Friday, May 18, 2007

Debate highlights

Brit Hume: Senator Fûz, the next question is for you. Let's say that we have a terrorist in custody who may know the whereabouts of a ticking nuclear timebomb; would you approve of the use of torture to cause the terrorist to lead us to the bomb?

Fusilier N. Pundit: Brit, that whole question seems to me to be a straw man, and a kind of silly one. We're not going to find ourselves in that situation.

Given the state of our intelligence apparatus, we're not very likely to know that a bomb is out there unless the bombers have disclosed it, and I don't see them doing that. We're also unlikely to have the guy in custody who'd know the whereabouts of such a weapon, or if we did, we wouldn't likely know what that guy knows, to even have the chance to consider torture as a means to get him to spill his guts about it.

And our intelligence services are far too infatuated with hardware and intercepts and datamining, they have neglected the human side of intelligence gathering, so we don't have enough intel assets dedicated to solving that kind of problem. We don't have enough Arabic or Farsi or Urdu speakers, whom we'd need to really get inside the guy's head.

So as I said, the question is a strawman, but in the shadow of that strawman is a serious dialog about the ethics of torture. That's a tough one.

Senator McCain asserts that America would lose something essential about ourselves by taking up torture. He's close but not quite there, and he lost me completely when he said we'd lose the respect of the community of nations, or some such, offsetting anything we'd gain by the information that torture obtained for us.

I don't put much stock in the notion of the community of nations. Many of the nations we're dealing with, either as veiled adversaries or as questionable allies, have terrible records of human rights violations---torture included---that they have perpetrated against their own dissenting citizens, not just captured soldiers.

That said, I agree that we don't torture---we do not maim or disfigure---because if we did we'd be stooping to the level of our adversaries, and we value our own self-image more than we value our own lives. Men in uniform call that honor, and it's a duty we owe to all men in all uniforms, not just American ones.

Note how I qualified that---men in all uniforms, and maim and disfigure. The US military is bound by laws of armed conflict, and they are so bound because our political leaders chose to do so. Those laws of armed conflict are almost as old as armed conflict itself, and they emerged as a coherent system of laws that that reflect how humans behave and expect others to behave.

Those who ignore the laws do not deserve the protection afforded by them. They do not deserve to be called soldiers. They're spies or saboteurs, and those same laws of armed conflict specify a very different standard of treatment for spies and saboteurs.

I believe many of the people we are holding at Guantanamo were unlawful combatants. They were not wearing uniforms, they were hiding among civilians, they were massacring civilians at the time they were taken into custody. As such, we don't owe them the honorable treatment we extended to lawful combatants in past conflicts, or the treatment we expect for our own soldiers should they be captured. We definitely don't owe them legal counsel. At most we need to engage lawyers to determine their status as lawful or unlawful combatants at the time of capture, and from that point forward we know how we're obligated to handle them.

I won't go down a laundry list of interrogation techniques or treatments suitable or unsuitable for unlawful combatants, ruling them yea or nay against that standard; that's something for the JAGs and the generals and our heads of state to discuss behind closed doors. But we have two standards, arising from military tradition and explained by formal laws we've chosen to obey. It is imperative we do not confuse those standards or behave as if the standards didn't exist.

If that means we deprive an unlawful combatant of sleep for a week or two, or we slip him some Ecstasy and one of our female intelligence officers dons a bikini and feeds him a ham sandwich, I see no harm, no foul. Any photographs coming out of that interrogation that we can use to humiliate other muharibun into disclosing their secrets are no harm, no foul either.

Brit Hume: Time's up. Thank you, Mr. Pundit.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Millions for asteroid surveillance, not one cent for greenhouse emissions controls

On my watch, no further Federal funding will be provided to the study of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, their impact, curtailment, or quota systems, until a system is fielded and tested to detect, catalog, traject, and intercept any planetesimal greater than 100 meters in diameter capable of Earth impact in the next 10 years.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All you need to know

. . . about the potential for abuse of dynamic entry is neatly encapsulated in the first 7 minutes of Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

If I had could dream, one of my dreams would be that the next Congress would limit the use of dynamic entry.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I posted over at NZBear's poll seeking important questions of strategery for the now-minority GOP.

Many bloggers assert that the GOP lost Congress in part because of its failure to rein in porkbarrel spending while emergency funding was directed to the areas struck by Hurricane Katrina. So indirectly, had Katrina response been more organized and its money better accounted for, and had governments from local to Federal levels better understood their respective roles and adhered to them, the Porkbusters movement might never have gotten traction and the GOP could possibly have held on to Congress.

As it was, President Bush proposed expansion of the Federal role, fundamentally altering the relationship of States to the Federal government, in my opinion without any justification to do so, in a move that appeared to be raw pandering.

Clearly it behooves the GOP to look at the Federal government's proper role in disaster response, for the sake of the people affected by the disaster. What is the Federal government's role in natural disaster response, how will you explain or defend that definition, and how will you restrain the Federal government from expanding beyond that defined role? How might you use Federal power to protect the rights of the people affected by such disasters, should it appear that local or State governments are violating them?

. . . and . . .

Ryan Sager explains how the GOP used to represent the fusion of interests among religious conservatives, advocates of small government, and strong national defenders. It seems though that in the last 6 years, the religious conservatives have been blatantly pandered to (gay marriage and Terry Schiavo, Internet gambling ban, for example) while national defense has fared acceptably, and small government is not even on the radar (Medicare Rx, No Child Left Behind, campaign finance 'reform', Internet gambling ban).

Do you see the GOP returning to a balance among these constituencies, and if so, how will you work to restore it?

By all means visit there and enhance my questions' standing. For all the good it might do you.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Senator Frist, take down this secret hold!

I will not support a secret hold on legislation that impairs the transparency of operation of the Federal Government.

A nagging problem remains, however: Senate rules on collegiality may trump honesty to one's constituents. What is to keep a Senator who did place the hold on S.2590 from saying through his or her staffer that he or she didn't?

Would appointment of Senators have been better in this case? Can't say. A State has every bit as much incentive to solicit a Federal bribe in the form of pork, as would a group of voters in a city or county---perhaps more.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Quick hits on policy

Illegal immigration, border security, economic impact of and dependence upon immigrants:
  1. Control the borders. Use lethal force if necessary.
  2. Make damned sure the borders are controlled and we can identify anyone crossing that border. Pay attention to people crossing the border, less on contraband.
  3. Are the borders controlled? Are we effectively identifying every beating heart that enters the US? OK.
  4. Establish a guest-worker program that is compatible with the controlled borders. Guest workers need to leave the country periodically, whether to vote in their home country's elections or to pay home country taxes, I really don't give a damn.
  5. Only the worker enters the country. No family, no spouse.
  6. Guest workers must leave, once or twice a year, and they have to provide proof that they did. The controlled border lets them back in without hassle when they present this proof. This requirement reduces the impact on the worker being away from home and family.
  7. Like any other Federal law (and this one must be Federal), give it an arbitrary sunset, slightly longer than one Senatorial term. If it works, it will be renewed.
  8. As Federal law, stake out clearly to the States that Federal law decides how these guest-workers can be handled. States may not issue identity documents to them nor recognize any identity documents they wish. Only the Federally issued guest-worker ID will be honored. States can issue motor vehicle operator licenses to them but only in conjunction with the guest-worker ID; the State-issued license will be distinct and explicitly becomes void without the guest-worker ID.
  9. The guest-worker ID will allow them to open bank accounts, rent apartments and post-office boxes, buy, rent or sell automobiles, borrow money, and otherwise enjoy the benefits of a free market.
  10. Deny the guest-workers eligibility for as many State-paid or -delivered benefits as possible. Social Security, Medicare, workman's comp. Let the employers provide these benefits if they must.
  11. The employers are responsible for remitting guest-workers' taxes to their countries of origin, if applicable.
  12. Do not allow unions to force guest-workers to join.
  13. Do not tax guest workers for goods and services for which they are ineligible. Make the relative costs of hiring a guest-worker versus a US citizen starkly visible to everybody---positive or negative.
  14. Wait seven years. Watch ag commodity prices, new home prices, rates for landscaping, hotel room rates, you name it. Vote accordingly.

I haven't always held this opinion, used to lean hard towards the "open borders, free market" view. After some consideration, recent conversations with my brother (keeper of Scooter), and the steady increase of blog and news tempo on the topic, my opinions have changed. The US is still dependent upon inexpensive labor, partly because US law has gradually made native US labor too damned expensive. Illegal immigration is substituted for one big fat inevitable reason, it's cheaper even after massive attempts to interdict it. If everyone can see the true cost of both imported and domestic labor, the policy decisions---the politics---will sort themselves out.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Screw nuance

Chaz suggests this as a campaign theme. I can't claim that my campaign so far has adhered to it, but it has that direct, Western-ish appeal.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

talking smack to power

I received a fundraising letter recently, and I wrote this in reply instead:

Dear Senator Thomas and the Wyoming GOP:

Thank you for your recent letter seeking my support for the Republican Party.

Before I can commit financial support, I need to become more familiar with the Party’s legislative agenda, both in my new home State and in the US Congress.

I am very concerned that Social Security privatization has stalled, and that our President, fine man though he is, has not summoned the necessary support from the GOP to pass this legislation. It is also troubling that the GOP-led Congress is on a spending jag that rivals the bloated budgets of past Democrat-controlled Congresses. As a serviceman, I make only so much money, but I donate what I can and I make it count. I can’t give you any if that money continues to be taxed away from me, borrowed by Congress and spent foolishly. Please look at Porkbusters, then look deep into the appropriations for Wyoming and pare what you can: there’s a war on.

The right to keep and bear arms is also important to me. With a GOP-led Congress in place for years, the RKBA should be enjoying a renaissance; yet the misnamed Assault Weapon Ban barely missed reauthorization, and replacement parts for these arms cannot be imported. BATFE is a rogue agency. Guns were seized from Katrina-flooded homeowners---by National Guardsmen! Lukewarm GOP support for my RKBA is scarcely better than the open hostility of Democrats. Please talk to the Firearms Coalition about their legislative agenda, and make it yours.

I’d like to help you, sincerely, but I need to know the GOP’s plans. and their will to execute them.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

for a past Senator

Dear Senator Salazar:

I oppose any attempt by Congress to disrupt or question or impugn the profits of oil companies. If they are profiting from the recent disturbances caused by the hurricanes, it is because our energy infrastructure is not allowed to pursue profits and attract investors in a more conventional way. Such investment and profits would give the entire economy the clear signals necessary for them to anticipate disasters and the better to position themselves to withstand the effects of such disasters. The oil companies deserve what little blip in their bottom lines this "windfall" has given them. So do the people who have invested in them.

Bringing farmers in to testify before Congress about high energy prices is hardly wisdom. Farmers have received, and continue to receive, obscene subsidies that easily offset the high energy prices that they experience. The US government caused those high energy prices because the worldwide demand for oil has increased while US supply of oil has been artificially held constant and distribution systems are forced to cater to a fragmented market.

You would do everyone a favor not by trouping through the "suffererers," but by opening Congress to the people who had the forethought to invest in oil, and to invest in uncertainty, to invest in life as we know it every day. Once you've welcomed these investors and entrepreneurs to testify, listen to what they have to say.

If you have but one shred of decency, keep Uncle Sam's hands off of oil shale. It will prosper on its own if it is left unsullied. Leave this resource in private hands and open to private investment, and our dependence on foreign oil will diminish. For oil shale to succeed, all you, and Congress, have to do is nothing.

I am generally skeptical about the USA-PATRIOT Act and the level of discretion it appears to give to the Federal government over investigation of non-state actors. I am concerned that this Act is used overwhelmingly to prosecute the Wars on Drugs, guns, and pornography, and it is toothless in pursuit of genuine non-state Islamic terrorists. I'd just as soon trash it as revise or limit it.

From what I have read about Samuel Alito and his past rulings, I think he will make a sound and acceptable Supreme Court justice, and you should vote to confirm him.

Fusilier N. Pundit
Your future colleague and former constituent

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Advice to protestor

No, Mrs Sheehan, I do not agree with the notion of seeking a meeting with the President to convince him to withdraw US troops from Iraq. The decision to send them in the first place was taken by many of my colleagues here in Congress, as it is in their power alone to commit the United States to armed conflict.

Congress tells the President to go to war, as it did indeed in this case; the President is obligated to execute that war with the men and materials that Congress appropriates for that purpose. I suggest you talk to them about this matter and leave the President to handle the job we've given him.