Thursday, September 29, 2005

Interesting Supreme Court Choice Generator

If I were asked to pick a Supreme Court justice, my own choice would be either Priscilla Owen or William Pryor, but after taking this quiz at the National Review Online website, I wouldn't mind this choice either.
JUDGE JANICE ROGERS BROWNU.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, appointed by G.W. Bush, born 1949. Judge Brown's nomination to the federal bench from the California Supreme Court was dislodged when the "Gang of Fourteen" decided not to filibuster people anymore. Don't think the same thing would happen if she were elevated to SCOTUS! Think Clarence Thomas!

New World Man presents: My favorite candidate for the Supreme Court
brought to you by

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Escaping Rita

Thanks be to God, and to a high pressure area over Texas which providentially hung around, the whole Houston-Galveston area seems to have dodged a catastrophe. Wind and rain here at present, but nothing like Allison, several years back. Some small branches down. Electricity still on at Casa El Jefe.

Rita Onshore

It's about 3:30 a.m., and apparently, Rita came on shore an hour ago, just east of Sabine Pass. Some rain here, and pretty windy, but I do not see blown branches and such yet. Showers are intermittent, and there is no accumulation. Family is asleep, and appears not to have even noticed Rita's appearance. Hopefully that remains the case.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rita's Vedettes

Some light rain, and the same light breezes noted earlier, commencing about 2120 (9:20 p.m.), but nothing else here so far. Waiting for the 10:00 p.m. update from the NOAA, and then will sleep some if nothing has changed. Will update as the situation warrants.
UPDATE (2153) : A glance at the Lake Charles radar seems to indicate that Rita is moving a bit faster than suggested by previous reports, and has adopted a somewhat more northerly track than previously thought. It looks to me like the eye of Rita will come ashore just east of Sabine Pass, about Johnson's Bayou, Louisiana, or a little to the west of that place, perhaps a little after midnight (Central time).

Waiting for Rita

Shortly after noon, the sun disappered, and the sky began clouding up. Wind is up slightly. No rain yet, but I expect some in the next hour or so, judging from the radar images. Looks as if Port Arthur will get the brunt of Rita: landfall of the eye is expected about 1 a.m. tomorrow, she has sped up in the past couple of hours.
We have made what preparations we can, and are just waiting. In Casa El Jefe dinner is being prepared. Houston seems deserted, judging from the news programing, and reports from friends about town. No gas, no groceries, and everything closed.
The freeway mess from last night seems to have been cleared up. Good, I have been pleased that the state, local and county authorities, and the Department of Public Safety seem to be on top of their jobs. Texas ain't Louisiana.
I will continue to make entries when there is something of interest to report. The wind has gotten more audible outside the windows in the brief time that I have been writing this.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On the Eve ?

We have just arrived home from dinner with several of the neighbors. Sort of a pre-Rita party, to eat up all the consumables requiring refrigeration. Some wine, and of course Margaritas, to drink to Rita's ill health.
We have worked hard to get ready. Supplies are assembled. We have built a little fort in the house, SWMBO has assembled the papers, and organized the food, we have from five to six days food and water. batteries, flashlights, fire extinguishers. Pick-ax for debris, tools, food for the cats. We have one car with a full tank of fuel, the other with half to three quarters after our odyssey of this morning.
I have made sure the garage door is accessable without power. The windows are the weak point in our defenses, we do not have wood, and none is available. Pictures are down, and there are a few more objects to move from near the windows in the morning (mostly my book collection), but I think we're about as ready as can be. God grant it be enough.
To bed, for tomorrow will be a long day.

Calm for the Moment

Back at Casa El Jefe we have been gathering the supplies and preparing an area (a downstairs bathroom) for SWMBO, the Heir, El Jefe and the High Patroness cats to ride out Rita, if she comes calling.
Gasoline, as well as plywood, flashlight batteries, bottled water, etc., is pretty much finished in our part of Houston (West University), inside the 610 Loop. Inasmuch as the State transportation officials have double-sided IH-45 and IH-10 out-bound, I don't think much in the way of supplies will be coming into the city while the evacuation proceeds. Refineries are shut down so that their personnel may seek shelter and be with their families. Biggest lesson I've learned so far is to leave at the first whiff of trouble, and not to wait for official pronouncements. Those who took vacation time Monday or found ways to leave early Tuesday mostly made it safely.
The biggest problem confronting the disaster planners presently, (as you may have gathered from my last post), is the situation on the jammed freeways. Houston Traffic Report shows all outbound freeways north and west still jammed with persons fleeing Houston/Galveston, as they were this morning. It is easy now to second-guess the evacuation planners (State of Texas, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety), but also unfair: they're doing the best they can, it's just a huge logistical problem to drain out a city of 1 milllion (Galveston) by passing its citizens through another threatened city of 4 million (us). I suspect all us voluntary evacuators who learned our Katrina lessons too well completely bollixed-up the mandatory evacuation from Galveston and the coast: instead of a million people on the road, it was probably more like 2.5 million.

I wonder how wise the plan is to open up both sides of the freeway to outbound traffic ? This smacks of a counsel of desperation to me. All this will do is compound the problem and create two jammed-up portions of freeway with fuel problems instead of one. I think they should use the local police forces, county sheriffs and the DPS to, on the west, close up inbound freeway access ramps from Katy (westside of Houston) to Columbus and ,on the north, from Conroe to Madisonville, and use 45 and 10 just to drain Houston west on IH-10 (with no turns till Columbus), north on IH-45, (no turns till Madisonville), and move the coastal areas west of Houston/Galveston out on the other state highways east of Columbus northwards. But I believe it's a mistake to use the inbound side for moving Houston/Galveston folks out. They need the inbound side to move tanker trucks and supplies, most especially fresh water stores, not to mention the troops. This is another reason we aren't going to be able to get more gas and supplies here, because they are compounding the problem with the evacuation.
Meanwhile, news reports this afternoon tell of hundreds stranded on the roads without fuel, or with mechanical problems north and west of Houston, with local police and DPS trying to distribute what fuel there is...and night is coming on. Many of these persons are no-doubt armed, (big run on firearms in Houston this week). In its photo gallery, the Houston Chronicle has a picture of somebody filling a 55 gallon drum with gasoline before getting onto the road. I hope that gentleman makes it to where he's going without anybody realizing he has a drum full of gas. All in all, a combustable mix of circumstances on the roads this evening.

Rita is going to be here tomorrow, sometime, looks like. Most of El Jefe's neighbors have stayed, and I expect we will get together for a bit of a dinner party this evening to eat and drink good things and perishable items before the coming days of broken glass and canned goods. El Jefe will post on anything new tonight, although I don't expect much. I will relate news as it comes up, and expect to take my laptop into our hidey-hole, when the action starts. Will try to post as long as I have power.


We appear to be stuck in Houston.

We left the palatial El Jefe residence in the West University area about 2:30 a.m., made good time out Bellaire to Fondren, then to Westheimer, then to FM 1093. Got stuck, about 3:15 a.m. on Grand Parkway (was the jam there, or the jam that developed on that part of 1093), and we chose Grand Parkway.

Stuck there until 5:15 a.m., when we found a side road that eventually led us to I-10. I-10 west is simply stopped dead, from roughly Grand Parkway to Beltway 8, as we found when we gave up and headed back in, despite the fact we had noted the storm's turn towards Galveston.
Reason for heading back is at the rate we were going, I'm not sure we could have even gotten to Columbus without running out of gas, and there was no assurance of more fuel. Although, I thought we and the cats would be okay for however long the trip took. I was worried about the strain on our vehicle -- if it overheated, or there was a wreck, we'd be toast. Finally, lots of wacked-out, grumpy people on the road. Saw bunches of stalls and overheated vehicles, and at least one accident. There are going to be some incidents if the traffic situation persists.

We had talked about going to I-59 and just heading for Laredo, and I'm still wondering if that was not a bad plan. I suspect at first light there's going to be something of a panic here.

I guess we're riding it out here, unless another opportunity comes up to get out, which I seriously doubt. We have water, supplies for a few days, and will fort up in either the downstairs bathroom or next to the stairs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Go Away Rita

No blogging for the next week or so, as El Jefe temporarly relocates his capital. A very nasty lady named Rita is approaching, so El Jefe, the Heir, SWMBO, the High Patronesses MILO, FLINKY and SUNSHINE, along with the elite regiments of El Jefe's Goomba Guards, the Priests, the Mistresses, the Imperial Treasury, the wine stores and his cast of thousands are departing for the provinces, to visit and comfort the loyal subjects.
Good-bye till better times, hopefully in a week.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Bloodiest Day

Headquarters, Alexandria & Leesburg Road
Near Dranesville
September 3, 1862

Mr. President:
The present seems to be the most propitious time since the commencement of the war for the Confederate Army to enter Maryland. The two grand armies of the United States that have been operating in Virginia, though now united, are much weakened and demoralized. Their new levies of which I understand sixty thousand men have already been posted in Washington, are not yet organized, and will take some time to prepare for the field…

The army is not properly equipped for an invasion of an enemy’s territory. It lacks much of the material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being much reduced, and the men are poorly provided with clothes and in thousands of instances are destitute of shoes. Still, we cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our opponents in men and in military equipments, must endeavor to harass, if we cannot destroy them. I am aware the movement is attended with much risk…

…If the Quartermaster Department can furnish any shoes, it would be the greatest relief.

We have entered upon September, and the nights are becoming cool. . .

R.E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee to President Jefferson Davis, 8 Septeber 1862 (from Dowdey, Manarin, The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, Da Capo 1961, p. 294).

Headquarters, Near Fredricktown, Maryland
September 8, 1862

Mr. President:
The present posture of affairs, in my opinion, places it in the power of the Government of the Confederate States to propose with propriety to that of the United States the recognition of our independence…

R.E. Lee
Genl Comdg.

Lee to Davis, (Papers, at p. 301).

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Sharpsburg, known in the north as Antietam, the bloodiest day on the North American continent. No American armies ever assembled contended for such high stakes as their brothers who fought and died this day near the Maryland town of Sharpsburg, hard by Antietam Creek, so many years ago Overshadowed in the popular imagination by Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, a tactical draw, but strategically, a defeat for the South, deprived the fledgling Confederate States of its best possibility of military victory. After Sharpsburg, foreign diplomatic recognition and help for the South’s struggle for independence was exceedingly unlikely.

Southern morale was sky-high in the summer of 1862, at least in the east. After a series of disasters following First Manassas, in the winter of 1861-62, the Confederacy found itself some generals. Robert E. Lee saved the Confederacy’s capital at Richmond, Virginia from a much larger US force under the talented, but slow, George B. McClellan. Meanwhile, in the Shenandoah Valley, the tiny Valley Army, under Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, beat the Yankees again and again, and briefly threatened Washington, or so the hard-pressed Lincoln administration thought.

From 28-30 August 1862, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia won perhaps its greatest victory at Second Manassas. Defeat at the very gates of Washington shocked and embarrassed the Lincoln administration, and its policy of forcing the Southern states at gunpoint back into the Union they wanted to leave teetered on the brink of ruin. In Britain, William Gladstone, chancellor of the exchequer, told a Newcastle audience that southerners had “made a nation.” In Paris, the Confederacy’s strongest foreign friend, Emperor NapolĂ©on III, told his foreign ministry to open quiet talks with England on joint diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy. For once, both diplomatic and military momentum seemed to be moving in favor of the South.

Under these circumstances, Lee’s decision to move north was a no-brainer, particularly given the General’s knowledge, which jumps out of his papers and correspondence, of the South’s dismal long term military prospects. Lee fully recognized the superiority of his enemies in “numbers, resources, and all the means and appliances for carrying on the war” and warned his President that “we have no right to look for exemptions from the military consequences of a vigorous use of these advantages.” Moving north and beating the enemy on his own soil raised the odds of foreign support, boosted Southern morale, and damaged enemy morale; relieving the Southern home front from the pressure of invading enemy armies, and giving Northern civilians a small taste of what their armies dished-out all over the South.

Still, the campaign was, as Lee and his President knew, a giant gamble. During the first days of September, as the tough Confederate infantry moved down the roads of northern Virginia, across the Potomac and into US territory, problems were readily apparent. Southern industry was simply not up to properly equipping the army. Lee’s force was in part shoeless, clad in rags with only coincidental resemblance to uniforms, largely armed and equipped with enemy weapons and supplies scavenged from the victorious battlefields of that summer. (Lee’s correspondence during this period shows a preoccupation with guarding the site of the Manassas victory, and hauling away the huge quantities of abandoned Yankee supplies and arms).

Also, the army was organizationally cumbersome: no formal Corps structure yet existed; its over-large divisions informally divided into two wings too large for the wing commanders, Longstreet and Jackson, to really handle. Still, in the annals of American war, finer troops never bore arms, and in Longstreet, Jackson, the Hills, Hood, Early, and legions of others, the Confederates had a splendid band of commanders.

The amazing run of victories that summer produced another problem: continuously marching and fighting since March, the army was completely exhausted, and in need of a spell in camp to rest, re-equip and absorb replacements. Replacements, that is, such as there were. Unlike its bigger, richer foe, the Confederate States was already scraping the bottom of its manpower barrel, which further explains Lee’s determination to try to end the war quickly. But General Lee was pushing his force to its physical limit. The long marches, combined with utter exhaustion and poor supplies produced rampant straggling. Lee’s army, already seriously under-strength, numbered no more that 55,000, and he could not assemble more than 45,000 for the Battle of Sharpsburg.

The campaign began well enough. With the main northern armies camped around Washington, Lee moved into central Maryland, around Frederick. His plan seems to have been much the same as he used in the Gettysburg campaign the next year, to move into Pennsylvania, drawing the US Army round Washington after him, and defeat it somewhere between Harrisburg and Gettysburg. However, the Yankees left a huge garrison at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, isolated and vulnerable, and Lee sent Stonewall Jackson to pounce on it. The US garrison there surrendered on 15 September – almost 12,000 troops going into Southern captivity. This was the largest mass surrender of a US Army until 1942.

To close the trap around Harper’s Ferry, Lee had to divide his already outnumbered army. Under pressure, the US Army of the Potomac moved out of Washington, in typical slow McClellan fashion, after Lee. The weak point of the Confederate military machine was administration, and this now came into play. In a field near Frederick, Maryland, (former campground of a CS Infantry Division), Private Barton W. Mitchell, 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, found a piece of paper wrapped around some cigars. The paper, a Confederate military dispatch, “Special Orders No. 191,” gave McClellan his opportunity: “I now know all the plans of the rebels,” McClellan complacently telegraphed Washington.

The “Lost Order,” one of the most consequential pieces of paper in American history, told McClellan exactly where all of Lee’s units were. Best of all for the North, Lee was completely ignorant of the fact that his enemies now knew his plans.

Napoleon probably could have won the whole war on the strength of that information. Lee had only 19,000 men available to McClellan’s 87,000 because Stonewall Jackson was still finishing with Harper’s Ferry. Fortunately, McClellan, as usual, was slow. However, he was able to force Lee to battle at Sharpsburg, on unfavorable ground, his back against the Potomac River, and with his army incompletely concentrated.

McClellan’s dithering delayed the battle for a full day, giving Jackson time to arrive from Harper’s Ferry. Still, when the battle began, at dawn on the morning of 17 September, Lee, who had managed to assemble about 35,000 troops, was outnumbered by over two to one.

Sharpsburg was really three separate battles, because McClellan was unable to get his army to make one, all out, coordinated attack. Had he been able to do so, Lee’s army would most probably have been completely destroyed. Instead, the different corps of the Union army attacked, more or less in sequence, separately, from the north end of the field to the south. McClellan never engaged more than two of his six corps at a time. The Confederates, better commanded, used all of their troops. The slaughter defies description. 8,000 men were killed or wounded in the initial dawn attack alone. With rivers on both flanks of the battlefield, Sharpsburg was fought out as a series of bloody frontal assaults at places called “the Cornfield,” “Bloody Lane,” “Burnside’s Bridge,” the “West Woods.”

Fighting was hand-to-hand at many places. The Cornfield changed hands fifteen times that day. Several times, the Union troops were on the verge of breaking through the Confederate lines, but each time were repulsed short of their objectives, with horrific casualties on both sides. "Where is your division ?" John Bell Hood was asked. "Dead in the Cornfield," his reply. "Lee's army was ruined," the Confederate artilleryman Porter Alexander later wrote, "and the end of the Confederacy was in sight." But somehow, the embattled, outnumbered Confederates held on, even counterattacking in places. However, by midday, the Confederates were on the ropes, exhausted, last reserves expended, generals and division staffs taking their places in the firing line. McClellan, fatally, hesitated, refraining from committing his last reserves, which would have shattered Lee's stricken center. To the soldiers, it seemed as if night would never come.

The battle ended in the early evening, about 5:30 p.m., with a last US effort to turn the Confederate right flank at Burnside’s bridge. For the only time during this long battle, observers noted Lee showing signs of real anxiety, anxiously looking southwest, towards Harpers Ferry, for his last division, A.P. Hill's, en route from that place. Fortunately for the Southerners, Hill's troops arrived in the nick of time.

Although the battle was a tactical draw, it was a strategic defeat for the South, because McClellan’s disjointed, uncoordinated attacks had hurt Lee’s army bad enough to force him to withdraw during the night. The Southern retreat south of the Potomac completely overshadowed the mass surrender at Harper’s Ferry, and possibly prevented foreign diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy.

Despite this, the stand at Sharpsburg of Robert E. Lee’s greatly outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia, was, in my opinion, the Confederate Army’s finest hour. 2,100 US soldiers, and 1,500 CS soldiers died that day. Adding wounded, missing and prisoners on both sides, casualties totaled nearly 25,000. The Civil War was not decided at Sharpsburg – the fall of Atlanta, two years later, did that. But the last chance of the South to outright win the war, as opposed to surviving an attritional struggle, died at Sharpsburg.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

People's Justice

Max Boot has a most interesting piece in today’s Los Angeles Times, chiding Yahoo ! for its cooperation with the government of China in tracking down a dangerous criminal, the journalist Shi Tao. Thanks to information from Yahoo’s ! Hong Kong affiliate, China was able to apprehend Mr. Shi and sentence him to ten years in prison for “illegally sending state secrets abroad.”
Mr. Shi, employed by the Dangdai Shang Bao (“Contemporary Business News”) in Hunan, illegally exported a copy of a directive from the Communist Party propaganda department telling it how to spin the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre – er, excuse, me, cleansing. Good to know the Ministry of State Security is on the job ! Yahoo ! More details, with a link to the translated verdict, can be found here.

Mr. Boot points out that Yahoo !, Google, MSN and the other Web search engine giants have already agreed with the Chinese to block web searches in China containing such dangerous terms as “human rights,” "democracy” or “Tibetan independence” and to prevent Chinese bloggers from posting commentary on these and other subjects inimical to public order and tranquility.

Mr. Boot opines that such kowtowing to the secret police by American businesses should be illegal, and that Congress should “forbid American firms from facilitating human rights abuses in China.” Mr. Boot asks, presumably rhetorically, us to “[i]magine what would have happened if during the 1980’s an American communications company had provided information that allowed the South African government to track down and imprison an anti-apartheid activist.” Mr. Boot wants to know how this case is different, and why what Yahoo and the others are doing isn’t the moral equivalent of such support of the apartheid South African regime ?

One wonders if Mr. Boot is simply stupid, or just obtuse ? How could anybody possibly compare the racist South African regime to that of People’s China ? South Africa was a white, racist-imperialist construct, placed in Africa by the West, to exploit the multi-racial, non-white toilers of the Third World. South Africa, and the West in general, had – and has still – to pay for centuries of exploitation and imperialism. Of course it would have been immoral to give the same information to the racist South Africans.

On the other hand, not providing such information to the Chinese regime would be utterly immoral. Workers’ China, a developing superpower, is, after all, the sure instrument of retribution and advancement for the toilers of Africa, Asia and the Middle East; and a beacon of justice to the West’s victims. What is liberty, freedom of the press, or any of the esoteric bourgeois concerns of declining Europe or America next to people’s justice and the wisdom of the Party ?

Political correctness demands that we consider the socio-political context of any and all public activities. Freedom and liberty are always defined and valued according to social utility. Actions taken by racist South Africans, Europeans, or the USA, or right-wing regimes are always suspect and often reprehensible, but the same actions by – for example -- China, or the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, or Chavez in Venezuela, by Iran, or other progressive or nationalist regimes, are often justified, and in fact commendable.

Probably, Mr. Shi, if he truly understood that his actions brought embarrassment to People’s China, and to the Communist Party, would agree that his imprisonment was not only merited, but justified. Hopefully, he engages in some needed thought-reform. Yahoo’s ! progressive attitude, far from being reprehensible, is commendable and both should and will be widely emulated.

The Modern Huns

Wretchard over at Belmont Club reports today that Gaza Strip greenhouses, purchased from their Jewish settler builders for the use of Palestinians by hopeful but stupid American philanthropists, have been ransacked and looted by Palestinian mobs. Prior to their destruction, the greenhouses provided jobs for 3,500 Palestinians, as well as fresh produce.

The Palestinian Authority supposedly lacked the manpower to protect the greenhouses, possibly because witnesses report its police joined the looters.

As I said yesterday: barbarians. Wicked, vicious vermin, no more capable of building a state than I am of flying. This is not completely the fault of the looters, but the responsibility of generations of Arab and Palestinian leaders, more focused on bombing airplanes, killing other people’s children and nursing their status as victims rather than on study, universities, law or philosophy. Products of a bankrupt culture: the scum who burn books and synagogues; who loot greenhouses, who worship suicide bombers and justify honor killings of their own daughters are worthy heirs of Arafat, Atta and Bin Laden

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dodging a Bullet

The left-wing British newspaper The Guardian reports today (hat tip, Little Green Footballs) that Scotland Yard yesterday attempted to arrest an Israeli general on board an El Al flight from Israel which arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. Fortunately, someone tipped-off the general, who remained on the aircraft and departed with it back to Israel, thus avoiding arrest.

The officer in question, Major-General Doron Almog, was commander of the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Southern Command from 2000-2003, which included Israeli occupation troops in Gaza. The warrant for General Almog’s arrest was on the application of lawyers for Palestinians whose houses were allegedly blown-up by IDF troops under his command. The Israeli government, until earlier this year, routinely demolished the houses of Palestinian suicide bombers, gunmen, and their sympathizers in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Guardian story says that the warrant was issued under unspecified “war crimes law” and that the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court issued warrants after finding (among other things) that it -- sitting in London -- had jurisdiction; and that diplomatic immunity did not apply. General Almog, safely back home, has made no comment. The Israeli Foreign Ministry notes that various Palestinian organizations have tried to manipulate European legal processes “for their own cynical ends” but that Israel has, “…a lot of faith in the British legal system.”

General Almog was in charge of administering a military occupation, which is never easy, or pretty, and there is both customary and statutory international law governing such things. In the context of an occupation, it is extremely debatable that home-demolition of the residences of troublemakers amounts to a war crime. But that is beside the point. The more important issue here is the trend of European courts and lawyers to make a madhouse of relations between sovereign states.

It is ludicrous for a magistrate’s court in London to concern itself with matters involving no British subjects, taking place a continent away, involving government officials acting according to regularly established policies of legally constituted and democratically elected governments. If the actions of General Almog or other persons are cause for concern as to British law – then that ought to be a matter for the British Foreign Office and for Her Majesty’s Government, and not something treated as a plaything or propaganda tool of self-interested lawyers, self-aggrandizing judges, and self-promoting litigants carrying forward their international quarrels through channels other than the Foreign Office.

Foreign policy cannot be reasonably conducted if non-governmental actors can make such end-runs around customary diplomatic channels. Ambassadors, diplomatic immunity, and restrictions on the jurisdictions of local courts exist so that governments can do business and negotiate, which presumably benefits everyone.

I wish I shared the faith of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the British legal system, but the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, sadly, joins other courts in Germany, Spain, Italy and France in adopting an extremely expansive view of its powers, and of the reach of international human rights law. General Almog had a narrow escape, but governments, including our own, are going to have to work out policies for dealing with the new breed of overreaching judges, and international lawyers, who are deliberately seeking to weaken the sovereignty of nations in favor of non-governmental organizations accountable to no electorate, and which are administered by an international economic and legal overclass reflexively hostile to the concept of the nation-state.

Eventually, some judge someplace is going to arrest an American general, a former US administration official, or a diplomat on similarly specious “war crimes” or “human rights” charges. The U.S. government needs to plan for this, and be prepared to aggressively challenge this power-grab by the so-called human rights lawyers.

Europe seems well and truly headed down the road towards allowing do-gooders and the politically correct to use their courts as hostage-taking devices to enforce compliance with right-thinking foreign and military policy preferences. Such do-it-yourself foreign policy is the road to international chaos. Have the governments concerned thought this through ? Arrest warrants can be issued by others, too. I don’t know what Israel would have done had Scotland Yard succeeded in laying hands on General Almog. Arresting every British subject the Israeli authorities could grab and holding them until the general was released might have been a good place to start.


The Associated Press reports today that an FBI Intelligence Analyst, a Leandro Aragoncillo, assigned to the US Army facility at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, has been charged with providing classified information to agents and officials of the Philippines government. Most of the material, classified “secret” seems to have involved Filipino leaders. The hundred or so documents in question appear to relate in part to information on Filipino leaders gathered by US intelligence. Details have not been disclosed.

Mr. Aragoncillo has been charged with conspiracy; with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, which carries a sentence of ten years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, as well as unauthorized use of a government computer, which carries identical penalties. His Filipino contact, Michael Aquino, a former Deputy Director of the Philippine National Police, has also been charged with conspiracy, and acting as an unregistered foreign agent. He investigation apparently began after Mr. Aquino was arrested last March for overstaying his tourist visa.

It is not clear just what is involved here, and on whose behalf Mr. Aquino was collecting US intelligence information. I am intrigued about the tidbit in the AP story saying the matter involved was classified information on Filipino leaders. Was Mr. Aquino running some scheme of his own, or working for his old bosses in the National Police, or for some other intelligence organization ? Whatever the truth is, the Filipino government will no doubt make the proper embarrassed noises, and deny any wrongdoing. Be interesting to see if they deny any knowledge whatever of Mr. Aquino’s activities.

At the least, Mr. Aquino was certainly stupid: receiving sensitive US intelligence, yet trying to operate in the post-9/11 environment with an expired visa. If he was working for Filipino intelligence, somebody in that operation needs to be shot for incompetence.

At bottom, if Mr. Aquino was working for the Philippine government, doing his duty as an intelligence officer for his country, I don’t care much about him. He doesn’t seem to be a US national; and friendly governments spy on each other as a routine matter. The Philippines ambassador can be called in, given a talking to, and somebody expelled. We can even give them back Mr. Aquino in a few years. However, I find the other possibility: that Mr. Aquino was free-lancing for non-governmental persons or entities pursuing their own agendas – much more troubling.

As for Mr. Aragoncillo, a US citizen and employee of the FBI, if he’s guilty of the charges, I find it an atrocity that all they can do is fine him and throw him in the pokey for 40 years. I don’t like people who spy on their own government, it’s not cricket at all, and if Mr. Aragoncillo is guilty, he ought to dance on the end of a rope, or get the cigarette and blindfold.

Gaza "Liberated"

The wire services this morning report that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) completed their Gaza Strip pull out this morning, Brigadier Aviv Kochavi bringing up the rear as Gaza is free of Israeli forces for the first time since June of 1967.

What do the Palestinians do to celebrate their “liberation ?” First there was farce: mobs firing guns into the air to celebrate their “heroism” in “driving out” the Jews. Play-acting then gave way to vandalism: the celebration of “freedom” by the aforementioned mobs burning the abandoned Jewish synagogues.

Barbarians. Yes, you read that word right. The Palestinians now have all of Gaza to make of it what they will, and you as well as I know what will result. In place of prosperous and productive Israeli settlements of unfortunately dubious legality; right-thinking people everywhere can and will rejoice that Gaza has been handed over, quite legally, to mobs who desecrate houses of worship and lie to themselves about their own bravery.

I can’t wait so see what kind of state that people who venerate suicide bombers who murder children will make. No state at all of course, this is quite beyond these people, who will make nothing more than a ghetto/refugee camp/nest-of-terrorists on a large scale.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Honorable William H. Rehnquist, 1924-2005

The Chief Justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist, is dead. Gravely ill these past several years, his demise was long expected. Supreme Court justices are supposed to serve for life, and like everything else Chief Justice Rehnquist did, he was punctilious in remaning at his post to the very end. "Genius is diligence," the German general vonMoltke wrote, and Rehnquist, during his long public career, exemplified that kind of genius, aware that he was performing not only a job, but the highest calling a person can have, public service for the benefit of his state.
Appointed to the Court by President Nixon, during the darkest days of the Warren Court, Justice Rehnquist, a latter-day Great Dissenter in the mold of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, defended the Constitution and the United States, as best he could, against the ravages of a Warren Court majority determined to exalt the power of unelected judges and the liberal state. As time went on, and the composition of the Court changed, Chief Justice Rehnquist gradually built a majority that defended the rights of the seperate States, and that did its best to roll-back the excesses of the runaway Warren Court. His reward was to be named Chief Justice, by President Reagan in 1986.
According to the Washington Post, often critical of the Chief Justice, the Rehnquist Court "strengthened the legal position of the police, paved the way for swifter executions, defined constitutional limits on federal power and permitted indirect funding of religious schools." Chief Justice Rehnquist would probably accept that as a fair epitaph, but, rightly, consider this record an achievement, and not as matters to be deplored, as the Post editorial writers certainly would.
Less commendably, during Rehnquist's tenure, the Supreme Court continued the trend, present from the 1930's forward, of expanding its role in American political life. Probably, Chief Justice Rehnquist was a mostly unwilling participant in this expansion, which was produced more by the combination of a liberal-minded bar willing to encourage litigation by liberal politicans, media and theorists unable to carry their points politically.
Chief Justice Rehnquist's effectiveness at holding back the liberal tide will be missed.

Friday, September 2, 2005


The sufferings of millions of people in southern Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Alabama from the passage of Hurricane “Katrina” these past several days fill all of us with despair and sadness. Seldom has more disaster, ruin and misery followed in the wake of a Gulf storm. Hurricane “Katrina” has inundated not only poor flooded New Orleans, and flattened not only Biloxi and Gulfport, but has drowned and crushed the collective heart of the Nation.

“Katrina” fouled a wide swath of the coastal South with its presence, but all eyes are now on New Orleans. Not since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 has such utter devastation been visited on a major American city. In the space of a few hours last Monday morning, modern high-tech civilization on a densely populated coast ended. Cell-phones, television, Blackberries, fax machines, radio - the whole panoply of the wired world became as useless as buggy-whips.

The mayor of New Orleans has expressed his understandable frustration and rage at the speed of aid for his city and people. We must sympathize with his anguish and that of his citizens; but very real suffering and pain, and everyone’s desire for its prompt relief cannot assemble or move the needed supplies, rescue the trapped, or restore order. The sheer size of this calamity clearly overwhelmed the readily available means of coping with it.

Surely all is being done that can be done. Help is on the way. But the broken highways, flooded airports, blocked river ports, and the vanished or fled local labor force; even without the complete breakdown of law and order all make for delays in the help’s arriving.

Even more than aid and evacuation for the suffering, ending the carnival of rape, murder and looting unleashed by the criminal element on the vast majority of law-abiding people just trying to survive and escape is the most urgent immediate task. Neither rescue nor relief can proceed if thugs are shooting at doctors, rescuers and aid workers. This is America, not Somalia, Haiti or Iraq. New Orleans is not Baghdad. Americans have a right to expect order in their streets, and the military forces now entering New Orleans should make plenty of summary examples out of the barbarians exploiting the sufferings of others.

Looters and similar scum in the wake of natural disaster are an old story. So, unfortunately, are politicians who exploit the dead to advance their causes. Jesse Jackson today chided President Bush for his “lack of sensitivity and compassion” and questioned why the President has not named blacks to top positions in the disaster relief effort. “How can blacks be locked out of the leadership and trapped in the suffering?” Reverend Jackson conveniently overlooked the fact that the U.S. Army Lieutenant-General commanding the Joint Task Force overseeing relief efforts, is black.

No doubt Reverend Jackson and other carpers will locate television cameras to caper in front of without difficulty, but the adults have work to do. Jackson and the other politicians battening on the afflicted to promote themselves should be ashamed.
There is no doubt that New Orleans, along with Biloxi, Gulfport and all else devastated by this storm will be rebuilt. New Orleans, in particular, is too bound-up with the national story, and too important to the national commerce, not to rise again. But that is for later. Now we must beat down the lawless, console the bereaved, comfort the sick and pray for the dead.