Saturday, December 08, 2001

Geaux Tigers

The Prof sez a Tennessee loss would be a deathblow to the BCS. I guess we'll see... Tigers really showed some guts.

If Johnny Comes Marching Home...

Regarding Johnny bin Walker from Marin county, many (including Rush Limbaugh) have stated that he can't be tried for treason because he has already renounced his citizenship by taking up arms against the US. The law seems to imply that is not the case. There is definitely some wiggle room anyway.

Sec. 2381. Treason
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
emphasis mine

The above is the US code and it pretty much echoes Section 3 of Article III of the US Constitution. The owing allegiance phrase could likely be debated as to what it means exactly, but I think intent is clear. What would be the purpose of a law against treason if the act of treason automatically renounced one's citizenship and conceivably made one merely an enemy of the state rather than a treasonous citizen? Actually, I think citizenship at the time of trial is a red herring, it is the act that counts. More on that below.

Interestingly enough, under the IMPORTANT INFORMATION section of the verbiage in a US passport, the State Department outlines things one might do to lose recognition as a US citizen. They are:

(1) being naturalized in a foreign state; (2) taking an oath or making a declaration to a foreign state; (3) serving in the armed forces of a foreign state; (4) accepting employment with a foreign government; or (5) formally renouncing US citizenship before a US consular officer overseas

The State department elaborates further here. The bottom line from my read of this is that State can administratively cancel one's citizenship in accordance with the above statutes, but the process is not automatic. I find further implication here that this is the case:

The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual:

(1) formally renounces U.S. citizenship before a consular officer;

(2) takes a policy level position in a foreign state;

(3) is convicted of treason; or

(4) performs an act made potentially expatriating by statute accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship. (Such cases are very rare.)

Cases in categories 2, 3, and 4 will be developed carefully by U.S. consular officers to ascertain the individual's intent toward U.S. citizenship.
emphasis mine

The implication is that State may wait for a treason trail to be completed before canceling one's citizenship.

Finally, and this is where those who wish to make an example of the Caliban traitor can get some traction, so what if he renounced his citizenship? The fact that he did so by joining a group hostile to the US is treasonous. Rereading the law above, it is clear Johnny Jihad, once a citizen, now an enemy, committed this most onerous of crimes. (Don't even get me started on his parents, who don't even seem to be ashamed of their little darling- There may even be a case for charging them with treason...) I think he could certainly be tried for treason as a noncitizen. We incarcerate and execute noncitizen and citizen lawbreakers alike. Whether or not that is politically wise is another story. Justice would likely be served much more swiftly by turning him over to the anti-Taliban forces he and his comrades were so recently oppressing.

Friday, December 07, 2001

VD Hanson @ NROW- Purportedly their most popular new writer and for good reason IMHO:
Bin Laden has learned the same lesson as did General Tojo: Shouting, threats, and a brutal and maniacal creed are no substitute for West Point, GM, Caltech, Sears, the U.S. Senate, and the American soldier.

It's all good.
Nobody tells a Navy man when he's had enough.

No blogs now, three martini lunch at Arnaud's. New Orleans is home of the 4.5 day work week. Good content here.


As noted in BOTWT Stupidity Watch, once again, the normally meticulous Andrew Sullivan seems to have allowed his passion for this issue to cloud the facts.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The Fighting Sullivan

Like, I expect, most of you, I usually check out Andrew Sullivan's blog at least daily. Gay conservatives, or any other "oppressed minority" conservatives, are a rare joy to behold, inoculated as they are from the de riguer lefty scorn for white het males. I'd like to be about 1/10 as well read and spoken (er written) as AS. That said, he is offbase on the whole gays in the military issue. This kinda pissed me off:

All the rest of NATO may have given up on policing their militaries for homosexuals, but the United States can rest easy knowing that one military that still supports U.S. policy is the Taliban.

Does that rate a Sontag or a Derbyshire? I dunno, but it seems awfully poor form (especially now) to liken our military to the Taliban, much less imply that it is inferior to the paper tiger that is NATO. I think Andrew never recovered from Clinton's failure to deliver on the gays in the military issue. He gets exercised over it from time to time; recently reporting that the military had ended its ban when, in fact, the DOD ended discharges for those claiming to be homosexual, a typical step during wartime taken to prevent those less committed to their oath from shirking their duty by feigning homsexuality. In fact, Clinton did deliver with don't ask, don't tell, etc. and in the most conservative of ways. As Burke said, conservatism is the "democracy of the dead" meaning that it incorporates the lessons learned by our predecessors on this ball of dirt. The phrase is especially apropos with regards to the gays in the military thing. There have always been homosexuals in the military. Hell, supposedly Alexander himself indulged in the odd slaveboy (but discreetly). And so it has been through history. Esprit de Corps in a fighting unit requires a certain kind of macho that both gay and straight men have if they are suited for service. Sexual tension has no place in the fox hole or for that matter, the messdecks. Gay men in today's military know how to play the parts they chose to play. When I served, we all knew who they were and really did not care. I knew many who did not appreciate the efforts of well meaning but misguided types like Sullivan to change a status quo that has worked for as long as there have been wars.

No Mr. Bond, I want you to die

Jeff Jarvis' comment on Nuclear Mules got me to thinking about that particular threat. It really plays into the whole OBL as a Bond villian meme. Remember Goldfinger? The Chinese paid Goldfinger to nuke the gold supply at Ft. Knox in order to cripple to US economy (the theory being radioactive gold is worthless). I dunno about gold but radioactive real estate is worthless (they used to impress that on us at nuc skool all those years ago). Any terrorist spoiler plot would likely involve attempting to make parts of NYC or DC uninhabitable for a long time. If ever there was a case for brute force canvassing of poplation centers, starting with NYC or DC, this would be it. The fact that the mules got sick implies that some material is not well shielded and thus should be detectable from some distance (tens of feet, hence the requirement for brute force) by gieger counter. I am talking about a FOD walkdown coverage of gieger counter equipped federal, state and local LEOs. If the islamokazis are building a bomb, odds are they doorknob at the shop where they are working is hot (more radioactive than background). If a dirty bomb is already planted somewhere, its location is likely rather unshielded radiationwise. Maybe the feds have already taken such action, but I doubt the job could be done effectively without attracting attention. The possibility of a dirty bomb goes a long way towards explaining Cheney's habitation of secure undisclosed locations.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Christopher Pellerito handily takes down Mo Dowd's latest insipid peice of tripe here at his tastefully decorated and appointed Liberty Blog.
Brit Hume has a great interview in Playboy this month. He was questioned by David Sheff, who last gave a fawning interview to the cast of "the smartest show on TV" (chortle) The West Wing. In spite of a lot of BS "observers note..." and "Some people are saying" set up questions, Hume acquitted himself famously, neither conceding the interviewer's presumptions nor sounding querulous. It's not online but I'll give you a taste (via meatspace interface):

Playboy: But while it is the government's job to unify the country and present an optimistic scenario, reporters are bound to the truth. Journalists aren't supposed to push patriotism. They are supposed to present all sides.

Hume: What higher patriotic duty can there be than to present all sides of a any issue? However, what is the other side of the story of a terrorist massacre? Is one side the antiterrorist side and the other the proterrorist side?

Playboy: The deplorable attacks notwithstanding...

The deplorable attacks notwithstanding? How can that be, that is the point! I tell ya, Playboy has gone to hell (or I've just become more sensitive to leftist claptrap that fills the pages not containing photos). It is pathetic to watch the magazine try to emulate an unashamed guy Cosmo like Maxim while still pushing its far left agenda. What makes them think I want a big dose of pro gun control writing with my T&A? Meanwhile, Asa Barber (who used to be pretty pro guy) whines about post traumatic stress syndrome in his Men column. WTF? And what's with putting nekkid pictures of that giant wrestler Chyna in for a second time this year? Exactly who do they think their demographic is?

BTW my beatiful wife bought both my Playboy and Maxim subscriptions. She also used to cook for Emeril and now caters as well as teaching yoga. Yes I AM the luckiest guy in the world ;->

Pennies From Heaven

I recently was in a discussion about the supposed balance that must be struck between socialism and capitalism by a state for the good of all. The discussion was in the context of the federal funds going to the bailout of post 911 NYC and other affected industries. Being a small l libertarian and having worked in the belly of the government beast, my spidey sense starts to tingle whenever I hear talk about the government doing good. I subscribe to P. J. O’Roarke’s contention that:

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

Look at what everyone tried to pile on to the bailout bill. Bush is right to threaten a veto. The problem is that congress has the power to disburse so much money in the first place. This is originally due to the cost of providing for the common defense. In the 220 odd years the government has been around, its role has expanded to cover other things that range from child safety to environmental protection (that is an issue for another rant). The point here is, as we all know, that all those government ”services” form homeland security (hello, wasn’t that what we paid the DOD/CIA/NSA/FBI et al for already? Alas another rant) to mattress safety testing cost billions of bucks per year. Downstream from congress are innumerable government agencies and their attendant contractors and unions waiting to catch that money. The not so obvious thing is that nobody sits and waits for it, they hire lobbyists and make contributions to keep their guy in. No judgment here, that is how the system works and always will work in some form or another. What is not so obvious is how little money need be leveraged with the right lobbyist or congresscritter to shake loose some serious somoleans. Its just like outside sales, you woo the prospect, take to him dinner, get him box seats to the game, whatever. All things being relatively equal, he’ll go with your firm over the others who didn’t schmooze him as well.

“That is why we need campaign finance reform,” you say. How will that help? How would you do it? Certainly not McCain/Fiengold style which, other than being unconstitutional would give the media conglomerates an inordinate amount of juice. That sort of “reform” doesn’t stop influence peddling, it only changes the players. With elected types, it really is all about staying elected, so while contributions and junkets are nice, nothing secures one’s electorate like bringing home the bacon (er pork). Hence Trent Lott forces ships (built in his home state of Mississippi) on Navy that didn’t want them.
The point of this screed is not to delve into ways of fixing the imperfections of the system but to point them out. $40B + for NYC sounds and feels good, but where is it really going to go? Sure it will likely do some good, but only after filtering through the enterprises of all those who helped get the money sent. Again, that is the way it is. Government money is dumb money. The South Louisiana congressman that votes on a given spending bill is not doing so on its merits, but rather how it benefits his reelection process. The government mandarins in the agencies that disburse these funds are not driven by bottom line but rather turf preservation and expansion.

Wow, the above is truly a rant. If you got this far you deserve something for your perseverance (…there’s bound to be a pony somewhere). I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let the government’s demonstrated success at thing s like smoking the Taliban outta their holes and disaster response gull you into thinking they can magically fix the airlines or other industries that suffered form the war. Many of them (airlines) were on life support before 911 and seized the opportunity to gain taxpayer succor in the subsequent spending orgy. The uniformed warfighters are the best there is because they are trained and empowered to be that way. Not so with those who would reallocate our tax dollars for the recovery efforts.

Father Knows Least

Kate O'Beirne skewers Johnny Jihad's dad over at NRO:

The father in California who can't quite figure out what, if anything, went wrong is described by Newsweek as a "strict Irish Catholic." Here, my own sons are the experts. Either one of them would have no trouble predicting how their strict Irish Catholic father would react to the milestones Abdul passed on his way to that fortress in Afghanistan. Their unenlightened father thinks that the "really good" American boys in the Middle East were onboard the USS Cole.

As much as I think Sulayman (or whatever he calls himself now) made his own decisions and ought to be judged by twelve in accordance with the Constitution, I shudder to think of the trial. God knows lawyers will be falling all over themselves to defend this little pissant. By the time the jury goes to deliberate, they will have heard how this "good kid" fell in with the "wrong crowd" at the mosque and was powerless to resist going to Yemen, Pakistan, and then Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. The jury will have heard harrowing stories of the POW revolt outside of Mazir-e-Sharif and the "brutal" manner in which it was put down. He'll be seen as the victim and let off. I can just see it. Grrr! On the other hand, of course, free and unprotected would not likely be healthy for former teen talib in the many parts of the country where they have old fashioned views about things like treason...

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Airline Insecurity

Argued, er, discussed this very issue with my sister (who is recently back from the continent) last night. Rand Simberg saves me the trouble of composing a post:

Yes. One of the many things that really infuriate me about the airline security debate is that liberals and Democrats are usually trying to foist stuff on us because, "we're the only major industrialized country that still does X (e.g., death penalty, health care, etc.) in this neanderthal way. Why can't we get with the program and do it like our socialist friends the Europeans do?"

Yet when it comes to one of the few things that the Europeans actually do get sort of right, they no longer think that they're a worthy model to emulate. Go figure.

Slip Slidin’ Away

Much has been written along the lines of how the granting of extra powers to the executive branch during this crisis puts the USA on the “slippery slope” to wholesale loss of civil liberties. Jonah Goldberg adroitly debunks that in an earlier column:

Anyway, it seems that nary a program [on NPR] can conclude without someone comparing some measure by the Bush administration — military tribunals, roving wiretaps, etc. — to other alleged civil-liberties transgressions of yore and arguing that these measures constitute a major step down a slippery slope. They'll yammer on about, say, the Palmer Raids or the Alien and Sedition Acts or about America's terrible record on wartime civil liberties generally and then seamlessly elide into an argument about the camel's nose poking under the tent, being on the thin edge of some wedge, giving an inch and losing a mile or some other greased-incline cliché (sorry, but I grow weary of typing "slippery slope").
There's a hitch though. You can't argue, for example, that the internment of the Japanese put us on a slippery slope; or at least you can't argue it was very slippery or particularly steep. For the last five decades the tide of the law and the culture has been pulling us in the opposite direction. Indeed, even though the argument for interning Arab Americans (or Arab aliens) is probably not much better or much worse than the arguments for rounding up the Japanese were, it is inconceivable that America would do anything of the sort today.

Badges, we don’ need no stinkin’ badges…

There is however, a slick slant (no fair, Jonah used all the good synonyms) other than that which rings the smoking holes that are what remains of the WTC, down which we were, until recently, sliding unabated; the treatment of acts of terrorism as crimes rather than acts of war. I won’t mention you know who and the last eight years if the twentieth century. Others have already made that case much better than I could have and besides, I don’t want to let that snake in to my blog-garden of Eden, as it elicits such vitriol as to make this blog’s title inadequate.

Anyway, back to the point, I shall try constrain myself to the new millennium. I am concerned about the concept that at some point the enemy rates the same due process accorded the accused in peacetime. Prof Tribe’s comments in the previous post mollified me somewhat, but other commentary still gives me pause that some people still don’t get it. The recent uprising by POWs at Qala-i-Janghi and the manic reaction of many commentators to call it a war crime provide one example. The inordinate amount of concern for those who flout US immigration laws and are now being held is another.

Taking the latter first, Dad said it best: “When you are living under my roof, you go by my rules.” It is true for Americans abroad and travelers in general. You can’t even chew gum in Singapore. It is not unreasonable for the US, reeling from one of the bloodiest days in its history and the sudden advent of a war, to hold suspicious visa violators and other non-citizen material witnesses. It may have, in fact stopped some second wave attacks. Will this hurt our tourist trade? Not that that should be a concern, but quite the opposite, well meaning visitors will have less to fear and those who wish us ill, more. Accepting a visa should be a tacit or rather explicit agreement on the part of a visitor to be a good guest (I am not a lawyer, much less versed in immigration arcana, and besides, I said should). As for any foriegn “guests” we catch plotting or in the act of violence or sabotage, they are not mere criminal suspects. Unless they are in some kind of uniform (now that could lead to some interesting legal arguments and/or fashion trends) they are spies and eligible to be treated as set forth in the Geneva accords. In other words, as long as they still draw breath, they are getting a good deal.

As far as what The Guardian and its sob sisters on the left were so quick to call a massacre at Q-i-J, that was what the military calls a battle. It ends when one side 1) surrenders or 2) is killed or wounded past the point of fighting back. The Taliban Islamokazis in question, having reneged on option 1), were subject to 2). One cannot break truce and later expect quarter. Those guys were paradise bent on fighting to the death and our forces were compelled to oblige them. The 80 or so who did finally surrender (again) were fortunate. It is they for whom the military tribunals are intended (except for that goofball from SF they found- I expect he’ll get a stateside jury trial and a slap on the wrist for being stupid ). The point of battle is to destroy the enemy’s ability to do you harm, not to arrest and try him and his. I am glad that our political and military leadership, unlike some of the press, seem to understand this.

Tribe on the Warpath (sorry)

Laurence Tribe has some very well rendered comment on the military tribunal executive order (via instapuntdit). Though he takes a few shots at the Supremes, and can’t resist mentioning Bush v. Gore, he does explain and address the real problems with this order.

Some of his arguments are IMHO, pretty thin and just a piling on of words to wear one’s defenses down by attrition:

First, to justify the order, the president acts as though Congress has declared war, when all it has really done is authorize him to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [involved in the September 11 attacks] ... to prevent any future [such] acts of international terrorism against the United States." Lacking the ritualistic solemnity of a declaration of war, that hasty authorization does not justify the same domestic deprivations that a formal declaration of war might--particularly since our enemy in this war is amorphous, and the war may never reach a decisive, public end.

I think what the wording of the nondeclaration of war does is to leave the door open for Congress to check any executive actions they don’t like (which is exactly what Professor Tribe advocates later), but it does not prevent the President from taking what he thinks are appropriate actions in the first place.

Tribe gets it right here, where he calls for a tighter definition of terms:

Third, the order provides no definition of "international terrorism"--and the definition of "terrorism" recently provided by Congress in the USA Patriot Act is broad enough to encompass, for instance, a doctor in the Netherlands prescribing lethal medication for a terminally ill Oregon patient to "influence the policy of" the attorney general regarding Oregon doctors by "intimidat[ing]" him into backing down. This is certainly not to suggest that Attorney General John Ashcroft would extend his personal war on physician-assisted suicide so far as to drag the Dutch doctor before a military tribunal. But therein lies the problem: Using so amorphous and elastic a term without pinning it down invites arbitrary and potentially discriminatory decisions of whom to submit to a military trial and whom to spare that burden.

Actually, I can’t for the life of me figure out what Ashcroft was thinking by going after those docs and their terminal patients in Oregon. Hello, those poor souls want to depart the mortal coil. We who want to keep living would appreciate it if you used the power we gave you to go after the bastards who would have otherwise. And what is the deal with the DEA ripping up dying Californians’ medical pot plants? Let’s focus here: the threat to the USA posed by some unfortunate who wants a doctor to shoot him up sufficiently to drift off to end his pain permanently and another who would toke up to temporarily ease his misery, is friggin’ zero. How about taking all those armed federales in the DEA and BATF and putting them to use by helping the INS unscrew the illegal alien situation? Sheesh! Talk about not seeing the alligator closest to the canoe, that one isn’t even in the same bayou!

I never thought I’d hear this from a Harvard lawyer:

The old adage that it is better to free 100 guilty men than to imprison one innocent describes a calculus that our Constitution--which is no suicide pact--does not impose on government when the 100 who are freed belong to terrorist cells that slaughter innocent civilians, and may well have access to chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
Whew, such common sense is refreshing.

And the money shot:

In sum, President Bush's order establishing military tribunals goes too far. It should be cut back by Congress, which must not pass the buck to a Supreme Court that is unlikely, if history is our guide, to vindicate constitutional principles in this setting. But this is not to suggest that those tribunals, at their core, offend any fundamental constitutional precept. Congress, and all of us as citizens, must try to view such tribunals, and each related measure the government takes, in their totality--lest by imperceptible steps we gradually make ourselves into an alarmingly different kind of society. But as we resist measures that make us no better than those we seek to disarm and defeat, we must not bind ourselves too tightly to a mast suited only for navigating peaceful seas.

Emphasis mine, I like the nautical/classical reference.

Monday, December 03, 2001

Humor Break from Something Awful

Remember that cutaway of the OBL's Tora Bora mountain fortress? You didn't think millions of photoshoppers would leave it alone did you?

Jester's Dead.

Melena Vickers at TCS gets it concerning UAVs:

What’s more, UAVs are cheap: At $2 million apiece, Predators are barely the price of a fighter-jet windshield. And the Mercedes of unmanned aircraft, the UCAV, promises to come in at just $10-15 million. Consider the fact that the UAVs don’t put precious human pilots at risk, and they look cheaper still.
IT's here, FWIW

Odds are if you are one of the few that reads this blog you are already well acquainted with Dean Kamen's IT (aka Ginger), which is now known as SEGWAY IT (for Individual Transport, I think). Saw it on GMA this AM and IT was sufficiently gee whiz to impress the crowd of onlookers with IT's seemingly supernatural balance and ability to operate in accordance with IT's rider's thoughts. These feats are accomplished with the help of supremely engineered solid state gyro guts that trace their origins to Kamen's Ibot all terrain powered "wheelchair." The Captain, in his usual thorough and incisive way, is quick to point out that as personal transport, IT "is a solution to a problem no-one has."

While I tend to agree with his analysis and also think that the last thing the fattest nation in the world needs is something that walks for them, I don't think that IT was named SEGWAY by accident. SEGWAY's gyro guts and their ability to control its (The Time's editors would get a headache punctuating this post) wheel motors as precisely as they do may not be particularly new under the sun, but they demonstrate a radical new way of using existing technology. How about 2 wheeled cars that seat 4 comfortably and are propelled by a Stirling /electric drive? Kamen's company has been working on making the Stirling engine, which operates about as close to the Carnot ideal as something in this universe can, commercially viable.

Consider the military uses. IT's demonstrated ability to effortlessly translate intuitive human movements into machine action (e.g. lean forward; go forward, lean right; turn right) facilitated by what are clearly small, solid state and rugged components, could be leveraged into the design of better, planes, UAVs, and even battlefield robots. Given the right power source (something with a high power density, like a gas turbine), we many not be that far from the powered suits in Starship Troopers (the book not the movie). Mobile Infantry anyone?