Saturday, March 31, 2007

Belligerent Self Defense

In this article Gwen Dyer is thankful that the Iranians attacked and kidnapped British troops rather than Americans. She is concerned that belligerent Americans when attacked would defend themselves causing a larger conflict. (I’m not sure why anyone would say defending oneself from an armed attack would be belligerent.)

Of course the reason the reason the Iranians attacked the British is because they knew the Brits would not fight back. Weakness like this invites attacks by truly belligerent powers. When a nation like Iran knows that there adversaries will fight beck they are not as likely to act aggressively. In reality American “belligerence” works to maintain peace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Strong Case for Executive Privlige

Now that the House Judiciary Committee has voted to subpoena Karl Rove and other top White House Aids we will be faced with a Constitutional showdown over executive privilege.

The leading case for executive privilege is United States v. Nixon. In that case recognized the privilege stating,
A President and those who assist him must be free to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately. These are the considerations justifying a presumptive privilege for presidential communications. The privilege is fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution.

The Court found, however, that the privilege is not absolute. When the privilege conflicts with the rule of law the court must use a balancing test between the Presidents need for confidentiality and the “fair administration of criminal justice.” The importance of the executive privilege ranges from the extremely important area of national security, where the Privilege will almost always be up held, to the claim of the privilege for the sake of confidentiality itself, where the privilege is at its weakest. The strongest reason for abrogating executive privilege comes in the context of criminal trials as opposed to civil cases.

With this backdrop I believe the Presidents claim for executive privilege in this case is strong. Because this is a congressional hearing, the judicial process is not at issue. Furthermore, this is not a case for promoting secrecy for its on sake but rather secrecy in the execution of a constitutional power of the President. The President has the power to fire US Attorneys for any reason.

The purpose for which the information is being sought is also weak. This is not a criminal or civil judicial case, but a congressional hearing. It appears the real purpose is to simply embarrass the president. If every time a president took a legal action within the scope of his constitutional powers his aids could be called before Congress to testify about what advice they gave him, those aids would be more likely to hold back on what they say to the president. This concern squares exactly with the rational for which the court recognized the privilege.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Manufacruting a Scandal Part Two

After the Democrats have worked with their allies in the press to make a legitimate exercise of presidential power look scandalous what is the next step? Subpoena presidential advisers, of course. The Democrats know that no president would allow his highest personal advisers to testify. This is a clear violation of executive privilege. When the President refuses to allow the testimony of his advisers the Democrats and there allies in the press will make it look like he is trying to cover something up.

Is There Hope for the Sartribune?

I had a chilling moment of personal crisis over the weekend. It came while reading the Editorial page of the Startribune. Now I normally find the Editorial page of the most liberal paper in the nation disturbing. But this was different. This was scary This was something that made me question who I am and what I believe in. This was an editorial I agreed with. And this was not just passing agreement. This was a case that I thought the Startribune was absolutely right about everything they wrote and had persuasive logic.

The editorial had to do with the annual attempt by Minnesota grocers to get a law passed allowing them to sell wine in grocery stores. Minnesota has antiquated liquor laws making it illegal to sell any alcohol, including beer and wine, in anything put licensed liquor stores. Liquor stores, furthermore, are closed after 10:00PM and on Sundays. This is very inconvenient to the liquor consuming public.

The Startribune agreed that grocery store should be able to sell wine, but wondered by we should stop there. Then the Startribune wrote this,
The Legislature's perspective should be broader than that. If more competition is a good thing, and it generally is, then be thorough about it: Inject more competition in Minnesota's liquor laws from top to bottom. Reaching into the morass of antiquated Minnesota liquor regulations to tweak just the parts that deal with wine sales strikes us as simply adding a new layer of slightly less-bad policy to old layers of thoroughly bad policy.

When I read this paragraph I almost fell over. Could it be that the Startribune understood one of the basic principals of capitalism? Could they understand that competition and free markets delivers prosperity by giving people what they want? It appears they might.

There may, in this editorial, be a glimmer of hope for the Startribune. Now if they can just take this a step further and apply this new found understanding of competition to education we may have something.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Manufacturing a Scandal

Today there was one innocuous development in the so called US attorney firing scandal. An email was leaked. While neither Carl Rove or Attorney General Gonzalez either authored or received the email, they were both mentioned. The email stated that Rove had inquired of the White House Counsel's Office what they were planning regarding the US Attorneys. The author of the email also stated that he talked “briefly” with Gonzalez weeks earlier about the US Attorney situation.

From this limited new development came this McClatchy news story by Ron Hutcheson and Margaret Talev. It is a good example of how a biased press can work together with their friends in the Democratic party to manufacture a scandal out of the thin air. The article is basically innocent facts spun to sound bad and intermixed with unchallenged overthetop quotes by some of the most partisan democrats.

Here are excerpts with my comments.

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced more pressure to resign Thursday as new evidence suggested that he and presidential adviser Karl Rove played bigger roles in developing plans to fire U.S. attorneys than they've acknowledged.
This is a very ominous start. After all the Attorney General is being pressured to be resign. But pressure by who. The article leaves that hanging for dramatic effect.

Rove has been President Bush's chief political adviser since Bush's first campaign for Texas governor, and the latest developments angered members of Congress, created new credibility problems for the administration and increased calls for Gonzales' resignation.
Again, things sound bad for the president. Members of Congress are mad and there are credibility problems. It does not say which members of Congress are mad or why there would be credibility problems. I guess we need to read on.

Democrats cited Rove's involvement as more evidence that the firings were intended to purge prosecutors who refused to let partisan politics influence criminal investigations.
Here is the real guts of the alleged scandal. If the administration made decisions on firing US Attorneys in order to influence particular criminal investigations for political reasons that would be wrong. That would be a legitimate scandal (although probably not a big one). But there is no evidence anywhere that this is the case and apparently the authors don’t have any evidence, because if they did they would have inserted it here. Instead they print the blind assertion of unnamed Democrats. They do so without questioning the accuracy. The statement simply hangs there with the understanding that the reader will accept it as true.

Administration e-mails from early January 2005 show that Rove and Gonzales were directly involved in the initial planning to oust prosecutors who had fallen out of favor. Recounting in an e-mail a conversation he had had with Gonzales, aide Kyle Sampson said that they'd decided to replace 15 percent to 20 percent of the 93 U.S. attorneys while retaining those who "are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc."
This it the first time there is any factual information stated. But even here their summary of the email is a biased reading. They say that the email shows that Rove and Gonzales were directly involved, but if you read the email their involvement is not so substantial. Rove’s involvement was limited to asking someone in the White House Counsels Office how they planned to proceed with the US attorneys. From a proper reading of this email it looks like Rove was not involved in the decision at all, he just wanted to know what it was going to be. Later on in the article they admit that Rove’s role was limited, but for now the reader is led to believe that Roves involvement was “direct.”

At the time, Gonzales was serving as White House counsel while awaiting confirmation to become attorney general. Sampson became his chief of staff at the Justice Department and continued to oversee planning for a mass firing. Sampson resigned earlier this week amid the growing controversy over the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys last year.
He resigned over the growing controversy, but what exactly is the controversy and why is it growing?

An e-mail from another White House aide said that Rove wanted to know "how we planned to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc."
Hear they Finlay quote the only passage in the email dealing with Rove’s involvement. It hardly sounds direct does it.

The e-mails, which the Justice Department released after the contents were leaked to ABC News, call into question Gonzales' assertion that he was essentially in the dark about the plans to dismiss federal prosecutors.
You might notice that the real scandal seems to have changed from partisan influence, of which there appears to be no evidence, to when did Gonzales know of the plan. Why, exactly, is that important?

The White House downplayed the significance of the e-mails but backed away from earlier statements that the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with former White House counsel Harriet Miers and was swiftly rejected by Gonzales and Rove.
"I do not have the specific answer for you as to whose idea it was," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
Now the issue seems to be who first had the Idea to fire US Attorneys. The authors are right that there is some dispute about this, but why is that important?

The Justice Department issued a statement saying Gonzales "has no recollection of any plan or discussion to replace U.S. attorneys while he was still White House counsel."
In a speech earlier in the day at Troy University in Troy, Ala., Rove dismissed the controversy as "a lot of politics" and said the U.S. attorney firings were proper.
The e-mails don't indicate that Rove took any position on how many U.S. attorneys should be replaced, but they do show that he took an early interest in the dismissal plan.
This paragraphs seems completely at odds with the earlier assertion that Rove was “directly involved in the initial plan to oust prosecutors.” They try to make Rove’s inquiry sound ominous by then stating he had an “early interest.”

"The notion that the president's top political adviser was so deeply embroiled in this decision is the final nail in the coffin of the administration's contention that this was done for performance-related issues and not politics of the lowest kind," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
They put this unrefuted quote hear to make it sound like there was something more here then their own story just admitted there is. They include this quote, without questioning it or having comment from the other side, even though it seems to contradict the facts. Again, according to the email in question, Rove’s role was limited to asking the counsels office what they were doing. That is hardly “embroiled in the decision.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House subcommittee that's leading the inquiry, said documents showing Rove's involvement and Gonzales' prior knowledge signal "a deliberate attempt to place partisan ideology at the center of the justice system in a way not seen since the Watergate scandal."
Yet another democrat being quoted without refutation stating something against the weight of the evidence in this case. According to Sanchez, since rove asked the council’s office what they were going to do abut the US attorneys we have another Watergate. This quote is completely outlandish and is not supported by any facts in the article or any facts any place else.

To recap we have a scandal where there is no evidence that anybody did anything wrong. We have a new development that showed Rove had very limited involvement in the so called scandal. From that we have a news story which plays this as the worst scandal since Watergate
Something tells me this is not the last time we will see democrats working together with a willing press to create scandals. This is going to be a long two years.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is Harry Reid Unpatriotic?

I find it amusing that every time I hear something about a Democrat being unpatriotic it is usually coming from a democrat. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Democrat: We should pass a nonbinding resolution stating our disapproval of the President's policy in Iraq.

Republican: That would embolden terrorists and encourage them to carry out more attacks on US troops.

Democrat: Stop calling me unpatriotic.

I have yet to hear any major republican calling any major democrat unpatriotic. Maybe that should change.

Take today's vote on Senator Reid's Iraq bill. The bill would have required US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of next March. While it is arguable to what degree, any time there is a debate and vote on a bill criticizing the mission of troops abroad it presents problems for the troops and their mission.

Troops in Iraq hearing politicians at home bicker about their mission can only have a negative impact on moral. Hearing prominent American politicians publicly disagree with the president will only encourage the enemy to step up attacks on our troops. They may be thinking that the bill failed today, but if we only kill more Americans it may pass in the future.

Now I'm not saying that voting on a bill to withdraw troops from Iraq is unpatriotic. It may well be that Reid and other Democrats believe that is the best policy for the nation and that it is worth the short-term problems it may bring about. The problem is that the bill did not even come near to passing, falling 11 short of the 60 needed to pass. Reid, being a crafty Majority leader, must have known early on that this bill would not pass. So why then would he force a debate and a vote on the bill that was not going to pass knowing of the negative consequences? Could it be that he places Democratic partisan politics above what is best for our nation and our troops. Would that be unpatriotic?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Letters From Losers

In today's Startribune Eric Jorgenson writes,

Joined by philosophy

So many reasons for Mitch Pearlstein to be pleased with himself (Commentary, March 9)! He disapproves of Ann Coulter! He's adopted a biracial daughter! He knows the meanings of hard words like "alliterative" and "larboard"! On a subsequent descent from Olympus perhaps Pearlstein will explain how he decides where to draw his lines of disapproval.

He's "not too thrilled" with Coulter, but she's gotten rich selling her shtick to dolts who mark their ballots as he marks his. He boasts of never having invited Coulter to address his think tank, but he's invited others who fawn on her.

Lacking the powers of discrimination possessed by these demigods, I find it convenient to revile them all uniformly.

Mr. Jorgenson entire argument is based on associational falicy, that is he is guilty of Ann Coulter's sins because people who support her vote the same way he does. The lack of logic of this argument can be seen if the same logic was used against Mr. Jorgenson. He probably voted for John Kerry, as did a vast majority of those found guilty of committing violent crimes. What does that say about him. Nothing of course, unless we use logic like him.

Temest in a Teapot

In this editorial the Startribune is beside itself with hysteria over the so called US Attorney scandal. In an unusual beginning the Strib starts off stating,
If you are inclined to think questions raised over the Bush administration's firing of eight U.S. attorneys amount to a tempest in a teapot, a political dust up engineered by Democrats now that they control Congress, think again.

Any time the Startribune says something a reader may be inclined to believe is not true it probably is. This case is no exception. In fact this is a "political dust up engineered by democrats," and the Startribune is only to happy to have their back and pretend this common governmental event is some how a scandal.

US attorneys are governmental appointees that serve at the pleasure of the president. In 1993, Bill Clinton fired not eight, but all of the US Attorneys. One of those was about to indict Clinton ally Rep. Dan Rostenkowsky, and another was investigating the Clintons in Arkansas. That was not thought to be a scandal. The fact that this year the Executive Branch removed just eight of the 93 US Attorneys is not at all unusual. And the Memos that have been released appear to state the the Bush administration was attempting to remove under performing Attorneys.

The Startribune is outraged that some of the removed attorneys were removed in part because they did not aggressively investigate voter fraud. But the President is the chief law enforcement officer, and it is within his prerogative to establish prosecutorial priorities for the nation. If US attorneys did not follow the presidents instructions on what is a priority they should have expected to be fired. The Startribune clearly disagrees with the president about the importance if election fraud. But how is that relevant. George Bush is president, not the editorial writers for the Startribune (than God). If they want their priorities to be represented by the Federal government they should run for president, not try to make a scandal out the the president doing what it is within his power to do.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A good first step for the Ninth Circuit

In a decision that could only come from the Ninth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that it is ineffective assistance of council for an attorney to rely on Ninth Circuit constitutional precedent. Apparently they have as little respect for their opinions as the rest of us do. Well, I suppose, the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem.

Interesting Obama Twist

In an interesting twist, it has come to light that Barack obama is the descendent of slave owners. Apparently at least two ancestors from his mother's side of the family owned slaves according to census records. Because Obama's father is from Africa it appears that Obama is not the descendent of any slaves.

While I would not normally think that what one's distant ancestors may have done would be relevant in today's world I think this raises interesting questions. First, for the reparations advocates, should Obama be entitled to receive payments? Secondly, should Obama and his children be entitled to benefit from affirmative actions programs?

Double standard?

An editorial in Today's Startribune cheered the conviction of Louis Libby for perjury. Of course, the Startribue was against the impeachment of Bill Clinton for the same charge. I guess the point they are trying to make is that it is OK for a democrat to commit perjury but if a republican does it they need to go to jail.