Archive for August, 2009
26 Aug 2009

How to Expand Federal Power

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Guest blogging today at Volokh is my former neighbor from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, attorney and educator Thomas Cooper:

Let me place myself in the President’s chair, at the head of a party in this country, aiming to extend the influence of the governing powers at the expence of the governed; to increase the authority and prerogative of the Executive, and to reduce by degrees to a mere name, the influences of the people. How should I set about it? What system should I pursue?

.. As the rights reserved by the State Governments and the bounds and limits set by the Constitution of the Union, are the declared barriers against the encroachments of entrusted power, my first business would be to undermine that Constitution, and render it useless, by claiming authority which, though not given by the express words of it, might be edged in under the cover of general expressions or implied powers — by stretching the meaning of the words used to their utmost latitude, — by taking advantage of every ambiguity — and by quibbling upon distinctions to explain away the plain and obvious meaning. It would be my business to extend the powers of the Federal Courts and of Federal Officers — to encroach upon the State jurisdictions — to throw obloquy on the State Governments as clogs upon the wheel of the General Government — for that purpose to promote a spirit of party among them, and subject to accusations of disaffection those who were opposed to the measures I would pursue. In addition to this I would now and then exercise trifling acts of authority not granted by the Constitution, under some undefined notion of prerogative. If by such means one encroachment should be made good, it would be a precedent for another, until the public by degrees would become accustomed and callous to them.

Cooper’s Address to the Readers of the Sunbury and Northumberland Gazette, June 29, 1799

Thomas Cooper biography

26 Aug 2009

How Sharia Law Operates in Saudi Arabia Today

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The Arab News reports on a case of domestic discord in Laith, Saudi Arabia, which demonstrates exactly why the Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertion that the adoption of “aspects of Sharia law” was inevitable in Britain led to widespread criticism.

A 10-year-old bride was returned last Sunday to her 80-year-old husband by her father who discovered her at the home of her aunt with whom she has been hiding for around 10 days.

A local newspaper said the husband, who denies he is 80 in spite of claims by the girl’s family, accused the aunt of meddling in his affairs. “My marriage is not against Shariah. It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride,” he said.

He added that he had been engaged to his wife’s elder sister and that this broke off as she wanted to continue with her education. “In light of this, her father offered his younger daughter. I was allowed to have a look at her according to Shariah and found her acceptable,” he said.

25 Aug 2009

AP: US Interrogators Got Only Two Weeks Training

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US Special Operations-trained Interrogation Caterpillar. These guys are fierce.

Pamela Hess and Matt Appuzzo, writing for some news agency, are trying to shocking a nation’s conscience.

With just two weeks of training, or about half the time it takes to become a truck driver, the CIA certified its spies as interrogation experts after 9/11 and handed them the keys to the most coercive tactics in the agency’s arsenal.

Can you imagine? Just because some Muslim terrorists killed a lousy 3000 Americans and produced some mere billions of dollars worth of physical destruction and economic disruption, the Bush Administration actually allowed people with only two weeks of federal training to slap terrorists, pour water on them, and (worst of all) to expose them to caterpillar attack.

Hat tip to Stephen Frankel.


Unlike the US, Al Qaeda provided appropriately thorough training. They even produced a manual.

25 Aug 2009

Obama Administration Launches Prosecutorial Investigation of CIA and US Contractor Interrogations

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John H. Durham

Barack Obama may be happily vacationing on Martha’s Vinyard, but his administration swerved suddenly left and hit the accelerator hard yesterday, when Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that he was bringing in a big gun, and turning him loose on the CIA officers and contractors who questioned captured Al Qaeda terrorists and prevented the repetition of successful mass terrorist attacks in the aftermath of 9/11.

Holder is feeding red meat to the irredentist leftwing base of the democrat party, at the expense of US Intelligence. Whom do you suppose they’re going to be able to get to take the risk of performing any Intelligence-related job that could be argued to be a crime by the most hydrophobic US-hating Marxist in Berkeley after this?

Intelligence operations do very commonly feature activities which are illegal somewhere or are which potentially illegal by some standards or from some perspective. That is kind of why Intelligence operations tend to be covert.

We already have physicians in this country forced to practice defensive medicine in order to avoid the personal risk of falling into the clutches of the US Tort Bar. Now, we are going to have an Intelligence service whose officers will need to practice defensive operations, for as the Bible says (Matthew 10:36): “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

(Attorney General Eric H.) Holder (Jr.) has named longtime prosecutor John H. Durham, who has parachuted into crisis situations for both political parties over three decades, to open an early review of nearly a dozen cases of alleged detainee mistreatment at the hands of CIA interrogators and contractors.

The announcement raised fresh tensions in an intelligence community fearful that it will bear the brunt of the punishment for Bush-era national security policy, and it immediately provoked criticism from congressional Republicans. …

In a statement Monday afternoon, Holder cautioned that the inquiry is far from a full-blown criminal investigation. Rather, he said, it is unknown whether indictments or prosecutions of CIA contractors and employees will follow. …

“I fully realize that my decision to commence this preliminary review will be controversial,” Holder added. “As attorney general, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law. In this case, given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.”

24 Aug 2009

Leveling Health Care Means Leveling Down

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Ronald Dworkin, an anesthesiologist editorializing on Health Care Reform in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday, identified one very key impact of Obamacare which would guarantee the degradation of quality of American health care.

(US Health Care today) unites rich and poor in a common private insurance system.

Here’s how it works. When a rich person rolls into the operating room, the nurse asks him: “Would you like a warm blanket? How about a pillow?” The anesthesiologist numbs his skin before putting in the I.V. Every effort is made to make him happy.

People in the operating room pay attention to a rich patient’s wishes because they know a rich person can make their lives miserable. He can complain to the hospital president, or call the mayor. But the side effect is that their high quality care becomes habitual, and all patients receive it. When a poor person complains in most environments, no one listens. But in health care, through a common private insurance system, poor people go to the same hospitals and doctors as rich people and thus enjoy the benefit of rich people’s power.

The public option severs this link. Dissatisfied with government-run health care, the rich will exit the system. The poor and middle-class will be left to flounder alone inside the public system. Government-run health care will become like the public schools.

The best doctors will be opening luxury clinics in Carribean resort locations, and the wealthy will simply jet off for their health care, leaving everyone else experiencing the equivalent of inner city hospital emergency room service, endless queues, drastic rationing and triage.

24 Aug 2009

Talking Back to Congressional Democrats

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In a perfect vignette from those Town Hall Meetings on Health Care Reform that have been making news, David Hedrick, a Marine Corps veteran, makes mincemeat out of Rep.Brian Baird (D- Wash) at a meeting somewhere in Washington State.

Hedrick’s point, that Congress has absolutely no right to interfere with our right to chose our own health insurance, is dead on.

2:19 video

Mr. Hedrick was clearly far from alone in his sentiments. The crowd cheered his remarks.

From Simon at Classical Values via Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm.

24 Aug 2009

Tasered Bum Catches Fire in Ohio

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mugshot of 31-year-old Daniel Wood

Some people have no compassion.

I mean, here was 31-year-old homeless victim of Capitalist Imperialism Daniel Wood, minding his own business, merely hassling a few customers for spare change outside a shop in Lancaster, Ohio, when along come the local gendarmes to interfere with Mr. Wood’s preferred means of acquiring income. When the structurally disenfranchised Wood, understandably enough, protested his oppression, the police zapped him with a taser. Unfortunately, Mr. Wood had been not long previously been seeking spiritual illumination, huffing keyboard cleaner. Chances are, Mr. Wood had inadvertently spilled a certain amount of toluene on his clothing, because the spark from the police officer’s taser unhappily caused Mr. Wood to burst into flame.

Can you imagine? Fox News and Crunch Gear were actually heartless enough to find an incident like this funny.

Sensitive Foster Kamer, at Gawker, on the other hand, shed one exquisite tear, and complained that he found contemplating the mugshot of Daniel Wood (who was promptly extinguished, and then booked, by police) “sad and spiritually emptying.”

23 Aug 2009

Yesterday Offline

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7-week-old Tazy puppy Uhlan

I was away from the keyboard yesterday, driving nearly 200 miles each way to pick up a seven-week-old puppy.

Last month, the renowned Saluki authority Gail Goodman sent me an email telling me that a retired Russian zoologist (living very near me — only about 200 miles away!) had just bred a litter of the rare Kazakh Tazys, which the serious connoisseurs of aboriginal coursing dogs, people like Gail herself and Steve Bodio, particularly admire for their hunting instinct and drive.

The fact that I have no experience in coursing and live in the East where we lack the kind of open spaces suitable for sighthounds easily found in New Mexico did not deter my friends from getting behind the idea that I needed to own one of these.

Tazy (or Tazi) is just another Asian term for the breed originally referred to in the West as the Persian Greyhound, but these days known as the Saluki (or Saluqi).

Naturally, I had only to look at puppy photos in order to succumb and place a deposit on one of these.

Yesterday, the fatal day arrived. Karen insisted that we go and pick up our Tazy immediately upon the breeder announcing that he was ready to leave his mother.

We wound up taking the same fawn-colored male with the black mask (with a little white on the nose) that originally made an impression on us in the puppy photos. A brother with a darker color struck me as a possible candidate, too, but the darker puppy struggled and was unhappy when picked up. Our original choice was quite content to be handled, and actually never even whined or cried all the way back.

Our Basset Bleu de Gascogne arrived already named Cadet, so we decided to stick with the military theme. Since Tazys are slender and fast running dogs of Asian origin, we decided his name ought to describe him as a type of light cavalry of Asian origin, so we are going to name the puppy Uhlan.


Tired from a long drive

21 Aug 2009

“Classic Wounding Issue”

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Marc Ambinder identifies Health Care Reform as a classic example of the kind of policy fight a president can’t win.

I think he’s right. Socialized health care is a goal that the left can neither relinquish nor hope to win.

As the prospects for bipartisan agreement in the Senate fade, the need for Obama to unify Democrats will increase. Right now, though, he is losing Democrats from both wings of the party, even as independents soften and conservatives mobilize. Obama’s ratings in the Pew survey declined slightly from July to August among moderate Democrats (down two percentage points) and sharply among liberal Democrats (down nine percentage points).

These poll numbers suggest that health care is becoming the classic issue that wounds a president: one that unites his opponents and divides his own side. Obama probably has little hope of changing the first half of that equation; when Congress returns he’ll probably need to focus more on improving the second.

20 Aug 2009

Man Trades in Maserati Clunker on a Subaru

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1985 Maserati Biturbo

It sounds amazing. In Golden, Colorado, the owner of a 1985 Maserati Biturbo actually traded in his exotic Italian grand touring sedan, with an odometer reading of only 18,480 miles, for $3500 from Barack Obama as down payment on a new Subaru.

The Maserati is doomed. Its engine’s crankcase will be filled with sodium silicate in a government stimulus program resembling those of the Great Depression in which farmers were paid to shoot pigs or plow under wheat, then the whole car will be crushed into a cube of metal.

In this case, maybe Obama should just save a few quarts of good sodium silicate. That Maserati already wouldn’t run.

Weekly Driver:

A man in Colorado was so frustrated with his car breaking down, he decided to capitalize on the “Cash For Clunkers” program. That’s nothing unusual — except his car was a rare Maserati.

The 1985 Maserati BiTurbo has 18,480 miles on the odometer and its interior is nearly new. Yet the owner said he couldn’t drive the car more than 10 minutes without having to call his mechanic.

The Maserati, like all “Cash for Clunker” trade-ins, will soon be crushed. The man said the engine frequently had problems and he’s been trying to the Maserati for months. By trading it in, the owner got $3,500 of government money, roughly the same as he was trying to sell the car for privately.

CNN 1:40 video

That Colorado owner’s experience was apparently pretty typical. The Maserati Biturbo made Time Magazine’s 50 Worst Cars of All Time:

“Biturbo” is, of course, Italian for “expensive junk.” At least, it is now, after Maserati tried to pass off this bitter heartbreak-on-wheels as a proper grand touring sedan. The Biturbo was the product of a desperate, under-funded company circling the drain of bankruptcy, and it shows. Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus. The collected service advisories would look like the Gutenberg Bible.

Your tax dollars at work. Nobody would buy this dog, but Barack Obama did, using your money to do it.

20 Aug 2009

So Dishonest They’re Funny

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Scott Wong, at PhxBeat, explains that the black guy with the gun outside the Obama Health Care Town Hall meeting in Phoenix was just affirming his Second Amendment rights.

Neatly dressed in a white shirt, black tie and gray slacks, the man, who only gave his first name as Chris, also had a pistol holstered at his side as he engaged in heated debates with those rallying in support of Obama’s heath-care reform plan.

A Phoenix police spokesman said plainclothes detectives were monitoring about a dozen protesters carrying guns, though no one broke any laws or was arrested.

Arizona is an “open-carry” state, which means anyone legally allowed to have a firearm can carry it in public as long as it’s visible. A permit is required if the weapon is carried concealed.

“Because I can do it,” Chris said when asked why he brought guns to the rally at 3rd and Washington streets. “In Arizona, I still have some freedoms left.”

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Newsbusters Kyle Drennen caught MSNBC red-handed engaged in some racially-charged and highly misleading reporting.

On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: “A man at a pro-health care reform rally…wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip….there are questions about whether this has racial overtones….white people showing up with guns.” Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black.

Following Brewer’s report, which occurred on the Morning Meeting program, host Dylan Ratigan and MSNBC pop culture analyst Toure discussed the supposed racism involved in the protests. Toure argued: “…there is tremendous anger in this country about government, the way government seems to be taking over the country, anger about a black person being president….we see these hate groups rising up and this is definitely part of that.” Ratigan agreed: “…then they get the variable of a black president on top of all these other things and that’s the move – the cherry on top, if you will, to the accumulated frustration for folks.”

Not only did Brewer, Ratigan, and Toure fail to point out the fact that the gun-toting protester that sparked the discussion was black, but the video footage shown of that protester was so edited, that it was impossible to see that he was black.

1:34 video

20 Aug 2009

Mystery of the “Arctic Sea”

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Russian freighter Arctic Sea

The world recently witnessed a real life Hunt for the Red October as Russia scrambled air and naval forces, and even deployed satellites, in a intensive search for the Arctic Sea, a perfectly ordinary freighter which had departed Kaliningrad carrying a cargo of timber destined for Algeria, and was hijacked in the Baltic by an unknown group of armed men.

ABCNews:

The hijackers of a cargo ship that disappeared off the coast of France threatened to blow it up if their ransom demands were not met, Russian news agencies said.

Russia has arrested eight people on suspicion of hijacking the Arctic Sea off the Swedish coast and sailing it to the Atlantic Ocean, ending weeks of silence about the fate of a ship which has intrigued European maritime authorities.

Limited information from Russian officials has failed to satisfy sceptics (sic) who voiced doubts about whether the piracy actually took place or was a convenient cover story to conceal a possible secret cargo of arms or nuclear material. …

The Maltese-registered, Russian-crewed vessel and its $1.3 million cargo of timber disappeared from radar screens three weeks ago, prompting speculation ranging from an attack by an organised crime gang to a top-secret spy mission.

The Malta Maritime Authority said on Tuesday, without elaborating, that the Arctic Sea had “never really disappeared”, a comment which increased speculation that security services might have been involved in the affair.

Russia has said the eight detainees were citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Russia who on July 24 boarded the ship, forced the crew to change route and turned off its navigation equipment.

After heading through the English Channel in late July, radio contact was lost and the 4,000-tonne ship did not deliver its cargo to the Algerian port of Bejaia on August 4.

The Russian navy found the missing ship on Monday in the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Verde.

The official version of events was questioned by Yulia Latynina, a leading Russian opposition journalist and commentator.

“The Arctic Sea was carrying something, not timber and not from Finland, that necessitated some major work on the ship,” she wrote in the Moscow Times newspaper on Wednesday.

During two weeks of repair works in the Russian port of Kaliningrad just before the voyage, the ship’s bulkhead was dismantled so something very large could be loaded, she wrote.

“To put it plainly: The Arctic Sea was carrying some sort of anti-aircraft or nuclear contraption intended for a nice, peaceful country like Syria, and they were caught with it,” she said.

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CS Monitor:

Political analysts and maritime security experts remain skeptical that the hijackers were merely interested in the crew or the ship’s cargo – a load of lumber bound for Algeria.

That bulky, low-value cargo was worth about $1.8 million, which makes the danger and expense of a takeover hardly seem worth it. “Hijacking lumber … it’s sort of like counterfeiting one dollar bills,” says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a provider of defense and intelligence information. Mr. Pike calls the Arctic Sea incident an “out-of-pattern hijacking.”

19 Aug 2009

America’s Future

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Warren Buffett spouts conventional pieties in the New York Times, but in the middle of Warren’s bromidal call for fiscal responsibility, the astute reader will find a shrewd assessment of what is really going to happen.

With government expenditures now running 185 percent of receipts, truly major changes in both taxes and outlays will be required. A revived economy can’t come close to bridging that sort of gap.

Legislators will correctly perceive that either raising taxes or cutting expenditures will threaten their re-election. To avoid this fate, they can opt for high rates of inflation, which never require a recorded vote and cannot be attributed to a specific action that any elected official takes. In fact, John Maynard Keynes long ago laid out a road map for political survival amid an economic disaster of just this sort: “By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

19 Aug 2009

Obama’s OSHA Nominee and Gun Control

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David Michaels

Barack Obama’s appointments have, in several cases, been more extreme than most observers would have expected, selecting not just liberals, but figures on the left renowned for the extremism of their positions.

Walter Olson notes that Barack Obama’s nominee for head of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, politicized epidemiologist David Michaels is not only an activist ally of the Tort Bar, but actually has a record of advocating linking gun control to workplace safety regulation.

That Pennsylvania deer hunter who parks his pick-up at the plant in the morning with his .30-30 in a gun rack behind the seat, planning to get in an hour or two of hunting after work, could lose his job if David Michaels receives confirmation.

The controversial OSHA nominee and left-leaning public health advocate also seems to have strong views on firearms issues. That’s by no means irrelevant to the agenda of an agency like OSHA, because once you start viewing private gun ownership as a public health menace, it begins to seem logical to use the powers of government to urge or even require employers to forbid workers from possessing guns on company premises, up to and including parking lots, ostensibly for the protection of co-workers. In addition, OSHA has authority to regulate the working conditions of various job categories associated with firearms use (security guards, hunting guides, etc.) and could in that capacity do much to bring grief to Second Amendment values.

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