When we conduct “Camp White Feather” here in the Pacific Northwest, we train dozens of boy scouts to earn their rifle shooting merit badges and we conduct the entire affair with a keen eye on safety, both in the way we conduct the event and how we teach heart-felt safe gun handling habits in the children that participate. We also try very hard not to get the kind of publicity evident in this article.
Enthusiasm for the hands-on event was strong yesterday, as more than 300 boys—mostly ages 7, 8 or 9—participated in what has been an annual tradition for the Cub Scouts and Schofield soldiers since 1968. Other groups were at the half-day camp Tuesday and today.
It's fun to do a shooting camp. I've done so for many years. However, the maturity of seven-year-old boys requires us to be very careful about how we conduct such a camp. We get very few that young, and we trust parents to bring children that are capable of learning and performing the required skills and the required level of skill or safety (from our application form):
Rifle shooting requires Scouts to “concentrate totally and consistently,” block out distractions and “hold the body completely still while firing the shot.” Scouts who have difficulty concentrating, are easily distracted, or have difficulty holding still will have a very difficult time meeting the shooting requirements.
Soldiers, in general, are also held to a very high standard of maturity with firearms when they are being trained. That's why the following pictures from this article surprised me somewhat.
I'm going to use two pictures of the article under “fair use” rules here. They clearly demonstrate unsafe behavior by the scouts and I want to point out why. One of our teaching rules is “never demonstrate an incorrect technique” but these two photos need comment. They were photographed by Cindy Ellen Russell of the Honolulu Star Bulletin and published in the above article.
We try hard to avoid activities that lead to the photos in that article. The top one, clearly showing children running with M-16s, shows rifles pointed in an unsafe direction, and the possibility of a finger or two on a trigger when it's obvious they are not shooting. We do conduct safe gun handling exercises where kids hold guns, and pass them to one another, and never do we see guns pointed in unsafe directions or with little fingers on the trigger.
In this picture, it's clear that a kid is point a gun in an unsafe direction, at the camera person! We never allow parents go down range to take pictures like this (and someone always wants to), and we never let kids aim at a person, or a person-like target. We never let anyone go downrange when someone is near a firearm.
When we teach kids how to earn their merit badges we talk about and demonstrate safety for a whole day. Hitting the target and improving skills comes after a demonstrated understanding of the three rules we should always follow when handling firearms:
I understand that most soldiers don't like what they consider to be bureaucratic nonsense and may not understand the single-minded pursuit of shocking imagery common in journalism, but the above two pictures are more damaging to teaching kids how to use firearms responsibly than they are evidence of fun. The soldiers will say that the guns were unloaded, and military discipline on ammunition is pretty good. However, most of the world is not a military camp, and the actions shown above can lead to firearms accidents.
(Hat tip to Alphecca, who pointed to the article here.)
Mensa Barbie has a great video called “Pallywood” in her article “Media Spoof” about staged violent events and other news manufacturing in Palestine. While it's 35MB and 20 minutes long, it's worth a look.
Orin Kerr, at The Volokh Conspiracy, boils it down:
The legality of the NSA surveillance program raises two different questions: 1) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate a provision of the Constitution?, and 2) Does the NSA's surveillance program violate any constitutionalily valid statutes? The two are quite separate issues: Whether executive branch action violates a statute is different from whether it violates the Constitution.
In many people's opinion (and obviously opinion varies), the monitoring itself was not unconstitutional. However, stronger opinion exists that it violated FISA, and was therefore illegal. If this sounds familiar, it's because I said it before on December 20th.
Perhaps this firestorm of debate will spark a case about the nexus of military and civil jurisdictions, war powers, and war authorizations. That's where the problem (and the memorable #8220;wall” between the spy agencies and the FBI investigations into terrorism) originates. Harvard Law Review has looked into it, but I don't think the nation has. There are plenty of blogs that have, for example Power Line here and the Daily Kos here.
Are we at a state of war or not? I believed so, and accepted that the nexus had moved a little more toward military realities. After all, full-scale war with a terrorist organization expert in concealing activities and having no central local of control is quite different than defending against a nation. We are interdicting emerging organizations, interfering with, or infiltrating, what we can discover of their command and control, and doing what we can to control whatever assets of mass destruction they can obtain.
International terrorists are moving into and out of the country using local resources to communicate abroad. The NSA has extensive capabilities to intercept, monitor, and decrypt such communications. It makes sense that a war would spark the use of any and every capability to confound and defeat the enemy. We should accept that sometimes mistakes are made because of the need for timely action. We should also accept that such mistakes are far less frequent now than they have been in the past. After all, people raise the specter of internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in World War II, and believe we are inches away from doing the same with Muslims today. I doubt Guantanamo is equivalent in scale to our recent history here.
However, there are others that apparently think we are not at war at all. The arguments revolve around the weasel-worded congressional authorization for (and, perhaps, temerity about) the Global War on Terror. Some clarity is necessary here, and in politics clarity is often a stated—but routinely subverted—goal.
I have great hopes that this situation will stimulate an appropriate national debate, and not a flame-fest. However, George W. Bush takes too long to respond to firestorms. He took forever to respond to criticisms about Iraq, and I feat he will take too long on this issue as well. We certainly can't trust the mainstream media to frame the debate without bias, of course, so it's up to people on both sides of the debate to make noise.
Update: There's a link-farm on this subject collected here at Kierkegaard Lives.
There are times I think Ann Coulter says stuff just to get a outraged reaction from the moonbat left:
Which brings me to this week's scandal about No Such Agency spying on “Americans.” I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
It's pretty clear Ann will never be nominated to the Supreme Court.
At any rate, compared to the legal analysis I've already linked to, her latest essay is just red meat for the Right. Normally I look for her columns as a counterpoint to the obvious slant of most news coverage, but today's essay left me a little flat.
Orin Kerr of The Volokh Conspiracy has also looked into the recent NSA eavesdropping issue. The depth is certainly better than Hugh Hewitt's posting I mentioned earlier.
Summary? NSA intercepts don't violate the Fourth Amendment, but they may be running afoul of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA). There is some question as to what kind of intercepts are being performed, which complicates the analysis.
The posting itself is good reading, but don't miss the comments.
Ever wonder about sushi? this video explains it all, but it's rather silly.
(Hat tip to Joi Ito.)
Hugh Hewitt does a legal analysis and concludes
Overlooked in most of the commentary on the New York Times article is the simple, undeniable fact that the president has the power to conduct warantless surveillance of foreign powers conspiring to kill Americans or attack the government. The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures has not been interpreted by the Supreme Court to restrict this inherent presidential power. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act … cannot be read as a limit on a constitutional authority even if the Act purported to do so.
As the blogosphere is fond of saying, read the whole thing.
On Friday the New York Times revealed that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on people in the United States. This was a re-reviewed authorization that has been renewed on a 45-day schedule thirty times since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Congressional leaders had been briefed over a dozen times that this kind of activity was being authorized.
It is interesting that this information was leaked in the middle of the filibuster against renewal of the Patriot Act provisions allowing closer scrutiny of activities within the borders of the United States. Normally the spy agency is restricted to activities abroad and domestic affairs are rightly the province of the FBI or other Justice Department agencies.
There were scandals involving the NSA in domestic espionage before with a program called Echelon. In that case the accusation was that the NSA was using foreign spy services to obtain information on activities within the US.
There is considerable fear that eavesdropping on people in the the US without oversight violates the rights of US citizens, who have strong protections against unreasonable search. Part of those protections require their being probable cause that a crime has been or will be committed by the person whose privacy is being violated.
In these cases, Bush has asserted that the eavesdropping by the NSA has been limited to international communications of those known to be associated with Al Quaeda. Normally when one party to an international communication is in the United States, the issue has been left up to the FBI.
These are the remnants of the “wall” between the military and domestic intelligence agencies, and the reason it was erected. With the passage of the Patriot Act this wall had been partially breached in order to better coordinate gathering intelligence on terrorists targeting the US. Now that the Patriot Act is up for renewal, and is being filibustered, tactics that were obvious results of the Patriot Act are being leaked in order to scare people against it.
For my part, I am unsure that the Department of Homeland Security has made significant strides in improving our situation when it comes to international agents coming to the US and conducting operations here. Clearly there is a need for an integrated approach to handling this. We can't be constantly shipping files all over Foggy Bottom, Langley, Justice, the Pentagon and back just because Al Quaeda sympathizers in the US are sending email to friends in Pakistan and Syria. Yet, there needs to be oversight of any activities that involve people in the US, because of our strong belief in reasonable protections of their privacy.
I don't know enough about how the Patriot Act, and its proposed renewal, changes things in this delicate balance. All the coverage I've seen is more slant than fact, and leaks such as Friday's only complicate the matter. I'm hoping that my representatives in Washington, DC actually know what they're doing. But, since those representatives think that Al Quaeda builds schools for the underprivileged or that Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat, I have little hope of that.
Today is the anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the US Constitution) in 1791. Exercise at least one of those rights today—if it's still legal.
The President gave an address today, and the big news, apparently, is that he's admitted we went to war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence:
“It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq,” the president told the Woodrow Wilson Center on the eve of elections to establish Iraq's first permanent, democratically elected government. “And I'm also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities. And we're doing just that.”
I suspect there will be a lot of second-guessing on the “much” part. What intelligence was wrong? Certainly specifics on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, but there were material breaches of the treaty that stopped the first Iraq war. We found enriched uranium, chemical warheads, long-range rockets that could reach Israel and other material. We didn't find mobile labs and full-scale active programs. It is suspected a lot of similar material went over the border into Syria and some of that material showed up in Jordan.
Unfortunately, Bush is also making an “ends justify the means” claim:
“We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of brutal dictator,” he said. “It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in his place… My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power,” he said.
If we had had this as the centerpiece of the arguments to go to war, that would have been better. Of course, it could never be the centerpiece in an argument to the UN, but we should have stuck to the rhetoric of “material breach” of standing agreements. We had that. It should have been compelling.
We'll see if Bush fighting back against Iraq criticism will work. He got a small jump in approval ratings that has already eroded so far.
Finally I have my grades for the fall quarter. I handled the Quality class well, and the first part of Capstone is behind me. Now for the final push: the end of Capstone.
On that front I have been made the CFO of my team, and we're charging forward. We have to present a marketing plan, a financial plan, and a comprehensive business plan (including valuation analysis) for our (semi-)ficticious business in the next three months. We've worked pretty hard on it so far, and we face our presentation of the marketing plan in mid-January.
It feels good to be on the home stretch.
As some may have noticed, we got a Christmas tree up last weekend. I got some pictures of cats slinking around a new thing wondering what the heck it might be, but Misty captured the “cats in the tree” meme far more effectively:
Snowball got such a good closeup, Church had to dive in front of her a second later:
I looked through my articles and realized I have a theme going, so I've created a “Business” category and moved a few articles to it.
A big green box appeared under (besides) the Christmas tree for Misty. Whatever could it be?
A flight arriving from Colombia had a deranged passenger aboard. He claimed to have a bomb in his bag and a Federal Air Marshal shot and subdued him.
But, deep at the bottom of the Fox News story, was a funny part:
Homeland Security officials confirmed to FOX News that this is the first time a federal air marshal has discharged his or her weapon since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The first time any Air Marshal has discharged his or her weapon in several years? Don't they practice?
Monday night Misty and I pre-screened Harry Potter at the Goblet of Fire in hopes of seeing that it would be appropriate for Alana (8) and Ryan (now 6). We came to the conclusion that it's probably too scary for them as yet. Perhaps I should not let Alana see it until she actually reads it and still asks to see it.
So, the widespread discussion about this new movie (and book) being considerably darker than the previous ones is certainly true. There's the same peril and adventure, but a decidedly nastier tone. People are actually killed and not saved in some way for the first time in the series. We have our first one-on-one confrontation with the nemesis. The light-hearted tone has faded somewhat.
However, we have a new addition that may be welcome for some in that each of our chums is starting to have romantic feelings. Of course they are confused and many angsty mistakes are made. That must be a given. We have our first dance and the usual comedy around asking people out, dressing up, and dancing.
The film checks in at two and a half hours and yet we still missed important parts of previous adventures. There's very little of the normal school stories, or even a Quidditch match. Confrontations with Snape and Malfoy feel truncated. There's no recognition of Harry's birthday (which starts off each book/year). There's no Headless Nick that I remember.
So, this film comes across a little rushed and flat compared to previous ones. I agree with others that Harry's cohorts appear to have done better acting around early teenage emotional issues compared to the main actor. Ralph Finnes did a great (and evil) performance. Little else really jumped out at me, except the new defense against the dark arts instructor. This is not going to win as my favorite of the four films, and none of these four compares to, say, Lord of the Rings. I gave the others a pass as being movies for children, but this one is no longer for children (at PG-13). And I certainly won't take my 8-year-old to see it.
Now I need to pre-screen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…
Time for Friday catblogging.
During Ryan's birthday, Church and Snowball were relegated to the guest apartment. Church doesn't seem to be too bothered by having a new space to explore, even if it was for only one day.
Snowball still insists on chasing my mouse pointer when I'm working. I thought this was a particularly cute pose.