Fulcrum Ruminations

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good Answer!

In a departure from Fulcrum Ruminations policy, I'm endorsing this item from Michelle Malkin's blog as an excellent post. It seems a teenager with a brain threw a bucket of cold water on a reality-impaired and pretentious cartoonist.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Well, President Bush has finally done it. After five years in office and near-constant attempts by the Left to find some horrible thing to shoot him with, he went and supplied the fatal round himself.

Illegal surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. In contravention of standing executive orders from previous administrations, legislation passed by Congress, and the splendid example of Richard Nixon’s downfall.

I’m sure by now that you, gentle reader, have been exposed to plenty of huffing and puffing from the Left. A quick spin thru the blogs linked on the right side of my page here will show you the almost gleeful reaction of the Left to this bonanza of “gotcha!”-ism with which they’ve now been supplied. CNN is already asking about possible impeachment, and you can almost see Wolf Blitzer salivating at the prospect. The New York Times, with precision so incredible that it borders on supernatural, waited until Bush’s poll numbers were on an upswing and another successful election in Iraq had been achieved to release this story, which they had been sitting upon for at least a full year.

And of course the spinning of the story to make Bush look as bad as possible is well under way.

The facts as currently known: shortly after 9/11, Bush began to authorize the NSA to conduct electronic surveillance of outgoing international communications from known or suspected terrorist-related individuals, some of whom were US persons. This apparently in reaction to capturing the cell phones of known terrorists during operations in Afghanistan and a few other places, and thus gaining access to the call lists of those terrorists.

That’s a bit different from the “spying on Americans!!” headlines blazing at us from the mainstream press, of course . . . it doesn’t sound nearly as sinister when put that way . . . but it’s bad enough.

You see, the US intelligence community has very strict guidelines against collecting against US persons. Strict in the sense of go to jail and pay massive fines if you get caught doing it. Naturally, some information about US persons is bound to be swept up in the course of the various agencies routine activities, but such information is to be deleted as soon as it’s identified. This is the requirement of both the law and several Executive Orders.

Bush, being the Chief Executive, has it within his authority to overturn existing executive orders. Unfortunately, there’s still the law to contend with.

Even there, however, there’s a loophole. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides a special federal court at which the President (or other duly authorized agency) can obtain a warrant for such surveillance against US persons as is deemed necessary and for which at least a pretense of probable cause can be provided. The FISA court has a track record of refusing almost none of the requests for warrants sent to it.

Bush didn’t use it. He decided, on dubious pretexts, that the Constitutional powers already granted him in conjunction with the authorization Congress passed in the wake of 9/11 for taking action against the perpetrators of that horror gave him all the authority he needed to tell the NSA to go forth and collect.

And then, worst of all, last April while defending the Patriot Act he told the American people on national television that “nothing had changed” and that surveillance against US persons still required a court order and that his administration was in compliance with that requirement. While he was authorizing the NSA to conduct surveillance without warrants. He did what Clinton did: he lied to our faces.

I don’t know that this rises to the level of impeachable conduct. I do know that Bush has well and truly screwed the pooch. Despite what’s going on in those right-wing blogs I have linked over there on the side of the page, there isn’t much of a defense to be mustered here. Bush broke the law (or at least severely bent it) and lied to us about his activities.

Democrats and some Republicans are already howling for blood. And Bush has given them a damn good reason for doing so.

The next few months will be a dark time. The frenzy around this will damage the war effort in Iraq and harm our anti-terrorism efforts.

Because Bush pulled the mother of all dumb-ass moves.

I miss Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Of Tookies and Mortality

Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed last night by the state of California. The means was lethal injection. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was the aging gangster's last hope for life, but refused to overturn the court's verdict.

No, I'm not providing a link. If you need me to find a link for you, you probably shouldn't be using the internet.

I of course did not know Williams except thru the distorted lens of the media. The portrait painted of him was an ugly one, showcasing a life of violence and bloodshed. He was one of the founders of a murderous criminal gang. By all accounts he never indicated any remorse for his actions or took responsibility. My personal opinion is that the planet is better off without him on it, but that is neither here nor there.

What concerns me is the death penalty. It's one of those issues which deeply divides people. Those who are for it are generally very for it in a regrettable sort of way. Those who are against it are passionately against it. Perhaps no other issue (with the possible exception of abortion) draws such diametrically opposed positions.

It is perhaps appropriate to consider abortion and capital punishment as two of a kind . . . one deals with the beginning of life, the other deals with the end. There is symmetry, which I find to be the absolute governing principle of the universe.

But we're not going to consider abortion just now, if that's all right with you, gentle reader.

In the case of capital punishment, the state is exercising its most frightening power - the power to end the life of an individual who has been determined to be a clear and present danger to society. Which, strangely, is the fulcrum of this particular issue. Before you take a life, you have to be certain that you're taking the right one. Any doubt, no matter how slight, should take the death penalty off the table. Now, the universe being the oddball sort of place that it is, there are from time to time cases where there is no doubt that the state has the right person in its sights. Multiple witnesses, overwhelming evidence, uncoerced confession, some or all of which are combined with a particularly heinous crime. Jeffrey Dahmer springs to mind.

Tookie seems to have sat himself right on the borderline of what I'd consider appropriate use of the death penalty. The world is no worse off for his absence from it, but I think he'd have been a better example to the kids if he'd been left to rot anonymously in prison for the rest of his natural life.

There are those who argue that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Those people are wrong. The death penalty is an absolute deterrent to the person upon whom it is inflicted. Removing Tookie from the world, for example, is one hundred percent effective in preventing him from murdering anyone else.

So put me down as supporting capital punishment, tho only in the case of the most clear-cut and horrific of crimes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kicking the Dog

One of the blogs linked over there on the right is "Yep, Another Goddamned Blog" by a "colorful" character with the screen name Jurassic Pork (I use his name for the link because I find his blog name unsuitable for polite company).

Today I hold up this post as a prime example of the unbridled hatred (known to right-wing bloggers as Bush Derangement Syndrome) that suffuses virtually every post on that blog.

This is the level of "thought" going on in the fringes of the blogosphere. This is also infecting the general political discourse in the US - the ultra-polarized fringes are subsuming more and more of the public debate, civility is going out the window, and it's all about who can display the vilest possible hatred of the other guy.

There is a degree of creativity involved, I suppose, but with the "moonbats" on the left and the "wing nuts" on the right clashing in ever more shrill tones of conflict, the issues that grown-ups need to worry about are being lost to the din.

The middle, the quiet real majority, need to stop being quiet. We need to remind these foaming-at-the-mouth pedagogues that politics is the art of compromise, and you can't compromise while you're busy flinging poo at one another.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Sixty-four years ago today the United States was launched violently into World War II by the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

We remember.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Some Updates On Random Matters

Beaten to the punch! Curse the need to actually work at work!

Michelle Malkin, among others, beat me to the blog with this, but I saw it in the paper and thought it worthy of comment. It seems that evil ol' Dubya wasn't responsible for the mess in New Orleans after all. The Army Corps of Engineers had already provided for the city's peril years ago. Imagine that. Not much on this story in the mainstream press either, from what I can tell. Tho, to be fair, the guy closest to the TV in my office likes to keep it on Fox News most of the time, so I don't get to see what the other news channels are talking about until I get home.

The "America is Always Wrong" crowd has been huffing and puffing about the use of white phosphorus (or "willy pete" as it's known by the troops) by our forces in several recent battles in Iraq. Apparently it's news to them that WP is not actually a chemical weapon and that its use is not disallowed by international treaty, except by aerial bombardment against civilian targets. Our military uses it for tracer rounds, incendiary artillery rounds (high explosive and willy-pete in combo is known as "shake and bake" to the cannon-cockers) and smoke/illumination rounds. John Pike sets the record straight on this score. I suppose next we'll be reviled for using bullets in our rifles. You'd think if people were going to get all frothy about something, they'd do a little research to find out what they were talking about.

Columnist Donald Devine over at the Washington Times points out that the Iraqi army is making progress in standing up a professional combat-ready force. This of course brings the US closer to pulling out our troops, tho without the cut-n-run so desired by certain elements in Congress. President Bush actually made a decent pitch for how we should handle the withdrawal from Iraq the other day, and if you dig a little you can see that the military is pretty much following the plan. It might be ragged and uneven, but the progress is there for those willing to see it.

And finally, in brief, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's family has publically disowned him. It's tough to be a murderous homicidal lunatic these days. Even Mom and Pop are going over to the infidels . . .

As in so many things, all that's required for Iraq to come out the way we want it to is patience. See it thru. Do what's needed rather than what's expedient or what will make political hay.

We can win this latest clash of cultures if we just keep our wits about us.