Saturday, October 08, 2005

Plot thickens in Hinrichs story

Mark Tapscott from Townhall.com has an interesting column today on the mysterious case of Joel Henry Hinrichs III. In addition to questioning why the Justice Department would want to seal the search warrant used to get into the OU student's apartment, he also makes note of some details many of us might not have been aware of:

So there is no surprise that the more officials with the FBI and the Joint Task Force on Terrorism deny Hinrichs had any terrorist ties, the more holes appear in the “lone bomber” scenario first hastily offered by OU President David Boren. Boren is a former U.S. senator who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when he retired from government in 1994.

Start with the actual holes made in the bark of a tree near the bench where Hinrichs was sitting when he died. The holes appear to have been made by ball bearings or perhaps nails, the very objects typically used by Middle Eastern terrorists bombers to inflict the most widespread possible damage, injury and death.

Here’s another hole: Hinrichs registered his car in Oklahoma in June of this year, but only for nine months ending in February 2006. The June registration could be explained by his going to summer school, but the February expiration date would fall in the early weeks of what would have been his spring semester at OU. Did he know months ago that he would not be around by the time February rolled around next year?

Speaking of his car, federal investigators gave it the once-over but then left it in the parking lot of the apartment complex where Hinrichs lived with three or four Muslim students. By the way, the Muslim Students Association office is across the street from the apartment complex, as is the mosque attended by alleged 9/11 “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui while he was attending a local flight school.

Not only did investigators not impound Hinrichs’ car, they also left out in plain sight on the vehicle’s front seat the Justice Department inventory of things they found in it, including 13 plastic bottles.

The bottles weren’t described, nor did the inventory indicate whether any of them had anything in them. However, plastic bottles are often associated with bomb makers who find the containers suitable for transporting volatile chemical explosives.

An article from Friday's Investor's Business Daily questions the MSM's apathy towards this story:

So far, the big media have laid off Hinrichs' death. Apparently the fact that he was on a park bench just 100 yards from more than 84,000 fans when the bomb attached to his body exploded wasn't enough to stir their curiosity. Nor was the fact that death by detonation, not to mention a blast strong enough to be heard four miles away, isn't exactly a common method of suicide, which is how the incident was first categorized.

It took local media to learn that authorities found bomb-making material in Hinrichs' apartment. And as far as we can tell, there's been no mention on network news of Hinrichs' attempt to buy ammonium nitrate a few days before his death. Ammonium nitrate was the main component of the explosion that blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168.

It also took local media to learn that a stadium guard said a "guy had sprinted off" earlier outside the stadium's Gate 6 after refusing to let security search his backpack. A backpack was found near Hinrichs' body.

Local media also pointed out that the explosive that killed Hinrichs — triacetone triperoxide — is the same one that shoe bomber Richard Reid used. Made from commonplace ingredients, the substance was also used by the London tube bombers.

There's also at least one report, unconfirmed and doubted by O.U.'s Muslim Student Association president, that Hinrichs, whose Pakistani roommate attended a local mosque, had converted to Islam. Meanwhile, local TV is claiming that Hinrichs was a frequent visitor at the same Islamic mosque that Zacarias Moussaoui, known as the 20th 9-11 hijacker, attended in 2000.

Such coincidences do not a terrorist make. But talk of a conversion, a home stocked with bomb-making supplies, death by explosion and the presence of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force raise suspicions. Was Hinrichs on a homicide bombing mission when unstable explosives went off at the wrong time?

I think that is a distinct possibility. It is worth noting however that so far we have no evidence from security cameras that Hinrichs tried to get into the stadium nor are there any records that he had bought a ticket to the game.

But would that be proof positive that he didn't intend to harm others? Not necessarily. Any potential suicide bomber would know that he wouldn't have much of a chance of getting through the gates with explosives strapped to his body or in his backpack. However, once the spectators started filing out after the game it would be a very simple matter to mingle into the large crowd and do his deadly deed there. In terms of casualties, the results would be very much the same as if he had been sitting in the stands. So it may be possible that the unstable explosives went off prematurely while Hinrichs was biding his time waiting for the game to end.

Having said all of this, I am aware that lot of what we understand to be the facts of this case may very well turn out to be rumor or conjecture. One needs only to look back at the recent fictitious reports of rapes and murders in the Katrina aftermath to see how information can be exaggerated. But one thing we know to be fact is that we now have a search warrant that has been sealed by the federal government -- something which makes it ever more difficult to believe the official FBI version of last Saturday's events. I have yet to hear a plausible explanation for that move.

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Lost in the Amazon

Washington Post staff writer Howard Kurtz decided to close out his online column Friday morning by quoting excerpts from the first chapter of Mary Mapes' new book which had been posted at Amazon.com. But strangely the link that Kurtz provided in his piece goes nowhere. It has vanished from Amazon... along with the entire book.

From reading the quotes in Kurtz' column -- most of them having to do with the Dan Rather forged-document flap last year in which Mapes had played such an intimate role -- I suspect that pure embarrassment might have been the culprit. Her words are rife with emotion, denial, defensiveness and sour grapes.

Some examples:

--"I was incredulous that the mainstream press -- a group I'd been a part of for nearly twenty-five years and thought I knew -- was falling for the blogs' critiques. I was shocked at the ferocity of the attack. I was terrified at CBS's lack of preparedness in defending us. I was furious at the unrelenting attacks on Dan. And I was helpless to do anything about any of it."

-- “And right now, on the Internet, it appeared everything was falling apart. I had a real physical reaction as I read the angry online accounts. It was something between a panic attack, a heart attack, and a nervous breakdown. My palms were sweaty; I gulped and tried to breathe. . . . The little girl in me wanted to crouch and hide behind the door and cry my eyes out."

--"Faxing changes a document in so many ways, large and small, that analyzing a memo that had been faxed -- -in some cases not once, but twice -- -was virtually impossible. The faxing destroyed the subtle arcs and lines in the letters. The characters bled into each other. The details of how the typed characters failed to line up perfectly inside each word were lost."

--"To these people, there was no such thing as unbiased mainstream reporting, certainly not when it came to criticism of the president, no matter how tepid. To them, there was Fox News and everything else -- and everything else was liberal and unfair."

I have read many of the blogs that covered the forged-documents and can't remember a single instance of outright anger -- at least not the viciousness that Mapes describes. Bemusement and incredulity come to mind, but nothing even approaching ferocity.

I think that the panic Mapes felt was due more to the rushing realization that she had been caught at a game that the MSM had gotten away with for so many years. The bloggers that she is so angry with were actually only doing the job that her colleagues in the media should have been doing -- especially considering the huge potential the Killian memo story had for changing the course of a presidential election.

And let's face it, the memo wasn't hard to debunk. It was as easy as opening Microsoft Word and typing the contents of the "original" document word for word. Not only did the font match but the line breaks fell in exactly the same places. Anybody in the MSM could have done this... but they didn't and that's the point. Call it bias or just plain incompetence... either way they dropped the ball and the Pajamahadeen came along to pick it up.

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Deadly earthquake in Asia

From AP:

A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake near the Pakistan-India border Saturday reduced villages to rubble, triggered landslides and flattened an apartment building. More than 1,700 people were killed in both nations, and a Pakistan army spokesman called the devastation "a national tragedy."

In the capitals of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, buildings shook and walls swayed for about a minute, and panicked people ran from their homes and offices. Tremors continued for hours afterward. Communications throughout the region were cut.

About 1,000 people were killed in Pakistani Kashmir, said Sardar Mohammed Anwar, the top government official in the area.
Top Stories

"This is my conservative guess, and the death toll could be much higher," Anwar told Pakistan's Aaj television station.

He said most homes in Muzaffarabad, the area's capital, were damaged, and schools and hospitals had collapsed.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Stealing home

Here is a prime reason why the current battle for the Supreme Court is so crucial to our nation's future. Seizing the opportunity afforded them by the recent Kelo v. City of New London ruling, the District of Columbia has notified 23 landowners that they are to vacate their property by Dec. 31 to make room for a new stadium for the Washington Nationals... for the "common good":

The District will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.
City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.
The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.
"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."
Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.
In April, the city notified property owners on the site that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31.

Earlier this week, plans were announced to relocate 6,000 residents of a predominantly poor Florida community so that a billion dollar yachting and housing complex could be built... again for the "common good":

The coastal community of Rivera Beach in Palm Beach County may use eminent domain, if necessary, to claim 400 acres of land for the project, The Washington Times reported Monday.

"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," Mayor Michael Brown said. "If we don't use this power, cities will die."

The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the use of eminent domain for economic purposes, ruling against a group of New London, Conn., homeowners fighting a proposed corporate development.

The City Council last week chose a New Jersey-based developer, Viking Inlet Harbor Properties LLC, to oversee the project, which is expected to displace 2,000 houses.

Viking has said it will pay at least the assessed values of homes and businesses it buys.

Dana Berliner, a lawyer who represented the New London homeowners, warned, "Once someone can be replaced, so something more expensive can go where they were, every home and business in the country is subject to taking by someone else."

Exactly right. As Founding Father and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story once said:

"And it is no less true, that personal security and private property rest entirely upon the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity of the courts of justice."

We are now witnessing the fruits of "the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity" of our High Court. Stay tuned... this is just the beginning.

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More questions than answers

WorldNetDaily details a report by Oklahoma City's KWTV-News 9 which claims that the student who blew himself up outside a football stadium on Saturday night had attempted earlier to purchase ammonium nitrate and that he had also attended a mosque located near his apartment:

The student who blew himself up outside a packed Oklahoma University football stadium Saturday night tried to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate – a key ingredient in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – the week before, according to a new report.

Also, Joel "Joe" Henry Hinrichs III attended a Norman, Okla., mosque near his university-owned apartment – the same one attended by Zacharias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a report by KWTV-News 9 in Oklahoma City.

Furthermore, Hinrichs was a roommate of a Pakistani student, who was not identified in the News 9 report. Though there were few additional details about that relationship, analysts examining all the evidence say it indicates at least a tenuous connection between the suicide bomber and Middle East Muslims.

In an interview with NewsOK.com Dustin Ellison, general manager of Ellison Feed and Seed detailed his strange encounter with Hinrichs on Sept. 28 when the student came in seeking ammonium nitrate:

“I told him I didn’t have that,” said Ellison, 25.

Ellison said he became suspicious when the young man couldn’t answer the most simple questions, such as how much he wanted or what he planned to do with it.

“I asked if he was trying to green up his yard, and he said, ‘Something like that,’” Ellison said.

Hinrichs was wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and a light green vest with a number of pockets on each side when he visited the store, Ellison said.

“All the pockets were full,” Ellison said, adding that he saw what appeared to be a wire with headphones attached protruding from one pocket.

“I don’t have any reason to believe it was anything other than that,” he said.

Ellison said Hinrichs was alone and calm throughout his visit.

Hinrichs drove off in a blue Lincoln Towncar, Ellison said.

Ellison said FBI agents came by his store Sunday and he identified Hinrichs from photos.

A few more details have come to light that are at the very least, a curiosity. One is an interesting statement made by Oklahoma University president David Boren:

"We believe that we should not judge others ... on the basis of color, race, gender, economic status or freely exercised religious beliefs," the statement read. "To rush to judge others or make assumptions about them on that basis is nothing short of prejudice."

I'm not sure what would prompt him to say something like this as no prejudice is evident here. Since nobody has been talking about Hinrichs' color, race, gender or economic status we can only conclude that Boren is referring here to the student's religious beliefs. Is the OU president betraying an inside knowledge in this area or was this simply a blanket admonishment in the name of political correctness? If it was the latter then it doesn't seem to have been warranted by anything that has occurred to date.

The second oddity comes from yet another WorldNetDaily report having to do with the search warrant used to collect evidence from Hinrichs' apartment:

The warrant used to execute a search of Oklahoma University bomber Joel "Henry" Hinrichs III's apartment, where an undetermined amount of explosives were found, has been sealed by a federal court at the request of the Justice Department.

Hinrichs blew himself up yards from Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Saturday night while tens of thousands of fans watched an OU-Kansas State football game.

Bob Troester, first assistance U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City, said the department requested the warrant be sealed, but declined to elaborate when asked why it was necessary to do so given previous media reports that a depressed Hinrichs acted alone and on a whim.

"You can draw whatever assumption you like," he said. "We don't comment on any sealed indictments."

I am assuming that the word "indictments" was a misspeak on Troester's part. In any event, there is no good reason in my mind for the DoJ to have a warrant sealed unless there is something in the wording that would reveal their own suspicions regarding the case. Of course, it could be that the FBI assumed terrorism at the beginning and concluded later that it was nothing more than a dramatically staged suicide. But putting this development in the context of other facts that have surfaced... let's just say things are not adding up at this point.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Terror warning for NYC subways

We had been warned earlier of a possible Ramadan offensive by al Qaeda. Now it looks like we have a "credible" threat in New York:

New York and federal officials said this evening that they had received information about a specific but unconfirmed terrorist threat to the city's transit system and that the police presence in the subways would be heightened in coming days.

"I believe people should live their lives as they always do and have faith in the world's greatest police department," the mayor said.

"This is the first time we have had a threat with this level of specificity," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a televised news conference carried live by the early-evening local news broadcasts.

Bloomberg Cites 'Specific Threat' to N.Y. Subways

A problem of their own making

The reaction on the right to the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers has been mixed at best. With so little information available on her, Senate Republicans are making a lot of noise over her inexperience and what they see as a lack of conservative credentials:

WASHINGTON - Unrest among conservatives over President Bush's Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers spread Wednesday even as she sought to assure senators that she was qualified for the job.

Some prominent Republican lawmakers expressed deep reservations about Miers, the White House counsel who has never been a judge.

"Is she qualified by her experience? Is she the most qualified person? Clearly the answer to that is no," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., former majority leader of the Senate, which is expected to vote on the nomination.

Lott, interviewed on MSNBC, added, "I just don't automatically salute or take a deep bow anytime a nominee is sent up. I have to find out who these people are. And right now I am not satisfied with what I know. I am not comfortable with the nomination."

Other Republican senators also said they still needed to be convinced that she is a conservative in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Sounds wonderful. But by allowing all of this "Gang of 14" nonsense, these same Republicans have effectively sabatoged any hopes of getting another Scalia or Thomas on the bench. If they don't like Miers they had better realize that she is the result of their attempts to "get along".

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Plame indictments likely to come soon

The Editor and Publisher is reporting that indictments in the Valerie Plame case may come as early as today and that Karl Rove has not been ruled out as one of the lucky parties. Interesting timing...

Indictments in Plame Case Could Come Any Time

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The one that got away

As has been previously reported, Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle went before three grand juries in his case against Tom DeLay and managed to come away with two indictments. Now we learn from sources familiar with the proceedings that the prosecutor got a little hotheaded with that third grand jury after he didn't get his way:

WASHINGTON --A prosecutor tried to persuade a grand jury that Rep. Tom DeLay tacitly approved illegal use of campaign money and became angry when jurors decided against an indictment, according to two people directly familiar with the proceeding.

"The mood was unpleasant," one person said Wednesday, describing Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle's reaction.

The people familiar with the proceeding insisted on anonymity because of grand jury secrecy.

Earle presented evidence to three grand juries. Two of them returned indictments against DeLay, triggering a House Republican rule that forced the Texas Republican to step aside -- at least temporarily -- from his post as majority leader.

Both indictments focused on an alleged scheme to move money around to conceal the use of corporate contributions to support Texas Republican candidates. State law prohibits corporate donations to support or oppose state candidates -- allowing the money to only be used for administrative expenses.

Little was previously known about the grand jury that refused to indict DeLay, who has maintained his innocence and accused Earle -- a Democrat -- of bringing the prosecution to politically damage him. Earle has denied the allegation and pointed out he has indicted far more Democrats than Republicans.

One person said the sole evidence Earle presented to the grand jury that declined to indict was a DeLay interview with the prosecutor in August. DeLay reportedly said he was generally aware of activities of his associates.

The person said Earle tried to convince the jurors that if DeLay "didn't say, 'Stop it,' he gave his tacit approval."

Actually that was pretty lame, Ronnie. Just be happy with what you got.

Earle actually reminds me somewhat of Dan Rather in that he becomes blinded by his own zeal to bring down someone that he just knows is corrupt. For him the man's guilt is a predetermined matter and all that remains is the gathering of evidence... real or imagined.

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Spy discovered in the White House

ABC News reported yesterday that a U.S. Marine who has been working in the White House over the past several years has been accused of espionage:

Oct. 5, 2005 — Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.

Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I don't know of a case where the vetting broke down before and resulted in a spy being in the White House," said Richard Clarke, a former White House advisor who is now an ABC News consultant.

Federal investigators say Aragoncillo, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, used his top secret clearance to steal classified intelligence documents from White House computers.

In 2000, Aragoncillo worked on the staff of then-Vice President Al Gore. When interviewed by Philippine television, he remarked how valued Philippine employees were at the White House.

"I think what they like most is our integrity and loyalty," Aragoncillo said.

This is not necessarily a new story although it may be the first time we are hearing about the White House angle. But the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism tells us in their blog that Aragoncillo was actually charged in mid-September along with an accomplice named Ray Aquino:

THE U.S. Department of Justice has released the rap sheets filed against Michael Ray Aquino, a former ranking official of the Philippine National Police, and Leandro Aragoncillo, an intelligence analyst of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The two were charged with espionage on two counts, first with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by disclosing classified information under the following circumstances:

a. On or about January 2, 2005, defendant MICHAEL RAY AQUINO sent a message to a public official in the Philippines about LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO and provided sensitive information furnished by ARAGONCILLO.

b. On or about February 24, 2005, defendant LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO transmitted classified information from a computer in New Jersey to a public official in the Philippines.

c. On or about February 24, 2005, defendant MICHAEL RAY AQUINO transmitted classified information to defendant ARAGONCILLO at a computer in New Jersey.

and second, with knowingly acting in the United States as agents of a foreign government, namely, as agents subject to the direction and control of a foreign official, without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law."

Aragoncillo, who is detailed with the Fort Monmouth Information Technology Center, was additionally charged with having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization and exceeding authorized access to sensitive information for reasons of U.S. national defense and foreign relations.

FBI investigation also revealed that Aragoncillo transmitted classified information 17 times via email, phone and SMS (text messages) to Aquino and still unnamed Philippine public officials.

And according to the PCIJ, Aquino has a rather colorful past:

Aquino was a chief inspector of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) headed by then Vice Pres. Joseph Estrada. When the PACC was disbanded to form the now also defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), he was promoted as senior superintendent. During his stint as a PACC agent, Aquino was implicated in five bank robberies and the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case, along with his superior, erstwhile chief superintendent (now senator) Panfilo Lacson, and 32 other police officials. The case was dismissed by a Quezon City trial court judge in 2003.

More to come...

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grand Old Pork

CNSNews goes in depth today on an issue that may genuinely hurt the GOP's chances of staying in power -- their spending habits.

(CNSNews.com) - Eleven years after Americans routed Democrats at the ballot box over undisciplined spending habits, breaking the party's monopoly on power in Washington, voters may be leaning toward a similar punishment of the Republican Party, with the issue again revolving around the dominant party's spending of taxpayer dollars.

Even some of the GOP's most loyal activist groups are angry and frustrated, complaining about a "spending spree" or a Congress that has gone "whole hog while letting down every hard-working American taxpayer."

A Cybercast News Service analysis of federal spending reveals that non-defense discretionary spending -- which does not include such mandatory items as Social Security and Medicare -- climbed 79 percent between 1994 and 2005. The Clinton administration's $259 billion spent on such items in the fiscal year 1994 budget pales in comparison with the $464 billion in similar expenses by the Bush administration in the fiscal year 2005 budget.

The rate of inflation, meanwhile, as measured by the consumer price index, rose only 33 percent over the same time frame.

Republicans have controlled the U.S. House for all of those 11 years and the Senate for the entire time except for a 17-month stretch in 2001 and 2002. The White House was occupied by Democratic President Bill Clinton for the first six years of the Republican congressional majority, but Republican President George W. Bush has given the GOP a monopoly on power for most of the last five years.

According to a decades-old popular perception, Republicans favor spending on the military or "guns," while Democrats prefer spending on civilian programs or "butter." But Pete Sepp, vice president of communications for the National Taxpayers Union, told Cybercast News Service that the Republican spending philosophy in Congress "can be summed up in two words: guns and butter, with butter getting an even bigger share."

The Republicans are engaged in a "spending spree," according to Sepp, having adopted the practices of the Democratic Congress they ousted in 1994.

The 1994 Republican landslide was fueled by then-U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," the 10-point GOP agenda that included a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Even though the amendment never passed, the proposal solidified the idea that Republicans were more fiscally prudent.

However, Sepp says Republican leaders no longer feel the same way. "Many Appropriations Committee posts went to senior GOP lawmakers who had spent years playing the compromise game with their Democratic colleagues -- which only perpetuated the 'everyone gets a slice of the pie' mentality."

The change in GOP spending, Sepp added, "had to do with the trappings of incumbency.

"Some Republicans in Congress felt like they had been so deeply frozen out of power that they would do anything to keep it, even though the popular base of support that gave them control of Congress wanted to see real changes in Washington's spending habits," Sepp said.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), another conservative group that has frequently sided with Republicans, notes on its website that "Congress continues to live in its own unreal world, believing there are no consequences to a steady diet of pork fat.

"Our elected officials have let themselves go whole hog while letting down every hard-working American taxpayer," according to the CAGW web statement.

Like many of us on the right, I consider myself a conservative first and Republican second. If Republicans in congress aren't behaving like conservatives then I agree that it's time for them to go. But shifting the balance of power back to the traditional "tax-n-spend" Democratic party in the hopes that they will grow government at a slower pace is not the answer. Conservative voters simply need to knock out the corrupt incumbents and replace them with some new blood. There are plenty of strong candidates waiting in the wings who would be more than happy to show us how it's done -- Herman Cain of Georgia comes to mind.

We have the power... we just need to exercise it...

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Miers' Christianity

The Washington Times has further confirmed the rumors that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is, in fact, a born-again Christian:

Late Sunday night, the Rev. Ron Key and his wife, Kaycia, got a mysterious phone call from longtime friend Harriet Miers.

"She talked with my wife and asked us to pray for her," the 57-year-old Dallas pastor said. "She said, 'You know, I cannot tell you why, but please pray for me.'
"Harriet is like that. She is very careful about doing the right thing. Of course, I did pray for her, and the next morning woke up to find out with the rest of the nation that she had been nominated for the Supreme Court."

While the rest of the country debates the merits of Miss Miers' judicial qualifications, her Christian friends and confidants says she is a solid believer who, like President Bush, had a religious conversion in her 30s.

This was in June 1979. Within a few days of her decision, she was baptized at Valley View Christian Church, a conservative Protestant congregation in north Dallas with 1,200 members. The church is not affiliated with the similarly named Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a liberal mainline denomination.

"The whole basis for becoming a Christian is that you've made mistakes," said Mr. Key, who was pastor of the church at the time. "Obviously, at that time in her life, she became aware of the fact that she needed Jesus, and she committed her life to Him."

But here's the part that won't set well with the libs in the Senate:

Not only did this affect her financially -- "If you see her tax returns, you'll see she gives 15 percent to the church," Justice Hecht said -- but it also transformed her views on issues such as abortion.

"After her conversion, she thought more about things in a serious way. She realized life begins at conception. Taking a life after conception was serious business, and therefore you could not do it without a good reason," the judge said.

It is amazing to think that in today's America the status of being a practicing Christian would be a criteria for excluding someone from serving on the Supreme Court. But nonetheless, these revelations about Miers are certain to become a stumbling block for her confirmation chances, mainly due to that dreaded "A" word. The fact that a person's views on taking a human life when it has been deemed an inconvenience would actually become a litmus test for confirming someone to the High Court is a disturbing testament to our times. Do the Dems really want this for a legacy?

The dirty little secret is that all of us have a value system that is rooted in something and it should have no bearing on whether we are qualified to serve on the bench. A commitment to our Constitution is the only thing that matters.

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More on the Oklahoma "suicide"

The following was posted by falconjet0900 on Free Republic:

This website is a combined website of the Daily Oklahoman newspaper and Channel 9 Television. It will probably require registration to view the video.

Video link: http://newsok.com/video/1633830/

The link is located in the middle of the page and is entitled: "Student Attempted Fertilizer Purchase".

The video is a segment of today's newscast and it will:

Confirm: The bomber had a Pakistani Roommate Confirm: He was seen at a Mosque that is Very close his apartment. Say: Nobody would know where the bomber was for months at a time over the last 2 years. Say: The student attempted a large fertilizer purchase a few days before the bomb went off.

This is a very solid source.

Here is some more background on the attempted fertilizer purchase from Eyewitness News 5:

NORMAN, Okla. -- The general manager of a Norman feed store said Tuesday that Joel Henry Hinrichs III had inquired about purchasing a significant amount of ammonium nitrate, the primary ingredient used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Dustin Ellison, the general manager of Ellison Feed & Seed on Porter Avenue, said that a man matching Hinrichs' description had come into the store days before he blew himself up on OU's campus. Ellison said the man asked about ammonium nitrate, but couldn't offer a reason why he needed it.

After the bombing, Ellison said he thought nothing of it. However, when he saw Hinrichs' photo, it triggered his memory.

To this point, authorities still suggest Hinrichs' only motive for blowing himself up was suicide. The FBI released a statement Tuesday evening saying that "there is no known link between Hinrichs and any terrorist or extremist organization(s) or activities."

The release also indicated that the FBI believes there is "no known current threat posed by any additional explosive materials."

Ellison noted that his store doesn't carry ammonium nitrate any longer after recent legislation required new paperwork for stores to sell the product.

Yesterday's WorldnetDaily also had an interesting article about about possible "jihad" materials found in Hinrichs' apartment:

An Oklahoma University student who killed himself by detonating a bomb strapped to his body outside a packed stadium over the weekend was a "suicide bomber" in possession of "Islamic jihad" materials, according to a new report.

Joel Henry Hinrichs III, 21, an engineering major at the school blew himself up outside OU's football stadium during Saturday night's game against Kansas State. Doug Hagmann, a seasoned investigator, told WND he was informed by multiple reliable law-enforcement sources familiar with the investigation into the incident that authorities recovered a "significant amount" of "jihad" materials, as well as Hinrichs' computer.

Hagmann also said those same sources indicated police and federal agents "had pulled additional explosives from [Hinrichs'] house," including triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, "homemade explosive [that is] very potent but relatively easily manufactured."

TATP was also used in the July mass transit bombings in London, CNN reported, and was used by attempted bomber Richard Reid, who packed his shoes with the compound in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy a U.S.-bound American Airlines flight in December 2001.

The confiscated jihad documents "referenced bomb-making manuals and that type of thing," Hagmann said, who added Hinrichs' apartment in Norman, Okla., is "located near the Islamic Society."

A phone at the Islamic Society of Norman went unanswered yesterday. Also, there was no response to an e-mail inquiry by press time.

I have long held the belief that the "unofficial-official" government policy on terrorist attacks in the United States is that if they don't have to tell you it was terrorism they won't. This is not conspiracy thinking. It's just based on the idea that the government would rather avoid the psychological consequences that something like a suicide bombing on U.S. soil would bring about.

In any event, the very premise of a despondent student choosing that as a way out of this life is a little dubious and this story is worth keeping an eye on.

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Meet the new boss

A Russian news agency is reporting that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may soon be naming his successor. Let's hope he has better hair:

Kim Jong Il Could Soon Name His Successor

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Don't let that little donation fool you

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison today defended SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers over her support for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 1988, saying that at the time Miers considered Gore to be a conservative:

(CNSNews.com) - Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers "readily admits" that she used to be a Democrat, said her good friend Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Tuesday. "Most people in Texas were," Hutchison told Fox News on Tuesday. But starting in 1990, Miers supported Hutchison for state treasurer and President Bush for governor, Hutchison said. "She decided to become a Republican out of conscience, and I think, has an impeccable record as a strong Republican." Hutchison said "back in the old days," Miers supported Al Gore for president. But in 1988, when Miers donated $1,000 to Gore's presidential campaign, Gore was thought to be the conservative candidate - compared with Massachusetts liberal Michael Dukakis. It shouldn't count against her, Hutchison said.

Investigating the investigator

Mark Levin of the Landmark Legal Foundation has filed a FOIA request with Travis County DA Ronnie Earle in an attempt to learn about any ties he may have with certain Democratic organizations. It probably won't get anywhere but I like this man's nerve.

Here is the full text:


October 4, 2005

Mr. Ronnie Earle District Attorney Travis County 509 W.11th St. Austin, TX 78701


Dear Mr. Earle:

This is an application for production of public information pursuant to Sec. 552.221 of the Texas Public Information Act.

Landmark Legal Foundation (“Landmark”) requests that that your office provide copies of requested material to Landmark’s Leesburg, Virginia address pursuant to Sec. 552.221(b)(2). The following information is sought from your office:


1. For the time period January 1, 2000 to October 4, 2005: Any and all information in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office (“DA”) , or in the custody or control of any individual working for said office, which name or in any way reference the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”); any entity, campaign committee, employee, agent or consultant of the DNC; DNC Chairman Howard Dean; the Texas Democratic Party; any entity, campaign committee, employee, agent or consultant of the Texas Democratic Party; Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting; any members of the Texas state legislature; Texas State Representative Pete Laney; and former Congressman Martin Frost.

The information must include, but is not limited to, calendars, agendas, schedules, notes, notations, letters, audio tapes, and/or video tapes. (For a more comprehensive definition of public information, see below.)

2. This request seeks all telephonic records (including but not limited to cell phone numbers) in the custody of the DA’s office, or in the custody of any individual working for said office, or to which the DA’s office has or can receive access, disclosing telephone calls to or from Mr. Earle for the time period August 1, 2005 to October 4, 2005. This request includes all information, regardless of format, including but not limited to bills or invoices disclosing telephonic communications.

3. This request seeks all telephone messages, logs, notes or notations prepared by anyone in the DA’s office for Mr. Earle, including but not limited to Mr. Earle’s secretary, receptionist and or office administrator or manager, for the time period August 1, 2005 to October 4, 2005.

4. This request seeks all telephone numbers (including but not limited to cell phone numbers) of Mr. Earle.

5. This request seeks all information in the custody of the DA’s office, or in the custody or control of any individual working for said office, which name or in any way reference Messrs. Mark Birnbaum, Jim Schermbeck, or their employees, agents or representatives, or the filming of their movie “The Big Buy” which cover the period of January 1, 2002 to October 4, 2005. This includes all telephonic records of communications involving Mr. Earle, the DA’s office, and Messrs. Birnbaum or Schermbeck.

6. This request seeks any copies of the film, or parts of the film The Big Buy, in whatever stage of production, in the possession of Mr. Earle, the DA’s office, or any employee of said office.

Pursuant to Sec. 552.002(a) public information means information that is collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business: (1) by a governmental body; or (2) for a governmental body and the governmental body owns the information or has a right of access to it. Moreover, Sec. 552.002(b) provides that the media on which public information is recorded include: (1) paper; (2) film; (3) a magnetic, optical, or solid state device that can store an electronic signal; (4) tape; (5) Mylar; (6) linen; (7) silk; and (8) vellum. Furthermore, Sec. 552.002(c) provides that the general forms in which the media containing public information exist include a book, paper, letter, document, printout, photograph, film, tape, microfiche, microfilm, photostat, sound recording, map, and drawing and a voice, data, or video representation held in computer memory.

This request includes all information, regardless of format. Moreover, it includes information stored on back-up data files, including disks and recordings of electronic communications.

This request for information does not seek any information exempt from release pursuant to Sec. 552.108 in that such release would not impede legitimate law enforcement or prosecutorial activities. Moreover, information relating to improper or illegal conduct by the DA or any person acting on behalf of or in the employment of the DA’s office is not exempt from disclosure under any exemption set forth in Chapter 552.

In the event that the DA asserts an exemption in response to this application, Landmark will expect timely compliance with the DA’s duty pursuant to Sec. 552.301 to seek an Attorney General’s decision as to the legitimacy of the exemption asserted.

Landmark is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization and seeks this information for public dissemination and education. Landmark respectfully requests a waiver or reduction of charges for providing copies of the requested information pursuant to Sec. 552.267 as the information sought is “in the public interest because providing the cop[ies] . . . primarily benefits the general public.” Landmark will, in fact, make this information public upon receipt. If a fee waiver is refused Landmark agrees to pay reasonable duplication costs up to $1500.00, but requests a timely itemized estimate of charges prior to incurring those costs as provided in Sec. 552.2615 via facsimile to Landmark’s Leesburg, Virginia office at 703-554-6119. However, Landmark agrees that duplication and release of records may proceed up to the $1500.00 amount immediately.

Sec. 552.221(d) requires that you act “promptly [and] without delay” -- within the 10 days provided in. If you have any questions, or wish to discuss this request further, please feel free to contact us.


Mark R. Levin President

cc: Ms. Alicia Perez, Executive Manager Administrative Operations Travis County 314 W. 11th St. Austin, TX 78701

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Bolton faces his old school

A recent speech before a Yale audience by United Nations Ambassador John Bolton was greeted (surprise) with hisses and jeers. College kids will be brats sometimes -- which is understandable because they know everything. But as one might expect, Bolton handled himself well:

It was a bittersweet homecoming for United Nations Ambassador John Bolton '70 LAW '74, a former chair of the Conservative Party who returned to the Yale Political Union Monday evening amid a chorus of hisses and politically charged questions.

In his address, which defended the Bush administration's foreign policy, Bolton argued that voluntary contributions from states would allow major donors such as the United States to choose to fund the U.N. programs that they believe to be the most efficient. But while fielding questions from impassioned students packed into Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, Bolton candidly discussed issues such as nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea, the war in Iraq and his own confirmation battles.

Noting that voluntary contributions are not yet part of President George W. Bush '68's policy on U.N. reform, Bolton said it was unfair for the U.S. to pay 22 percent of the organization's budget in exchange for one vote in the 191-member General Assembly. Agencies like the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, are more efficient and more responsive to donor countries, Bolton said.

"Why shouldn't we pay for what we want, instead of paying a bill for what we get?" Bolton said.

That's a valid complaint. The fact that our country provides the U.N. with almost a quarter of it's budget only to have our vote routinely overruled by third world dictatorships and governments that support terrorism leaves a lot to be desired. I personally maintain that we should pull all funding and let those ingrates fend for themselves (I'm speaking of the U.N. here... not Yale).

The audience interrupted Bolton throughout his speech with loud banging on desks and hissing, the typical YPU expressions for approval and disagreement. When asked about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bolton said the U.S. -- not other countries or international organizations ­-- should hold its own citizens accountable for possible abuse.

"We don't need anybody else to judge us," he said. "We judge our own."

The answer prompted loud hissing from the audience, but Bolton offered students a question of his own.

"I'm just curious, those of you who are hissing, who do you think will judge better than us?" he asked the audience.

Bolton's answers on this and other issues show that he correctly understands what is at stake -- namely our sovereignty. Are we going to handle our own affairs or are we going to hand power over to a world body that doesn't have our best interests at heart?

Much as some may spit at the notion, Bolton firmly believes that the U.S., with whatever flaws it may have, is fundamentally a good nation and is still the most qualified and best equipped to lead the free world through the challenges ahead. I happen to agree.

Some hints on Miers' abortion views

A woman who campaigned against Harriet Miers in 1989 remembers her as a decidedly pro-life candidate:

"She is on the extreme end of the anti-choice movement," Lorlee Bartos tells the Dallas Morning News in Tuesday's edition.

Bartos managed Miers' 1989 run for a seat on the Dallas City Council.

"I think Harriet's belief was pretty strongly felt," Bartos said Monday. "I suspect she is of the same cloth as the president."

Bartos told the paper that Miers revealed she had been "pro-choice in her youth" - but "a born-again profound experience" prompted a change of mind.

Beyond their 1989 exchange, Bartos said she has no other recollection about Miers' views on life issues.

That same year, however, Miers donated $150 to the Texans for Life Coalition.

Monday, October 03, 2005

And here's another one!

Ronnie Earle had so much fun last week he's decided to do it again. Hey, why quit when you're on a roll...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Texas grand jury has brought a new charge of money laundering against Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader indicted last week on conspiracy charges stemming from a campaign finance probe, the congressman's office said Monday.

In a written statement, DeLay called the indictment another example of "prosecutorial abuse" by District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

"He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over,' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate," said the Texas Republican. "This is an abomination of justice."

Redstate.org's krempasky sees this as Earle's feeble last-minute attempt to get what he couldn't get with his first grand jury:

If Ronnie Earle didn't exist, we'd have to invent him. Seriously, could any politician hope for a more disastrously incompetent prosector to be "hot on the trail"? His misteps and flailing about would almost be comical, if the normally right-minded folks in Texas hadn't given this boob a role in our justice system. If you hadn't noticed - Earle indicted Tom DeLay again today - on a new count: money laundering. Oooooh, sounds nasty. Let's all hide under our tables and wave the white flag. Or not. We already know that today's round is, in effect, Ronnie asking for a mulligan. The Austin American-Statesman opens by telling us,

"Travis County prosecutors rushed Monday to fix problems with an indictment against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay"

Problems? Gee - I would have thought that after TWO years of investigations, and a grand jury that had been empaneled for SIX MONTHS, they'd have gotten it right. Oops. So - after six months - what did the first grand jury find? Why didn't they bring the money laundering charge? Maybe we should ask Earle...

REPORTER: Did you seek money laundering charges or indictment on money laundering charges against Mr. DeLay, and if not, why?

EARLE: The grand jury returned the indictments that the grand jurors felt were appropriate to the evidence that was presented in this case. (Earle's 9/28 press conference)

Ok - so are we to believe that Earle found new evidence in the last four days? Or just a new set of eyes that had watched all the media hysteria?

But why the rush? Oh, that's simple - because not long ago - Earle threatened DeLay's lawyers with a simple threat: waive your rights to a statute of limitations or I'll indict you today. DeLay so waived, waiting to see what Earle would present. He showed up with a big fat pile of nothing - and DeLay wrote him a letter, re-establishing his rights under limitation (can this be done?). The big check in question was dated 10/4/2002 - and the normal statute would expire tomorrow. So Earle ran around to find a new grand jury to do his bidding.

On top of that - DeLay's lawyers have simply pointed out that the very law Earle is citing to go after DeLay for actions in the 2002 election didn't even apply to the election code under which Earle is prosecuting - until the Texas Legislature amended it - in 2003.

I just hope Ronnie rolls out six or seven more indictments. This is getting hysterical. Can't wait for the movie.

Thumbs up from Jay

ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow has given Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers his enthusiastic endorsement:

I have been privileged to work with Harriet Miers in her capacity as White House Counsel. President Bush's excellent nominee is a strong candidate who shares your values and ideals, and one who will properly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench. She is bright, thoughtful, and a consummate professional.

Blast from the past

Lawyers for Bill and Hillary Clinton are fighting to suppress the release of a report by independent counsel David Barrett detailing his findings on the case of former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros:

WASHINGTON - The independent counsel investigation that led to the conviction of a former Clinton administration housing chief could come back to haunt Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Daily News has learned that lawyers are fighting to suppress a potentially embarrassing final report from the probe that found Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros lied to the FBI about paying $250,000 in hush money to his ex-mistress.

Cisneros paid a $10,000 fine after he was found guilty in 1999 and was later pardoned by Bill Clinton. And though neither Hillary Clinton nor her husband was targeted by independent counsel David Barrett, his 420-page final report sent to a special court 13 months ago will include alleged abuses of power by his administration, sources told The News.

After Cisneros was convicted, Barrett started looking into allegations that the IRS and Justice Department aides stymied a tax fraud case against the disgraced Housing and Urban Development secretary and audited Clinton critics.

Ex-IRS Commissioner Peggy Richardson, who remains a close friend of the Clintons, is among the officials cited in the report, sources said.

Lawyers at the Washington firm Williams and Connolly who work for Cisnero and both Clintons have argued to judges overseeing the case that allegations of illegal activity, for which no charges were filed, should be snipped before the report is made public.

The court secretly granted another delay last month, a source said.

Barrett refused to comment on the case, but told The News that he's eager to wrap things up.

"The report was filed over a year ago, but there are still matters ... that have to be resolved by the judges before they decide when it can be published," he said. "The decision rests entirely with the court."

In April, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) tried to ax the probe - which has cost $22 million, including $1 million for the first six months of this year - by cutting Barrett's budget, saying it's a waste of money, but Republicans stopped them.

Williams and Connolly has since tried to quash the report, which probably would be released amid Clinton's 2006 Senate reelection bid.

Clinton lawyer David Kendall declined comment.

Something odd about this one

Police have now identified the student who "committed suicide" outside of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium during a football game on Saturday night.

A University of Oklahoma student with "emotional difficulties" was identified Sunday as the person who apparently committed suicide near a packed football stadium using an explosive attached to his body.

The remains were believed to be those of Joel Henry Hinrichs III, according to Salvador Hernandez, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oklahoma.

University President David Boren has said the blast was an apparent suicide.

"We know that he has had what I would call emotional difficulties in the past," Boren said. "There is certainly no evidence at this point which points to any other kind of motivation other than his personal problems."

Hinrichs, 21, was killed when the explosive device detonated Saturday evening near Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, where more than 84,000 people were watching a football game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas State.

No spectators were injured. The game continued without interruption, and no announcement was made until the final minutes. Spectators were kept from leaving until about 30 minutes after the blast.

Part of the student apartment complex where Hinrichs lived was evacuated after the explosion. Boren said residents would not be allowed to return until authorities knew the area was safe.

"They're going through everything with a fine-toothed comb," he said.

WorldNetDaily has more details on this story -- most notably the fact that Hinrichs had a large cache of explosives in his apartment:

Local and federal agents were carting away what was described as a huge cache of explosives from the apartment of the 21-year-old student who blew himself up outside the stadium where 84,000 watched a Sooners football game.

Joel Henry Hinrichs III, 21, a junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., died in the explosion, according to FBI officials.

Investigators believe Hinrichs detonated a bomb about 8 p.m. Saturday, just 100 yards away from the packed football stadium.

Police were overheard telling residents it would take "several trips and could take up to 24 hours" to remove it all, according to the Daily Oklahoman.

A canister trailer used for detonating or transporting potentially explosive material was being used to haul items away.

Officials said Hinrichs' motive for blowing himself up Saturday near the Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium during the second quarter of OU's game against Kansas State remains under investigation.

OU President David Boren said Hinrichs was a student "who had very, serious personal problems that led to this tragic death."

Because of what happened, Boren said, the FBI had taken over the investigation.

Boren said the student had explosives strapped to his body.

Investigators would not say whether they believe Hinrichs intended to go inside the stadium before the detonation happened.

Hmmmmmm..... me-thinks we're not getting the full story. This one is worth keeping an eye on.

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Did Bush cave?

President Bush has nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"She will be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court of the United States," Bush said during a press conference announcing his pick.

Saying she has a "record of achievement with the law," Bush said Miers also has "built a reputation of character and integrity" and possesses a "deep compassion and abiding sense of duty."

"She will bring that same passion for service to the Supreme Court of the United States," he added.

Many conservatives are not particularly happy with this one. The following "siren" headline from Drudge won't do much to allay their concerns:


HUMAN EVENTS: Harriet Miers contributed $250 to Clinton for President Committee on December 23, 1991, according to Federal Election Commission records. She did not contribute any money to the reelection of President Bush senior, who would face off against the Democrat Clinton in the 1992 presidential election. In 1988, Miers contributed $1,000 to the Democratic presidential primary campaign of then-Sen. Al Gore. At the time Vice President George H.W. Bush was in a Republican presidential primary fight with then-Sen. Dole and Kemp. She did not contribute to any of these Republicans...

Oh boy. You're killin' us, George.

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Patently Patriotic Post of the Week (10/3/05)

The Supreme Court

Other than establishing it, Article III of the U.S. Constitution spells out neither the specific duties, powers nor organization of the Supreme Court.

"[t]he judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

Instead, the Constitution left it to Congress and to the Justices of the Court itself to develop the authorities and operations of the entire Judicial Branch of government.

The very first bill introduced in the United States Senate was the Judiciary Act of 1789. It divided the country in 13 judicial districts, which were further organized into the Eastern, Middle, and Southern "circuits." The 1789 Act called for the Supreme Court to consist of a Chief Justice and only five Associate Justices, and for the Court to meet, or "sit" in the Nation's Capital. For the first 101 years of its service, Supreme Court Justices were required to "ride circuit," holding court twice a year in each of the 13 judicial districts. The Act also created the position of U.S. Attorney General and assigned the power to nominate Supreme Court justices to the President of the United States with the approval of the Senate.

The First Court
The Supreme Court was first called to assemble on Feb. 1, 1790, in the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, then the Nation's Capital. The first Supreme Court was made up of:

Chief Justice:
John Jay, from New York

Associate Justices:
John Rutledge, from South Carolina
William Cushing, from Massachusetts
James Wilson, from Pennsylvania
John Blair, from Virginia
James Iredell, from North Carolina

Due to transportation problems, Chief Justice Jay had to postpone the first actual meeting of the Supreme Court until the next day, Feb. 2, 1790.

The Supreme Court spent its first session organizing itself and determining its own powers and duties. The new Justices heard and decided their first actual case in 1792.

Lacking any specific direction from the Constitution, the new U.S. Judiciary spent its first decade as the weakest of the three branches of government. Early federal courts failed to issue strong opinions or even take on controversial cases. The Supreme Court was not even sure if it had the power to consider the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress. This situation changed drastically in 1801 when President John Adams appointed John Marshall of Virginia to be the fourth Chief Justice. Confident that nobody would tell him not to, Marshall took clear and firm steps to define the role and powers of both the Supreme Court and the judiciary system.

The Supreme Court, under John Marshall, defined itself with its historic 1803 decision in the case of Marbury v. Madison (Also see: Complete Decision). In this single landmark case, the Supreme Court established its power to interpret the U.S. Constitution and to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by congress and the state legislatures.

John Marshall went on to serve as Chief Justice for a record 34 years, along with several Associate Justices who served for over 20 years. During his time on the bench, Marshall succeeded in molding the federal judicial system into what many consider to be today's most powerful branch of government.

Before settling at nine in 1869, the number of Supreme Court Justices changed six times. In its entire history, the Supreme Court has had only 16 Chief Justices, and over 100 Associate Justices.

From U.S. Supreme Court History (About.com: U.S. Gov Info)