Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mt. Augustine Is Erupting

Location Map, from the AVO.

Ash plumes and pyroclastic flows are erupting from the summit of Mt. Augustine, 180 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The mountain has been in a constant state of eruption since last Saturday, with ash continually issuing from the summit with occasional major eruptions occurring every day of the last four days. The Seattle Times reports that pyroclastic flows, flows of gas and superheated rock, have been seen sliding down the mountain.

Although the ash plume has at times risen as high as 30,000 feet, no ash fall has been reported in populated areas. Eruptions in mid-January did dust some Kenai Peninsula towns with ash. All flights into the Kenai peninsula have been cancelled due to ash concerns.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory is maintaining a watch over the mountain and has proved to be the best source for the latest news and information.

Some Recommended Reading

Some good stuff over at NRO today...

Bryon York, "Off Course."

Michael Ledeen, "When People Freely Choose Tyranny."

Jack Dunphy, "Arresting a Crime Wave." (Actually, this is from yesterday. But it's still worth reading.) (It also regards illegal immigration - more on this from me later this week. Probably.)

But what I really wanted to point out to you is Jay Nordlinger's
latest report from the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland. He's been reporting from there for a week now, but today he reports on a panel session featuring Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, FBI Director Mueller, EU counterterrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries, and the head of the German intelligence service August Hanning, among others. The entire discussion is interesting, but there are two parts I want to highlight:
And then comes maybe the most delicious moment of the entire Annual Meeting, my friends: A lady in the audience accosts Michael Chertoff. She says, "You're always focusing on the symptoms — what about the root causes?" (I'm abridging her question substantially. But she's a root-causes lady.) Chertoff says, "We focus on the symptoms, because the symptoms kill you. And our first obligation is to make sure people don't get killed. But we focus on the root causes as well, and . . ."

Chertoff speaks very well about the root causes. But that initial answer — "The symptoms kill you" — weighs heavily on the mind.

And this:
Have some more de Vries, who is absolutely commanding, both in language (English) and in argumentation. "I am uncomfortable," he says, "with this notion of 'root causes,' because it suggests a nice, lineal relationship between a cause and terror. The more we explore, the more we find that no such simple relationship exists." But there are problems that feed terror: lack of good governance, for one. Lack of freedom, really.

That seems almost too simple to state, but it's far from too simple for some. For a great many, actually.
And there is the rub.

For years, we have been preached to about the "root causes" of terrorism, especially poverty. That all of the September 11th attackers are affluent or upper-middle class is ignored. That many of the Islamic volunteers joining the battle in Iraq or Al Qaida and Taliban-allied groups in Afghanistan also come from similar well-to-do backgrounds is also ignored.

Go back to that phrase - "no such simple relationship exists."

There will be terrorists, just as there will be pirates, will be rapists, will be thieves. The question is what we willing to do about it.

Are we willing to do what it takes, to take the battle to the enemy, to commit to keeping weapons of mass destruction out of their hands, to smash them wherever we can find them? The current state of the American will implies the answer is no.

Hopefully, I'm reading the tea leaves wrongly. Because if I see things correctly, that means we will ultimately lose.

UPDATE: And there's this in The Corner:
HOW COME YOU MORONS CAN'T CRACK AL QAEDA'S COMMUNICATIONS? [Andy McCarthy]This is from the WPost's report this morning about yesterday's release of a tape Qaeda No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, "taunting" President Bush over our recent failure to vaporize him:
M.J. Gohel, a terrorism analyst and chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation in London, said it appeared that Zawahiri and bin Laden had coordinated their recent messages. He said it was noteworthy that al Qaeda's leaders had fashioned an effective system of communication that Western intelligence agencies have been unable to penetrate.
Meanwhile, here in Oz, the U.S. Senate has decided to conduct a hearing Monday to grill high government officials about whether they have violated the law by trying to penetrate al Qaeda's communications. During wartime. While al Qaeda is trying to blow up American cities and kill American civilians. How hard must Zawahiri be laughing?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Freedom Of Movement

Iain Murray at The Corner, quoted here in his entirety:
William Blackstone considered personal freedom of movement one of the absolutes of English law (see Section II here):
This personal liberty consists in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct; without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law.

Looks like global warming is changing all that. Here are some quotations from a story in The Independent today, where various types express disapproval at cheap air travel:
"What's happening with low-cost travel is that it's setting up unsustainable patterns of behaviour, so people are buying property in France that they wouldn't otherwise and flying to Prague rather than taking the train to Edinburgh for stag dos [bachelor parties]. Ending or changing these patterns of behaviour is all the harder to do once they are established."

"It's undeniably attractive to travel on a low-cost flight from England to the south of Spain. But as individuals we are all actors in the crisis of climate change, and we as individuals should be questioning whether our travel is necessary. I'm not suggesting people should stop all flying but getting onto a plane and causing vast amounts of pollution is a very serious action."

"I think there's a huge degree of ignorance about this. But it's the hardest of the climate change problems to solve because people really like leaving the country and they don't care that it's bad for the balance of payments or bad for the environment."

Two of those are from environmental campaigners. One is from the Conservative Party environment spokesman. Can you guess which one?

People are now seriously talking about "personal carbon allowances" that would mean you would not be able to travel if you don't have enough points left. The implications for liberty are staggering.

Or frightening. But remember - according to Gore, Dean, et al., George W. Bush is the scary one.

"To Touch The Face Of God" - Challenger, 20 Years Later

President Reagan, from the Oval Office, January 28, 1986:
Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

I still remember Principal Thacker coming across the P.A. to announce that the shuttle had exploded shotly after liftoff. I remember watching TV, as search crews franctially searched in the vain hope that somehow, someone may have survived. Then, I held out hope, as my knowledge of what the human body could take would come later.

The price of exploration has always been high. So many things have the potential to go wrong that it is amazing we are successful as we are.

The price is high. Ultimately, I believe the price is worth it.

More Information:
NASA's Challenger site
The Challenger Foundation

Friday, January 27, 2006

Giant Octopus Attacks Submarine!

...well, sort of.

From the Victoria, B.C., Times-Colonist:
A giant Pacific octopus that attacked a remotely operated submarine off north Vancouver Island could have been senile or maybe just peckish, a marine biologist said Wednesday.

"Large male octopuses in the last part of their lives become senescent, or senile," said Jim Cosgrove of the Royal B.C. Museum. "They get to be like humans, doddering old fools that have inappropriate behaviours such as being out in the daytime," said Cosgrove, an expert in octopus behaviour.

The attack occurred Nov. 18, 2005, off Brooks Peninsula, on the northwest coast of the Island.

The submarine was 55 metres deep and Mike Wood was on a boat on the surface, guiding the submarine along the ocean floor looking for electronic receivers that detect salmon.

"I had the ROV [remote operated vehicle] with its manipulator claw attached on a ground rope. It took me two hours to find this particular receiver. The octopus came from the receiver direction about 30 to 50 feet."

The octopus anchored three tentacles on the same cable the vehicle was holding onto "and a fourth tentacle shot forward very fast and wrapped around my manipulator claw."
Wood immediately threw the sub into reverse and blasted the octopus with sand and debris from the ocean floor. The sub has about 50 kilograms of thrust "so it's quite powerful," Wood said.

In a video recording, the octopus whips its tentacles around as it tries to deal with the sub's counterattack.

"Eventually it releases the vehicle and it gets blasted off into the distance," said Wood.

The octopus was not injured, he said.

"It's unusual for something like this to happen, a giant Pacific octopus attacking an underwater robot," said Wood, suggesting this is probably the first time it has been recorded.
Paging Captain Nemo...

Cool. There's so much about the ocean we still don't know. Speaking of
Pacific Giant Octopuses, they're pretty common in the Puget Sound - San Juan Isands area. The rocky seabed is an ideal environment for them. Their range extends from central California all the way into Alaska - the Monterey Bay Aquarium is among several aquariums that have specimens.

Video footage of the elusive
Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus remains elusive, however.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Lonely Ride of the Watchman

As I was perusing Huckleberries Online and Jim Olivera's daily "Best of the Northwest," I came across this piece by Frank Miele in The Daily Interlake. (The Daily Interlake is a paper based in Kalispell, Montana, serving the Flathead Lake area of Montana, and regularly punches above its weight in quality.)

Read the whole thing, but there was one paragraph that I particularly wanted to bring to you attention:
Bush's war against terror is a riskier proposition probably, partly because he is the Paul Revere in that war, unlike President Reagan, who was George Washington at Yorktown. It is relatively easy to accept the sword of surrender from your enemy. It is harder by far to be the first in line to shout "the British are coming" since lots of people would rather not fight the British ("They never bothered me or my family!") or anyone else. Bush, with just as much urgency as Revere, is riding his horse at full gallop to sound the alarm. Some along the road take up their arms and follow him, but many others just retreat into their comfortable houses, pull back the shutters, lock the doors and feel safe.
Who among us would have thought, in the days immediately following 9/11, that in the elections of 2002 and 2004 and the debate in 2006 would not be about the way to prosecute the War on Terror but whether we were even at war?
That is where we are as a nation now, divided in the early years of the war on terror between those who seek the comfort of what was and those who spurn that comfort in order to ensure any kind of a future at all. It is profoundly worrisome to look where Bush is pointing. If there is any chance to see the shadow of a peace-loving Islamic terrorist in that fog ahead of us, then by God someone will see that peaceful terrorist and try to get us to shake his hand. Meanwhile, the president's vision of a murderous brutal enemy does not waiver, and he is either right or wrong, but like Reagan he will not be deterred.
I would like to share his confidence, but I cannot. Bush has three years left. What happens after him? The Democrats not only share his vision but reject it, and militate against it. There are only a few Democrats, Senator Joseph Lieberman chief among them, who I trust to carry us forward, and they have been all but stricken from their party. And there is a significant portion of the Republican party that is soft as well.

It appears we just don't get it, not enough of us anyway, and the same goes for our representatives.

We are still divided. This September, it will have been five years since 9/11. We still cannot decide if we are even at war, when the debate we should be having should be focused on what to do about Iran and how is our wider strategy in the War on Terror proceeding. Instead, we argue over whether we are even at war, an incredible waste of time. The choice is actually very simple.

We can be actors or victims. We can suffer our fate, or we can make our own.

It is not too late, but the time to decide is now. The clock is ticking.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A New Friday Furo Questus Is Up

Questus Furore -
Look Lady, I'm Not Looking To Get Married, I Just Want A Second Date

What a lousy week.

Not that anything terribly bad happened. No major illness, accident, or tragedy befell me. In the grand sense of things, life is good. I'm still breathing, I live in happy and healthy surroundings, and nothing has occurred to make me doubt I will live out the next fifty or so years the actuarial tables predict.

Rather, my ego is being dealt the death of a thousand cuts. Minor setbacks and failings at work, at home, and in my abilities to manage my money, my health, and my romantic life, have all combined in a perversely well-organized combination so as to cause me to question not just one aspect of my life, but everything. And nothing scares an anal-retentive person so much as to have everything go quietly to hell all at once...

[For the rest of The Friday Furo Questus, please follow this link to The Wasatch Front.]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Nordlinger - Purpose Of An Open Mind

Another Nordlinger gem from today:
“A quick shift to the Alito hearings? There are a million things to discuss, but I'd like to focus on one. Sen. Richard Durbin, the Democratic giant from Illinois, said that Judge Alito was a man with "a mind that, sadly, is closed in some instances." Really? This is shocking, given that Alito is 55 years old. Anyone who hasn't closed his mind on certain matters by that time has weird problems.

“I'm reminded of something I heard Bill Buckley say, many years ago: The purpose of an open mind is to close it, on particular subjects. If you never do — you've simply abdicated the responsibility to think.”

Jay Nordlinger - The Marsh Arabs

Jay Nordlinger weighs in on the Marsh Arabs, as well as the Alito hearings and Harry Belafonte, among other things, over at NRO today. Worth reading. Here's one gem:
One could go on — and I have much more to say in that NR piece I've mentioned. But I'd like to close with this. Last week, I was talking to an Iraqi-born scholar who works in Washington, Nimrod Raphaeli. He is affiliated with the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). I asked why the Coalition forces receive so little credit on the Marsh Arab front. He answered,

"People should give the invasion credit for a lot of things. I often say to journalists, 'Just look at the Iraqi press. Look at freedom of association, look at freedom of speech.' These things never existed in Iraq. This is one occupation that brought freedom, not oppression; that brought freedom, not censorship. Where else do you find a military occupation that encourages a free press? This is a unique occupation."

Dr. Raphaeli continued: "People look only at the bad things. People forget that Iraqis can go out and demonstrate — against the government, against the Americans, against anyone. Before, Saddam commanded 100 percent of the vote! People can go out and buy newspapers from the extreme left to the extreme right, including classical communism. I can go on and on about the changes that have taken place in Iraq."

But those positive changes must remain unremarked, lest anyone think that the war has done some good. American security has been enhanced, and so has Western security generally. In the bargain, a lot of people have been liberated.

That's a very good bargain.

You've heard me say it before about Afghanistan: Many, many people would rather homosexuals be crushed to death, according to the Taliban's law, than that they suffer the indignity of being freed by George Bush and the U.S. military.

And many, many people would rather that Marsh Arabs choke on sand.

As I said earlier, funny old world, and often not so funny.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mt. Augustine Awakens

A webcam image from the AVO, showing Mt. Augustine. Bad weather day, as clouds obscure the top of the mountain - not ash. But under the clouds, you can see brown "rivers" coming down the mountain. Those are lahars, mudflows consisting of ash and melted snow.
From the Alaska Volcano Observatory:
Unrest continues at Augustine Volcano and additional eruptive activity could occur at any time.

AVO recorded two discrete explosions at the summit of Augustine Volcano this morning at 4:44 a.m. and 5:13 a.m. (AST) and responded by changing the level of concern color code from ORANGE to RED. Satellite data confirm that an ash cloud was produced and in collaboration with the National Weather Service (NWS), the height of the cloud was estimated at 30,000 feet above sea level. NWS and AVO are tracking the ash plume which has detached from the vent and is presently drifting to the north and east of Augustine. As of about 10:45 a.m. (AST), the ash cloud has moved little since this morning and is about 30 mi (50 km) east and 45 mi (72 km) north of the volcano. An ash-fall advisory was issued by the NWS at 6:44 a.m. (AST) for the west side of Cook Inlet north of Augustine Island and remains in effect until 2:00 p.m. (AST). AVO has received no confirmed reports of ash fall.

Web camera views of the lower flanks of the volcano indicate that small volcanic mudflows (lahars) have formed and extend to about 500 feet above sea level. These flows pose no hazard beyond Augustine Island.

Seismicity has decreased significantly since the explosions, however, it is likely that stronger seismicity and further volcanic activity will resume.

There is no tsunami hazard associated with the current level of activity.

If the volcano follows a pattern similar to the 1976 and 1986 eruptions, we would expect a further intensification of seismic activity prior to similar or larger explosive events. It is also possible that an explosive eruption could occur with little or no warning.

AVO is monitoring the situation closely and will issue further updates as new information and analyses become available.
For more, check the AVO, or the brief piece I did before Christmas here.

Israel Weighs Its Options Against Iran

While the conventional wisdom is still contending that Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear plants and facilities, the IDF is making its own assessment.

In a press conference at Tel Aviv University (as reported by the Jerusalem Post), IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that Iran’s nuclear program “can be destroyed.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow's
The Herald is reporting that Israeli strike plans are being refined and rehearsed.
Pilots at the Israeli air force's elite 69 squadron have been briefed on the plan and have conducted rehearsals for their missions.

The prime targets would be the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran, a heavy-water production site at Arak, 120 miles south-west of the capital, and a site near Isfahan in central Iran which makes the uranium hexafluoride gas vital to the arms manufacturing process.
The difficulty of the task has not discouraged them

We need to understand - the Israelis have taken Iran's chief whacko at is words, and are prepared to do what it takes to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are we?

We're going to get pulled into this mess regardless of what we want. Are we ready?

Monday, January 09, 2006

OK, Now I'm Scared

I'm scared by this piece by Mark Goldblatt, over at National Review Online.

In it, he discusses a convention of the Modern Language Association. As he described it:
The Modern Language Association holds its annual convention each year during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Washington, D.C. was the venue for 2005 as thousands of English and Humanities professors descended on the nation's capitol to hold forth not only on literature and pedagogy but also on politics, globalization, and the war on Islamic terrorism. Hijinks, therefore, ensue.
Since we all know proper diction goes hand-in-hand with deep thoughts on globalism.

The problem, though, it that these people are not the experts they believe themselves to be in the issues of the day. Granted, they can discuss the wonders of Kerouac or Hemingway far better than I could, but that hardly qualifies them to lecture me on the rights and wrongs of war, any more than my engineering degree does. For most of us, that means our opinions are usually kept to a close circle of friends and confidents. (NASA hasn't been asking for my advice on the space program, at any rate.)

But that does not keep these people from bringing their beliefs to the classroom, and imposing them on their students. Golblatt's relation of the panel discussion was especially disturbing:
The panel began with a talk by a youngish assistant professor from Kingsborough Community College. She announced that she'd "adopted an antiwar curriculum" for her freshman English class, then recounted how she'd designed her syllabus around readings meant to expose the lies and treachery of the Bush administration. Though she couldn't be sure how many minds she'd actually changed, she added, with a trace of pride, that she "might have helped to stop some of my students from joining the military."

Next up was another young-looking (or am I just getting old?) professor from the University of Cincinnati who bragged that she'd done graduate research on the expansion of American imperialism and therefore understood full well that the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib "exists within a continuum of racial violence" perpetrated by the U.S.. She had organized an entire English course around a close linguistic analysis of the U.S. Patriot Act. She conceded that her students had struggled with the legalistic text throughout the semester, but in the end she felt confident that several students who'd favored the legislation at the start had had their consciousness raised by the experience.

She was followed to the podium by a professor of women's studies, also rather young, from Penn State University who passed around a sheet of cherry-picked quotations by conservative commentators on the leftist bias in academia. As she read them out loud, without analysis, the response from the audience alternated between horrified gasps and loud snickering. Afterwards, she called the Academic Bill of Rights an "assault on critical thinking" and decried "the political tyranny and proto-fascism of the government."

Once the panelists had said their piece, the floor was opened for questions and comments from the audience. I was the first person the moderator called on, and I directed my question to the first speaker, the assistant professor from Kingsborough Community College. I asked her whether she'd have a problem if a colleague of hers suddenly decided to adopt a pro-war curriculum, and whether, more broadly, she'd have a problem hiring a new teacher who seemed likely to take such an approach.

She replied that she did not currently serve on hiring committees, so she had no control over who joined the faculty at KCC . . . but she would indeed have a major problem if a colleague of hers were to adopt a pro-war curriculum.

She left it at that.

Someone then asked a question about Derrida, whom one of the panelists had faulted for his lack of commitment to radical causes, and I thought, for a moment, my point would be lost. Apparently, however, the KCC prof's response did not sit well with several members of the audience — who felt compelled to answer me themselves. An older man was the next person called on; he turned in my direction and said that he'd served on many hiring committees and that he would never hire a teacher who seemed likely to adopt a pro-war curriculum . . . for the same reason he wouldn't hire a teacher who seemed likely to espouse creationism or intelligent design. The issue isn't political, he explained. It's that the theory is simply wrong. A pro-war curriculum would, by necessity, be rooted in falsehoods and false logic. The classroom, he insisted, is a place for truth.

The next comment was also addressed to me, by a young man sitting in the back. He said that, in theory, he would not be opposed to hiring a teacher who supported the war in Iraq . . . but that situation was unlikely to come up because people who teach in the humanities are trained in critical thinking, and no one who thinks critically could support the war in Iraq.

Several audience members nodded vigorously. Their reactions indicated that the matter was now settled.

I smiled and sank back in my chair; I'd gotten my laugh.

Except it's not really funny. In retrospect, the panelists and audience members for "Academic Work and the New McCarthyism" inadvertently made the strongest possible case for the Academic Bill of Rights. If you've come to equate support for the war in Iraq with creationism, then you're no longer capable of critical thinking on the subject; you've surrounded yourself with too many like-minded people. If the ideological bias of academia turns faculty minds into mush, imagine its effect on students.
Let's get this straight - these people are willing to admit only those who believe exactly as they - in pretty much everything. I thought that is what they opposed...

This is one reason why engineering types generally disregard humanities types. If these people represent the best of the humanities' critical thinkers, then academia is seriously screwed up. Of course, there is a fundamental difference in those disciplines. In humanities, if you're wrong, at worst you get embarrased. In engineering, if you're wrong, you could get someone killed. There is a greater acceptance of reality that comes with the latter.

Whatever happened to merit? A person interested in building the best faculty he can should be interested in finding the best professors he can - regardless of their other beliefs. As long as his beliefs remain outside the classroom, who cares? Isn't the point to teach young minds to think, to appreciate, and how (rather than what) to learn?

My own critical thinking leads me down a very different path. War is a sad, terrible thing. Too many good people die. And yet, there are things worth fighting for.

Amen, Brother

Vice-President Cheney, speaking at a press conference recently (as related by Bryon York):
Speaking with reporters on board his plane yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney was in the mood for some vigorous back-and-forth about the administration's NSA al Qaeda spying program. He defended the Bush administration's general efforts to protect presidential prerogatives, and then challenged reporters who suggested the surveillance was both widespread and alarming:

Q Do you not understand, though, that some Americans are concerned to hear that their government is eavesdropping on these private conversations?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What private conversations?

Q The private conversations between Americans and people overseas.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Which people overseas?

Q You tell me.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's important that you be clear that we're talking about individuals who are al Qaeda or have an association with al Qaeda, who we have reason to believe are part of that terrorist network. There are two requirements, and that's one of them. It's not just random conversations. If you're calling Aunt Sadie in Paris, we're probably not really interested.

And the key quote:
Cheney was also asked whether he thought there might be a backlash against the NSA news, so much so that Congress might impose new restrictions on the executive branch:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think when the American people look at this, they will understand and appreciate what we're doing and why we're doing it. It's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years. There's a temptation for people to sit around and say, well, gee, that was just a one-off affair, they didn't really mean it. Bottom line is we've been very active and very aggressive defending the nation and using the tools at our disposal to do that. That ranges from everything to going into Afghanistan and closing down the terrorist camps, rounding up al Qaeda wherever we can find them in the world, to an active robust intelligence program, putting out rewards, the capture of bad guys, and the Patriot Act.

Now we've gotten to the point where four years beyond the attack, people are saying, well, gee, maybe there's not a threat here after all, and so we've got people suggesting we shouldn't be doing what we're doing with respect to the NSA program. We've got the Senate Democrats filibustering the Patriot Act, so it's going to go out of -- certain parts of it are going to expire here in two weeks. It has been absolutely vital to what we've been doing in the intelligence and law enforcement area. It breaks down that artificial barrier that used to exist between law enforcement and intelligence. And the tools that we're given there to use in the counterterrorism area are the same tools we use against drug traffickers. But all of a sudden there's a lot of stirring around shall we say about our authority to operate in those areas.

Either we're serious about fighting the war on terror or we're not. Either we believe that there are individuals out there doing everything they can to try to launch more attacks, to try to get ever deadlier weapons to use against, or we don't. The President and I believe very deeply that there's a hell of a threat, that it's there for anybody who wants to look at it. And that our obligation and responsibility given our job is to do everything in our power to defeat the terrorists. And that's exactly what we're doing.

But if there's anything improper or inappropriate in that, my guess is that the vast majority of the American people support that, support what we're doing. They believe we ought to be doing it, and so if there's a backlash pending, I think the backlash is going to be against those who are suggesting somehow that we shouldn't take these steps in order to protect the country.
Emphasis mine.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sharon Suffers Major Stroke

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has suffered a major stroke and is in surgery to relieve a cerebral hemorrage.

Reports are still sketchy, but the early rumors are that his prognosis is not good, and that even his survival is in doubt at this time.

Watch for Israeli politics to go bonkers. With Sharon just having formed a centrist third political party, the Palestinian situation starting to heat up again, and the Iranian nuclear crisis continuing to grow, it could get real exciting in Tel Aviv, regardless of Sharon's ultimate fate.

There are major internal and external factors in play now. Israeli political parties will be jockeying for position, but even the tough nature of Israeli politics is not my concern. That they can survive.

It's the external factors. If ever the Palestinians, Iranians, terrorists (Hezbollah, etc.), or some unknown terror group were to pull some stupid stunt, it would be now.

Drudge Report for the latest.