You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2010.

The Guantanamó prisoners won’t be going home any time soon.

Several people snark that this represents yet another instance of the Obama Administration flailing uselessly until finally coming to the realization that George W. Bush had it right all along. In retrospect, though, Bush left out something vital that the new Executive Order addresses. From ProPublica:

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.

Tell the truth and shame the Devil: despite righteous indignation, the issue was never establishment of guilt or innocence for the gits of Gitmo. What the leftoids have wanted all along is a platform for posturing, where they could wail about the essential vileness of Western Civilization and the guilt of the United States for every ill effect on the planet, and cry out America delenda est! with solemn sanctimony. They never intended to let the terrorists go — more precisely, they never gave a damn whether the terrorists walked or got executed, because the actual people existed for them only as convenient nails to hang their expositions and we-are-to-blame breast-beating from.

What Obama & Co. get right that Bush did not is the “periodic reviews of evidence”. Once a year, the lawyers, apologists, and self-declared Guardians of the American Way will be granted a stage upon which to demonstrate their eloquence in declaring the Evil at the Heart of the West. Conveniently enough, just enough prisoners have been selected for “prolonged detention” to allow a new “review” every week, with annual time off for the America-haters.

The scheme has a deficiency: it isn’t public enough. There will, no doubt, be reporters at the review hearings, but it will be difficult to make them prominent enough to satisfy the participants’ urge for political theater. A possible solution presents itself.

Appoint three judges to hold the hearings, and find or construct a suitably photogenic courtroom, perhaps modeled on the Kremlin facility for show trials of Public Enemies in the Thirties. Perhaps the relevant prisoner could be ensconced in a chrome-plated cell, wearing his orange boiler suit. Each week during prime time, broadcast the summations of testimony and argument, with the judges awarding points for style and content, ultimately resulting in a grade 1..10 for overall effect. Add Internet and telephone polling of the audience. Once a quarter, play excerpts from the arguments of the highest-graded participants, with audience polling for Favorite Denouncer, Best Sob Story, and the like. What to offer as prizes is a bit problematic, but of course money is always good. The real prize would be the exposure.

It wouldn’t be the highest-rated show around, but given decent production values and a bit of promotion it might draw a three or four percent share, enough to support it as a cable program. CAIR and the NGOs would be ecstatic — they would have a chance to present their arguments in the clearest possible fashion to the largest possible audience.

Let the gits go? Nevah happen. But, then, that isn’t the point.

I live in the country, not as far out as I’d like but still where there’s a horizon. As the sunset and sunrise move farther and farther to the South and the days get shorter, my mood darkens and I’m likely to get sick, as I did this time. But the solstice — ah. Tomorrow the sunrise will be more northerly than yesterday’s, even if the increment is tiny, and the day will be a trifle longer, and the blackness lifts a little bit.

Our ancestors, who didn’t know about orbits and axes and inclinations, felt the same way. When it became obvious that the Sun had in fact turned around, that it wasn’t going to keep going until everything was dark and cold all the time, well, that was cause for celebration. There’s a reason the biggest bash of the year is right after the winter solstice in most cultures. The Sun is coming back! We might not freeze to death! Time to paaaaateeee!

DREAM failed of cloture, but an asymmetry remains. Republicans should address it in the 112th.

My personal objections to the DREAM act were to its being larded up with Democratic-party wishlist items. The basic idea isn’t evil or even objectionable, really. Mamá made it across the border before her water broke: the kid’s a citizen. Ten minutes too late: not. That’s an extreme, but minor children don’t really have a choice about going where their parents go. Mamá and Papá decided to become illegal aliens — or, more often, Papá did, and Mamá went along with it — and the kids didn’t have much input. That really is unfair.

So what would a Republican version look like?

How about this: Children brought across the border before age 18 (eligibility for military service) become eligible, upon application, for permanent residence. The five-year clock for naturalization by the normal process begins at age 18 or the date of filing, whichever is later, and it makes the kid eligible to join the military if he or she prefers that route.

In addition, that means that the new citizen is at least 22 (joins the military at age 18) or 23 (clock starts at age 18). They are therefore adults, and cannot serve as “anchors” for their illegal alien parents. That sets up a catch, in that the parents are revealed as illegal aliens by the child’s application. So: If the parents self-deport and live outside the US for at least one year, they go on the list for legal entry to permanent resident status without regards to any quotas for that country.

That’s still a bit unfair to people who’ve jumped through all the (considerable) hoops for legal entry by the normal process, but it isn’t a simple giveaway, either. I could get behind it with no trouble.

The difference between Matthew Yglesias and a mugger is that Yglesias is too pusillanimous to do his own victim-coshing.

I just found this, and love it.

Perhaps Bernanke and Krugman, having come back with the heads of giants and devils’ tails, might profit from it.

Stay inside during a nuclear attack, says the Administration via the New York Times. The Instapundit says that isn’t bad advice:

Even back in the 1960s there were Civil Defense debates on whether to give warning in case of an attack, based on studies that showed more people would be sheltered by where they happened to be than would benefit from a warning, since many people would immediately either try to flee, or to return to their homes, winding up in more exposed positions when the bomb went off.

Glen’s right, of course. It’s like a tornado or an earthquake — if you’re in or near a reasonably sound structure you’ll be a lot safer if you stay where you are and hunker down(.pdf) than you will be if you run screaming, or try to get home.

It’s a blast from the past, it is. I’m old enough to remember “duck and cover”, and for a while there fallout shelters were the “in” thing to have in a fancy new house. The Civil Defense trefoil could be found in all kinds of cellars and the lower floors of strong buildings, and people treated the situation alternately as being a remote risk and an inevitability.

But why now? Did Obama and his people get a burst of Lileksian nostalgia? There are a lot of features of the Fifties and Sixties I’d love to have back, but this is not one of them.

It’s an easy question to answer, of course. Pakistan has nukes, and sooner or later they’ll give some to the Taleban; the Iranians have missiles, and apparently they get to have nukes, too, on the ground that only letting Americans play with the cool toyz isn’t fair; Hugo Chavez is negotiating with the mullahs to have some missiles of his own; and, of course, doing anything substantive about any of that would be imperialistic (boo hiss!), and we aren’t allowed to have a missile defense because that would be destabilizing.

It’s all of a piece with “we could absorb a terrorist attack”. What they’re telling you is that you’re going to get nuked, there’s nothing they can do about it, they have no intention of trying to do anything substantive about it, and the best thing for you to do is to learn to be a contortionist — it’s hard to bend over far enough to kiss your ass goodbye.

The one ray of hope for most of us is that most of the world has precisely the attitude of our own “world citizen” wannabees: the United States consists of New York, Washington, D.C., and hinterlands of little importance. As a Bitter Clinger® of the Red-State Clingers, I am beginning to regard losing either or both as something of a positive; in fact, about ten megatons with Ground Zero at Pennsylvania and Seventh St NW would be downright cleansing just now. It’s not something I want, and I damn sure wouldn’t push the red button, but it might just be that we’d be better off after radical surgery to remove the tumor.

Unfortunately our enemies probably know that, too. It is a standard item of “wit” amongst headquarters troops of all sorts that no sane enemy would attack them, because it would reduce the confusion.

For many years now, things like WikiLeaks and “war crimes” trials have been put forward by the international Left and the general America-enviers, and the US, in general, didn’t react with much force. This is a symptom of strength, much like the Tough Guy in a bar offering the wimps a chance to “…take your best shot!”, and has long been a source of tooth-grinding frustration among the people trying those tactics. The United States, as a nation, simply shrugs and goes on to the next thing, and the message that sends is clear: That the best you can do, pipsqueak? C’mon, hit me again.

Now, though, we are across the board weaker than we have been in a long, long time, three-quarters of a century at least. When you are strong you have options — you can hit back at your enemies, but it may be more effective to forgive them or simply ignore them. When you are weak, hitting back with all force is the only option. A strong America might well absorb a terrorist hit with little damage, even a nuclear one. A weak America, especially an America with weaklings in its highest offices, might very well feel it had something to prove, and that could be very dangerous to miscalculators — and more so to their innocent bystanders.

In which I agree with a leftoid, sort of

Jackie Calmes at the New York Times notes:

President Obama will host a roundtable with about 20 corporate chiefs on Wednesday, according to the White House, part of an attempt to ease strained relations with business.

Expected for the session at the Blair House, across the street from the White House, are executives from a range of industries, including American Express, Cisco Systems, Dow Chemical, Google, Motorola, Intel, UPS and PepsiCo, according to people involved in the planning. But the White House said it would not divulge attendees until the meeting.

We can, perhaps, pass briefly over the fact that, in past meetings of this type, Mr. Obama’s procedure has been less of “fact finding” and more in the nature of “harangue”, in which he explains to his captive audience how the One True Way must be followed. It’s rather more notable that the announcement hasn’t generated much interest, and that Ms. Calmes’s piece, if anything, considers the notion with warm approval — compare and contrast the reaction to Bush & Cheney’s meetings with energy producers.

Memeorandum sees a cross-reference to Crooks and Liars, but that’s a bug in their system emphasizing a crosslink to the always-rambling Sky Dancing, where “Minkoff Minx” whines, inter alia,

Obama is meeting with these hot shots as “an attempt to ease strained relations with business.” Huh? Hasn’t their golden boy attended to every request these contributors of big money have had? Oops, I am sorry, Obama has bent over backwards for the big money banks and the big money insurance companies…. I guess big business is next.

Well, yes, Minx. Tell me, what was your first Clew? Was it, perhaps, the fact that all the companies cited are vast international conglomerates, having at their fingertips the ability to shift operations, manufacturing, and finance around the world on a minute’s notice? There is, of course, no chance whatever that you will draw any conclusions from it, beyond your feeling of betrayal. It is, of course, not a “betrayal” at all, but a natural consequence of the policies you demand be enforced.

Big international companies are, to a close first approximation, indifferent to tax and regulatory policy as regards their own operations. They already have armies of bureaucrats capable of working their way through the intricacies of law and regulation looking for advantage; they already have lobbyists, “campaign contributions”, and other tentacles into the workings of Government, striving for intricacies that can be turned to advantage; and they can, with a few mouse-clicks, move anything and everything “offshore”, out of the reach of any burden they find too troublesome.

Others aren’t so lucky. If Mr. Obama were to meet with twenty CEOs of companies you never heard of, small and medium-sized manufacturers and entrepreneurs emblematic of the actual sources of American employment and wealth generation, and actually listen to what they say rather than concentrating on declaiming the Word to the heathen, he might actually learn something that could be translated into policy that would make things better. Such a meeting would inevitably create four lines of references in memeorandum, with every leftoid blog and pundit emphasizing that all such people are “rich”, and therefore are to be punished by micromanaging their every effort and fleecing them to the maximum extent possible for fairness and the children.

The internationals do have one interest in tax and regulatory policy: squashing competitors. Burdening upstarts with taxes, environmental and work-safety regulations, and confiscatory tax policies coupled with complex tax provisions, increases the costs of small and medium-sized firms without significantly affecting the fatcats — but these are precisely the policies demanded by American leftoids. A megacorp is, above all else, a bureaucracy. Bureaucrats have much in common with other bureaucrats, and setting a bureaucracy to deal with a bureaucracy results in an ad hoc merger rather than a countervailing force. The result is that it becomes ever more difficult to tell where “Government” ends and “Business” begins, as small competitors are squeezed out by the Government bureaucracy and policy and the (putative) “Business” bureaucracy becomes more and more entwined with its nominal monitors and keepers in Government.

Leftoid critics are of course correct in some of their dark suspicions. If the megacorps can get tax and regulatory relief for themselves while keeping the burden on their erstwhile competitors, and in addition score actual subsidies for their own operations, it constitutes a big win for them. They aren’t immune to the costs, only indifferent.

If Mr. Obama genuinely wanted to increase employment and allow wealth creation, he would meet with a very different group of people than those listed. His choice of interlocutors reveals that his real purpose is nothing of the kind; and whether he means to Preach the Word or enlist the megacorps as de facto instruments of Government control, the result can only be the latter. It is what the leftoids want — or, more precisely, it is a consequence of what the leftoids want. It is becoming more and more difficult to characterize the consequences of such policies as “unintended”. Igor’s Rule is if you don’t want the monster, don’t throw the switch. Since the leftoids loudly insist that the switch be thrown, it is becoming impossible to believe that the monster is an unintended consequence.

Harlan Ellison describes attending a big political rally of some kind, held IIRC in a football stadium. Seeing Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew together on stage in the middle of the field, he begins begging some deity, any deity, to grant him a helicopter armed with machine guns.

That’s about how I feel about the last few days, except that a helicopter wouldn’t be enough; twenty megatons at Pennsylvania and 8th NW would be more like it. Fortunately God doesn’t grant such foolish and rage-filled prayers. The stain on my soul from the desire is sufficient.

Sorry, Mr. Boehner, but we just don’t care about a lot of things that are important to you.

Jim deMint interviewed by Hugh Hewitt (thanks, Bob!) about Committee chairmanships for the next session, inter alia:

HEWITT: Now I know you’re loathe to talk about the other house, but you were a member of the House in the past, and I’ve just got to ask you. What do you think the reaction of the Tea Party is going to be to the elevation of Hal Rogers, a known big appropriator and earmarker, and Spencer Bachus, a critic of Sarah Palin to the chairmanship of appropriations and financial services, respectively?

DEMINT: Well, I don’t think the response is going to be good. And I think we’ve got to be real careful here. I mean, there’s some good things happening, such as Paul Ryan being chairman of Budget, Dave Camp in Ways And Means, and these are real important committees. And so we’ve got some good minds on it. But frankly, the thing that killed the ’94 revolution was that you got a lot of new people came in, but the guys who’d been there forever took over the chairmanships of committees, and we went downhill from there. And so I don’t want to second-guess Boehner, and he’s not the one who makes all of these decisions. I like the fact they put Jeff Flake on appropriations. Hal Rogers may be sorry for the day he became chairman with Jeff on that committee. But I think we needed to show a little bit more light than what’s been shown so far, but I’ll let the Tea Party speak for themselves.

And of course we can add Fred Upton (R-curlybulbs) to that.

We all know what’s happening. It’s the system. It’s business as usual. The guys with the seniority get the nice offices and the Committee chairmanships. It’s their turn, right? Yah.

…the guys who’d been there forever took over the chairmanships of committees, and we went downhill from there.

Got news from the Heartland, Congresscritters — you know, all those folks you have to go back and make nice to every two years.

We don’t give a shit.

Heartless and cruel as it may sound, as much of a violation of collegiality and The Way Things Work as it may be, we don’t give a flying damn whether you have a corner office with Karastan carpet and hot-and-cold running aides or a tent on the Mall with folding furniture and a GoPhone. Yes, yes, you’ve conned the rubes into sending you back for the tenth or twelfth time. It fails to matter.

One of the things you often see around the world is autocrats claiming that it’s all for the People’s benefit — that the big house with gold-plated toilet taps and the fancy cars with blacked-out windows make the Common People feel good about their country. Yes, they’re eating weeds and rump of skunk, but they can afford to finance  a better show for their Big Guy than the Turds of Turdistan across the border can! It’s bullshit, and in America it’s pernicious bullshit. We don’t particularly want you to be uncomfortable, and an ostentatious show of austerity is just as much bullshit as the Air Force jet, but you’re a Representative, not the Hereditary Pasha of Puyallup, and if you’re too busy one-upping the other Congresscritters over who gets the most space and the receptionist with the biggest tits to pay attention to the People’s business, we can find somebody else who’s more, shall we say, focussed.

We also don’t give a damn how long you’ve been around. If you feel entitled to that Committee chairmanship because you’ve “paid your dues” since Eisenhower was a shavetail, you need to wake up and smell the tea brewing. If anything, we’re damned suspicious of long tenure — it means you’ve had plenty of time to get comfortable, to establish cozy relations with the guys on J and K, and generally to get In with the System. We don’t like the System. We’re doing our best to smash the System.

So if you’re expecting respect for your gray hairs and deference to your experience, if you imagine that your long-suffering has finally paid off with a chance to swank around and bring home the pork, it would do you good to look around a bit. We aren’t going to compliment you for losing slower, and we don’t agree that “Us too, but we’re cheaper!” is worth a shit as a political slogan. We don’t agree that decorum and collegiality are even goals, much less paramount ones. If you aren’t going to confront the nannystate, resist regulatory encroachment, cut spending, and generally do your best to move the “Overton window” ‘way the hell off to the right — well, in that case you’re part of the problem, and problems exist to be solved.

Prof. Reynolds notes the controversy surrounding the “Repeal Amendment” proposed by Randy Barnett and William J. Howell.

The idea is superficially attractive: If two-thirds of the State Legislatures vote to repeal a Federal Law, the Law is repealed. This would in some degree restore the balance of power between the States and the Federal Government.

Much of the criticism of the idea is uninformed to the point of stupidity. The Constitution was designed to be amended at need, and criticizing a proposed amendment on the ground that major changes can only be made by Supreme Court decision(s) tosses the original concepts of the Framers in the toilet. However, the fact that stupid people make stupid remarks about an idea doesn’t enshrine it as wonderful.

The Amendment, as proposed, is unlikely to do much damage — the very idea of getting 67 or 68 State Legislatures (depending on whether or not Nebraska is involved) to agree on anything makes herding cats look simple, so the likelihood of its being actually implemented is vanishingly small. It might be useful as symbolism, but symbolism, while important, is not enough.  If disenfranchisement of the States vis-a-vis the Federal Government were the real problem, restoring the Senate to its original status via repeal of Amendment XVII would achieve the same end with greater actual effect.

Since the basic problem is not State vs. Federal, the Repeal Amendment would do no real good. The problem that must be addressed is the Congress’s abandonment of its own responsibilities, and until we face that directly nothing positive will be accomplished. The Congress is, or should be, obliged to make hard choices. It has, by and large, punted on most of them, especially in the last century. Soldiers faced with difficult choices suggest sarcastically, “Kill ‘em all, God will know His own.” The Congressional equivalent is “The Hell with it, the Supreme Court will sort it out.” The Court, unwilling in its own turn to accept such responsibilty, has responded with deference — the doctrine that unless some egregious violation has occurred, the will of the Legislature, being responsive to the People, controls. It is the resulting Alphonse-and-Gaston act that has done the damage.

One of the worst and most egregious examples is Wickard vs. Filburn and successors, including the fairly recent Gonzales vs. Raich. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states, in part,

The Congress shall have Power … To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

The so-called “Interstate Commerce Clause”, only four words, was apparently intended by the Framers to prevent trade and import-export duty wars among the “several States”, a major feature of the breakdown of the preceding Articles of Confederation. Together with Article I, Section 10 (which prohibits, among other things, duties and excises imposed by the States without consent of Congress) the result is that the United States is, among other things, the very exemplar of a “Free Trade Zone”.

It could be argued that no use of the Interstate Commerce Clause has been responsible — the so-called “Coastwise Tariffs” of the early 19th Century contributed greatly to the tensions that led to the Civil War, and the Jones Act had the somewhat delayed effect of essentially eliminating American shipping from world trade — but the effect of Wickard and consequent decisions based on the Clause has been remarkably perverse. Their net effect is to declare, first, that all commerce affects interstate commerce, and can thus be regulated by Congress; and second, that few (if any) acts of any person are not “commerce”. Until and unless the noxious effects of Wickard and subsequent decisions are reversed or mitigated, Article I can be truncated to “The Congress shall have Power” with no qualifications, a total inversion of the intent of the Founders.

A second, but closely related, problem is delegation. As the Congress took more and more power onto itself as permitted by the Court, it needed more and more detailed knowledge of and insight into the “commerce” it was regulating — and detailed knowledge and insight were sadly lacking among the Members. It “solved” the problem by once again abandoning its responsibilities, in this case, by assigning the task of writing “implementing regulations” to the Executive and subordinates. Under this system, the Congress writes Laws giving broad authority to the Executive without specifying any of the details of how the authority is to be exerted; the responsible Agency of the Executive then fills in the details of “implementation”, while the Congress preserves a fig-leaf of responsibility by allowing itself to review such regulations and countermand them — a power which has never been used.

As a result, most of the “Laws” of the United States today are not Laws at all — they are mere “regulations”, written by unelected bureaucrats lacking any shred of accountability to the People. That doesn’t stop them from using the Sword of the State to impose condign penalties upon any person presuming to violate them! The Congress has not (yet) so abrogated its responsibilities as to hand down the death penalty to some faceless GS-14, but the century is yet young. Worse, custom and usage has placed “enabling regulations” beneath the notice of the Courts, who address only the Constitutionality of the original Statute — which, under Wickard, et. seq., is virtually unlimited.

The Congress then whiles away its time, meeting three days a week to hand out goodies to those who meet its approval, while the Executive Agencies place an ever-tightening noose around the civil, political, and economic affairs of Americans, sustained by the perverse positive feedback of more regulation resulting in need for more detailed knowledge requiring more bureaucrats writing more regulation. Until that cycle is broken, any attempt to return to saner (and more limited) Government is at best a Band-Aid® on a gaping wound.

At minimum, two Amendments are required: One to reverse or mitigate Wickard, and one to prevent Congress from delegating its authority. The “repeal Amendment” does neither, and thus is a useless waste of time and effort designed to avoid the duties of Government while providing a stage-set of “doing something”. My own proposals along that line can be found here as they evolved, under the categories “Modest Proposals” and “Probability Epsilon”, but my current thinking is as follows:

XXVIII: The power of the Congress to regulate commerce among the several States is hereby revoked, and neither the States nor the Congress shall regulate, tax, or otherwise burden commerce among or within the States.

XXIX: Every Rule, Regulation, Order, Decree, or other Ukase of Government, however named or styled, for violation of which any Person, if convicted, may suffer loss of Life, Liberty or Property in any degree whatever, is a Law; and every Law of the United States shall be placed before, and passed by, the Congress, and approved by the President, in the form and detail in which it applies to the People.

In both cases a second section is needed, specifying that existing Laws invalidated under that Article continue in force for a strictly limited period of time; I would suggest five years, or until repealed or replaced by the Congress, whichever comes first.

Suggestions and criticisms, especially of the specific wording(s), are welcome.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.