Saturday, October 31, 2009

Orwell on Totalitarianism

Famed novelist George Orwell (Animal Farm, 1984) initially considered himself a "Tory Anarchist" and then a socialist. He was, however, highly critical of various factions within the socialist movement, and especially assailed apologists for Stalin.

Orwell had seen the deadly consequences of Stalinism up close during the Spanish Civil War. In a fascinating biography of Orwell by Gordon Bowker that we're reading, Bowker quotes from an Orwell speech, circa 1941:
The totalitarian state exists for the glorification of the ruling clique, which means that the ruling clique are the prisoners of their own power and are obligated to follow any policy, no matter how self-contradictory, which will keep them in power. And having followed their policy they are obliged to justify it, so that all thought becomes a rationalization of the shifts of power politics.
Separately, Orwell wrote that "the really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'attrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth: it claims to control the past as well as the future." Sound familiar? Hope and change anyone?

Orwell also disparagingly referred to Bolshevik commissars as "half gangster, half gramophone," which to some degree may be the contemporary equivalent of propaganda-by-talking-points.

Friday, October 30, 2009

U.S. Attorney Nominee Under Ethical Cloud

Colorado's would-be U.S. attorney is not setting good example for candor or transparency that would be expected of a state's top federal law enforcement official:
President Barack Obama's nominee as Colorado's next U.S. attorney told the FBI two years ago that she never spoke to anyone in the Denver District Attorney's Office about an illegal immigrant who became a controversial figure in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
FBI interview summaries describe Stephanie Villafuerte as saying she had "no conversations" with anyone at the DA's office about the illegal immigrant, Carlos Estrada-Medina.
But the FBI apparently never asked Villafuerte, the former chief deputy DA who was then working for Bill Ritter's campaign, why she left a phone message for DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough that Kimbrough noted was about Estrada-Medina. The FBI also apparently never asked her about the nature of a series of phone calls she exchanged over the next two days with Kimbrough and First Assistant DA Chuck Lepley. Those calls came both before and after an order by Lepley to a subordinate to run a criminal history check of Estrada-Medina in a restricted federal database.
It can be a crime to access the National Crime Information Center computer for a non-law-enforcement purpose.
Update:Villafuerte withdrew her nomination.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Federal Govt. Warns Dr. Weil About Supplement Recommendation

As reported on the NaturalNews website by Mike Adams, the self-named Health Ranger, the feds are threatening legal action against Andrew Weil, a prominent MD (and frequent Larry King guest) who also supports some natural remedies, simply for recommending the herb astragulus. Adams adds the following:
When true statements about botany are outlawed, and the only statements allowed to be made about H1N1 flu protection are based on profit-driven lies, and the very leaders who try to help the People (like Dr. Weil) are threatened with being arrested as criminals and having their companies shut down at gunpoint, that's when you know you live in a "1984"-style medical police state.
When true statements about botany are outlawed, and the only statements allowed to be made about H1N1 flu protection are based on profit-driven lies, and the very leaders who try to help the People (like Dr. Weil) are threatened with being arrested as criminals and having their companies shut down at gunpoint, that's when you know you live in a "1984"-style medical police state.
For all those who voted for Obama, by the way, keep in mind this criminal FDA racket continues to operate in full swing under the Obama administration, just as it did under the Bush Administration. Sadly, Obama has done absolutely nothing to halt the tyranny against natural product companies. In fact, under Obama, this action has been accelerated by the FTC and FDA. It's worse now than ever before, and with Big Government getting even bigger -- and more lawmakers calling for increased FDA funding -- this problem is only bound to get worse.
Click here for the FDA/FTC warning letter to Weil.

As we've blogged previously, "heathcare" is more than just about drugs and surgery.

Swedish Court Upholds Charges Against Animal Rights Activist

Sweden's high court establishes a legal precedent for protection of the workplace in that country:
Sweden's Supreme Court has upheld a landmark ruling in which a 30-year-old animal rights activist was convicted for his involvement in storming the premises of four companies and harassing members of staff.
The 30-year-old Malmö resident was sentenced on charges of aggravated unlawful entry by the Swedish Supreme Court.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Officials Warn of Homegrown Radicals Trained in Overseas Terrror Camps

According to the Washington Post, the number of recruited terrorists from the West going overseas for paramilitary training is on the increase:
U.S. and European counterterrorism officials say a rising number of Western recruits -- including Americans -- are traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend paramilitary training camps. The flow of recruits has continued unabated, officials said, in spite of an intensified campaign over the past year by the CIA to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders in drone missile attacks.
Since January, at least 30 recruits from Germany have traveled to Pakistan for training, according to German security sources. About 10 people -- not necessarily the same individuals -- have returned to Germany this year, fueling concerns that fresh plots are in the works against European targets.
...European security officials have warned for many years of the threat posed by homegrown radicals who have gone to Afghanistan and Pakistan to wage jihad. Officials in some countries, such as Britain, said they have successfully cracked down on the number of would-be fighters going to South Asia. But others, such as Germany, are seeing a significant increase and struggling to contain it.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has an interesting piece about the Taliban's fundraising techniques:
The Taliban in Afghanistan are running a sophisticated financial network to pay for their insurgent operations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the illicit drug trade, kidnappings, extortion and foreign donations that American officials say they are struggling to cut off.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have imposed an elaborate system to tax the cultivation, processing and shipment of opium, as well as other crops like wheat grown in the territory they control, American and Afghan officials say. In the Middle East, Taliban leaders have sent fund-raisers to Arab countries to keep the insurgency’s coffers brimming with cash.
Estimates of the Taliban’s annual revenue vary widely. Proceeds from the illicit drug trade alone range from $70 million to $400 million a year, according to Pentagon and United Nations officials. By diversifying their revenue stream beyond opium, the Taliban are frustrating American and NATO efforts to weaken the insurgency by cutting off its economic lifelines, the officials say.

CIA Surfin' The Web For Open Source Intelligence

An "exclusive" from's national security blog:
America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.
In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.
Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homeland Security Can't Trace Visa Holdovers

Even the New York Times, despite its absolutist open-borders philosophy, thinks this is bad:
Eight years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and despite repeated mandates from Congress, the United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country.
New concern was focused on that security loophole last week, when Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian who had overstayed his tourist visa, was accused in court of plotting to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.
Last year alone, 2.9 million foreign visitors on temporary visas like Mr. Smadi’s checked in to the country but never officially checked out, immigration officials said. While officials say they have no way to confirm it, they suspect that several hundred thousand of them overstayed their visas.
Over all, the officials said, about 40 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.
Mr. Smadi’s case has brought renewed calls from both parties in Congress for Department of Homeland Security officials to complete a universal electronic exit monitoring system.
DHS also has problems closer to home--the vulnerability of its own website to a cyberattack:
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public-facing websites present a highly accessible point of entry and attack to its information resources, according to an Office of Inspector General report released last Thursday.
The report titled Vulnerabilities Highlight the Need for More Effective Web Security Management evaluated nine of DHS’ most frequently visited public-facing websites to determine whether DHS has implemented effective security controls and practices, examining the implementation of DHS’ required configuration settings and patch management practices.
The report was heavily redacted in order not to divulge details that could help would be malicious intruders.

Net Neutrality--A Backdoor Fairness Doctrine?

At the moment, it's difficult to make heads or tails about the proposed "net neutrality" rules. However, given this administration's minimal regard for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, we're suspicious. For what it's worth, Sen. McCain has registered his opposition:
U.S. Senator John McCain has introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from creating new net neutrality rules, on the same day that the FCC took the first step toward doing so.
McCain on Thursday introduced the Internet Freedom Act, which would keep the FCC from enacting rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet content and applications. Net neutrality rules would create "onerous federal regulation," McCain said in a written statement.
...McCain called the proposed net neutrality rules a "government takeover" of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an "already anemic" job market in the U.S.
More on the net neutrality pushback here. Visit the FCC's website for the full text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feds Arrest Would-Be Massachusetts Terrorist

The 27-year-old pharmacist busted yesterday in connection with a terror investigation lived in the Boston suburbs with his parents--where they ran a daycare center:
The al-Qaeda reject busted by the feds yesterday is a tinhorn terrorist who lives at home with his parents in the suburbs and talked tough about attacks on shopping malls and government officials - even though he failed to make the cut at terror school and couldn’t find any guns to carry out his big plan, prosecutors said.
Federal authorities allege Tarek Mehanna was rebuffed at least three times as he sought terror training in Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan - including a rejection by the notorious Taliban, which cited his “lack of experience.”
Mehanna, a 27-year-old trained as a pharmacist, lives with his parents in Sudbury in a two-story home with a white picket fence, yet allegedly fancied himself as a jihadist bent on killing innocent Americans because they pay taxes to the government.
The Heritage Foundation says this arrest brings the latest number of known terrorist plots foiled since 9/11 to 27.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gitmo Case Goes to the Supremes, While Senate Votes on Detainee Transfer

The legal controversy revolving around the Chinese Muslims detained at Gitmo is heading to the the nation's highest court:
The Supreme Court set aside the objections of the Obama administration and said Tuesday that it will consider whether judges have the power to release Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States if they have been deemed not to be "enemy combatants."
The case, involving a group of Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs, again thrusts the court into the jangle of policy decisions and constitutional principles involving the approximately 220 men still held at the base in Cuba. And the court's decision to hear it could further complicate plans to close the military prison in January, a deadline the Obama administration recently said it might be unable to meet.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has given legislative approval for allowing Gitmo detainees to be brought to the U.S. mainland under certain conditions:
After dropping some popular immigration-enforcement measures, Congress on Tuesday passed the 2010 homeland security spending bill that gives President Obama the authority to transfer terrorism-suspect detainees to the United States for trial, though only after he submits a plan to Congress...
The spending bill funds more than 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents, pays for more border security technology and extends the E-Verify program, which allows businesses to check a government database to make sure their new workers are legal. But it doesn't require further construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
E-Verify was extended only for three years, and a provision allowing businesses to check their existing work force in addition to new hires was dropped.

The bill also contained a provision that prevents the disclosure of detainee abuse photos.

Founder: Human Rights Watchdog No Longer Has Credibility

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Robert L. Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch, says the organization has lost its way by no longer distinguishing between open and closed societies and instead adopting a moral equivalence game:
When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.
Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
...Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Former AG: Don't Try Terrorists In Civilian Courts

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who as a judge presided over the 1995 federal terrorism prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others, argues that putting terrorists on trial in civilian courts is a bad idea:
The Obama administration has said it intends to try several of the prisoners now detained at Guantanamo Bay in civilian courts in this country. This would include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and other detainees allegedly involved. The Justice Department claims that our courts are well suited to the task.
Based on my experience trying such cases, and what I saw as attorney general, they aren't. That is not to say that civilian courts cannot ever handle terrorist prosecutions, but rather that their role in a war on terror—to use an unfashionably harsh phrase—should be, as the term "war" would suggest, a supporting and not a principal role.
The challenges of a terrorism trial are overwhelming. To maintain the security of the courthouse and the jail facilities where defendants are housed, deputy U.S. marshals must be recruited from other jurisdictions; jurors must be selected anonymously and escorted to and from the courthouse under armed guard; and judges who preside over such cases often need protection as well. All such measures burden an already overloaded justice system and interfere with the handling of other cases, both criminal and civil.
Moreover, there is every reason to believe that the places of both trial and confinement for such defendants would become attractive targets for others intent on creating mayhem, whether it be terrorists intent on inflicting casualties on the local population, or lawyers intent on filing waves of lawsuits over issues as diverse as whether those captured in combat must be charged with crimes or released, or the conditions of confinement for all prisoners, whether convicted or not.
...Moreover, the rules for conducting criminal trials in federal courts have been fashioned to prosecute conventional crimes by conventional criminals. Defendants are granted access to information relating to their case that might be useful in meeting the charges and shaping a defense, without regard to the wider impact such information might have. That can provide a cornucopia of valuable information to terrorists, both those in custody and those at large.
...Moreover, it appears likely that certain charges could not be presented in a civilian court because the proof that would have to be offered could, if publicly disclosed, compromise sources and methods of intelligence gathering. The military commissions regimen established for use at Guantanamo was designed with such considerations in mind. It provided a way of handling classified information so as to make it available to a defendant's counsel while preserving confidentiality. The courtroom facility at Guantanamo was constructed, at a cost of millions of dollars, specifically to accommodate the handling of classified information and the heightened security needs of a trial of such defendants.
Nevertheless, critics of Guantanamo seem to believe that if we put our vaunted civilian justice system on display in these cases, then we will reap benefits in the coin of world opinion, and perhaps even in that part of the world that wishes us ill. Of course, we did just that after the first World Trade Center bombing, after the plot to blow up airliners over the Pacific, and after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
In return, we got the 9/11 attacks and the murder of nearly 3,000 innocents. True, this won us a great deal of goodwill abroad—people around the globe lined up for blocks outside our embassies to sign the condolence books. That is the kind of goodwill we can do without.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sheriff Joe: Deputies Will Still Make Illegal Immigration Busts

Despite the new 287(g) program, "America's Sheriff" is not backing down from enforcing immigration law in Maricopa County. Since the feds (and their friends in the ACLU and elsewhere) appear intent on watering down border enforcement, expect more investigations and lawsuits thrown in the sheriff's path.
Department of Homeland Security officials have signed new agreements authorizing nearly 70 state and local law enforcement agencies, including a contentious Arizona sheriff, to help arrest and deport illegal immigrants charged with violent or criminal acts.
Under the new agreements, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., who has come under fire for his immigration sweeps, will continue to work with federal authorities when illegal immigrants are booked into his jail. But Sheriff Arpaio's office will not be given the power to arrest such people, as it previously had, federal officials said.
As the new agreements were announced, Sheriff Arpaio launched a crime and immigration sweep Friday in northwestern metro Phoenix, according to the Associated Press.
The sheriff told the AP that he can still arrest immigrants under a state smuggling law and a federal law that gives all local police agencies more limited power to detain suspected illegal immigrants.
"It doesn't bother me, because we are going to do the same thing," Sheriff Arpaio said. "I am the elected sheriff. I don't take orders from the federal government."
Writing at NationalReviewOnline, immigration scholar Heather MacDonald observes that..
Though this tightening of 287(g) authority comes under the Obama administration, the Bush administration was no fan of the statute, either, and resisted allowing sheriff’s deputies to enforce immigration law on the streets against gangbangers. The trend is clear. When amnesty finally rolls around, among those millions of illegals allowed to jump the queue ahead of people who intend to be legal immigrants will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of criminals whose residency in the U.S. has been carefully protected to guarantee their ability to take advantage of the inevitable amnesty.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Part II: Media Bias and The Sounds of Silence--And Crickets

In a previous post, we mentioned that left-of-center media polemicists and politicians often accuse their right-of-center counterparts of lying even though it is the left that often puts forth disinformation, canned talking points, or other forms of obfuscation. In other words, a classic case of projection. The unprofessional, inappropriate outburst by the formerly obscure South Carolina congressman notwithstanding, nothing has changed. If anything, the left has stepped up its efforts.

So, with that in mind, here is the second installment of our media bias roundup (in no particular order). Again, please feel free to forward additional double-standard examples to us--or in the alternative, let us know if you disagree with our premise. As in Part 1, we include the crickets sound effect (well known to political- and sports-talk radio fans) to signify instances when the so-called mainstream media ignores--primarily for ideological reasons--a legitimate news story.


Republican lawmaker calls President Obama a liar
Media response: saturation coverage, demands for assorted groveling

Democrat lawmakers spend eight years calling President Bush
a liar
Media response: crickets


Republican lawmaker leaves office early to run for higher office
Media response: strong denunciation, quitter

Democrat lawmaker stays in office (thereby neglecting
his/her job) while running for higher office
Media response: crickets


Scattered, random offensive signs at "tea party" rallies
Media response: focus coverage almost exclusively on
the small percentage of offensive signs

Extensive number of offensive signs at anti-war, anti-capitalsm,
anti-globalism, or other left-of-center demonstrations
Media response: crickets


Right-of-center politician who supports school choice
sends children to public schools
Media response: crickets

Left-of-center politician who opposes school choice and
unconditionally supports teachers union sends children to
private school
Media response: crickets


Right-of-center think-tank releases study or representative
of think tank appears on cable news network
Media response: makes sure to ID think-tank as conservative
[also raises issues concerning who is funding the organization]

Left-of-center think-tank releases study or representative
appears on cable news network:
Media response: no adjective included
in front of think-tank's name--no discussion of funding sources


Right-of-center candidate runs negative ads
Media response: unseemly, undignified, poisonous
of the electorate, "smear machine"

Left-of-center candidate runs negative ads
Media response: crickets


Right-of-center former govt. official makes big
money on lecture tour
Media response: greedy, excessive, compromising

Right-of-center former govt. official makes big
money on lecture tour
Media response: crickets


Embarrassing info on the family of right-of-center
politician or activist--or politician him/herself.
Media response: major headlines and coverage

Embarrassing info on the family of left-of-center
politician or activist--or politician him/herself.
Media response: crickets


Right-of-center blog/website reader posts offensive
comments. Media response: yet another example of
lack of civility, extremism

Left-of-center blog/website reader posts offensive
comments. Media response: crickets


Right-of-center politician supports traditional marriage
and/or takes pro-life position
Media response: constant mention

Left-of-center politician supports traditional marriage
and/or takes pro-life position
Media response:crickets


Hate crime allegedly committed against media-favored
group Media response: saturation coverage

Hate crime allegedly committed against media-disfavored
group Media response:crickets


Right-of-center persons regularly mischaracterized as
Media response: accept caricature at face value

Longest serving Democrat in U.S. Senate is a former
Ku Klux Klan member
Media response: crickets


Top White House Official: Mao and Me

FNC's quirky and controversial Glen Beck seems to cry on camera more than someone sitting down for a Barbara Walters interview. Perhaps he was understandably moved to tears by this footage of White House Communications Director Anita Dunn singing the praises one of her favorite political philosophers, Mao Tse Tung, the Communist dictator who sent tens of millions of Chinese citizens to their death.

Britain's Homeland Security Chief Defends Post-9/11 Actions

Our idea of torture is when the cable goes out or a slow Internet connection. But seriously, MI5--the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency--is under investigation (sound familiar?) for allegedly outsourcing the torture of terror suspects. MI5's chief had this to say recently:
Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, has defended Britain's decision to co-operate with foreign intelligence agencies accused of torture in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Mr Evans, the director-general of MI5, said British lives had been saved as a direct result of intelligence received from overseas agencies in the years following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Speaking on Thursday night at a private event at Bristol University to mark MI5's centenary, he said they would have been "derelict in our duty" if they had not worked with foreign agencies in countering the threat from al-Qaeda.
Mr Evans acknowledged that contacts with agencies in countries with standards and practices "very far from our own" had posed "a real dilemma" for the service, but insisted he had "every confidence" in the way his officers dealt with them.
His comments come at a time when MI5 is facing a series of claims through civil courts that it colluded in the mistreatment of suspects held overseas, as well as an unprecedented investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
While he could not comment directly on the allegations, he said that it was "a very clear and long established principle" that MI5 did not collude in torture or solicit others to torture on its behalf.
However he said that events in the aftermath of the 9/11 had to been seen in the context of the times, when the UK and other Western countries were faced with a terrorist threat that was "indiscriminate, global and massive"...
The dilemma MI5 faced was whether to work with those security services which had experience of dealing with al-Qaida on their own territory, or risk cutting off a potentially vital source of information that could prevent attacks on the West.
"In my view we would have been derelict in our duty if we had not worked, circumspectly, with overseas liaisons who were in a position to provide intelligence that could safeguard this country from attack," Mr Evans said.
Separately, an FBI official identified the top three terrorism threats in the Missouri area (and perhaps by extension the entire country):
  • fundraising for terrorist activities
  • recruiting individuals to send overseas for terrorist training
  • gang activity

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Video: Recognizing Terrorism Warning Signs

With Department of Homeland Security funding, the Denver-based Center for Empowered Living and Learning (The CELL) produced this new video called "Recognizing the 8 Signs of Terrorism." The video aims to educate Colorado citizens (and citizens everywhere) on their responsibility to recognize and report signs of terrorist activity to law enforcement. The film is narrated by former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and Denver television news anchor Kim Christiansen.

As portrayed in this short video, the eight signs of terrorism are:
  • surveillance
  • elicitation 
  • tests of security
  • funding
  • acquiring supplies
  • impersonation
  • rehearsal
  • deployment

The CELL is home to the world's only multimedia exhibit about the history and causes of terrorism and the best known policies employed to combat such current and future threats to American citizens and people around the world.

Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Napolitano tells Bloomberg News that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are tracking terrorists with "al Qaeda leanings" in the U.S.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Should Senator McCain Get A Do-Over?

Think back to the 2008 presidential campaign for a minute. Many voters understandably had, well, issues with Sen. John McCain's issues and voting record--even though virtually every reasonable person has the utmost respect for his incredible service to our country.

And one other detail. Unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office, Sen. McCain's rich resume qualified him for the job regardless of whether the voters saw eye to eye (or is that aye to aye?) with him on everything or had misgivings about the McCain agenda. And had the Arizona senator been elected, there would be no runaway federal spending, haphazard national and international security policies, or this strange obsession with socialism, among other things.

Sen. McCain (as did Obama) voted for the TARP bailout; given the economic hysteria at the time, he probably thought in good faith that that was the statesmanlike thing to do. While most of us would probably get sick to our stomach if we had access to the inside machinations of the political world, occasionally good politics and good policy do come together. Occasionally.

However, now comes word via the Washington Times that things were even worse than we thought:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. misled the public about the financial weakness of Bank of America and other early recipients of the government's $700 billion Wall Street bailout, creating "unrealistic expectations" about the companies and damaging the program's credibility, according to a report by the program's independent watchdog.
The federal government last October loaned Bank of America and eight other "healthy" financial institutions a total of $125 billion - the initial payout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP - in an attempt to avoid a series of major bank collapses that would push the sputtering economy into a free fall or depression.
The rationale for giving money to stable banks and not failing ones, regulators said, was that such institutions would be better able to lend money and thus unfreeze tight credit markets - a major factor in last year's Wall Street losses.
But an audit released Monday by TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky says senior government officials and Wall Street regulators, including Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson, had "affirmative concerns" that several of the nine institutions were financially shaky.
Was it around Labor Day that Sen. McCain pulled ahead in the polls? Then the economic meltdown happened, which crushed his momentum--although the media predictably failed to ask McCain's opponent about his (Obama's) plans to address the financial emergency.

That notwithstanding, Sen. McCain had a golden opportunity to recapture the momentum in the first presidential debate on September 26, 2008, and win the election--despite his lackluster presentation skills and despite ACORN's best efforts.

Did he listen to bad advice from his handlers or was it on his own initiative? Perhaps history will tell use eventually.

Remember, in the run-up to the first debate, Sen. McCain suspended his campaign and floated the idea of postponing the first debate to return to Capitol Hill to intervene in the so-called Paulson financial rescue plan. McCain was roundly criticized for that idea (the same media that refused to hold Obama's feet to the fire on the economic crisis). But the pundits were wrong as usual; the suspense gave McCain an absolute stranglehold on the media campaign coverage--which is exactly where a candidate wants to do.

The debate ultimately went forward on schedule, and there the Senator blew a golden opportunity before an estimated 52.4 million viewers to recapture his lead in the polls. First, he failed to explain to the American public why he suspended his campaign in the first place. (Most people don't have time to follow the news very closely.) His second mistake was pledging on national TV to vote in favor the Paulson bill when it reached the Senate chamber. At the very least he could have hedged, no?

Here's what the senator should have said during the debate:
  • I suspended my campaign and returned to Washington because the House Republicans were not given a seat at the negotiating table. I personally intervened so that both political parties could play in role in writing the legislation for the benefit of the American people.
  • No bill will ever be perfect but Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle should have an opportunity to participate in the process.
  • That being said, I can not support the bill in its present form because it lays the entire pricetag for the corrupt practices of the government and Wall Street at the feet of the American taxpayer.
  • In 2005, I supported a bill that would have reformed the abuses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two agencies deeply involved in the subprime mortgage scandal. Senator Obama received massive campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator Obama and his friends blocked that legislation from going through. Had my legislation become law, we could have minimized this crisis--or avoided it altogether.

Sadly, Sen. McCain said none of this. This was one occasion where if the senator had put himself first, he would have also put the country first.

Kubrick's Homeland Security

Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, authored by cinema scholar Vincent LoBrutto, thoroughly examines the career of the high school photography buff who became the world-renowned director of Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001 and other classic films.

In the mid-60s, in search of a more civil and private environment, Kubrick moved his family to London permanently, where he lived and worked and lived first in a luxury apartment and then in a large country estate on the outskirts of town. In general, Kubrick--the reclusive "relentless perfectionist"--felt he could exercise more creative control over his filmmaking in the UK rather than in New York or Hollywood. England also allowed him to make movies more cheaply.

In the book, Kubrick's wife Christiane (who appeared in the final scene of Paths of Glory singing in the tavern to French troops) is quoted as follows:
We lived on Central Park West [in NYC] at 84th Street. I began to get used to seeing the streets white with smashed Coke bottles, to seeing police taking the children to school. In the shops, roughs would just slouch and sprawl across the doorways so you'd have to step over them as if it was quite normal. The women were harsh, too. You just got elbowed out of the way by them. The terrible danger was going home and taking it out on somebody weaker like a child. Just like the animal kingdom. New York did something to me. Before we went there we thought that Americans who complained about the schools and the atmosphere were just right-wing creeps, but of course they had a point.
Many years later, New York City experienced a profound renaissance thanks to the effective policing methods introduced by the Giuliani administration. On the other hand, London now faces an increasing rate of street crime. Ironically, back in the day, some claimed that Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) inspired violent copycat behavior--causing Kubrick to pull the film from circulation in his adopted country.

DHS Says No To Sheriff Joe

They say actions speak louder than words, so it's difficult to take the Homeland Security Department seriously about border enforcement when it decides to decertify Sheriff Arpaio's crackdown on illegal immigration under the 287(g) program:
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he will continue his controversial "crime suppression operations" despite a Department of Homeland Security decision to strip him of authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status...
“It’s all politics,” says Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County.
Arpaio will still have the power to check the immigration status of people booked by his officers, but not the authority to conduct street patrols looking for illegal immigrants.
The Wall Street Journal has more:
Mr. Arpaio was an early participant in a federal immigration program that enlists and trains local police to identify suspected criminal aliens in jails and on the streets. The program, known as 287g, is designed to target drug dealers, gang members and human smugglers.
Since February 2007, Mr. Arpaio has arrested about 30,000 illegal immigrants who were booked into jails in his county. The street-enforcement component, the most contentious portion of the program, resulted in the apprehension of far fewer people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scalia to Lawyers: Find A Real Job?

We've long maintained that in general the things lawyers do tend to shrink the economic pie rather than expand it, at the expense of societal prosperity and innovation. In comments made during a C-SPAN interview as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seems to agree:
I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Congress Won't Fund Gitmo Shutdown

One party controls all the levels of government in Washington, yet the administration can't get the party faithful to go along with the scheduled January 2010 closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay:
Lawmakers are using their authority to direct federal spending to prevent the Obama administration from closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
In their race to complete a dozen appropriations bills for the fiscal year that began this week, members of both chambers are including policy language aimed at halting the administration’s decision to transfer prisoners from the Cuban facility to prisons in their districts.
The latest example came on Thursday when the House instructed conferees negotiating with the Senate on a final version of the Homeland Security spending bill to include language prohibiting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil. The bill already includes a provision prohibiting the detainees from air travel within or to the United States.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

U.S. Surrenders Internet Control: ICANN Goes International

In general, this policy giveaway seems initially benign--until you consider that many foreign governments run by oppressive, totalitarian dictators lack a fundamental appreciation, shall we say, for freedom of speech. And when you consider how the dysfunctional, corrupt United Nations operates, do we really want a "virtual U.N." playing any role in Internet connectivity?
After complaints about American dominance of the internet and growing disquiet in some parts of the world, Washington has said it will relinquish some control over the way the network is run and allow foreign governments more of a say in the future of the system.
Icann – the official body that ultimately controls the development of the internet thanks to its oversight of web addresses such as .com, .net and .org – said today that it was ending its agreement with the US government.
The deal, part of a contract negotiated with the US department of commerce, effectively pushes California-based Icann towards a new status as an international body with greater representation from companies and governments around the globe.
The Obama administration's foreign policy has run the gamut from inept to devious (and let's remember it has also has put forth its own potentially unconstitutional initiatives to try to control the Internet), so once again we are left with the the fundamental question: how does this policy change make American safer and more secure?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Administration Noncommittal on Patriot Act Privacy Changes

The White House has been less than transparent about changing the Patriot Act, according to
A senior Justice Department official on Wednesday [September 23] refused to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee what changes the Obama administration might support to the USA PATRIOT Act, even though Democrats on the panel said additional safeguards must be built into the law.
"I think what has happened is that Congress has seized the initiative here," David Kris, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division, told the panel during a hearing
Kris was repeatedly asked his opinion about two recently introduced bills that would reauthorize and modify three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that expire at the end of this year
The Washington Examiner has the story of what Patriot Act critics on Capitol Hill have in mind:
You might not have heard, but some key parts of the nation's most important anti-terrorism law are set to expire in December. When the Patriot Act was originally passed in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress put time limits on three of its most far-reaching provisions: "Roving wiretaps," which allow investigators to keep up with suspects who use dozens of cell phones to avoid being traced; "business records" authority, which lets investigators ask a special national-security court for access to records of a suspect's dealings with private businesses; and the "lone wolf" provision, which allows investigators to track individual terror suspects even if they are not a member of a terrorist group, like al Qaeda. Congress renewed those provisions in 2005 and now must give them another four-year renewal, or they will disappear.
Some Democratic lawmakers have long wanted to weaken the act, and now, with big majorities in the House and Senate, they have their chance. But the renewal debate just happens to come at a time when recently uncovered domestic terror plots -- most notably the Denver shuttle bus driver and his colleagues caught with bomb-making materials and a list of specific targets in New York City -- are highlighting the very threats the act was designed to counter. Republicans are fighting to keep the law in its current form.
In the Wall Street Journal, Former AG Mukasey says don't mess with the Patriot Act:
One would think that the arrests last week of Najibullah Zazi, charged with plotting to bomb New York City subways—and of two others charged with planning to blow up buildings in Dallas, Texas, and Springfield, Ill.—would generate support for the intelligence-gathering tools that protect this country from Muslim fanatics. In Mr. Zazi's case, the government has already confirmed the value of these tools: It has filed a notice of its intent to use information gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was specifically written to help combat terrorists and spies.
Nevertheless, there is a rear-guard action in Congress to make it more difficult to gather, use and protect intelligence—the only weapon that can prevent an attack rather than simply punish one after the fact. The USA Patriot Act, enacted in the aftermath of 9/11, is a case in point....Rather than simply renew these vital provisions, which expire at the end of this year, some congressional Democrats want to impose requirements that would diminish their effectiveness, or add burdens to existing authorizations that would retard rather than advance our ability to gather intelligence.
Meanwhile, Newsweek says that the threat from homegrown terrorists is increasing:
The threat from Al Qaeda to the U.S. homeland is arguably more acute now than at any time since September 11. This is not because Al Qaeda has become a stronger foe. (On the contrary, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has actually been weakened in the last two years by intensified U.S. missile strikes against its leadership in FATA and a sharp backlash among Muslims worldwide against its violent excesses.) It is because a growing number of Americans have gone to FATA, the global hub of Al Qaeda's terrorist operations, to join the jihad in Afghanistan—something which was very rare until recently—and Al Qaeda, opportunistically, has recruited them for attacks on their country.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Civil Rights Agency Wants Answers About Abandoned Voter Intimidation Case

From the Washington Times:
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission is not backing off its showdown with the Justice Department about mishandling the voter-intimidation case involving agents of the New Black Panther Party. Nor should it.
Yesterday, the commission sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. demanding that Justice "fully cooperate," according to specific legal authority vested in the commission, with the commission's inquiry about why Justice dropped the case after it had already been won. The commission wrote that Justice's replies to earlier commission requests either are "overdue," have been "largely non-responsive" or have provided "none of the documents we requested."