Saturday, January 14, 2006

Iran Continues Its Nuclear Pursuit

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is refusing to stop the country's nuclear research even faced with the threat of UN sanctions:

(CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday painted the United States and other Western nations as bullies with "a medieval view of the world" and insisted his nation has the right to conduct nuclear research.

"A few Western states ... have nuclear arsenals, they have chemical weapons. They have microbiological weapons. And every year they establish tens of new nuclear power plants. Now they are criticizing the Iranian nation ... because they think that they are powerful," Ahmadinejad said, apparently referring to the United States and the EU-3 -- Britain, France and Germany.

Talks between the EU-3 and Iran stalled last year, and Iran on Tuesday resumed research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant -- an act viewed with suspicion by the United States and EU-3, which fear the country may be planning to produce a nuclear weapon.

"Our nation does not need a nuclear weapon," Ahmadinejad said. "We are a civilized and cultured nation. We have logic, we have civilization ... Nuclear weapons are only needed for people who want to solve everything through use of force."

Instead of taking the hard line that we should with Iran, and pursuing a serious sanctions campaign, the international community is going soft on the situation. Germany's deputy foreign minister has come out saying that imposing economic sanctions on Iran would be a "very dangerous path."

This means that the United States will soon be in the same scenario with Iran that it was in with Iraq in 2003. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons will be a major security issue that United Nations Security Council will have taken no action to resolve. Instead, the UNSC will continue to "hope" for improvement. But, of course, while the UNSC waits for Iran to clean up its act, Iran will instead be getting ever closer to have a nuclear weapon.

The United States cannot afford to let this happen. Thus we will be forced into a very precarious position. Either seek preemptive military action against Iran to solve the problem, or be faced with the prospect of a nation ruled by a radical Islamic president who does not like the west, and has obvious terrorist connections. The possibility of allowing those who hate us to possess nuclear capabilities and networks that allow them to carry out attacks abroad is not somethign I'm ready to face.

So unless the UNSC changes its mind in the very near future, the United States could have another battle in the Middle East on its hands.

Friday, January 13, 2006

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

I just signed onto this statement over at N.Z. Bear's:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.


Signed,

N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner
Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit
Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
The Anchoress, The Anchoress
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!

The list of those signed on to this statement is long. Very long. Head over to N.Z. Bear's and scroll through the comments just to get an idea. And if you agree, go ahead and sign on as well.

Terrorists and Disposable Cell Phones

This could certainly develop into a very big story:

Federal agents have launched an investigation into a surge in the purchase of large quantities of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan, ABC News has learned.

The phones -- which do not require purchasers to sign a contract or have a credit card -- have many legitimate uses, and are popular with people who have bad credit or for use as emergency phones tucked away in glove compartments or tackle boxes. But since they can be difficult or impossible to track, law enforcement officials say the phones are widely used by criminal gangs and terrorists...

The FBI is closely monitoring the potentially dangerous development, which came to light following recent large-quantity purchases in California and Texas, officials confirmed.

In one New Year's Eve transaction at a Target store in Hemet, Calif., 150 disposable tracfones were purchased. Suspicious store employees notified police, who called in the FBI, law enforcement sources said.

In an earlier incident, at a Wal-Mart store in Midland, Texas, on Dec. 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.


When anyone comes into a store and begins buying a product in bulk that isn't normally sold in that way, rational people should naturally be suspicious. It may not necessarily mean that the person buying massive quantities of the given product is a terrorist, but it does mean that they are up to something that isn't typically regarded as normal. As Michelle Malkin correctly asserts, we are all Homeland Security agents.

Another aspect of the story that makes it a potential big scoop is that this huge increase in disposable cell phone purchases appears to be a sudden phenomenon. Furthermore, the fact that it is occurring across the United States makes it highly improbable that it is merely a coincidence.

One possible explanation, according to John Hinderaker, is that the mass purchasing of these types of cell phones comes as a reaction to the New York Times' NSA intercept story, which revealed the organization's formerly secret program of gathering information on terrorists by listening in on their phone calls. If this is true, says John, and it truly is much more difficult for the NSA to acquire information about al-Qaeda's contacts within the United States, then the New York Times will have certainly have a lot to answer for.

Alito's Fellow Judges and the Cowardly Democrats

I missed this yesterday, but I thought it was worth mentioning again today. A group of Judge Alito's colleagues were brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday for testimony. The six judges from the appeals court gave nothing short of a full defense of Judge Alito.

Among the group was U.S. Appeals Court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, a judge appointed under President Clinton. Much to the left's dismay, Judge Barry provided a resounding endorsement of Judge Alito. So in a very typical fashion, rather than hear one of their own party's appointees defend a Republican nominee, the Senate Democrats decided to just ignore her. Michelle Malkin notes:
Chuck Schumer walked out before the judges started to speak. Teddy Kennedy showed up late, stayed for 10 minutes, then left. Pat Leahy put on a dour face for a short time, and also bailed. Dianne Feinstein, to her credit, remained for the duration and asked respectful questions.

The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are so bitterly opposed to anything right of center that they'd rather pretend it doesn't exist. If these judges didn't have any new dirt on Alito, then why bother? Power Line's John Hinderaker hits the nail on the head:
This is truly extraordinary. Extraordinary that Judge Alito's colleagues have turned out to defend him against the Democrats' smears; extraordinary that the Democrats themselves couldn't be bothered to stick around to hear what this distinguished group of judges had to say. After all, if the Democrats were actually interested in what kind of judge Sam Alito is, these are precisely the witnesses who could tell them. If the Democrats really thought that Alito's judicial opinions reflect poorly on him, these are exactly the people who could answer their questions, and, if they are correct, confirm their fears. But the Democrats apparently knew that wasn't going to happen. The only conclusion one can draw is that the Democrats knew they were smearing a fine man and a fine judge. But the fact that they didn't even have the decency or respect to stay and listen to Alito's colleagues is disgusting.

Mrs. Malkin adds:
Indeed, if Judge Barry were a screeching liberal moaning about Alito's threat to the female populace, the Dems would have been all ears--and Judge Barry would have been all over the evening news tonight. But she wasn't.

No, she certainly was not. But as the Dems ignore the praise offered by Judge Barry, we should be encouraged by it. The longer these hearing proceed, the more exemplary and commendable Judge Alito is revealed to be. So put down Judge Barry's remarks as the latest in a long series of evidence of the great character of Judge Alito.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Hypocritical Democrats

As I've watched the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings trudge along this week, and seen how ruthless and cold-hearted the Democrats on the committee became towards Judge Alito, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the Dems would even be able to measure up to their own standards.

How many of the Democrats on the committee could survive the same exhaustive examination and distortion of their own careers and records that they gave to Judge Alito? I was pretty sure not many of them could. And lucky enough for me, I wasn't the only one who thought the Dems' behavior was a little hypocritical.

Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics wondered just as I did, would the Dems be confirmed under their own standards? Well:

Not Ted Kennedy: for obvious reasons.

Not Joe Biden: he has a plagiarism problem.

Not Dianne Feinstein: she's had a Guatemalan houskeeper issue, was fined $190,000 in 1992 for failing to properly report $3.5 million in campaign expenditures, and her husband runs a company that scored a $600 million Iraq war contract in 2003. Imagine what the Dems would do with this last one.

Not Charles Schumer: two of the people under his employ at the DSCC are currently being investigated for illegally obtaining Michael Steele's credit report last year. In 1983, Schumer narrowly escaped indictment for misusing state funds in his 1980 Congressional race. The U.S. Attorney in the case, Raymond J. Dearie, actually recommended that Schumer be indicted, but the Reagan Justice Department turned down the request citing "lack of jurisdiction."

Not Dick Durbin: he would never get around his pro-life past. Durbin is on the record in the 1980's saying that he "believed that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided" and that "the right to an abortion is not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution."

Not Pat Leahy: in 1987 he resigned as Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaking classified information to a reporter.

Out of the eight Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, only two of them --Herb Kohl, and Russ Feingold-- have a potential chance of being confirmed under their own standards. As Bevan notes, this fact only highlights how distasteful and cruel the Dems' tactics have been during the hearings.

Be sure to check out Bevan's post, where he has links to all of the dirty little secrets that would make these Dems unconfirmable by their own measuring stick.

Perhaps these sorts of striking realizations are why Sen. Dick Durbin suggested scrapping the confirmation hearings altogether.

Iranian Nuclear Brinkmanship

Austin Bay has some solid commentary on Iran's Nuclear Brinkmanship. In the post, Austin points us to an article from Timothy Garton Ash of The Guardian:
We need to share all this information and reach a common analysis. And before we take any step in the diplomatic dance, we need to ask ourselves two questions: how will this affect the Iranian regime, and how will it affect Iranian society? The regime is complex. Ahmadinejad is the president, but not the ultimate boss. The boss of this theocratic regime is the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini. Without his say-so, the nuclear seals would not have been broken. But he is constrained by strong interest groups, such as the Revolutionary Guards, and by other ayatollahs, such as the president’s fudamentalist guru, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi.

But Austin reminds us:
Remember, nuclear weapons aren’t the real problem here. It’s the character, psychology, and aims of the men seeking them.

The radical Islamic fundamentalism of Iran is evident in its president. From calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map", to denying that the holocaust ever took place, to defying the U.N and pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran and its president are setting the stage for conflict.

I noted at the end of my post earlier this week that Iran seems to be asking the United States to pursue military action against it. Austin seems to agree:
The real solution is regime change in Tehran. The EU and the United States have talked about supporting the mullahs’ political opponents, but they have not walked that walk with sufficient financial aid, political support, media support and — yes, it may be necessary — weapons. Iran’s tyrants believe they can finesse diplomatic discourse and ride out a military strike. They fear they cannot quell a popular, pro-democracy rebellion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Senate Democrat Bullies

After a few days of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is one thing that is becoming increasingly clear: the Democrats on the committee simply don't know their stuff when it comes to constitutional law and the judicial system. They are outmatched. Period.

The past three days have seen long-winded monologue after long-winded monologue by the Democrats on the committee, and at the end of every one of those tirades we've witnessed Judge Alito easily rebuttal. Senators Kennedy, Durbin, Leahy, Schumer, Biden, etc. have tried desperately to take down the nominee, and at every Democrat's attempt to discredit him, Alito has risen to the occasion to defend himself through his intelligence, in the process exposing these Democratic Senators for the know-nothings that they are.

Perhaps that is why the Dems have become so angry and embittered. They realize that they can't beat Judge Alito when it comes to the facts and matters of intelligence, so they seek out other, more churlish methods. The Dems resort to attacks on Alito's character, bullying the nominee at every chance the get. They bring forth twenty-year old documents, his membership in a Princeton Alumni society, even magazines he used to read, but all of these attacks are baseless and irrellevant to Alito's credentials and character.

The Dems behaved so cruelly that they sent Alito's wife Martha running from the confirmation hearing room in tears. The harshness of their words and the pure anger that came out of the Dems throughout the hearings were so over the top and irresponsible that one of their own, Senator Lindsey Grahman, formally apologized to Judge Alito's family for the behavior of his fellow committee members.

Today's biggest bully moment came from Sen. Teddy Kennedy, who demanded that Judge Alito explain a few obscure phrases from articles in a couple of magazines that Alito mentioned as ones he once read. Sen. Kennedy was relentless, bitter, and angry. His emotions got a hold of his reason (as they so often do), and what ensued was another logic-less tirade from Teddy K.

I think that Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters captures the ridiculousness of Sen. Kennedy quite well:

I'm not going to live-blog the bloviations from Ted Kennedy in great detail, but I have to add something about Kennedy's pulling out sentences from magazines and newspapers and demanding to know if Alito had ever read them. Isn't this the same kind of treatment that Democrats complain that the PATRIOT Act would do to Americans -- hold them responsible for their reading material? None of this has anything to do with Alito's record as a judge, but because he mentioned the Prospect and National Review as magazines he may have read, now he's being held responsible for every word they have ever published. I read the New York Times, and I hardly agree with anything they write.

Now Kennedy wants to subpoena the records of CAP -- and Specter is getting irate about the attitude of the Senator. Someone needs to explain to Kennedy that subpoenaing the records of a long-defunct group because one disagrees with its political views sets up a very bad precedent. Shall we have subpoenaed all the records of the ACLU during the Ginsburg confirmations? This stinks of Joe McCarthy, another pernicious force who spent far too much time in the Senate soaking up deference while providing nothing but shameful attacks on people who have done nothing to deserve them except give their lives for public service.


And Captain Ed isn't the only one comparing Sen. Ted Kennedy to Joe McCarthy.

But putting all of the Democratic lunacy aside, I'd like to end this post with some reason, and for that I turn to Scott Johnson's thoughts on Alito today:

In the past, I have thought that the standard of the "best-qualified person" for the Supreme Court was mythical. Taking the evidence of his qualities and experience on display in the hearings, however, Judge Alito may in fact be the best-qualified man in the country for the job. His mastery of Supreme Court precedent, for example, is awesome.

Judge Alito has responded in an incredibly forthright manner to the senators' questions. The Democrats will have a hard time justifying votes against him based on his alleged failure to respond to any questions he should have answered. Thus the Democratic efforts to defame Judge Alito; thus Senator Kennedy's frolic and detour on CAP.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito Hearings: Day 2

The transcripts of the second day of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings are available courtesy of the Washington Post.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats went out of their way (again) to make themselves look ridiculous. Cases in point:

Russ Feingold: telling Alito he should not have received advice on preparation for the hearings from the administration, despite the fact that every nominee in recent history has been given help from those who brought forth the nomination.

Teddy Kennedy: jumping off the far left cliff in an attempt to paint Alito as a mouthpiece for the administration.
Something unusual happened on the way to this week's nomination hearings for Judge Samuel Alito: Reporters scoffed at the ridiculousness of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Notably, one columnist called his antics "meandering and listless" and suggested Mr. Kennedy is beyond his prime. It's about time: Mr. Kennedy and his 1960s mental furniture cannot square a modern nominee, much less a conservative one. So the spectacle of an angry and rambling Mr. Kennedy yesterday accusing Judge Alito of "support for an all-powerful president" and other baseless charges can only increase the guffaws

Chuck Schumer: trying to trap Alito on abortion by bringing up the 1985 memo that Alito wrote during the Reagan administration, only to be blown out of the water because he got too caught up making his cheap attack at the judge.
Q: Does the Constitution protect free speech?

A: Yes, Senator, the First Amendment protects free speech.

Q. Well, why can you give me a straight answer on that issue but not give me a straight answer on abortion?

A. Because the text of the Constitution explicitly includes the term "free speech".

Sounds like you got walloped Sen. Schumer. Maybe that's why Patterico is proposing the Chuckie S. Drinking Game.

With all of the Democratic senators' attempts to go after Alito they only expose themselves as being less knowledgeable, less intelligent, and less skilled. As a result, it's becoming quite fun to watch the SCOTUS hearings. Simply sit back and watch the Dems self destruct. GOP leaders are sleeping wonderfullly as the Dems continue to tear themselves apart. Every hour the hearings are prolonged, thousands more Americans will realize the inadequacy of the Democratic party, and the votes will chnage accordingly.

Bird Flu in Turkey

The flu seems to be on the move west, but this story is particularly unfortunate:
VAN, Turkey (AP) - Sumeyya Mamuk considered the chickens in her backyard to be beloved pets. The 8-year-old girl fed them, petted them and took care of them. When they started to get sick and die, she hugged them and tenderly kissed them goodbye. The next morning, her face and eyes were swollen and she had a high fever. Her father took her to a hospital, and five days later she was confirmed to have the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

For more on the Avian Flu, check in with Bird Flu Watch, which has some very comprehensive reporting.

Nukes For Everyone

Iran certainly seems to feel this way about its own nuclear ambitions. Iran defiantly ignored the U.N. and the rest of the world by breaking its agreement to freeze its nuclear program:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran removed U.N. seals on uranium enrichment equipment and resumed nuclear research Tuesday, defying demands it maintain a two-year freeze on its nuclear program...

Germany's foreign minister raised doubts over the future of European-led negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, questioning whether there remains any basis for more talks.

Britain warned that the international community was "running out of patience" with Tehran, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iran had breached IAEA resolutions. Straw said he planned to meet his French and German counterparts Thursday to discuss whether to refer Iran to the Security Council.

"There was no good reason why Iran should have taken this step if its intentions are truly peaceful and it wanted to resolve long-standing international concerns," Straw said.


The United States was obviously not happy with this move by Iran, and joined the other major western countries in sharply criticizing Iran's latest radical actions:
U.S. officials denounced Iran's move, calling it a step toward creating material for nuclear bombs.

"If the regime in Iran continues on the current course and fails to abide by its international obligations, there is no other choice but to refer the matter to the Security Council," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.


This latest move caps a series of radical actions by Iran's hard-line President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been pursuing an extremely confrontational line with the West.

At the end of October last year, he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

Then in December he claimed that the holocaust was a fabricated lie, and denied it ever happened.

One thing is for sure: Iran is certainly proving it belongs in the Axis of Evil. It's almost as if the country is asking the U.S. to pursue military action against it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Osama Bin Laden Dead?

According to Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online, Osama died three weeks ago of kidney failure and was buried in Iran. From her article:
According to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year's message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.


Hat tip to Captain's Quarters, where Ed Morrissey added this:
If true, it would explain why Osama passed up the chance to make the address that Zawahiri made, but would press the Bush administration to escalate its confrontation with Iran. After all, a key part of the Bush Doctrine was to go after those nations that harbor our enemies, and none was bigger in a symbolic sense than Osama. On the other hand, if he's dead now, that may actually play against action against Teheran to a limited sense, although no one doubts that their technical and monetary support for Islamofascist terror groups like AQ and Hezbollah will suddenly dry up anytime soon.

I wonder if this will be confirmed, and if so, when, or by whom. My guess is that it will have to come from the blogging new media, because I doubt that the MSM will have time to look into it sufficiently with its focus on spinning the Alito hearings.

Alito Hearings Begin, Teddy K. Lies

The Washington Post has posted Judge Alito's opening statement at its Campaign For The Supreme Court Blog. You can watch video of the statement as well. Also, simply scroll down on the blog's main page for the opening statements of all of the senators in the judiciary committee.

Senator Ted Kennedy was especially colorful:
In an era when America is still too divided by race and riches, Judge Alito has not written one single opinion on the merits in favor of a person of color alleging race discrimination on the job. In fifteen years on the bench, not one.

Just like a lot of the things Sen. Kennedy says, this is completely untrue. Committe For Justice outlines why. Also, consider Judge Alito's civil rights record, which also clearly disproves Sen. Kennedy's remarks.

But when have a few facts ever stopped the Democrats from making baseless attacks against conservatives?

UPDATE:

SCOTUS Blog live-blogged much of the hearings, splitting its coverage into two posts, first from 1pm to 3pm and then from 3pm to 4pm.

Confirm Them has tons more on the hearings. Go to the site and just keep scrolling for insight on many of the Senators' comments. I especially like this post on Sen. Schumer and his ignorance of factual evidence. Confirm Them also provides links to CSPAN's streaming video of the hearings, in two parts.