Thursday, June 26, 2008


Welcome again to my entry for the Mystery Topic Challenge. For those of you who haven’t been by the Blog Ninjas, or MTC site, go check it out. There are a some very good bloggers who participate in both of those sites. Once again, it is time for a Mystery Topic Challenge. This challenge is:

We all have things we’ve never revealed about ourselves on our blog, things our readers wouldn’t know about us but might be interested to know as it gives them a better insight into who we are. Here’s your chance!

Tell us about something that you’ve never written about on your blog before.

This was a tough one to do for me. I racked my brain for some insight that you might be interested in that could also help explain my views on this site. Some tidbit of information that would give you a great “Aha!” moment the next time you read my thoughts on freedom, taxes, and the President. I was really at a loss on how to answer this challenge, so I did what I always do when I am out of ideas, I clear my mind, and I picture…

…a bar. At first the bar looks like any other bar you might stumble into. When you first walk in, you hear the constant and shifting hum of a number of conversations all happening at the same time. Some of the languages you recognize, some you would swear you have never heard before. Glasses clink as the bartender hands out more refreshments, and a light melody is playing near the stage at the front of the bar. A spot light is on the lone microphone. You’re in luck! It looks like its karaoke night!

The crowd grows quiet. A man has broken himself from the crowd and approaches the stage. You can feel the excitement pick up a beat or two. This is a rare treat! This particular guy is always in the bar, but rarely ever graces the stage. From behind you, you hear the rustle of the owner of the bar as he gets more attentive. Two people sitting near the front start to sweat. They know this tall, dark, brooding guy in a dark trench coat doesn’t want to be on the stage. But someone’s life depends on this song. Slowly the man, a very dangerous looking man, approaches the microphone. The vampire (because that is what the man is) starts off very tentatively, “I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice…” Those in the bar (human and demon alike) who haven’t heard Angel sing before are sorely disappointed. As the song continues, and the music ramps up (“…I never realized how happy you made me, oh Mandy…”), Lorne, approaches the bar. The owner (demon?) addresses the crowd and gets Angel off the stage. Now that Lorne has seen Angel sing, he can tell Angel the information he needs…

For those of you who don’t recognize it, this is a scene from Angel. Not just any scene, but a scene where the hero (a centuries old vampire with a soul) has to reveal himself to a crowd in order to get some information to save a life. He does it by singing his favorite song.

I am a big Joss Whedon fan (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity). I am also a pretty big David Boreanaz fan (who can currently be seen in Bones), and I like the music of Barry Manilow (I really have no idea what he is up to now).

Sometimes we need to have a minute or two to ourselves to clear our heads, or to hear the tuning fork that guides our lives. Whenever that happens, I go to You Tube and do a search for “Angel sings Mandy”. It always helps me.

Now that I have entered my submission, and need a good place to hide for some time, go see all of the submissions at the Mystery Topic Challenge blog. Vote on your favorite, and then cruise around the site to see what other great bloggers are hanging out there. There are links below for each of the contestants in this challenge. Enjoy.

Jayne d'Arcy


Andy D

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Habeas Corpus (Part Two)

In my last post, I began describing potential consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumedine v. Bush. This is the case where the Supreme Court ruled that enemy combatants held on foreign soil are guaranteed habeas corpus rights. These same rights are denied to military service members and illegal immigrants. Today, I wish to illustrate two more problems with this decision, or unintended consequences and I wish to offer my humble solutions to fix this decision.

I spent some time in my last post talking about the precedent of the Supreme Court. Previous courts have held that the writ of habeas corpus doesn’t apply to enemy combatants captured in a time of war. This court has disregarded precedent of previous Supreme Courts, and its own decision in 2006. If the court is willing to throw out precedent, does this open the way to a Roe v. Wade challenge? The only reason most people give to leave that decision alone is because it has become law of the land, and is now legal precedent. The Supreme Court has shown it is willing to ignore precedent and Roe v. Wade defenders should be worried.

This decision also infringes on the constitutional separation of powers. Our system is designed to give the other branches of government the ability to reign in a branch that abuses its powers. The President created a system for dealing with enemy combatants, the Supreme Court said that system was wrong and needed to be fixed with the help of Congress. The President worked with Congress and Congress passed laws on how prisoners would have their cases reviewed at Guantanamo. The two branches of government elected by the people worked together to find a solution. This doesn’t sound like the rouge actions of one branch. The Supreme Court has decided that it can rule the other branches of government wrong. Five un-elected justices decided they could determine war time policy better than the elected representatives of the people.

How do we fix this? Believe it or not, there are a number of ways. Here are my solutions, from band aid fix to serious fix. The more deliberate the solution, the harder it would be. My first solution is the easiest to do. Congress can now pass laws that detail how court proceedings for foreign combatants are to be carried out. For example, Congress could say that in cases involving enemy combatants, the combatant has no right to review classified information or to interview the soldiers that captured them.

Secondly, Congress could legislate what court (or courts) might have jurisdiction over trials involving enemy combatants challenging their designation. If only one or two courts had jurisdiction, only a handful of judges would need to be trained on dealing with military cases in time of war. Perhaps Congress would decide that these cases can only be tried by FISA courts.

Finally, and my personal favorite, Congress has the ability to change the number of Supreme Court justices. The U. S. Constitution does not spell out the size of the Supreme Court. We have nine justices now, we have had ten in the past, and the original court was set up with six. Congress could pass the Judicial Reconciliation Act of 2008 (named by me) and double the size of the court. 18 justices cuts the amount of power any one judge wields in half. This would be tough to do (it would literally require an act of congress) but would send a clear message to the court, and would reign in some of the more “activist” members.

Like Roe v. Wade, in the court has imposed its own views of how the law should be written, and not how it actually is written. The Supreme Courts job isn’t to create new rights. The Supreme Court is to rule on standing laws. The Supreme Court failed last week. I hope Congress and the President can clean up the courts mess.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Habeas Corpus (Part One)

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that enemy combatants held at the U. S. base at Guantanamo have the right to challenge their status in Federal court. The 5 – 4 decision has been hotly debated. The decision of Boumedine v. Bush grants writ of habeas corpus to enemy combatants captured on the battlefield in a time of war. These combatants are not U. S. citizens and most have never set foot in the United States. The decision also ruled that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 was unconstitutional. This is largely being reported as a defeat for President Bush. I believe it is much more ominous than that, and you might not realize why.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and this decision is no different. In order to understand the future problems with this decision, we need to examine its past. After 9/11, the Justice Department believed the Supreme Court would stand by precedent and not apply constitutional rights to enemy combatants held outside the United States in a time of war. Turns out, the Supreme Court isn’t really worried about precedent. Remeber this, we're going to revisit it later.

In the 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, the Supreme Court ruled that military tribunals set up by President Bush were not in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions. However, the court also ruled that if the President wanted to proceed with trials in Guantanamo Bay, the President should get Congress to pass laws with direction for how the cases are going to be handled. This is exactly what Congress did.

As John Yoo wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “[u]ntil Boumediene, the Supreme Court had never allowed an alien who was captured fighting against the U. S. to use our courts to challenge his detention.” He goes on to say:

In World War II, no civilian court reviewed the thousands of German prisoners housed in the U. S. Federal judges never heard cases from the Confederate prisoners of war held during the Civil War. In a trilogy of cases decided at the end of World War II, the Supreme Court agreed that the writ did not benefit enemy aliens held outside the U.S.

What does this decision mean? Being a fan of the "Law of Unintended Consequences", I thought I would speculate on some of the possible outcomes of this decision. One outcome I have heard debated in a number of sources is: What do U. S. forces do with people captured on the battlefield? Many believe the U. S. Military is now going to have to collect evidence, and mirandize enemy combatants. Imagine this, a soldier is fighting for his life, bullets are flying, and he see’s someone come around the corner with a Soviet RPG. Does he have to read this person their Miranda rights before deciding to fire or not?

Others believe our forces will simply not capture terrorist on the battlefield. They argue it will be more effective to simply kill the bad-guys where they find them. I don’t think this is very accurate. Our soldiers are warriors and have behaved honorably in combat. I believe it is much more likely that they will simply turn any captured enemy combatants over to the police and secret police of the country they are in. If we capture an Iranian officer in Iraq, we turn him over to the Iraqi Army and ask to sit in on the interrogation. If this happens, does the combatant receive better treatment in Iraq than he would have received in G’itmo?

What if we capture Osama bin Laden? Sen. Obama has said he believes that the terrorist should stand trial. For those of you old enough to remember the O.J. trials, imagine a similar fiasco with the mastermind of 9/11 at its center. Do you believe the bin Laden fortune and the money of the clerics in Saudi Arabia can afford a good attorney? Democrats and Liberals are always big on our international image. Imagine how we look if Osama is found not guilty in one of our own courts. Perhaps he could even stand trial in a court in New York.

I will leave you with that mental picture until tomorrow. Come back tomorrow for a few more problems with this decision, and my humble recommendations for how to fix it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quick Notes – Great President, Drill Here, and the Political Machine

It has been about three weeks since the last issue of "Quick Notes". A lot has happened in that time, and there is a lot happening today. Without further ado, here are your Quick Notes:

"W" the Great President. Ann Coulter wrote a very strong defense of President Bush last week. She argues that future generations will look at President George W. Bush as a Great President. Her best reason: no attack on U. S. soil from Al-Queda since Sept. 11th. As Ms. Coulter points out, how many people would have thought on Sept. 12th that we could go seven years without another attack from Al-Q here? I remember quite clearly people on TV and around the water cooler saying that it wasn't a question of if, but only a question of when. Everyone was certain we would be hit again, and many thought it would be a matter of days, perhaps a month. Instead, we are in 2008, and still no Al-Q attack here.

Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. American Solutions is running an online petition to get Congress to allow more oil exploration in the United States. I don't believe any serious effort can be made to reduce oil and gas prices without more domestic exploration. As of this writing, the petition is at 1,034,451 signatures. Their original goal was 1,000,000 signatures. Having passed that, they are shooting for 4,000,000. Go sign the petition, and get your bumper sticker.

Political Machine. I want to end this Quick Notes with something fun. Stardock software has created a game called "Political Machine". In the game you select a candidate for President and run their campaign. The 2004 version was very detailed and considered one of the best political simulators available. I tried the 2004 version once and had to have the newest one. The game is cheap ($19.95) and is very well done. You can choose from an existing candidate (like Obama or McCain) or create your own (maybe Rush Limbaugh for President). If you are a political junkie, you will love this game.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Review: Moment of Truth in Iraq

Michael Yon is perhaps the most respected reporter in Iraq. He is a former Green Beret so he knows what it is to be a soldier, and knows how soldiers think. He has also been embedded with troops in Iraq more than any other reporter, so he also knows what it is like to be a journalist in a war zone. Anyone who wants an honest and accurate assessment of the War in Iraq must read his book Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New 'Greatest Generation' of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope

Michael Yon has become famous for his blog posts and dispatches from the front lines of Iraq. In this book, he draws on some of his dispatches and photos and adds to it a comparison of how Iraq looked when he first embedded with troops versus his most recent "deployment". Far from being a cheerleader for the Bush administration, Mr. Yon points out many of our errors in the early phases of the war. He notes that if Al-Queda had made more of a few of our mistakes, we would have had no chance to win the war. Mr. Yon doesn't subscribe to the view of today's left wing either. He points out that we have come far, and are winning the war now. It isn't won, but it can be.

Michael Yon is obviously a fan of today's soldier. However, he doesn't allow that to cloud his judgment. He notes the failures and successes of our troops, their commanders, and their Iraqi counterparts. Anyone reading this book with a preconceived notion of how the Iraq war has gone is likely to have their beliefs called into question. I was no exception. As much as I believe we went to war for very valid reasons, and that we have tried to do our best, I cannot escape the fact that we have made great mistakes in Iraq. Anyone who doesn't question their views on Iraq after reading this book hasn't really paid attention to the book.

At some time in the future, the War in Iraq will be taught in history classes. We are at the point where we can make that story a success or a failure, the choice is ours. Whatever we decide, future generations will start their study of the war with Moment of Truth in Iraq.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Democrats and Oil Just Don't Mix.

It would be hard for anyone alive not to know that gas prices are at an all time high. I would bet a gallon of gas that gas prices are going to factor big in the election this year. Everyone running for election or re-election this year is going to have to address the price of oil.

So, what do we do about the price of gas? To solve any problem, we must first find what may be the cause or causes of said problem. If the Republicans have any brains, they will make the argument that gas prices are directly the result of a Democratic Congress. Don't believe me? Sit back and prepare to be dazzled.

I did a little homework (something most members of Congress and the Senate fail to do). The price of a gallon of gas on January 22, 2001 was $1.46 per gallon. On June 9th, 2008, the price of a gallon of gas is $3.98. Today, most people are placing the average price of gas around $4.00 or $4.05 per gallon. It would be easy to look at this and say, "Well, we have two oil men in the White House, it must be their fault!" Of course, one would think that oil men would understand perfectly well how oil prices work. But lets dig a little deeper (no oil pun intended).

Over the course of the Bush Administration, the price has gone up 63% over seven years! That translates into 9% per year! Before my Democratic fans get outraged, I have more numbers to share. The price of gas on January 23, 2006 was $2.31 per gallon. That translates into an increase of $1.67 since Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Reid, and the Democratic Congress took over. Again, on a per year basis, Pelosi and Reid can claim credit for a 21% increase per year in gas prices! And, worse still, if we give Bush credit for all the gas increase before the Democratic Congress, he gets 86 cents over 5 years. I think Pelosi and Reid still win.

Some of you out there might think I am skewing numbers to my own benefit. Let me end with a question based on what the Democrats want to do, and what most Republicans want to do.

Question 1 (Democratic Plan). Many Democrats are in favor of a "wind fall profit tax" on oil companies. What do you think this would do to the price of a gallon of gas?

Question 2 (Republican Plan). Most Republicans are in favor of domestic drilling. If Pelosi, Reid, Obama, and Clinton had a press conference tomorrow and said they would remove all obstacles to domestic exploration of oil, what do you think would happen to the price of a gallon of gas?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Baby Survives Abortion

Sometimes Life will survive no matter what man does. Some things are just meant to be. If God wants something to happen, it will happen. You probably agree with at least one of those statements. A recent story proves these points.

Jodie Percival and her fiancée got pregnant last year. This was Mrs. Percival's second pregnancy. Her first ended in the death of the baby 20 minutes after it was born. Their first son, Thane, died because of a genetic condition which caused cysts to grow on his kidneys. Mrs. Percival was on the pill because she did not want a second pregnancy. When she got pregnant anyway, her fiancée and she decided they couldn't deal with the loss of a second child, so Mrs. Percival decided to have an abortion.

She had the procedure performed when she was eight weeks pregnant. However, at nineteen weeks, she felt a flutter in her stomach and went to the doctor. She was then informed that her baby was still alive. She says that she was angry at first. She had decided to have the abortion performed and she felt the hospital had let her down. The hospital apologized, but said that in very rare cases, a baby terminated at eight weeks can survive the procedure.

Her second son, Lewis, was born in November, and has only one functioning kidney. He was born with the same condition that killed his brother, and that Mrs. Percival was afraid he might get. However, Lewis apparently decided that if he was going to survive the pill and an attempted abortion, he wasn't going to let a little thing like a kidney problem stop him. As of the news stories that broke this week, both Lewis and his mom are doing fine.

Doctors say that Lewis will require an operation, but that he should be able to lead a normal life. Whether you believe in God, Karma, or just nature, it would seem that some times, man doesn't know best.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

No More Funding for Planned Parenthood

Michelle Malkin has an article today about Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (commonly referred to as simply Planned Parenthood) has a number of roles in today's world. They are most widely known for their defense of abortion rights. In Michelle's article today, she, "…turns the spotlight on the nefarious business practices of the government-funded, billion-dollar Planned Parenthood empire." Michelle argues that if Congress is going to interrogate the practices of other industries like oil, tobacco, banking, (and I would add baseball), when are they going to look at Planned Parenthood?

Before reading the article, I had no idea that Planned Parenthood received taxpayer funding. Michelle has looked at the annual report for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and found they, "… had a total income of $1.02 billion – with reported profits of nearly $115 million,"{emphasis mine}. One third of the entire budget for Planned Parenthood is provided in the form of State and Federal grants and contracts. That is $336 million of taxpayer funds going to a group that encourages and helps provide abortions.

Michelle's article is very disturbing in its implications. Why are taxpayer funds being used to fund abortions? Why at this level? After reading Michelle's article, I wondered why Planned Parenthood was getting one red cent of tax payer money? According to the Planned Parenthood website, the group pursues a number of activities. Those activities include: providing reproductive healthcare for men, women, and teens (with affordable products according to the website); providing "honest sexuality and relationship information in the classroom" for "young people"; and "leading the reproductive health and rights movement". The last activity is a very nice way of saying "fighting for abortions".

Many Americans disagree with Planned Parenthoods take on these issues, and disagree with their means. Should those Americans be forced to help fund Planned Parenthood? Shouldn't Planned Parenthood justify their need for hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money when they have a total income of over one billion dollars with over a million dollars in profits? They claim on their site that more than 400 celebrities volunteer with different Planned Parenthood boards. Perhaps that is a better source of funding than tax money.

Michelle Malkins article today covers some of the horror stories associated with Planned Parenthood. Some of them are very tragic. If Planned Parenthood believes in abortion rights and wishes to defend them, more power to them. I don't think the tax payers should be providing them with $300 + million to do it with.