Friday, December 23, 2005

Bush Divulges Secret Info

I missed President Bush's address last Saturday. I've heard a lot about it so I went back and checked the text (click here for text).

About his authorization of questionable wire tapping, President Bush says,

Yesterday, the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have.

And the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.

Are we really to believe that terrorists don't assume every attempt is being made to intercept their communications? I would be astounded if we weren't. As it is, I'm astounded that the President decided to do this in a way that circumvents the law.

If a someone, especially a news organization, has classified information about illegal or possibly illegal actions by government officials, what should they do? I think they have a responsibility to require the government to prove to their satisfaction that no laws were broken. If this is not done, they have a responsibility to go public. If they believed the actions were legal and that the government was correct that public disclosure would damage national security, they should sit on it. They could still go public with the info if it becomes public some other way or they come to believe the actions were, in fact, not legal.

He also said,

And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

Duh! Even a half-witted terrorist could guess that their communications would be monitored, but did they know that monitored communications had actually foiled attacks? It seems to me that the most sensitive information about this monitoring was revealed by the President himself.

I've heard several news commentators say that the President has ordered 30 possibly illegal wire taps. I reviewed his Saturday address and I disagree with the number 30.

President Bush said,
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
Later he said,
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
Still later,
I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from Al Qaeda and related groups.
I think he meant that he reauthorized the program every 45 days which over almost 4 years is about 30 times. The only reason I make this point is that some commentators seem to believe this was a very limited program of only 30 wiretaps. I don't believe that is what the President said. We do not know how many wiretaps were authorized. This could have been wide spread listening.

I don't doubt that the President had the best of intentions when he authorized this program, but good intentions don't trump the law. While the President feels strongly that it his duty to defend and protect the American people, it is our responsibility as citizens to elect and retain representatives that adhere to the law.

We correctly praise our armed forces for their sacrifices in defense of our liberty. We worry that dissension at home will send the wrong message to our troops. But our armed forces are not just defending their fellow citizens, they are also defending our constitution. What does it say to men and women who risk their lives every day in defense of this country, that we as citizens are so fearful for our lives that we are willing to ignore the constitution and laws to prevent another attack?

If fear allows our laws to be broken and our constitution to be ignored, we dishonor those who have sacrificed in their defense.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Defeatists Help Bush

President Bush's poll numbers are up a bit. Some pundits think it is because of his media blitz and his admission of mistakes in Iraq. Of course, he still isn't leveling with us.

He continues to link Iraq with terrorists and the war on terror. Actually, he is correct when he says that Iraq will become a haven for terrorists if we leave too soon. He doesn't mention that he created the situation by invading Iraq and botching the victory. The war on terror and the war in Iraq are only linked by this administration's failed policies.

And how stupid is the President to keep insisting that we need to fight the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here? In Iraq we are fighting terrorists and insurgents. Not all the people going after US forces are terrorists whose only desire is to kill Americans. Some of them are insurgents who just want us to leave Iraq.

Does President Bush think the terrorists can't walk and chew gum? In Iraq we've given the terrorist a first rate recruiting and money generating operation. Besides, who says that the terrorists that we are fighting in Iraq are the only terrorists that would try to attack us at home? I would wager there are more than enough capable terrorists who are not in Iraq that can bring the fight to us. If you watch any news analysis shows you know that the experts think that it is only a matter of time before the terrorists again attack us in the US. What will President Bush say then? My guess is he'll blame the "defeatists".

By the way, I would wager that Representative Murtha is one of those "defeatists", but Murtha can claim a lot of the credit for getting Congress to question the conduct of the war and for President Bush to admit some mistakes and start talking about his plan. The very actions which seem to have brought up his poll numbers.

Unfortunately, too many people are easily confused and don't realize President Bush is still not leveling with us.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Iraq Ideas From Democrats

It is a frequent Republican compaint that Democrats have no ideas and just attack the President for political gain. Senator Carl Levin was on Meet The Press yesterday and made a strong case for the need to change course in Iraq. If you missed the show, you can view the netcast here. The entire show is very good, but Levin's explanation of what needs to happen next in Iraq starts at about 30:30. His questions about the recently disclosed spying on Americans starts at about 24:00. Secretary Rice's interview starts the program.

Senator Levin makes the case that a "stay the course" policy no longer works. He argues that the administration must pressure the Iraqi's to amend the constitution to bring the Sunni's into the political process. He is basically saying that "we will stand down as the Iraqi's stand up" is not a solution. It may describe a face saving way to get our troops out, but as the President correctly says, the idea is not just to get the troops out, it is to leave a stable and democratic Iraq.

To those who think the Democrats have no new ideas. Start listening!

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Merry Holidays, Bah Humbug

Even though the issue is over-blown and over-discussed, I have to weigh in on the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Holiday tree debate.

It is undeniable that the United States is historically a Christian dominated country. Christianity is the religion of the majority of US citizens. This has given Christians a level of privilege that has allowed them to legalize some of their traditions. Heterosexual marriage is one, the Christmas federal holiday is another. I suspect most Christians do not see their religion as privileged, so any action that seems to question these legalized beliefs is seen as an attack on Christianity. Christians should be cautious about invoking religion or the Bible when defending the ban on homosexual marriages or perceived acts against Christmas. They bring into question the constitutionality of these laws.

It is obviously silly to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree, but it is equally silly to be offended by the term. What is Christian about a Christmas tree except the name? A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas, but so is Santa Claus. Fireworks are the symbol of the Fourth of July so should be call local governments that ban fireworks unpatriotic?

Just like the heterosexual/homosexual marriage controversy, Christians are confusing the religious and the secular. For most people, Christmas trees and Santa Claus are secular traditions that are observed on the same day as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

Should Christians be offended when a store clerk wishes them "Happy Holidays"? Of course not. What is the proper etiquette? It is obviously appropriate for a Christian to greet a fellow Christian with "Merry Christmas". It is also seems appropriate for a Christian to greet a stranger with "Merry Christmas". They are expressing their beliefs and including the stranger in the joy of their holiday. How should a stranger greet a person they know to be Jewish? "Merry Chistmas" would be appropriate for the same reasons it would an appropriate salutation from a Christian to a stranger. "Happy Hanukkah" may be more appropriate since you are acknowledging this person's religion, although some people might feel uncomfortable invoking the blessings of a religion they are not a member of.

When a store clerk offers a holiday greeting are they expressing their beliefs or the store's? A store probably does not want its employees expressing their personal religious beliefs. If some Christians are sensitive to "Happy Holidays", how would they react in a store where the clerks are all wishing customers "Happy Hanukkah"? Since a public corporation has no religion, if the clerk is representing the store and does not know the religious beliefs of the customer, "Happy Holidays" seems appropriate. The clerk is acknowledging that this is a special time of the year in the midst of a secular transaction.

For Christians who are truly offended by "Happy Holidays" and "Holiday tree" I suggest that you treat Christmas as a strictly religious holiday. Do not put up a Christmas tree (or a holiday tree). Do not buy presents. Do not confuse your children with the myth of Santa Claus and lobby your elected representatives to remove Christmas from the list of federal holidays. Return Christmas to a purely religious holiday. But don't be suprised when the holiday greeting you get is "Bah, Humbug".

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