Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
One Party's Trash is Another Party's Treasure
My co-blogger Roger wrote about this on the September 1st, and yes the entire Democratic party should be ashamed. Of course, they aren't. So, why wouldn't people question your patriotism when you treat the flag like this?
This morning, Republicans tell me that a worker at Invesco Field in Denver saved thousands of unused flags from the Democratic National Convention that were headed for the garbage. Guerrilla campaigning. They will use these flags at their own event today in Colorado Springs with John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Before McCain speaks today, veterans will haul these garbage bags filled with flags out onto the stage -- with dramatic effect, no doubt -- and tell the story.
"What you see in the picture I sent you is less than half of total flags," a Republican official emailed. "We estimate the total number to be around 12,000 small flags and one full size 3×5 flag."
I'm not sure what the DNC was supposed to do with unused hand-flags, frankly. But the Republicans are obviously questioning someone's patriotism here.
Yet the story has a happy ending. One party's trash is another party's treasure! Country first indeed!
The flags are on their way to a McCain Palin rally in Colorado Springs where the Boy Scouts and Veterans of Foreign Wars will distribute them to the GOP faithful.
Boy Scouts have arrived with 84 trash bags full of bundles of flags at the site of a McCain rally scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. local time in Colorado Springs.
The campaign says the flags were recovered from Invesco Field after the Democrats concluded their convention there, and they are going to be used as part of the warm-up ceremonies before McCain takes the stage for the rally.
FOX News has been told a vendor at Invesco Field found the flags, which were going to be thrown out, and turned them over to the McCain campaign.
Veterans in Colorado Springs are expected to distribute the flags to the audience at the rally.
Obama has faced questions about his patriotism since the beginning of the Democratic primary, and has set up a Web site specifically designed to fight such charges.
Didn't anyone make arrangements for better disposal of these flags from Invesco? At the very least, they were an investment that could have been re-used at rallies in Colorado as well as the rest of the nation during the general election. Instead, they've handed a dramatic moment to John McCain and Sarah Palin, as well as relieved them of the cost of 12,000 such flags -- as well as a full 3?x5? flag that also wound up in the trash.
Remember when the DNCC was supposed to be the "greenest convention ever"? How they worried about the color of the food and using organic materials in their merchandise? I guess we can see where the "green" concern ends ... at red, white, and blue.
By the way, just so you know...here is the proper way to dispose of the American flag.
Now they'll whine about how it wasn't their fault and it's not like Obama was personally tossing flags in the trash and in some sense that's true. But appearances matter and this just feeds into the perception that patriotism as most Americans understand it (something other than endless criticism of the country) is simply a card Democrats play at election time.
I wonder why anyone would get that idea?
The photo above is of one of Obama's best friends and mentor, Bill Ayers the American hating domestic terrorist.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Was Hamdan's Trial Fair?
After years of litigation a verdict was finally reached for Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden’s driver and detainee accused of war crimes. While cleared of conspiracy he was convicted on multiple counts of material support for terrorism. Legal groups like the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights quickly criticized the ruling. Certain media elements were not far behind. Much of the criticism was understandable, and much was distorted through the lens of bias. Most of the criticism ended up being deflated after a surprisingly lenient sentence of five and a half years, including five years and a month already served. This sentence fell short of the thirty years to life the prosecutors wanted. Even one of Salim’s defense attorneys admitted the verdict was fair and just. However, a fair outcome doesn’t necessarily reflect a fair process. So, are the military tribunals for the Guantanamo detainees fair? To answer this question we must critically look at both sides of the argument, the details of the process itself, and understand how we arrived at this point.
When war has been declared the United States has made use of military tribunals to try captured enemies outside the scope of conventional civil and criminal matters, historically providing a trial for combatants acting in violation to the Rules of War. The Geneva Conventions established what most countries have adopted as the international standard regarding such rules.
The perception pushed by some is that combatants held at Guantanamo deserve protection under the provisions provided by the Geneva Convention. Others argued that the essence of the Convention is the distinction between lawful combatants and civilians and that terrorists violate this by being non-uniformed, negating this distinction and endangering innocent civilians. This argument applies that Prisoner of War status and the rights that come with that should not extend to those that violate its rules. The Supreme Court settled this argument in 2006 in favor of extending many of these rights to captured combatants held at Guantanamo. This decision was Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld which extended certain rights to the detainees and placed limits on the authority of the executive branch. This decision was the catalyst for Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006 authorizing the establishment of military commissions within the parameters set by the Supreme Court.
The 5-4 ruling in Boumediene vs. Bush threw another wrench into the efforts to prosecute prisoners at Guantanamo by determining that habeas corpus rights extend to these prisoners and that the Military Commissions Act unconstitutionally suspended those rights. Defense lawyers used this ruling in an attempt to delay the military trial of Salim Hamdan, but were unsuccessful in their argument that the procedures violated certain constitutional rights. District Judge James Robertson ruled against delaying the trial on the grounds that these arguments could be raised on appeal after the completion of the trial. How this ruling’s precedent will affect future proceedings against Guantanamo detainees is yet to be seen.
Determining whether the military commission process is fair requires looking at several factors. Hamdan’s trial served as a test case for the government prosecutors and the detainee defense lawyers. Behind Hamdan there are around 80 other Guantanamo detainees, including five alleged September 11th plotters, the Pentagon intends to try before the commissions. It is important to observe Hamdan’s case to determine the probability of fairness in future military commissions because of the precedents it has set.
Most of the key criticisms in Hamdan’s case were addressed. The concern that evidence obtained through coercive interrogation would be used was alleviated when the judge excluded statements obtained from Hamdan prior to his arrival at Guantanamo. Concerns remained over allowed statements obtained after his arrival due to defense allegations they were obtained through abusive procedures. However, no convincing evidence was presented to prove these allegations. Defense attorneys were also given adequate opportunity and access to challenge secret evidence. Many other points exist in favor of the fairness in this trial including the fact that Hamdan’s conviction is automatically appealed to a military appellate court. That court can reduce, but cannot increase, his sentence. Hamdan can then appeal to U.S. civilian courts as well. However, many legal concerns remain such as the question of whether his prosecution violated the Constitution’s prohibition of ex post facto laws. Concerns addressed in Hamdan’s case do not guarantee future trials will be addressed similarly, but recognized respect of precedent makes it probable.
In my opinion, Salim Hamdan received a fair trial and a lenient but just sentencing. The system in place for future military trials is still not perfect, but provides more protections and rights for captured enemy combatants than ever provided in history. Certain elements definitely need to be addressed while others are yet to be determined. The legal journey to refine the process has only begun.
Posted as a part of a Stop the ACLU Blogburst. Visit Stop the ACLU if you would like to participate...email jay-at-stoptheaclu-dot-com.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
It looks like Google has officially joined the Barack Obama campaign and decided that its contribution would be to shut down any blog on the Google owned Blogspot.com blogging system that has an anti-Obama message. Yes, it sure seems that Google has begun to go through its many thousands of blogs to lock out the owners of anti-Obama blogs so that the noObama message is effectively squelched. Thus far, Google has terminated the access by blog owners to 7 such sites and the list may be growing. Boy, it must be nice for Barack Obama to have an ally powerful enough to silence his opponents like that!
It isn't just conservative sites that Google's Blogger platform is eliminating. For instance, www.comealongway.blogspot.com has been frozen and this one is a Hillary supporting site. The operator of Come a Long Way has a mirror site off the Blogspot platform and has today posted this notice:
I used to have a happy internet home on Blogger: www.comealongway.blogspot.com. Then on Wednesday night, June 25, I received the following e-mail:
Dear Blogger user,
This is a message from the Blogger team.
Your blog, at http://comealongway.blogspot.com/, has been identified as a potential spam blog. You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog.
The Blogger Team
It turns out that there is an interesting pattern where it concerns the blogs that Google's Blogspot team have summarily locked down on their service. They all belong to the Just Say No Deal coalition, a group of blogs that are standing against the Obama campaign. It seems the largest portion of these blogs are Hillary supporting blogs, too.
All I can say is, WOW! If Google is willing to abuse its power like this even against fellow leftists, what does it plan against conservatives, the folks Google hates even more!?
Read more »
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Reclaiming the Power of Hate
"The war with Japan is still being fought.
Not on the battle field, but in the business arena".
-- Col. Nate Edwards (Ret.)
Asked if they'd really like to kill a German, the GI in WWII Europe answered Yes 7% of the time. When asked the same question about the Japs in the Pacific the answer was Yes 44% of the time.
What accounted for this tremendous difference in our attitudes towards the Germans and the Japanese? We were in the midst of the bloodiest war the world had ever known, and both the Germans and the Japanese were our bitter enemies. Yet while the American people had no difficulty conjuring up a healthy hatred for the Nazis, and the average GI in the European Theater soon learned to despise his Nazi adversaries, and, holding them in special contempt, eventually had no qualms about shooting the notorious SS troops on sight, none the less, throughout that monumental conflict, as the above statistics suggest, the American people, and the average GI, both held conflicted views about the German people themselves.
Throughout our relatively short national history, we had enjoyed long generational ties with Germany and with Germans. We had learned to admire that advanced Germanic culture and those admirable Teutonic traits of hard work and efficiency, diligence and discipline. We listened appreciatively to their magnificent classical music (which they had all but invented) and avidly studied their writers and philosophers. We shared a common bond, unique to those members of the Western World. And perhaps most importantly, we shared a common religion -- and although it had perhaps become somewhat theologically awkward -- at times we both prayed for victory to the same Christian God.
For these reasons and many more we were, at least partially, able to buy into the argument that the German people were a basically decent people who had either been seduced or terrorized into accepting the lunatic racist visions of the Third Reich. (The degree to which this comforting paradigm still has validity is, of course, highly debatable). But those were our views at the time. And these unspoken cultural ambiguities were often reflected in the actions and attitudes of both adversaries on and off the battlefield. As an example of this subliminal cultural affinity, consider the following statistic: During the entire course of WWII only 2% of Allied POWs died while in European captivity.
Now, what about the Japanese?
In the first place, after December 7, 1941, they were no longer referred to as the Japanese. They were simply, and disdainfully labeled Japs, and later, Nips. Although there was a small but thriving Japanese-American population on the West Coast and on the American island of Hawaii, few if any cultural bonds existed between the Japanese and American peoples. And, of course, after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American community was looked upon, somewhat understandably, with growing suspicion. (Our moral justification for the subsequent internment of our Japanese-Americans is a complicated and contentious subject which deserves to be treated in a separate article). Suffice it to say, that the Japanese, unlike the Germans, were a completely different race from a strange and utterly alien culture. Their religion appeared to us to be a weird conflation of Shintoism and Emperor worship, their political ideology was grounded in the unyielding brutal code of the Samurai warrior.
Since the end of the First World War, the Japanese national character had become more and more militaristic, aggressive, imperialistic and -- in a reactionary nationalistic backlash against those cultural inroads made by the Caucasian West into their traditional inbred, closed society -- they had become defensively and virulently racist -- anti-white, anti-Western, anti-colonialist.
Beginning with their brutal and unwarranted invasion of Manchuria in 1931, through the subsequent horrors of their infamous Rape of Nanking, and the innumerable and unimaginable acts of inhumanity committed against captured enemy soldiers and innocent civilians alike, throughout their conquered territories in the Southeast Pacific, the fearsome Japanese soldier accumulated a long, despicable record of sadistic barbarism unmatched in modern times. (An appalling record of rape and government-sanctioned sadism for which they -- unlike the Germans -- have to this day never adequately apologized).
After the Battle of Midway, as the war in the Pacific gradually turned against those at first seemingly-invincible Japanese forces, and as the inevitable and dire fate of the Empire of the Rising Sun became increasingly apparent, the scale of Japanese atrocities grew exponentially.
In stark contrast to that 2% of POWs who perished in European POW camps, an incredible 37% of Allied POWs would die under horrendous conditions in the Japanese prison camps. To be captured by the Japanese during WWII was for many, quite literally, a fate worse than death.
Considering that the American public had first become aware of the Japanese war machine through that treacherous and unprovoked sneak attack on an American Naval Base, during a time of peace, while the Japanese ambassadors were at that very moment meeting their American counterparts at the State Department, the Japanese people quickly became something else; they became Japs. A brutal and inferior race of savages to be distrusted and despised. A race, in short, to be hated.
And hate them we did. We hated them openly, willingly and without reservation. And we didn't just hate their leaders or their armies and their navies, we hated THEM, the Japs themselves, the bloodthirsty, sadistic little squinty-eyed monkeys. We matched their racial hatred of us with our racial hatred of them. No caricature, no obscenity, no epithet could be too vile to describe a Jap. If you were a patriotic American, be you man, woman or child, you automatically hated the Japs. It quickly became a necessary adjunct to our national persona, second nature, like loving your mother and apple pie. It was not only that it was O.K. to hate the Japs, it was considered your sacred duty. And the more fervently you expressed this hate, the more patriotic you became, and the more patriotic you became, the stronger America became.
It was as clear as crystal.
And our hate was essential to the cause, we could not have won the war without it. This natural unquestioned hatred of the enemy -- especially of the Japs -- became our strength and our power, a weapon as necessary to possess in abundance in our arsenals as guns and bombs. It gave purpose to our lives, and was re sanctioned daily by our unified patriotic media and our beloved patriotic movies. This sacred and unmitigated hate fueled our patriotic fervor, and enabled us to put up with those ever-increasing burdens of rationing and deprivations, and to endure those awful but inevitable losses of our loved ones.
In short, hate was good.
In itself, hate was neither moral nor immoral. It was, rather, a natural rational reaction. Hate became the very substance that sustained us, the societal glue that bound us all together. Our imaginations thrived on lurid visions of Jap bestialities -- most of which were unfortunately all too true.
It seemed, somehow we knew, that in a time of war hate was a quality as essential as bravery and courage and sacrifice. This was a truth so obvious to us all that no one ever thought to even question it. No one had ever won a war by learning to dislike their enemy. If they won the war, they won the war by learning how to hate their enemy at least as fervently as their enemy hated them. The whole purpose of all nationalistic propaganda, no matter whose side it was on, was to inspire that all-powerful passion of hate, that genuine, pervasive and relentless hatred of the enemy which is absolutely essential to success in warfare.
Then, finally, the war was over and we had won.
But we had changed.
In 1946, William Wyler released his critically-acclaimed motion picture The Best Years of Our Lives, and immediately it touched the hearts of a war-weary American public. It also showed an unwelcome light on the first cracks in our otherwise confident new peacetime facade.
Basically, the film relates the stories of three GIs returning from the war, and the various problems they encounter as they attempt to readjust themselves to civilian life in a world they hardly recognize. The story opens with the return of a tough, battle-hardened, newly-discharged Army Sergeant, just back from fighting in the Pacific (masterfully played by Frederick March). After one of the most heart-warming homecoming scenes in all of moviedom, he begins that awkward but inevitable process of reacquainting himself with his barely-recognizable grownup children.
Following his college student son's rather underwhelmed reaction to his gifts of hard won Jap war trophies, he listens patiently as the young man proudly announces that he is currently attending lectures at school on World Peace, and learning that in this new Atomic Age we must all learn to get along together and that 'war is never the answer' (thereby inferentially condemning his warrior father who by fighting for his country may have inadvertently transgressed some higher moral code).
Thus it began.
All of those hard lessons we had learned during the war years must now be unlearned and forgotten. As peace settled in those traditional masculine virtues -- strength, courage, duty, loyalty, bravery, honor -- which served society so well in time of war, and had probably saved the very life of that society, were to be gradually shunted aside and devalued, eventually to be replaced by those gentler, more civil feminine virtues of patience, understanding, nurturing, tolerance and love. We were encouraged to become an increasingly passive, self-absorbed, self-indulgent feminine society, a nation obsessed with its health, wealth, weight and security. Soon, our most important national issues would become our civil rights and personal liberties, free speech and gay marriage.
For two successive generations since the end of that great war, we had been undergoing this continuing process of deprogramming and moral readjustment. A whole new vocabulary had emerged to define this new world. Certain words had taken on a subjective moral weight all their own. We still had enemies, but now our most important enemies had become our own words -- words like Prejudice and Racism and Intolerance were now the new enemy. This was the new war we were fighting, a war of words against words. And of all of the words that we were fighting against, none more perfectly embodied the evil nature of our mortal enemy than that most deadly and unconscionable of words -- Hate.
Hate is the very heart and soul of our new enemy; the word Hate itself must be eradicated and expunged forever from our new vocabulary and from our new lives. We must banish Hate from our cities and our towns as the Nazis banished the Jews. We must put up posters at all the entrances to our communities which proclaim: NO PLACE HERE FOR HATE. We must diligently search out Hate wherever it attempts to hide itself and expose it to the bright light of reason.
Our new weapons in this new war would be Openness, Tolerance, and above all, Acceptance of The Other. We had learned our lessons well. Never again would we mistrust The Other merely because they were different from us. Rather, we would enthusiastically embrace these differences. We would especially honor those unique cultural and religious differences, and the more they differed from ours, the more we would respect and honor them.
And if by chance these particular cultures happened to embrace slavery, child abuse, honor killings and the violent suppression and persecution of all other religions and of all of their hapless women, then we shall smile at them and say, This is your culture and your religion and we honor it and respect it and we welcome you into the fold. We open our borders and we open our hearts to you. Because, at all costs, we can no longer tolerate those deadly enemies of Peace -- Prejudice, Intolerance and Racism. Because, as our eager young college student so presciently observed back in 1946, 'in this new Atomic Age we must all learn to get along together, and War Is Never The Answer'.
War is, in fact, the physical manifestation of Hate; therefore, War itself must be our primary enemy. Anyone who proposes War must be the enemy. War will be successfully defeated by the utter eradication of the word Hate. Thus we will maintain our moral equilibrium, the status quo of Peace.
Now, however, we have been attacked once again. This time, a sneak attack even more deadly than the one on Pearl Harbor, with even more loss of life, 2,987 compared to 2,403. This time, it would not even be a military attack against a military target but, rather, a treacherous unprovoked attack against innocent civilians, people going to work in the morning.
We had been attacked by people who hate us so badly that they would gladly die to kill us. They hate us and our Western culture with such passion that they spill out onto their streets in droves daily to stomp on our flag and to burn our president in effigy. We are, they scream and shout at us, the Great Satan, and they have promised to wipe us off the face of the earth. Driven by an unyielding religious fervor, they will not be dissuaded nor deterred in their righteous jihad until they have fulfilled their sacred promise to destroy us.
What, then, is our national response to this violent onslaught?
We are unsure, we remain confused and conflicted, we can barely conjure up a reasonable facsimile of anger without it generating some immediate liberal moral backlash. We have gutted our military and outlawed our masculinity and rendered ourselves all but defenseless. Half of our nation believes we are at war and half of our nation doesn't. We live nervously in our Cowardly New World of clever obfuscations and elaborate denials, we cower behind a wall of euphemisms and confront our enemy's virulent hatred with the only weapons we have left, those pitiful weapons of Tolerance and Understanding. We attempt to defend ourselves against the Murderous Beast by pretending that he's really not there. We would rather be dead than be impolite. We refuse to identify our enemies for fear of offending them.
We have forgotten how to fight back, we only know how to talk. We have forgotten that omnipotent power of hate; foolishly, we have systematically eliminated the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. We have thoroughly expunged that dreaded word from our vocabulary, and we have declared that the word War is now our real enemy.
In summation, we're in serious trouble.
If we are to survive as a nation, as a free and honorable people, if we are to survive as a viable Democracy, we must once and for all abandon all the lies and obfuscations. We must make all euphemisms illegal. We must go all the way back to 1945 and relearn that cold hard masculine vocabulary of War.
To live, we must learn how to hate again. For without the strength of that unmitigated and unquestioned passion, weakened by our own civility, we will most assuredly perish, subsumed in the onrushing tsunami of our enemy's unanswered rage.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Why the drag lines were removed from the Flight 93 crash site
When the passengers and crew of flight 93 smashed their murderers to nothing on an open expanse of western Pennsylvania coal country, two towering sentinels stood silent witness to the heroic tragedy.
“Up on Skyline Rd.,” the news shot around Shanksville and Somerset, “up by the drag lines”:
The drag lines, as seen from what will be the center of the giant Mecca-oriented crescent that is to be planted on the flight 93 crash site. (Photo by Alec Rawls, 2006.)
It is hard to imagine a more fitting marker than these twin colossi. Before the hijackers could send Flight 93 into the White House or the Capitol building, a random draw of forty of our fellow countrymen massed a towering determination to fight back. Their effort to save their own lives ended beneath those artifacts of Pennsylvania's own native grit and ingenuity, but their success in defending their country will live forever.
Those silent sentinels could and should have endured as well, and they would have, if not for one man who was determined to see them go: architect Paul Murdoch, the designer of the terrorist memorializing Crescent of Embrace design. As the press reported at the unveiling of the crescent design:
The Flight 93 temporary memorial, the draglines and Skyline Drive will be removed to leave the landscape as natural as possible, Murdoch wrote in a narrative that accompanied the design.
The drag lines were supposed to stay
The presumption from the beginning was that the drag lines would stay. They were actually the first items of property purchased for the new national park.
Support for keeping the drag lines, whatever memorial design was chosen for the crash site itself, was virtually universal. The local historical society was for keeping the drag lines:
Several draglines still stand there, idled since the crash interrupted the mine work. Randy Cooley, director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission, said that equipment should stay, as part of the story the memorial will tell.They were also meaningful to the local population:
The excavating machines often are the first things visitors to the memorial site see, he said. The booms rise high over the field. They cast shadows, and show what the land once was.
"They're touchstones," Cooley said. "For many of the people on that plane, that may well have been the last thing they saw." 
The cranes, which served as drag lines for a long-idled strip mining operation, are synonymous with the area, residents said.Memorial Project manager Jeff Reinbold acknowledged the hard feelings about the removal of the drag lines:
"When I think of (Skyline Drive), I think of those drag lines," said Erica Zeigler, president of Shanksville Borough Council. "They're something everybody around here associated with that road." 
"You wish you didn't have to do it. But this was a celebration of the process," he said. [ibid.]
Why was Murdoch determined to have the drag lines gone?
Because a crescent that Muslims face into to face Mecca is called a mihrab, and is the central feature around which every mosque is built. (Some mihrabs are pointed-arch shape, but the prototypical mihrab is crescent shaped.)
Very simply, Murdoch could not allow his terrorist memorial mosque to be tainted by extraneous infidel artifacts. Those drag lines would have risen up right behind the giant mihrab, disturbing what is supposed to be an undisturbed space within which the Muslim believer can turn face his god for prayer.
Perhaps worst of all from Murdoch’s perspective was the huge American flag that coal miners attached to one of the booms the week after 9/11:
This flag was history. If Murdoch did not get rid of the drag lines, he could not get rid of the American flag, rising up 180 feet behind his giant mihrab. (Photo by Alec Rawls, 2006.)
Unacceptable: the jihadists turn to face their god, and see… an American flag?
This mosque interpretation is no stretch. Murdoch provides endless redundant proof of intent, as when he repeats the Mecca orientation of his giant crescent in the crescents of trees that surround the Tower of Voices part of the memorial.
Still hoisting a flag
When the hijacker is finally tackled and we have a chance to turn to less critical matters, like how to design a proper memorial to OUR heroes instead of to Paul Murdoch’s heroes, one of the costs to be accounted will be the loss of the iconic drag lines. At least Murdoch was not able to destroy them entirely, as 22 tons of steel from the scrapped machinery is being used in the construction of the USS Somerset:
The USS Somerset will be a sister ship of the USS San Antonio (seen here), so the drag lines will still be hoisting a flag.
Interestingly, the single physical requirement set down for design competition entries was that they should respect the rural landscape and leave it as it was. Paul Murdoch’s crescent design is the only one of a thousand entries that violates this lone rule, first by building a raised causeway across the wetlands (necessary to extend his crescent to the full typical Islamic crescent shape, covering 2/3rds of a circle of arc), and then by excising the drag lines, which everyone agreed were central to the historic nature of the site.
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