Sunday, January 22, 2006

As if anybody cares, part II

Fresh off a Sunday of divisional playoff football where I went 2-0 vs the spread (although I missed both games on the over-under), I figure why not take a little shot at this weekend's conference championship games.

Using a line of Denver by 3.5 and an over-under of 41 points, I think the good bet is to take "under". I do believe that Denver will win this game--I'm just not sure of the spread. I think it will be along the lines of Denver's previous home victories this year against San Diego and Washington--nail-bitingly close, relatively low-scoring affairs where the Bronco O spends most of the game in futility and our D is on the field for a loooong time--ultimately resulting in a Denver W. And yes, I'm slightly biased.

For the NFC game, I think that the 3.5-point underdog Carolina will win straight-up.

And that would make for a darn fine SuperBowl!

Friday, January 20, 2006

back in the news

The top story today: bin Laden's audiotape.

Let me begin this article by stating for the record that I believe Al Qaeda are here in America. They are here, and they are planning something.

Call me cynical, or paranoid, or whatever you want, but I think anybody who asserts categorically that we are completely free of any threat from terrorists on U.S. soil is either selling something or lives in a world where the sky is constantly rainbow-colored.

And I have a feeling that they are planning something big. Again, I have no facts here to back that statement up--just a slight understanding of the history of terrorism as it relates to incidents here in the States and a knowledge of the Islamists' hate for the American way.

But I had a sense for that before yesterday. I didn't need bin Laden to tell me these things.

But what I didn't KNOW before his audiotape yesterday is that his forces are being routed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I realize that I'm reading between the lines a bit here, but ask yourself this: why else be the first "player" to speak of a truce?

Usually, "truce" is arrived at through three general developments: one party has accomplished their goal OR an impassable stalemate has emerged and the will to fight on is lacking on both sides OR one party decides they need to cut their losses before they are faced with annihilation. (Mind you, this third option only works if the offering party makes concessions significant enough to satisfy the war's other half)

From bin Laden's standpoint, I believe it would be very difficult to make a substantial claim that AQ has accomplished their goal in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan in particular, such a statement does not pass the sniff test at all.

And while the American left gets dizzy over comparing the situation in Iraq with VietNam, I ask you this: at what time did the North Vietnamese ever offer a truce with the U.S.?

And even IF Iraq and Afghanistan are at a total stalemate, have we not heard from every leader of the insurgency that they will fight until victory is theirs? The Islamist will to fight the infidel wherever he may be is a given--and therefore the second of the three situations generalized above will not ever apply to the radicals of the Islamist movement.

So there's only one option left: the AQ forces are in a bad situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The "truce" talk is a brilliant tactic by bin Laden, of course: not only does it attempt to legitimize his terrorism in the international diplomacy arena, it also tries to change the battlefield away from Iraq and Afghanistan. And it employs a vastly superior warrior for AQ's cause to force U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East: the United States MSM that serves as a mouthpiece for the "left".

But serious people will not fall for OBL's lies.

Of course, "serious" people are not normally featured on the MSM.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

As if anybody cares. . .

There's a reason I feel I have to do this. I won't get into specifics, I'll just let you know that there's a reason for it. . .

In today's NFL playoff games, I figure for Carolina to beat Chicago and for Indy to beat Pittsburgh--although I don't think they'll cover the spread (currently 8.5 points). Further, I'd go "over" on the Pitt-Indy game and take the "under" on the CC game.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Every "tree-hugger" needs one of these

A gas mask.

Read the interesting results of a German study that found out that plants produce methane here.

Long ago (December 2004), my brother linked to a scientific study that said that the main reason for increased global temperatures in the last couple of years was--get this--the sun.
(or more specifically, the increased but proven-to-be-cyclical radiance of the sun as observed from Earth).

And now we find out that plants "in captivity" (my wording) produce methane. Even more interesting, we are informed that increased levels of methane have been observed in the Amazon rainforests--that is, from greenery not "in captivity".

Methane, need I remind you, is a greenhouse gas. Forests, may I remind you, are supposed to help fight the effects of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.

That would be some trick, since it turns out that the forests in all likelihood release greenhouse gasses themselves.

My point: Is it possible that the "science" behind global warming is a little weak?

Now I'm not saying that there hasn't been an increase in the earth's temperature observed in the last umpty-squat years. Heck, anybody can observe a temperature increase.

But for a second, why don't we actually put the scientific process back in the science? You know. . .actually gather data and analyze what it means, maybe truly identify the cause for any unexplained observed phenomena. . .

Is global warming cyclic? Do trees--especially large masses of trees like forests--produce "greenhouse gasses"? Are "greenhouse gasses" a real danger to the environment--today, tomorrow, or a million tomorrows from today?

Do you think we should have an answer to these questions--good, scientifically-backed answers--before we go forcing the economic disaster of Kyoto down the world's throats?

The only thing that is missing is for the Department of the Interior to mandate that every point-paper from the environmental lobby regarding the "greenhouse effect" must be prefaced by "if this information does not answer all of your questions, maybe you should give a look-see at "of Pandas and People"". Then we'd really have a scandal on our hands. . .or at least a scandal that the MSM would report.

Monday, January 09, 2006

PATRIOT Act--who needs it?

This post came about as a result of an interesting conversation I had at work the other day. I work with some pretty bright people (not myself, of course--but I do listen to some of the 10-lb brained people talk), and for one reason or another we got on the topic of the PATRIOT Act. My friend, who in my opinion sits well on the left of the political spectrum but describes himself as a "McCain Republican" (either I'm WAAAAY right or this guy is delusional. . .or maybe I'm waaay right AND delusional) was talking about how the Executive of this country does NOT have unlimited means to defend this country from attack--that not only is Congress able to establish limits on Executive Authority in this arena, it has done so successfully several times. He uses the War Powers Act and the PATRIOT Act as evidence of his assertion.

I didn't have the facts about the WPA at my fingertips, but when he described it's essential thrust to me, my first take on it was "well, that's an unconstitutional limitation of the President's Constitutionally-derived authorities and responsibilities"! It is true that the WPA is the current law of the land, enacted over the then-sitting President's (Nixon) attempt to veto the legislation. However, the WPA has never, to my knowledge, been tested in the courts. It would be interesting to see on which side of the issue the courts would fall. . .

But anyhow, on to the PATRIOT Act: the basic thrust of my argument was that if necessary, the Executive could continue using effective gathering tactics that were specifically authorized by PATRIOT EVEN IN THE ABSENCE of such legislation. My stance was anchored by the general knowledge that the Executive is responsible for the defense of this country and its citizens, both at home and abroad. For example, if the PATRIOT Act authorized the use of techniques X,Y andZ AND techniques X,Y and Z had proven particularly adept at gathering intelligence that had demonstrably helped protect the security interests of this country, then the President has the authority (under the banner of "defense of the country") to continue using X,Y and Z even if the Act that initially authorized their use was no longer in effect. My only problem with this argument: finding where it is written in either the Constitution or case law that the Executive is primarily responsible for the defense of the country.

After looking at both Article I and Article II of the Constitution , I wasn't totally confident that my argument was valid. On-the-side reading about "vested" powers looked promising, but since I'm not a Constitutional scholar (nor are any of my friends--they're not THAT smart!) I didn't think that line of reasoning could carry the day. Forced to be resourceful, I got crazy and actually looked at the handiwork of Congress in the recent past to see how "authority for the defense of the country" is being practiced today.

Enter: Senate JR 23 of 2001, also known as the Authorization for use of Military Force in Iraq. Right there, at the end of the preamble, appears the following: ". . . the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States".

WOW! I didn't know that the forefathers even thought about international terrorism, much less had I been able to find such writings in the Constitution itself (clearly this authority is derived from case law--I'm on a hunt to find the applicable case/cases). BUT. . there it was, part of a joint resolution that was passed resoundingly by both houses of Congress, stating that the President had Constitutional authority to prevent acts of terrorism against the U.S.. It stands to reason that if X,Y and Z are effective at gathering information that helps prevent acts of terrorism, then the Executive has the authority to continue these tactics even if they are absent from another specific authorization from Congress.

While "effective" might be a difficult standard to prove if called into a hearing or something like that, I would like to think that there have been some successes in this war that were due to identifiable elements of the PATRIOT Act, and that some of these successes are quantifiable. Further, I would like to think that faced with evidence of these successes, all but the most partisan of politicians would admit that a certain tactic (or tactics) actually are protecting this country--and maybe even behind closed doors, some of the most shrill of the Democratic caucus would be willing to grudgingly accept some of the successes we've enjoyed in the last few years. But the Dems never do cease to amaze me. . .

P.S. Despite my reference to the AUMF above, I agree with the opinion as expressed by others that said document in and of itself does not provide authority for actions such as the NSA intelligence gathering that has been in the news so much lately--rather, it is the Constitutional powers resident in the Executive (and referred to in the AUMF) that justify such activities.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The problem with foresight. . .

. . .is that you're frequently viewed with reverance all too late for your visions to have changed the outcome.

Hat tips: Mark Steyn, who writes brilliantly in his piece that was posted in the Opinion Journal Online yesterday; to Hugh Hewitt, who directed me to look at the aforementioned piece (and exposed me to Mary Katherine Ham, who has a "look in the mirror" moment in this post today); and to Neptunus Lex, who provided some additional food for thought.

Quick hit: Steyn fast-forwards 30 or more years into the future and takes a look at the world, particularly Europe. What he sees is not the Europe of today. It is either "very old or very Muslim"--possibly well into a movement towards Sharia law if the latter is true--and has no future as a bastion of the "liberal democracies" that grace much of that continent today. The instrument of change is nothing as dramatic or violent as terrorism (although in my opinion terrorism has already had an impact on the direction of Europe, and will likely have a not insignificant role on the political will of those countries in the future); rather, he uses simple demographics combined with the fecklessness of European "multiculturalism" as the vehicle to that bleak future.

The declining birthrates on the European continent have raised eyebrows for some time now; also of note (although I hadn't seen it in numerical form before) is the sky-high birthrates in some Muslim countries and the ever-increasing number of Muslims that are moving to Europe. Steyn takes that hard data, adds the sad realism of what "multiculturalism" has done to the virtue of nationalism and the instinct of self-preservation, and throws it into a mixing bowl with a long-term strategy that we are assured is at the heart of Al Qaeda's thinking (although their actions show a more immediate desire for effect, I think it is a given that a global caliphate at any point in the future is AQ's end goal. If that's in 5 years--great. If it's more than 5 years--that's still great for them.), and VOILA! You've got a world moving further from human-determined destiny and more towards Allahville, where things happen "because it is meant to be so".

One of several money quotes: "They (Muslims) know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default." For that to happen, two things must occur: a) Islam must continue to survive; and b) Western civilization must collapse. The numbers make a compelling case that point (a) is almost a sure-thing. Point (b) however, is not such a shoe-in. Or so you would hope. . .

Steyn's article, as I mentioned above, paints a poor picture for the future of Europe. But when you think about "Western civilization", you probably also think of these great United States. Surely we'll never "collapse" from the throne of superpower. . .right? Introduce Neptunus Lex, who prophesies a "tipping point" which will essentially see serious advocates of freedom moving to America while the rest of the European Continent is left to struggle against the Muslim soon-to-be rulers or the autocrats that are allowed to stay in power. This begs the question: if the US is forced to stand alone as a beacon of democracy against a world full of Muslim and autocratic rule, would we be able to survive?

My answer to that question is significantly less important than the fact that the question has to be raised. Look, if Europe's "democracies" are heading in the wrong direction (as Steyn argues from a demographic standpoint and many more pundits have argued from a political standpoint), and Japan is in even more of a demographic death spiral than Spain, and Hugo Chavez asserts greater influence on our hemisphere from the South, we're really a country that soon finds itself with few bedfellows. And yes, there are other major allies out there that I don't specifically highlight above--but as you tick these friends off in your mind, be sure to also count the number of countries in that region that would love to see that ally cease to exist in its current state. And while I doubt that the US would ever be successfully "invaded" by marauding bands of ill-doers, our way of life could definitely find itself in a compromising position from destructive agents acting along many lines of attack. Would we as a people have the will to fight for the survival of the American way? Even more importantly: would our actions of the last 5, 15, or 50 years put this country in a position from which we could not defend our way of life?

I want to stress that I am not using Al Qaeda or other virulent strains of Islam as an identifier for all Muslims. Our biggest threat from Islam is in the form of radical Islamofascism that puts the killing of infidels on a higher level of calling than almost any other calling (it is these same radicals who desire a worldwide Caliphate and the extinction of all non-believers). Today, that threat is not overly menacing to this country as a whole--these radicals can achieve some tactical successes, but against a resolute enemy such a threat would never find major operational wins. But over time, we have seen that as a people have risen to the crest of civilization, there has been an increase in the number of "radicals" on both ends of the political spectrum (witness today's USA). We already know the means that radical Islamic fundamentalists will employ to reach their stated goal; if their numbers increase (again, a likely conclusion if the world becomes generally more Muslim in the future), it is only logical that the threat from this menace will increase. If the potency of the threat increases while the number of targets decrease, it stands to reason that the states left standing in opposition to the goals of the violent radicals will be targeted by said radicals. This is the threat that is implied in Steyn's article, and his data points to the likelihood that this exact development is going to be reality if current demographic trends are not notably altered. It may not happen soon, but it will come.

I have a real job--you may have noticed that it keeps me from blogging on anything closely resembling a regular basis. On the side, I also take some National Security classes. One of the things I'm studying now is on military strategy and how it merges and/or mirrors the operational progress of a military action. Highlighted in my reading is the brilliance of Napoleon on a tactical and strategic level (Waterloo notwithstanding). Apparently Napoleon is known for having identified the site of a major engagement 6 WEEKS before the actual engagement. He was thus able to ensure proper positioning of his forces to capitalize on the geography of the area, he was able to ensure proper supplies for the major action ahead, and he was able to guarantee the presence of both rested troops and a sizable reserve to exploit any advantage gained during the action. In the fluid environment of a war where opposing forces are physically engaging on a daily basis in many locations and fronts, envisioning anything 6 weeks in advance is clearly a huge advantage.

Today's war finds us absent of "daily physical engagements on many fronts"--but it is no less fluid. The question is: who is properly envisioning the battlefield of the future?

I know there's a lot of "ifs" in my above writings. Of course, it took a lot of "ifs" being answered in the necessary way to guide three big planes full of passengers into national landmarks. The bad guys have proven that they can exploit the smallest of openings. . .and the openings present in Steyn's writings is not that small.

Will we be prepared when this battlefield of the future takes shape? Will we even know there's a battlefield there?