Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cue The Ominous Music

"Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by."

- Isaiah 26:20

Test today in Economics 6351. Sure, the prof calls it a "quiz", but it's an hour long and covers four chapters. I have been studying and reviewing, but still admit to some apprehension.

Sheesh, if I'm this worked up over the first test, the Mid-Term could kill me!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Why Security Was So Poor on 9/11/2001

This was originally posted on March 29, 2006. I think it needs another posting. - DJD

I am one of those peculiar people who likes to read government reports. I do this because sometimes things are hidden there in plain sight, so to speak. A particularly salient example is a GAO report from September 1997 carrying the title “COMBATING TERRORISM: Federal Agencies’ Efforts to Implement National Policy and Strategy” (GAO/NSIAD-97-254) . The paper is a useful look into what the Clinton Administration considered effective defense against Terrorism.

I begin with the Executive Summary, which contains two key statements. Right there on page 2, this paper identified President Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39) as the “central blueprint for the U.S. counterterrorism strategy”. So I take you now to Appendix 1, where the unclassified abstract of PDD-39 was to be found. The opening sentence reads “Terrorism is both a threat to our national security as well as a criminal act”. Tying terrorism to crime from the beginning thereby tied the hands of government agencies right from the start, as it compelled warfighting offices to defer to criminal process agencies, and made no provision whatsoever for immediate or effective retaliation on terrorist organizations which attack the United States, its interests, allies, or citizens. The Policy vaguely directs that the U.S. Government will “make no concessions to terrorists”, and will “expand the program of counterterrorism” and will “reduce vulnerabilities affecting U.S. airports, aircraft/passengers” (huh – that worked out real well, didn’t it?) and promises to “exclude/deport persons who pose a terrorist threat”. Yes, that’s right – no promise to arrest terrorists attempting to enter the United States or who are already here and present a threat – just show them the door and hope they stay out? The Policy did have an idea of what to do if a 9/11-type attack occurred; the Policy promised that “If large scale casualties and infrastructure damage occur, the President may appoint a Personal Representative for consequence management as the on scene Federal authority during recovery”. The feeling I get from PDD-39, is that Bubba didn’t take terrorism seriously at all.

The Executive Summary also made a point of stressing that “certain acts of terrorism are federal crimes no matter where they are committed”. Ooooh, so if Bubba had been President on 9/11, Osama and his boys, well, they could have been charged with a crime. Hooo boy, that sure made them think twice, huh?

But wait, it gets better. On page 3, the report explains that in order to establish effective control and direction of counter-terrorism work, “various interagency groups have been formed to coordinate the efforts of the more than 40 federal agencies, bureaus, and offices that combat terrorism”. Ok, besides guaranteeing the consumption of vast amounts of coffee and pastries, does anyone seriously believe that these ‘interagency groups’ got much accomplished? I note that no hierarchy of authority is referenced between them, nor any timeline for recommendations and implementation.

The report says that the NSC has responsibility for combating terrorism. But when you start digging into the details, the job changes quickly. On page 3 the report observes that the actual decisions are made by an “Interagency Working Group on Counterterrorism, led by the State Department”. Yes, the State Department.

The Report explains that terrorist incidents would be addressed by the assignment of a “lead agency” in each case. For Domestic events, the FBI is the lead agency, and for foreign events, the State Department takes charge. Got that? The Embassy bombings would warrant a diplomatic protest and 9/11 would mean hoping for extradition after a grand jury heard the case. A less pragmatic response is hard to imagine.

It gets worse. The Report, and remember this is a report specifically written to address what the United States would do to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack, has no coordinated plan ready in advance to respond to an attack. Instead, the Report simply says that “some federal agencies respond to a crisis and seek to bring the perpetrators to justice, other agencies manage the consequences of an incident” (page 5). With that in mind, the chaos in New York on 9/11 makes a grim sense.

The Report has a flow chart of command authority on page 21. It’s worth noting that there are six layers of people between those making a decision and those who would carry it out, and that this Report puts the National Security Agency, CIA, Secret Service, ATF, and Customs at bottom rung of the ladder, with no authority of their own in a crisis or direct access to the President or the National Security Advisor, who is not even listed on the chart as a source or recipient of information in a terrorist crisis.

In addition, none of the Working Groups, regardless of their experience or skills, is given direct access to the NSC or the White House, but are required to submit their advice through a bureaucratic channel (page 23).

The Report, on page 24, then revealed a true shocker – results of the Working Groups are included in reports developed into talking points, to be discussed with other members of the G-8. That means that concerns and policy development for the National Security of the United States could be and conceivably was discussed with members of the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Note that as of 2001, at least four of these seven countries were in contact and cooperation with enemies of the United States, and were opposed to American policy in several key venues.

I pause here to have a laugh at Al Gore; the Report notes on page 28 that the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, “known as the Gore Commission”, “called for (1) developing an automated passenger profiling system, (2) increasing the frequency of passenger inspections, and (3) increasing reliance on canine teams and equipment to detect explosives”. So Gore can just shut up about privacy rights.

So, just what would happen is a terrorist group committed an act on U.S. soil and the mastermind was hiding outside the U.S.? On page 54, the Report assures us that “the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, together with the Department of Justice … ordinarily prosecutes the offense. When terrorist suspects are located overseas, an indictment is usually obtained in a U.S. court before their apprehension, if possible.” Well, it’s certainly nice to know that even after committing an atrocity on U.S. soil, the rights of terrorists would be so carefully protected in American courts.

The Report is a masterpiece of bureaucratic falderol and political garbage. Nowhere is terrorism plainly recognized for what it is, an act of war against the United States which demands an immediate and effective deterrence, and failing that unlimited response potential. When pirates raided U.S. freighters, President Jefferson sent in Marines to Tripoli. When Mexican bandits raided American territory, President Polk sent the Army in. With that in mind, Bush’s response to 9/11 was not only effective and constitutional, but historically consistent, morally sound and necessary. This Report shows us that Clinton/Gore were neither serious nor competent to address the peril.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Swiping Ideas From Hewitt

I was reading Hugh Hewitt’s column at about the upcoming ABC mini-series, “The Path to 9/11”, and the reaction from the Clinton contingent to the film. I enjoyed the article, as Hugh is a good writer with interesting thoughts, but what really grabbed my attention were the comments.

Now, Hugh Hewitt is a fine and responsible columnist, who is not in the habit of responding directly to comments from his readers. I, on the other hand, am sometimes a shameless opportunist, and the things written in the comments were to my mind telling about the whole matter. So, since Mister Hewitt will not be responding to the noise from the gallery, I have swiped that prerogative unto myself, and herein submit my thoughts. Let me be clear, that the opinions I present are my own, and in no way should suggest that Mister Hewitt agrees with me on any point. Maybe he does, maybe he does not, but this is my own opinion. I just grabbed the reader comments for material.

I printed out the comments section as of 2 PM on Thursday, September 7th. Lord only knows what else will show up there while I am plunking words down here. And in advance to anyone who might be unhappy with me quoting them, I would remind you all that there is a comment version of Caveat Emptor, to the effect that if you put your words out there for anyone to hear or read, they can and will be within their rights to quote you, so long as they do it accurately. Mwahahahaha, and all that.

So, to the text. I read ninety-five comments from fifty-four usernames. I can’t tell you whether anyone used multiple names, but it seems accurate enough. There was representation from people who sounded reasonable, and from people who seemed quite unbalanced. While I will say that the unbalanced contingent was entirely from the Left in this case, I would warn the reader that Hewitt is a reasonable person who attracts reasonable readers; I have no doubt that if I were discussing, say, a Michael Savage piece, I would have to discuss quite a bit of mental abnormality from the Right. With that in mind, however, the Left spoke its mind in a way that hardly suggests that mind is in good order.

Tanabear started off with a smear, calling the film “more fiction”. Shortly after that, Rod shot back for the Right in what became something of a false focus, saying that Bill and Hillary Clinton “are very smart and very egocentric. Neither cares about anything but themselves”. One Phylo Se Fizer tossed out proof of his own bias and inability to post civilly, by starting out with the claim that “Hugh Hewitt is a shameless propaganda artist”, instead of making at least a token effort to address the topic on its merits. Without a desire to give Phylo the attention he so obviously craves, I found it amusing that Phylo stated as fact alleged scenes from the movie which he has not seen one second of yet, a film he already slams as “The BS right wing television version” of 9/11. I found it amusing that Phylo even saw a right-wing conspiracy in the fact that ABC limited early distribution of the film to media critics – not “conservative hacks” as Phylo pretends, but professionals in the media business, as is common with every major release for which the network wants publicity. Phylo gets angry because former elected officials did not get the media copies, even though he is clueless to the fact that the present elected officials also did not get copies. Phylo, however unintentionally, demonstrates the conspiracy mindset of the Left, taking a blameless situation and twisting out of context to pretend it’s a set-up to hurt the Left.

Apparently excited by the rush of adrenalin from Phylo, lefty Kimberly joined the choir, unable to maintain the pretense of rational commentary long enough to even avoid calling ABC’s production studio a tool of “wing nuts”, suggesting that censorship by people who might be embarrassed by the film would be “proper vetting”. She went on to blame President Bush for the 9/11 attacks, solely on the basis that he was President when they occurred. Since by that point even Phylo had mentioned the 9/11 Commission Report, it seems strange that Kimberly was unaware that the planning and preparation by Al Qaeda began years before George W. Bush took office. This peculiar non-seqitur was taken up soon after by Left Angle, who seemed content to parrot whatever other Leftists had already tossed out. To be blunt, the Left could do little but blame Bush for being President when Al Qaeda carried out its plans, and try to find ways to insult people for bringing up inconvenient facts, however salient. One reader, Kimberly, was quite energetic in, well, lying, to pretend the 9/11 Commission had blamed Bush and praised Clinton. But I must not be cruel. Where Clinton is concerned, History will be quite cruel enough on the facts.

But there were some worthwhile comments made. Gc asked ”is it true that Clinton cannot get a copy [of the film ahead of time]?” Icedog01 wrote a damning comment, simply by noting the series of terrorist attacks during the Clinton Administration, and the response – or rather its lack – by President Clinton. The list is so good, I will simply repeat it here:

02/26/1993 – World Trade Center bombed
03/08/1995 – Two U.S. diplomats in Pakistan murdered
06/25/1996 - Khobar Towers bombed
11/12/1997 – Four U.S. businessmen kidnapped and murdered
08/07/1998 – Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya bombed
10/12/2000 – U.S.S. Cole attacked by suicide bombers

President Clinton's response to any and all of these events? Excuses, nothing more.

And a reader known only as J.R. asked what also struck me when I read all the feigned outrage from the Left. When Michael Moore took images and facts out of context in a deliberate smear attempt on the Bush Administration, not one Liberal voiced a concern for context or accurate portrayal of events. And when President Bush was asked about the film, he did not worry himself with the lies and distortions posed by Moore, or threaten to sue, as Clinton has done here. Bush simply smiled a little and remarked that he did not expect he would take the time to see the movie. That Bill Clinton cannot manage as much grace, at all, in his case, suggests to me the difference in character and competence between these two Presidents.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Polipundit Redux

The Real Ugly American interviewed Lorie Byrd, and reading through the interview, I was struck by several things I think I need to write about.

First up, I want to say how fortunate I and other bloggers have been to know Lorie Byrd. A perceptive blogger, intelligent and a total class-act, Lorie has been good for the Blogosphere and for every site which was lucky enough to bring her aboard their staff. It’s a rare and significant point about Lorie, that absolutely everyone who crosses paths with her always compliments her character and writing. Mother Teresa had more enemies.

Next, I want to echo some of Lorie’s sentiments with regard to Polipundit, the site owner of the Polipundit site. The four “guest writers” at Polipundit – myself, Lorie, A.K. McClure and Jayson Javitz – were unknown to the Blogosphere when Poli asked us to fill in as guest writers during his vacation, and then stay on as part of the Polipundit team. Poli’s generous offer to give us a national stage established us as players; frankly only a handful of people would have ever heard of me if it were not for Poli. Lorie, I figure would have been a smash hit sooner or later no matter what, but the other three of us were quite mortal, and so owe a debt of respect and gratitude to Poli no matter what.

But I must disagree with Lorie to some degree. While I owe a debt of respect to Poli, that does not mean that his actions were well-chosen or honorable in all respects. While as the site owner, Poli held the trump card in all decisions, he nonetheless made promises and certain assurances to us as writers, some of it set out when we started, and some of it created by the conditions developed as we helped the site grow. It cannot be ignored that the Polipundit team of five talented writers with a variety of viewpoints and methods of expression, helped the site explode from a relatively modest position, to one of the leaders in blog community talk; during the climax of the 2004 election season, we sometimes pulled in excess of a hundred thousand visits a day. We, not one, made the site a great success, and we are all of us owed something for that. I will not go into private details here, but I will say plainly that at the time we parted ways, the site owner made certain specific promises, promises which he quickly broke. I only mention this because now that some time has passed and his emotion has cooled, he may want to consider making amends for that betrayal, as best he can and as best he sees fit. I hold him personally to no standard, knowing from my own experience how difficult it can be to promise something in haste which may be regretted later, but still, I would remind him that honor is difficult to reclaim once lost.

The resolution of the former Polipundit staff and site are fairly well known. Lorie has enjoyed the most success, which is as it should be, talent and character deserving their wages. The Polipundit site is recovering well enough from the events of May; while the numbers are far below where they were in its heyday, the site has added some talented writers with interesting perspectives, and should get a visit once in a while on its merits. Unless the site owner has adopted a persona, he seems to not be posting all that much, but that’s his choice. I hope he is enjoying the present mix. Mr. McClure is continuing to post at Wizbang’s various channels, while pursuing his degree in World Domination at Rove University. Mr. Javitz is sort of on hiatus from blogging, while he focuses on his law practice and teaching, though I and others hope to lure him into at least a couple “Hooverville” posts this year. And I post here and at some of Wizbang’s less-particular sites, while pursuing an MBA and trying to keep my full-time job and family. If my writing should suddenly improve in quality, this will mean my daughter Jagan has taken over the keyboard.

Moving on, I realize that I owe a lot of thank-you’s to many people, who sent me offers and appreciation immediately after the PoliNova. I got busy and frankly dropped the ball. Expect an article or more on those fine people later this week. For now, I want to say thanks again (I think I sent thank-you messages at the time) and say how much it means to be part of a community where you remain a personage, whether or not you have a gig on a major stage. This is especially important to someone like me, because I have never been timid about stepping on toes when they seemed to need stomping – indeed, I have sometimes aimed to prick the bloated egos of certain celebrities, who have made themselves into their own idols, so that no elected official or duly authorized specialist is to be considered their equal on any issue. There is all but no chance at all, that I will ever be the fortunate subject of attention or a link from Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill Bennett. Then again, one never knows; I must award kudos to Hugh Hewitt and John Hawkins, who have linked to me from time to time, despite my sometimes critical articles about their politics and a few odd opinions and differences. Of course, that may be that they simply ignore me, rat that I am, unless and until I post something worth their attention. But I found their courtesy refreshing and it builds my confidence in the Blogosphere, that its leaders do not rely on playground-style favoritism to advance good stories and writers.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Don't Buy The Lie

CNN has a new poll out, and frankly, it's a con job.

I won't waste your time with it's claims, but I will spell out the clues which flag it for a phoney:

[] No link to the actual results is presented. This is what someone does when they want you to accept their claim without looking at the facts;

[] The report is based on the GENERIC POLL, which has never been a useful barometer. For instance, in 2002 the Generic Poll projected Democrat gains, when in the actual result the GOP made gains;

[] CNN relies heavily on whether Americans are happy with how things are going. Dissatisfaction with the present condition often indicates that the voters would like stronger action, not a different direction;

[] CNN claims the poll has a margin of error of 4.5%. Since MOEs go in both directions, CNN is admitting they could be off by 9 percent, which is statistically high enough to invalidate any specific claim;

[] The poll was taken from Wednesday through Saturday, on a holiday weekend when many people would be away from home. This skews the respondent pool, making it unreliable;

[] The poll only queried "Americans", citing neither registered nor likely voters for most of its claims. Registered voters were queried for selected questions, but since the release ducks the results for most of the poll, that suggests CNN played around and only mentioned what they wanted to say.

It's a lie, folk. Total trash.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Cornball America

Sunday I was watching the “Justice League” with my daughter. The episode featured several members of the League being sent into a parallel universe where another group which existed as a comic book in the first world, the Justice Guild, served the same purpose as the League did in its world. Without going overboard about a cartoon adventure, it turned out the Justice Guild sacrificed itself for the survival of the Justice League, who eventually found their way home. At the end of the episode, one of the characters was mourning the loss of the Justice Guild, even though in fact it had never really existed at all, but lived only as the illusory construct of a projecting mentality. Somehow, that struck me as important.

OK, so I was watching a children’s story, one fictional entity musing about another even more illusory identity. But even so, it reminded me that abstracts matter, to all of us I think, and ultimately the distinction is how we pay attention.

Until about 1850, the Democrats were the guys worrying about abstract concepts for the most part; the Whigs were focused on more pragmatic concerns. But where Slavery and the balance between the power of State and the Federal governments were concerned, the Democrats were timid, even hypocritical. The “Missouri Compromise” was a masterpiece of delusion and negligence by design, and its fruit was bitter indeed. Far too few Americans have any idea that the Republican Party originally came about in response to a broad national demand for a party of reform. Even fewer understand the significance of Grover Cleveland, that best of Democrats who took up the cause of reform when the Republicans let it slip, but whose work was overshadowed by the even greater Democrat ignominy of Tammany Hall. When we look back to men like Lincoln and Cleveland, and again in Teddy Roosevelt, we see a broad, deep vision for America, one which has seldom been considered in History and Political Science classrooms, much less national committees. America, these men avowed, stood and stands for something greater than the moment and the single issue, created and supported by the very will of God, though these days such ownership is constantly challenged by special interest groups, usually poked along by lawyers and other infernal minions. And so we find ourselves wondering whither America? And what of our destiny?

To be sure, Republicans have their ogres and warts. Our leading candidates for President include men of dubious consistency and vacuous support for the causes we say we revere. Our leadership in both the House and Senate include men whose spines are made of something rather less than steel and far too much like butter. Yet the Democrats have abandoned the vision wholly in their leadership, and their spokespeople think nothing of slander and deceit. This why they want us to pay close attention to veterans like Murtha and Kerry, yet ignore the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or men like Marc Elias or Peter Damon. This is why they want us to accept stories about the war in Iraq from Dan Rather and Peter Arnett, but ignore first-hand accounts from Michael Yon or Bill Roggio. This is why they want us to consider Bill Clinton a legitimate military authority, even though he never spent a day in uniform, but scorn the service of George W. Bush, who served honorably in the Guard.

This is why when I brought up parallels between this worldwide conflict and the fight against the Nazis, they demanded that I not speak unless I first enlisted and went into a battle zone, even though they never once demanded this of even a single anti-war blogger. This is why they refuse, to this day, to defend their charges in substance and with civil discussion; their purpose is not to discuss or illuminate the issues, but to attack and defame. Ultimately, this is why they lose. While there are just about the same number of self-identified Republicans as Democrats, there is a large portion of reasonable people who listen to their gut, and while we all make mistakes, for the most part the people know who is good for the country, and who is not.

From my experience, people do not worry about a President’s enunciation so much as his character, they do not worry about the opinion of the French nearly so much as they do the effect of a matter on their state and town. They like cornball, when that cornball means the values that mattered to their parents and to their soul. They understand silly concepts like Justice and Democracy, and they don’t think it strange to believe that everyone should have a chance to vote freely and to choose their government. They don’t like being told their hometown is “flyover country”. They don’t like some New York or LA smart-suit making fun of their kids playing football or going to church every Sunday. They don’t like seeing celebrities wearing next to nothing and spouting obscenities telling them that their traditional beliefs are bad for their kids. They don’t like being told that their opinion doesn’t matter, next to some paid consultant or D.C. influence activist.

They don’t vote for traitors.

And they don’t forget the price paid by soldiers, whether those guys fought Hitler, the Koreans, in Vietnam, or took down Saddam and went after Al Qaeda. They don’t forget the Coasties, either, or the Guard, just because those guys do their jobs without all the publicity and big-budget tools.

Call us Cornball, but we are the real America.

Sunday, September 03, 2006