Sunday, May 31, 2009

Justice Dept. Politicizing Justice?

Remember the hue and cry when the Bush administration fired about nine percent of the U.S. attorneys (who are, after all, political rather than civil service employees)--that the Justice Department had been politicized and all that. Is the Obama administration engaged in politicization efforts at Justice? Well, you be "the judge."

Exhibit A: voter intimidation:
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as "the most blatant form of voter intimidation" that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
More here.

Exhibit B: partisan prosecution:
The lawyers representing a controversial Arizona sheriff who is under investigation for his treatment of Latino residents accused officials in the Justice and Homeland Security departments yesterday of political motivations in pursuing probes against their client.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and his office, which have drawn widespread attention for an unorthodox approach to crime and punishment, are the focus of three federal investigations into whether they violated federal rules or civil rights laws in pursuing illegal immigrants...
Yesterday, Arpaio's attorneys wrote to Obama administration officials, questioning whether investigators followed ethics rules in launching the probes this year.
Robert N. Driscoll, a District-based lawyer for Maricopa County who served as a civil rights official at the Justice Department early in the George W. Bush era, said he was seeking "assurances that political rivalries and score settling played no role in the investigations."
Separately, in what is commonly referred as a Friday "document dump (in an attempt avoid scrutiny from the media "watchdogs" who have already skipped town early for their summer homes), it looks like the Obama administration has backtracked on allowing 17 Uigher detainees to come to the U.S.:
The Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court Friday to reject a request for a hearing from 17 Chinese Muslims currently being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, arguing they have no right to come to America despite a district judge's orders last Fall that they immediately be brought to the U.S. and released.
"Petitioners are free to return to their home country, but they understandably do not wish to do so, because they fear inhumane treatment there," reads the filing, signed by US Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, and other Justice Department officials. "Petitioners are also free to go to any other country that is willing to accept them."
Many European countries are waiting for the US to accept the Uighurs before they agree to accept any more detainees from Guantanamo, but there is strong resistance from Congress, which recently voted to keep any detainees out of the US -- even out of US prisons.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Car Trouble

Contribute to Republican candidates--lose your Chrysler car dealership. That's the allegation currently sweeping through the blogosphere. It seems farfetched, and wholly un-American, doesn't it? But several bloggers are closely examining the evidence. Let's hope this scandal turns out to be unfounded, just an urban political myth, otherwise the Obama administration is engaging in what some are calling economic fascism. For more on this story, see Does Obama have a car dealer enemies list? A further update here.

Update: This just in from the Washington Examiner:
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Republicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty
The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?
Further update: "A preliminary study by found that the data do not support the charges."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Court Validates Traditional Marriage

California's highest court has affirmed Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage that was approved by Golden State voters in a November 4, 2008 statewide referendum:
The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed...
The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California Constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.
The court said the Californians have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.
Notwithstanding the fact that in May 2008 the same court found that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the privacy, due process, and equal protection provisions of California's founding document, the majority opinion reasoned that "Because the California Constitution explicitly recognizes the right of the people to amend their state Constitution through the initiative process, the people, in exercising that authority, have not in any way impermissibly usurped a power allocated by the Constitution exclusively to the judiciary or some other entity or branch of government."

Carlos Moreno, the lone dissenting justice in today's decision, had been rumored to be on Obama's short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Click here for the full-text of the 185-page opinion.

Sotomayor Picked for High Court

The AP is reporting this morning that--as expected--Obama has nominated ultra liberal Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. One might wonder if empathy, rather than ethnicity, was actually the decisive factor in the choice.

The Cato Institute is not enthralled with the selection:
In picking Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama has confirmed that identity politics matter to him more than merit.
Judge Sotomayor is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary and would not even have been on the shortlist if she were not Hispanic.
She has a mixed reputation, with a questionable temperament and no particularly important opinions in over 10 years on the Second Circuit. Most notably, she was part of the panel that summarily affirmed the dismissal of Ricci v. DeStefano, where the City of New Haven denied firefighter promotions based on an admittedly race-neutral exam whose results did not yield the “correct” racial mix of successful candidates. Sotomayor’s colleague José Cabranes—a liberal Democrat—excoriated the panel’s actions and the Supreme Court will likely reverse the ruling next month.
If this is the kind of “empathy” the president wants from his judges, we are in for a long summer—and more bitter confirmation battles in the future.
And here's the YouTube video making the rounds of the Internet that seems to confirm the judge's activist credentials.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Judging Biden On Judges

When Sen. Joe Biden was named Obama's running mate back in the summer, the very first thing that came to mind was his grandstanding antics during hearings for Supreme Court nominees. We know that Biden, like his boss, got a free ride during the presidential campaign, but in a piece called "How Joe Biden Wrecked the Judicial Confirmation Process," the Wall Street Journal picks up on his Judiciary Committee obstructionism:
By the time Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings came around, Mr. Biden's modus operandi was well known. In his book, "My Grandfather's Son," Justice Thomas recalls that before the Anita Hill inquisition began, Mr. Biden called him and said "Judge, I know you don't believe me but if the allegations come up I will be your biggest defender." "He was right about one thing," Justice Thomas wrote, "I didn't believe him."
More on Biden's "talkative" past and present here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Two-State Non-Solution?

We often pondered this question: If the governments in the Middle East are so concerned about the plight of the Palestinians, why do they allow them to languish in refugee camps rather than granting them citizenship and assimilating them into their vast countries?

Global intelligence analysts at Stratfor cut through the fog and oversimplification surrounding the presumed imperative for the creation of a Palestinian state:
The foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for years has been the assumption that there would be a two-state solution. Such a solution has not materialized for a host of reasons…For this reason, the entire peace process — including the two-state solution — is a chimera. Neither side can live with what the other can offer. But if it is a fiction, it is a fiction that serves U.S. purposes. The United States has interests that go well beyond Israeli interests and sometimes go in a different direction altogether. Like Israel, the United States understands that one of the major obstacles to any serious evolution toward a two-state solution is Arab hostility to such an outcome.
The Jordanians have feared and loathed Fatah in the West Bank ever since the Black September uprisings of 1970. The ruling Hashemites are ethnically different from the Palestinians (who constitute an overwhelming majority of the Jordanian population), and they fear that a Palestinian state under Fatah would threaten the Jordanian monarchy. For their part, the Egyptians see Hamas as a descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks the Mubarak government’s ouster — meaning Cairo would hate to see a Hamas-led state. Meanwhile, the Saudis and the other Arab states do not wish to see a radical altering of the status quo, which would likely come about with the rise of a Palestinian polity.
At the same time, whatever the basic strategic interests of the Arab regimes, all pay lip service to the principle of Palestinian statehood. This is hardly a unique situation. States frequently claim to favor various things they actually are either indifferent to or have no intention of doing anything about. Complicating matters for the Arab states is the fact that they have substantial populations that do care about the fate of the Palestinians. These states thus are caught between public passion on behalf of Palestinians and the regimes’ interests that are threatened by the Palestinian cause. The states’ challenge, accordingly, is to appear to be doing something on behalf of the Palestinians while in fact doing nothing...
The various Israeli-Palestinian peace processes have thus served U.S. and Arab interests quite well. They provide the illusion of activity, with high-level visits breathlessly reported in the media, succeeded by talks and concessions — all followed by stalemate and new rounds of violence, thus beginning the cycle all over again.
Click here for the full report, "An Israeli Prime Minister Comes to Washington Again."

Obama Administration Opposes Phony Lawsuit Over Phony Scandal

With much fanfare, the Bush administration was accused of outing a so-called "covert" CIA operative (the same operative whose face was plastered all over pages of Vanity Fair magazine). Notwithstanding this media-promoted circus, the Obama administration has adopted the Bush legal team's opposition to the self-promoting operative's civil lawsuit:
The Obama administration Wednesday took the side of top Bush administration officials - including most-vocal recent critic, former Vice President Dick Cheney - in the ongoing fight over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by Mrs. Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, against several top Bush administration officials. The department's move continued the Bush administration's policy to fight the suit, which has already been dismissed by two lower courts.
And remember when the Bush administration was regularly assailed for shredding the Constitution and assaulting civil liberties? This story from the Obama-friendly New York Times is particularly provocative against the backdrop of the current Cheney-Obama rhetorical tussle:
President Obama told human rights advocates at the White House on Wednesday that he was mulling the need for a "preventive detention" system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer notices that something fishy is going on:
If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.
And doesn't this practice sound like rendition?
The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials.
The change represents a significant loosening of the reins for the United States, which has worked closely with allies to combat violent extremism since the 9/11 attacks but is now pushing that cooperation to new limits.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Who's In Charge Here?

Not everyone is on board the hope and change train. For example, this ruling from a District of Columbia federal judge:
A federal judge says the United States can continue to hold some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without any charges.
U.S. District Judge John Bates' opinion issued Tuesday night limited the Obama administration's definition of who can be held. But he said Congress in the days after Sept. 11, 2001 gave the president the authority to hold anyone involved in planning, aiding or carrying out the terrorist attacks.
And federal lawmakers nixed the Gitmo closure at least for now:
The Senate voted on Wednesday to yank money for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp from a war spending bill, delivering a setback to President Obama in his efforts to shutter the prison by the start of 2010.
By a vote of 90-6, the Senate approved an amendment that not only blocks supplemental funds from being used to close Guantanamo and move detainees to U.S. soil, but also orders that no funds already in U.S. coffers be redirected toward that purpose.
In the meantime, Obama's teleprompter is getting a further workout in the damage-control mode. Yet even Obama's devoted chorus at the New York Times published this significant story:
An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.
The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.
Breaking News from the New York Post: A FBI/NYPD anti-terror task force has busted four conspirators after a year-long investigation.
Four homegrown Muslim terrorists on a mission from hell were arrested last night as they planted what they thought were high-powered plastic explosives at two Bronx synagogues, authorities said. The men were also allegedly plotting to use a Stinger missile to shoot a military plane out of the sky in upstate New York immediately after the bombings.
The Post article adds that three of the four suspects "converted to Islam after recent stints in jail."

Do we really want former Gitmo detainees mingling with prisoners in U.S. jails?

More on the jailhouse jihadists here.

Guest Blog: Saving the Lamb

Guest blogger Jason Tabrys of contributes this alternative viewpoint in response to yesterday's post about the court decision requiring a boy to endure chemotherapy against his parent's will:

It is a never ending battle that now ensnares the fragile life of a young boy stricken with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Science and faith clashing over a young boy and the decision of his parents to steer clear of Western remedies like chemotherapy. Statistics say that with chemotherapy the boy stands a 95% chance of surviving, without it a 90% chance of death. Minnesota District Court Judge John Rodenberg weighed in ordering a chest X-ray of the boy to determine his prognosis and set the stage for a resumption of chemotherapy if the X-ray results showed it would be beneficial in the boys treatment. Dissatisfied with that verdict the mother decided to flee with the boy in tow. These are the irrefutable facts of this horrific story that promise to damage this boy in someway regardless of the outcome.

Stories like this are admittedly horrible, pitting family against government, a boy's life hanging in the balance and the inclusion of belief as a main player. When belief enters the fray, the argument becomes delicate. People commit to their beliefs, breathe them, and live them. It is their everything in some cases, and to attack that or be flip is to attack their entire existence. Now I respect faith, and alternate views in regard to healing. In my life I have known people who believe with their whole heart that the best course of treatment for sickness is the homeopathic route, and yet I have been someone who entrusts their wellness to medical science in the face of sickness. Both paths are a choice that must be made in an informed way, weighing both options and their positives and negatives individually. The problem here though is that the boy does not have the capacity to effectively judge which path is best for him. He is a minor child at 13 and is also reportedly illiterate. At this stage of his life it would be unfair to allow anyone to stand in the way of this young man living a long and happy life, a life that will most likely not exist beyond mere months or years if his parents are allowed to decide his fate with their views.

Now what makes science appropriate to force on this boy but not the beliefs of his parents? Fact, science is based in factual data, knowledge of what has happened within a range of similar circumstances before. Information and statistics thoroughly studied and repeatedly proven. The advances of Western medicine are real, the benefits of chemotherapy, of radiation, are real. I have seen these benefits in my own family and most likely you have to. People in this world are living longer lives because of these advances. And while a belief in the holistic must be respected and exist as possibly adequate alternatives with regard to general care and vaccinations (though that too is suspect), it cannot supply the same weight of evidence to show that this boys life will be adequately protected from the clear and present danger that grows within him. And allowing this boys parents to exist as if there is such evidence is a dereliction by society that may allow this boys life to slip away.

Yes the intrusion of the government in this matter is startling but it is an outrage that is surpassed by the actions of the boys parents who are allowing their sons safety to fall into doubt in the name of homeopathy and religious belief. Respecting their wishes for the sake of respecting faith is an understandable reflex but if their religion called for sacrificial slaughter of the boy would we not expect the legal and child welfare system to react? And is this really anything less then a near certain sacrifice? I think not, and as much as it pains me to advocate action, we must. If the boys mother and father cannot see truth through the haze of hope and do that which will give their son length of years then they prove themselves inadequate guardians and the court is right to ensure the child’s welfare and direct his treatment in ways that the parents will not. I only hope that the boy can be found in time to save his life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Healthcare "Reform": A "Shovel Ready" Job?

"The whole trial is out of order!" That's what Arthur Kirkland, the firebrand attorney portrayed by Al Pacino in And Justice for All, shouts in the courtroom in the classic scene that concludes the movie.

That's kind of what we felt upon hearing that a Minnesota judge ordered a 13-year-old boy with Hodgkin's lymphoma to submit to chemotherapy against his will.

Admittedly, before it happens (and hopefully it never will), no one really knows how he or she would react to a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, including what treatment to undergo.

And memo to lawmakers of both parties: The U.S. has made incredible advances in medical technology, especially in emergency situations, thanks to the freemarket, but "healthcare" is not merely about pharmaceutical drugs or surgery.

But don't you find it disturbing that a court would force someone to take chemicals into their body? Chemotherapy can destroy the patient's immune system, so it's completely understandable that a similarly situated family would resist this treatment. And perhaps Constitutionally protected religious liberty is also implicated here. Does chemotherapy offer a better ultimate outcome for the boy? An Internet search will come up with alternative, more holistic-oriented therapies for various conditions. Ironically, some physicians and other healers who have had legitimate successes following alternative protocols wind up in the crosshairs of the regulatory authorities.

Perhaps engaging in some degree of hyperbole, Mike Adams, the self-described "Health Ranger," opines the following about this case on his Natural News website:
There is not a single cancer patient that has ever been cured by chemotherapy. Zero. They don't exist. Not a single documented case in the history of western medicine.
And why is that? Because conventional medicine operates from the false belief that there is no cure for cancer! Thus, anyone offering a cure (or assisting in the body's own natural reversal of the disease) is immediately dismissed as a quack. Meanwhile, the real quackery is found in the pushing of toxic chemotherapy chemicals that are injected into the bodies of patients and called "treatment" when they should really be called "torture." (Nancy Pelosi, by the way, was never briefed on the fact that chemotherapy is torture...)
What's most disturbing in all of this, of course, is that the state is now forcing parents to poison their own children, requiring they hand over money to Big Pharma and conventional cancer treatment centers. The concept of freedom of choice has been stolen away from parents. The idea of protecting your children from toxic chemicals has been not just nullified, but made illegal!
We have no idea of the family dynamic in this particular instance, or whether the parents have fully looked into legitimate alternatives. And who knows how this situation will eventually play out. We wish the family all the best. But leaving aside this particular controversy, the larger issue is why not explore all alternatives, aside from chemicals, perhaps proceeding on a parallel conventional-holistic track? And doesn't an oncologist have a moral if not ethical duty to explore all modalities beyond chemotherapy and radiation?

On a related subject, it seems every day there is news about pharmaceutical drugs yanked off the market by the FDA because of devastating side effects? Ironically, regardless of which administration holds power, the FDA seems to be obsessed with trying to regulate the nutritional supplement industry. Seems like they should concentrate their resources on the drug regulation.

(In general, while we're in no way, shape or form giving any kind of health advice, some supplements made by reputable companies with quality ingredients can be worthwhile, some with less potent ingredients aren't. And some alternative healing techniques work for some people and not for others. But hasn't it been established that many expensive drugs don’t work for many people?)

Doctors and insurance companies have a lot of explaining to do about skyrocketing medical costs. For a variety of reasons, health insurance costs in particular are out of control, especially for any worker who has been laid off and been forced to pay for expensive COBRA benefits. The so-called stimulus package provides temporary partial reimbursement for COBRA, but that's just a band aid. So health insurance portability must be addressed.

So there needs to be sensible, structural insurance reform, but orchestrated by and in the private sector. (Another issue for another time is whether a healthy citizen should be forced to subsidize the costs of those who have led self-destructive lifestyles, or those who are here illegally.)

Not to get too metaphysical, but there is a strong mind-body connection in staying healthy, and millions of Americans have had good results with alternative approaches. Not every effective protocol shows up in a stuffy, peer-reviewed medical journal.

Again, leaving this particular cancer case aside, if really want to help people stay healthy and prevent disease, why not provide insurance reimbursement for more holistic techniques on the front end, thereby avoiding catastrophic costs on the back end?

Government-run healthcare, a/k/a single payer or socialized medicine, is not the answer. It doesn't make sense. Why would liberals and Democrats and their compliant trained seals in the news media (those that claim to be "pro choice") want to foist a system on this country that has failed in every other country that it has been tried. In fact, many of those systems are on the verge of bankruptcy. In fact, patients from other countries under national healthcare flee their system to be treated in the U.S. The logical extension of single payer is rationing and waiting lists for both routine and non-routine services. Is that an upgrade over the current system with all its faults? As P.J. O'Rourke famously said, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."

The Oscar-winning movie The Barbarian Invasions gives an unsettling glimpse of the botched nature of the government-run Canadian healthcare system. The excellent film (which somehow slipped past Hollywood's politically correct gatekeepers) centers on a Montreal college professor with terminal cancer who seeks to reconcile with his estranged son, or perhaps vice versa. In one pertinent scene, to get his father out of a chaotic hospital ward, the son must bribe sullen and corrupt union bosses to provide his father with a private room.

Government-run "healthcare"? The state, in the form of judges or other bureaucrats, intervening in family medical decisions? That's not reform we can believe in.

More on nationalized medical care here and here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The "Deadbeats" Among Us

Welcome to the world of Orwellian economic doublespeak where responsible consumers who pay their monthly credit card bill in full become "deadbeats" and must be punished:
Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.
Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit....
“It will be a different business,” said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which has been lobbying Congress for more lenient legislation on behalf of the nation’s biggest banks. “Those that manage their credit well will in some degree subsidize those that have credit problems.”

Video: The Obama-ACORN Connection

FNC's O'Reilly airs a follow-up report on the pre-election Obama-ACORN story that was spiked by the New York Times with the ACORN whistleblower herself speaking:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Detainee Developments-- Less Hope and No Change?

France, which previously agreed to accept one Gitmo detainee, is the new home of the plaintiff in the high-profile Boumediene v. Bush case:
The United States on Friday released the Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was at the center of a Supreme Court battle giving detainees the right to challenge their confinement, an Obama administration official said.
Lakhdar Boumediene left the U.S. naval facility in Cuba Friday headed to relatives in France, said the official, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the release was not yet cleared for announcement.
Boumediene was arrested along with five other Algerians in 2001 in Bosnia, suspected in a bomb plot against the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. He arrived in Guantanamo in January 2002...
In June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Boumediene v. Bush that foreign Guantanamo Bay detainees have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in civilian courts. On a 5-4 split, the majority said the U.S. government was violating the rights of prisoners there and that the system the Bush administration put in place to classify suspects as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.
As we noted in a previous post, the administration has made another about face in formally bringing back military tribunals:
President Obama on Friday announced plans to restart the military commissions launched under President Bush to try some suspected terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay detention site, sparking fresh anger from liberal and human rights groups who had hoped Mr. Obama's election signaled a clean break with Bush-era policies.
Mr. Obama argued that changes he was making to the system would give detainees the due process previously unavailable to them.
And here is a related development that will also further disappoint some of the president's most fervent supporters:
The Obama administration is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The proposal being floated with members of Congress is another indication of President Barack Obama's struggles to establish his counter-terrorism policies, balancing security concerns against attempts to alter Bush-administration practices he has harshly criticized.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nancy Pelosi's "Tortured" Logic About Waterboarding

Captain Renault, the police official in Casablanca, was shocked to learn that gambling was going on in Rick's nightclub--just as a croupier handed him his winnings. Isn't that to some degree what Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to pull in her inept and scattered press conference?
Under pressure to explain conflicting stories, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that in 2003 she was told waterboarding and other tough tactics were being used on suspected terrorists and did not object to them, even as she defiantly accused the CIA of lying to her and Congress about the use of such controversial techniques during 2002 briefings.
The CIA, in an unusually curt response, defended its account that showed Mrs. Pelosi was briefed about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding in a Sept. 4, 2002, meeting.

Pelosi was a placeholder who only became Speaker by virtue of seniority and being next in line after the Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives and surrendered the gavel. It is now unlikely that her credibility issues will go away anytime soon.
Pelosi is not out of the woods. She could have saved herself some trouble by admitting earlier that she had been informed that the CIA was using waterboarding. By doing what she did yesterday, she has assured that she will remain a central character in the political fight that is raging. But whether by design or accident, she also succeeded in enlarging a controversy that is no longer a sideshow.
If Congress is intent on going forward with a so-called Truth Commission on enhanced interrogation techniques, how long will it be before Pelosi decides to "spend more time with her family"?

Update: In a memo to employees posted on the agency's website, CIA Director Leon Panetta (also a California Democrat who served with Pelosi in the House of Representatives) said "Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values." Click here for the full statement.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Savage Nation: Not the British Government's Cup of Tea

One of the many reasons why the formerly entrenched UK Labor Party is in shambles is the decision by politically correct Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to ban San Francisco-based talk show host Michael Savage from British soil. The idea that you would put someone who editorializes in front a radio microphone on the same list as terrorists and others who pose a physical threat to the British populace is beyond laughable.

London Mayor Boris Johnson chided members of parliament for failing to stand up for free speech and denounce Smith's action, yet at the same time condemned Savage's "ugly rantings." Well, if you've ever listened to Savage's amped-up show, The Savage Nation (and no doubt this controversy has boosted his reach both here and in Europe via Internet streaming), it can be hard to take other than in small doses, even if you agree with him on the importance of "borders, language, and culture." And he barely gives the callers a chance to get a word in edgewise, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of talk radio in the first place. But he is a very gifted and compelling--and often narcissistic--monologist, but who in "show business" isn't a narcissist? Putting politics aside, when Savage talks about his Bronx childhood or his day-to-day encounters in the "City by the Bay," he is hilarious. With Savage's scientific training, the listener can also learn about holistic health and nutrition. In a Washington Times profile, a talk radio insider aptly refers to Savage as "a political bomb thrower or a Borscht belt entertainer." So, while Savage's explosive on-the-air demeanor can be challenging to the audience especially after a hard day at work, he's definitely not a one-trick pony. And no one forces you to listen to Savage--or any other media figure for that matter.

The larger issue involving freedom of expression is far more significant. There are efforts on this side of the pond to reinstitute the so-called Fairness Doctrine, a thinly veiled way to censor conservative talk radio programming. And Smith seems to have the same level of competency as her counterpart, DHS Secretary Napolitano, who was just forced to take down a controversial and misguided report on so-called extremist groups. Oddly, Napolitano is said to be on the short list for the pending Supreme Court nomination.

Although this may be just saber rattling, Savage claimed he is consulting with attorneys about bringing a lawsuit against Jacqui Smith for defamation, but Smith may be protected for one thing by the doctrine of "sovereign immunity" for actions taken as part of her official duties.

Update: Despite the fact that Jacqui Smith has resigned from the rapidly imploding UK Labor government, Savage is going ahead with his defamation lawsuit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Virtual Fencing Going Forward. Controversial Photos To Be Kept Under Wraps?

Campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, more apparent homeland security continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations:
In announcing the resumption of a "virtual fence" on the U.S.-Mexican border yesterday, the Obama administration sent a powerful message of continuity with President George W. Bush, who included a pledge to secure the border as part of a 2006 effort to persuade Congress to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
Much as Bush aides did three years ago, administration officials in the Department of Homeland Security described a five-year, multibillion-dollar plan yesterday to link a chain of tower-mounted sensors and other surveillance equipment over most of the 2,000-mile southern frontier. As before, the network of cameras, radar and communications gear is intended to speed deployment of U.S. Border Patrol officers to intercept illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and other violators, yielding greater "operational control" over the vast and rugged area.
Meanwhile, according to ABC News, it seems that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about releasing those photos depicting detainee mistreatment:
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was today asked about a letter from Sens. Joe Lieberman, D-Ind., and Lindsey Graham, R-SC, asking him to reverse the decision, saying the "release of these old photographs of past behavior that has now been clearly prohibited can serve no public good, but will empower al-Qaeda propaganda operations, hurt our country’s image, and endanger our men and women in uniform.
Gibbs said "obviously, the president has, has great concern about any impact that pictures of detainee -- potential detainee abuse in the past could have on the present-day service members that are protecting our freedom either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or throughout the world. That's something the president is very cognizant of. And we are working to -- we are working currently to figure out what the process is moving forward."
The Weekly Standard goes out on a limb to suggest that a reversal of the decision is imminent. Stay tuned.

Update: It's official--the administration has backpedaled and will now fight to prevent the "extradition" of the photos.
President Obama said Wednesday that he told government lawyers to object to a court-ordered release of additional images showing alleged abuse of detainees because the release could affect the safety of U.S. troops and "inflame anti-American opinion.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Administration Supporters Reevaluating their CEO in Chief

A self-sufficient, vibrant free-market economy forms an important component of national security. As we alluded to in a previous post, the private sector obviously has corrupt and fundamentally unfair and greedy elements, to say the very least. But excessive government intervention--not to mention nationalization of industries--leads to high costs, inefficiencies and disincentives, and more corruption. With that in mind we found this item from the British press almost funny, except that the rest of us are involuntarily along for the ride:
Wealthy Wall Street financiers and other business figures provided crucial support for Mr Obama during the election, backing him over the Republican candidate John McCain as the right leader to rescue the collapsing US economy.
But it is now dawning on many among them that Mr Obama was serious about his campaign trail promises to bring root and branch reform to corporate America - and that they were more than just election rhetoric.
A top Obama fundraiser and hedge fund manager said: "I'm appalled at the anti-Wall Street rhetoric. It was OK on the campaign but now it's the real world. I'm surprised that Obama is turning out to be so left-wing. He's a real class warrior."
If we remember correctly, Ayn Rand termed those who were part of the corporate welfare/individual welfare system in Atlas Shrugged as "looters."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Military Tribunals, The Reboot

Yet another disappointment to the "civil liberties" element of Obama's teleprompter-induced coalition, i.e., those who bought into empty campaign rhetoric:
The Obama administration is preparing to revive the system of military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under new rules that would offer terrorism suspects greater legal protections, government officials said.
The rules would block the use of evidence obtained from coercive interrogations, tighten the admissibility of hearsay testimony and allow detainees greater freedom to choose their attorneys, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The military commissions have allowed the trial of terrorism suspects in a setting that favors the government and protects classified information, but they were sharply criticized during the administration of President George W. Bush. "By any measure, our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure," then-candidate Barack Obama said in June 2008.
In another legal development that puts the administration at odds with many of its supporters, the Ninth Circuit rejected the Justice Department's secrecy doctrine argument in a case revolving around the controversial rendition program:
A federal appeals court rebuffed the Obama administration's assertion of secrecy Tuesday and reinstated a lawsuit by five men who say a Bay Area subsidiary of Boeing Co. helped the CIA fly them to foreign countries to be tortured.
The ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is the first major setback for the new administration's attempt to use secrecy doctrines to fend off challenges to clandestine activities authorized by President George W. Bush. President Obama's Justice Department is also defending a Bush wiretapping program in lawsuits pending in San Francisco.
Click here for the full text of the decision in Binyan Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., Case No. 08-15693.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gitmo Detainees--NIMBY

The way this administration is backpedaling and frontpedaling on what to do with the residents of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison, the detainees in question could score some hefty frequent flier miles:
The Obama administration will not release terrorists from Guantanamo Bay into neighborhoods in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Thursday as he sought to reassure worried lawmakers.
"We don't have any plans to release terrorists," Holder testified at a Senate hearing on the Obama administration's budget for the Justice Department. The budget proposal released Thursday requests up to $160 million to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
But he also said some of the detainees at the facility will be let go, indicating the administration believes some held there are not terrorists. Asked after the hearing if he believes some current Guantanamo detainees are innocent, Holder did not answer.
Federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made it clear--not in my backyard:
On his second day in office, President Obama ordered the Pentagon to mothball Guantanamo within one year, purportedly to reclaim the "moral high ground." That earned applause from the anti-antiterror squadrons, yet it is now causing all kinds of practical and political problems in what used to be known as the war on terror.
This mess grew even more chaotic this week, when Democrats refused the Administration's $50 million budget request to transfer some of the remaining 241 Gitmo detainees to a prison likely to be somewhere in the U.S. and perhaps to a new one built with taxpayer dollars. "What do we do with the 50 to 100 -- probably in that ballpark -- who we cannot release and cannot try?" Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently asked Congress.
The best answer is Gitmo. But the antiwar left wants terrorists treated like garden-variety criminals in the civilian courts or maybe military courts martial. The not-so-minor problem is that even states that send leftists to Congress don't want to host Gitmo-II. Think California, where Alcatraz could be an option. The abandoned San Francisco Bay prison has Gitmo's virtue of relative isolation -- but Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, claims it is a national treasure. The terrorist-next-door problem is also rising to a high boil in Kansas politics, given that Fort Leavenworth is being eyed too.
The Washington Post also chimes in on Congressional resistance:
Worried that some former Guantanamo Bay detainees may end up on U.S. soil, congressional Republicans and Democrats are sharply questioning President Obama's plans for closing the military prison in Cuba.
The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee yesterday [May 7] passed a bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while stripping the more than $50 million that administration officials had requested for closing the prison and starting the relocation of its 240 prisoners.
Lawmakers criticized the administration for not yet offering a detailed plan on prisoner relocation.
Republicans are touting a bill that would prohibit any stateside relocation without the approval of the governor and the legislature of the affected state. Senate Republicans have also released this video preview of "coming attractions."Meanwhile, administration bureaucrats can't seem to keep track of terror suspects that are still at large:
Nearly eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI's terrorist watch list is so flawed that at least 10 people who should have been kept out of the United States were allowed to cross its borders, an internal audit released Wednesday shows.
And in yet another reversal of a campaign promise, Obama's minions must have focused-group the idea of extending amnesty to illegal aliens and did not like the results--especially with the 2010 congressional elections looming:
On the thorniest of political issues, President Obama has embraced the enforcement-first position on immigration that he criticized during last year's presidential campaign, and he now says he can't move forward with the type of comprehensive bill he wants until voters are convinced that the borders can be enforced.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

David Souter Exits Stage "Left"

It figures that the lackluster David Souter would give Obama a Supreme Court nominee so early into his term. Let's face it; had President G.H.W. Bush nominated even a garden-variety moderate, many of those narrow 5-4 high court decisions would have probably been a more definitive 6-3. The "stealth" nominee's other claim to fame, if you call it that, is and was to insure more through vetting of subsequent nominees.

Obama claims that he intends he put forward a nominee with empathy for people. We're all for empathy (although the job description primarily involves Constitutional application), but empathy for who--terrorists and criminals, and others who have chosen similar alternative lifestyles? Instead, how about empathy for law abiding, productive citizens?

The expectation is that Obama will nominate a down-the-line super liberal, who will then be pronounced by the fawning, worshipful media as a stone-cold moderate or better yet, a centrist. However, Sen. Hatch told Politico that Obama told him that the pick will be a pragmatist rather than a radical or an extremist, so time will tell.

Speculation is currently centering on Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit. Through the years, Supreme Court nominations have taken into account political, ideological, and ethnic calculations, so there is nothing new there. However, recall that President G.W. Bush attempted to nominate Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit, but Senate Democrats using procedural trickery to prevent Estrada from receiving an up-or-down vote. The Estrada contretemps served as another failure of the Bush administration to use the bully pulpit. Had Estrada made it to the D.C. Circuit bench, the likelihood is that he may have later been nominated to the Supreme Court instead of Samuel Alito.

At, Stuart Taylor suggests that Sotomayor may have a problem with her handling of the controversial New Haven firefighter case which is currently pending before the Supreme Court. The New Republic also has reservations about this judge.

There is some talk on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle about nominating someone outside the judiciary, with more "real world" experience. For once, the lawmakers are making sense.