Thursday, April 30, 2009

Governor (D) Brian Schweitzer of Montana takes on the Federal government

This needs some careful consideration rather than a knee-jerk reaction of either the right or left.

From AP/t Alphecca] [h:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana is trying to trigger a battle over gun control — and perhaps make a larger point about what many folks in this ruggedly independent state regard as a meddlesome federal government.

In a bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month, the state is asserting that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in Montana to people who intend to keep their weapons in Montana are exempt from federal gun registration, background check and dealer-licensing rules because no state lines are crossed.

That notion is all but certain to be tested in court.

The immediate effect of the law could be limited, since Montana is home to just a few specialty gun makers, known for high-end hunting rifles and replicas of Old West weapons, and because their out-of-state sales would automatically trigger federal control.

Still, much bigger prey lies in Montana's sights: a legal showdown over how far the federal government's regulatory authority extends.

"It's a gun bill, but it's another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana," said Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who signed the bill.


Obviously, the Feds are not too happy about this:

Carrie DiPirro, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, had no comment on the legislation. But the federal government has generally argued that it has authority under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to regulate guns because they can so easily be transported across state lines....

Critics say exempting guns from federal laws anywhere would undermine efforts to stem gun violence everywhere.

"Guns cross state lines and they do so constantly, and this is a Sagebrush Rebellion-type effort to light some sort of fire and get something going that's pleasing to the gun nuts and that has very little actual sense," said Peter Hamm, communications director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In a 2005 case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the enforcement of federal laws against marijuana in California, even if the drug is for medical purposes and is grown and used within the state. The court found that since marijuana produced in California is essentially indistinguishable from pot grown outside the state, the federal government must have the authority to regulate both to enforce national drug laws.


Montana, of course, has a rejoinder:

Randy Barnett, the lawyer and constitutional scholar who represented the plaintiff in the California case, said that Montana could argue that its "Made in Montana"-stamped guns are unique and sufficiently segregated as to lie outside federal regulation.

Supporters of the measure say the main purpose is not extending gun freedoms, but curbing what they regard as an oppressive interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and federal overreach into such things as livestock management and education.


Is there a reasonable case to be made that States retain some power to draw the line at the Feds regulating items because they might be carried across State lines? Proponents of Statism will suggest that there should never be an occasion when the sovereignty of the State could be opposed to the power of the Federal government because, because ... because ...

Well, why not?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Attempting to move the debate (but not necessarily the fight) forward...

DelawareDem has a thoughtful piece up on our various differences regarding rightwing extremism and political rhetoric (and our mutual appreciation for a recent comment by Anonone, of all people), which contains this paragraph:

But a problem remains. Right now, that violent fringe is being catered to in the extreme by the mainstream of the Republican party and the conservative movement, so much so that it is beginning to be difficult to tell the difference. They are being told that President Obama is a tyrant intend on taking their guns. They are being told that America is dying because of government spending. That Obama plans on opening large reeducation camps. That he is a terrorist, a muslim, a radical black Christian. That he is a fascist. That is both exploiting the violent fringe and empowering them.


I want to try a little non-confrontational parsing here, paying particular attention to a couple of the charges.

They are being told that President Obama is a tyrant intent on taking their guns.

I stipulate that President Obama has supported--at most and in some unspecified time in the future--the re-institution of the assault weapons ban, new ammunition taxes and (if I recall correctly) a requirement for micro-stamping, and that while I do not agree with them, none of them are confiscationist.

But here's the problem: there is a legitimate case to be made that the election of President Obama has empowered those with a confiscationist agenda, and he has not repudiated it.

To wit:

Former President Jimmy Carter advocating mandatory registration of all firearms, which is a necessary pre-requisite for any confiscation program.

A series of pending bills in the New York legislature that include at least two (A.3211a and A.7733) that mandate new powers of gun confiscation to the State of New York. [We can argue over the merits of each of these bills, quite legitimately, but it is not disputable that both would give the State the ability to confiscate certain weapons from those who have acquired them legally and are not accused of any crime.]

In Milwaukee, despite the State Attorney General re-affirming the right of Wisconsin citizens to open carry, the Police Chief says he won't follow the law, that he'll order his officers to confiscate such weapons on sight:

“My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it,” Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said.


Again, we can argue the merits of open carry, but if the Attorney General says This is the law, and the Police Chief says he will take the gun away, that's confiscationist language.

Then there's HR 45, which makes it illegal to own any non-antique handgun or semi-automatic weapon capable of accepting a magazine without a Federal firearms license, and gives American citizens only 2 years to come in and register all their weapons or become potential felons. In other words: there is legislation in the House criminalizing currently legal possession of firearms.

So DD, while it is a stretch to say that President Obama is going to take their guns, there really ARE people out there with a confiscationist agenda, and--elections do matter--his election has definitely strengthened the hand of confiscationists. Therefore, for people to argue that Obama supports a confiscationist agenda is, frankly, not even a huge distortion by the lax modern standards of political discourse in this country today.

They are being told that America is dying because of government spending. Reasonable people can differ on this one, obviously, but that rhetoric itself--while again hyperbolically over the top--is not inherently unconscionable or beyond the pale of things said by mainstream politicians about their opponents over the past three decades.

The re-education camps? I agree with you. In fact, during March 2009 I dedicated an extensive post to thoroughly debunking the entire concept and condemning those who spread the lie.

Terrorist, muslim, black radical Christian... None of them true, OK. But neither was it ever proven that Dubya had suppressed cocaine convictions, that John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, that the Feds had foreknowledge of 9/11 [hello Howard Dean]. As A1 points out: both sides play to their fringes....

That he is a fascist ... or a socialist for that matter. Inaccurate? Stipulated. Unprecedented in modern American political rhetoric. Hardly.

In other words, DD, I would agree with you on the re-education camps bit without reservation--to the extent you can find me mainstream GOP political leaders harping on it.

The gun confiscation argument is, regrettably, well enough founded to have legitimacy, even if it is often advanced in hyperbolic terms. It has about the same credibility as Jimmy Carter's assertion that only people interested in killing children, co-workers, and police officers want to own so-called assault weapons. Tell me, DD, would you go with me that former President Carter's rhetoric is not responsible?

But even if I granted you that one, what bothers me is that you lump in extreme resistance to taxation and government spending not as acceptable political discourse (even if you thing it's both wrong and foolish), but as the equivalent of passing around ludicrous rumors about re-education camps and police officers shooting your dogs as they break into your house to take your guns.

In other words: in my opinion your brush is so broad that it not only (a) erodes your own credibility, but (b) makes you part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Law enforcement should be in the business of tracking and stopping real violent extremists.

It has absolutely no business producing documents that editorialize on which political opinions are acceptable.

[A final note: maybe you didn't like my snarky post on the Handmade Militia, but I think you missed my larger point. In the current political environment, picture a lone young Missouri State Trooper on a rainy night, who sees a van speed by him with a bumpersticker that reads Handmade Militia. He's read the MIAC Militia Movement report, and has been warned that militia images on vehicles is a pretty sure indicator of potentially violent inhabitants. Congratulations: we've just raised the chances that a bunch of left-over children of the sixties carting around several cartons of macrame potholders are going to have a very bad experience....]

Comment Rescue: Anonone and the best comment of the month

Anonone has become one of the ubiquitous commenters of the DE blogosphere: loved or hated depending on ...

... well, depending on a lot of things. A1 and Tyler, obviously, can't stand each other. But despite the fact that A1 has a habit of going for the throat (like comparing GOPers to Nazis on occasion), intellectual consistency forces me to admit to his/her having scored the Best Comment of the Month in response to another comment by Pandora:

I am surprised that you repeated the idea that "political parties have to control their fringe." Even upon a moment of reflection, it is clear that such an approach is the antithesis of nurturing free expression of ideas within a political party.

Who represents the "fringe" that should be controlled in the republican party? Sarah Palin supporters? Ron Paul supporters? John McCain supporters? Mike Castle? RSmitty? Tyler Nixon?

And on the Democratic side, who represents the "fringe" that should be controlled?

Russ Feingold supporters? Robert Casey supporters? Evan Bayh supporters? Tom Carper? Ben Nelson? Jessie Jackson? Jason330?

My point here is that one person's "fringe" is another person's deeply held or even principled position. Furthermore, political parties have multiple fringes. I could argue that the republicans have controlled their liberal "fringe" quite successfully - it just isn't the same group that you consider as "fringe."

Next, how does a political party "control" their "fringe"? Kicking them out? Censoring them? Returning donations? Denying them a vote? Questioning their patriotism?

So, which "fringe" of the Democratic party do you think should be "controlled" and how do you propose doing it?

The republican party has overwhelming supported its leaders and their policies for the last 30 years. They like who they are. The only thing that could possible save them from political obscurity is the emergence of national leaders from the fringes of the party that they have tried desperately to control, so I don't see that happening any time soon.


It occurred to me that effective parties don't control their fringes, they exploit them and (occasionally) empower them (usually by accident).

Think about it: for years, and it has not changed completely, people whose main issue was gay rights had no choice but to vote for Democratic candidates. As my friend Waldo would point out, when you have to choose between people who are actively out to persecute you and people who will make you promises, get your vote, and ignore you after the election, then you support the people who will at least not actively attack you. You have no choice. Do it long enough and you may, however, slowly accrete power.

Sometimes the fringe takes over: evangelicals were a minority bordering on a fringe in the GOP in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and eventually they managed to grow their way into virtual control of the party. This did not turn out well for the party or the country.

What's happened, unfortunately, is that we have become too imprecise with our language. Fringe in the way pandora was using the term was meant to refer to people so far to the edges of American values that they are potentially violent, while A1 correctly points out that all political parties have fringes, and those fringes are not necessarily pathologically dangerous. In the 1840s, the fringes of American politics were calling for the abolition of slavery.

So I can honestly say that today was one of the times when a comment has forced me to say to myself, Geez, I wish I'd thought of that first.

Notes to Anonone:

1) I will be back to busting your chops tomorrow, so don't get complacent

2) If it wasn't already the 29th of the month, you might still have competition for the best comment of the month, but hey--we all get lucky from time to time

3) This still won't make Tyler like you any better

Delawareliberal misses the point; or, piranha swarm but do not think

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which my friends at Delawareliberal will travel to defend an untenable position.

In lampooning their continued harping on conservative political views as providing cover for rightwing political violence, as I did yesterday with a brief post about a crafting organization in Colorado called the Handmade Militia, I was trying to make a point that most readers here got, but they somehow ... missed:

Quoth DelawareDem:

Steve, maybe I missed a post of Cassandra’s, but I don’t think she was concerned about the existence or use of the word “militia.” Rather, the intent behind dangerous right wing extremists in forming “militias” to perform another Oklahoma City Bombing as a means of protest, yeah, that is what concerns us.


And, of course, cassandra was quick to play the wronged virgin:

Thank you, DD. I stopped trying to fix the misreadings of my posts a long time ago. But there is in his post a great example of what I was pointing out — the need bolster victim-cred by any means necessary.

Folks who read my posts in good faith would know that what I care about [is] having law enforcement watch are folks like this or even these guys [original includes links to extremist groups].

Which Steve does know — he was just looking to launch another couple of thousand words in our direction.


Which is bullshit in so many ways that the mind boggles.

Not only cassandra, but the majority of Delawareliberal posters have been advancing the meme for weeks now (in slavish, wannabe imitation of liberal bloggers around the nation) not that law enforcement should be watching extremist groups, but that by advancing specific political positions more conservative than theirs, and by not "calling out" skinheads, Christian identity groups, and militia nuts on tweeter on demand, that anyone not a Democrat is using bullying language and tacitly condoning violence.

cassandra:

This kind of violent rhetoric is exactly the refuge of the worst of the current wingnuts and exactly why they got their outrage on over the DHS report. You can’t protect your own bullying and violent speech without having to cover for the terrorists in your midst too.


cassandra

Last week’s manufactured outrage over the DHS Threat Assessments deserves abit more information — especially as the remarkable dishonesty around all of this is being used to not just work the refs but to also try to normalize the violent rhetoric that they so like bullying people with.


Note that none of this rhetoric has to do with the legitimacy of law enforcement tracking violent extremist groups [which nobody has actually ever challenged, but you wouldn't know it by reading cassandra], but is centered around the idea that people are outraged by the various skewed law enforcement reports because their political positions and criticisms of current policies are fueling extremism.

jason and nemski:

Both characterized the socially conservative ResistNet as a potentially violent extremist group that should be watched by DHS, despite the fact that absolutely nothing in their published materials or in any media coverage of them suggests any violent intent whatever. Nemski's response? At one point they said, "Keep your powder dry." That's it. To jason and nemski that phrase from a group that specifically advocates peaceful and respectful political dissent converts them into a violent extremist group.

donviti:

Took a story out of Florida about the hopeless botched arrest of a wife-beating psychotic (who, known to be armed, two deputies attempted to apprehend in the parking lot of a firing range with only a Tazer, and were shot to death because they didn't think to (a) call for back-up or (b) have their own weapons drawn when the subject proved to be "uncooperative"), and turned it into a post about another lunatic Right Wing Cop Killing Nutjob, based on the fact that there is one quote in the original story (to which he did not link) about the guy having said something delusional about Obama and gun confiscation. [You know what the slug was atop the original story? Here it is: Shooting deaths: 'None of it makes sense'--A day after two deputies died in Crestview, an offense report filed against the gunman reveals he was angry Saturday about a missing tube of Clearasil.]

pandora:

Posted about the rise of extremist groups as tracked by the US government and Southern Poverty Law Center, with the clear implication that we are seeing a dramatic upsurge in rightwing extremism without mentioning the fact that one major driving dynamic behind SPLC's stats is the rise of black separatist groups, which were lumped into the statistics with neo-nazis, skinheads, and militia groups.

If (God forbid!) your sole source of news was Delawareliberal, you would not know that the DHS report upon which they are all basing their fervid, unthinking attacks was:

A) Criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union

B) Criticized by the Boston Globe

C) Criticized by DHS' own internal office of civil rights

D) Criticized by veterans' groups around the country

... and apologized for by the Secretary of Homeland Security as containing inappropriate language.

Which would generally have been enough to convince most objective observers that there was something wrong with the way the report approached its subject matter, and not that there is anything wrong with law enforcement actually tracking demonstrably violent extremists.

Here's the unpleasant fact of the day for the bloggers at DL: Didn't you ever wonder why the Delaware Democratic Party tends not to pick up most of your memes and narratives? Why jason's self-congratulatory post about El Somnambulo's overblown series of faux-insider looks at upcoming State-wide political races is really not the buzz of the Delaware political world?

You live in a State that has essentially had one-party rule for nearly 16 years, and which is demonstably no better off in political or economic terms than any other State in the country.

For which your prescription is: more Democrats, more Statism, more of the same (but with large pay-outs to unions, UD, and select State agencies that send large proportions of their retirees to the General Assembly).

Frankly, if anybody wants to read an actual progressive voice in a Delaware blog, they'd have to go here.

Summary

Posted in the News-Journal online :

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Run for the hills! Dangerous, rightwing extremist Colorado militia holding public musters!

Waiting for our local watchdogs to chastise the Handmade Militia for a politically inappropriate name.

Freedom, safety, and the victory of Osama bin Laden

The last time I took of my shoes in the airport, which even the TSA now admits is done primarily to stop drug smuggling rather than to look for shoe bombs, I realized a very sour and sobering truth:

Thus far, Osama bin Laden has won the so-called war on terror.

This statement depends, of course, on my definitions of victory and defeat.

To my mind, Osama bin Laden has won the war because he managed to wrench us almost completely out of the traditional American dynamic of freedom vs security, with the scales tilted toward freedom....

... into a new dynamic of security trumping even political discourse about freedom, and not just security in the sense of avoiding fuel-laden planes flying into buildings, but security in the sense of having become so risk-averse that we are now in danger of losing something possibly essential to American society.

We have accepted the creation of a dehumanizing bureaucracy that turns air travel into a masochistic exercise that has no demonstrable track record of making it statistically any safer to fly than it was before 9/11.

We have not only begun to discuss (ala President Jimmy Carter and the Brady campaign) policy ideas which would ultimately make it illegal for American citizens to own deadly weapons not reported to the government.

But, what the hell--who cares about that?--since we have also accepted the idea that it is illegal for Americans to check a book out of the library without the government potentially knowing about it.

We have criminalized the act of photographing bridges, or even police officers.

We have so internalized that concepts of terrorist and torture that we are actually happily labeling other Americans as domestic terrorists instead of criminals, and we're actually conducting a nationwide debate over torture that turns not on the morality of the practice, but on how safe it makes us feel in our little suburban rabbit warrens.

That domestic terrorist label has become really, really important, because we have complacently accepted the visceral equation that terrorists have no constitutional rights, so it is far easier to demonize American citizens with contrary political views.

We have acquiesced to the idea that America's safety depends on spilling blood and treasure in obscure corners of the planet, that it is somehow better to accept the mathematical certainty that thousands of our sons and daughters in uniform will be killed or maimed than to risk a significantly smaller, randomly selected cross-section of our entire population....

America used to be about balancing freedom and security. As a parent, I used to be able to make the decision about when my kid was old enough to get out of the car seat, or stop wearing that bicycle helmet. Not any more: Uncle Sammy knows that the little darling might crash...

And Uncle Sam is horribly right. Teaching kids to take reasonable risks is an exercise in knowing they will get hurt sometimes, maybe even big-time. My daughter plays goalie against girls three years older than she is, many of whom are willing to kick her in the head as hard as they can if they think the ref might not see. I hold my breath every time she dives under the foot of an oncoming striker....

.... because John Ford was right. In the film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon John Wayne has just retired from the US Army, along with his old sergeant. Part of the company is still under attack, ten miles out, fighting a rear guard action at the bend in the river. The sergeant (Victor Mature, if you care) wants to say the hell with retirement and go help out the two young lieutenants suddenly dropped into a bad life and death situation. John Wayne stops him, and tells him that young people have to start defending their own river crossing some time....

.... and sometimes they die trying.

But not any more. Any more the idea that our generation or the next generation should do or die, that people should accept the consequences of bad decisions and drive on with their lives, is being slowly ground out of our society in pursuit of a life that is not necessarily fulfilling, but is always ... safe.

Don't run with the goddamn scissors, because if you hurt yourself my insurance premiums will go up and that's not fair.

There used to be a time when individuals had a much larger range of making their own decisions about how much risk was acceptable. Unfortunately, that's when I grew up and had my preferences and prejudices formed. When you could say, "I'm willing to accept a higher level of risk in order to make my own decisions about wearing seat belts, smoking, eating trans-fats, or juggling with chainsaws."

There used to be a time when this image of the Gadsden flag was considered patriotic rather than an indication of unacceptable extremism:



There used to be a time when the statement, The cowards never started and the weak died along the way was a challenge to be overcome, not a fate to be avoided.

There used to be a time....

Ah shit. I'm getting old and maudlin.

Those days are gone. Gonna have to go join a militia or something.

Mike Matthews and the Boast Who Slumbers

There has always been debate around the DE blogosphere regarding anonymity, pseudonymity,and "outing" people's blog identities. The one thing that can get you bounced in most places (with no appeal) is "outing" somebody's blog name.

Which has always been fascinating to those of us who choose to own what we write, and risk our real names as our bylines.

Recently, when a commenter at Down With Absolutes outed Delawareliberal's El Somnambulo, Mike responded by deleting the comment. But the incident also led him to think about the posts that the Boast Who Slumbers was writing about State politics, and the innate dishonesty of trading on insider information but not letting people know honestly that you have a lot of your own baggage attached:

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could work for the State Legislature, get fired, and then be taken in by one of Delaware’s most popular blogs, only to spread hyperpartisan bullshit with impunity? You could, like, swoop in at some unknown date with all the personality-driven “stuff” you’ve learned working with the state legislature and take your readers on a ride without ever revealing the obvious conflicts of interest that so rage inside of you....

I’d like to call on you, Delaware blog readers, to be more inquisitive in that which you read on a daily basis. Don’t take everything you read for gospel. Even more important, don’t take so seriously those people who would seek to wield their power by denying others the opportunity to respond to said bullshit and political showmanship.


For the offense of suggesting the bloggers with inside information and/or real-world political/personal baggage ought to be taken not so seriously, Mike has been subjected to a rational of self-righteous bullshit that is ... simply astounding in its breadth and lack of intellectual depth.

In case people have forgotten, or never spent time thinking about it: political blogging is an inherently risky activity. Either as a commenter or blogger you should always write based on the same assumption you use in sending an email: I've got to be OK with this even if people know who I am.

Because eventually people will know who you are. Bet on it: gonna happen at the most inconvenient moment possible, too.

Whistle-blowing? Here's the thing: if you really have whistle-blower type information pretty much the last thing you should be doing is putting it out in the blogosphere. You should be visiting the appropriate authorities who can (a) actually change things; and (b) offer you the protections of the law.

Blog and you got ... nothing. Except enemies.

Moreover, what Mike was trying to say is that there is an information discount we should all be applying to anonymous bloggers. If you won't share your bonafides, I am under no compulsion to treat it as significant or accurate. Mike's right.

He's also right about the latent hypocrisy of people who spend 98% of their energy on politics rather than policy, and broadbrushing their opponents as un-American extremists inside a State driven over the past eight years to the brink of fiscal disaster by the one-party rule of their own party. Make fun of the national GOP all you want, but the reason we have such bloated state payrolls, the reason we have never done a damn thing to implement the LEAD report, the reason we don't have governmental transparency, is that the Delaware Democrats have never been able to deliver policy to match their rhetoric.

So, Mike, while the slings and arrows of outraged anonymous bloggers (or those who are anon to the great unwashed, but coyly reveal themselves to selected insiders) are being thrown at you, don't worry:

The spears of pygmies usually can't strike very far above your knees.

Oh. Oops. That last sentence was probably insensitive. But then, you already know who I am. We'll take your sensitivities into account when we know exactly who we are offending.

About that "free markets failed us into crisis" narrative...

... it's really worth reading Bill Bonner at Fleet Street Invest today:

Even Henry Kaufman, writing in today’s Financial Times, says that the Fed’s "libertarian dogma" prevented it from controlling the banks properly.

But the Fed is hardly a libertarian organization. It’s a banking cartel. As a cartel, it looks out for its member banks - and doesn’t hesitate to use state power to do so. There is nothing libertarian about it... and no dogma associated with it - except as Greenspan’s eyewash - that is even vaguely libertarian.

The Fed colluded with member banks to fix interest rates. In so doing, it helped create the biggest bubble in credit the world had ever seen. It was a terrible thing for the average fellow - who was lured deep into debt by rising house prices and cheap credit. But it was a great thing for the members of the Federal Reserve cartel. Profits in the financial sector - notably, the big Wall Street investment banks - soared.

But bankers are vulnerable to too much of a good thing - just like everyone else. Soon, they made the classic Wall Street mistake - they came to believe their own hype. Not only did they gin up trillions of dollars’ worth of preposterous financial instruments... they actually bought these debt bombs from each other.

This posed a grave danger to the nation’s economy... and to the banking system. Henry Kaufman claims the regulators dropped the ball because they put too much faith in the free market. But the regulators were little more than front men for the banks themselves. After Alan Greenspan came Henry Paulson as head of the Fed. He was probably still replying to messages at his old address when the crisis began. And the head of the New York Fed - now, US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner - was elected to his post by the very institutions he was supposed to be overseeing.

Neither of them was about to stop the party; they and their friends were having too much fun.


And it would be really very interesting to see somebody actually following up Steve Cordasco's lead regarding the details of insider trading in bank take-overs and the curious role played by a small coterie of former Goldman Sachs people. [You have to fast forward about 35 minutes in the show, or else skim the transcript.]

Because what's happening right now in DC still isn't about the difference between free markets and managerial capitalism, it's still about the profits and power of an extremely small group of people, who have absolutely no intention of allowing you to see behind the curtain what they are doing with trillions of your dollars.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Let's examine some absolutist, leftwing rhetoric and see what we find....

First, a semi-random sampling of a local blogger doing her bit to sell the narrative that anyone who is not a liberal Democrat should have to spend all his/her time running around condemning violent extremists because they are to be portrayed as responsible for everything from Glenn Beck to the guy who killed cops in Pittsburgh:

This kind of violent rhetoric is exactly the refuge of the worst of the current wingnuts and exactly why they got their outrage on over the DHS report. You can’t protect your own bullying and violent speech without having to cover for the terrorists in your midst too.


This comes from the same little merry band that lined up to label Resistnet.com a potentially violent rightwing extremist group that should be on a DHS watch list somewhere. When I examined all their material and failed to find the slightest inkling of violent intent (in fact, quite the opposite), the rejoinder was--I kid you not:

What do they mean by keep the powder dry? Bath powder?

So much for non-violence.


Apparently the people who thought it was appropriate to use Regime Change as a rallying cry during the Bush years lost the ability to understand ironic metaphor.

It has been fairly easy for them to get away with this in the left blogosphere, because within echo chambers you usually hear only what you are shouting.

But it becomes more difficult to maintain that you are all about high ethical standards and fear of militia gunfire instead of engaging in a purely partisan effort to strangle debate when the Boston Globe calls you out [h/t Hube]:

PARTISAN turmoil that lingered after this month's tea party protests reignited recently, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report to federal and local law enforcement officials on right-wing extremism. The report detailed current economic and political factors that could enhance recruitment for extremist groups. Yet the report defined extremism in a way that implicates a huge portion of the political spectrum. Conservatives are right to be angry.

The report drew particular criticism over comments on "disgruntled military veterans," who, it suggests, may be targeted by extremist groups looking to use their "skill and knowledge to carry out violence." Missing was any empirical evidence for its claims beyond the examples of Timothy McVeigh and Richard A. Poplawski, the Pittsburgh man who recently shot three police officers and exhibited fears that the government would take his guns.

Worse, the report's depiction of an extremist describes the political beliefs of many Americans, saying that "many right-wing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration . . . immigration . . . and restrictions on firearms." But Americans have every right to oppose all three. Drawing a parallel, even implicitly, between specific political beliefs and criminal intent is something Americans must oppose, regardless of political affiliation.


Except that many Americans of a specific political affiliation have not condemned this report, they've endorsed it, applauded it, and attempted to shove it directly down the throats of their political adversaries.

Moreover, the Globe also notes one aspect of the report (and the new administration's responsibility for issuing it) that our friends never seem to recall:

This is unfortunate, because the language of the report even faced objections from the department's own Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties before its release. Napolitano must take these concerns more seriously. She should consider it one of her primary obligations to prevent the politicization of Homeland Security.


Read that carefully: the DHS report was not only vetted prior to publication, the people who did that vetting objected to the content.

What's happening here is that many liberal bloggers and commentators are chastising what they consider exterminationist rhetoric while pursuing an absolutist agenda of their own.

That agenda reads like this: We, and only we, have the moral authority to determine what is legitimate political discourse, and which positions are, by definition, fringe, extremist, or potentially violent. After all, we won the election, didn't we?

If the phenomenon was primarily the preserve of semi-anonymous bloggers with colossal egos and miniscule audiences, this would be one thing. But when a former President engages in the tactic, it is--as Tim Robbins once remarked--evidence of a chill wind beginning to blow.

Jimmy Carter, writing an op-ed for NYT, talks about being a hunter and gun owner, and then let's loose with a serious of incredible--despicable--and inaccurate generalizations about anyone who wants to own a weapon that mets the gun control lobby's definition of an assault weapon, followed by a complete redefinition of what constitutes "common sense" gun control:

But none of us wants to own an assault weapon, because we have no desire to kill policemen or go to a school or workplace to see how many victims we can accumulate before we are finally shot or take our own lives. That’s why the White House and Congress must not give up on trying to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, even if it may be politically difficult.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, including me and my hunting companions, believe in the right to own weapons, but surveys show that they also support modest restraints like background checks, mandatory registration and brief waiting periods before purchase.


So there you have it, with [failed] ex-Presidential authority: anybody who defends Second Amendment rights to own semi-automatic rifles wants to kill policemen, school children, or fellow employees.

Where, I wonder, is the outrage on the left that literally millions of gun owners who have never committed or even contemplated a violent act are now being accused by Jimmy Carter of being homicidal maniacs?

Waiting. But not holding my breath.

Likewise, I'm wondering when the gun control lobby is going to admit that by slipping in mandatory registration of all firearms into the conversation, Jimmy Carter is asserting a completely new power for the State: you have no right to own a weapon that the State does not know about.

So it's time to stop playing the game by their rules, since their rules are: heads we win, tails you lose, anyone not in agreement with us is a dangerous extremist.

Let's start labeling them as Absolutists who seem to have confused an electoral victory in the American Republic with the Enabling Act of 1933.

Question of the Day

Earlier this year I wrote a piece about some developments in hydrogen production, particularly promising in the context of fueling combustion engines in automobiles.

In part, I raised some questions about the push towards EV's (electric vehicles), in particular that the electricity will necessarily (in the forseeable future) be derived from the same polluting resources (primarily coal) as the rest of the grid is, and would put an enormous new strain on renewable energy resources slowly coming on line, should millions of these vehicles eventually come into use.

The question is a practical one and asked in all seriousness :

Given that EV's will be best suited to urban environments, with short-range driving and the worst vehicle emissions concentrations, what of the millions of households for which vehicles must be parked on the street or "off-site", nowhere near the owner's source (or possibly any readily-accessible source) of electricity, such as from the owners' homes/dwellings/businesses?

An example is my own home, an old Wilmington "town house" that, like most such houses all over Wilmington, is at least 50 feet from the street parking in front to the nearest electrical outlet inside. How could I possibly re-charge an EV, even if I could secure a space directly in front of my home - which usually happens about 5-10% of the time in free-for-all that is city street parking?

I don't see people running extension cords out to the street, even if they could guarantee parking in front of their place. I have not seen any simple, practical solutions to providing electricity wherever drivers end up having to park their EV's.

Not that it isn't technically possible, but it would likely cost trillions, born by unknown parties at this point, to create ubiquitous urban energy infrastructures to practically accommodate EV re-charging at street level in cities the world-over.

Imagine this problem in a city the scale of NY, with a lot of dense vertical housing, and the problem becomes exponentially more complicated.

An interesting article out of Belgium breaks down the technical aspects of EV charging, but seems to raise more questions about the practicality of mass use of EV's than it answers and it appears to have been written almost 10 years ago.

Sometimes the seemingly more mundane practical aspects of mass-deploying alternative technologies like EV's can be highly-limiting, if not killer, issues despite the best intentions of their engineers. I noted just such an issue in my previous linked post, wondering aloud what solution is conceivable to address when some drivers, careless or otherwise, inevitably run out of battery power on the roadside.

These EV drivers can't just dump a gallon into the tank in short order, and be on their way. (I can only imagine how much portable stored power would be necessary if "fast-charging" was even possible in such scenarios).

The possibility of integrating photovoltaics (solar conductors) could hold promise, but is nowhere near realization for conventional EV power needs.

EV's will require much closer attention, monitoring, and forward-planning by their users...something not exactly commonplace in the vast majority of vehicle owners/drivers....but perhaps people will adjust and deal with the additional hassles/issues as best they can.

Any thoughts or information to share?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An open apology to Chairman Jim Rash and the Libertarian Party of Delaware

Some insider baseball: last year, during the controversies dogging the national Libertarian Party following the nomination of Bob Barr for President and the continuing party infighting (that in part I reported here), I advocated that the Libertarian movement could only benefit from having State parties contemplate disaffiliation. I even argued that some State parties might choose instead to affiliate with the Boston Tea Party.

I don't disagree with my assessment of the national Libertarian Party, which I view more than ever as something of a lost cause, but I have come to realize that the BTP is not going to do anything either.

However, at that time I wrote a post on a BTP blog in which I said I had discussed with leaders of the Libertarian Party of Delaware the possibility of disaffiliating with national and going over to the BTP.

Here's the problem: I should have said that I met with some Libertarian leaders in Delaware or that I met with some leading Delaware libertarians, because I did not discuss this issue with State Party Chair Jim Rash or other elected officers.

It was wrong to write a sentence which could only be read as a semi-endorsement of my position by the elected party leaders, and I apologize for doing so. I suspect that having the State's most visible Libertarian blogger write something like that has made it more difficult for Jim and his team to organize within Delaware, and if that happened it was my fault.

You may be wondering why this comes up now.

If you blog, you'll get this next sentence: you write thousands and thousands of words and never try to look back. Last week is the distant past; last year could be your previous incarnation. Jim Rash had too much class and too much common sense to bring up the issue publicly, and only recently brought my attention to my actions when I wrote him unsolicited on a different topic, seeking his input. Which was earlier today.

I believe in trying to clean up my own messes, and less than a week before the LPD's annual convention, it's incumbent on me to acknowledge the fact that I did something wrong, so that the party and the movement can keep pushing forward.

Is the administration contemplating major military intervention in Pakistan?

The Times suggests that this might be the case:

AMERICA made clear last week that it would attack Taliban forces in their Swat valley stronghold unless the Pakistan government stopped the militants’ advance towards Islamabad.

A senior Pakistani official said the Obama administration intervened after Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 60 miles from the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban’s inroads raised international concern, particularly in Washington, where officials feared that the nuclear-armed country, which is pivotal to the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda, was rapidly succumbing to Islamist extremists.

“The implicit threat - if you don’t do it, we may have to - was always there,” said the Pakistani official. He said that under American pressure, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency told the Taliban to withdraw from Buner on Friday.

However, reports yesterday indicated that the Taliban withdrawal was less than total. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people in the district were still at the mercy of armed militants and their restrictive interpretation of Islamic law.

American military and intelligence forces already run limited ground and air operations on Pakistani soil along the border with Afghanistan. But an overt military operation such as that threatened in Swat, away from the border, would mark a major escalation.


Those banging the drums are primarily the new hawks of the administration--Secretary Clinton, General Petraeus, and Admiral Mullen--but it is impossible to believe that they do not speak for President Obama, and that Pakistani government does not believe that either:

These remarks have stung Pakistan. Husain Haqqani, the ambassador to Washington, accused the Obama administration of making it harder for his country to fight the Taliban.

“The US needs to relate its comments to the ground realities in Pakistan instead of the mood in Washington,” he said. “Most Pakistanis are not supportive of the Taliban way of life, but at the same time widespread anti-Americanism confuses many Pakistanis into having a conflicting view.

“We want to turn that view around but the US and its leaders must help us to do that.”


Yeah, that's what we need: a major war in two failed states at the end of a logistical lifeline extending through Iran, Russia, China, and India.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

For those of you who naively think the nanny state is not in your future....

... you're going to have to breathe on the old biddy just to start your car, apparently.

From Overlawyered:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is anything but an uncontroversial organization, as the Washington Times, Radley Balko, and our own archives make clear. Among the bad, sometimes awful ideas with which it has been identified are a reduction of the blood alcohol limit to .04 (meaning that for some adults a single drink could result in arrest), blanket police roadblocks and pullovers, the 55 mph speed limit, traffic-cams, and the imprisonment of parents who knowingly permit teen party drinking, to name but a few. Of particular interest when it comes to the policies of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has backed proposed legislation demanding that costly breathalyzer-ignition interlock systems be foisted on all new cars, whether or not their drivers have ever committed a DUI offense; it’s also lined up with the plaintiff’s bar on various dubious efforts to expand liability.

Now President Obama has named MADD CEO Chuck Hurley to head NHTSA. Drivers, car buyers, and the American public had better brace themselves for a season of neo-Prohibitionist rhetoric, nannyist initiatives, and efforts to criminalize now-lawful conduct. It won’t be pretty.


The silver lining is this story is, of course, that with the automobile manufacturers going even broker with our tax dollars [thank God we gave them those extra tens of billions to tide them over into bankruptcy], nobody will be buying these brave new cars anyway....

So much for the "Ticking Bomb" scenario...

The mantra I now hear daily on talk radio is that investigations into torture (excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques) will only target the people who kept us [the ungrateful wimps who care about human rights] safe.

They argue that if it took 183 applications of water to Khalid Sheik Muhammed or 83 to Abu Zubayah in a single month to gather actionable intelligence that saved American lives, then even torture is justified...

Except that information is now coming to light that the harsh treatment of KSM and AZ may not have occurred in pursuit of actionable intelligence after all, but was instead ordered by the Bush administration to create a pretext for the invasion of Iraq.

From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them....

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq.

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."


Yes, the story does say that the original emphasis was on whether there would be another 9/11-style attack.

I am sure that there will be those who argue that it was legitimate to probe for a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

But that begs a very important point: the only justification for torture advanced by its advocates that is even worth arguing with is whether it was justified in safeguarding our country.

I am waiting for somebody to come forward to tell me that using torture to produce a pretext for invading Iraq was justifiable [a word I am using since I have given up on moral in this context].

The bitch is: I know people will step forward and tell me it was OK under those conditions.

What have we become, and how do we get back?

Playing In The Garden...

As in Madison Square Garden!

Tonight I'll be in New York to see the remaining members of the Grateful Dead perform there.

On my 22nd birthday (September 16, 1993) I was lucky enough to have 4 mail order tickets (directly from Grateful Dead Ticketing) in the 8th row, right in front of Jerry Garcia.


Man, what a show that was...just like every show I saw the Grateful Dead play at the Garden...intense, with incredible crowd energy.

Literally the entire place, which is suspended on some sort of cable system (at least according to drummer Mickey Hart), rocked to all the dancing...you could feel it almost bounce you slightly off the floor.

Here is Maggie's Farm from 6 years earlier at the Garden, September 19, 1987.



Obviously the band is now in their twilight and will never whip up the musical frenzy they did when Garcia was alive. But it will still be a great time amongst old friends.

Since I don't have links to any of The Dead's recent reunion shows, here is that show from September '93, for those who might want to take a listen...(it is a soundboard, so they are tweaking it a bit in the first few tunes).



...or here.

Setlist from the show (note the last tune!!) :

Grateful Dead - Madison Square Garden - September 16, 1993

Set 1
Rain
Shakedown Street ->
Wang Dang Doodle
Cold Rain And Snow
Queen Jane Approximately
Althea
Eternity
Don't Ease Me In

Set 2
China Cat Sunflower
I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet ->
Eyes Of The World ->
Drums ->
Space ->
Way To Go Home ->
Days Between ->
Throwing Stones ->
Not Fade Away

Encore : Liberty

"Ooh, freedom
Ooh, liberty
Oh...leave me alone
To find my own way home"

And here's one for the road...from September 16, 1978 @ the Great Pyramids on the Giza plateau in Egypt, during a full lunar eclipse!

video

How many even legendary rock bands can say they played the freakin' Pyramids?!?


Have a great weekend, everyone!!

Our military JAG officers emerging from the shadows as heroes of civil liberty

Rear Admiral Jane Dalton

Colonel Morris Davis

Major David J. R. Frakt

Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld

Colonel Stephen Henley

The Military Commissions Act was an unconstitutional abuse of power, but the story is slowly emerging of a dedicated cadre of JAG officers throughout the last eight years who have stood up for the rights of the accused, and have stood up against torture and--when necessary--their superior officers.

From the ACLU [This report was originally published--and I missed it--on 13 January 2009, which explains the seemingly anachronistic reference to the Bush administration]:

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition for habeas corpus today in federal court in the District of Columbia to challenge the unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, who has been held for over six years at Guantánamo Bay. Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the former lead prosecutor in Jawad's military commission case, is supporting the ACLU's legal challenge.

Jawad, now about 23 years old, has been in custody since he was captured at the age of 16 or 17 and is one of two Guantánamo prisoners the United States is prosecuting for acts allegedly committed when they were juveniles. Jawad is accused of throwing a hand grenade at two U.S. service members and their interpreter in Afghanistan.

"It would be a miscarriage of justice for President-elect Obama to continue Mr. Jawad's unlawful detention in Guantánamo, particularly considering that Mr. Jawad was captured as a teenager and detained based on alleged confessions obtained through torture," said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The Bush administration compounded this injustice by using torture-derived evidence to prosecute Mr. Jawad for war crimes in the unconstitutional military commissions. The government's continued detention and prosecution of Mr. Jawad violates America's values and the Constitution, as well as this country's binding obligations under the Geneva Conventions and human rights law."

In September, prosecutor Vandeveld left the military commissions because he did not believe he could ethically proceed with the case. In a declaration filed in support of Jawad's petition, Vandeveld told the court that there is "no credible evidence or legal basis" to justify Jawad's detention and prosecution, and that the commission system's flaws make it impossible for anyone "to harbor the remotest hope that justice is an achievable goal." Vandeveld does not believe Jawad's release presents any risk.

"I have no doubt at all – none – that Mr. Jawad would pose no threat whatsoever to me, his former prosecutor and now-repentant persecutor," said Vandeveld in his declaration. "Six years is long enough for a boy of sixteen to serve in virtual solitary confinement, in a distant land, for reasons he may never fully understand. Mr. Jawad should be released to resume his life in a civil society, for his sake, and for our own sense of justice and perhaps to restore a measure of our basic humanity."

In a separate legal case argued today, the Bush administration is in the United States Court of Military Commission Review appealing a military commission judge's decision to throw out the torture-tainted evidence against Jawad. In November, Army judge Col. Stephen Henley held that evidence collected while Jawad was in U.S. custody could not be admitted in his trial because it had been obtained under duress. The government told the judge that Jawad's alleged confessions were the centerpiece of its case against him and has asked the proceedings to be stayed until the appeals court rules.

"The fact that the government persists in trying to use evidence obtained through torture says everything you need to know about the integrity of its case," said U.S. Air Force Major David J. R. Frakt, who represents Jawad in the military commission case and is co-counsel in the habeas case. "But the larger problem is that Mr. Jawad should never have been prosecuted in the military commissions system at all. Our values of due process and fair justice apply to all defendants and should not depend upon whom we are prosecuting and what the alleged crimes are. Mr. Jawad's only meaningful opportunity to challenge the basis for his detention comes through this habeas case, in a legitimate court."

Among other forms of abusive treatment, Jawad was subjected to the military's so-called "frequent flyer" program, in which detainees at Guantánamo were subjected to sleep deprivation for extended periods of time. In May 2004, a few months after Jawad tried to commit suicide in his cell, prison officials deprived him of sleep for two weeks by moving him 112 times in 14 days – and they did so after having been ordered by their commanding general to discontinue this inhumane program.


I'd like to believe that the long, rear-guard action these brave JAG officers have been fighting for the past few years is going to end soon, but...

From The Raw Story:

"In its first filing on detention and torture under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice filed briefs in March urging the Court of Appeals to reject any constitutional or statutory rights for detainees," says a release. "The Obama Justice Department further argued that even if such rights were recognized, the Court should rule that the previous administration’s officials who ordered and approved torture and abuse of the plaintiffs should be immune from liability for their actions."

"This is a question about accountability for torture and abuse. It’s a disgrace to have a U.S. court stating that Guantánamo detainees are not persons. It would be a shame to have our new President supporting such a position in the Supreme Court. It was bad enough for the Obama Administration to take this position at this stage. We hope that they reconsider," stated Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “Boumediene acknowledged that the fundamental rights we take for granted apply to persons in U.S. custody at Guantanamo. This decision runs directly counter to that principle."

I don't want Janet Napolitano's apology...

... for the DHS report on rightwing extremism, even though she's apparently trotting it out all over the place:

WaPo:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized directly today to Commander Dave Rehbein, head of the American Legion, after a recently leaked DHS intelligence report suggested that right-wing extremist groups might recruit military veterans returning from overseas deployments. The 45-minute meeting occurred at DHS headquarters in Washington this afternoon.

A detailed account of the meeting from the American Legion states that "Hunched forward with head bowed, the Secretary of Homeland Security looked the National Commander of The American Legion straight in the eye and said, very quietly, 'I’m sorry, Dave.'"

“The report was not worthy of this department, or of veterans,” Napolitano said to Rehbein, according Legion spokesman Craig Roberts, who attended the meeting. "It was very badly written and should never have been released," she said....

In a statement of support issued this afternoon, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called Napolitano "a superb choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security." He noted that the report on extremists was started during the Bush administration by career DHS employees and that he did not consider it politically motivated.


OK: a note here before we start in earnest. Senator Lieberman is running with what has become a favorite talking point, narrative, or meme (depending on whether one is a disciple of Carville, Lakoff, or Dennett) of many progressive and liberal commentators: the report was a Bush-era holdover, so it is not fair to blemish the new administration for it.

That's crap. The report was released on 7 April 2009, with direct reference to the Pittsburgh police shooting on 4 April, and plenty of direct and indirect references to the FBI's February 2009 draft report on Vigilant Eagle [a study of the potential for rightwing extremists recruiting veterans]. In other words, substantial portions of this report were in fact generated well after the Inauguration, and the entire document obviously was (or should have been) vetted by the new regime.

But why is Janet Napolitano out there apologizing in the first place? If it were just that the political fall-out of saying something true but unfortunate, I could understand that. It's part of the politicization of virtually all facets of American policy these days.

That's not the problem with the report. The problem with the report is that it makes one logical assertion [that violent extremist groups would like to recruit military talent], buttresses that with a vague, unsubstantiated reference to post-1991 militia recruting, and completely ignores the fact that previous FBI reports have discovered that such recruitment is statistically almost insignificant. In fact, the most complete report the FBI has ever issued only claims that a maximum of 19 combat veterans may have been recruited by such groups, out of a potential pool of only 203 people, all of whom may not have been veterans.

For even that to mean anything, it would have to have some sort of comparison attached. For example: how many former police officers, border guards, or military contractors are known to have been recruited into violent extremist groups?

So it was not--Napolitano's apology aside--that the report was badly written, but that the report was absolutely useless to law enforcement officials. It did not identify specialities being recruited, characteristics of troops being recruited, specific organizations or types of extremists doing the recruiting....

I'd like to believe that we're all fixating on a generalized report, and the kind of specific information that I'm asking for is circulating right now through law enforcement channels.

But I don't believe that for a moment. Nothing in the long-term track record of DHS or its fusion-center partners around the nation suggests that this is the case.

So here's what I'd like Janet Napolitano to talk about, instead of apologizing for reports, ticking off the Canadians, or getting into the question of whether or not illegal immigration is a crime: I'd like Janet Napolitano to admit what many people inside the homeland security/intelligence field have known for years: The Department of Homeland Security is an ineffective bureaucracy that presently exists more as a revenue-sharing mechanism for Federal dollars than to keep us safe.

I'd like her to admit that DHS and its affiliated agencies have done far more to destroy Constitutional civil liberties in this country than to stop either foreign or domestic terrorists.

The irony is that she could do this, and with a straight face blame it all on the Bush administration, because to do so would be completely true.

If, however, she waits more than a few more months to make such an acknowledgement, it will have become her department, and it will be politically impossible for her to make any real changes.

Footnote:

While I am bashing Napolitano, I need to be intellectually consistent and give her plaudits for coming out against Real ID, even if she's not real specific about what she wants instead.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eventually karma bites you in the ass...

... and I can certainly claim to be no exception.

Two points of view on the latest little DE blogosphere flap over commenters being banned, which now hits home here with Anonone being banned from commenting on Tyler's posts.

Yesterday A1 and Tyler got into one of their not-uncommon pissing contests. A1 has a thing for Tyler that often goes well past issues, and approaches jason's spleen for Dave Burris. And Tyler finally got tired of it, deleting a comment he found to be too far over the line.

I reversed him on that when I found out about it (on another blog, actually; I wasn't following the thread), because it has always been my policy to delete comments only for spam, outing, and actual threats.

But Tyler came back to me with the point that when I asked him to join DE Libertarian I told him that his posts were his intellectual property, with two minor exceptions (there are two local content areas I have asked my fellow bloggers to stay away from, due to a potential personal conflict of interest with my employment; most people in the blogosphere know what those issues are, and why I don't comment on them much), and that I had never placed any restrictions on him regarding how he moderated comments on those posts.

He's right: DE Libertarian is not (at least in my mind) a group blog or even a partnership, but a ground where several libertarian-oriented individuals have been invited to share the privilege of posting. When I give them the keys, I turn on the administrative privileges as well.

As far as I know, only one post has ever been pulled from this blog--well over a year ago. Someone objected to a particular post as being potentially racist toward hispanics, made his case to the author, and the author (not one of our current contributors) made the decision to take it down.

So here's where it stands: individuals posting on this blog have the right to make their own decisions. My decision is to pretty much take the slings and arrows as they come. Brian Miller doesn't even seem to see them when he posts, and Tyler is up for 99.9% of them.

I'm not banning A1 or anyone else from my posts. Truth be told, even though we have vast policy differences, A1 has never been as vituperative toward me as toward Tyler.

This is not an easy issue. Dana Garrett turned on comment moderation for a period of time (he supports Tyler's decision) and got shit from a lot of people, including me. Delawareliberal has banned several folks over the past year; in some cases I have seen their point, in others not. Mike Matthews prefers complete chaos, and I'm probably philosophically closer to him than anyone else.

But blogs are personal property, and within this blog each contributor's posts are personal property as well.

I am proud to have Tyler Nixon here. His coverage of local Delaware politics (especially City of Wilmington) often scoops everybody else. His views on the current administration are more visceral than mine, but he keeps me honest on that. And, frankly, from any personal perspective, Anonone's attacks on him here and elsewhere have crossed the line into the truly offensive on many occasions.

So suck it up, folks. Tyler is here to stay on his own terms. A1 can bash him from a distance at other blogs or even in my threads if the obsession is really that important to him/her/them.

And me? Karma probably dictates that I have just moved down the rung a few notches toward insect.

Speaking of Outer Space...

How did I miss this one?

(CNN) -- Earth Day may fall later this week, but as far as former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell and other UFO enthusiasts are concerned, the real story is happening elsewhere.

Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments.

............

Mankind has long wondered if we're "alone in the universe. [But] only in our period do we really have evidence. No, we're not alone," Mitchell said.

"Our destiny, in my opinion, and we might as well get started with it, is [to] become a part of the planetary community. ... We should be ready to reach out beyond our planet and beyond our solar system to find out what is really going on out there."

Mitchell grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, which some UFO believers maintain was the site of a UFO crash in 1947. He said residents of his hometown "had been hushed and told not to talk about their experience by military authorities." They had been warned of "dire consequences" if they did so.

But, he claimed, they "didn't want to go to the grave with their story. They wanted to tell somebody reliable. And being a local boy and having been to the moon, they considered me reliable enough to whisper in my ear their particular story."

.............

Stephen Bassett, head of the Paradigm Research Group (PRG), which hosted the X-Conference, said that the truth about extraterrestrial life is being suppressed because it is politically explosive.

"There is a third rail [in American politics], and that is the UFO question. It is many magnitudes more radioactive than Social Security ever dreamed to be," Bassett said.

Ya Gotta Love This Headline for a News Story...

I'm surprised it isn't "BREAKING"...

Giant mystery blob found near dawn of time

Galaxy-sized object puzzles astronomers; is it related to a black hole?

By Seth Borenstein
updated 6:39 p.m. ET, Wed., April 22, 2009

WASHINGTON - A strange giant space “blob” spotted when the universe was relatively young has got astronomers puzzled.

Using space and ground telescopes, astronomers looked back to when the universe was only 800 million years old and found something that was out of proportion and out of time. It was gaseous, big, and emitted a certain type of radiation, said study lead author Masami Ouchi, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, Calif.


Definition of a Crybaby

Normally I wouldn't waste a moment of my time posting about an anonymous blog stalker, but I can't let this pass.

We have the infamous anonymous coward known as "anonone" who spews sweeping monomaniacal borderline-exterminationist garbage around the Delaware blogosphere, and who in past comments has falsely accused me, for example, of supporting the Bush administration to the point of saying I somehow 'aided war criminals', amongst other various distortions about me personally.

Of all those with whom I politically or ideologically disagree around the Delaware blogosphere, no matter how strenuously we might argue, none except this particularly nasty troll has ever made such ridiculous and false accusations.

Even those with whom I have had the most heated exchanges or personal friction are honest enough to admit, for example, that I have consistently and vigorously displayed nothing but contempt and condemnation, in the blogosphere and even on public airwaves, over the outrages of Bush, Cheney, their hatchet men, and their neocon warmonger fellow travelers, for example.

This self-important anonymous coward has also made a habit of accusing my and Delaware Libertarian's good friend Mike Matthews and his fellow Down With Absolutes bloggers of racism, amongst other hysterical and ridiculous slurs.

Crazy as it is, given his/her troll status, this "anonone" is the first to cry foul when his wittle sense of propriety in the blogosphere (i.e. that we tolerate and entertain her/his twisted accusations and personalized falsehoods) is somehow offended...as if those of us who put out time and effort running a blog and presenting content somehow owe this anonymous troll some type of deference, as he/she hides behind their special little moniker.

Well, guess what? Bulls**t on that.

Like some around the blogosphere I don't buy that any of us is obliged, for any reason, to tolerate the likes of anyone with a trolling track record like "anonone", much less allow our blogs to become his/her forum to make personal attacks and antagonize other commenters or bloggers.

Yesterday when this "anonone" reduced the comments on a post about cold fusion into distorted broad-brush accusations and outright name-calling, in particular calling me a "hypocrite" and "crybaby", I had enough. For the first time in my life I moderated someone's comment (i.e. deleted it). More than anything, it was to send a message to this person that I am drawing the line.

Of course since this "anonone" feels the world owes him/her, he/she immediately went crying to a blog quite friendly to his/her ideology and admittedly quite tolerant of personalized flame wars, for better or worse.

Ironically it is a blog in which some of the moderators admittedly have deleted comments they didn't like and even banned commenters (though it is rare) as is their right, the exercise of which I have never questioned.

This "anonone" childishly leapt to hijack a thread there (as if anyone there necessarily cares what goes on over here or what I do on this blog) to cry like a baby that his comment was quashed :

"Hey, I had a comment deleted by Tyler Nixon over at Delaware Libertarian today.

He accused me of “quite nasty and way over-the-top vitriol.” I basically responded by writing that all anyone had to do was read his Obama posts if they wanted to read “quite nasty and way over-the-top vitriol."

I think he must have got mad when I said that he was a crybaby who liked to dish it out but couldn’t take it in return.

It was in the thread on “cold fusion.” I thought that I was quite polite, actually.

Those crazy Libertarians!"

If such a pathetically self-indulgent comment and the ethos behind it aren't the perfect definition of a "crybaby" I honestly don't know what would be.

Now of course this person thinks that they are being clever in doing this, kind of like a 2nd-grader running off to teacher to snitch, but disguising it as though just commenting on the weather....("Now please please please, teach, tell me what a good boy/girl I am!!").

Well, once again, bulls**t on that. This "anonone" person has previously stalked me (or any mention of me) around the blogosphere, instigating and laying false accusations directly and implicity. I engaged this troll in countless instances and was fine with all the give-and-take.

But this blog has become as much a result of my efforts and energy as Steve and others here and I will be damned if I will tolerate someone of this ilk bringing their personal accusations and anonymous attacks to any post I write.

I have already seen enough bile thrown at my friend, Mike Matthews, who aptly notes that he and the vast majority of Delaware blog commenters have the balls to sign their own name to accusations and attacks, should they happen to engage in any. Many pseudonymous commenters, despite being unknown to many casual readers, are nonetheless personally known to some or all other bloggers in "real life".

"Anonone" has quite quite indignantly and jealously guarded his/her pseudonymity, outlandishly accusing real people by name, but never having the stones to allow for scrutiny or verification of his/her many self-serving claims such as : "I have more than a dozen articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals." It is quite ironic that in nearly the same breath as this claim, this "anonone" pointed out that 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'. (Apparently for everyone but "anonone", of course).

I am all about securing anonymity as a means to protect political or ideological content, but not as cheap cover to make personalized attacks on other commenters/bloggers, while never being personally held to account for one's own claims, or actions, or life, for that matter.

So hear this, anonone : you are banned from commenting in any of my posts from here forward. Your comments will not be accepted by me under any circumstance.

In keeping with my freedom (yes, quite libertarian) to determine who or what is appropriate in comments on my posts here, I am done tolerating this particular internet troll's insidious nonsense and anonymous asshattery.

Commenting is not a right, it is a privilege that "anonone" abused one too many times.

So, as famously said by my good friend Dana Garrett, with whom I once had many heated blog battles and personal arguments (as real friends do) : "Put that in your pipe and smoke it."


IMPORTANT NOTE :
Delaware Libertarian godfather Steve does not necessarily agree with me on the moderation of posts; but in libertarian fashion he accepts that my posts are my intellectual property, and that I am free to deal with them however I choose. He does not endorse my action and has his own policy, as stated previously.

This is my decision and mine alone. I can say with 100% certainty that "anonone" is the only person who will ever be subject to such a blanket ban by me on any content I post and, at that, I doubt it will be permanent. I never believe anyone totally irredeemable. Despite the caricature of me that might be conjured by "anonone" or those like him/her, whether from my musings in the blogs or my political advocacy, I am a very forgiving person.

But we all have limits. At the heart of this is how much I detest the personal vitriol I have seen thrown around the blogosphere, not merely at public figures or over public issues but at each other. Too many of us have trouble backing down from a fight (or just recognizing when it is a useless pissing match)...as I readily admit I have been guilty of...when instigated.

In the case of "anonone", I am simply pre-empting any more of this instigation. I already completely withdrew long ago from ever engaging this person on other blogs. Since then I have only engaged them here, if at all, when they showed up to comment.

If I thought asking "anonone" to steer clear of my posts would be sufficient, I would do so. But since this person is largely an internet phantom, I have no means to do so privately.

So this is the result, like it or not.

Now...back to real life...

Rip out another little fragment of Constitutional protection, why don't you?

I hate to say this more than you know or would believe, but as the first hundred days comes to a close, the new boss is looking a lot more like the old boss--at least in court.

Today, the Obama/Holder Department of Justice is trying to overturn a 1986 Supreme Court ruling protecting the rights of defendants:

The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule long-standing law that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant's lawyer is present, another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights....

The case at issue is Michigan v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court said in 1986 that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one, unless the attorney is present. The decision applies even to defendants who agree to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

Anything police learn through such questioning cannot be used against the defendant at trial. The opinion was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the only current justice who was on the court at the time.

The justices could decide as early as Friday whether they want to hear arguments on the issue as they wrestle with an ongoing case from Louisiana that involves police questioning of an indigent defendant that led to a murder confession and a death sentence.

The Justice Department, in a brief signed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, said the 1986 decision "serves no real purpose" and offers only "meager benefits." The government said defendants who don't wish to talk to police don't have to and that officers must respect that decision. But it said there is no reason a defendant who wants to should not be able to respond to officers' questions.

At the same time, the administration acknowledges that the decision "only occasionally prevents federal prosecutors from obtaining appropriate convictions."


This, unfortunately, appears to be change that will get you convicted.