Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trial Lawyers Stonewalling Tort Reform

Philip K. Howard, the author of Life Without Lawyers, and a strong advocate of specialized health courts, offers some insight on the role of the trial lawyers' lobby in health coverage "reform":
Eliminating defensive medicine could save upwards of $200 billion in health-care costs annually, according to estimates by the American Medical Association and others. The cure is a reliable medical malpractice system that patients, doctors and the general public can trust.
But this is the one reform Washington will not seriously consider. That's because the trial lawyers, among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party, thrive on the unreliable justice system we have now...
The upshot is simple: A few thousand trial lawyers are blocking reform that would benefit 300 million Americans. This is not just your normal special-interest politics. It's a scandal—it is as if international-trade policy was being crafted in order to get fees for customs agents...
An effective justice system must reliably distinguish between good care and bad care. But trial lawyers trade on the unreliability of justice. It doesn't matter much whether the doctor did anything wrong—a lawyer can always come up with a theory of what might have been done differently. What matters most is the extent of the tragedy and that a case holds potential for pulling on a jury's heartstrings...
Unreliable justice is like pouring acid over the culture of health care.
According to Howard, 54 cents of each malpractice dollar goes to lawyers and administrative costs.

And further on the "you mislead" front, this just in from
Senate Finance Committee Democrats rejected a proposed a requirement that immigrants prove their identity with photo identification when signing up for federal healthcare programs.
Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that current law and the healthcare bill under consideration are too lax and leave the door open to illegal immigrants defrauding the government using false or stolen identities to obtain benefits.
Grassley's amendment was beaten back 10-13 on a party-line vote.

Court Brooms RatherGate Lawsuit

Shortly before the November 2004 election, Dan Rather and his producers aired a bogus story about President Bush's National Guard service that was meant to sabotage the president's reelection. It turned out that the anti-Bush story was based on forged documents, a fact that quickly emerged from the excellent work of several savvy Internet bloggers. CBS subsequently put Rather out to pasture, and he sued, despite continuing to take home $6 million per year. A court has now tossed the lawsuit:
A New York state appeals court on Tuesday dismissed former TV newsman Dan Rather's lawsuit against CBS Corp in which Rather claimed he was made a scapegoat in a scandal over a 2004 report on then-President George W. Bush's military record.
The ruling on Tuesday by a panel of judges of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division said Rather's $70 million complaint should be dismissed in its entirety and that a lower court erred in denying CBS's motion to throw out the lawsuit.
Rather says CBS breached his contract by not giving him enough on-air assignments after he was removed as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" in March 2005.
Rather claimed that CBS wanted to pacify the White House, an allegation that seems laughable given the mainstream media's all-out hostility toward the Bush administration. Rather still has the option of appealing this decision.

Meanwhile, a Clinton fundraiser gets a 24-year prison sentence.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Federal Terrorism Trial: An Insider's Account

From City Journal: A NYC resident chronicles his service on a federal terrorism jury:
The case was one of the most significant in the U.S. government’s battle against terrorism. It pitted the United States against Monzer al-Kassar, one of the world’s most successful—the prosecutors would say notorious—arms dealers. Whether it established any significant legal precedents would be left for the appellate lawyers to debate....I was a member of the jury, and I kept a daily journal, recording my own reactions to the lawyers, the witnesses, and the unfolding drama. Throughout the trial, the jurors heeded the judge’s admonitions not to discuss the case. But when it was over, I reconvened the jurors to ask them about their recollections. This is our story...

EMP Threat to Homeland Security

Additional voices are warning that an electromagnetic pulse attack could destroy America's power grid:
The federal government is doing “nothing” to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could wipe out American civilization, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a leading expert on the subject, tells Newsmax.
For only $200 million to $400 million, the government could protect a key element of the power grid to keep electrical power from being wiped out for years, according to Dr. Pry, a former staff member of the congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. Yet neither Republicans nor Democrats have been willing to spend that small sum, says Pry, who is president [of] EMPACT America...
A single nuclear bomb exploded over the Midwest would generate an electromagnetic pulse that would destroy the chips that are at the heart of every electronic device. While military and intelligence networks may be shielded against EMP, most of the rest of the country’s technological infrastructure is not...
To be most effective, an EMP device would be detonated by a missile 200 miles above earth. A strong missile defense would knock missiles out of the sky before they reach the U.S. But going back to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative — dubbed Star Wars — Democrats have consistently ridiculed the idea of an anti-missile defense.
According to EMPACT America, "An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) is a sudden, massive broad-band wave of electro-magnetic energy that strikes large regions of the earth. It can originate from the sun in the form of solar events or as a result of a detonated nuclear device. In either case, an EMP attack can severely damage electronic devices resulting in the disabling of computers, the electric grid, telephones, water supply and transportation systems of an entire continent."

Update: A follow-up Newsmax report:
The nation’s military is largely unprotected in the event an enemy launches a nuclear bomb that would fry microchips and the power grid with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., tells Newsmax.
Since the early 1990s, “Essentially all our new weapon systems have been built with a waiver for EMP hardening,” says Bartlett, a scientist and inventor who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces.
“If an enemy used an EMP enhanced weapon — and Russian generals told our EMP commission that they had developed weapons which emit 200 kilovolts per meter weapon — I’ve been assured by experts in the area that everything would be down,” says Bartlett, who has been the leading member of Congress fighting to recognize EMP as a threat.

ACORN's Friends

We've already mentioned in previous posts how the artist formerly known as Stuart Smalley likely owes his disputed U.S. Senate seat to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has more:
Here in Minnesota, ACORN has boasted of playing a major role in the 2008 elections. It claims to have registered 43,000 new voters, which it describes as 75 percent of the state's new registrations. Franken's margin of victory in the Senate race was razor-thin: 312 votes out of about 3 million cast. And Minnesota's laws on proof of voter eligibility are notoriously loose. Did ACORN folks pull some fast ones to help get their favorite son Franken elected -- a win that handed Democrats the 60-vote, veto-proof majority that they needed to enact their liberal agenda?
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie assures us that Minnesota's system of voter verification protects electoral integrity.
But here's an uncomfortable fact: Ritchie himself was endorsed by the now-notorious ACORN and elected with its help.
And the American Spectator is reporting that the corrupt community organization appears to have direct ties to the community organizer in chief:
Newly discovered evidence shows the radical advocacy group ACORN has a man in the Obama White House.
This power behind the throne is longtime ACORN operative Patrick Gaspard. He holds the title of White House political affairs director, the same title Karl Rove held in President Bush's White House.
Evidence shows that years before he joined the Obama administration, Gaspard was ACORN boss Bertha Lewis's political director in New York.
Recall that the president incredibly said on national TV that he was unaware that ACORN got much federal funding.

Senate Eyes Court Packing Scheme

We've pointed out previously how the Senate majority used parliamentary trickeration during the previous administration to deny many highly qualified judicial picks an up-or-down vote on their nominations. So before even filling the existing judicial vacancies, lawmakers apparently want to create more judgeships:
Democrats aren't satisfied with the one-party state in which they control Congress and the White House and can politicize the Justice Department and take over the banking and automotive industries. Now liberal Democrats are pushing a court-packing scheme as well.
A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the proposed Federal Judgeship Act of 2009 (S. 1653), which would create positions for 63 new federal judges - 51 in federal district courts and 12 in appeals courts. This proposal is nothing less than a sneaky equivalent of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried with his infamous court-packing power grab on the Supreme Court in 1937. The only slight difference is that this attempt is more under the radar.
The Supreme Court has been choosing to consider fewer cases each year. This means the lower courts provide the final disposition for a larger percentage of controversies than ever before. Packing those courts with new, loyal liberals can thus have a huge effect on legal issues without the high profile - and public backlash - of unpopular Supreme Court decisions and fringe appointments to the high court...To create even more positions for Democrats to fill when current high caseloads exist in part because of Democratic intransigence would be like rewarding card sharks for stacking the deck.
If this legislation is not ideological court packing, the Democrats can demonstrate their good faith by first confirming all the hold-over nominations from the previous administration.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Increasing Activity By Suspected Terror Cells

Doesn't it seem like homeland security officials are uncovering one terror plot after another lately? This one, planned for the 9/11 anniversary, is making headlines:
An Afghan immigrant wanted to carry out a New York City terror attack involving hydrogen peroxide bombs to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary before federal authorities foiled the plan, a U.S. prosecutor said Friday.
Tim Neff told a federal judge that Najibullah Zazi "was in the throes of making a bomb and attempting to perfect his formulation."
"The evidence suggests a chilling, disturbing sequence of events showing the defendant was intent on making a bomb and being in New York on 9/11, for purposes of perhaps using such items," Neff declared in arguing for Zazi's transfer to New York.
Ken Deal, the chief deputy U.S. marshal in Denver, said Zazi was put on a U.S. government plane and flown out of southern Denver's Centennial Airport at 12:15 p.m. MDT — little more than an hour after U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer ordered Zazi transferred to New York City to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
Fox News reports that police may have as many as 24 persons may be under observation in this suspected cross-country terror plot. The Washington Post adds that "authorities in Washington and elsewhere were stepping up safety patrols on mass transit systems in response to an advisory issued in connection with the [Colorado] probe." The FBI and DHS have also warned state and local law enforcement official to keep an eye on stadiums, warehouses with rentable storage units and hotels for any unusual activity. The National Terror Alert website, a private homelands security blog, says that "In nearly 7 years of publishing this website, I can't recall ever covering as much at one time, as we have this week. With so much activity I remind you, be alert and report ANY suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately."

Netanyahu to U.N.: Wake Up

Congratulations to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for at long last forcefully bringing reality into the upside-down, propaganda drenched world that exists only inside the U.N. General Assembly:
Brandishing blueprints of the Auschwitz death camp, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday blasted the United Nations for turning a blind eye to terrorism and urged the world leaders to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Calling out those heads of state who remained in their seats for Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "anti-Semitic rants" earlier this week, Netanyahu also pulled out chilling evidence of the Final Solution.
It was a copy of the minutes of the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference, where Nazi leaders fine-tuned their methodical plans for genocide.

Meantime, the situation with Iran's nukes is even worse than originally thought:
The United States, France and Britain have presented "detailed evidence" to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog that "Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility," President Obama said Friday.
Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- all in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a G-20 economic summit -- accused Iran of intentionally hiding its nuclear facilities from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
They threatened a stiff response if Iran fails to conform to international obligations regarding nuclear development.
Let's face it; President Sarkozy appears to be the only member of this trio that has any credibility in addressing this threat. And isn't it about time that the American (and international) media starts reporting that all the regimes in the Middle East, not just Israel, have grave concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions?

Update: has the story of Sarkozy schooling Obama about the Iran nuclear threat. has more on Sarkozy's contempt for Obama, as reaffirmed by this FNC clip:

DHS Plans Cutback in Border Patrol Agents

Given the profound if not overwhelming security challenges at our southern border, how in the world does make sense?
Even though the Border Patrol now reports that almost 1,300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border is not under effective control, and the Department of Justice says that vast stretches of the border are “easily breached,” and the Government Accountability Office has revealed that three persons “linked to terrorism” and 530 aliens from “special interest countries” were intercepted at Border Patrol checkpoints last year, the administration is nonetheless now planning to decrease the number of Border Patrol agents deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Border Patrol Director of Media Relations Lloyd Easterling confirmed this week...that his agency is planning for a net decrease of 384 agents on the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2010, which begins on October 1.
A Department of Homeland Security annual performance review updated by the Obama administration on May 7 said the Border Patrol “plans to move several hundred Agents from the Southwest Border to the Northern Border to meet the FY 2010 staffing requirements, with only a small increase in new agents for the Southwest Border in the same year.”

Gitmo Deadline Slips, State Secrets Policy Advances

Other than as a publicity stunt, is there any logical or security based reason why administration wants to shut down the Gitmo prison?

The Washington Post, one of the administration's many house organs, concedes that the January 2010 deadline might have been overly ambitious:
With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress.
Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.
The White House has faltered in part because of the legal, political and diplomatic complexities involved in determining what to do with more than 200 terrorism suspects at the prison. But senior advisers privately acknowledge not devising a concrete plan for where to move the detainees and mishandling Congress.
Not to worry: As always in these matters, the Bush administration at fault--although, amazingly enough, only partially this time:
Senior administration officials said the central roadblock during those early months was the condition of the detainee files, which had been left in disarray by the previous administration.
The administration kind of likes its predecessor's "state secrets" policy, however, although it seems that it wants to have it both ways. From the Washington Times:
Liberals and conservatives alike harshly criticized a new Obama administration policy designed to make it harder for the government to hamper lawsuits against it by invoking a "state secret" claim, and even the support from privacy-rights groups was tepid and cautious.
From one side, civil-liberties advocate and best-selling author Glenn Greenwald called the new policy merely cosmetic and a continuation of "the very Bush/Cheney policies" that President Obama criticized. From the other, Sept. 11 families activist Debra Burlingame said even those changes would encourage jihadist lawsuits and chill counterterrorism operations
Such privacy-advocacy groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the new rules looked good, but said the Obama administration still needed to deliver concrete results - by dropping its support for several Bush-era invocations of the privilege in court and by pushing through Congress a permanent law on the matter.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration appeared to vindicate such longstanding liberal criticisms by invoking the state-secret privilege to urge U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker to toss a 2004 warrantless-wiretapping lawsuit filed by the Ashland, Ore., branch of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.
Justice Department lawyer Anthony Coppolino made the same arguments at Wednesday's hearing in San Francisco that Bush administration lawyers had: "Foreign intelligence surveillance is so vital to national security that it is important for the government to maintain secrecy," he argued.
Does this sound like the type of word games that Edwin Howard Armstrong warned about?
The new policy, announced Wednesday, gives the attorney general the sole authority to invoke a "state secret" claim, which allows the government to exclude evidence it says will compromise national security. The new rules, which take effect Oct. 1, also set a higher standard to make that claim, saying that revealing the information would need to pose "the risk of significant harm to national security"; the previous standard, set by the Supreme Court, allowed a claim when there was a risk of "reasonable possibility of harm" to national security. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Schilling Out

As we predicted, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has opted out of running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shoe Bomber: Membership Has Its Privileges

Okay, so we ostracize CIA interrogators and other counter-terrorism officers while granting privileges to convicted terrorists?
Airplane shoe bomber Richard C. Reid no longer faces severe limits on his prison activities or communications after the Obama administration quietly ended years of hard-nosed curbs against the British-born al-Qaeda terrorist.
This summer the Justice Department halted six years of measures that kept Reid from associating or praying with fellow jailed Muslim terrorists, and limited his access to the news media and pen pals.
That move has outraged victims of al-Qaeda and security experts. The recommendation to lift the restrictions was made with input from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, which prosecuted Reid in 2002, federal officials said.
Meanwhile, seven former CIA directors call for a halt on the Justice Department investigation of their former agency:
Arguing that the actions of the Attorney General are essentially putting this country at greater risk of terrorist attack, a bipartisan team of seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency wrote to President Obama today [September 18] urging him to direct Attorney General Eric Holder to close the criminal investigation looking into whether any CIA officers went beyond what they were told was legal in their interrogations during counterterrorism investigations.
Allowing future investigations and prosecutions “will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country,” the seven men write. “In our judgment such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

DHS Put New Border Construction Projects On Hold

DHS Secretary Napolitano, who only gave lip service to border security as governor of Arizona, appears to be in over her head even according to AP:
Facing criticism for her handling of federal stimulus money, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she would not start any new border construction projects while the department reviewed how projects were selected.
Napolitano has faced questions since The Associated Press reported last month that Homeland Security officials did not follow their internal priority lists when choosing which border checkpoints would get money for renovations. Under a process that is secretive and susceptible to political influence, officials planned to spend millions at tiny checkpoints, passing over busier, higher-priority projects.
The criticism peaked Wednesday when a senior Senate Democrat, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, said that, despite Napolitano's assurances, he felt Homeland Security was treating the economic stimulus plan like a "bottomless pit" of taxpayer money. It was unusually pointed criticism from a member of the president's own party about how the administration is handling economic recovery spending.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

White House Gathering Social Media Data

There seems to be a pattern emerging with this administration:
The White House is collecting and storing comments and videos placed on its social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without notifying or asking the consent of the site users, a failure that appears to run counter to President Obama's promise of a transparent government and his pledge to protect privacy on the Internet.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the White House signaled that it would insist on open dealings with Internet users and, in fact, should feel obliged to disclose that it is collecting such information.
"The White House has not been adequately transparent, particularly on how it makes use of new social media techniques, such as this example," he said...
The National Legal and Policy Center, a government ethics watchdog, said archiving the sites would have a "chilling effect" on Web site users who might wish to leave comments critical of the administration.
[Source: Washington Times]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Joint Terrorism Task Force Preempts Bomb Plot

In a "domestic contingency operation," the FBI and NYPD raided at least three Queens, NYC, apartments on the hunt for bomb-making materials:
Federal officials launched a series of raids Monday after tailing a suspected Al Qaeda operative believed to have been orchestrating a bomb plot.
FBI agents thought the threat was significant enough to race to court Sunday night to get an emergency search warrant to look for bomb-making components, explosive powders, gels, TNT and fuses, sources said.

Federal agents have arrested terror suspect Najibullah Zazi, who had been grilled for days about his knowledge of a bomb plot against New York, a spokeswoman for his attorney said. The 24-year-old suspected al Qaeda bomb-maker was taken into custody along with his father, Mohammed, 53, yesterday [September 19] in Colorado, where he is said to work as an airport shuttle driver. He and his dad were busted in their Aurora, Colo., apartment at about 9:30 p.m., according to the Denver Post. They were later taken to jail and charged with making false statements, the paper said. Zazi is believed by authorities to have been plotting a terror attack and even researched New York Fashion Week venues and sports stadiums, it was revealed yesterday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Perry Mason Wannabes To Help Bagram POWs

The administration seems to be prosecuting an overseas contingency operation as if it was an episode of Law & Order or some other fictional legal TV series:
Hundreds of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan will for the first time have the right to challenge their indefinite detention and call witnesses in their defense under a new review system being put in place this week, according to administration officials.
The new system will be applied to the more than 600 Afghans held at the Bagram military base, and will mark the first substantive change in the overseas detention policies that President Obama inherited from the Bush administration.
International human rights organizations have long criticized conditions at the Bagram facility, where detainees have been held -- many of them for years -- without access to lawyers or even the right to know the reason for their imprisonment. Afghans have cited Bagram, where virtually all prisoners in U.S. custody are held, as a major source of resentment toward coalition forces, a senior administration official said.
[Source: Washington Post]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Did DHS Mess With Texas Border Security?

With the Homeland Security Department's bureaucracy apparently immobilized, the modern day counterparts of Captains Gus McRae and Woodrow F. Call are now on the case:
Special teams of Texas Rangers will be deployed to the Texas-Mexico border to deal with increasing violence because the federal government has failed to address growing problems there, Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday
"It is an expansive effort with the Rangers playing a more high-profile role than they've ever played before," Perry said of the Department of Public Safety's elite investigative unit.
The forces, dubbed "Ranger recon" teams, are the latest effort "to fill the gap that's been left by the federal government's ongoing failure to adequately secure our international border with Mexico," he said.
The governor early this year asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for 1,000 National Guard troops and renewed his call last month in a letter to President Barack Obama. The request is bogged down over who will pay for the troops and how they will be deployed.

ACORN Gets Punked

Investigation journalism still exists, but don't look for it in the mainstream media. While most of the news agencies continues to sleep, two independent filmmakers with a hidden camera have further exposed the brazen, corrupt practices of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The entire footage, which led to the firing of the ACORN officials involved, can be found on Andrew Breitbart's website.

Now comes word that the Census Bureau, who previously said that ACORN was peachy keen, has decided against doing business with ACORN for the 2010 population count.

ACORN is under investigation on the state level in many jurisdictions for voter registration fraud in the 2008 election cycle, but we need a comprehensive (not ceremonial) federal investigation of this so-called community organization by Congress and the U.S. Justice Department. In the meantime, the spigot of taxpayer funding for this crooked enterprise must be turned off immediately.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: What Have We Learned?

In today's New York Post, Col. Ralph Peters powerfully argues that collectively, we are betraying the memory of 9/11. Is he right?
...Instead of acknowledging that radical Islam is the problem, we elected a president who blames America, whose idea of freedom is the right for women to suffer in silence behind a veil -- and who counts among his mentors and friends those who damn our country or believe that our own government staged the tragedy of September 11, 2001...
Instead of protecting law-abiding Americans, we reject profiling to avoid offending terrorists. So we confiscate granny's shampoo at the airport because the half-empty container could hold 3.5 ounces of liquid...
Instead of taking every effective measure to cull information from terrorists, the current administration threatens CIA agents with prosecution for keeping us safe...
In this clip, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani cautions that 9/11 is "not part of our history--it's part of our present."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

At 9/11 Anniversary, DHS Has Big Priorities

On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Heritage Foundation offers some practical homeland security priorities for Congress to consider for the balance of the current legislative session:
  • Scrap the 100% mandates for scanning maritime security and air cargo--the department cannot find a way to meet the mandate in a way that is practical and cost-effective and actually enhances security
  • Amend the Stafford Act so that a federal disaster declaration includes only those disasters that truly overwhelm state and local response.
  • Reform the homeland security grant structure through the use of cooperative agreements and other reforms.
  • Encourage innovative state and local immigration enforcement efforts that do not call for federal intervention.
The Heritage Foundation would probably not recommend spending over $3 billion on a glorified conference room, however:
Washington notables broke ground on the future home of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, symbolically starting construction on the biggest federal building project in the Washington area since the Pentagon 68 years ago.
 The project will bring together more than 15,000 employees now scattered in 35 offices in the region, placing them on a 176-acre campus strewn with historic buildings in a long-neglected corner of Washington, five miles from the Capitol building.
Department leaders hope the $3.4 billion consolidation will help the department fulfill its core mission -- protecting the homeland -- in ways big and small.
 "It will help us hold meetings," Secretary Janet Napolitano said. "It will help us build that culture of 'One DHS.'"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Make Money Not War

Is it too simplistic to suggest that when countries (neighboring or otherwise) start making money and develop a prosperous mercantile infrastructure, they are generally far less likely to want to fight with each other? This comes to mind in connection with economist George Gilder's piece in City Journal about the Israeli high-tech economy:
Israel has very recently become a center of innovation, second in absolute achievement only to the United States, and on a per-capita basis dwarfing the contributions of all other nations, America included. How Israel is treated by the rest of the world thus represents a crucial test for civilization. Will we pass it?
...This tiny embattled country, smaller than most American states, is outperforming European and Asian Goliaths ten to 100 times larger. In a watershed moment for the country, Israel in 2007 passed Canada as the home of the most foreign companies on the technology-heavy NASDAQ index; it is now launching far more high-tech companies per year than any country in Europe...
Just as Hong Kong ultimately reshaped the Chinese economy in its own image when Deng Xiaoping mimicked its free economy, Israel could become a force for economic liberation in the Middle East, reaching out to Palestinians and other Arabs with the blandishments of commercial opportunity.
So wouldn't it be better for Israel's impoverished neighbors to move away from a self destructive, self defeating war footing and instead try to join it on the economic bandwagon?

We have long maintained that politics of any kind should be kept separate from entertainment and science. We happen to be renting the DVD of Jonathan Demme's excellent 1980s concert film "Stop Making Sense," featuring the Talking Heads led by David Byrne. By coincidence, this stomach-turning development just emerged in the news:
Some 50 celebrities, artists and filmmakers, including actors Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, musician David Byrne and filmmaker Ken Loach, have accused the Toronto International Film Festival of "complicity with the Israeli propaganda machine" over its spotlight this year on Tel Aviv.
The 2009 festival will present 10 films by local filmmakers on the Israeli metropolis, for its City to City program, which each year focuses its lens on a different city.
The choice led to protests that the film festival was "staging a propaganda campaign" on Israel's behalf, given "the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program," said an open letter to festival organizers, AFP reported.
The program "ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories" after a "mass exiling of the Palestinian population" in 1948, according to the letter.
"Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city's past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto," AFP reported the letter as saying.
The controversy started on August 28, when Canadian filmmaker John Greyson withdrew his film from the festival in protest.
We don't expect much from Hollywood airheads such as the artist formerly known as "Hanoi Jane," but David Byrne is a brilliant musician who clearly has the capacity to do his own research.

Unlike the surrounding dictatorships with non-existent human rights records, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and where its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion (or non-religion) have the right to vote and to exercise freedom of speech. [If you've seen any movies from Israeli film industry, you'll note that they generally tend to be highly critical of the policies of the government and military, and hardly constitute propaganda.] And if David Byrne is concerned about "apartheid," he should ask why the United Nations and the Arab regimes force people to live in refugee camps rather than granting them legal status and resettling them into their countries.

Adds the Washington Times, "Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici complained that Mr. Greyson is now trying to shut down the voices of filmmakers in the only country in the Middle East that allows free expression."

By the way, is there any sovereign nation on earth other than Israel that the U.S. and the international community can try to tell its citizens where to live?

Leaving politics aside, here is a very cool video of David Byrne's 21st-Century bike rack designs:

Culture Critic Camille Paglia Does Some Truth Telling

Over the years, but especially recently, one phenomenon that has become profoundly obvious is that left-of-center polemicists tend to accuse right-of-center writers, bloggers and other counterparts of "lying."

But this trend has emerged a classic case of projection, because it is in general those on the left who engage in half-truths, distortions, disinformation or lack of information, taking things out of context, and perhaps what's worse, incuriously accepting at face value virtually any pronouncement from this administration.

We hesitate to use the word lie because that word has been thrown around so much in so many different quarters that it is almost devoid of meaning. [Even Judge Milian too often seems to accuse a litigant of lying when it might be just an instance where two individuals simply have a good-faith difference in perception.]

In her latest Salon essay primarily about the "sick" obsession of this administration, Congress, and what she calls the "liberal lemmings" of the mainstream media, to impose socialism on the medical delivery system, self-described Obama supporter (and Republican critic) Camille Paglia makes reference to the same trend:
Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year's tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators? First of all, too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web -- both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights. I rarely watch TV anymore except for cooking shows, history and science documentaries, old movies and football. Hence I was blissfully free from the retching overkill that followed the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy -- I never saw a single minute of any of it. It was on talk radio, which I have resumed monitoring around the clock because of the healthcare fiasco, that I heard the passionate voices of callers coming directly from the town hall meetings. Hence I was alerted to the depth and intensity of national sentiment long before others who were simply watching staged, manipulated TV shows.
Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism...
But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible....
Throughout this fractious summer, I was dismayed not just at the self-defeating silence of Democrats at the gaping holes or evasions in the healthcare bills but also at the fogginess or insipidity of articles and Op-Eds about the controversy emanating from liberal mainstream media and Web sources. By a proportion of something like 10-to-1, negative articles by conservatives were vastly more detailed, specific and practical about the proposals than were supportive articles by Democrats, which often made gestures rather than arguments and brimmed with emotion and sneers. There was a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences -- in terms of delays, denial of services, errors, miscommunications and gross invasions of privacy -- of a massive single-payer overhaul of the healthcare system in a nation as large and populous as ours. It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management.
By the way, tonight would be a good night to rent a DVD, check-in with the Dog Whisperer or Animal Cops if they're on, or engage in recreational reading, or participate in any "healthy" activity other than watching yet another tedious, narcissistic presidential address.

Besides, the lemmings in the mainstream media have already decided for you that this is the greatest speech ever delivered in recorded history.

Card Check Hypocrisy

The administration wants card check union organizing for private-sector business, but the Washington Times reports that a federal agency deemed this approach "unreliable" for its own employees:
While the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress press to allow private-sector workers to unionize by signing authorization cards instead of voting by secret ballot, the government's legal-aid program for the poor has declared the so-called "card check" strategy "unreliable" and rejected an effort by some of its own workers to organize that way.
The Legal Services Corp., a congressionally chartered, taxpayer-funded entity, even hired a law firm to rebuff the efforts of workers in its oversight offices to gain union representation by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), forcing the workers to conduct a vote by secret ballot later this week.
The LSC's decision has prompted concerns on Capitol Hill that the government may be trying to impose a solution on private businesses that its own agencies and panels are reluctant to follow.
This is almost as hypocritical as those instances when union leaders opposed efforts by their own headquarters employees to form collective bargaining units.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Obama and Coercive Unionism

Another thought for Labor Day: In an excellent posting at National Review Online, Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee reminds us of the alliance between organized labor bosses and the Obama administration, especially as it relates to union strong-arming and card check legislation:
Repeatedly pledging to Big Labor that he will sign a bill that eliminates the secret ballot in union elections, President Obama is the top cheerleader for a policy that would effectively destroy the ability of workers to make real choices in the workplace. Obama would allow outside union organizers to bypass the secret ballot and instead collect workers’ signed “authorization cards” to determine unionization. It doesn’t take much imagination to grasp the potential for abuse inherent in any “card check” drive, since workers would be subjected to immense face-to-face pressure from intimidating union organizers....
Why is Obama so comfortable with this coercive approach to workplace organizing? Perhaps because his political career was launched under similar circumstances. Few remember it now, but Obama’s electoral debut came in 1996, when he won a seat in the Illinois state legislature. “Won” is a bit of a misnomer, however, as candidate Obama ruthlessly eliminated his opponents by disqualifying signatures collected for ballot eligibility. As former National Review political reporter David Freddoso detailed in his 2008 book on Obama, voters’ signatures were thrown out for a variety of spurious reasons, including one woman’s failure to list her married name instead of her maiden name. Other voters were struck from the lists for printing instead of signing their names on the eligibility petitions. Obama not only had his main opponent disqualified, he also succeeded in forcing a protest candidate off the ballot. Obama has personally admitted he felt “uncomfortable” with this hardball political tactic, but success has evidently allayed any guilt. After his opponents were disqualified, Obama won a seat in the state legislature by default.
Just as candidate Obama was willing to go to great lengths to eliminate political opponents to gain a state senate seat, President Obama appears eager to eliminate any semblance of protection for workers in order to curry favor with union bosses. In 2008, Big Labor gave more than $1 billion in campaign contributions to candidates such as Obama who pledged their loyalty to forced unionism.

DHS Targets Well Intentioned Employers, Lets Scofflaws Off The Hook

A Labor Day Thought: Writing at, July Myers Wood (the former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) says that U.S. Department of Homeland Security has its priorities backwards when it comes to the E-Verify program and the problem of bogus Social Security numbers:
In tough economic times, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should focus on ensuring a level playing field for honest businesses, and regulating unscrupulous firms who use illegal workers to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage. Clearly, the federal government should focus its enforcement efforts on the first company and not the second. It would be consistent with general beliefs of fairness and justice.
Unfortunately, if last week's federal register announcement of "dropping the no-match rule" is any indication, the DHS is squarely aiming its efforts on employers who are trying to do the right thing. By ignoring a critical tool that can help agents target employers and instead augmenting the monitoring and compliance of E-Verify users, as announced in May, the administration has turned our sense of fairness and justice upside down.
 Of course, DHS' intent to formally revoke the no-match rule is not a big surprise. Earlier this summer, the administration slipped this announcement in with its very positive announcement that it is mandating E-Verify for federal contractors. But while DHS claims that they are dropping the no-match rule as part of their push to do "smarter" worksite enforcement, the evidence suggests that they are also leaving some critical tools for targeting the most egregious employers back in the toolbox. Not only are they discarding the safe harbor rule, but DHS has declared that they will no longer be looking at no-match letters as part of enforcement actions. DHS said as much in Wednesday's announcement declaring, "DHS has determined that focusing on the management practices of employers would be more efficacious than focusing on a single element of evidence within the totality of the circumstances."
This is a mistake. ICE agents and federal prosecutors have routinely used no-match letters as part of an overall strategy to target egregious employers. How an employer handles no-match letters, or rather how they don't, can often provide significant insight into an employer's overall compliance strategy, and useful evidence to support a criminal indictment.
Meanwhile, as reported by FederalComputerWeek, federal contractors must comply with E-Verify rule effective September 8, but the authorization for E-Verify by Congress is scheduled to expire Sept. 30 under a so-called sunset provision unless lawmakers vote to extend the requirement.

In connection with E-Verify in Ohio along with the big picture of federal preemption under the Constitution, former DHS official Matt A. Mayer, now of the Heritage Foundation writes that:
Although the E-Verify system is not a panacea, it is a relatively inexpensive ($100 or less per employer), efficient (an inquiry takes 15 seconds or less), and reliable (96 percent) online method of ensuring that Ohio jobs are filled only by Ohioans and those who are lawfully present. With Ohio's unemployment rate at 10.8 percent and increasing, such a law would provide much-needed job opportunities for those out-of-work Ohioans at both the unskilled and skilled lev­els. Specifically, many entry-level jobs currently filled by illegal border crossers (who make up 60 percent of all illegals) and some technical-level jobs currently filled by individuals who have overstayed their work or education visas (40 percent of all ille­gals) would become open as those holding the jobs illegally were let go...
For state and local governments to truly tackle their illegal immigration problems, they must take a more aggressive approach than simply relying on the federal government to do its duty and federalize a handful of state or local officers each year. There are many additional actions that state and local gov­ernments can take. Critically, state and local govern­ment action should "remove or reduce the economic incentives for unlawful presence."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Connecticut Lawmakers--Multi-Tasking With Taxpayer's Money

Thanks to the Internet, everyone now knows that members of the Connecticut General Assembly can multi-task. In an image that is all over the Web, two legislators were shown playing solitaire on their laptops during the final debate on the massive state budget. And another legislator was on the ESPN website.

And here we thought the majority Democrats were collectively a one-trick (or is that two tricks?) pony. That is, tax and spend. We now know that they've added computer card games to their skill set.

In general, most of us have been stuck in boring business meetings where an electronic device or even a yellow legal pad came in handy to do something more constructive--even if it's making a grocery list. But in this instance, you'd think that when the Democrats spend $37 billion of taxpayer's money, they'd at least pretend to pay attention during the legislative session.

Gov. Jodi Rell, a moderate Republican who is sometimes good on fiscal issues, must be running for reelection. Why else would she allow the bloated budget to become law without her signature? While disagreeing with the final result crafted by the Democrats after months of negotiation, Rell said that she didn't want to draw out the process even more by vetoing the package. But perhaps it's more likely that she wanted to avoid the political embarrassment of having her veto overridden, which might call into question to some degree the viability of her reelection chances. The governor did use her line-item veto authority to get rid of some $8 million in pork, however.

[Update: It turns out that the state constitution prevents the governor from cutting any spending at all from an unsigned bill, which makes her decision against either signing or vetoing the budget even stranger.]

The governor, who seems like a fine, well-meaning person, has yet to publicly announce whether she will seek another term. However, another reason why we believe she will ultimately run again is that earlier this year she nominated an ethically challenged lawyer to the Superior Court purely for political reasons. The plug should have been pulled on this appointment, but the legislature nonetheless confirmed the nomination. The story apparently has been scrubbed from the Hartford Courant website, but this blogger sums up the situation well.

Even Attorney General Blumenthal's office indicated in a roundabout way that the appointment should have been set aside. And consider that a similarly situated Republican had to withdraw his nomination before it went to a vote.

That being said, here's hoping Gov. Rell does run, because she is the only one standing in the way of the big-spending multi-taskers.

Over in neighboring Massachusetts, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling may or may not run in the special election resulting from the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy. In this case, we believe he ultimately won't run for two reasons: he really likes to spend time with his family, and he's wrapped up in his computer game business. Another significant factor is that the "Democrat-Media Complex" (as Andrew Breitbart calls it) will use "opposition research" of any kind to undermine his bid (e.g., the Washington Post is trying of all things to use an irrelevant, 20-year-old term paper to damage the campaign of a candidate for Virginia governor).

Schilling, a registered independent who also claims to have voted for Clinton in addition to his support for Bush and McCain, would likely be choice of virtually all the state Republications. Whether an independent candidate can run on the Republican ballot--or other related minutia of Massachusetts election law--remains to be determined. Although there will be other Republican candidates, the likelihood is that the party organization and rank-and-file will quickly coalesce around a Schilling candidacy--if there is one.

In a year when everyone is fed up with out-of-touch career politicians, you would have to concede that Schilling is a viable candidate. With runaway federal and state spending and millions of Americans jobless, isn't it time for a citizen legislator--rather than your typical pandering government functionary?

He would also prevent the election from becoming a walkover for the Democrats after what will nonetheless probably be their contentious primary.

On his blog, Schilling says he would only serve for one term, but does that mean just the final three years of Sen. Kennedy's term, or a full six years after that? The latter seems to make more sense; otherwise why bother mounting a campaign.

The World Series hero has a number of things going for him: 100% name recognition, personal wealth, the ability to raise massive campaign funds and garner strong support from the national party, a rather loquacious demeanor (which can sometimes be polarizing), and the fact that there is only three weeks between the primary and the general election in January.

And To those who would say Schilling isn't qualified, how do you explain Obama or Al Franken?

Yes, he will have to field a barrage of questions about his support for President Bush from a hostile Boston media. But he might tell the voters that as an independent, he takes each issue on its own merits. Like many, he can say that he became disillusioned with Bush on spending, that generally he is conservative on fiscal issues, but more moderate on some social issues (hence his support for Sen. McCain in the 2008 election), and that like McCain he will put country and state rather than party first.

Consider that whoever emerges on the Democrat side will be a tired, double-talking career politician with no real background in the private sector, Schilling could have the winning formula.

Ultimately we believe he will decline to throw his cap into the ring, but time will tell.

Update: Former congressman Joe Kennedy, Ted's nephew and BFF of Venezuela's dictator Hugo Chavez, says he's not running, which as the Boston Herald says, is "expected draw candidates-in-waiting out from the wings." Will this development push Schilling forward?