Wednesday, February 26, 2003

War Marches On (Which War?)

You might have thought that our federal government had its hands full dealing with the war against (some) terrorists, but you'd be wrong. John Ashcroft's Justice Department has plenty of time left over to pursue the war against (some) drugs. And they are taking the same route to that other, older, war that they have been blazing for the new one: Keep moving the line of what is permissible, what is allowable, under our system of protections for the innocent, which is supposed to mean those who have not (yet) been found guilty.

On Monday DEA raided 27 alleged paraphernalia vendors in a dozen states. These businesses controlled a total of 11 web sites. The Justice Department, not content to arrest and prosecute the evil doers for the crime of selling rolling papers and bongs, have seized control of their web sites and plan to redirect the traffic to DEA web sites where, as per their privacy disclosure statement, any web surfer who ventures there is subject to have their internet identity captured and logged.

According to Voice of America News,
The Justice Department announced that 55 people have been charged with trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia. A total of 45 businesses, from Pennsylvania to California, have had their inventories seized. Under U.S. law, it is a crime to sell products that are mainly intended for the use of illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine. These include items like marijuana bongs, or water pipes, and pipes and miniature spoons and scales for cocaine.... Mr. Ashcroft says customers who want to visit some of their favorite drug paraphernalia websites are in for a big surprise in the days ahead. They will be automatically redirected to the website for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Now these web sites, belonging to businesses and individuals who have been accused, but not convicted, of a crime, have been seized without due process of law, and their customers are subject to the internet version of arrest, search, and seizure (of identifying information).

According to, a venerable techie site:
Four domains registered through, and two which are registered through GoDaddy Software, have had their original DNS name server entries removed and replaced with a single name server: NS.PIPEDREAMS.DEA.GOV. The ownership and contact information of the domains did not appear to have been modified, however.

This places the action by the DOJ in somewhat uncharted legal territory. The domains were not seized outright, still listing their original owners as the registrants of record. However, these registrants, who have not yet been convicted of any crime, are clearly no longer in control of their domain names. Such control is instead in the hands of the DEA, or whoever controls the NS.PIPEDREAMS.DEA.GOV name server.

By redirecting these domains to a government web site, its operators are able to collect information about visitors coming to the site. This includes not only a user's IP address, but more specific information (cookies) which the original site may have stored on the user's computer during previous visits. Both types of information have the potential to personally identify users who naively attempt to visit the shut down sites.

"It's one thing to post an asset seizure notice, but it's another thing to actually redirect traffic to the DEA, especially when it is known that DEA captures IP addresses of visitors," said Richard Glen Boyre, legal counsel for the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics. Boyre says he's concerned about what information the DEA might collect, and has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in regards to the government's actions.
So now the U.S. government, in taking advantage of a relatively new law, which law makes illegal the posession of certain items without a showing of intent, is being enforced by a virtual seizure of web sites without actually seizing anything, which has the potential of criminalizing web surfers who have done nothing more than clicking on a link with a name such as,, or We can only hope that at some point the public will say: "Enough." This incident, by itself, is almost trivial. But it is evidence of a trend that the U.S. government is eroding something basic to the American psyche. The right to be left alone. The right to not have to be careful about the things that one might peruse out of bored curiosity, which might mark one as a person showing criminal bong-seeking behavior. And making the bong itself, not the drugs that one might put inside, a criminal artifact. These are the same people who made the act of posessing or drawing cartoons of nude children legally equal to abusing actual children. One just has to wonder, if they are not stopped here, what is next? Why can't we return to the days when breaking the law required a victim? The days when breaking the law required a showing of the intent to do something bad? The days when we did not need Big Brother to protect us from ourselves?

Polygraphs and the First Amendment

The polygraph, or "Lie Detector Machine" is an imperfect device that, despite its lack of reliability, is being used more and more as a tool of employers and government in situations where truthful responses are deemed important. Now, as with many areas these days, the government is attempting to use the veneer of "Homeland Security" to erode away our rights; in this case, our right to make ourselves aware of the value and faults of the polygraph device, not to mention our right to be considered innocent before even being charged with anything, let alone convicted of a crime. They are doing this as a way to pass broad new powers to test more and more citizens, disregarding the presumption of innocence. The only way that the polygraph can be effective is if the interrogator assumes that the subject is guilty of something, and the subject must be convinced that the device is effective. Thus, the government's chief polygraph instructor has recommended that even possessing written information about the polygraph should be made illegal. As reported on
Paul M. Menges, a federal polygraph examiner and instructor who currently teaches the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute's countermeasure course, argues in a recent article titled "Ethical Considerations of Providing Polygraph Countermeasures to the Public" (Polygraph, Vol. 31 [2002], No. 4, pp. 254-262), that publicly making available such information is unethical and concludes with the suggestion that it should be outlawed. The present article is a response to Mr. Menges' arguments. Since Polygraph, the quarterly publication of the American Polygraph Association, is not readily available to most members of the public, I will be [...] citing the abstract of Mr. Menges' article. is an organization that advocates the banning of the polygraph, mostly because it is unreliable. Part of the way they point this out is by publishing an EBook that purports to explain how the polygraph works, and offers tactics and advice that, they say, will defeat it. Now along comes the government proposing to ban the publishing and dissemination of this book. Aside from the first amendment concerns of banning ANY book, in these times we can take nothing for granted. In the event that such a ban is passed and the book becomes unavailable, it just might be prudent to download it now.

I strongly recommend that you peruse the website. It goes over many aspects of polygraphy: its history, use, and abuse. The coercive nature of polygraph examinations as used in employment and the war against (some) drugs is contrasted with data showing just how inaccurate and unreliable the testing device is, and the links to stories of careers and lives destroyed by overzealous prosecutors and employers makes for some very absorbing reading. Don't click on the link unless you have plenty of time, because this is a site that you can't just skim and forget. In these times we are all seeking just a little more security, and any tool that promises to unearth a few more terrorists is tempting. But, after reading some of these articles, one may decide that this is one tool that we can live without... the cost to our way of life may be too great.
"[Polygraph screening] is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity...the diagnostic value of this type of testing is no more than that of astrology or tea-leaf reading."

Former Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Drew C. Richardson, FBI Laboratory Division

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

War Looms Closer

Major developments in recent days have made the probality of war with Iraq loom ever closer. First, the government of Turkey is about to formally allow the deployment of the U.S. 4th Division on the northern border of Iraq, which would facilitate the armored thrust that is apparently part of the plan of invasion. Our ships are both anchored offshore and some are already docked, but according to the Turkish government spokesman, only defensive arms have been unloaded as of now. Once authorization to unload is granted, the fleet can disgorge its cargo, and the 4th can deploy in a matter of days.

Second, Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors have insisted that Iraq destroy some al Samoud missiles, which apparently have a greater range than that allowed under Security Council resolutions. Other nations, including France, have joined their voices to this demand, as has Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of The United Nations. It seems inconceivable that Saddam would allow this issue to so easily grant license for the U.S.A. to commence hostilities, but it seems that he is bound and determined to do so. One would think that he would try to run out the clock, as climatic conditions would seem to rule out any invasion unless it begins within less than a month, but the Iraqi government has apparently already declined to allow the destruction of the missiles.

Time is running out, and war is definitely looming closer. Stay tuned. Things are about to get interesting.

Monday, February 24, 2003


I have discovered a new way to solve the problem of conveying and linking to long URLs. It's called TinyURL. If I want to link to, say, an archive of a blog, especially Web Crimson blogs, or Google searches, or any other long and cryptic URL, I can use it, and save a load of typing space, not to mention the problems that can be caused when such things wrap, or fail to wrap, as the case might be. In fact, the first time I uploaded this post, and that 190 character URL failed to wrap, it broke this page. Then Blogger went down for maintenance, and I couldn't fix it for hours. So if I seem like some kind of evangelist over this issue, remember that I have my reasons. The URLs for my Web Crimson posts run about 190 characters(!), but can be replaced by a TinyURL of 26 characters. The TinyURL for my previous post "United Nations: Debating Club or Global Government?" is, or this.

You will be seeing more of these as time goes by, and this service becomes more popular, in my opinion. If you want to try it out for yourself, check out the form on the bottom of the left hand side of this page and see how easy it is. Or go to their website, where you can get a more detailed explanation of how this thing works. I get nothing for this endorsement. I'm just passing along a bit of useful information, which I got from Fred Langa's newsletter, which I have found very useful over the years. Check that out as well, if you're interested.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Zero Base Basketball?

Living here in the Seattle Metro Area with two small boys who love and play basketball, this household has been profoundly affected by the Gary Payton trade. My eldest son has asked me to apply some zero base thinking to the trade since he, and most other Seattle Sonics fans, are despondent over the trade. The result of my analysis is that the team and Gary are winners. The other team, the Milwaukee Bucks, are winners also. Only the fans seem to have lost, and that loss will be short lived, as the next few years will reveal.

Gary Payton is in his free-agent year. This means that, at the end of the year, he will be able to offer his services to the highest bidding team. Since he has been having a career year (surprise, surprise) he will be able to command a huge amount of money, an amount that the Sonics would be hard pressed to meet. Chances are, the Sonics would have lost him at the end of the season anyway,as they would have been presented with a huge (blackmail) offer sheet that they may have been unable or unwilling to match. Instead of taking the chance of losing him for no compensation, the Sonics traded him at about the last day before the trading deadline. They received Ray Allen, a 27 year old future superstar, and Elden Campbell, a seven foot center that they sorely need, plus a first round draft pick. For the team, this trade gives them a great shot of building a much better team for subsequent years, and remember that this year is shot for them anyway. Win for Sonics.

Milwaukee is a playoff team with good chances of advancing. A super star like Payton as point guard, with his presence and experience will be a great lift for any team in their situation. The competitive pressure will motivate Sam Cassell to higher heights as well. Win for Bucks.

Gary Payton is a great player who has played for the Sonics for twelve years. Great players want nothing more than a championship ring. He has no chance of getting one in Seattle this year or next. In Milwaukee, especially with his help, he has a much better chance of realizing this goal. He also will have, if anything, an even better chance of signing a record breaking contract, since he will have more playoff experience and opportunity to showcase his skills for any team considering making a bid for his services. After he gets over the emotional feelings of betrayal, he will realize that the trade was the best thing that could have happened to him. Win for Payton.

Payton is, without doubt, the best, most exciting player the Sonics have (had). He has single-handedly won more than a few games for them. He will be missed. But after the fans get over it, they will see that, with Allen and Campbell, and a rookie that the first round draft pick will bring, the Sonics will get better. Brent Barry will have the chance to rise in the NBA ranks and perhaps attain some of the greatness that is surely in his blood (NBA legend Rick Barry is his father). Add in the effects of entropy on the other powers in the West, and it is easy to forsee a much more powerful Sonics team over the next few years. Win for the fans (eventually).

It is difficult to admit defeat and go into rebuilding mode, but the time has come for the Sonics to do just that. In two or three years they might just become a power in a new West. In light of that, this trade is the best thing that could have happened. Honest. You'll see.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

United Nations: Debating Club or Global Government?

Over the last century, forces believing in a utopian future have put forth many plans for the betterment of mankind. The establishment of the United Nations in mid-century was, for these utopians, only an interim step in the hoped-for establishment of a global government. As the twenty first century gets started, the one-worlders and the transnationalists are picking up steam, as they amass power in the effort to subvert our constitution and indeed the aspirations of freedom loving people throughout the world. To the mind of a utopian, the failure of all previous attempts to repeal the forces of human nature are explained away by resorting to nitpicking details of implementation of the previous attempts. In this view, Communism was brought to its knees by the unfortunate imposition of a few power mad leaders, and its failure can not be blamed on any tendency of power to corrupt the human soul. All the theory needs is a better implementation than that which was tried the last time. For these people, transnational socialism is the golden solution whose time has come. They have been joined by the environmentalists, as greens are working to transform and control the world's economic system, in pursuit of global governance.

No one has said it better than Henry Lamb who, in an article written this week, writes:
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.N.'s highest priority appears to be to contain, constrain, and ultimately, to control the United States. [...] Germany, aided by France and Russia, has been at the forefront of this effort for more than a decade. Their current display of solidarity on Iraq, and NATO, is far more public than normal, which suggests that they believe they now have the power to force the United States to conform to their demands.[...] Willy Brandt, then-Chancellor of Germany, called an emergency meeting of the world's socialist leaders in 1991, when George H.W. Bush stood up to Saddam Hussein. Out of this meeting came the Commission on Global Governance, which produced a blueprint for creating world government. That blueprint has now been substantially implemented, and the one-worlders believe they have the power to force the U.S. to acquiesce to their will.
It is easy to dismiss these groups as just another bunch of loonies, but when you read the document, you see that much of their agenda has been, or is about to be accomplished:

* Global taxation;
* A standing UN army;
* An Economic Security Council;
* UN authority over the global commons;
* An end to the veto power of permanent members of the Security Council;
* A new parliamentary body of "civil society" representatives (NGOs);
* A new "Petitions Council";
* A new Court of Criminal Justice;
* Binding verdicts of the International Court of Justice;
* Expanded authority for the Secretary General.
Of course, for the eight years when the Clinton administration supported the global governance agenda, the aims of the Tranzies were advanced greatly, and now the Bush administration is trying to set the movement back. Europe is firmly on board, or at least is trying to appear so, and the developing world believes that it has little to lose. What they all want is to have some of the golden eggs that we Americans have established for ourselves over the last century, without having to nurture the golden goose.

It is easy to agree with Henry Lamb, and adocate that we allow the U.N. to die. Without us, it would become just another irrelevant treaty organization. I believe that the world needs a place where the geopolitical knots that arise can be unravelled without resort to violence, but to survive, the world body needs some systemic changes that reflect today's reality, rather than the reality that existed a half century ago. On the other side, the vast majority of the General Assembly members would vote to remove our veto over the Security Council in a second. But presently, when France can veto any action that the other world powers agree upon, the situation is intolerable.

The UN must change if it is to survive. Some nations must be promoted, some must be demoted. The U.S.A. must share prominence with other nations whose importance is relevant to today. But no change will not be possible unless and until the old order is rendered obsolete. The disarmament of Iraq is the place where the change begins.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Chirac Throws a Hissy Fit

Events of the past few months have shown the world body to be less a united force than a irrelevant debating club. As Secretary General Kofi Annan strives to achieve a semblence of unity of purpose, while all nations profess to be intent on achieving peace, there is no unity of means that the member states see as the action plan to achieve that aim. The nations of "Old Europe," Germany, France, and Belgium, seek power over the other states by a combination of brinksmanship and blackmail. Jacques Chirac blew his top over what he sees as "disloyalty" from the states of "New Europe," former Soviet Bloc nations that are seeking membership in the European Union and NATO.
President Jacques Chirac's warning to the new Europeans of EU and NATO enlargement that they cannot side too much with America and fit his definition of membership in the family of Europe has exposed, with an outburst of pure rage, a profound, long-term contradiction that could tear the EU apart from within.

While Europe has bandaged for the moment its wounds over NATO and Iraq at a Brussels summit meeting Monday night - offering up on paper a statement of unity that bears little resemblance to real policy - Chirac essentially told the East Europeans who will swell the EU's membership to 25 over the next three years that they risked being blackballed if they did not demonstrate more loyalty to a conception of Europe's role in the world that suits the French and German governments and not the United States.[...]

Confronting the United States, and marking out a line where European-Atlantic coalescence must stop, involves an attempt to re-establish their leadership in a Europe whose institutional future points toward the French and Germans being submerged by a new wave of entrants refusing to define Europe's raison d'être in a foreign and security policy automatically opposed to the United States.[...]

And Chirac threatened. He said it would take the vote of only one current EU member in a national referendum to block the entire enlargement process. As for Romania and Bulgaria - perhaps singled out as ingrates because they are grant-supported members of the French-funded organization of nations nurturing the French language - Chirac said, "If they had tried to decrease their chances for getting in Europe, they couldn't have done a better job."[...]

If it is only venting frustration at the cold prospect of France's diminished influence in Europe, not incompatible with the French president's personality, it is all the same a gesture that has brought Europe's future new pain and dizzying uncertainty.
So here we have the French President threatening nations with exclusion from the EU and NATO, with the plain effect he seeks to have over their votes in the UN as well. And what, pray tell, is the basis for France having any power at all? They lost the last two world wars, only to have their chestnuts retrieved from the flames by the U.S.A. After winning their war for them, we rebuilt their industrial base for them, and even granted them veto power in the UN Security Council. In today's world, why France has a veto and Germany does not, Japan does not, and India, with 20% of the world's population does not, is a mystery of geopolitics that contemporary events may set aright. Sixty years after we saved their buns the last time, the French show us no gratitude, so when the left out nations seek a realignment of power in the United Nations, we have little or no reason to resist any change that will diminish France's power. (Colin May over at Innocents Abroad sees this issue more or less the same way I do.)

It is possible that we are seeing a reignition of the Cold War, with "Old Europe" taking the role of the Soviet Union. As a nuclear power, France might just decide to take their propensity for blackmail to a new and more dangerous level. Or things might settle down in any one of a dozen different ways. For good or ill, we certainly live in interesting times.

Monday, February 17, 2003

NATO Relents

After a month in which NATO flirted with making itself irrelevant, the bureaucrats at NATO used a bit of tricky parliamentary procedure to exclude France from the debate, and thus forced to stand alone, Germany and Belgium relented and allowed the alliance to do its job, and defend Turkey.

I had earlier blogged the seriousness of the situation, and those stalwarts of the Atlantic Alliance must have heard me, or otherwise realized that if they could not defend a member nation, they were totally without purpose or relevance. Now that NATO is saved from the scrap heap of history, the European Union and the United Nations need to address the fact that, if they intend to remain as important participants in the debate, they need to do more than air out their anti-American ideas.

These days even Kofi Annan and the European Union are making the right noises urging Iraq to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions and warning that arms inspections cannot continue indefinitely without Baghdad's cooperation. While there is little hope that Saddam will ever comply with Security Council Resolution 1441, there is hope that the international bodies are moving to the point where they might stand aside and allow the coalition of the willing do what must be done to free the Iraqi people and defuse their threat over peace and security for the rest of the people of the world.

Google Buys Blogger

The news today is that Google, the search engine that made sense of the World Wide Web, has bought Pyra Labs, the developer of Blogger software and the owner of Blogspot, the free host for blogs like this one. This comes at a critical time for Zero Base Thinking, Zero Base Thought, and your humble guide. I was in the middle of leaving Blogspot, due to some horrendous performance problems that I labor mightily to keep from inhibiting your blog reading enjoyment. Now I don't know what to do. Do I continue on my migratory path, or stay here?

For the time being, I shall maintain both Zero Base Thinking, and Zero Base Thought, as parallel universes of my vaunted writings and elucidation of universal truth. That's right. I will punt. Nothing will change as far as you, my faithful reader, are concerned. Any decision emanating from this change will be put off until later. Stay tuned. Same blog time. Same blog channel.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Who Are The Enemies of Freedom?

Today there are demonstrations going on claiming to favor peace over war. I'm sure that Neville Chamberlain thought he had achieved peace when he negotiated the Munich agreement, granting the Sudetenland, until then a part of Czechoslovakia, to Nazi Germany. He had made an agreement with a dictator, accepting a tissue of lies that allowed him to go to sleep believing that he had arranged safety for the citizens of his country by bargaining away the freedom of others, namely the Czech citizens of the Sudetenland. Earlier England and the European allies had allowed incremental erosion of previous agreements. In the Treaty of Versailles, which was executed after the close of hostilities of World War One, Germany was ordered to disarm, and specific numbers of men under arms and military equipment were prescribed. Over the next two decades the European powers allowed the disarmament to slide, and as the Treaty of Versailles was increasingly ignored, Germany acquired weapons of mass destruction, like tanks and submarines, and planned revenge against those who had foisted the insulting Treaty of Versailles on them.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? We are facing the same thing today with Iraq. After the war, Saddam was ordered to disarm, but as time has gone by the European powers have allowed their resolve to slip, again hoping that the dictator will stay within his borders. In fact they seem to believe that a stronger dictator will be a better trading partner, and resist American attempts to enforce the cease fire and disarmament agreements. Do we have to wait for another Blitzkrieg of Poland (read Israel)? If we stand down, and withdraw our troops from the Middle East, and allow the dictator to become stronger, what else should we expect? No force can stand at highest alert forever. In fact, if we do not attack within the next few weeks, we will have to wait at least another seven or eight months before an attack becomes possible again, considering the climate in Iraq. Can we afford to wait?

Those who want peace includes, not only those who stand with our enemies today, but also most of those who favor attack. Peace is not won by Munich agreements, and the legacy of Versailles is that no agreement will stand against a determined dictator with the resources of a nation behind him, unless the forces of freedom stand strong, and take action before it becomes too late. How many have to die before those who claim to stand for peace realize this? The eighteen nations who stand with us today must enforce the disarmament of Iraq now. The resulting free people of Iraq will thank us. Our homegrown "peace" movement will win, just not the way they believe is the right way. The time to attack is now, before events overtake our opportunity. Once the dictator has a nuclear weapon, he will surely use it. How many more must die for "peace?"

Whither or Wither?

In the following (previous?) post, I quote extensively from an article in The New Republic entitled "Wither NATO." Now, as a wordsmith, I balked at using their spelling. Maybe it was the usage I balked at, but I feel the need to explain myself. Wither means to shrivel up, while whither asks about whatever "place, result, or condition" NATO is headed. I guess their usage is defensible (whilst this sentence is not), but the spelling I used better fits the meaning the title seems to require. So, I'll use a little blogetic license, and use whither. I know that they might have meant to say that NATO shall now wither, but I would rather say that we need to explore whither NATO shall go. If you don't like the way I said it, sue me. Or upbraid me at

Friday, February 14, 2003

Whither NATO?

These are strange times indeed. History is catching up with "Old Europe." The situation that existed on V.E. day in 1945 was enshrined in the roster of the Security Council, which would:
confer special authority upon the states that possessed special authority at its founding. The "permanent membership" status of France on the Security Council is not so much an outrage as an anachronism. Maintaining the diplomacy of the 1940s in perpetuity is rather like maintaining the technology of the 1940s in perpetuity.

The strident obstructionism of France and Germany, and their attempt to lead an insurrection within NATO against the use of Western force against Saddam Hussein, even to the point of violating the treaty commitments of the alliance to the security of its own members (in this case, Turkey)--this is a genuinely momentous turn of events that should not be understood merely as a comedy of national character.

The petulance of these European states seems farcical, but in fact it is the expression of a profound historical transformation. It is not clear that the Europeans are entirely cognizant of this transformation, but it is essential, if the United States is to manage its global responsibilities effectively, that Americans be cognizant of it. For it is not the strategic impertinence of Europe that we are beholding, it is the strategic obsolescence of Europe.
So now the anachronistic alignment of Europe against the rest of the world is about to complete its evolution, as the Europeans accept geopolitical marginalization as the cost of maintaining their bourgeois welfare states. While they seem to be willing to give up their national sovereignties to create a federalist communion, they might be getting strategic irrelevance as an unwanted side effect. What with both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance sliding into obscurity, they are making the emergence of a global superpower a necessary, if unwelcome, outcome. Almost no one wants America to become the policeman of the world, but there may be no alternative. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. If not us, who? If not now, when? Either the U.S.A. shall take over the position of arbiter and guarantor of freedom in the world, or we leave geopolitics to the Islamic fundamentalists to take by abdication. Since they would destroy us if they had the chance, we have no choice but to engage them. While the solons of European diplomacy decide weighty issues, such as where to eat lunch, we are left to decide the little things, like whether or not to allow Saddam Hussein to consolidate the Arab Middle East and destroy Israel, and containing a nuclear North Korea, without them.

Not alone, however. Eighteen of the countries of "New Europe" seem to be with us in the effort to contain Saddam, while what Suman Palit calls the "I3" triumvirate of Israel, India, and Iran coalesces to lead West Asia into theTwenty First Century. Maybe, if the Tranzies are successful and bind Europe into a federation, and then they decide to spend what is necessary in blood and treasure to become a power to be reckoned with, Europe may yet become relevant again. As of today, however, they are somwhere between a farce and a petulant child.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Transnational Coup Threatens European Union

As reported in this space before, transnationalist "One World Government" types with no respect for national sovereignty are gaining power in Europe. As reported in the Telegraph, a group of EU bureaucrats, led by the convention's president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, are in the process of hujacking power over the EU. As stated in the piece:
Britain will lose control of foreign policy and defence and will be stripped of its sovereign power to legislate in almost all areas of national life, under the draft text of the European constitution released yesterday.... Sweeping aside British objections, the document establishes the European Union on a "federal basis", enjoying "primacy over the law of the member states".
This is no joke, but the culmination of years of work. It's not just the British who object, but they are the most vocal opponents of the current language:
EU diplomats said the praesidium had been hijacked by a group of EU insiders. The two European commissioners on the body, France's Michel Barnier and Portugal's Antonio Vitorino, have taken charge, bringing in commission lawyers to draft the language.... There was speculation last night that the term "federal basis" would be removed from the final text as a sop to Britain, although this would not in any way lessen the transfer of power to Brussels.... In theory, any state can veto the document at the end of an "inter-governmental" vetting process this autumn, giving the Britain a second chance to slow the juggernaut.... But the convention's president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, says that no one state should be allowed to block the majority, saying that naysayers will have to leave the EU altogether.
So there you have it. take it or leave it. And the antidemocratic forces, which intend to grant sweeping power to unelected bureaucrats, roll on. Stay tuned for further developments.

Link courtesy of View From The Right.

Rolling Stone on Global Warming

After the furor over their story on "Bug Chasers" I awaited the next issue of Rolling Stone magazine with some anticipation, expecting some sort of follow up over the controversy surrounding that story. While I found no such thing, I was drawn to a story on "Global Warming." While no one should be surprised by what I found, it was rather reminiscent of the previous story. That is, they took a story where there is some dispute as to the factual basis, and covered it as settled fact, while grossly exaggerating the numbers involved.

(While I can't find the article in the online version. it is surely in the print version so, if you read further, there will be no links to follow.)

According to the magazine, issue dated February 20, 2003, in the "National Affairs" section, the 21st century shall see a rising of sea levels of several feet, at least, which will result in the loss of "more than 10,000 square miles of the United States." They also state that 2002 was the second hottest on record, and state that the next big rainstorm "such as the huge nor'easter that struck New York in 1992 could put JFK airport under twenty five feet of water and flood the Lincoln Tunnel." Summing up, they posit that "The scientific consensus is that if we don't act quickly to control climate change, the world will gradually heat up."

These are fringe beliefs, held by a minority of climatologists. The source often quoted in the piece is "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the world's leading authority on the issue," which is seen by most of those who study the issue as the politically driven arm of the United Nations that it is. More sober analysis of the facts at hand tells a different story.

Until the last 15 years or so, these same "scientists" were warning of "global warming" as the trigger for a coming Ice Age! Today these same ideologues claim that we shall suffer from a steam bath, rather than a freezer. However, those with a less political agenda, such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Academies Press continue to remind us that, while climate change is a natural process, the change that may be coming, and the one we should prepare for, is a cooling, rather than a warming of the climate.

The real crux of the argument, however, is the call to action by humans. There is almost nothing in the public record that postulates an action plan that can be executed by humans that promises to have any effect of world climate. The Kyoto protocols, that were rejected in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 95 to 0 (!) promise a reduction of CO2 emissions that will top out at 10% in this century, at best. However, those who hate the wealth of this great nation, including many American self-haters, are willing to grasp at any straw that shows any promise, however slight, of humbling the beast of the American economy, as the Kyoto protocols would surely do. That's why they were rejected by a unanimous Senate. The cause of taking precipitous action to forestall climate change is dying a slow death. Rolling Stone is now in the forefront of the campaign to revive that cause. If my subscription to Rolling Stone were not free, I would cancel it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

NATO: Evolving, Fragmenting, or Fading Away?

Recent events involving NATO reveal an international treaty organization that is adrift from its original moorings, aimlessly bobbing in the waves of geopolitical self interest. "Old Europe," led by France and Germany, is using the alliance as a fulcrum to leverage the U.S.A. away from what it sees as its own self interest. America, for its part, maintains the alliance even though its raison d'etre is no more: as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. Even now, two of America's six heavy divisions are based in Europe, guarding against a Russian incursion that no one in his right mind expects to occur.

Old Europe, finding itself increasingly irrelevant, is desperately seeking to affect the outcome of Bush's latest moves. They have a lot invested in their propaganda that Bush is an idiot, and will do anything to prevent him from outmaneuvering them yet again. They seem to either discount the possibility that the U.S.A. will pull out of NATO, or they don't care. They must care, so maybe they are buying into their own bullshit and believe that Bush really is an idiot. And maybe Bush will continue to participate in a shell of NATO, while moving our forces to Eastern Europe, thus accomplishing a "Lily Pad" deployment, in which dispersal of forces and mobility counts for more than a heavy concentration of forces. Incredibly, France and Germany are seemingly more concerned with relevance and importance in the debate... almost as if these nations have an ego problem, and would rather be respected and given lip service than be safe.

The future might very well be a place where Turkey and Bulgaria are more important to NATO than France and Germany. And perhaps rightly so. I am reminded of the old saw about the vaunted French military: How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? Nobody knows, it's never been tried.

Dien Bien Phu Redux

About 50 years ago, on November 20, 1953, France committed itself to a grand and risky venture, designed to halt its slide into geopolitical irrelevance. I submit that, a half century later, France is doing the same thing today.

In Dien Bien Phu, the idea was that France, because of its inherent greatness, could occupy a piece of land that was militarily defenseless, and achieve victory over numerically superior forces. The area that they occupied was lowland, without any natural cover, surrounded by mountains. They made no attempt to take the high ground, but gambled that America would change its policy and come to their rescue at the last minute. France lost then. They shall lose now.

Their gamble today is to place both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in jeopardy. Their calculus must be that, rather than sacrifice these two venerable organizations, the Americans will come to their aid. Rather than learning the lesson that history provides, they are raising the stakes. This time it is not merely a 16,000 strong garrison that France is putting in harm's way. She is betting the very vitality of two organizations that have held key positions for the maintenance of postwar world peace, such as it is. If France is afraid of unilateralism, why is she is giving America such a stark choice, and so little room for compromise.

France is in effect saying that, either the U.S.A. change course immediately on the matter of Iraq, and fall into line, accepting the leadership of France and Germany, or face world diplomatic Armageddon. She is threatening to bring NATO down, and make the U.N. irrelevant. I say, it's about time. Neither organization has supported American interests for a long time. This is not only my view, it is the view of many, if not most, conservatives in America today. It would be political suicide for Bush to abandon his political base by caving in to these craven political moves by the two losers of WWII. (Note to nitpickers: Before you email me, note that I call France a WWII loser is because they were defeated and occupied. I have not forgotten that they were on the winning side at the end.) It is time for Bush to ride high in the saddle. It is inevitable that these two dinosaurs and their two champions fade from the scene. Bush should take de Gaulle's advice: Anticipate the inevitable, and take credit for it.

What Else Is NATO For?

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when, 53 years ago, the devastated countries of Europe and their American ally formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The entire point of the exercise was to have been that, when a single member state came under threat from another nation, the entire organization, which fields its own army, would respond to prevent war, or at least prevent the more devastating sequalae of defeat in war. A threat on one member state is considered a threat against all. It was hoped at the time of formation that the existence of such a treaty would prevent war. It was designed, as these things always are, to prevent the previous war, WWII. Had NATO existed in 1939, the theory went, WWII would never have happened.

Fast forward to the present day. A member state, Turkey, has invoked the emergency clause of the treaty. It forsees trouble on its border with Iraq, and wants the deployment of forces to protect that border. France and Belgium, both of which were overrun and devasted in the opening act of the raison d'etre for NATO, have vetoed this request. Germany, the aggressor in 1939, vetoed the emergency action plan as well.

As if it weren't bad enough that France and Germany are doing their best to make the U.N. irrelevant, now they are trying to do the same for NATO, by acting the role of renegade nations. While most of the Punditocracy have been downplaying the significance of these actions, I beg to disagree. In their lust for a return to relevance and power on the world stage, France and Germany are gambling with the lives of untold numbers of innocents. This is blackmail of the largest scale I have seen in my lifetime. Their bet is that America will see the threat to the U.N. and NATO as too great, and will therefore bend to the will of the renegades. There are those who believe that Bush will cave in to this blackmail. Others are thrilled that these two grand incompetent organizations shall be destroyed. The rest of us can only watch and wait. Remember the Hindu proverb: When the Elephants fight, the ants get crushed.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Losing the Fortune

Today on The Today Show, Ted Turner, always good for a laugh, complained about "losing the fortune," and how becoming a pauper has interfered with his charitable giving. He decried his own stupidity in not cashing in his AOL/Time Warner stock "once I had lost control of the direction of the company," as if, had it stayed under his control, the stock would never have tanked. Since the merger itself was his idea, exactly what he would have done differently is left to our imagination. It's as if this towering ego believes that all of us see him as a towering intellect, and understand that the ruminations of his mind are beyond our mortal power to divine.

He complained bitterly how he had become so poor that his "fortune is down in the hundreds of millions." Poor baby. As if that was not enough, he saw grave effects upon the human condition that his pauperization would bring, citing his plan to "Build a world where nobody's angry enough to be a terrorist." Exactly what his plan is to accomplish this feat, and exactly how the plan will now fail since he can not finance it with his own money, he leaves tantalizingly unspoken. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Maybe the citizens of the world should contribute a few billion to him so that he can get on with the important work of making sure that the anger of the terrorists is assuaged, since he is the only one qualified to do it.

Maybe it's the money that makes Ted so nutty. In other news this morning, a woman whose six dental practices netted her and her (now dead) husband "$60,000 per month" described how, when she was running her husband down "two or three times" she was in a mental state where "everything was in slow motion." How or why her judgement was impaired by going so slowly that this constitutes an excuse for murder escapes me, probably because I don't have enough money to understand the mental machinations of the rich and murderously jealous.

And for those on the left who decry President Bush's mispronounciation of the word nuclear as "nuke-u-lar," this morning I heard Robert Kennedy Jr., man of the left and decrier of wind power (but only when it spoils the view from his family mansion), was decrying "nuke-u-lar" power as well this morning. So it is not just idiots of the right who mispronounce the word, but idiots of the left can do the same. But I have one nit to pick with RFK's son: if we can't have nuclear power, and we can't have wind power, and petroleum causes global warming, how are we to keep the chill of winter out of our homes? Not to mention how we are to get to the polls to vote for members of his family next election day. I suppose we will just have to walk, or ride a bicycle.

Thank God I don't have enough money to be as foolish of any of these bozos.

A Political Budget

President Bush has submitted his budget to Congress and it is, in the words of many, a political document. Mr. Bush's brand of "compassionate conservatism" requires precipitous increases in the discretionary budget. In other words, items other than the military and previously mandated increases in entitlements are going through the roof, out of control. Actually, this is a kind way to state it. The truth is that this spending is under tight control, and it is being controlled into a steep rise. Education and Health care expenditures are being accelerated in order to enhance the administration's "compassionate" credentials, but the cost is the creation of deficits that promise to break records. The amazing thing is that the cost of the war on terrorism is not even included in this 10 figure budget... over 1.2 trillion dollars!

While we know that the choice was strictly between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, and thus there was no choice, we can remind ourselves that this was the better of two alternatives. However, this all goes to prove my point, made many times in this space, that there is really no difference between the candidates for major office in this country. Both major parties are statist, and believe that the people are too stupid to decide how to spend our own money, and that government needs to confiscate our money and power in order to arrange things for us. The only difference in that the donkeys will tax us to get the money to pursue their agenda, and the elephants will cut taxes, and rely on the laws of economics to boost the growth rate and therefore procure for them more money from a more vibrant economy to fund their big government schemes, which, they hope, will buy them enough votes to ensure re-election.

Those of us who desire a smaller government, a less intrusive "Nanny State," and increased freedom for individual citizens, have a long way to go. Maybe only republicans or democrats can win national elections, but neither is capable of offering any change from the trends of larger and more intrusive government, and diminishing freedom across the board. It is not a matter of the lesser evil; both are equally evil. Only the gap in foreign policy differentiates the two parties. I have, and will continue to vote for the party that promises peace through strength rather than capitulation to Internationalist Ostrichism, but I have grave forbodings about what will happen to us once the terroristic Islamic enemy is vanquished. Once the war is over, unless Bush's Protestant prophesy of the end times comes true, we will be in a heap of trouble. And we will win the war, and the boomers will retire. At that point, the government, whether donkey or elephant, will be relying upon the same "lock box" that kept us laughing through the 2000 presidential campaign.

Unless a fiscally responsible third party emerges that is strong enough to contend for national electoral victory, God help us....

Friday, February 07, 2003

This is Justice?

The cruelty, unfairness, and, well, just plain meanness of our system of justice is what I choose to attack today. It may well be true that we have the best such system in the world, as some say, but I doubt it. It may well be true that humans are incapable of being fair to those we dislike, but I just can't believe that. But one thing we must all believe is that, of all the crimes which one can be convisted of when one is totally innocent, murder is surely the easiest.

Maybe I didn't phrase that clearly. It is possible for the innocent to be found guilty at trial by a jury. Of all the charges for which this true, murder is by far the one where this is most possible. This is true for several reasons, and is only true if you don't include crimes in which the accused is technically innocent of the charge at bar, but pattern evidence reveals to the jury that the accused has committed many such crimes for which he was never punished. This may be obvious, but Alan Dershowitz, in his 1982 book The Best Defense, laid out his 13 rules of the criminal justice system and they are instructive. They Are"
Rule 1- Most criminal defendants are, in fact guilty.

Rule 2 - All criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges understand and believe Rule 1.

Rule 3 - It is easier to convict guilty defendants by violating the Constitution than by complying with it, and in some areas it is impossible to convict guilty defendants without violating the Constitution.

Rule 4 - Almost all police lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty defendants.

Rule 5 - All prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys are aware of Rule 4.

Rule 6 - Many prosecutors implicitly encourage police to lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict defendants.

Rule 7 - All judges are aware of Rule 6.

Rule 8 - Most trial judges pretend to believe police officers who they know are lying.

Rule 9 - All appellate judges are aware of Rule 8, yet many pretend to believe the trail judges who pretended to believe the lying police officers.

Rule 10 - Most judges disbelieve defendants about whether their Constitutional rights have been violated, even if they are telling the truth.

Rule 11 - Most judges and prosecutors would not knowingly convict a defendant who they believe to be innocent of the crime charged.

Rule 12 - Rule 11 does not apply to members of organized crime, drug dealers, career criminals or potential informers.

Rule 13 - Nobody really wants justice.
Now, I am no fan of Mr. Dershowitz's politics, especially his craven and unprincipled support of B.J.Clinton. But as an academic and appeals lawyer, he is one of the best. He helped to engineer the reversal of the conviction of at least one innocent man, Claus Von Bolow. who was convicted the first time for no better reason than that the jury thought that he "looked guilty" and was cold and apparently uninvolved emotionally with the proceedings. Dershowitz was a central figure in obtaining the reversal of the first conviction, and was on the seat with the defense when they proved beyond even a shadow of a doubt that the prosecutions entire case, which rested on some illegally obtained evidence and the wholly impossible idea that Mrs. Sunny Von Bulow was (attempted to be) killed by an injection of insulin, delivered by her unsympathetic-looking husband, natch. "Who else could have done this to Sunny" the prosecutor confidently said to the jury.

In the retrial, justice was obtained for Mr. Von Bulow, but at what price? At the first trial he was represented by Herald Price Fahringer, a great and extremely expensive defense attorney. After he lost the case, Fahringer was quoted (by the judge in an unrelated appeal):
Trial lawyer Herald Price Fahringer who represented Claus von Bulow was quoted in the San Francisco Examiner of November 28, 1983 as stating that his haughty personality hurt his cause. He said "There's no way in the world you're going to be able to get 12 jurors who can sympathize with him. Arrogance and superiority are just devastating to a jury."
Imagine that. Conviction for murder for being arrogant and superior. Juries just love to bring down the high, mighty, and haughty, when given the chance.

In the second trial, Von Bulow was represented by Thomas Puccio, a former federal prosecutor, who brilliantly blew away the case against his client. He had to, because nothing less than complete devastation of the prosecution's case would have resulted in the acquittal of such an unsympathetic character as Claus Von Bulow. But this justice came at a price that has been estimated in the eight figures. That's better than ten million dollars of Sunny Von Bulow's money for the trial, the appeal by Dershowitz (who around that time bragged that he would take no case without a minimum of one million dollars cash retainer, and then had his law school students do most of the work), and the retrial. (I watched, and remember, the entire retrial, but for an in-depth recapitulation of the case, go here.

Then, last night on Court TV, on their show The System, I saw a case in which, while the defendant might have looked guilty, the family of the victim believed otherwise and supported him, and the evidence, as reported in the story, was so flimsy as to defy belief. The defense obliterated the case against him. He was convicted anyway. As TV Guide had it:
The case of Florida medical examiner William Sybers who, 10 years after his wife Kay passed away, is charged with her death. Throughout the trial, he has the support of his and Kay's children and her family. The prosecution attempts to use forensic science to prove his complicity; his defense attorney questions whether the evidence was contaminated during the testing process.
The documentary show was less kind to the prosecution's case. But still he was convicted, based primarily upon some very speculative and untested "science". He was practically pauperized by the cost of his defense. No millions for the likes of Dershowitz or Puccio remain for him. He is, however, pursuing an appeal. Good luck to him.

What outrages me is not even that these men were innocent. For all I know, both men are guilty as charged. What outrages me is that they could be convicted of murder on such faulty evidence, merely because the prosecutor succeeds in convincing the jury that the defendants look guilty, feel guilty, fairly reek of guilt, and appear to the jury as unsympathetic and uninvolved, so the jury just goes ahead and disregards the evidence and convicts them. It could happen to you. Or me. On the other hand, charismatic individuals, O.J. Simpson comes to mind, can be acquitted after mountains of evidence prove their guilt. In the Bible, convictions for murder must rely on at least two eyewitnesses to the crime. That may be too high a standard for our modern society, what with DNA testing and video tape, but the present situation, where, for example, all that is needed for conviction is a possible motive and the absence of a convincing alibi, seems way too loose, in my opinion. Recently over 100 murderers have been set free, by the application of DNA evidence that was not available at the time of trial. This shows that many convicts on death row are entirely innocent, since very few murders have any DNA evidence available for testing in the first place, due to the nature of the crime (perpetrator DNA is usually associated with murders that are preceeded by rape).

Bottom line: in our modern system of justice, WINNING has become more important to police and litigators than any search for the truth. The need or desire for retribution for the victim, which has no constitutional basis, has become paramount. Many proposals have been advanced to improve matters. For instance, Professor Glenn Reynolds has proposed one solution of juries being kept in the dark about much of the available evidence and prosecutors seeking conviction rather than truth. That's one is a little dense, but he has a more general discussion on the subject here. There are a plethora of possible solutions or improvements to the present situation out there. We can only hope that the entrenched interests move the ball forward, and make the administration of justice in this nation a little more fair, especially for those of us who don't have millions of dollars to help improve the odds for those of us who become wrongfully accused, and look like we might have committed the crime. It is up to us, the little guys, to raise our voices and demand change. I pray that the movement to change the system for the better becomes the juggernaut that it needs to become before real change is possible.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Triumph for Jackson

I just finished the ABC two hour program on Michael Jackson, and I want to congratulate him. This show is a great victory for him, in my humble opinion.

The crux of all the discussion on the Michael Jackson thing for the last ten years has been, you know, the pedophile thing. Sex. With. Children. After watching this emotionally crippled billionaire for two hours, the clear conclusion that I draw is that this freak does not have sex. Not with children. Not with women. Not even with Rosie Thumb and her four sisters. This fellow is so afraid of sex that he can not even talk about the subject without affecting horror and revulsion at the mere thought of the act of sex.

I don't know what the punditocracy will make of this show, or the documentary that underlays it. But the whole point of this zero base thinking thing that I do in this space is to cut through the bullshit that pervades our society, and try to arrive at some semblance of truth. There are three sides to any story, and here is my side of this one: The guy is terrified of sex. The idea that he could have sex with anyone, including himself, would depend upon him having thespian talents that he has never shown. He is not an actor. He is (or was) a brilliant choreographer and a great dancer. Other musical talents reside in his ouvre. But acting? That's not his bag. He couldn't even pretend to deny his facial surgery effectively. This guy could not hide his true feelings if he tried. And he did try. And what was revealed was a frightened emotional cripple who has a very unusual relationship with other humans. In other words, he is an artist. A weirdo, not a criminal.

If the rest of the world sees what I have seen in this latest revelation, the accusation that he has had sex with minors should disappear. If that happens, the way will be clear for him to make a comeback in his musical career. And if that happens, what a triumph that would be! Talk about a resurrection from the dead. This would be tantamount to a miracle. Bravo, Michael Jackson.
UPDATE: At least one person feels that MJ is capable of more activity than I do. Read the sworn Declaration on The Smoking Gun.