healthcare! [Darleen Click] UPDATED" Obama to focus on pitching healthcare as a "moral imperative" (a more subtle way of saying holy crusade).

Representative Sample: OOooo!! More teleprompter, less embarrassing questions from the hoi polloi! How wonderful, how fresh, how transformational! Don’t worry, be happy and pass the Hopium.

5. "Questions for Theists" Good luck coming up with satisfactory answers.

Representative Sample: 1. Would you be able to enjoy Heaven knowing that people you love are tormented in Hell ?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friendly Atheist Under Attack

Hemant Mehta, who writes the excellent atheist blog Friendly Atheist is under attack by the Illinois Family Institute, because he dared criticize them in some of his posts. Rather than simply ignoring him, or responding online, the head of the IFI, Laurie Higgins, launched a cowardly personal attack, sending e-mails to his boss and colleagues and attempting to get him fired from his job as a math teacher.

This supposedly Christian organization is upset because Mehta pointed out their anti-gay and anti-atheist bigotry. Naturally they can't defend their indefensible positions, so they instead have to go after him in his personal life.  They currently have an attack piece up against Mehta, which can be seen here. It accuses him of "unprofessionalism," even though his blog has nothing to do with his job as a school teacher. It's nothing more than a sleazy attempt to silence criticism. The existence of extremist social conservative groups like IFI should be an embarrassment to all rational people on the political right.

h/t Portland Humanist Examiner

Left-Wing Nonsense at The Atlantic

I know, big surprise. I stumbled across an article by Wendy Kaminer that illustrates how many on the left mistake their own assumptions and assertions for indisputable facts, delusions that poison any attempt to understand or even accurately analyze people on the right. Kaminer starts off complaining about town-hall protesters, apparently incorrectly assuming that they all represent conservative Republicans.

Having openly applauded, tacitly supported, or simply ignored the Bush/Cheney national security state and the unprecedented expansion of unaccountable executive power, the right wing now defends freedom against the spectre (and it is only a spectre) of universal health care?
The idea of a Bush/Cheney "national security state" is nothing more than a leftist myth. If there was a national security state under Bush, we still have one. But I guess it's not a big problem now that Obama is in charge. Calling anything Bush did an "unprecedented expansion of executive power" just reveals historical ignorance. Bush's minor expansion of executive power pales compared to presidents such as Lincoln and FDR. And opposition or lack thereof to Bush's policies is irrelevant to whether someone is opposed to different current policies.
the fury directed at "Obamacare" is partly fueled by angst about cultural and demographic changes (from gay marriage to the emergence of a non-white majority
The fury directed Obamacare is based on a dislike for the known, suspected, and feared provisions of Obamacare itself. Kaminer is basically just accusing opponents of racism and bigotry -- because that's a typical mode of argumentation on the left. It's much easier to demonize your opponents than actually deal with the substance of their arguments, or to recognize that your own positions could be mistaken or at least open to question. 
it also reflects a very limited understanding of repression and the role of government in everyone's life.
This assertion applies very well to Kaminer herself. This is a person who apparently doesn't understand that people oppose various aspects of Obamacare for differing reasons, or that conservatives are not opposed to all forms of government. She makes a big deal about the supposed paradox that conservatives support Medicare, a government program, while opposing the expansion of government control over health care at large. But there's no paradox. Kaminer doesn't even grasp the basics of conservatism -- in this case conserving an established institution while opposing radical change.

The rest of her article is more of the same false analogy about how conservatives supported the evil Bush/Cheney police state, yet fear Obama's health care initiatives, which of course she sees as innocuous at worst. Even accepting her ridiculous BDS-driven assertions and characterizations at face value reveals that she doesn't understand that people could possibly take a differing view of national security issues, and domestic policies such as health care. I guess it is just too difficult to grasp that someone could support certain restrictions on freedom in the interests of national security, while at the same time oppose encroachments on freedom in other areas. This is pretty amusing because the same leftists hysterically shrieking about a supposed loss of freedom caused by Bush's national security policies, couldn't care less about freedom when it comes to imposing tighter government controls on health care, industry, and almost every other aspect of people's lives. 

Department of the Obvious

I just saw an item on Memorandum that links an article from the Sydney Morning Herald. The title? "Attacks on aid workers harm humanitarian efforts." Really?! So killing people who provide humanitarian aid actually damages humanitarian relief efforts. No way, I never would have guessed. 

The article is by John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator. He points out that,

The past two years have been successively the most deadly for aid workers on record. Too often, UN and NGO flags and emblems are no longer protections but provocations.
There's nothing wrong with the article itself, but whoever came up with that headline might want to put a little more thought into it next time.

Forcing Thru a Health Care Bill

According to the New York Times, Democrats are going to stop negotiating with Republicans on health care, and focus on just getting a purely Democratic measure passed.

Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
This is pretty funny.Somehow I doubt we'll notice any actual changes, since Democrats haven't exactly been negotiating in good faith with Republicans anyway. They've already decided what they want to do, and the main fights have been with moderate and conservative Democratic resistance. The administration and its allies in Congress see their vision of health care reform as a holy crusade. They hold their positions with the fervor of religious fanatics. Anyone disagreeing with their supposed "facts" is "lying." Anyone who opposes them is evil and un-American. Ask them. They'll tell you.

Unfortunately for Democrats, opposition to these health care reform efforts is not just a minority Republican phenomenon. Opposition runs deep throughout the country, as the latest polls have shown. But the Democratic leadership apparently believes its own propaganda that protests are just a political effort generated by Republican operatives to damage the president.  

The officials said the White House hoped to make the case to the American people that it was Republicans who had abandoned the effort at bipartisanship.
I know President Obama is a skilled liar, but I seriously doubt whether people are going to swallow that one. The Obama administration's definition of bipartisanship is: I won the election, that means we are going to do it my way. 

My initial position on health care reform was that something would be passed, therefore Republicans should work with moderate and conservative Democrats to minimize the damage. But it now appears that opposition to the current reform proposals has significant public support. The GOP should do everything possible to defeat the administration's plans outright and try to send the whole thing back to the drawing board. If Democrats ram through a partisan bill by radically altering Senate tradition with "reconciliation," they will be cutting their own throats politically. 

HOT5 Daily 8/19/2009

1. "Daily Gut: The Prince of Darkness is Dead" Short but interesting look at Robert Novak.

Representative Sample: fans of Novak knew that true rebellion meant rebelling against vacant rebellion. Novak, after all, wore a three-piece suit every moment of his life making him more of a badass than a tattooed and pierced Johnny Depp could ever think of becoming.

2. "Homo religious" Where did religion come from?

Representative Sample: People believe in God because we are pattern-seeking primates. We connect A to B to C, and often A really is connected to B, and B really is connected to C. This is called association learning. But we do not have a false-pattern-detection device in our brains to help us discriminate between true and false patterns, and so we make errors in our thinking

3. "No Compromise" A call to block compromises that will eventually lead to single-payer healthcare.

Representative Sample: It’s always been about getting us to a socialized system. If you can drive up costs with government mandates, then turn around and blame insurance companies—that’s the quickest way to get what you want: single payer.

4. "Experts: If zombies attacked Canada we'd be pretty much done for" Yes, there was an actual study. Hopefully the U.S. is better prepared for zombies.

Representative Sample: Board up the windows of that abandoned hospital if you must, but if the dead ever come back to life as zombies and begin infecting the population, a group of Canadian researchers don't hold out much hope for our survival.

5. "Alternative medicine" What exactly is an "alternative" to science-based/evidence-based medicine? Why do people persist in believing in such things?

Representative Sample: I’m not going to look too much at specific alternative therapies here. But it’s worth looking at the field as a whole, to see if we can find what’s common to all or most of them. Why do people turn away from reality-based ideas in favour of fanciful nonsense?

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Children are Dangerous Biters

A new study from the University of Leeds in the UK finds that children as young as three "can bite with the same force as a dog." No mention about what kind of dog is the reference point. There's a big difference between the bite of a chihuahua and a pit bull. The research was mainly geared toward child safety, showing that kids can bite things into pieces creating a choking risk. But the article caught my attention because of my son.

When he was around two we had a significant problem with him biting. He'd be sitting on your lap, or next to you, and all the sudden he would lunge and bite. And he did bite pretty hard. Finally my wife got tired of it and started biting him back (gently, but enough to send a message). That brought the biting to a halt.

Weapons at Presidential Events

A dozen people showed up to protest Obama's VFW speech openly & legally carrying weapons. I'm a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and it's good that Arizona has more freedom than some other areas of the country. But at the same time, I'm not sure what these people hope to accomplish.

Armed individuals at a presidential event create an additional security concern for the Secret Service and increase the chances of an unfortunate incident. What if someone makes a move that could be interpreted as a threat? The Secret Service has to err on the side of protecting the president. That could lead to someone getting killed by mistake. In addition, regardless of their actual intent, carrying weapons to a political protest will be interpreted by some as an implied threat, and an attempt to intimidate. It also feeds into left-wing hysteria about the menace of right-wing extremism. All in all, I don't see the upside of armed protesting.

HOT5 Daily 8/18/2009

1. "Government's Track Record in the Insurance Business" Not too good.

Representative Sample: Barack Obama and many others want the government to get into the health-insurance business. Very good. Is the government in any other kind of insurance? As a matter of fact, it is: flood insurance. It essentially has a monopoly.

2. "Col. Peter Mansoor on Humantiarian Neutrality" Their neutrality is an illusion.

Representative Sample: Humanitarian neutrality is a myth, but this is neither a new development or caused by “failed states, global terrorist movements, and progressively more virulent religious dogma and extremist ideologies”.

3. "Jesus feeding the hungry" Atheist comic site I just found.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

4. "The Benefits of Victory?" How important is Afghanistan?

Representative Sample: nobody should too confidently downplay the costs of failure. But neither should anybody too confidently highlight the benefits of victory. A — strangely — far too rarely asked question is: what if the new Afghanistan strategy is successful?

5. "Autonomous Scout Vehicles Prowl The Mean Streets" Unmanned armored vehicles are now reality.

Representative Sample: One of the test subjects, controlled from a Stryker wheeled armored vehicle, successfully approached a village (equipped with mannequins set up as pedestrians along the streets), did a perimeter sweep at speeds of up to fifty kilometers an hour, then patrolled the streets, avoiding the pedestrians, and finally departed the area.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Atheists and Respect for Religion

h/t Random Words

Obama's VFW Speech

President Obama gave a speech today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. (Transcript is here). In keeping with the event, he spoke on military affairs. The speech can be summarized by the following main points:

1. Made a pitch for so-called "smart power," rather than a reliance on military force alone, and gave the usual promise to only send troops to war with good intelligence & planning.

2. Talked about expanding the military.

3. Reaffirmed commitment to leave Iraq in 2011.

4. Stressed the necessity of U.S. commitment to war in Afghanistan.

5. Promised military reform to meet 21st century challenges.

6. Emphasized the need to cut wasteful defense spending.

7. Promised to honor and expand VA benefits.

Here's my quick take on each of his points.

1. This is mostly bs. We've never relied solely on military force, you can't guarantee good intelligence, and war planning is often ad hoc.

2. I give Obama serious credit here. One of the biggest failings of the Bush administration was in committing the U.S. to two wars without investing in a major expansion of the military. I strongly support the president's efforts to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps.

3. It appears the Iraqis want us gone, so I have no problem with this point, although I'm skeptical that a complete withdrawal is even possible in that time-frame.

4.  I thought Obama's remarks were weak, almost as if he's trying to convince himself. He's doubled down on the idea that Afghanistan is the good war -- as opposed to Iraq, even though Iraq is more important strategically.

5.  More bs. We heard the same thing from the Bush administration and from Donald Rumsfeld in particular. The military is a huge, slow-moving beast. Fundamental changes in outlook and strategy take time.

6. There is plenty of waste to be cut. Unfortunately I have no confidence that Obama can tell the difference between necessary but expensive programs, and military pork. He claims to be working with John McCain on this issue. Maybe he will actually listen and take some advice from Republicans rather than just his own cronies, but I doubt it.

7. Obviously we have to honor commitments to veterans. This was just preaching to the choir.

Overall I thought the president's speech was pretty safe and unobjectionable.

Clinton Helps Block Terrorist Release

Every once in awhile, in between lying and demonizing the opposition, the Obama administration actually does something right. The Scottish government was actually planning to release Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi to Libya. Al-Megrahi is the convicted so-called "Lockerbie Bomber," responsible for blowing up Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, killing 259 people. He has "advanced prostate cancer" and Scotland had made a deal to send him back to Libya as a "compassionate release," an obviously controversial decision.

According to the Times Online, pressure from the Obama administration in the the form of "the intervention of Hillary Clinton" has killed the deal. Al-Megrahi will remain in prison. He should have been executed a long time ago, but of course that would just be too uncivilized. Thanks to Hillary, it looks like he will at least die in captivity.

HOT5 Daily 8/17/2009

1. "Liberals About To Face A Major Loss On Health Care, And Maybe More" Let's hope so. Makes the case for liberal overreach.

Representative Sample: Removal of the government run option from health care reform, repeal of the failed stimulus bill and a permanent delay on the truly silly idea of taxing energy to change the Earth’s massive and complex climate system. 

2. "The History of Political Correctness" Interesting look at the intellectual history behind it.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

3. "Who Is Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork?"The author of HRW's smear report on Israel isn't just a terrorist rights supporter, he's a supporter of actual terrorism.

Representative Sample: That HRW would place in a senior position someone who has written in explicit support of terrorism against Israel, lauded the murder of Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972 as providing “an important boost in morale among Palestinians,” and stated that “Zionism may be defeated only by fighting imperialism”—this should be the final verdict on a cretinous organization’s already tattered credibility.

4. "You Might Be a Racist" Many reasons why you could be a racist, along with more than half the population.

Representative Sample:If you understand that the Democrat’s health care reform is dangerous and expensive… …you might be a racist.

5. "The Dreadful Treatment of Military Interpreters" First hand account of how the U.S. is not winning the hearts and minds of our interpreters.

Representative Sample: The treatment of our interpreters in Afghanistan is simply unforgiveable. We could not operate without them, but they are often treated worse than second-class citizens. We owe them, and ourselves, far better.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Skeletons in the Closet

In a bizarre story, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that UC Berkeley is holding Japanese skulls and other bones from World War Two, and has used them in osteology research. They were taken from Saipan by a U.S. Navy Lt. Commander, who kept them in a private collection until 1974. At that time they were donated to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the university.

Apparently this story has just come to light, and so far there has been no comment from the Japanese government. But I assume they won't be too happy and will demand that the remains be returned. If a museum at a Japanese university was found to be holding skulls and bones of American citizens removed from Corregidor after its surrender in 1942, there would probably be a big outcry.