Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Must have been some other guy

Saddam Hussein pleaded innocent today on the first day of his trial for the murder if 150 Shiites:

The first session of the trial lasted about three hours, and the judge ordered an adjournment until Nov. 28.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants could face the death penalty if convicted for the 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail. They are being tried in the former headquarters of Saddam's Baath Party.

After presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, a Kurd, read the defendants their rights and the charges against them — which also include forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment — he asked each for their plea. He started with the 68-year-old ousted dictator, saying "Mr. Saddam, go ahead. Are you guilty or innocent?"

Saddam replied quietly, "I said what I said. I am not guilty," referring to his arguments earlier in the session.

Amin read out the plea, "Innocent."

The confrontation then became physical. When a break was called, Saddam stood, smiling, and asked to step of the room. When two guards tried to grab his arms to escort him out, he angrily shook them off.

They tried to grab him again, and Saddam struggled to free himself. Saddam and the guards shoved each other and yelled for about a minute.

It ended with Saddam getting his way, and he was allowed to walk independently, with the two guards behind him, out of the room for the break.

No report expected in Plame case

The mainstream media and leftists everywhere have been salivating over the possibility of imminent indictments in the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. A story from today's New York Times should bring their anticipation to a feverish peak:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

A final report had long been considered an option for Mr. Fitzgerald if he decided not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, although Justice Department officials have been dubious about his legal authority to issue such a report.

By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury's findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm.

While we weren't looking

Wilma has turned into a category five hurricane literally overnight... and what's more it is now the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Current tracking information has it hitting the Florida panhandle by Saturday. Says Bryan Woods from StormTrack:

I thought I had seen everything this hurricane season, but I was wrong. WOW! ... Between 5:00pm EDT and 5:00am EDT Wilma's pressure dropped from 970 mb to 884 mb and her winds increased from 80 mph to 175 mph. This rate of strengthening in incredible. A strengthening of 86 mb in 12 hours is absolutely amazing. Even a 1 mb/hr strengthening is quick. We saw a strengthening of 7.2 mb/hr. Wilma has a very small eye that is fluctuating between 2 nm and 4 nm across. Since then the winds have stayed the same and the pressure has dropped at a little bit more to 882 mb.

Wilma is currently the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. Yes, ever. To give you some points of reference: Katrina reached 902 mb, Rita bottomed out at 897 mb, and both Mitch and Camille measured 905 mb. Even this estimate of Wilma could be conservative.

I don't see how Wilma could get much stronger (it already is the strongest hurricane ever recorded). This is the first time on record that three Category 5 hurricanes formed in the same year. Previously both 1960 and 1961 had two Category 5 hurricanes. In a single year we have now seen the 1st, 4th, and 6th strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic.

Those of you in Southern Florida should begin planning now. Please be prepared for a hurricane landfall as early as Saturday. Wilma is very serious storm. Wilma clearly has her sights set on passing through the Yucatan Channel and heading directly at Southern Florida. This is no longer a joking matter. We have yet another catastrophic hurricane at hand.

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It's about time

The President is finally addressing one of the biggest problems our country faces today:

President Bush said yesterday that his goal is eventually to expel "every single" illegal alien from the United States as his administration pressed Congress to pass a guest-worker program.
Although conceding that the administration cannot immediately deport the estimated 11 million illegal aliens who are here, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao told Congress that a temporary-worker program would give aliens an incentive to come out of hiding and let them work legally for six years before being forced to return home.
As Mr. Bush signed the homeland security spending bill yesterday, he said Congress should couple a guest-worker plan with increased border security.
"We're going to get control of our borders," he said during the signing ceremony in the East Room. "Our goal is clear -- to return every single illegal entrant, with no exceptions."

Bush vows to oust 'every single' illegal

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sunni complaints lead to investigation

Some Sunni groups are disputing the recent voting results on the Iraq constitution. Now Iraq's Electoral Commission has decided to look into the matter:

Iraq's election commission announced Monday that officials were investigating "unusually high" numbers of "yes" votes in about a dozen provinces during Iraq's landmark referendum on a new constitution, raising questions about irregularities in the balloting.

Word of the review came as Sunni Arab leaders repeated accusations of fraud after initial reports from the provinces suggested the constitution had passed. Among the Sunni allegations are that police took ballot boxes from heavily "no" districts, and that some "yes" areas had more votes than registered voters.

The Electoral Commission made no mention of fraud, and an official with knowledge of the election process cautioned that it was too early to say whether the unusual numbers were incorrect or if they would affect the outcome.

These developments may be troubling to some but I look at it with great encouragement. Just the fact that voting results can be freely questioned in that country shows how dramatically things have changed in the last two years. Try to imagine anyone in Iraq disputing Saddam Hussein's sweeping victory in 2002 when he claimed to get 100% of the vote. It would have meant a guaranteed appointment with the paper shredder.

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New Orleans nursing home deaths probed

Some disturbing allegations are coming out of Louisiana regarding the deaths of 215 hospital and nursing home patients during the Katrina evacuation:

Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti and several national and international media outlets are investigating the deaths – some say killings – of patients at New Orleans hospitals and health care facilities during the evacuation of that city in advance of Hurricane Katrina in late August.

Charges aired last week on CNN claim that some New Orleans patients may have been euthanized – purposely killed -- during the Katrina evacuation.

These charges have sparked a wide ranging investigation by Louisiana's attorney general into the fate of critically ill patients who were left behind during the chaotic prelude and aftermath of the storm.

As reported in USA Today, the state investigation is part of a "monumental" probe into an estimated 215 deaths at nursing homes and hospitals across the area, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams also featured a report Monday night on the expanded probe into the hospital deaths.

On August 31, Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans was surrounded by 10 feet of flood water without either electricity or plumbing, the hospital's CEO Rene Goux told CNN back on September 9.

"We had about 160 seriously ill, bed-ridden patients left inside," Goux told the cable news network.

Those patients, suffering from cancer and heart conditions, were so sick that one doctor alleges staffers discussed euthanizing them with injected drugs in an act of so-called "mercy killing" for the infirm. This doctor said he saw another doctor holding syringes, supposedly with the intent to follow-up on the idea of euthanasia.

Dr. Bryant King, a medical doctor at Memorial who had worked there for a month, told CNN one medical staffer spoke to him directly about this possibility.

"She said, ‘Well, you know, we talked about it, and this other doctor said she'd be willing to, she would be willing to do it.' And I was like, ‘You're crazy!'"

These are the fruits of the "culture of death" thinking that has become so popular in recent years. When someone else's life becomes a burden to others, simply eliminate the problem. Didn't they try this in Germany a while back?

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Help from home

In the latest effort by President Bush to stem the criticism over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, some of her former judicial colleagues from Texas have been asked to come to her defense:

WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday called in a posse of six former Texas Supreme Court justices to counter some of the criticism being leveled at embattled Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

The two Democrats and four Republicans, each of whom either worked directly with Miers or knows her professionally, met with President Bush and later spoke with reporters in the White House driveway, touting the nominee's qualifications and temperament.

"She analyzes issues, she gets her facts lined up, and she always does the right thing for the right reasons," said former Chief Justice John Hill Jr., a Houston Democrat who worked with Miers at the Texas Lottery Commission and later at Locke, Liddell & Sapp.

This doesn't hearten me much. A democrat's definition of "the right thing" often leaves a lot to be desired.

Bush's nomination of Miers two weeks ago kicked up a storm of dissent among conservatives, with many questioning whether Miers, who has never been a judge, was qualified for the Supreme Court and claiming that her selection looked like cronyism.

Concerned that criticism of Miers could harm her prospects for confirmation in the Senate, administration officials are intensifying efforts to highlight her qualifications, starting with the former Texas justices.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican and former Harris County state district judge appointed by Bush to the Texas Supreme Court in 1995, said he worked with Miers on constitutional law issues while she was White House counsel.

"I was dealing with a lawyer of top-notch legal ability who was able to quickly grasp the nuances of very challenging constitutional issues," Abbott said.

The word "nuances" always makes me uneasy when used in reference to the Constitution. It is often thrown about by elitists and those of "higher intellect" in an attempt to see things in the document that aren't actually there. The language in the Constitution is a fairly concise and straight-forward despite what some would have us believe.

Nothing that has been said here has done anything to sway me either way on Miers. At this point I'm not bowled over by the President's choice but much remains to be seen.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Patently Patriotic Post of the Week (10/17/05)

Attack Submarines - SSN

Attack submarine, designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships.

The concept of technical superiority over numerical superiority was and still is the driving force in American submarine development. A number of Third World countries are acquiring modern state-of-the-art non-nuclear submarines. Countering this threat is the primary mission of U.S. nuclear attack submarines.

Their other missions range from intelligence collection and special forces delivery to anti-ship and strike warfare. The Navy began construction of Seawolf class submarines in 1989. Seawolf is designed to be exceptionally quiet, fast well-armed with advanced sensors. It is a multi-mission vessel, capable of deploying to forward ocean areas to search out and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships and to fire missiles in support of other forces.

The first of the class, Seawolf (SSN 21), completed its initial sea trials in July 1996. Attack submarines also carry the Tomahawk cruise missile. Tomahawk launches from attack submarines were successfully conducted during Operation Desert Storm.

In late 1998, the contract was let for building the first of the New Attack Submarine. This class, the Virginia-class fully embraces the new strategic concept in ... From the Sea and Forward... From the Sea. It is the first U.S. submarine to be designed for battlespace dominance across a broad spectrum of regional and littoral missions as well as open-ocean, 'blue water' missions. The Virginia-class achieves the right balance of core military capabilities and affordability.

The Benjamin Franklin-class were converted from Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines and carry drydeck shelters. They are equipped for special operations and support SEALs. The former missile spaces have been converted to accommodations, storage, and recreation spaces.

From United States Navy Fact File