Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas In Power: Day 2

More turmoil in Palestine as Hamas takes the reins:

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Firing into the air, Fatah gunmen and police stormed Palestinian parliament buildings on Saturday in growing unrest after their long-dominant party's crushing election defeat by Hamas Islamists...

Thousands of gunmen from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah held protests across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, many firing automatic rifles into the air.

They took over parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah for about 20 minutes, shouting demands from the roof before descending peacefully. Fatah militants and police also seized the parliament building in the Gaza Strip.

The gunmen demanded Fatah leaders resign. They also aimed to dissuade the party from any idea of sharing power with Hamas or letting it control security forces -- after Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal said it planned to form "an army".

Not only is unrest growing, but Hamas' leaders are calling the West's demands that it renounce violence against Israel "blackmail." According to Hamas, renouncing violence against a sovereign nation is apparently completely unreasonable. A mentality like that does not bode well for the Middle Eastern peace process.

Developments From Iraq

No End But Victory has a wealth of information regarding the past week's events in Iraq.

From factional fighting within the insurgency to the strengthening of the Iraqi Army, there is lot worth noting.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Two Worlds of Google

You've probably heard of Google's agreement to censor its results in China in order to meet the country's free-speech restrictions. Well, consider this:

"Tiananmen" in a regular Google Image Search.

"Tiananmen" in a China Google Image Search.

I think that pretty much speaks for itself. (HT: Little Green Footballs)

Shadegg for Majority Leader

says, Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit:

I won't call this an "endorsement," because that's pretentious. I'm just a blogger, and not somebody in a position to issue endorsements.

But it seems to me that the GOP would be very wise to choose John Shadegg to replace Tom Delay as Majority Leader. Blunt, despite some reformist comments, is basically the candidate of business-as-usual. Boehner seems a bit better, but not tremendously different. Shadegg is the only one who seems like a plausible agent for reform, and it's going to be hard to persuade people who would like to see the GOP get back to its small-government, clean-Congress 1994 roots that there's any chance of that if they choose a business-as-usual Majority Leader.

I tend to agree. Shadegg appears to be the most appropriate choice for the position, especially in light of these graphs on pork-barrel spending.

Hamas In Power: Day 1

I hope this isn't an indicator of the way things will operate with the new Hamas-dominated government:

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire on Friday in political turmoil as the long-dominant Fatah faction was threatened with a violent backlash from within after its crushing election defeat by the Islamic militant group...

Some 20,000 Fatah supporters took the streets in angry protests across the Gaza Strip, burning cars outside the Palestinian parliament building and firing rifles in the air. Some Hamas posters were ripped down by the crowd, which burned tires in the streets.

Acknowledging Hamas's new standing as a political powerhouse, Abbas told reporters: "We are consulting and in contact with all the Palestinian groups and definitely, at the appropriate time, the biggest party will form the cabinet."

The militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Fatah, issued a statement threatening to "liquidate" the faction's leaders if they changed their minds and joined a Hamas-led administration.

Much more from Gateway Pundit.

The RNC's New Ad

I received this email today from the RNC.

Dear ________,

After September 11th, we heard so often that our government failed to connect the dots. So, the President signed the Patriot Act, which had been passed overwhelmingly by Congress. Now, watch the new TV and Web ad that exposes Harry Reid and the Democrats for their attempts to weaken the PATRIOT Act, an essential tool in America's arsenal to fight the War on Terror.

Watch the video, and you'll see Harry Reid bragging that "we killed the PATRIOT Act." Here's what Reid is proud of: Trying to kill a vital law that breaks down the wall between in telligence and law enforcement, and makes it easier to prevent and detect attacks on America. Reid's boast shows how reckless the Democrats have become when it comes to safeguarding America.

See the ad now on The ad will also appear on national cable TV, and in Reid's home state of Nevada.

When Democrats brag about undermining an important part of the War on Terror, we hold them accountable. You can too - by watching the video, and forwarding it to all your friends.


Ken Mehlman,
Chairman, Republican National Committee

The ad offers a few key points, namely about the Patriot Act's successes in foiling potentional terrorist plots. Head to the GOP website and check it out.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kerry Seeks A Filibuster

With '08 presidential aspirations in mind, John Kerry is calling on his fellow Senate Democrats to support a filibuster of Judge Alito:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry will attempt a filibuster to block the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, CNN has learned.

Kerry, in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum, was marshaling support in phone calls during the day, he told CNN.

Kerry said he told a group of Democratic senators Wednesday, and urged that they join him. Kerry said he has the support of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.

A little too predictable, I think. Not to mention there are no viable grounds on which to oppose Alito's nomination in the first place. And some Dems are finally starting to realize this.

Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Tim Johnson of South Dakota have both announced their vote in favor of Alito. The two join Nebraska's Ben Nelson as the only three Democrats who have come out in support of Judge Alito.

Nonetheless, Kerry has decided to press on, and pursue the filibuster. But being in Switzerland, he probably hasn't gotten the memo. A filibuster isn't even possible, as 5 of the Democratic Senators from the Gang of 14 have said they will vote for cloture to end a filibuster.

One thing the Dems --and Kerry-- should have learned from the past two SCOTUS nominations: when you play politics with judicial appointments, you lose.

New Reports On Saddam's WMD

A story from the New York Sun indicates that Saddam moved his WMD to Syria before the U.S. invasion.

The Blogosphere is buzzing about this story. Michelle Malkin has a roundup of links for all the important commentary.

Hamas Comes To Power

The militant Islamic group Hamas has swept the Palestinian elections:

Islamic militant group Hamas has won a surprise victory in Wednesday's Palestinian parliamentary elections. According to preliminary results, Hamas won 76 seats to 43 for the ruling Fatah party, giving them a majority in the 132-seat chamber. The turnout was 77%.

PM Ahmed Qurei has offered to resign, and Fatah has said it will not join Hamas in government.The Hamas win will pose a great dilemma for international efforts to restart peace talks with Israel, say analysts.

No kidding. It's hard to talk peace with someone when their entire agenda is based on a hatred of your country. Peace talks with Israel will be all but extinct with Hamas in power:

Another Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, warned that Hamas would not hold peace talks with Israel.

"Negotiations with Israel is not on our agenda," he said.

"Recognising Israel is not on the agenda either now."

I'm pretty sure neither negotiations nor recognising Israel as a sovereign nation will ever be on Hamas' agenda.

Speaking to the White House press corps today, President Bush offered this response to Hamas' statements about Israel:

If your platform is the destruction of Israel, then you're not a partner in peace, and we want peace. The United States does not support parties that support the destruction of our ally, Israel.

President Bush also urged Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to stay in power. If Abbas decides to resign, he'll effectively be giving over the government to Hamas. Despite the Hamas majority, Abbas' presence could still have an influence on policy, however slight it may be. But with Abbas gone, Hamas can pretty much run the show however they like.

The next few weeks will be one of the most crucial periods in recent history for the Middle Eastern peace process, and may shape the situation for years to come.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Here Comes the Patriot Act

As soon as the long-winded Dems are done whining about CAP and Vanguard and the Senate finishes up its confirmation of Judge Alito, it will face another crucial debate --this time on the Patriot Act.

The five week extension will have elapsed, and the debate on the Patriot Act will begin anew. The debate will determine whether the House-Senate compromise reached before the Christmas Break will be extended unchanged, or whether the Patriot Act will be brought back in its full authority:

Efforts to resolve House and Senate differences over a revised USA Patriot Act have reached a stalemate, a key committee chairman said yesterday. That means the current version of the law is likely to remain in place through next month or longer unless Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans drop their demands for greater privacy safeguards in a proposed renewal, the chairman said.

But another senator said that the Bush administration continues to discuss possible changes, and that a resolution of the impasse is still possible.

In any case, the debate will provide us a very clear marker of where the parties stand on national security. It will expose those who don't take the GWOT seriously, and exhibit those who are committed to protecting our nation from the threat of terrorism.

Over the Far Left Cliff We Go...

Cindy Sheehan marginalizes herself even further, if that's even possible:

And about Bill Clinton … You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don’t understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it’s been held by a long line of monsters.

You think this will get reported by the MSM? Yeah, me neither.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds posting over at Wonkette.)

More Threats From Iran

Iran is stepping up its game in the rhetoric battle with Israel:

Were Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran would respond so strongly that it would put the Jewish state into "an eternal coma" like Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's, the Iranian defense minister said Wednesday.

"Zionists should know that if they do anything evil against Iran, the response of Iran's armed forces will be so firm that it will send them into eternal coma, like Sharon," Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said.

Najjar said the United States and Israel have been trying to frighten Iran, but neither country would dare attack to Iran.

But the idea of attacking Iran isn't as far-fetched for the United States as Najjar might like to think. There's a lot of buzz in Washington that a hard-line stance with Iran is the only way to resolve the situation:

WASHINGTON (AP) - As the Bush administration pushes to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, many members of Congress are advocating get-tough approaches and say military force should remain an option to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Lawmakers largely back the effort to haul Iran before the Security Council over the Iranian government's refusal to give up its uranium enrichment program. But some say they doubt that a simple reprimand from the council - seen as a likely outcome - will be enough to persuade Iran to change course.

Rather, Republicans and Democrats alike say the United States should seek international economic sanctions that are harsh enough to hurt Iran, while securing assurances from Tehran's major trading partners that they will abide by any restrictions the Security Council imposes.

While those in Congress are fervently pushing tough sanctions, many realize that purely diplomatic methods alone might not be enough to pursuade Iran to stop its nuclear program. The military option is still very much on the table for the United States.

Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted that while the use of force may be the "last option," it may become the only option:

There's only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option, and that is Iran having nuclear weapons.

Senator Jon Kyl echoed McCain, but said that getting Iran to halt its nuclear program was only the beginning:

Ultimately, there must be change in the country's leadership. The current Iranian government is a corrupt and dangerous regime that's out of step with its citizens.

If anything, it is finally becoming clear that the United States --and the world-- faces a very serious issue with Iran, and the sooner the situation is adressed, either by the UNSC or even a multi-lateral effort led by the United States and Israel, the safer the world will be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

President Bush on the NSA

At a speech yesterday at Kansas State, President Bush offered a brief, yet very cogent, defense of the National Security Agency's surveillance program:

I made the decision to do the following things because there's an enemy that still wants to harm the American people. What I'm talking about is the intercept of certain communications emanating between somebody inside the United States and outside the United States; and one of the numbers would be reasonably suspected to be an al Qaeda link or affiliate. In other words, we have ways to determine whether or not someone can be an al Qaeda affiliate or al Qaeda. And if they're making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why.

This is a -- I repeat to you, even though you hear words, "domestic spying," these are not phone calls within the United States. It's a phone call of an al Qaeda, known al Qaeda suspect, making a phone call into the United States. I'm mindful of your civil liberties, and so I had all kinds of lawyers review the process. We briefed members of the United States Congress, one of whom was Senator Pat Roberts, about this program. You know, it's amazing, when people say to me, well, he was just breaking the law -- if I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress? (Laughter and applause.)

Aside from this very important point, the president also noted his Constitutional authority to conduct the type of surveillance done under the NSA:

Recently there was a Supreme Court case called the Hamdi case. It ruled the authorization for the use of military force passed by the Congress in 2001 -- in other words, Congress passed this piece of legislation. And the Court ruled, the Supreme Court ruled that it gave the President additional authority to use what it called "the fundamental incidents of waging war" against al Qaeda.

I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means. It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics. It's an -- you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how. And one of the ways to protect the American people is to understand the intentions of the enemy. I told you it's a different kind of war with a different kind of enemy. If they're making phone calls into the United States, we need to know why -- to protect you. (Applause.)

These simple arguments, seemingly unknown or unrealized by the MSM, are the driving force behind the legality of the NSA's surveillance program.

The issue is not hard to understand, given the facts. But that's the problem with the MSM. Fact-checking and research aren't high priorities, whereas baseless arguments and agenda journalism are.

(HT: John Hinderaker, who has an interesting side note about CNN.)

The Los Angeles Times' Joel Stein...

is making his case to become the representative spokesman for al-Qaeda in America:

I don't support our troops...

...When you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

If this doesn't reek of a pure and utter hatred of the United States military and the freedom that it protects, I don't know what does. Stein's complete lack of reverence for the men and women who defend our nation and its values is simply disgusting.

(HT: Instapundit)


Hugh Hewitt interviewed Joel Stein on his radio program, making Stein look silly in the process. The interview exposed Stein for the pampered, out-of-touch-with-reality lefty that he is, and revealed that despite his harsh criticisms, he lacks any real knowledge about the military.

Here's one part of the interview, where Stein gave in a little:

JS: ...Whether I'm wrong about not suporting Iraq or not is a legitimate question, and maybe I can be convinced that I was wrong about not supporting Iraq. But I think if you're not going to support Iraq, you shouldn't support the troops. I think that doesn't help anything.

HH: But do you think you should investigate before writing about the reality of these people, the reality people like J.P. Blecksmith, the reality of the 2,000 plus men and women who've died in the service of their country, and do you think you ought to be more cautious when you write about the military the next time?

JS: I definitely should be more cautious.

Needless to say, it didn't go well for Stein. Head over to RadioBlogger for the transcript and audio of the interview. It's worth your time.

Alito Goes to Full Confirmation

Judge Alito has been approved in committee and now faces a full floor vote in the Senate:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A sharply divided Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday urged approval of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, moving the 55-year-old conservative a step closer toward confirmation by the full Republican-led Senate.

On a party-line vote of 10-8, the committee sent President George W. Bush's nomination of Alito to the 100-member Senate. The full chamber is set to begin debate on Wednesday, with a vote as early as the end of this week.

During today's proceedings, the Dems abandoned their abandoned their ridiculous obsession with both Concerned Alumni of Princeton and Vanguard, further proving the weakness of these arguments. If they weren't good enough to raise a last minute concern, it certainly wasn't valid for them to be brought up in the first place. It just goes to show you how truly baseless the arguments against Alito actually are.

Also, I came across this statement from Republican Senator Lindsay Graham:

Let me tell you another thing that's not good for the country. [Reading from a news article:] "With little chance of stopping Judge Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Senate Democratic leaders urged their members to vote against him in an effort to lay the groundwork for making a campaign issue of his decisions on the court."

I'll just tell you right now. We welcome that debate. We'll clean your clock.

I mean, Judge Alito is closer to the mainstream of America than Citizens (sic) for an American Way.

We'll win that debate, but the judiciary will lose if we continue to do this.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Canadian Elections

Canda's conservative Tory party has achieved a certain plurality, with the possibility of acquiring a majority:

Canadians awarded Conservative Leader Stephen Harper with a minority government Monday, putting an end to more than 12 years of Liberal rule.

As of 1:00 a.m. ET, the Conservatives were in line to take 125 seats, versus 103 for Paul Martin's Liberals...

Support for the Tories took off when the polls closed west of Atlantic Canada. As expected, the Conservatives dominated in the West, taking most seats in the Prairies and sweeping all 28 seats in Alberta.

But it was in battleground Ontario where the Conservatives made a big breakthrough, seizing 40 seats after winning only 24 in the last election.

Much more from Captain Ed, who has been covering this story since the beginning.

Joshua Sharf also live-blogged the elections.

And Free Republic has a good discussion thread.

Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden Defends the NSA

Former NSA director Michael Hayden gave a speech at the National Press Club today in which he passionately defended the NSA's terrorist surveillance program.

In a wide-ranging defense of the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance program, the government's No. 2 intelligence official said Monday that the spy agency's operations are not a drift net over U.S. communities.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the former NSA director, described the 4-year-old program as narrowly targeted, using the same tools and techniques employed to decide whether to drop a 500-pound bomb on a terrorist target.

Hayden now holds the second-ranking job in the Office of the National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte.

"Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al-Qaida operatives in the United States," Hayden said in an appearance at the National Press Club.

You can read the entire speech here , and I strongly advise you to so.

Power Line's John Hinderaker also has much of the speech posted, along with commentary. Note especially the bolded sections of the speech in his post and the Q & A portion at the end.

The New York Times Misses the Point on Alito

Today's New York Times editorial page is dedicated to a last ditch effort by the paper to convince Senators to vote against the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. The Times' argument relies soley on ideology, and the fact that Judge Alito doesn't line up with the paper's political views. The Times completely ignores the jugde's qualifications --which are supposed to be what his confirmation is decided on-- and effectively turns the nomination into an election, which it isn't:

If Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings lacked drama, apart from his wife's bizarrely over-covered crying jag, it is because they confirmed the obvious. Judge Alito is exactly the kind of legal thinker President Bush wants on the Supreme Court. He has a radically broad view of the president's power, and a radically narrow view of Congress's power. He has long argued that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He wants to reduce the rights and liberties of ordinary Americans, and has a history of tilting the scales of justice against the little guy.

As senators prepare to vote on the nomination, they should ask themselves only one question: will replacing Sandra Day O'Connor with Judge Alito be a step forward for the nation, or a step backward? Instead of Justice O'Connor's pragmatic centrism, which has kept American law on a steady and well-respected path, Judge Alito is likely to bring a movement conservative's approach to his role and to the Constitution.

I'm sorry guys, but you can't have it both ways. Either the justices of the SCOTUS must be critiqued for ideology, or the process must be non-political, and based on merits --which it's supposed to be. But regardless of which of these methods the Times chooses to emplore, it still concludes wrongly.

If the nomination process is to be non-political, then the only thing that matters is whether or not a justice is qualified. In Alito's case, he received the ABA's highest rating of competence and impartiality on top of his 15 year career as a federal appellate judge. It goes without question that Alito is more than qualified for a position as justice of the SCOTUS.

If the nomination is to be politically based, then national elections matter. In that case, President Bush has won the last two elections, and thus has the authority from those elections to nominate whomever he wants. And for that matter, there is no rule about each ideology receiving a certain number of SCOTUS seats. So even under this method, Alito should be confirmed.

The only reason the Times is speaking out now from ideological motives is that their lefty Democrat Senators could not produce one single valid argument against Alito, or provide any substantial evidence as a reason to vote against his confirmation.

Rather than argue from any factual standpoint, the Times chooses instead to raise uncertainties and speculations about Alito's views on abortion:

There is every reason to believe, based on his long paper trail and the evasive answers he gave at his hearings, that Judge Alito would quickly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. So it is hard to see how Senators Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, all Republicans, could square support for Judge Alito with their commitment to abortion rights.

Judge Alito has consistently shown a bias in favor of those in power over those who need the law to protect them. Women, racial minorities, the elderly and workers who come to court seeking justice should expect little sympathy. In the same flat bureaucratic tones he used at the hearings, he is likely to insist that the law can do nothing for them.

However, the paper's conclusions that Alito exhibits a consistent bias and that his appointment would assure a vote against abortion rights are hastily reached. It is obvious to any informed observer that this is clearly not the case, thus exposing the Times' for the leftist spin machine that it is.

You simply can't make outrageously false claims and assert them as the truth. You'll marginalize yourself into absurdity, which is exactly what the New York Times has done.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Israel and the Military Option

Israel's defense minister hinted that Israel may be preparing for military action against Iran in order to stop the country from acquiring nuclear weapons:

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's defense minister hinted Saturday that the Jewish state is preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program, but said international diplomacy must be the first course of action.

"Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that that implies, and this we are preparing," Shaul Mofaz said.

His comments at an academic conference stopped short of overtly threatening a military strike but were likely to add to growing tensions with Iran.

Iran responded to this news by calling Israel's statements "childish games", and noting that if Israel were to use force they would be making a "fatal mistake":

Iran on Sunday said Israel would be making a "fatal mistake" should it resort to military action against Tehran's nuclear program and dismissed veiled threats from the Jewish state as a "childish game"...

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Israel was only trying to add to Western pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program.

"We consider Mofaz's comments a form of psychological warfare. Israel knows just how much of a fatal mistake it would be (to attack Iran)," Asefi told reporters. "This is just a childish game by Israel."

Israel is serious about not allowing Iran to procure nuclear weapons. So serious that the country is preparing itself for a potential invasion of Iran. I only hope that the United States is as serious about Iran's nuclear program as Israel is.

And just to clarify, I am confident that the administration means business, it's congress' minority party that I'm worried about.

Problems For The Islamic Insurgency In Iraq

Bill Roggio has some good news about the insurgency in Iraq. Apparently, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's efforts to create a coalition of the insurgents have been unsuccessful. But most notably, different insurgent groups are now warring with each other:
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has recently issued a statement claiming to “have set up an umbrella body to coordinate their fight against U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government.” Notably excluded from this body of insurgent groups are Ansar al-Sunnah and the Iraq Islamic Army. A look at the reported security incidents in Iraq from the past week may give some insight as to why al-Qaeda sees the need for further consolidation and coordination of the jihadi groups in Iraq.

Zarqawi was able to secure the commitment of a little known Islamist group called The Victorious Sect and five small organization, however he was unable to reach out to two largest groups, Ansar al-Sunnah and the Islamic Army in Iraq, two groups that have worked with al-Qaeda in the past.

Ansar al-Sunnah’s decision is curious, as its goals are nearly identical to al-Qaeda: the ejection of the “occupation Armies” and the establishment of an Islamist state. There are obviously enough differences between the groups. And Ansar al-Sunnah may be keeping its distance from al-Qaeda based on the increased unpopularity of the group, and keeping the door open for future political maneuvers. The decision of the Islamic Army in Iraq is understandable, as this is a largely nationalist organization which resents al-Qaeda’s foreign leadership and slaughter of Iraqi civilians.

But the Islamic Army in Iraq hasn’t just turned down al-Qaeda’s invitation, it has, along with five other insurgent groups, including the Anbar Martyr’s Brigade and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, openly declared war against al-Qaeda, according to Mohammed at Iraq the Model. This is a clear indication these grous have tired of al-Qaeda’s bloody tactics and recognize their goals will not be reached by opposing the government.

If al-Qaeda is marginalizing itself even among fellow radical Islamist groups within Iraq, the Iraqi government --and our own-- has to be pleased. Furthemore, this defection of insurgent groups is a continuing trend that has to worry Zarqaqwi and the other al-Qaeda higher ups. In any sense, we are seeing numerous signs that the insurgency is weakening.