A Cautious Man
December 15, 2004
 
Overreacting
In Washington State, they have a wiretap law which says that every party to a telephone conversation has to consent, before the call is intercepted or recorded. In a recent case, a mother whose daughter was friends with a robbery suspect, was asked by the local police to keep an eye out for any evidence against the suspect. When the suspect called the daughter, the mother listened in on the conversation, and provided testimony at the suspect's trial which helped to convict him. The appeals court ruled that the mother's testimony could not be used. As reported in the press:
Attorneys for the state argued that minors should have a reduced expectation of privacy because parents have an absolute right to monitor phone calls coming into the family home. The attorneys cited provisions in federal wiretap law which are less restrictive than Washington's law and allow parents to tape and listen to their children's conversations.

"The Washington act, with its all-party consent requirement, contains no such parental exception and no Washington court has ever implied such an exception. We decline to do so now," wrote Justice Tom Chambers in the court's opinion.
The local sheriff, Bill Cumming, was quoted as stating that the decision was only about trial evidence based on listening in on a child's telephone call: "The ruling will likely not result in parents being prosecuted for snooping, Cumming said. But it prohibits courts and law enforcement from using the fruits of such snooping."

Sounds fairly reasonable, with the court applying the law as written, on the issue of the admission of evidence in a criminal case. Well, it's not so simple if you're Bill O'Reilly and his Talking Points:
So let's get this straight. If you suspect your child is dealing with a criminal, a dope dealer, a mugger, a molester, you can't eavesdrop on that child's conversations. That's now the law in Washington state, which has become a model for progressive activism.

~ snip ~

So don't try to find out what your kids are up to on the computer or on the telephone. Children must have privacy in these matters, so 14-year- old girls can deal with 17-year-old criminals.

Now why is this happening? As with the Christmas controversy, which I explain in my column this week on billoreilly.com, there's much more to this than just a legal decision. If you study all [the] state dominated societies from the Soviet Union, to Nazi Germany, to Red China to Cuba, you will see those governments try to diminish parental power because it's easier to mold young minds when state-sanctioned values don't compete with traditional parenting.

Public schooling in America is now devoid of any moralizing or spiritual emphasis. The Pledge of Allegiance being the last holdout. So if the progressives can succeed in eroding parental influence at home, it becomes much easier to influence American children to embrace a secular point of view. That's what's going on here.

And once again, the courts are helping the Progressives. It is simply chilling to realize that you cannot monitor behavior of your children. Judges in Washington state have decided that even if your kid is dealing with a criminal, you have no right to be pro-active.— Incredible and dangerous.
Now, anybody who spends any time actually finding out about what happened, knows that this entire tirade is a lot of hot air. Unfortunately, there are too many people who do not get the facts, only the tirades. Mr. O'Reilly makes his living by scaring his viewers about the vast conspiracy between the public schools and the courts, in order to prepare young minds to be more compliant with secular state domination (or something like that).

Of course, one could argue that lack of accurate information is more likely to harm our citizens, young and old, but people don't give you shows on Fox in order to talk like that.

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December 14, 2004
 
Like A Cool Romeo
It's been a bad week for that dapper man-about-New York, who entertained multiple paramours in his Manhattan love nest.

No, not Bernie Kerik - I'm talking about Pale Male, the evicted red-tailed hawk.

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December 10, 2004
 
Say Goodbye To Hollywood
Found through Dr. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, William Donohue of the Catholic "League" on the Scarborough show, going into a full meltdown:
Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it. That‘s why they hate this movie. It‘s about Jesus Christ, and it‘s about truth. It‘s about the messiah.

Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost.

You have got secular Jews. You have got embittered ex-Catholics, including a lot of ex-Catholic priests who hate the Catholic Church, wacko Protestants in the same group, and these people are in the margins. Frankly, Michael Moore represents a cult movie. Mel Gibson represents the mainstream of America.
This was an obscene outburst. Honestly, who voted to let this guy market himself all over as the voice of the Catholic "League", as if he had any sort of right to speak on behalf of people who call themselves Catholics. Seriously, this guy should just crawl back under his rock - he's worse than an embarrassment.

The truth is, as I have noted here before, you don't have to be Jewish, or a non-Catholic, or even anti-Catholic, to not love that movie (although the movie's marketing efforts did seem to rely on arguments to the contrary). For what it's worth, while I have my doubts as to whether Mr. Gibsons's film has any real value, I think that the themes treated in Michael Moore's films (worker rights, rights of the oppressed, alienated youth in a violent culture, the human costs of war which we too often forget, to name a few) are very consistent with what some consider to be a religious viewpoint.

Along these lines, I have this other thought. It's not fully developed yet, but it goes like this. While Mr. Gibson may be a "Catholic" film-maker in some people's eyes (although there can be an argument about that), there's a good argument that Mr. Moore (raised a Catholic, still attends Mass), with the social justice theme that pervades his movies, has a better claim to that designation than Mr. Gibson.

(I know, I should give this last point more thought, and make this clearer. I'll get back to you.)

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So this is Christmas
And what have you done?

We just passed the anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, twenty-four years ago. We are also well-underway in the season during which we hear him, in his song, asking us: "And what have you done?" Our answer this year has to be, "Not enough, it turns out." Oh sure, there's a lot of blame going around, and the talk about "values" as a big issue in the recent election. The solution proposed by some is that people who disagree with the current Administration have to "get religion".

Personally, I think the whole thing is a problem of perception, more than anything else. I fail to see any lack of "values" in questioning a broad range of the government's domestic and foreign policies – to the contrary, whether it's the neglect of the needy or the environment at home, or the violations of our country's principles in the mistreatment of prisoners or false justifications for pre-emptive war, one is justified in questioning the "morality" of the path we're being led down. So, I don't think that any new "values" need to be adopted by those who want to change what's happening. Just the opposite, actually – there are perfectly good and fine values which need to be re-stressed and re-emphasized over the next four years, perhaps even more than they were in the election.

As we also hear this time of year, in that same song, "War is over, if you want it." I think that's what everyone wants, but they have to overcome the fear that is encouraged by those who think war is the way to solve our problems. I guess we need to encourage people to take a little "leap of faith"?

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December 06, 2004
 
Sinterklaas Is Coming To Town
For everybody who wishes that the whole gift-giving frenzy could somehow be separated from the more spiritual aspects of Christmas - Happy St. Nicholas Day.

Upcoming alternative gift-giving days include Boxing Day and Three Kings Day. Or, we can deal as best we can with the Americanization/commercialization of "Xmas".

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December 03, 2004
 
Got My Facts Learned Real Good Right Now
Thanks to the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal, I'm finally clear about what is a "good" leak, and what is a "bad" leak.

Want to reveal the name of someone with the CIA, who has worked undercover in the past, even if that reveals confidential information about the people she dealt with? That's a good leak:
Mr. Wilson had been denying any involvement at all on Ms. Plame's part, in order to suggest that her identity was disclosed by a still-unknown Administration official out of pure malice. If instead an Administration official cited nepotism truthfully in order to explain the oddity of Mr. Wilson's selection for the Niger mission, then there was no underlying crime. Motive is crucial under the controlling statute.

The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act was written in the wake of the Philip Agee scandal to protect the CIA from deliberate subversion, not to protect the identities of agents and their spouses who choose to enter into a national political debate.
Got that? Leaking the name of the agent in order to change the subject, from what Mr. Wilson found to why he may have been there to find it, is okay. After all, by trying to get this information out, he chose to "enter a national political debate". So, that's a "good" leak, see?

Now, from yesterday's WSJ, we've learned what a "bad" leak is:
But now the ICRC has thrown confidentiality aside to attack the U.S., of all countries. And it matters little that the original leaker in this case might have been in the U.S. government. Officials at ICRC headquarters were only too happy to confirm the document's authenticity, and they quickly issued a statement complaining that "significant problems regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay have not yet been adequately addressed."

This follows a similar leak in May regarding the Abu Ghraib prison, as well as the ICRC's unprecedented decision to publicly challenge the Bush Administration's original designation of the Gitmo detainees as unlawful combatants rather than prisoners of war. What's more, the leaked ICRC documents themselves reveal interpretations of the laws of war so contrary to what the Geneva Conventions actually say that it's hard to read them as other than products of anti-American animus.
Getting out information to the citizens of a democracy, about what their government is doing in their name, is clearly a "bad" leak.

Now, let's sum up. If you leak the name of a CIA operative, even though that might make future family members of CIA operatives reluctant to "enter a national political debate", you deserve a reward. If you leak (or confirm) information about abuse of detainees, such that the public might demand accountability, you deserve to be labeled as one of the "bad kids", and punished:
No longer careful, scrupulous and neutral, the ICRC has become just another politicized pressure group like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger is reportedly planning to visit Washington soon to press the U.S. government on Guantanamo and other issues. We hope he is told that he is leading his organization toward the loss of its $100 million-plus annual subsidy from U.S. taxpayers, as well as its special status come future revisions of the Geneva Conventions.
I hope this clears things up for all of you.

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December 02, 2004
 
He Was Just Blinded By The Light
Last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the guest was Christopher Hitchens talking about his new book. From the description, it seems to be a collection of previously published essays. Anyway, the interview was less about the book, and more about Mr. Hitchens appearing as, well, almost a caricature of himself (sort of a cross between William F. Buckley and Foster Brooks). He ambled onto the stage and over to his seat, clutching a paper cup (from which he continued to sip). Jon Stewart seemed amused by him (and he was amusing, sort of), as he slurred his way through some of his top themes, especially his continued defense of the Iraq invasion.

As best as I can tell, Mr. Hitchens has arrived at his pro-Iraq war stance via his trademark anti-everything involving religion. The 9/11 attackers were just another set of religious fanatics, a term he uses to describe anybody from a suicide bomber to Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa. His new book appears to be an attempt to collect his various essays in support of his position. Listening to him last night, however, it occurred to me that his obsessive embrace of the Administration's choice to use warfare, is keeping him from appreciating the value of different approaches.

He made one good point last night, that we are not "at war with Islam". Instead, there is a struggle going on among various political and social movements in parts of the world with large Muslim populations. We are allied with some of those factions, such as the Kurds (of whom Mr. Hitchens often writes). He noted that our great task is to find, and ally ourselves with, those Muslims who reject the Osama Bin Laden view of where Islam should be going. And, that's why I think that he has prevented himself from recognizing the downside of the Iraq invasion – Iraq was not really a Bin Laden ally, and invading Iraq earned us the enmity of many people who never really cared for Bin Laden. So, the invasion effectively took us further from the goal of finding more allies in the Muslim world.

As I said, he mentioned the Kurds, and how they had been an insurgency against Saddam Hussein for a long time. But, one has to contrast the present situation, after our invasion, with the Kurds in Iraq as described by Mr. Hitchens before that invasion:
What would the lifting of the no-fly zones mean for the people who live under them? I recently sat down with my old friend Dr. Barham Salih, who is the elected prime minister of one sector of Iraqi Kurdistan. Neither he nor his electorate could be mentioned if it were not for the no-fly zones imposed--as a result of democratic protest in the West--at the end of the last Gulf War. In his area of Iraq, "regime change" has already occurred. There are dozens of newspapers, numerous radio and TV channels, satellite dishes, Internet cafes. Four female judges have been appointed. Almost half the students at the University of Sulaimaniya are women. And a pro al Qaeda group, recently transferred from Afghanistan, is trying to assassinate the Kurdish leadership and nearly killed my dear friend Barham just the other day.... Now, why would this gang want to make that particular murder its first priority?

Before you face that question, consider this. Dr. Salih has been through some tough moments in his time. Most of the massacres and betrayals of the Kurdish people of Iraq took place with American support or connivance. But the Kurds have pressed ahead with regime change in any case. Surely a "peace movement" with any principles should be demanding that the United States not abandon them again.
Under the circumstances, with a stable Kurdish north in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein pinned down with inspectors in the country, why would Mr. Hitchens have thought that rolling the tanks into Baghdad was the best approach? I think he put a little too much faith, as it were, in the Bush Administration, simply because they had already bombed some of those fanatics (and a lot of other people) in Afghanistan. Now, he's a "true believer", no matter how much damage this war has inflicted, even in places that had previously been relatively stable.

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December 01, 2004
 
"Al Qaeda couldn’t kill Christian Engeldrum, but his own government’s dishonesty and incompetence could"
From Eric Alterman, something which should make you angry upon learning of it -
Christian Engeldrum of Ladder Company 61 in Co-op City in the Bronx, was killed while serving with the New York National Guard on Monday when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy outside Baghdad. He lived through the attacks of 9/11 that took the lives of many of his friends and comrades, which took place even though his government was repeatedly warned to be on the alert for just such an attack but took no measures whatever for the protection of the nation. (He even helped raise the first flag over Ground Zero after the attack.) He lived through the still-unknown health effects on his respiratory system, after breathing the air at Ground Zero when his government lied to him about its safety. What he didn’t live through, however, was a war, which his government lied to try to tie to the attacks, in order to win the support of people like Christian, who had every right to be furious at America’s assailants, but whose duty and courage was exploited to attack people who had nothing whatever to do with it. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda couldn’t kill Christian Engledrum, but his own government’s dishonesty and incompetence could. His two sons have lost a father, his wife, a husband, his parents a son, and for what? Yes Saddam Hussein is in prison, but is anyone really better off for the unending chaos and catastrophe this bunch has unleashed in Iraq? Most Iraqis certainly don’t think they are and the rest of the world hates us more than ever. Isn’t it about time we had an anti-war movement in this country to honor the deaths of exploited heroes like Christian Engeldrum and do our damnedest to minimize the number of brave mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, husbands and wives, must follow in his footsteps?
(Emphasis added) I would just add that the results of the last election did not make opposition to the Administration's approach to war and foreign relations irrelevant; instead, it makes it necessary.

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