Friday, June 30, 2006


Over at Protein Wisdom, Jeff G. linked to a site that does face recognition software (via Femeniste blog). The program scans your picture and suggests various possible celebrities that you look like.
The program thinks I look like Aldous Huxley, Kirk Douglas, Christopher Lambert, or Douglas Adams. But then, it wasn't a very close picture (oddly enough I have few pictures of myself). Swing by MyHeritage and see who you look like (free registration required).
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One of the things William Shatner enjoys most, other than acting, is riding his horses. He finally got to ride one of his horses on screen in his last Star Trek movie (Generations), and he owns a large ranch. In this passion, plus his generous nature wanting to help others, Mr Shatner and his wife went to Israel to establish a program there. We get the story from the William Shatner official blog:

Lizabeth and I went to Israel to begin a therapeutic riding program for the children of Israel, Jordan, and Palestine as well Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, and Druze children.

It is our hope that we can raise sufficient funds through Jewish National Fund (JNF), to benefit some of the existing riding academies with the understanding that the funds will go to programs that fit very carefully laid out standards. Among these standards is the need to bring in children of many nations that exist in that part of the world, therefore contributing to bring peace to this troubled area. To get involved or make a donation, please contact Sherri Morr at JNF. She can be reached at 415-677-9600 or

And you thought he was just a hammy actor! Commenters at the site responded:
As someone who is a Jew as well as an avid Star Trek fan, I am so delighted and thankful that Mr. Shantner and his wife made this trip to Israel. His was of trying to bring together peoples from different countries is a wonderful effort. I hope it will succeed. It is not about politics. Its is about being a humanitarian and helping out the children of that area of the world. In Star Trek - Undiscivered Country and Star Trek Next Generation - episodes of Unification - we saw Ambassador Spock trying to bring the Federation together with the Klingons and the Romulan Empires. Some have called that "cowboy diplomacy". Spock needed to take into consideration of the needs of the many outweihign the needs of the few or one. So too, Mr. Shatner and wife have gone ahead and risked their lives to help out. We need to stop playing politics in that area of the world. We need to stop relying on people for our energy needs who are barely in the modern world. Our greed and interference with the cultures of the Middle East have made a very precarious situation even worse. Its seems we havent learned from the Starfleet Prime Directive of non interference with cultures which have not matured to wisdom. We have a lot to learn to.
I would like to bring to the attention of Mr. Shatner and Lizabeth about a Star Trek - Scifi fan club in Israel called Starbase 972. They have been around since the last 1990s. They have hundreds of members, an annual convention, as well as a web site. Their web site address is
-by jertrek

Hi Bill-I think this is an admirable thing you are doing trying to help the children of these cultures!!!-I live near the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma-I saw on local news an "Ahead with Horses"Chapter is starting in our area!!~-It is to benefit disabled children and to help them to ride horses to enable them to help their conditions!!!-Good job!!-I hope the effort becomes worldwide!!!-smilies!!!~!
-by prettypatti55

This is a wonderful initiative and I hope that it will work, with all my heart.
The world needs men and women of peace and generosity. I wish you all the best in your endeavour to bring the different peoples of the Middle East a bit closer together for the sake of their children.
-by Claudia

What a wonderful initiative, I hope and pray it fulfils all your hopes for it and that it succeeds in bringing people together in that troubled region.
Please keep us updated on its progress!
-by greenchick
Say... didn't Kirk run into a green chick at some point? More on Ahead with Horses here.
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"As they are not uniformed, the Geneva Convention does not apply to them. And, as they are not US citizens, they have no rights as afforded by the Constitution."

Two abbreviations commonly used to save time and effort typing: Gitmo and SCOTUS. Gitmo is a shortening of the Cuban base the US military holds called Guantanamo Bay. SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States. Two disparate topics, but recently they converged in the Supreme Court's decision Hamdan v Rumsfeld.

The United States is holding more than 400 prisoners of war in Guantanamo Bay, most of them captured in Afghanistan and many from Iraq, in the war on terror. One of the prisoners, a former driver for Osama Bin Laden, sued to avoid a military tribunal, seeking ordinary legal work in the United States justice system.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President George W. Bush lacks authority to try Guantanamo Bay inmates before military tribunals, a blow to the administration's anti-terrorism strategy that scales back presidential wartime powers.

The justices, voting 5-3, said Congress hadn't expressly authorized the military commissions. The justices also said the structure and procedures of the tribunals violate both the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This is the first time in history a prisoner of war has been declared a criminal under a country's legal system - an oddity to say the least, as they were captured in a war in a foreign country. Chief Justice John Roberts excluded himself since he'd served on an appeals court panel that had examined it. The ruling was 5-3, with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Scalia dissenting.

Right Wing News carried the story, and John Hawkins had this commentary:

I don't agree with this decision at all because I believe Commander-in-Chief has the Constitutional authority to deal with foreign prisoners, held outside of the US, as he sees fit, without Congressional oversight. That being said, from what I'm seeing, this may not be the huge setback it's being portrayed as by the press and the Democrats.

For one thing, as Jonathan Adler over at Bench Memos pointed out,

"(T)he Court apparently reaffirmed the executive's authority to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities."

So we can't put them in front of a military tribunal, but we can still hold them indefinitely.

Commenters had a discussion about the legal decision and what it means:

John at Powerline write this about it:

Scalia's dissent accuses the majority of ignoring the plain language of Congress's enactment providing that:

[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Scalia further argues that the majority substitutes its own judgment as to "military necessity" for that of the executive branch.

I've only had time to scan the opinions briefly and may have further comments later. For now, the one apparent implication of Hamdan is that hundreds of Guantanamo detainees will become participants in the American judicial system. If they thought Gitmo has been a strange and disorienting experience, they haven't seen anything yet.
John, Scott and Paul at Powerline I have found are usually spot on with their commentary on law as they are all Lawyers themselves so it will be interesting to see what they say once they have had more time to read more of the decision.
-by The_Doyle

Hell, I'd even support a tough Tribunal law from Hillary. I don't care who's tough on terror, as long as they're really committed to protecting this country.
-by Arbiter

We should close Gitmo and send these people into other prisons in other parts of the world. Then set up a World Court that would like to see these prisoners indicted.
This would take the pressure off the US Government so they don't get all the blame for having this type of jail and it would show that the rest of the world wants to jail terrorists too.
Seriously. If we can get a coalition of courts on this matter it would be a good thing.
-by Left_Turn

>Then set up a World Court that would like to see
>these prisoners indicted.
Sure. Let's get Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to preside over the court, while we're at it. You Libs and your ideas of a World Court... who the hell are you kidding? The only people a World Court would go after is the US and Israel.
-by CavalierX

Couple questions:

1. Out of honest curiosity, where is it stated that the C.I.C. [Commander in Chief] has authority to detain people indefinitely? Is that in the Constitution or derived from case law?

2. What's the worry about having these people face normal criminal trials? Most of them were caught red-handed, and I think the general feeling among conservatives (sorry for the blanket statement) is that everyone in Gitmo is guilty. So, why not just move em through the legal system, sentence em, and then have them locked away in a much more sound and above question legal matter?
-by Rastus

>where is it stated that the C.I.C. has authority
>to detain people indefinitely? Is that in the
>Constitution or derived from case law?
Nowhere. That's the problem. These people do not fall under any category of prisoner ever devised. Therefore, as the Chief Executive, tasked with protecting American lives, the President detained them until their eventual fate can be determined.
-by CavalierX

"These are not criminals caught stealing a TV, they are enemy soldiers taken from battlefields."
They're not even enemy soldiers. A soldier wears a uniform and does not use women and children as human shields. The prisoners in Gitmo are enemy combatants (non-uniformed fighters), or to put it more bluntly, terrorists.

As they are not uniformed, the Geneva Convention does not apply to them. And, as they are not US citizens, they have no rights as afforded by the Constitution.

"What's the worry about having these people face normal criminal trials?"
They are not US citizens, nor even US residents, and are thus not subject to our Constitution or criminal laws. They are enemy combatants captured on a battlefield where they surrounded themselves with innocents or "un-attackable" zones (mosques), severely risking the lives of our soldiers.

If we can't try them, we should at least hold them until the war is over in the country they came from.
-by Clint

Seems the Justice Stevens is worried that by trying these savages we will violate the Geneva Conventions. Fine. Follow the Geneva Convention to the letter. All non - uniformed combatants caught on the battlefield should be shot on the spot as spies. Take them back to the hellhole they came from and shoot them in the brain. Problem solved.

Also, the Geneva Convention states that unlawful comatants using citizens as shields, not wearing uniforms, or using hospitals or mosques as shelter may be shot on the spot. Shoot all of them in the head. Problem solved.

The United States should not take one more prisoner in the War on Terror. Head shots all the way around.
-by fugazi

2. What's the worry about having these people face normal criminal trials? Most of them were caught red-handed, and I think the general feeling among conservatives (sorry for the blanket statement) is that everyone in Gitmo is guilty. So, why not just move em through the legal system, sentence em, and then have them locked away in a much more sound and above question legal matter?
Because THIS. IS. A. WAR. This isn't a riot or bank robbery, these people aren't innocent until proven guilty. These murderous vermin are not covered by the Geneva Conventions; in past wars they would have been shot without benefit of even a military trial. (Look up what we did to Nazis discovered out of uniform behind our lines or on our soil if you have doubts.)

You act as if the legal system's judgements are foregone conclusions. They aren't. Many of these terrorist bastards will walk if put on trial in a criminal court, and not because they're not guilty. I mean, let's examine what would have happened if we'd captured Zarqawi... could we prove that was him in the video sawing off Michael Berg's head? Can you imagine the media circus? Who benefits from this besides the terrorists? Look at the freakshow the Moussaoui trial was and tell me that's what you want for all of these people being held at Gitmo.

Rastus, I'm sorry, but this is the sort of thing that convinces me that your side is not serious about fighting this war, or even treating it as a war. Do you even know how to be ruthless? I see this sort of thing time and again from your side. I was literally arguing with liberals on september 12th who wanted the US to "arrest" bin Laden and put him on trial instead of treating the WTC attacks as what they were, acts of war.

Look, if you're concerned about torture at Gitmo, I've got a compromise: shoot the detainees in the head. Y'see? Both sides win. No more "torture" of them (so you can feel good), and no more breating by them (so *I* can).
-by EvilOtto

What I don't understand is why we must follow the Geneva Convention. Under the G.C. regulations, BOTH sides must abide by the agreement in order for it to be binding.

Al-Qaeda certainly doesn't.
-by Kingfisher

"Rastus, I'm sorry, but this is the sort of thing that convinces me that your side is not serious about fighting this war, or even treating it as a war."
I have no problem with striking back at terrorists. I'm not advocating that we do nothing and just wait to be attacked again. Anyone who's in Gitmo and is guilty of terrorist acts needs to be put away for life, if not executed.

To be honest, the problem I have with Gitmo is that whole "you will be held until the war on terror ends, but that war has not been officially declared, and we have no idea what would even CONSTITUTE victory or when that might happen". Now, if you believe that everyone there is guilty and you trust the administration to not abuse this power, I can see where you would be fine with the whole situation...but to me, Gitmo gets uncomfortably close to a Tower Of London/Man In The Iron Mask situation: anyone could be plugged in there and held mute for the rest of their life. Call me a bleeding heart liberal but I'm uncomfortable giving that kind of power to one branch of government, without oversight.

I guess I need to get my head around the fact that habeas corpus does not extend to non-U.S. citizens, but the whole situation just doesn't sit right. It's an unusual situation, to say the least...kind of a catch-22 really, as they can't be put before a tribunal and they're not subject to U.S. courts...
-by Rastus

This is the most important Supreme Court ruling in my life time, even more important the Bush vs. Gore.

I think that the majority opinion raised some important points, but for the most part I'm utterly flabbergasted.

As best as I can tell the SCOTUS ruled that the USA has treaty obligations with respect to Al Queda - one that no US Congress would have willingly entered into - and that uninformed Al Queda agents who themselves do not adhere to the Geneva conventions and publicly scorn it are to be afforded the full rights of POW's under article #3 of the Geneva convention. This an astounding ruling, and an astounding and utterly unique and anti-historical interpretation of the Geneva convention. I cannot possible imagine that the Geneva conventions would have been ratified by the Senate had that interpretation been forced on to them prior to ratification. Heck, the major powers would have never even introduced the Geneva conventions with such language since to be frank, the major powers constructed the Geneva convention with language designed to ensure that they would have a free hand in dealing with insurgent groups in thier extended colonial empires. They would have never written the Geneva conventions in such a way that they could be used against them, and any ordinary reading of the Geneva conventions reads that its heavily skewed toward giving rights , protections, and gaurantees to the big wealthy European powers and none to anyone else.

But, the single most frustrating thing about the ruling is that it suggests absolutely no remedy to the situation. Stevens majority opinion even explicitly states that the enemy combatants - pardon me, we can't even refer to them as that anymore - the "prisoners of war" are to be held for the duration of the conflict. How long is that going to be???? Is holding them without trial somehow more humane than sending them up before military tribunals to hear thier case????

Some have suggested that this will send the cases through the ordinary criminal justice system. I'd like to see US court hold that it has jurisdiction over non-US citizen captured on the battlefield by the military in a foreign country. It isn't going to happen and there is nothing in the majority opinion suggesting that the majority expects it to happen. What they expect to happen now, I'm not entirely sure. Again, no remedy seems to be provided for.
-by Celebrim

Here's a question to all the guys wanting these clowns in Gitmo released. In every other war, when we captured enemy combatants (and these were soldiers wearing uniforms not terrorists masquerading as civilians to get close to kill our guys) we put them in camps until the conflict was over or when we could do a prisoner swap with the other side. Now we could swap the guys in gitmo to the other side, oh that's right, they KILL all the guys they capture from our side. Hmmmm. Slight problem there. Also, if you read the Geneva conventions, it also says that once a side throws out the rules set down by the Geneva convention, they are no longer protected by same. The murder of civilians and the torture (true torture not the wanna be cry baby stuff that the left is yelling that we are doing) and murder of captured troops is a direct violation of those rules. Sorry but the scum we are fighting do not get the luxury of being held under those rules. To be honest we have been way more hospitable to those we have captured than they deserve and infinitly more hospitable than our own troops have been treated. Just an FYI.
-by Sabian

"Also, if you read the Geneva conventions, it also says that once a side throws out the rules set down by the Geneva convention, they are no longer protected by same."
If you read the SCOTUS ruling, they've elimenated that as an option. Under the SCOTUS ruling, the majority admitted that Al Queda was not a signatory party, but mandated that as long as there exist another signatory party to the treaty our obligation to that treaty party requires us to extend most of the protections of the treaty to non-treaty prisoners and even violators of the treaty. For these purposes, most importantly that means things like immunity to criminal prosecution and the requirement to hold the prisoners in conditions of respect and dignity (no interogation at all, much less nothing that could be called torture) for the duration of the conflict.
"Innocent until proven guilty should stand. If these guys are so obviously guilty, their incarceration should stand in court."
I don't know why you would think that.

Think about the various protections the court affords to the accused. You probably watched CSI or Law and Order, so you ought to know a little about what can go wrong in the collection of evidence. Now think about the fact that in criminal court the standard of guilt is 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.

No consider the fact that these men weren't arrested. They were captured by soldiers who weren't taking great pains to photograph the surroundings and collect evidence in accordance with standard police proceedings. All the evidence that might actually exist is some soldier's word that someone whose face he couldn't see was shooting at him, and when they entered the building where the fire was coming from they found an empty rifle in one room, some spent shells, and this guy in the other - and no, they cannot present the rifle and shells as evidence because they didn't think to put on gloves and put them in plastic bags and wouldn't have thought it necessary in the middle of a battle anyway. Didn't you learn anything at all from the OJ Simpson trial? If the evidence is 'botched' there isn't going to be a conviction no matter how suggestive the evidence is. It doesn't take much of a defence attorney to get charges like that thrown out. Now consider the fact that the platoon of soldiers in question is now in Iraq, and subject to a subpoena from the courts to appear to testify. How well do you think that would work out? Can Al Queda summon combat units from the field to appear in trial? How well is a soldier - with no training on how to testify in court - going to stand up under cross examination by a lawyer determined to needle him into an angry outburst?

No, I don't see how you can imagine that because these guys are obviously guilty that the charges would stand up in a criminal court.
-by Celebrim

Best solution I have heard yet on the whole detainee issue (from a poster at

Let me take this opportunity to say, also, that Congress dropped the ball on this whole detainee business from the get-go. There should have been far-reaching legislation propsed by about November '01 contemplating a kind of alternative legal system for terror suspects -- an amalgam, as it were, between the civilian and military courts. The idea would be to protect intelligence assets in a very messy and unprecedented war, while still allowing for the penetration of the principle of due process. Congress created the Military Code; why not a code for terror trials of this sort?
-by Idealogue

Since the Geneva Convention is now the over riding authority, does this mean that if our Soldiers execute terrorists who are not wearing a uniform on the battlefield as called for by the Convention, they are free and clear of any legal punishment? "Sir, I was wrong, we did not have any LIVING prisoners from that last raid". International law, you know.
-by Reaganfan

Out of honest curiosity, where is it stated that the [CinC] has authority to detain people indefinitely?
It's implied in the Geneva Conventions, rastus: The GC requires that POWs be returned at the completion of hostilities. One infers from that that illegal combattants may be held at least that long. The GC doesn't address holding illegal combattants; they apparently did not expect anyone to be squeamish enough to take them prisoner instead of summarily executing them.

It does address the issue of doubt, though:

PI,Art 5: The present Convention shall apply to [legal combattants] from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy [are legal combattants], such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

So, if we're in doubt then they should be treated as POWs. This means that, under the GC, they are specifically not subject to criminal (civilian) trial by the detaining power (us) for the duration of the conflict unless they commit a crime against civilians (while on parole, or while trying to escape, for example). Note that POWs "shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities."

Some may argue that the Gitmoans are civilians and thus protected under a different GC (on Civilians vice POWs), buyt that one specifically states:

"[if] an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State. " [underline added]
-by Grognard

Sorry to keep posting, but I'm absolutely fuming about this one.

Let me make this one brief. I do not understand why it is that civil rights activists are celebrating a decision that strikes down bringing these men to trial and far from repudiating indefinate detention without trial instead suggests it as a remedy.

Can anyone explain that to me? I mean, beyond the obvious.
-by Celebrim

Here's a better question:

Why is it that the terrorists embody everything that liberals purport to hate (fundamentalism, theocratic rule, opression of women and minorities, warmongering, etc.) and they keep quiet, yet Bush does none of these things and they accuse him day in and day out of doing so?
-by Hotspur


You are mistaken that there is no remedy..the court simply ruled that the president didnt have the power to set up the clearly states in its majority opinion that Congress has the power to set up these they do based on the constitution..the president simply needs to go to Congress to get the authority..those on the right should not be up in arms about this..the SCOTUS simply stated that the Executive branch doesnt have the power to set up these courts..and it doesnt..Congress clearly does however.
-by cthns

Today's ruling is a disaster, but hardly an unexpected one. Stevens was the only justice left over from the March sitting who hadn't written a majority opinion yet, and oral arguments went very poorly for the government. Kennedy takes a relatively slim view of executive power, anyway, and the four liberals could hardly be expected to have come down any differently.

Celebrim aptly points out above that the court simply says, "NO!", without providing any kind of a remedy. The court's jurisprudence here is a total mess: They ruled in Hamdi that the AUMF did authorize the President to detain IECs but that some due process must be provided, and now they strike down the only attempt at due process yet given. All of this despite the fact that Congress had already passed 1) The AUMF, triggering all executive powers fundamental to waging war, and 2) the Detainee Treatment Act, which very clearly states that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to hear this case. The hoops that Stevens and co. jump through here would make even a Clinton apologist blush. All that's missing is a contention over the meaning of the word "is".

The portion regarding the Geneva conventions is even more sickening. We are essentially now saying that the protections of the Conventions apply to not only those who have never ratified it and are not covered under its plain language, but also those who's entire status as a combatant violates the Conventions themselves. The only reassuring factor one takes away from this is that Kennedy, doing his normal waffle-your-way-through-each-decision dance, doesn't join this part of the opinion in full, although he agrees that the military commission violates the Conventions and the UCMJ.

All that having been said, Congress can rectify the immediate effects of today's decision by simply passing a law which explicitly authorizes (apparently it has to be super-duper explicit from now on) these sorts of Commissions. But the long-term effects of these are disastrous. It had been a pretty respectable term with no major outrages up until today. Conservatives should remember that there's still a lot of work to be done; switching Roberts and Alito for Rehnquist and O'Connor helps, but it doesn't shift the court all that dramatically from where it was last year. Which is to say: A state of confusion.
-by Maledicta

I think people need to step back and seriously consider whether the Supreme Court actually has the power and authority to make the ruling they did. SCOTUS does not have the power to rule on anything whatsoever they desire, only areas given them by the US constitution. They can't rule on whether movies ought to be filmed in stereo, they can't rule on Venezuela's port authority laws, they can't decide that POWs are protected by the Geneva Convention or not. That's simply not their area of power that the Constitution limited them to.

If they make a ruling, that's all very fine, other than wasting our time and money, but it holds no more power than if I made a "ruling" on the topic.
-by Christopher Taylor

>"And yes Mr Taylor the SCOTUS does have that
>authority. They can rukle on anything brought in
>front of them."

No, see the portion of Article III I posted above. You make it very plain that you have absolutely no clue what you're talking about. Even more plain than usual.


As if the last tidbit wasn't enough, you then prove that you haven't even the slightest clue what Stevens is saying. For starters, this should be obvious anyway, since he joined in Scalia's dissent in Hamdi, which was entirely based on the premise that citizenship is what draws the distinction between whether or not someone may be detained as an IEC. Since Hamdan is not a citizen, Stevens clearly believes he can be detained. Secondly, Hamdi is controlling precedent, and the court is not being asked either to overrule it or to decide the constitutionality of the IEC designation; that's already been done. But even if you weren't familiar with the fact that this had been decided in Hamdi two years ago, here is Stevens today saying it once again:

"It bears emphasizing that Hamdan does not challenge, and we do not today address, the Government’s power to detain him for the duration of active hostilities in order to prevent such harm."
-by Maledicta

Protocol I was rejected by the Senate & Reagan in 1987
While I recommend that the Senate grant advice and consent to this agreement, I have at the same time concluded that the United States cannot ratify a second agreement on the law of armed conflict negotiated during the same period. I am referring to Protocol I additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which would revise the rules applicable to international armed conflicts. Like all other efforts associated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, this agreement has certain meritorious elements. But Protocol I is fundamentally and irreconcilably flawed. It contains provisions that would undermine humanitarian law and endanger civilians in war. One of its provisions, for example, would automatically treat as an international conflict any so-called “war of national liberation.'’ Whether such wars are international or non-international should turn exclusively on objective reality, not on one’s view of the moral qualities of each conflict. To rest on such subjective distinctions based on a war’s alleged purposes would politicize humanitarian law and eliminate the distinction between international and non-international conflicts. It would give special status to “wars of national liberation,'’ an ill-defined concept expressed in vague, subjective, politicized terminology. Another provision would grant combatant status to irregular forces even if they do not satisfy the traditional requirements to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and otherwise comply with the laws of war. This would endanger civilians among whom terrorists and other irregulars attempt to conceal themselves. These problems are so fundamental in character that they cannot be remedied through reservations, and I therefore have decided not to submit the Protocol to the Senate in any form, and I would invite an expression of the sense of the Senate that it shares this view. Finally, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also concluded that a number of the provisions of the Protocol are militarily unacceptable.

In fact, we must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law.

I believe that these actions are a significant step in defense of traditional humanitarian law and in opposition to the intense efforts of terrorist organizations and their supporters to promote the legitimacy of their aims and practices. The repudiation of Protocol I is one additional step, at the ideological level so important to terrorist organizations, to deny these groups legitimacy as international actors.

I would also invite an expression of the sense of the Senate that it shares the view that the United States should not ratify Protocol I, thereby reaffirming its support for traditional humanitarian law, and its opposition to the politicization of that law by groups that employ terrorist practices.
Sounds very familiar doesn't it? The Kelo-5 insisted the Geneva Conventions includes this very 'Protocol I' which was specifically rejected by the President and Congress 19 years ago.

So... did not the Kelo-5 quite simply lie, and in doing so:
"...undermine humanitarian law and endanger civilians in war."

"...give special status to “wars of national liberation,'’ an ill-defined concept expressed in vague, subjective, politicized terminology."

"...grant combatant status to irregular forces even if they do not satisfy the traditional requirements to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and otherwise comply with the laws of war."

Act to "endanger civilians among whom terrorists and other irregulars attempt to conceal themselves."

Grant "these groups legitimacy as international actors."

Support "the politicization of that law by groups that employ terrorist practices."
Apparently tiring of ignoring our protections guaranteed by the limits of the US Constitution with the inclusion of references to international law, the Kelo-5 have moved on to ignoring the protections of international law.
-by DANEgerus
*UPDATE: Added comment by DANEgerous about the rejected update to the Geneva Conventions that would have defined terrorists and "freedom fighters" as regular soldiers, an important reminder.
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Songs I like - The Music Must Change (The Who)

And I wondered if then I could hear into all of your dreams...

The Who
A coin hits the ground and bounces, crystal in its piercing clarity, then the guitar starts to play. The Music Must change was released in 1978 by The Who and it still stands as one of my all time favorite songs. You can hear the singer walking and thinking about what music does and whether he's achieving anything with his song. The footsteps softly sound with the squeak of leather, wings flap as a startled bird flies away. And over it all, Roger Daltrey does his usual excellent job of selling the song like it's the most important thing he's ever done in his life - and with Pete Townshend's lyrics, it's hard to argue with that effort. The music is minimal, with the guitar having a small solo and then almost acoustic - level support for the keyboard and the singer. Great stuff.

Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealized sound
Every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be
When I hear the cold lies of the pusher, I know it exists
It's confirmed in the eyes of the kids, emphasized with their

But the high has to rise from the low
Like volcanoes explode through the snow
The mosquito's sting brings a dream
But the poisons derange

The music must change
For we're chewing a bone
We soared like the sparrow hawk flied
Then we dropped like a stone

Like the tide and the waves
Growing slowly in range
Crushing mountains as old as the Earth
So the music must change

Sometimes at night, I wake up and my body's like ice
The sound of the running wild stallion, the noise of the mice
And I wondered if then I could hear into all of your dreams
I realize now it was really the sound of your screams

But death always leads into life
But the street fighter swallows the knife
Am I so crazy to feel that it's here prearranged?

The music must change
It's gets higher and higher
Smouldering like leaves in the 1
Then it bursts into fire

Its rhythm grows strong
It's so new and so strange
Like bells in the clouds, then again
The music must change

But is this song so different?
Am I doing it all again?
It may have been done before
But then music's an open door

Deep in the back of my is an unrealized sound
Every feeling I get from the street says it soon could be
When I hear the cold lies of the pusher, I know it exists
It's confirmed in the eyes of the kids, emphasized with their

But the high has to rise from the low
Like volcanoes explode through the snow
The mosquito's sting brings a dream
But the poisons derange

The music must change
For we're chewing a bone
We soared like the sparrow hawk flied
Then we dropped like a stone
Like the tide and the waves

Growing slowly in range
Crushing mountains as old as the Earth
So the music must change!

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Quote of the day

"Luck is the residue of design."
-Branch Rickey
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Thursday, June 29, 2006


"we must support the beautiful women of santa cruz bolivia I say.."

Bolivian Rally
There is a theory that's been moving around the web since the beautiful women in Jordan and Ukraine were photographed and put on blogs all over rallying for freedom and liberty. Whiskey, Democracy, Sexy, one banner read. The theory is the more hot babeage that a movement attracts, the more likely it is to succeed. I don't know how valid this is, but I like the thought of it.

On Publius Pundit (who put two of those lovely lasses in his logo) has a report by Mora A Lyon on a huge anti-communist rally in Bolivia:

Not every Bolivian likes to be under the thumb of Hugo Chavez’s minime, Evo Morales.

Residents of the eastern province, Santa Cruz, which is full of industrious immigrants and enterprising native-indigenous Bolivians who’ve moved there, want instead to have autonomy.

They hate communism and want freedom.

Mr. Lyon writes about the people of Bolivia:

Imagine being a resident of Santa Cruz. Your area is not full of grinding poverty and inability to comprehend the modern world, but of full industrious immigrants who believe in capitalism and freedom.

These immigrants have set up coffee farms (I’m drinking Bolivian coffee as I write this), soya farms, clothing factories, jewelry-making assembly plants, and other things that the global market is happy to buy from Bolivian exporters. They welcome every comer. They’ve also developed their natural gas industry, the continent’s second largest, from literally nothing in 1990 to a major supplier to its neighbors.

Darkening the cloud over them is the specter of Evo Morales. He’s a communist who’s brought in Venezuelan troops. He’s out welfare shoveling from Santa Cruz’s hard-earned wealth, creating vast underclasses dependent only on him. He’s brought in Cuban agents, posing as “doctors” (and putting real doctors out of business!) He’s chased all foreign investment out of Santa Cruz by literally stealing natural gas operations and handing them over to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan oil men. And now he is targetting fertile land, specifically Santa Cruz’s hard-developed agricultural land, for “redistribution” to socialist “collectives” to be directed by Cuban operatives, without the consent of any free people.

But at least 150,000 Bolivians rallied today Santa Cruz and took a stand. Here are some of the freedom babes:

Bolivian Babe

Bolivian BabeBolivian Babe

Let Freedom Ring. Commenters responded:
They are fine!!! That one sign sums it all up, “God doesn’t want communism. We want autonomy.” If they don’t secede, hey at least they’ll be marginally free of Morales’s grip, not to mention keep the gorgeous chicks to themselves. What’s with the dark green flag? I know that isn’t Bolivia’s national flag. Is that Santa Cruz’s flag?
-by Matt

The evil American empire must be behind this…. bwaaaahaaaahahahaha

All the best to them. I hope the best for Santa Cruz and hopefully in the future Bolivia.

Our Media once again is failing us. Had I not visited your site - I’d not know this info.

Great job all of you!
-by Michael

[I agree, although I got the tip from the excellent Cuban-American Bablu blog]

Are you sure they were only 100,000? During the pro-amnesty rallies here in the U.S. that crowd would’ve been pegged at least at 500K - it reminds me of the crowds at the L.A. protest.

Great post, and even better for them if they achieve this. It sends a heck of a statement to Evo and his posse.
-by La Ventanita

I’v posted a couple of videos of the event on my website. my favorite is the national anthem/viva Bolivia! one, I just want to share it with the readers .
-by Jonathan

Cambas are the hottest women in Bolivia.

Damn those are nice pics. will have to borrow some.

I am kind of ambivalent on this one, though. In the larger scope of Bolivia, the Cambas are a much needed counterweight to Evo’s silliness. And the region is the most developed in Bolivia.
I am wary of Santa Cruz’ elite - who are behind this movement– and of claims that they were victimized continually by La Paz.
Read my commentary on the issue at the bottom here.
-by Boli-Nica
*UPDATE: changed Georgian to Ukranian babes to be accurate.
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"You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left."
-Yogi Berra

Baseball Crank is a madman for stats, constantly breaking down information from baseball into interesting and unusual analysis. For a baseball stat junkie, his site is glorious. For others, it's an oddity. Recently in an article he brought up an interesting point about baseball that's often overlooked:

There are four components to offense in baseball. Getting on base and batting for extra bases are the two biggies. Next is advancing once on base; the fourth is avoiding losing runners on the basepaths. The fourth is probably the one that flies furthest below the radar; it may be thought of as something that doesn't show in the box scores, but at least two components do: GIDP [Ground Into Double Play] and Caught Stealing.

He does an analysis of each team in baseball by their ability to move base runners and keep them on the bases, thus having a better chance at scoring. The New York Mets are the best at this (at this point in the season), with the Reds, White Sox, Indians, and Red Sox being the top five, in order. Presently, baseball's standings look like this, by division (as of this posting):

Red Sox4728

Detroit ranks near the bottom of the Crank's analysis, just below the Athletics, but the rest of the teams are in the top third. Commenters analyzed this information:
the Mets are over 2 standard deviations under the avg in "GD%" (lost runners), and 3 std devs above the avg in "SB/SH". A bit of a garbage stat, and probably not normally distributed, but still, they DO move runners along. Too bad they are still first in the NL in OPS but 2nd in runs scored to L.A., who as a team have some GREAT clutch stats so far!
-by Tom H

Interesting. The Tigers don't seem to think much of your theory...making their season all the more impressive/curious/astounding.

They apparently really ARE winning with pitching and defense just like the announcers endlessly remind me.
-by Mister Furious

And power. The Tigers depend heavily on power.

Hey, I didn't say this was the most important part of an offense, just one factor. It's part of why the Mets and White Sox and Reds are winning. The Tigers are relying on other tools.
-the Crank

Great stuff, Crank. I figured the Mets' excellent baserunning was helping them out somewhere. This gives a clue.

Their 84% success rate in steals (as they lead the league in SBs) helps a lot. Plus, leading in slugging by a sizeable margin can't hurt either.

My post on the Mets today addresses this stuff and more.
-by Mike

And power. The Tigers depend heavily on power.
True enough. At first glance they don't have any league-leading homer types, but they do have several guys in double-digits.

I gotta add, I've been out here in MI five years, and the baseball has been dismal. It's really fun this year with the Tigers playing the way they are. It's like the Morgan Magic Sox the way they are pulling out games on a regular basis...
-by Mister Furious

If this information could be combined with an analysis of defense and pitching, you could have a nice metric for predicting winners. At present my guess is a Mets v White Sox World Series, with the Reds and Detroit putting up a great fight in the playoffs.

I'd like to take this time to send my best wishes to the Peter Gammons family and his friends. Mr Gammons is a baseball analyst for ESPN and a long-time writer. He had an aneurysm on the 27th and is in intensive care at present. You are in my prayers.
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"It's no coincidence that they kidnap him as the others sign the agreement."

kidnapped kid's ID card held up
One of the big advantages of blogs is that they are international and often in English, which is more or less the language of the world. Recently there was a palestinian kidnapping of Israelis right on the verge of an agreement between Israel and palestinians. At Rantings of a Sandmonkey, we can read the reactions of an Egyptian to various world events, and today he has up a series of bits from various sources about the Israeli response to the kidnappings.

He starts with an excellent Sun Tzu quote, and one of the other posts is this from a commenter at al`Arabiya news that reveals some Arab frustration with the palestinians:
Sandmonkey posts a text message discussion he had with a friend over the events and why they are occurring, they agree that the radical wing of Hamas led by Khaled Meshaal is responsible. There was another al`Arabiya commenter quoted:

"walla, what did hamas expect, they should stop acting like children, and then cry for the world to help them after they get themselves into trouble. The people in gaza have enough troubles than to be occupied again due to the stupid, irresponsible actions of hamas idiots."
The Sandmonkey ended with this sad thought:

Yeah, sooner or later this will be over, one way or another!


And commenters responded:
Well, I can’t see enough from B’s talk to be sure about his views.

It’s clear that if the Palestinians had a leader like you or like Sadaat, then by now they’d not only have a country, but a flourishing, thriving one and their only battles with Israel would be in football and in soccer.

Speaking as an Israeli, even while rooting for the Israeli teams, I’d applaud the Palestinian teams when they win, cheering them for having come a long way.

As it stands, I think Olmert is less than useless and that Israel should have declared that by killing two soldiers and kidnapping a 3rd from Israeli territory, Hamas has carried out a hostile act of war (as opposed to simply letting other groups fire rockets into Israel and blow up civilians). Israel’s response should have been:

A: To declare a full scale war on Hamas. If Gaza wants war, then Gaza will look like a war-zone! (Of course, the war will also include Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Brigades, etc).

B: To give a deadline. If the soldier isn’t returned alive ’till then, the war will begin.

C: To declare the war will stop immediiately once the soldier is returned.

D: To explain that if the soldier is killed, the war will continue until there’s not enough left of Hamas to bomb. This will severely deteriorate Hamas’s (and others’) capacity to carry out further hostile actions, rocket firings, etc.

When the war begins, immediately begin bombing Hamas targets, from foot-soldiers to Hamas ministers.
I’m sure there are several Hamas officials who are in no mood to be next to die in military strikes and there’s a good chance they’ll act to free the soldier, citing “for the benefit of Palestinians” in order not to let it be too obvious they’re trying to save their own lives.

Either way, a future Palestinian Authority government will think ten times over before kidnapping anyone. Indeed, before participating in any hostile action.

No doubt, many (most, perhaps) of this blog’s readers will now either hate me or tell me that “this would only make Palestinians more extreme bla bla bla”. I could answer that, but my comment is already too long.
-by anonymous

Israel kept repeating that it is in a state of war to justify the extrajudicial killing and the murder of bystanders during this process. Now, in a state of war this soldier can not be called a kidnapped hostage he is a war prisoner. I believe that the only good thing that a government that cares for its citizens should do for a war prisoner is a prisoner swap not shelling the places where he might be kept! I think that the Palestinian in this particular case behave more rationally than Israelis do. There are 800 Palestinian detainees without charges, 300 women and 100 children below 16 in Israeli prisons. So the Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier to negotiate a prisoner swap. What is so infuriating in this?

SM, I do not think Israeli government worry that much about its people otherwise they would have done something effective, i.e. negotiate, to free the other prisoner who was executed yesterday. Olmert will exploit this case to show that he is a tough guy who can order the killing of tens of Palestinians to avenge the killing of an Israeli. The Israeli public would forget that the life of this human could have been saved by releasing some Palestinian women and children serving times without charges.
-by Amgad

Israel gave up on the peace process and opted to wall itself off from Palestine instead. Palestinians have yet to come to grips with that. They still think Israel gives a diddly squat whether they declare jihad or not. Fact is,Israel will sit securely behind its wall,while making periodic incursions to gather rockets and militants. Palestinians only hurt themselves with continued militancy. Until Palestinians get their minds right,there will be one economic hardship after another.
-by Perry

“SM, I do not think Israeli government worry that much about its people otherwise they would have done something effective, i.e. negotiate,”


“something effective” - “negogiate” with Palestinian Arabs. Can you point to a single example of where that method worked?

“to free the other prisoner who was executed yesterday.”

_Murdered_. I doubt the Hamas government wants responsibility for the death. An “execution” is when the government or other authority does it. But they will probably deny involvement.

“Olmert will exploit this case to show that he is a tough guy who can order the killing of tens of Palestinians to avenge the killing of an Israeli.”

Yeah, because Olmert gets rich by killing Arabs. Everybody knows that.

“Israel kept repeating that it is in a state of war to justify the extrajudicial killing and the murder of bystanders during this process. Now, in a state of war this soldier can not be called a kidnapped hostage he is a war prisoner.”

Which just goes to show how much negotiations with Palestinian Arabs are worth. There has been a truce. Kidnapping a soldier during a truce cannot easily be justified by claiming that there is a state of war (there is, but during a truce you are supposed to not act on that).

The same truce, btw, does not mean that Israel is not allowed to hunt down and shoot criminals; unless you want to claim that the Palestinian authority has been denying for years, namely that they and the terrorists are the same people!

You might also want to look up what “prisoner of war” means. The Palestinian authority would have to take responsibility for the act (rather than deny it) and the prisoner would have certain rights (including access to the red cross/star). He could then be exchanged for a Palestinian prisoner of war, IF the Arab side had ever fought the war according to the law (i.e. uniformed fighters that don’t specifically attack civilians).

As it is, the Palestinians are not granting him the rights of a prisoner of war, their government even denies involvement.

I wonder why you are using that as an argument when the Hamas government themselves deny it. That is a bit strange.
-by Andrew Brehm

“Olmert will exploit this case to show that he is a tough guy who can order the killing of tens of Palestinians to avenge the killing of an Israeli.”

“No deaths or injuries were reported in the Israeli actions.” (From the quoted AP report)

“Now, in a state of war this soldier can not be called a kidnapped hostage he is a war prisoner.”

Two points to look at here. The soldier was taken in a cross-border raid by the Hamas-affiliated PRC. That in itself is an act of war, initiated by Palestinians. Yes, the soldier is a POW, but not because the Israelis have moved into Gaza. Second, the now dead 18-year-old civilian (reportly killed shortly after he was taken on Sunday) was not a POW. Nor was he a collateral casualty, victim of a stray shot in a combat zone. He was snatched and murdered by Palestinian thugs. No, I am not calling all Palestinians “thugs.” But I am saying that the persons (can’t call them “men”) that did this are thugs, thugs and murderers.

The problem is, these thugs and murderers are apparently the duly elected Palestinian government.
-by Uchuck the Tuchuck

I had a conversation once with a Tunisian about how kidnappings and bombings are just savage and will not change anything. They always make it worse for the Arabs. He said,” Well yea, I agree, innocents should not be killed, but what do you want them to do? They don’t have the means to fight and that is the only thing they can do to revolt.” I said,” So do you consider 911 OK? He replied,” NO, but….” There is always a ‘but’ with us.
-by Leilouta

Viable points from both sides, I think.

One basic truth (imho) is that Palestine will not begin to move forward before they lay down their arms and get busy building up a viable democracy.

“But should we just let Israel oppress and mistreat us?” I hear you say… Yes. It worked for Ghandi, it’ll work for you. I’m not particularly pro-Israeli, but considering they don’t kill people from my part of the world and burn our flags and whatnot, they’re certainly higher on the list than their neighbours! However, if the palestinians stopped their foolishness and showed signs of moving forward, western sympathy would quickly turn their way should Israel persist with their heavyhanded treatment of them.

Only the west can help Palestine in it’s struggle for a normal existance, but untill they learn the old “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” this will not happen. Plain and simple.
-by Adam B

What can I say…I started writing several times and deleted it all.

The Hamas has made an own goal. Actions have consequences.
-by Fabian

Personally I believe the recent kidnappings will be traced to Syrian influence, trying to prevent peace because without the big evil of Israel oppressing palestinians, Arab dictators will have no enemy to point to to distract people from their abject poverty and misery.

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James Lileks looks ahead at future stories by the New York Times on Things The Public Has a Right to Know© in his most recent screed:

Here’s a look ahead to new, vital scoops.

August 21, 2006: “Super-stealthy surveillance drone emits high-frequency sounds harmful to dogs,” a story announces. “Classified documents personally unsealed by Times editor Bill Killer reveals the new generation of spy drones cause dogs to run in circles, barking uncontrollably.” Asked whether this might cause terrorists to start keeping dogs, a Times spokesman said it was unlikely, as they struck him more as cat people.

What’s more, they probably assumed they were being watched. The spokesman referenced the Times story on classified satellites that could see through roofs at night from space, unless the roofs were covered with two layers of aluminum foil. “Thanks to that story,” the spokesman added, “the satellite has only been used one-tenth of the time, which adds considerably to its longevity.” He also referenced a story on Baghdad’s booming aluminum-installation trade as one of those “good news” stories bloggers are always demanding.

He concludes with an examination of what finally upsets Times readers and what drives them away:

Jan. 27, 2008: Keller’s replacement announces that the New York Times will begin running comic strips. Four full pages, from Garfield to Blondie.

New York intellectuals are finally horrified. Subscriptions are cancelled in droves.

If you haven't been reading James Lileks, do. And check out his books, my brother has three and they are all three hilarious.

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Quote of the day

"I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are."
-William T. Sherman

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006



In what is likely a surprise to no one, I am a gaming geek. I and my friends play role playing games (the real ones, with dice and paper) on alternate fridays, with a system of rotating GMs. One guy runs the game until he needs a rest, then someone else takes over running a game. The dice have fallen to me, and I'll be running a fantasy game based in the Hero system (Fantasy Hero). For those of you interested in this sort of thing, I have an alternate website with my art and other materials on it where I keep many of my Fantasy Hero files and data. Included is this file (PDF) of the campaign setting, with maps and such.

As weeks go by, I'll update with the information of the campaign, the players, and so forth. For those of you who don't care for this kind of thing, it will be clearly marked so you can pass by. For those of you who are interested, you'll get a little slice of the fun we have. Otherwise, perhaps we'll meet in World of Warcraft some day - Khadgar server.

-Christopher Taylor


"Free speech is not, nor was it ever 'free.'"

In the efforts to reduce campaign finance fraud and the effect where only a millionaire or someone beholden to very wealthy people can run for national office, many have pushed greater and greater restrictions on campaign finance. The most recent congressional effort was the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that prohibited any specific campaign advertising within a month of the national election. This effectively limited peoples' free speech during the time most critical that free expression of political dissent and ideas are most important, and gave rise to the 527's such as and Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.

SCOTUSMonday in the US Supreme Court decision Randall v Sorrel the court held that restrictions on campaign finance are a violation of free speech. This decision overturned a circuit court Buckley v Valleo ruling in Vermont in 1976. In his SCOTUS dissenting opinion, Justice John Stevens wrote:
"As Justice White recognized, it is quite wrong to equate money and speech... Accordingly, these limits on expenditures are far more akin to time, place, and manner restrictions than to restrictions on the content of speech. Like Justice White, I would uphold them "so long as the purposes they serve are legitimate and sufficiently substantial."
Eugene Volokh examined this decision on Opinion Journal online:

Still, Justice John Paul Stevens's repetition of the old saw that "it is quite wrong to equate money and speech" struck me as mistaken enough to be noteworthy. (The occasional argument of some critics of campaign finance law that money is indeed speech is equally mistaken.)

The reason that the court struck down the law here--which, among other things, would have limited a candidate's total spending for Vermont state representative races to $2,000 for both the primary election and general election put together--is not that money is speech. Rather, it's that restrictions on spending money to speak are restrictions on speech, and "money is speech" is, I think, a misleading way of expressing this claim.

Just consider some analogies. Would we say "money is abortion"? I doubt it, but a law that banned the spending of money would surely be a serious restriction on abortion rights (whether or not you think that the court was right to recognize such rights). A law that capped the spending of money for abortions at a small amount, far smaller than abortions often cost, would likewise be a burden on abortion rights, and dismissing this argument as "it is quite wrong to equate money and abortion" would be unsound.

He goes on to point out other examples where reducing spending on something is effectively reducing that thing - education, for example.

Similarly, we wouldn't say "air travel is speech," or "computing power is speech." Yet surely a law that would limit the use of air travel or computers in political campaigns would be understood as a serious restriction on speech.

In essence, his point is that money does not equal speech, but limiting money can limit speech, particularly in a political campaign. Given that the primary purpose of the 1st amendment's free speech clause was for political speech, this would appear to be a problem. Commenters to this article responded:
Excellent concise, logical analysis by Mr. Volokh. Would it be possible to replace Justice Stevens with Mr. Volokh? The logic used by Stevens in his dissent is very effectively counter-argued by Mr. Volokh in his brief analysis.
-by Jeff Idhe

Professor Volokh's reminder that money is not the equivalent of free speech is a useful rejoinder as we reflect on the meaning of Randall v. Sorrell. Money is money, that's all; but with it you can buy things like television ads or a megaphone. If restrictions on giving away money threatens free speech, you can argue that spending limits threatens all our rights: abortion, education, national defense. We must tread lightly regarding the care and handling of money as a manifestation of inalienable rights.
-by Michael Mccaffrey

The fact is, whether it is 1787 and printers are being paid to print hand bills for a campaigning politician or it is 2006 and television networks are paid to run a commercial for a campaigning politician, money is, and always has been involved in promoting the ideas within a democratic election. Free speech is not, nor was it ever "free."

Whether one shouts from the roof tops or puts it in writing and copies it a few hundred thousand times, free speech requires energy to produce it. When certain elite individuals decide to control how much energy is used to produce free speech, free speech is, by definition, regulated. I am currently told that I am not allowed to listen to certain people a certain number of days before an election--for my own good.

Please, show me in the United States Constitution where that is written. When you make the act of producing free speech criminal, you have conceded we are not free people. This is not rocket science, Justice Stevens, there will always be an expense in telling one's message whether it is in the form of lung power or dollar bills. Why is that so hard for you to understand? There is and always will be a cost in producing communication, whether it is outward and visible or driven under the table by well-meaning authority figures such as yourself. Do not limit my speech.
-by Robert J. Sciolino

I'm convinced that many of the people who are so fervently "protecting" our rights are merely doing it for their own economic reasons.

What if we limited the amount that a woman could pay for an abortion? After all, shouldn't poor people have "equal access" to abortions? By making all abortions essentially non-profit, we would quickly find out who is "protecting a women's right to choose" primarily for their own economic reasons.

Likewise, what if attorneys were prevented from reaping a large percentage of "economic losses" in medical malpractice cases since those losses are based on projected loss of income? If an attorney gets 30% to 50% of this, the victim gets only a portion of his loss covered.

Most of these folks are merely exercising free enterprise; I'm all for that, however, we need to remember this when they start howling about "protecting the rights of others."

Likewise in the campaign finance debate. Who are we protecting by limiting campaign expenditures and/or contributions? Maybe we should concentrate on exactly who is baking certain candidates rather than limiting how much they are donating.
-by Glenn Rowan

Perhaps the fact that campaign spending limitations are passed by politicians all of whom are incumbents is the most convincing proof that, in fact, "money is speech." Incumbent legislators spend considerable sums of taxpayer money as part of their office budgets to communicate early and often with constituents to tout their credentials and promote their continued incumbency. By the time elections roll around, they can afford to live with some cleverly crafted restrictions on campaign spending as the price for outflanking potential challengers.

When this taxpayer financed scheme is denoted, they then dissemble, claiming that in doing so they do not engage in campaigning, but rather "constituent relations." Next they'll suggest that bears don't relieve themselves in the woods either.
-by Fred Medero
So if campaign finance restrictions and advertising bans are not the answer, what is? Quite simply, if government was not so big and not so expansive, then the desire to corrupt, spend so much, and influence politicians at the federal level would be proportionally reduced. Strip the federal government down to constitutional levels, and you wouldn't need finance reform as much.
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"The mental midgets burning flags can't make their points outside of an act designed to garner the most visceral response."

Burning Flag
The United States Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to ban burning flags by one vote: 66-44, to pass it requires a 2/3rds majority of 67 votes. I am surprised it got this many votes, although I suppose many senators wanted to go on record as being patriotic in an election year. The amendment would have made burning the US Flag a violation of Constitutional law, the highest law in the land.

While most Americans oppose burning a flag and I personally find it stupid and annoying, I cannot support the idea of a constitutional amendment to deal with the act. My problem is that doing so would expand government power in the constitution and limit the freedom of citizens, both codified forever in the document. When an amendment is added to the US Constitution, it is forever - it can be overturned by a later amendment, but it remains in the document. For example, the 18th amendment prohibited the sales of liquor in the US. The 21st amendment overturns the 18th. An odd system, but that's how legal and procedural systems work.

Adding a ban on some action by citizens to the US constitution goes in direct opposition to the purpose and philosophy behind the document - to limit federal government power. Further it limits freedom of citizens, again a violation of the concept and purpose of the document.

Burning a flag is idiotic and deliberately offensive, but there's nothing especially sacred or holy about a brightly decorated piece of cloth. I try to respect the way I handle a flag simply because I respect what it represents, but there's nothing about the flag its self that is particularly special or to be revered. This amendment would elevate the piece of cloth, the symbol to being similar or equal to what it represents, which I also reject.

There's another side to this, though. I also reject the concept of flag burning being free speech. The primary purpose of the 1st amendment's protection of free speech was to allow free expression of political content, to prevent interference or punishment of dissent and discussion of government activities. This is one of the most revered rights of Americans, one we take very seriously and defend rigorously. But burning a piece of cloth has little to say one way or another.

Ace of Spades Headquarters had a short report on this vote:

Flag-Burning Amendment Fails By One Vote
– Ace

Only garnered 66 votes, rather than required 67.

But that's all a good blogger with a vital commenter community needs for a good discussion to get going. In that discussion, a commenter named Jack M. had some excellent thoughts on the topic:

BrewFan and C.Taylor are essentially getting to the point of the Rehnquist written dissent in the 5-4 case characterizing flag burning as speech.

Rehnquist wrote (and I'm trying to go from memory so it may not be exact) that flag burning was essentially meaningless, i.e. that it was no more than an "inarticulate grunt" while political speech was an "articulate roar".

Personally, I am sympathetic to the dissenters in the case. The problem with classifiying "flag burning" or "cootch grinding" or "cross burning" as protected political speech is that the message is usually left to the recipient of the message to determine. To cop a phrase from Goldstein, while the flag burner may have "intended" to convey one message, the recipient may receive quite another.

As an example: if you see someone walking down the street and they are burning the flag, what message is being sent?

Are they a moonbat protesting the Iraq War?
Are they a neo-nazi protesting American ties to Israel?
Are they protesting the IRS code for taking too much or too little?
Are they protesting the death penalty?
Are they protesting porous borders?
Are they protesting the lack of immigration amnesty?
Are they just casting a blanket "I hate the US" message?

And on and on. You really have no idea what "political speech" they are suggesting. Taken alone, you don't even know from observing their act, that you don't agree with them!

I believe that political speech must convey sharper meaning to the recipient. One must be able to read, or hear the message and process the information being sent. Think of it as "strict interpretaion" methos for analyzing political speech.

The minute you start allowing meanings to be whatever a recipent determines it to be, is the minute that the act loses all meaning whatsoever, except to serve as a base provocation. It devolves from an "articulate roar" to an "inarticulate grunt".

Just my two cents. I would have voted to pass the amendment and allow the states (the majority of which had statutes criminalizing flag burning prior to the USSC's intervention) to take up the issue.

I agree with his problem here - just as he agrees with my previous point on the site. How is this free speech? Nothing is actually being "said" either by word or deed, other than a very generalized act of offense. The founding fathers did not mean this kind of thing with the 1st amendment, and I reject the notion that - for example - burning a cross is not free speech but burning a flag is. Neither is in my opinion, and I finally reject the steady, incremental amendment of the constitution by judges making decisions for the last 50-100 years.

We have a system to amend the constitution, we just saw part of it in action. 4 lawyers in black robes making a decision is not part of that system. There should be no amendment neccessary, this ought to be up to the states to ban or allow as their voters see fit. That's the American way.

Commenters at Ace had a great discussion of the topic, including these thoughts (although many apparently thought the decision went the other way, the minority being opposed to the amendment):

I gotta side with the minority I think.

I get as pissed as anyone seeing the U.S. flag desecrated (to the point of physical confrontation), but hell if I want to see that desecration banned.

It is ultimately free speech in my book.
-by Krakatoa

I wanted it to pass. There is nothing wrong with Americans wanting to protect a national symbol. We don't allow the Washington Monument to be spray painted. This fallacy that protecting the flag somehow erodes our freedom is a bunch of hogwash. You mean to tell me somebody can't make the same point without burning an American flag?
-by Brewfan

You mean to tell me somebody can't make the same point without burning an American flag?

Honestly? yes.

The mental midgets burning flags can't make their points outside of an act designed to garner the most visceral response.

GOTC mentioned the irony in their act. It is to our credit that we permit them to do what they do, and allow them to be rebutted by the inherent hypocrisy in burning our flag by way of protest.

It is emblematic of the strength of our constitution and our civilization that we can endure such juvenile acts with stoicism and no small amount of ridicule.
-by krakatoa

The Washington Monument is just that, a monument. Its status as a publicly-owned piece of property (but not as a symbol of the United States) prevents it from wanton spraypainting by vandals. If you own something in this country, there is little if anything you cannot do with it so long as you don't subject others to harm or nuisance. (And do note that "nuisance" is used as a legal term of art, not in its looser plain English sense.)

You mean to tell me somebody can't make the same point without burning an American flag?
Most people embroiled in poltical arguments the nation over could probably find a better, more elegant, or less offensive way to make that argument; that doesn't mean we should compel them to do so. The only crime they commit is one of taste. In fact, I agree with James Taranto that flag-burning has the prophylatic effect of allowing us to quickly identify and label the idiots.

-by Jeff B.

Please explain to me how flag-burning is a 'freedom'.
The flag is not the country. It is a symbol. And, as such, means a lot of different things to different people.

You don't like those that burn flags. Great. Neither do I. But I also think it says more about them that they want me to know.

And, please, how do you expect to enforce this ruling? Once you forbid it, you only incite the desire of those who want to get noticed, even if it means their spending time in jail.

Or should they be put to death?
-by wiserbud

Burning the flag, obnoxious as it may be, is nothing more than expression of one's first amendment right to freedom of speech.

Chalk me up for a nay, and can we please turn our attention to more serious matters like preventing a million f*cking illegals from rushing across our border this year?

Anyone, Republicans? Hello? Bueller?

I'm sorry I can't get with you guys who somehow think letting a revered symbol be desecrated is altruistic
You're right. Desecrating the image of Muhammed by portraying him in cartoon form should be illegal.

-by The Warden

F*cking designated hitter is an abomination and a blaspheme against Abner (praise be upon him). We are talking about America's game, something many if not most American's revere. Nothing is more American than baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Still, probably not a good idea to pass a constitutional amendment banning the DH.
-by JackStraw

Then should we have the right to burn the rainbow flags that the eco-freaks gay rights freaks carry around and we should also have the right to burn the UN flag as well and we should have the right to hang and burn a effegy of all those rotten left-wing senators after all its freee country still
-by Spurwing Plover

Actually, Bubba, the answer to your question is both yes and no.

While you could not be punished for the odious act of burning the flag (per se, although you conceivably could be punished for lesser offenses, such as demonstrating without a permit) you COULD in many jurisdictions be prosecuted for committing a hate crime with regard the similarly despicable act of cross burning.

So burning the cross: prohibited speech, even if arguably it may or may not be a political statement, and not a constitutionally protected right. Burning the flag: allowable speech, even though it arguably may or may not be political speech, and constitutionally protected.

The avoid run-ins with the law, burn flags, not crosses.
-by Jack M.

I have to go with the no ammendment folks as well. Speech is speech and should be protected. I can hate the burners, I can write or speak out against them and their ideas, but ban their speech? No.

Address my question; how does a law against flag burning erode individual liberty? If you're going to argue 'free speech' you'll have to tell me why you should be allowed to yell 'Fire' in a crowded movie theatre

Not directed at me, but well, who cares.
Anyway, first, arguing that flag burning is speech does not equate to shouting fire in the theater. One is obviously a public danger and a lesson in the need for discretion and the second is well, speech.

As to why such a law or ammendment would erode liberty, I just can't believe it's not apparent. I am a patriot, therefore I support no ammendment. I support the free expression of ideas, even ones -especially ones- I disagree with. Any attempt by the government to limit the free expression and exchange of ideas unless public safety/health or national security are at issue is too much. What comes after the flag? What's the next thing we're not allowed to say or talk about? What form of expression will be made illegal next?
-by msl

It's like the the definition of marriage amendment: most people agree with the sentiment and yet it's never going to pass the senate and get ratified by enough states.. It's just the repub senators posturing and saying, "See how conservative we are? Never mind how we've f*cked up since the last election, this shows we are truly conservatives!"

I would have preferred they show us by less spending and permanent tax reductions, but hey, that takes real discipline.

On the plus side, it drives the liberals crazy to called on their anti-americanism, so I guess it's worth it to bring it to a vote.
-by Log Cabin

I just believe that the crime (and I do believe it to be a crime) of burning our flag should not be solved by adding an amendment to the Constitution.

You cannot change people by passing laws that require them to be decent, no, just not a good way to go about it. The nation is still suffering from knee-jerk civil rights laws that, while offering an instant looking solution to a problem, in reality have done much to make the overall situation less tenable.

If you want statutes against flag burning, it should be addressed at the state and local level, that's my take on it.

In the meantime, if I ever seeing someone attempting to burn the flag that some of my friends fought, were wounded and died for, that miscreant will have to deal with me.

I think they'd much rather have dealt with John Law at that point, don't you?
-by The Machine

For more information on US flag burning around the world, the Flags of all Countries website has a map of countries old glory has been burned in, as well as a massive flag-burning picture archive.

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