Thursday, September 30, 2004

When Do We Start To Worry?

America's new weapons for national defense:

Blimps Against Terror


Security Blimp Hovers Over US Capital

Hell, why stop there, why not fly them all over the world and outfit them with submachine guns?

Hypocrisy From A Politician? No!

Choice quotes from G.W.B. from the 2000 presidential debate on October 11th with Al Gore:

- "Strong relations in Europe is in our nation's interest."

- "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're humble but strong, they'll welcome us."

- "We're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That's what it's meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops."

Read "Debate Promises May Differ From Policy" at

Justice Scalia Has Some Explaining To Do

Antonin Scalia spoke recently at the JFK school at Harvard and while I agree with his point, I'm not so sure I would've framed it in the same way.

"...Scalia said his personal views on social issues have no bearing on his courtroom decisions.

'I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged,' Scalia said.

'But it is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to decide what is moral.'”

Maybe, John Kerry won't regret his vote to confirm Scalia anymore.

But, even more curious is the Crimson writer's comment at the end of the article:

"In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Scalia mentioned—in passing—that he thought the 17th Amendment was 'a bad idea.'"

Is it just me, or doesn't the previous comment make the 17th amendment remark pale in comparison?

Read the story on Justice Scalia's trip back to Harvard at the Crimson.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Camera/Cell Phone Banned in Saudi Arabia

Score one for freedom in the Middle East...

According to the AP:

"Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al al-Sheik, Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority, announced the new religious edict Tuesday in remarks to al-Madina daily newspaper.

The devices, he said, were "spreading obscenity in Muslim society," the newspaper reported Wednesday. "All citizens should renounce this (the use of cell phones with cameras) ... for it can harm everybody without discrimination."

Violators "should be strictly confronted and punished," the paper quoted him as saying."

Read the article at Tamba Bay Online.

Have we not learned a thing?

"I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers. Our landholders, too, like theirs, retaining indeed the title and stewardship of states called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation. This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, and to have no sensibilities left but forsinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression."

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.


The Outstanding Public Debt as of the 29th of September in the year 2004 at 05:27:08 PM is $7,398,915,831,482.54.

Get the updated U.S. National Debt figure here.

Here is a site with a running tally of U.S. debt as well as FY 2004 spending that is absolutely frightening. I was logged on the site for less than a minute and watched 3 million dollars go up in smoke.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Speculation Begins on "Nobel" Prize in Economics

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution gives his $0.02.

And Bradford Delong and a host of others continue the rumor mill at his website.

Meanwhile, you can place your bet at the Nobelpreisboerse. The current leader is Robert Barro(Macro/Growth theory) followed by Ed Prescott (Business Cycle Theory/Finance).

The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel will be awarded on Moday October 11th.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Government Redactions Political?

Ever wonder what is behind those blacked out lines in supposedly sensitive government materials? It seems as if the government attempted to censor a quote from a Supreme Court opinion in one of the ACLU's court filings over the Patriot Act.

The following quote from United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern Dist. of Mich., 407 U.S. 297, 314 (1972) was initially redacted:

"The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent."

To view a copy of the original document go to the Memory Hole

For more material and background info visit the ACLU website

Sunday, September 05, 2004

From Leviathan to System Administration

Donald Rumsfeld appears to be learning a lesson from Dr. Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College.

Pentagon Proposes Task Force to Avoid Hostilities

Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, September 5, 2004

The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, in a briefing to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, proposed the creation of interagency task forces to plan and help implement the transition to and from potential hostilities, the weekly Inside the Pentagon reported Thursday.

The new approach is aimed at giving new structure to a process — seen most recently in Iraq — in which postconflict plans and funding have largely been cobbled together in ad hoc fashion, delaying stability and reconstruction, experts say.

Under the proposal, the task forces would bring together about 250 regional and functional experts from the National Security Council staff, intelligence community, State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other agencies to identify a small number of possible crisis areas, Inside the Pentagon reported.

Then the task forces would plan in detail how the government would handle a period before and during a crisis — presumably with diplomacy in a leading role, aimed at avoiding hostilities. The interagency groups would go on to craft details of the use of force and the postcombat phases of stability and reconstruction, participants in the study told the paper.

Initial reaction to the DSB recommendations among Rumsfeld and his top civilian and military deputies was positive, sources close to the panel were reported as saying.

The study and its recommendations were strongly influenced by the Bush administration’s failure to coordinate adequate postwar plans for the stability and reconstruction of Iraq, despite more than a year of combat planning, DSB participants told the paper.

Read the Whole Article at Stars & Stripes

Don't miss Karen Kwiatkowski's review of Mr. Barnett's new book here at

Surprise! Surprise!

Senator Graham says the Bush administration and the FBI blocked a congressional investigation into the link between 9/11/01 and the Saudi Arabian government.

The Miami Herald reports on Sen. Graham's bomb-dropping new book:

Graham Book: Inquiry into 9/11, Saudi Ties Blocked

by Frank Davies

Washington - Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.

The discovery of the financial backing of the two hijackers ''would draw a direct line between the terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia, and trigger an attempted coverup by the Bush administration,'' the Florida Democrat wrote.

And in Graham's book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Graham also revealed that Gen. Tommy Franks told him on Feb. 19, 2002, just four months after the invasion of Afghanistan, that many important resources -- including the Predator drone aircraft crucial to the search for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders -- were being shifted to prepare for a war against Iraq.

Graham recalled this conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa with Franks, then head of Central Command, who was ``looking troubled'':

``Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan.''

''Excuse me?'' I asked.

''Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq,'' he continued.

Graham concluded: 'Gen. Franks' mission -- which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out -- was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt.''

Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, voted against the war resolution in October 2002 because he saw Iraq as a diversion that would hinder the fight against al Qaeda terrorism.

He oversaw the Sept. 11 investigation on Capitol Hill with Rep. Porter Goss, nominated last month to be the next CIA director. According to Graham, the FBI and the White House blocked efforts to investigate the extent of official Saudi connections to two hijackers.

Graham wrote that the staff of the congressional inquiry concluded that two Saudis in the San Diego area, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassan, who gave significant financial support to two hijackers, were working for the Saudi government.

Al-Bayoumi received a monthly allowance from a contractor for Saudi Civil Aviation that jumped from $465 to $3,700 in March 2000, after he helped Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhdar -- two of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- find apartments and make contacts in San Diego, just before they began pilot training.

When the staff tried to conduct interviews in that investigation, and with an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who also helped the eventual hijackers, they were blocked by the FBI and the administration, Graham wrote.

The administration and CIA also insisted that the details about the Saudi support network that benefited two hijackers be left out of the final congressional report, Graham complained.

Bush had concluded that ''a nation-state that had aided the terrorists should not be held publicly to account,'' Graham wrote. ``It was as if the president's loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America's safety.''

Saudi officials have vociferously denied any ties to the hijackers or al Qaeda plots to attack the United States.

Graham ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination and then decided not to seek reelection to the Senate this year. He has said he hopes his book will illuminate FBI and CIA failures in the war on terrorism and he also offers recommendations on ways to reform the intelligence community.

On Iraq, Graham said the administration and CIA consistently overplayed its estimates of Saddam Hussein's threat in its public statements and declassified reports, while its secret reports contained warnings that the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was not conclusive.

In October 2002, Tenet told Graham that ''there were 550 sites where weapons of mass destruction were either produced or stored'' in Iraq.

''It was, in short, a vivid and terrifying case for war. The problem was it did not accurately represent the classified estimate we had received just days earlier,'' Graham wrote. ``It was two different messages, directed at two different audiences. I was outraged.''

In his book, Graham is especially critical of the FBI for its inability to track al Qaeda operatives in the United States and blasts the CIA for ``politicizing intelligence.''

He reserves his harshest criticism for Bush.

Graham found the president had ''an unforgivable level of intellectual -- and even common sense -- indifference'' toward analyzing the comparative threats posed by Iraq and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

When the weapons were not found, one year after the invasion of Iraq, Bush attended a black-tie dinner in Washington, Graham recalled. Bush gave a humorous speech with slides, showing him looking under White House furniture and joking, ``Nope, no WMDs there.''

Graham wrote: ``It was one of the most offensive things I have witnessed. Having recently attended the funeral of an American soldier killed in Iraq, who left behind a young wife and two preschool-age children, I found nothing funny about a deceitful justification for war.''

Read the Whole Article at the Miami Herald