Saturday, September 24, 2005

Taking off the gloves

The U.N. is an absolute joke:

The UN atomic watchdog adopted by vote Saturday an EU proposal that sets Iran up for referral to the UN Security Council, a spokesman said, in what would be a sharp escalation of the West's face-off with the Islamic Republic.

The vote was by 22-1, with 12 abstentions on the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA spokesman Peter Rickwood told reporters.

The mullahs are shaking... with laughter.

Here's a fun quiz for you all: Which is most likely to get Iran's attention?


Or this?

[begin Jeopardy music now]

Being everything to everyone

It is no wonder Hillary Clinton's presidential chances are looking weaker by the day when you look at the schizophrenic platform she has maintained of late. One minute she is throwing her support behind the President's Iraq War efforts. The next minute she finds herself onstage with has-been calypso singer, Harry Belafante (yes that "Day O" guy) where she proceeds to lend credence to some of the more paranoid theories involving George Bush, racism, and inequality:

2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised anti-American activist Harry Belafonte on Thursday after Belafonte charged that U.S. foreign policy had "wrecked the planet."

"There's a lot of people out here who are really pissed off," Belafonte told the Congressional Black Caucus, with Mrs. Clinton and Rep. Charlie Rangel standing nearby.

"Our foreign policy has made a wreck of this planet," Belafonte complained. "I'm always in Africa . . . And when I go to these places I see American policy written on the walls of oppression everywhere."

The former calypso singer's anti-U.S. rant won immediate praise from Hillary, who stepped up to the microphone and told the crowd: "What Harry said is so important."

In quotes aired nationally by radio host Rush Limbaugh, Clinton explained that in last year's presidential election, "we heard a lot . . . about moral values. And you know as well as I do that there's a big move on to get people to forget that it's not only private morality, but public morality that needs to be looked at and considered."

Hillary then charged that the Bush administration had made "a concerted effort to make it even harder for poor people and non-English-speaking people and elderly people to vote in this country."

Clinton was followed to the podium by Rep. Rangel, who wasted no time in disparaging President Bush as a racist.

"George Bush is our 'Bull' Connor," Rangel railed. "And if that doesn't get to you, nothing will be able to get to you, and it's time for us to be able to say that we're sick and tired and we're fired up and we're not going to take it anymore!"

Mrs. Clinton offered no objection to the president of the United States being compared to one of America's most notorious racists.

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And then came the rain...

Rita has now reached landfall. The good news is that hurricane has weakened to a category 1 and the wind damage, although extensive in some areas, has turned out not to be as bad as expected. Also, judging from early reports, the much feared destruction of oil refineries and chemical plants seems not to have materialized.

But the bad news is that the storm is expected to remain stationary, dumping rain over the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana Louisiana for several days to come:

Wind currents in the upper atmosphere, steering Hurricane Rita toward Port Arthur, Texas, are so weak, the storm is expected to stall after having made landfall late Friday night and to drench coastal Texas and Louisiana with up to two feet of rain over the next several days, causing flooding.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 125 miles-per-hour, Rita is capable of generating a 15- to 20-foot storm surge, forecasters warn.

While the population centers of Houston and Galveston appear to have been spared a direct hit due to Rita's eastward shift, the major oil refinery and chemical industry centers of Beaumont and Port Arthur are directly in its path. Crude oil prices at close of market dropped yesterday, indicating traders believe the Category 3 storm is less likely to cause the damage earlier feared.

But sustained rains caused by a stalled storm, saturated with water picked up from the warm Gulf of Mexico, may prove to be the source of greatest damage to the region.

Winds in the upper atmosphere responsible for steering the storm system are not strong enough, forecast models predict, to keep Rita moving inland once it reaches the coast. While it has been traveling at approximately 11 miles-per-hour while crossing the Gulf, the storm is expected to stall at landfall. While winds should decrease, the cyclonic storm will continue to be supplied with water as its winds pass over the Gulf and return inland. Instead of intense rainfall over a relatively short period of time, the stalled system is predicted to drop eight to 15 inches of precipitation over a widespread area and up to 24 inches of rain in some locations.

Severe flash flooding is expected in low-lying areas and in urban areas where extensive concrete surfaces prevent water from being absorbed by the soil.

Houston, although mostly above sea level, has subsided five to ten feet over the past 50 years. The city's flat topography means water has no place to flow to. Houston's tunnel system was flooded in 2001 by a tropical storm that dropped three feet of rain on the city, resulting in underground rivers flowing through downtown. Since that catastrophe, flood doors that can block 15 feet of water have been installed at tunnel entrances and two reservoirs were built to protect the city center.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/24/05)

"Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves."

Joseph Warren, Boston Massacre Oration, March 6, 1775

Friday, September 23, 2005

Able Danger... take two

Kathryn Jean Lopez from National Review Online brings us a new development on Able Danger straight from the office of Sen. Arlen Specter.

Washington, D.C.--Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, will hold a second hearing on Operation Able Danger on October 5, 2005.

In the initial hearing held on September 21, 2005, the Department of Defense refused to produce five key witnesses relating to the identification of 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. The Department of Defense has now changed their position and will make the witnesses available in a public hearing. The Committee will focus on obtaining corroborating evidence as to what occurred with the pre-9/11 charts and information which were allegedly destroyed by order of DoD personnel.

Some may say that this flip-flop came about because of increasing media pressure -- especially with the recent revelation that favorite MSM villain Donald Rumsfeld supported the Pentagon's decision to halt testimony. This may very well be true and certainly this was a disastrous PR move on the part of the Defense Department as I had mentioned in an earlier post.

But my personal take is that the White House may have begun leaning on the Pentagon to get some of the facts out. The patience of President Bush with an increasingly boisterous Bill Clinton is quickly drying up as the former president continues to run his mouth about everything from the war on terror to the Katrina disaster. As evidenced by Bush's unusually candid remarks from yesterday, the "new tone" is no longer operative and he has decided it's time to set the record straight.

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Hamas to build tribute to terrorism

The New York Sun brings us a prime example of what happens when a nation tries to appease it's enemies:

WASHINGTON - Emboldened by Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank, Hamas yesterday announced its plan to turn a synagogue in Netzarim into a museum that would display weapons employed by the terrorist group's members against Israeli civilians.

A statement issued yesterday by Hamas said, "Qassam rockets and other locally made arms will be exposed, since it is the legal weapon that evicted the occupation forces." The Middle East Media Research Institute yesterday reported that recent sermons delivered by Hamas leaders pledged to resist efforts from the Palestinian Authority to disarm the organization ahead of upcoming elections.

Never make deals with terrorists. These guys were raised from their youth to embrace violence so it should come as no surprise that they are now are building a shrine to it. I can only imagine what the gift shop for this museum will look like.

Incidentally, why is the U.N. not condemning this? Can you imagine the outcry if Jewish leaders tried to convert a mosque to a museum celebrating the 1967 war?

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Bus explosion

From Dallas we have reports of the first fatalities related to Hurricane Rita. What a horrible story:

DALLAS -- A fire in a chartered bus filled with elderly Hurricane Rita evacuees, including some who used oxygen, has killed 24 people near Dallas Friday.

Authorities said the bus apparently caught fire due to a mechanical problem, and that oxygen tanks then started exploding on gridlocked Interstate 45.

Dallas County Sheriff's Sgt. Don Peritz said deputies couldn't get everyone off the flaming bus. It carried about 45 people from a nursing home in Bellaire, an upscale enclave within Houston. They had been on the road since Thursday.

Peritz said permission was given to remove the charred hulk of the bus from the northbound lane with the bodies still on board, shrouded by tarps. The crowded interstate is a primary Hurricane Rita evacuation route.

The bus was reduced to a blackened, burned-out shell, surrounded by numerous police cars and ambulances.

Peritz said the driver and arriving deputies tried to rescue as many passengers from the bus as possible but couldn't save everybody.

He said the bus left a nursing home in the Houston suburb of Bellaire Thursday, headed for facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The fire caused a 17-mile backup on a freeway that was already heavily congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

State officials said northbound traffic is being diverted off of Interstate 45 onto U.S. Highway 287 at Ennis, about 30 miles southeast of Dallas.

Interstate 45 stretches more than 250 miles from Galveston through Houston to Dallas.
Nurse Saw Fire, Explosion

A nurse who was driving behind the bus said she saw it start to smoke, and then pull to the side of the road.

Tina Jones said, "I saw the smoke, and then there was an explosion."

She pulled over and helped treat minor injuries. And she said she saw at least six bodies.

In all, authorities say about 24 people died on the bus. They said the bus had caught fire because of a mechanical problem, and then oxygen tanks used by the elderly passengers started exploding.

After witnessing the horror, Jones said she'll "probably go home and have a good cry."

Problems with the levees again

This is breaking from CNN:

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Water washed over a levee in New Orleans' hard-hit 9th Ward on Friday as Hurricane Rita swept towards the region, the Army Corps of Engineers said.

Heavy rain and intensifying winds from the storm had reached the city Friday, threatening the city's already battered city levees.

Mayor Ray Nagin said Thursday that levees breached when Hurricane Katrina hit the city on August 29 have been shored up ahead of the new storm.

Workers have been bolstering the levees with sandbags and bringing in extra portable pumps.

Nagin expressed confidence that the levees would hold.

"The Army Corps of Engineers has done some work to assure us that they can handle that type of storm surge in the current condition at our levees," Nagin told reporters.

Getting blame down to a science

Believe it or not, there are those in the world -- besides al Qaeda-- who are welcoming the arrival of Hurricane Rita. Among them is Sir John Lawton, an elite environmentalist from across the pond:

Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

In a series of outspoken comments - a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration, Sir John hit out at neoconservatives in the US who still deny the reality of climate change.

Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." As he spoke, more than a million people were fleeing north away from the coast of Texas as Rita, one of the most intense storms on record, roared through the Gulf of Mexico. It will probably make landfall tonight or early tomorrow near Houston, America's fourth largest city and the centre of its oil industry. Highways leading inland from Houston were clogged with traffic for up to 100 miles north.

There are real fears that Houston could suffer as badly from Rita just as New Orleans suffered from Hurricane Katrina less than a month ago.

Asked what conclusion the Bush administration should draw from two hurricanes of such high intensity hitting the US in quick succession, Sir John said: "If what looks like is going to be a horrible mess causes the extreme sceptics about climate change in the US to reconsider their opinion, that would be an extremely valuable outcome."

Unbelievable. So the people who die in Texas will be serving a greater good because it will educate us stupid Americans on global warming and teach the neocon loonies in charge of this country a jolly good lesson. Brilliant observation, Sir John.


This type of callous thinking is disturbing and there is really not a whole lot of difference between the reasoning of radical environmentalists such as Lawton and that of radical Islamists. Both view any disaster that strikes America as a just reward for it's policies. Both view innocent lives lost as a necessary evil to wake a nation up to it's "sins".

While there is such a thing as bonifide environmental science, what Sir John practices is an extreme, politically-charged version that approaches a religion. It is driven by an intense dislike of capitalism and conservative policy and has very little to do with the legitimate study of our climate.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/23/05)

John Joseph Pershing began his career as a schoolteacher in Missouri when a notice in the paper inspired him to give the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York a try. By his last year, he had earned the honor of being chosen first captain of the Corps of Cadets. His later military postings and combat experiences in places such as Cuba and Mexico provided him with valuable knowledge. During the First World War General John Pershing was the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe. After the war he was promoted to general of the armies, a position previously held only by George Washington. Toward the end of his life he spent a great deal of time writing his memoirs, My Experiences in the World War, which won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1932.

From The Library of Congress: America's Story

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bursting at the seams

Paul Nowak nicely illustrates the subject of government Katrina aid:

Roberts gets a little closer

John Roberts cleared his first hurdle today as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13 to 5 to confirm him:

All 10 Republicans voted to approve Roberts, while three Democrats joined them -- the ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Wisconsin Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.

Conservatives were quick to praise the committee's vote.

"The vote by the Judiciary Committee reflects the fact that John Roberts is an exceptional nominee with a conservative judicial philosophy -- a philosophy that represents mainstream America," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said in a statement.

"It's encouraging that several Democrats recognized his talents and capabilities by voting for his confirmation. At the same time, though, it's unfortunate that others chose to politicize a confirmation process by trying to turn it into some sort of election," said Sekulow.

"It's now up to the full Senate to move swiftly to confirm John Roberts so he can assume his duties and responsibilities as chief justice when the Supreme Court begins its new term in a matter of weeks. We call on the Senate to confirm John Roberts without delay," added Sekulow.

The full Senate will take up the Roberts nomination on Monday.

Take that, Bubba

President Bush today finally put the blame for the Sept. 11 attacks where it belongs -- on the Clinton administration:

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- President Bush said withdrawing from Iraq would be a mistake that would embolden terrorists just as U.S. responses to other attacks led to 9/11 hijackings.

Speaking Thursday at the Pentagon after an update on the war on terror, Bush said a pullback would be seen as weakness and make the United States less safe.

'The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings in the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole,' Bush said. 'The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves and so they attacked us.'

GET 'EM, W!! Sorry but that braggadocious brat had it coming. I wish Bush would do more of this.

Bush: Weak terror response led to 9/11

The kook gets her audience

NewsMax tells us that anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan will soon be meeting up with with several liberal politicians in Washington during her national tour -- among them Senator Hillary Clinton:

2008 presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain have agreed to meet with anti-American war protester Cindy Sheehan when Sheehan travels to Washington, D.C. this weekend to cap her national tour.

Sheehan has meetings scheduled with an array of left-wing Democratic officeholders, including Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman - as well as Clinton and McCain, the Village Voice reported Thursday.

Sen. Clinton's decision to meet with Sheehan flies in the face of her attempts to reposition herself as a pro-defense Democrat - although lately she's been scrambling to appeal to her party's left-wing base.

The McCain meeting, however, is completely inexplicable.

On August 24, the Tucson Citizen asked McCain if President Bush was right not to meet with Sheehan.

His response? "If I was president of the United States, I probably wouldn't."

The same day, McCain told the Arizona Star that Sheehan "is probably being used" by anti-war groups.

More troubling still: both Clinton and McCain's office's are no doubt aware of the long list of anti-American statements uttered by Sheehan since she lost her son in Iraq last year.

The highlights:

• "America has been killing people on this continent since it was started. This country is not worth dying for..."

• "We have this lying bastard, George Bush, taking a 5-week vacation in a time of war."

• "When I was growing up, it was Communists. Now it's Terrorists. So you always have to have somebody to fight and be afraid of, so the war machine can build more bombs, guns, and bullets and everything."

• "You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism."

• "Thank God for the Internet, or we wouldn't know anything, and we would already be a fascist state."

• "George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans."

• "They’re not waging a War on Terror but a War of Terror. The biggest terrorist is George W. Bush."

Do these officeholders really want to align themselves with this? They would do well to consider the political implications here as hanging out with Sheehan would be akin to hanging out with Abbey Hoffman.

Roberts getting closer to confirmation

The voting has begun for the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. From all early indications, Democrats are determined to show that partisanship is alive and well in the U.S. Senate:

John R. Roberts moved a step closer to confirmation as chief justice of the United States this morning as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee began casting their votes for the all but certain recommendation for confirmation by the full Senate next week.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) the committee chairman, cast the first yes vote, saying that while Roberts said only what he had to say during the committee's hearings last week, he was generally satisfied with the answers the nominee gave.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) followed with a no vote, complaining, as she had last week, that Roberts had been unforthcoming in so many areas and had given unsatisfactory answers in so many others that she could not justify a favorable vote.

All 10 Republicans on the committee are expected to vote for Roberts today.

Among the eight Democrats, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has already said he would vote no, along with Feinstein while ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy plans on voting yes.

The votes of Democrats Sen. Joseph R. Biden (Del.), Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), among others, are in doubt, judging from their comments during the hearings.

Rita's wrath intensifies

As Hurricane Rita reaches category 5 status, people in Texas -- including many evacuees from Hurricane Katrina -- are scrambling to find safer ground:

(CBS/AP) Traffic came to a standstill and gas shortages were reported Thursday as hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston metropolitan area rushed to get out of the path of Hurricane Rita, a monster storm with 170 mph winds.

They joined the more than 1.3 million residents in Texas and Louisiana fleeing in hopes of avoiding a deadly repeat of Katrina.

"If there was a Category 6, Rita would be there," said CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen. "This is an incredible storm right now, the third most intense hurricane ever recorded."

The line of cars heading away from the Texas coastline said it all, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan. Highways leading inland out of Houston were gridlocked, with traffic bumper-to-bumper for up to 100 miles north of the city. Gas stations were reported to be running out of gas. Shoppers emptied grocery store shelves of spaghetti, tuna and other nonperishable items.

The Houston Astrodome, which had been housing Katrina evacuees, is now empty, reports CBS News Correspondent Trish Regan.

"The lights are off, the gates are closed, all of the evacuees have been moved out, either to other parts of Texas, other parts of the country even, including places like Arkansas and Tennessee," Regan said.

Breaking news: you're all doomed

Passengers on a crippled plane circling Southern Califonia on Wednesday got to witness their own terrifying reality show:

The airliner circled Southern California for hours, crippled by a faulty landing gear, while inside its cabin 140 passengers watched their own life-and-death drama unfolding on live television.

While satellite TV sets aboard JetBlue Flight 292 were tuned to news broadcasts, some passengers cried. Others tried to telephone relatives and one woman sent a text message to her mother in Florida attempting to comfort her in the event she died.

"It was very weird. It would've been so much calmer without" the televisions, Pia Varma of Los Angeles said after the plane skidded to a safe landing Wednesday evening in a stream of sparks and burning tires. No one was hurt.

Varma, 23, and other passengers said the plane's monitors carried live DirectTV broadcasts on the plane's problems until just a few minutes before landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

The landing gear trouble _ the front wheels were stuck in a sideways position _ was discovered almost immediately after the plane departed Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at 3:17 p.m., en route to New York City.

The Airbus A320 circled the Long Beach Airport, about 30 miles south of Burbank, before being cleared to land at Los Angeles. It stayed in flight for three hours to burn off fuel, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker.

Zachary Mastoon of New York said it was "surreal" to watch his plane's fate being discussed on live TV while it was in the air. At one point, he said, he tried to call his family, but his cell phone call wouldn't go through.

"I wanted to call my dad to tell him I'm alive so far," the 27-year- old musician said.

The pilot finally brought the plane down, back wheels first. As he slowly lowered the nose gear, the stuck wheels erupted in smoke and flames, which quickly burned out.

"At the end it was the worst because you didn't know if it was going to work, if we would catch fire. It was very scary. Grown men were crying," said Diane Hamilton, 32, a television graphics specialist.

As the plane was about to touch the ground, Hamilton said crew members ordered people to assume a crash position, putting their heads between their knees.

"They would yell, "Brace! Brace! Brace!'" she said. "I thought this would be it."

Lisa Schiff, 34, of Los Angeles sent a text message to her mother in Miami that said: "I love you. Don't worry about me. If something happens, know that I am watching you and Daddy and (her brother) David."

Emergency crews from across the area met the plane on the runway. Spectators gathered on buildings and stood on parked cars to see firsthand as passengers walked down a stairway onto the tarmac with their carry-on luggage.

Some passengers shook hands with emergency workers and waved to cameras. One firefighter carrying a boy across the tarmac put his helmet on the child's head.

"We all cheered, I was bawling, I cried so much," said Christine Lund, 25, who was traveling with her cat.

She and the other passengers were taken by bus from the tarmac to the airport's international terminal.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke with the pilot, identified him as Scott Burke and praised him for the calm he showed during the flight.

"He joked that he was sorry he put the plane down 6 inches off the center line," Villaraigosa said.

Ann Decrozals, an Airbus spokeswoman at the aircraft manufacturer's headquarters in France, said the A320 was designed to be able to land with front wheel problems.

JetBlue spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said the airline was investigating the incident with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board. She declined to identify the pilot and first officer.

About 57 of the passengers were placed on another flight, which arrived at New York's Kennedy Airport at 6:05 a.m. EDT Thursday, said airline spokeswoman Sharon Jones. Others were put up in Los Angeles area hotels and given reservations for Thursday flights. Still others simply returned home.

Among the latter group was Varma, who was greeted by her parents at the terminal.

"It started out just being a ghastly birthday, but now it's just fabulous, " said her father, Anil, who turned 51 on Wednesday.

JetBlue, based in New York, is a five-year-old low-fare airline with 286 flights a day and destinations in 13 states and the Caribbean. It operates a fleet of 81 A320s.

I can only imagine how the fear of the passengers was magnified after being subjected to hours of gloom-and-doom reporting, expert analysis, charts, graphics and statistics. Undoubtedly, the crew-members had more pressing matters on their minds but could someone not have reached over and changed the channel to Nickelodeon?

Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/22/05)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle takes off at the start of its flight demonstration during the 2005 Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

The Open House showcased civilian and military aircraft from the Nation's armed forces, which provided many flight demonstrations and static displays.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pentagon says we can't handle the truth

Able Danger has just gotten very interesting again. The New York Times reports that on the eve of the scheduled Senate hearings on the data-mining program, the Pentagon has suddenly stepped in to silence some of the key players:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - The Pentagon said today that it had blocked a group of military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about a highly classified military intelligence program that, the officers have said, identified a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The announcement came a day before the officers and intelligence analysts had been scheduled to testify about the program, known as Able Danger, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement that open testimony about the program "would not be appropriate - we have expressed our security concerns and believe it is simply not possible to discuss Able Danger in any great detail in an open public forum." He offered no other detail on the Pentagon's reasoning in blocking the testimony.

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the committee, said he was surprised by the Pentagon's decision because "so much of this has already been in the public domain, and I think that the American people need to know what happened here."

Mr. Specter said in a telephone interview that he intended to go ahead with the hearing on Wednesday and hoped that it "may produce a change of heart by the Department of Defense in answering some very basic questions."

Two military officers - an active-duty Navy captain and a reservist Army lieutenant colonel - have said publicly in recent weeks that they were involved with Able Danger and that the program's analysts identified Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian-born ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, by name as a potential terrorist by early 2000.

They said they attempted to share the information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the summer of 2000, more than a year before the terrorist attacks, but were blocked by Defense Department lawyers. F.B.I. officials, who answer to the jurisdiction of Senator Specter's committee, have confirmed that Defense Department abruptly canceled meetings in 2000 between the bureau's Washington field office and representatives of the Able Danger team.

The Pentagon has said that it has interviewed three other people who were involved with Able Danger and who said that they, too, recalled the identification of Mr. Atta as a terrorist suspect. But Defense Department investigators said they could find no documentary evidence to back up the assertion; they acknowledged that much of the information might have been routinely destroyed.

Mr. Specter said his staff had talked to all five of the potential witnesses and found that "credibility has been established" for all of them.

"There are quite a few credible people who are prepared to testify that Mohamed Atta was identified long before 9/11," he said. "Now maybe there's more than one Mohamed Atta. Or maybe there's some mistake. But that's what we're trying to find out."

Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said that in place of members of the Able Danger team, a senior defense official would be sent to the Wednesday hearing to discuss "what the law and policies are on domestic surveillance and to provide some insights about information-sharing between agencies."

Not a good PR move on the Pentagon's part. This will only intensify the appearance that they are protecting someone and the abruptness of this clampdown will likely have the unintended consequences of re-awakening a story that had almost died. Still, there may not be much that can be done at this point.

But, we have to remember that Rep. Curt Weldon is on the case and had been among those scheduled to testify in these hearings. Safe to say he has no intentions of letting go of the matter any time soon and I'm sure he'll do whatever he can to get the facts out. I am still convinced that a copy of the famous "Atta" chart will make an appearance in the near future.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/21/05)

The Gettysburg Address

"On Nov. 1863, a part of the battlefield of Gettysburg was set aside as a cemetery, where monuments to the soldiers who fell there might be set up. The main oration was delivered by Edward Everett, at the conclusion of which Lincoln dedicated the field in this most pregnant and eloquent of his utterances." ...from ".American Historical Documents" 1000 - 1904.

"FOURSCORE and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate--we cannot hallow--this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Going lunar

NASA has unveiled plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2018. Below is an artist's rendition of the rocketship that will take them there:

I love the retro look! Full story below.

NASA's New Moon Plans: 'Apollo on Steroids'

Latest update on Rita

Rita Strengthens Into Category 2 Hurricane
Sep 20 1:31 PM US/Eastern

Associated Press Writer


Rita strengthened rapidly on Tuesday to a Category 2 hurricane as it lashed the Florida Keys with flooding rain and strong wind and sparked fears the storm could eventually bring new misery to the Gulf Coast.

Rita went from a tropical storm with top sustained wind of 70 mph early Tuesday to a hurricane with 100 mph wind by early afternoon as it passed just south of the Keys, the National Hurricane Center said.

Thousands of residents and tourists had fled the low-lying island chain, where forecasters said Rita could dump up to 8 inches of rain, down from earlier forecasts of up to 15 inches.

Rita threatened to continue gaining strength as it left Florida and crossed the warm Gulf of Mexico for a weekend landfall, most likely in Texas although Louisiana or northern Mexico could end up in the path of what could become a major hurricane.

"Farther out, we do anticipate further strengthening up to Category 3, or major hurricane status," Chris Sisko, a meteorologist at the hurricane center, said before Rita rose to Category 2. Category 3 storms have maximum sustained wind of 130 mph.

Data from a hurricane chase plane confirmed the increase to 100 mph wind, the hurricane center said.

Mallard Filmore's take on the hurricane response

Rather delusional

What do you do with a broadcast journalist who is forced into early retirement after drumming up a false presidential scandal? If he's Dan Rather you give him a lifetime achievement award:

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said Monday that there is a climate of fear running through newsrooms stronger than he has ever seen in his more than four-decade career.

Rather famously tangled with President Nixon and his aides during the Watergate years while Rather was a hard-charging White House correspondent.

Addressing the Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, occasionally forcing back tears, he said that in the intervening years, politicians "of every persuasion" had gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a "new journalism order."

He said this pressure -- along with the "dumbed-down, tarted-up" coverage, the advent of 24-hour cable competition and the chase for ratings and demographics -- has taken its toll on the news business. "All of this creates a bigger atmosphere of fear in newsrooms," Rather said.

Rather was accompanied by HBO Documentary and Family president Sheila Nevins, both of whom were due to receive lifetime achievement awards at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards on Monday evening.

If there is any fear in the network newsrooms it is due to the realization that they no longer have a captive audience waiting to be spoonfed their version of world events. This mounting pressure to actually tell the truth can be too much for these old-school journalists to bear.

Nevin asked Rather if he felt the same type of repressive forces in the Nixon administration as in the current Bush administration.

"No, I do not," Rather said. That's not to say there weren't forces trying to remove him from the White House beat while reporting on Watergate; but Rather said he felt supported by everyone above him, from Washington bureau chief Bill Small to then-news president Dick Salant and CBS chief William S. Paley.

"There was a connection between the leadership and the led . . . a sense of, 'we're in this together,"' Rather said. It's not that the then-leadership of CBS wasn't interested in shareholder value and profits, Rather said, but they also saw news as a public service. Rather said he knew very little of the intense pressure to remove him in the early 1970s because of his bosses' support.

When Rather speaks of not feeling "supported by everyone above him" he is clearly alluding to his own network's unwillingness to back him up on his false "Killian memo" flap during last year's presidential campaigns. But this "smoking-gun" document was so easy to recreate (all it took was one one blogger, a computer, and Microsoft Word at default settings) that it would have been professional suicide for CBS to stand by Rather.

Rather sidestepped the question of what should happen to the evening news in the expected makeover. "Not my call," he said. And he said he hadn't been asked, either.

"I gave it everything I had, I didn't hold anything back. I did the best newscast we were capable of doing," Rather said.

A man like Dan Rather is never going to have to face the reality of his own incompetence because he is always going to be surrounded by an incestuous group of colleagues who are all too eager to pat him on the back and say "Well, done." This will be the only world he ever has to know.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/20/05)

02/05/05 - U.S. Marines with the 4th Civil Affairs Group hand out school supplies to Fallujah, Iraq, children on Feb. 5, 2005.

DoD photo by Cpl. Thomas D. Hudzinski, U.S. Marine Corps.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Choose your enemies carefully

Speaking at a New York church during the latest stop on her anti-war tour, an increasingly radical Cindy Sheehan took the opportunity to issue an ultimatum to Senator Hillary Clinton:

War protester Cindy Sheehan came to New York last night with a blunt warning for Senator Clinton: End your support for the war in Iraq or else.

Visiting New York City for the first time since leaving her campsite outside President Bush's vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas, Ms. Sheehan told a packed audience in a Brooklyn church that Mrs. Clinton "knows the war is a lie" but because of her political ambitions refuses to voice any opposition.

Mrs. Clinton is "waiting for the best political moment to say" she opposes the war, Ms. Sheehan said during a 15-minute speech. "You say it or you're losing your job," she said, provoking a roar of approval from the audience. Mrs. Clinton, believed to be a possible presidential contender in 2008, has said she supports the war in Iraq and has pushed for a greater troop presence in the country.

In an interview after her speech, Ms. Sheehan said she has requested a meeting with Mrs. Clinton but has not gotten a reply. Mrs. Clinton's office was not immediately available for comment last night.

Oh my.

This woman clearly doesn't have a clue about the evil she is confronting. If you get the meeting you desire, Ms. Sheehan, whatever you do... don't close the door behind you.

Cashing in on the controversy

If Michael Shiavo wants to make friends with his detractors this is not the way to do it:

PUNTA GORDA -- Michael Schiavo is co-writing a book with author Michael Hirsh to tell his side of the end-of-life case that divided much of the country. Schiavo's wife, Terri, suffered a brain injury in 1990 that left her in what some doctors called a ''persistent vegetative state." She died March 31 after a bitter court battle between her husband and her parents. Hirsh expects the 280-page book, ''Terri: the Truth," to be available just before the first anniversary of Terri's death. (AP)

On second thought...

If there is one thing that we have learned about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin since the Katrina disaster it is that his mouth often operates independently of his brain. Today he has called off his plans for an early re-opening of portions of New Orleans -- and asked those who have returned to evacuate again:

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced Monday that because of the specter of Tropical Storm Rita, he was suspending all re-entry into the city.

He encouraged everyone in the area to evacuate.

"Our levee systems are still in a very weak condition," Nagin said during an afternoon press conference. "Any type of storm that hits us will put ... us into harm's way."

Rita, which is lurking just off the coast of Florida, is expected to become a hurricane by the time it swirls through the Gulf of Mexico, though forecasters don't expect it to strike the Gulf Coast region that Hurricane Katrina devastated.

Nagin said the city's pumping facilities also weren't working at full capacity -- and that if there was anything above a three-foot storm surge, there would be significant flooding.

Nagin's decision was an about-face from earlier in the day, when he'd begun to allow people back into the region, and was made under increasing pressure from the federal government to scale back his plan to re-open parts of the city this week and beyond.

I really can't criticize Nagin's actions here because this was clearly the right thing to do. However, he could avoid these embarrassing episodes in the future if he would do a little less talking and a little more listening.

We'll believe it when we see it

The Asia Times expresses cautious optimism about today's news that North Korea has agreed to halt it's nuclear weapons program:

It's been almost three years since a crisis erupted over North Korea's nuclear ambitions but Monday Pyongyang finally agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programs and return to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The question now is whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is serious or stalling for time. North Korea can be unpredictable at best, while at worst it is known for breaking commitments.

"All six parties emphasized that to realize the inspectable non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the target of the six-party talks," a joint statement said. "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea promised to drop all nuclear weapons and current nuclear programs and to get back to the nonproliferation

treaty as soon as possible and to accept inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency.''

It was the first time in four rounds of six-party talks that participants have come close to coming up with a joint statement. The statement issued in Beijing, home to all four rounds of the talks, also includes provision that the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China have agreed to provide energy assistance to North Korea.

The parties say they are also committed to negotiating a new agreement for lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. The six countries plan more talks in November to discuss concrete steps to implement the statement.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/19/05)

A Nation's Strength

What makes a nation's pillars high
And it's foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

...Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A premature homecoming

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is once again exhibiting the confoundingly bad judgment that has become his trademark. Despite warnings from federal officials, he is now insisting that his storm-torn city will be ready for habitation within two weeks:

Mayor Ray Nagin defended his plan to return up to 180,000 people to the city within a week and a half despite concerns about the short supply of drinking water and heavily polluted floodwaters.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen, head of the federal disaster relief effort, said Saturday that Nagin's idea is both "extremely ambitious and "extremely problematic."

But Nagin said his plan was developed in cooperation with the federal government and balances safety concerns and the needs of citizens to begin rebuilding.

"We must offer the people of New Orleans every chance for a sense of closure and the opportunity for a new beginning," he said.

Nagin said the Algiers, Garden District and French Quarter sections would reopen over the next week and a half, bringing back more than one-third of the city's half-million inhabitants. City officials later backed off setting a specific date for reopening the famous French Quarter the city's main tourist draw.

Allen said a prime public health concern is the tap water, which in most of the city remains unfit for drinking and bathing. He said he was concerned about the difficulties of communicating the risk of using the water to people who return and might run out of bottled water.

Another concern is the risk of another storm hitting the region, threatening an already delicate levee system and possibly requiring residents to be evacuated again, he said.

These worries are not unfounded as we see in another story from today concerning tropical storm Rita:

Long-term forecasts show the system heading generally toward the west in the Gulf of Mexico toward Texas or Mexico later in the week, but such forecasts are subject to large errors. That means that areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina could potentially be in the storm's path.

``Once it reaches the Gulf, really everybody should pay attention at that point,'' Brown said.

Below is a picture showing the projected path of this new storm:

As you can see, even if Rita doesn't change course, the coastal region of Louisiana will likely catch the dangerous outer bands of this hurricane. Normally this wouldn't be much cause for concern but when you're looking at an already weakened city with damaged levees...

Going back to the AP story, we learn that federal officials are not quite as in-sync with the mayor as he would have us believe:

Allen, who planned to meet with Nagin on Monday, said federal officials support the mayor's vision for repopulating the city, but he is concerned about the mayor's timeline.

"Our intention is to work with the mayor -- in a very frank, open and unvarnished manner," he said.

In other words, stop running your mouth to the press, Mayor!

And what of Nagin's call for store owners to reopen their doors in the city? A bold gesture for sure, but there seems to be one little snag -- the merchandise is gone:

Business owners were allowed back in to some sections of the city to begin the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding, part of Nagin's plan to begin reviving the city by resuming a limited amount of commerce.

But confronted with damage that could take months to repair, many said hopes for a quick recovery may be little more than a political dream.

"I don't know why they said people could come back and open their businesses," said Margaret Richmond, owner of an antiques shop on the edge of the city's upscale Garden District that was looted. "You can't reopen this. And even if you could, there are no customers here."

The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

"They took everything all the electronics, the food, the bikes," said John Stonaker, a Wal-Mart security officer. "People left their old clothes on the floor when they took new ones. The only thing left are the country-and-western CDs. You can still get a Shania Twain album."

If the store had not been looted, it could be open in two weeks, Stonaker said. Now he doubts it will be open by January. "They'll have to gut it and start over," he said.

It is difficult to determine the thinking behind the impetuous beckoning home of the citizens of New Orleans. Some of it I'm sure is an effort on the part of Nagin to cast himself in a more positive, "leaderlike" light after his profanity laced break-downs of recent weeks. Some of it may also be driven by a fear that if he doesn't act quickly, the people of New Orleans may get settled into their new environment and not want to return -- something that is already happening to a certain extent.

Yet another factor is an inability on the part of Nagin to accept the circumstances he is confronted with. How does one cope with the realization that he is a public official presiding over a ghost town? Undoubtedly there is a desire to simply flip a switch and have everything back the way it was.

But things don't work that way -- and when you are the mayor of a major city you should have the maturity to know that. It is irresponsible to play with the lives of the citizens you serve just because you have gotten a little antsy to get things working again. These people have already escaped this disaster once -- why ask them to come back and potentially re-live it a second time?

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The failure of fear

Once an opressed people has a taste of true liberty, they are willing brave any amount of vioence and bloodshed to hang on to it. After decades under Taliban rule, the people of Afghanistan demonstrated today that no threat is large enough to keep them from exercising their newly found rights:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans chose a legislature for the first time in decades Sunday, embracing their newly recovered democratic rights and braving threats of Taliban (search) attacks to cast votes in schools, tents and mosques.

Violence in the hours before voting began and during the day killed 15 people, including a French commando in the U.S.-led coalition that is helping Afghans (search) build a democracy after a quarter-century of conflict. But there were no signs of a spectacular attack threatened by Taliban militants to disrupt the vote.

Sunday's vote was considered the last formal step toward democracy on a path set out after a U.S.-led force drove the Taliban from power in 2001, when they refused to hand over Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden (search) following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Afghan Polls Close Amid Attacks

Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/18/05)

"The fundamental basis of this nation's laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and Saint Matthew, from Isaiah and Saint Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don't have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the State!"

Harry S. Truman, Attorney General's Conference, 1950