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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Turkey Looking Like The Next Iran

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads an Islamist party, recently ripped into Shimon Peres, President of Israel at the Davos forum, telling Peres "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” Peres gave it right back to Erdogan, accusing Erdogan of ignoring the long history of Arab violence against Israel, causing Erdogan to storm off the stage. The video is here (Peres' response starts at 39:25). Erdogan was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Turkey. (h/t Little Green Footballs and IsraellyCool)

Perhaps it's time to talk a little Turkey. First, let's talk Kurds. The Turks have killed an estimated 20,000 Kurds, attempted to destroy Kurdish language and culture, launched invasions of Kurdish northern Iraq, and denied to the millions of Kurds within and without Turkey's borders the right to an independent state. In fact, the Kurds outnumber the Palestinians several times over, yet because the Kurds have not spent the last 50 years demanding the destruction of Israel, the cause of Kurdish independence has not caught the fancy of the Western media and political elites. Now that Prime Minister Erdogan has expressed such profound sympathies for suppressed national movements, perhaps it is time that Erdogan put his actions where his mouth is, and free the Kurds.

Next, let's talk Armenians. Since Erdogan wants to right historical wrongs, why doesn't Erdogan apologize for the genocide the Ottoman Empire committed against the Armenians. Since the first step in recovery is acknowledgement of a problem, at least stop the denials that it happened, even if you won't apologize.

Many people in Turkey and elsewhere feared what would happen if an Islamist party took over the helm of a secular state. You are beginning to see the results as Erdogan whips up popular support at home by joining the anti-Israel cause.

My prediction: Turkey is the next Iran, unless Obama stops blaming the U.S. for Islamist aggression and gives support to Turkey's secular institutions, including the Turkish army. Jimmy Carter tried the blame America first tactic; it didn't win us any friends and led to 30 years of tyranny and human rights abuses in Iran. Don't repeat the same mistake in Turkey.
UPDATE 2-2-2009 - I am not alone in my concern with the Islamist drift of Turkey under Erdogan:
After six years of AKP rule, the people of Turkey are less free and less equal, as various news and other reports on media freedom and gender equality show. In April 2007, for instance, the AKP passed an Internet law that has led to a ban on YouTube, making Turkey the only European country to shut down access to the popular site. On the U.N. Development Program's gender-empowerment index, Turkey has slipped to 90th from 63rd in 2002, the year the AKP came to power, putting it behind even Saudi Arabia. It is difficult to take seriously the AKP's claim to be a liberal party when Saudi women are considered more politically, economically and socially empowered than Turkish women....

But Erdogan's recent anti-Israeli statements -- he even suggested that God would punish Israel -- have made normal relations a thing of the past. On Jan. 4, 200,000 Turks turned out in freezing rain in Istanbul to wish death to Israel; on Jan. 7, an Israeli girls' volleyball team was attacked by a Turkish audience chanting, "Muslim policemen, bring us the Jews, so we can slaughter them."
Contrary to what one of the Comments to this post suggests, the problem is not that people outside Turkey are pushing Turkey away; the problem is that people outside and inside Turkey are making excuses and apologizing for Erdogan.
UPDATE 2-8-2009 - Good article at American Thinker, Turkey's Prime Minister Leads His Country Down a Destructive Path

Friday, January 30, 2009

Michael Steele

Get videos and more at The Other McCain and Gateway Pundit

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Guess Any Publicity Is Good Publicity

At least they spelled my name correctly:

Over at Legal Insurrection Blog, they've been banging the drum for Governor Blagojevich and against a guilty verdict on the Impeachment for quite some time. Blogger William Jacobson has been pointing out Ricky Hendon as a guy who has it right, and Hendon himself has been on the hustings speaking about his doubts about the Impeachment the past few days. Legal Insurrection has been arguing that the Impeachment is flawed, and that may be why we saw the Chief Justice Fitzgerald turn over the deliberations to Sen. Cullerton. While the author of that blog is a law professor, I imagine he is also a lawyer who from time to time takes on a few cases. While his arguments were also carried on the local blog, Illinois Review, I think he's working for the Governor.

No, I'm working for the people, truth, and justice, in that order. Here, they don't even get the spelling right:

Could you explain this in more depth? You say Professor Jacobsen is making "some excellent arguments," and you excerpt a few lines from his posts, but I went over to his blog and I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was saying.

Hope I don't run into this guy in a dark alley, although he did spell my name correctly:

Well then, Mr. Jacobson, I have just one last question for you: if the Senate took your advice and did not convict him, would you then, knowing what you know now, be willing to move to this state and live under Rod's misrule for the next two years? ...

My point is this: Your concern for the rule of law is commendable, but what part of "impeachment is a POLITICAL process, not a criminal one" don't you get?

Sorry if I get a little carried away about this topic, but it's easy for you to sit there and pontificate about how he shouldn't be removed, because you won't have to live with the consequences if he isn't.

Based on the comments I'm receiving, I think I am living with the consequences.

Blagojevich Convicted - Senator Says "It's Bleeping Golden"; Obama's Former Colleagues Say Everybody Knew About Corruption, And No One Did Anything

Despite an impassioned last minute closing argument, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty by the Illinois Senate on the Article of Impeachment. The vote was 59-0 to convict Blagojevich of the single Article of Impeachment for abusing power. Elements of the Article included alleged criminal conduct and administrative breaches of separation of power. The Senators also voted 59-0 to disqualify Blagojevich from further public office in Illinois.

Illinois Lt. Governor Patrick J. Quinn was to be sworn in momentarily to take office as Governor. Blagojevich, who left shortly after his closing argument several hours earlier, was not in attendance.

Just before deliberations, Senator Ricky Hendon (D), requested that the Senators be allowed to vote separately on sections 9 (expansion of health coverage), 10 (flu vaccine), and 11 (prescription drug) of the original single Article of Impeachment. The purpose of the request was that some Senators supported Blagojevich's position on those issues. Chief Justice Fitzgerald ruled that he did not have the power to separate out the single Article of Impeachment, and that only the House which issued the Article of Impeachment could make a change; also, Fitzgerald ruled that the Rules did not permit such a change.

During deliberations, each Senator was permitted up to 5 minutes to speak. Senator William R Haine paid homage to House Speaker Michael Madigan for constantly upholding the Constitution of the State against attempts by Blagojevich to "misuse a position of great power and authority" to "enrich his associates and himself." Haines said Blagojevich's argument was based on "an arrogant assumption of power," and that Blagojevich did not offer any evidence to contradict the federal complaint affidavit.

Senator Dale Righter (R) said Blagojevich's words and deeds told a different story than Blagojevich told in his appearance, and that even before becoming Governor Blagojevich conspired with "the likes" of Tony Rezko. Righter derided Blagojevich for shaking down a children's hospital (one of the allegations in the criminal complaint affidavit). Blagojevich is "someone from whom the people of this state must be protected."

Other Senators made similar, sometimes angry, comments in voting for impeachment. Senator Kirk Dillard (R) wished Blagojevich well in his "new Hollywood career." Senator Mike Murphy (R) castigated the "speech" Blagojevich gave today, which he said reminded everyone that Blagojevich was "an unusually good liar" including the claim that Rules were unfair; Murphy called Blagojevich a "hypocrite" for invoking his constitutional rights while ignoring the rights of others.

Senator Dan Duffy (R) called attention to the widespread long-standing corruption in State government, and Blagojevich's comments that he did everything with the help of the Democratic leadership. "We have just scratched the surface of corruption" and that Blagojevich must have had help, and others "must have known" about it. [Editorial note: Including Barack Obama who used to sit in this august body?]

Senator Terry Link (D) invoked a speech at the Democratic Convention in 1968, in which it was said "the whole world is watching," and reminded other Senators that the whole world is watching again. Link said that "we in this chamber can do something about this now, this isn't a partisan problem, we have to get the trust of the citizens of the State of Illinois back to government."

Numerous Senators took Blagojevich for not appearing earlier in the case to challenge the facts, and that closing arguments are not evidence. Just about every Senator, in their comments, presumed that Blagojevich was guilty of the charges in the criminal complaint affidavit, and noted that Blagojevich presented no contrary evidence.

Senator Martin Sandoval (D) called out "free at last, free at last, free at last." Senator James Meeks (D) said that it wasn't a sad day, but a great day, "what a joy that we don't have to form a militia" because "we have a process." "We have this thing called impeachment, and it's bleeping golden, and we've used it the right way."

During deliberations Senator Ricky Hendon (D) noted the sadness that Senators in Washington had a "don't send me no black person list" for Obama's open Senate seat, which Blagojevich was accused of attempting to sell. Hendon castigated the Senators for shooting down prior proposals for a recall law allowing the people to recall politicians at all levels.

Senator James Clayborne, Jr. said that when we heard the wiretaps, and noted that Blagojevich could have called his brother and state employees, who were on some of the wiretaps. Or why Blagojevich didn't call lawyers as witnesses to explain the legal basis for Blagojevich's administrative actions. "Maybe when you were travelling around and speaking on the circuit in NY," Clayborne said, Blagojevich could have had a lawyer present, and Blagojevich was not under oath in the closing statement. "I believe Governor that you are unfit."

Analysis of the entire Blagojevich case will follow in later posts. For now, just the facts. Links to my prior posts on Blagojevich are here.

Blago's Masterful Closing Argument - First Take

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich just finished his closing argument in the Senate impeachment trial. In an impassioned argument, Blagojevich invoked images of his immigrant parents, the people he tried to help by providing health care benefits, and working families.

Blagojevich followed a strategy of saving his arguments until the end, when the prosecution cannot call more witnesses. Blagojevich's arguments at many times were more like testimony, bringing up facts regarding various legislation at issue in the trial to show that nothing wrong took place. At times, Blagojevich called certain Senators out by name to recollect the projects they worked on.

Blagojevich argued that the criminal charges against him have not been proven, and that he has been denied the right of every American citizen to confront the evidence and witnesses against him, and to call witnesses. Blagojevich said that he wanted all the tapes played, and all the witnesses to testify, including Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. Blagojevich said he wasn't even getting school-yard justice; even in a school yard someone accused of fighting is allowed to bring other children to say that he didn't do it.

On the non-criminal charges at issue, Blagojevich argued that not one of his actions has been shown to be illegal, and on most of these issues, he worked with the Democratic leadership in the legislature and even Republicans. Blagojevich pointed out that each of the programs at issue was intended to help the working poor, not himself, and that the courts have not yet determined whether he acted properly or not. On importing prescription drugs, he worked with other governors and U.S. Senators Kennedy and McCain, and the entire idea came from then Congressman Rahm Emanuel. On flu shots, he said Illinois was not alone in trying to import flu vaccines due to a shortage, and other Governors such as Bill Richardson wanted some of the vaccines obtained by Illinois until the FDA stopped the program.

In summation, Blagojevich asked the legislators to walk a mile in his shoes, and not to set bad precedent for future Governors. Blagojevich asked the Senators to extent the process, reopen the evidence, listen to all the tapes, and allow him to call all the witnesses.

The Senators are in recess until 1 p.m. Central Time.
Afterthought No. 1: Blagojevich did about all he could do. He made the points, and played some psychology with the Senators by requesting that the process be extended. Will the Senators simply push forward with a vote this afternoon, or will they be concerned with the perception Blagojevich created in his media interviews this week -- hammered home in his closing argument -- that he is being railroaded? We'll find out pretty soon.
UPDATE: The Senate prosecutor gave his rebuttal, which was less than 15 minutes. The rebuttal started by the prosecutor saying he couldn't give as good a speech as a politician -- not sure that's the argument I would make to a jury of politicians. Also, I hate it when lawyers put themselves down as a means of trying to paint the other side as fast talking, it's an admission that you were outperformed.

On the substance, the prosecutor did well by contrasting the transcripts of taped calls with the Blagojevich who gave the closing. A rhetorical comparison of the Rod Blagojevich who says one thing when people are listening or watching, and another thing in private. The prosecutor could have been more methodical in this. The rhetorical device really didn't fit Blagojevich's argument, which is that the Senators have not been allowed to hear all the tapes and he has not been allowed to call witnesses. The prosecutor then went into campaign mode, arguing that "the people of this State have had enough, is today going to be more of the same, or a new era in this State. The people want to know are we finally going to turn the page." [My notes, not from an official transcript.]

There is a one hour break, then we should find out if there will be a vote today.

Just Say No To The Flawed Impeachment Of Rod Blagojevich

I didn't expect to end up opposing the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. When the news first broke that Blagojevich was charged, among other things, with attempting to "sell" Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, I was inclined to follow the media and pundits in throwing the bum out based on U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference. I've now come to a different conclusion, not because Blagojevich isn't a bum, but because the process and politics behind the impeachment are so flawed that the cure is worse than the disease.

I won't repeat all of what I've said in over 50 posts over the past seven weeks, so here is the short version of why Illinois Senators should say no to this impeachment:

  1. The process is unconstitutional. The Senate delegated trial decision-making authority to Fitzgerald, in violation of the Illinois Constitution, which vests such authority exclusively in the Presiding Chief Justice and Senators. Fitzgerald started this process with his press conference, has made public only such evidence as supported his goal of removing Blagojevich from office, and has insulated that evidence from challenge. This fundamental flaw in the process has tainted the trial beyond remedy.
  2. The process is fundamentally unfair, in that it restricted Blagojevich's ability to challenge the evidence against him as to the criminal complaint affidavit upon which the Senate relies almost exclusively for the allegations of criminal conduct. While we can debate to what extent Blagojevich is entitled to "due process," we all should want removal of an elected Governor to require a fundamentally fair process and trial, which has been absent here.
  3. The non-criminal offenses do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. While the Illinois Constitution does not define what is an impeachable offense, any reasonable understanding requires that the conduct be so extreme as to be the functional equivalent of a high crime or misdemeanor. The non-criminal offenses charged boil down to a political battle between the executive branch and the legislature as to the proper balance of powers. Such separation of powers contests properly are left to the courts to sort out. Impeachment on such matters merely becomes a tool for the legislature to assert its primacy in the political power game; but the players in a game should not also be the referees, which is what is happening in this impeachment proceeding.
There you go. Do the right thing, even if it is not politically easy. Just say no to this flawed impeachment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Will Blagojevich Call For A Special Election or Secret Ballot?

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's last minute request to present a closing argument at the Senate impeachment trial has everyone speculating what he is up to. While there are many good speculative arguments as to what Blagojevich will say, there is one argument that no one anticipates: Will Blagojevich call for a special election or secret ballot?

Illinois already is scheduling a special election for Rahm Emanuel's vacant congressional seat. While that election is only in one district, why not expand the election state wide, in a referendum on Blagojevich. Sounds crazy, given Blagojevich's low numbers in the polls, but it makes sense from multiple perspectives.

From Blagojevich's perspective, he must realize that there is very little chance of a not guilty verdict, regardless of his persuasive skills and the evidence. Few if any Senators would want to be seen voting not guilty. Any chance at surviving a special election is better than Blagojevich's chance of a not guilty verdict. Every day that Blagojevich remains in office, he lives to fight another day. Blagojevich has argued, as have I, that the Senate Rules deprived him of a fair and constitutional trial. An alternative, letting the People decide, is a reasonable solution compared to an unconstitutional verdict which may end up in the Illinois Supreme Court (I repeat, "may," not "will").

From the Senate's perspective, a special election lets individual Senators off the hook. From the questions submitted by some Senators, and the public statements of one Senator, it appears that many Senators understand the weakness of the case presented against Blagojevich. Senators understandably are afraid of saying this in public, for fear of retribution by colleagues and the public. Senators who take their oath "to do justice according to law," should hesitate to cast a vote out of political expedience.

Republicans should be in favor of a special election, since it will give them a chance to run a candidate. Given the controversy regarding the Democrats' refusal to call a special election for Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat, there will be substantial public pressure to let the People decide. This is particularly true where the legislators opposing Blagojevich now supported him in the last election, and stand to gain politically from Blagojevich's removal.

In the event the Senate refuses to stay the proceedings pending a special election, Blagojevich could move to amend the Rules to permit a secret ballot. Again, the People vote in private, why not allow the Senators to vote their consciences? Republicans, in private, should want Blagojevich to stay in office to increase their chances of winning the next election. Some Democrats, particularly those from communities generally sympathetic to Blagojevich, would vote against impeachment as well if freed of political pressure from Blagojevich's opponents. Since a super majority is needed to convict, Blagojevich just might pick off enough votes for a not guilty finding.

Letting the People decide has been a theme pressed by Blagojevich in talk shows this week. Calling for a special election or a secret ballot is a long shot, but it may be the only shot Blagojevich has.

Blagojevich To Appear At Senate Trial Tomorrow

It has just been announced on the floor of the Illinois Senate, nearing the end of the trial, that Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to appear at the end of the trial to argue his case against impeachment. Blagojevich to date has refused to participate on the ground that the Rules of the trial were unfair and did not permit him to defend himself. Apparently, the Senators will try to require Blagojevich to testify, but that may not happen. It is up to the Presiding Chief Justice and ultimately the Senators whether Blagojevich will be permitted to give his closing statement, with or without testimony.
UPDATE No. 1: This is a very crafty strategic move. At the time of the closing arguments, the record will be closed so the Senate Prosecutor will not be able to call additional witnesses or introduce additional evidence in response to points Blagojevich makes. This is a common trial tactic, to save your best points for closing. The difference here, is that usually you need to present the evidence you need for your defense prior to your closing. But this is no usual case. Blagojevich must figure that he has an explanation for each of the non-criminal points which he can make based upon the existing evidentiary record. As to the criminal charges, he may point out, as I have here, the weakness of the Senate Prosecutor relying almost exclusively on an out of date hearsay affidavit which uses cherry-picked excerpts chosen by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
UPDATE No. 2: Look for Blagojevich to totally disregard the normal rule that you cannot "testify" in closing, meaning you can't argue facts not in evidence. It will be interesting to see how the Presiding Chief Justice -- who has been pretty hands off so far in the trial since there is only one side present -- and the Senators will react when Blagojevich does the equivalent of testifying in the guise of a closing argument. The advantage to Blagojevich is that you can't "cross-examine" a closing argument.

A Call For Bloggers To Investigate The Possible "Gaza Racist Graffiti" Hoax

In the past few days, and particularly in the last day or two, photographs of "racist" graffiti allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers in Gaza is surfacing. The photos (see right) I have seen mostly are attributed to an unidentified photographer for Agence France Presse and depict carefully drawn wording in English and Hebrew, while a few others have appeared on the internet depicting less graphic graffiti, and are being spread by anti-Israeli bloggers.

In the 2006 war in Lebanon, numerous AFP photos were shown to be doctored or staged resulting in the firing of several photographers. In this blog, we have noted apparently staged "shoe fauxtographs" by a Getty Images photographer, whose photos occasionally are attributed to AFP. The photos of graffiti in Gaza have all the hallmarks of a hoax, including the careful and polished writing in both English and Hebrew lettering (the Hebrew to give it authenticity as coming from Israelis, the English so that the western media can read it).

Here, there are two levels on inquiry. Is the graffiti a hoax, and were the photos staged? Or are both the graffiti and photos real? Will it matter if a hoax is revealed in a few weeks, after the images and accusations have entered the public consciousness?

Don't expect the mainstream media to investigate. Only the blogosphere unmasked seemingly genuine anti-Israeli fauxtographs in the past, and it will be up to us to do so again. Calling on all bloggers to examine the graffiti photos, before it is too late.
UPDATE: Beginning to look like an organized campaign to me. The old "zionism is racism" schtick. Here's a quote from a correspondent for the NY Times reporting on Gaza:
Opponents of Israel feel the Gaza fighting has demonstrated (again) everything they have always believed — that Israel is a kind of Sparta that dehumanizes the Palestinians and will do anything to prevent their dignified self-determination. The ways in which Israel attacked — the overwhelming force, the racist graffiti left on walls — are what one has come to expect of that state, they say....
The graffiti, even if not a hoax, may be offensive and inappropriate, but it is not "racist." The racist angle is being followed as a given, and the only question by the media is whether Israel truly is "probing" the graffiti. Note in this article how the word "probes" is in quotes, but nothing else in the description of the photo.
UPDATE No. 2: The earliest post of these allegations I can find in from January 19, 2009, in The Guardian, the incessantly anti-Israel newspaper. No photos accompanied The Guardian story, by Rory McCarthy, at least not online:
But most disturbing of all was the graffiti they daubed on the walls of the ground floor. Some was in Hebrew, but much was naively written in English: "Arabs need 2 die", "Die you all", "Make war not peace", "1 is down, 999,999 to go", and scrawled on an image of a gravestone the words: "Arabs 1948-2009".
Interestingly, these sayings appear in several of the photos linked on this page, which appear to be taken in different places by different photographers. But The Guardian story is about a single extended family in Gaza who found these sayings written on the walls and other items in their house. So which came first, the article or the photos? And was some of the graffiti in the photos created after the article using phrases from the article?

Blagojevich Trial Day 2: The Gun That Didn't Smoke

I listened to much of day two of the Illinois Senate impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. This was the day when the smoking gun would be revealed, in the form of four audio tapes just released by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Despite the claims in some of the television and print media, the tapes were no smoking gun.

The tapes purport to show Blagojevich extorting a campaign contribution from a horse race track owner in exchange for Blagojevich signing legislation favorable to the race track. But all the tapes actually show is Blagojevich's chief of staff urging Blagojevich to pressure the race track owner to pay up on a previously promised campaign contribution, and Blagojevich trying to confirm that the payment will be made. Nothing on the tapes states that Blagojevich would refuse to sign the legislation, already passed by a substantial majority in the legislature (including many of the Senators voting on impeachment), if there were no payment. You may be able to make the connection, but these tapes don't do it. We would need much more evidence to show extortion or even conspiracy to extort.

The only real value of the tapes was to finally hear Blagojevich's voice. I say "finally" because Fitzgerald has not released the other tapes quoted in the criminal complaint affidavit. When you hear the media say "we have heard the tapes" and Blagojevich must go, what you really are hearing is the media saying "we have read transcripts of excerpts of the tapes chosen by the prosecutor" and we'll suspend our normal distrust of prosecutors to believe that the excerpts are accurate, complete, and not misleading.

The suspension of disbelief, however, is not warranted yet. In its 20-second news clips, and in the writings in the print media, no one is commenting on the absurdity of yesterday's proceeding. FBI agent Daniel Cain, signatory of the affidavit on which the Senate rests much of its case against Blagojevich, was on the witness stand most of the day. The day went like this: Senate Prosecutor reads a paragraph from the affidavit quoting a portion of a transcript of a taped call, and then Cain says the paragraph was "true and accurate" at the time he signed the affidavit.

Why go through this exercise, when Cain already affirmed in signing the affidavit that the contents were true and accurate, and the affidavit already is in evidence? Drama. Allowing the Senate Prosecutor to read out loud the transcript excerpts, with all the "bleeps," was supposed to be dramatic. To this listener, the drama wore off after a few minutes, and the evidence seemed less, not more, overwhelming.

Although not the first time I noticed this, when hearing the affidavit read out loud it became clear that much of the "evidence" against Blagojevich is double and triple hearsay based on questionable witnesses. Something along the lines of "John Smith, who is under investigation and trying to cut a deal for himself, testified that Mary Jones told him that Rod Blagojevich wanted a campaign contribution in exchange for ...."

The other thing that jumped out when listening to the tapes and hearing Cain's testimony in response to questions from Senators, is how truncated are the excerpts. With an Assistant U.S. Attorney at his side, Cain repeatedly refused to answer questions as to how the excerpts were selected, what else was on the tapes, or who else (including Senators voting on impeachment) was on the tapes (Transcript, 292-293) When Cain refused to answer if any other Senators were on the tapes, the transcript indicates that an unidentified person at the Senate trial said "Thank God." (Tr. 293) So we may have potential targets of, or witnesses in, Fitzgerald's investigation voting on whether that most famous target, Blagojevich, stays in office. Great.

Cain refused to answer whether the excerpts in the affidavit put events in "the proper context" (Tr. 293) or whether he has learned anything in the seven weeks since he signed the affidavit which "would make any of the statements in your affidavit untrue?" (Tr. 299).

The Senators' questions and Cain's repeated refusals to answer were extremely damaging to the Senate prosecution, not that anyone seems to care. The Senate is relying almost exclusively on the Cain affidavit to prove the criminal allegations against Blagojevich. Yet Cain will not testify to anything other than what is in the affidavit, will not verify that the tape excerpts in the affidavit are in proper context, will not reveal what else is on the tapes, and will not even state that his affidavit is true and accurate based upon what he knows today as he is testifying.

I have doubted the wisdom of Blagojevich in not showing up, and I still doubt that wisdom as it pertains to challenging the Senate Rules and procedures. As to witness Cain, there is nothing Blagojevich could have gained by cross-examining Cain, so there really was no reason to try.

Any fair-minded person would be moving towards the conclusion that the Senate Rules, which do not allow Blagojevich or the Senators to challenge the evidence selected by Fitzgerald, are resulting in a trial which in fact is unfair. But there don't seem to be many fair-minded people around when it comes to Blagojevich's Senate trial.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

UNRWA Fails To Prevent Hiring Of Terrorists, Says Former General Counsel

James G. Lindsay, the former General Counsel of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has issued a detailed 84-page report harshly critical of UNRWA's policies with regard to Palestinian refugees. The report is titled "Fixing UNRWA Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees," and is available for free download.

Lindsay, who was UNRWA's General Counsel from 2000-2007, harshly criticises UNRWA's practices in a variety of areas, including the use of inflammatory school textbooks and a culture of perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians.

In a most timely finding, however, Lindsay notes that UNRWA does almost nothing to avoid hiring members of Hamas and other terrorist groups, despite U.S. laws which provide that UNRWA may not use U.S. funding to make payments to members of terrorist groups:

In sum, UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries, and no steps at all to prevent members of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, from joining its staff. These failings have occurred not because UNRWA consciously supports terrorism, but rather because it is not particularly concerned about the issue, its main focus being the provision of services and protection of Palestinian refugees. Even if terrorism constituted a greater concern, the agency is not equipped to undertake the extensive security investigations that a thoroughgoing antiterrorism effort would require. (p. 32)

Lindsay's observations take on greater meaning in the wake of Israel's recent Gaza invasion, in which UNRWA facilities were attacked. In one highly publicized incident, an UNRWA school was hit. The Israelis claimed that Hamas and other groups used UNRWA schools and aid facilities to fire rockets and attack Israeli troops. Linday's report, while not asserting that UNWRA actively aided terrorist activities, revealed a widespread culture of indifference to infiltration of UNWRA by Hamas and other groups operating against Israel, indirectly supporting Israel's claims.

At Least One Illinois Senator Understands The Injustice Of The Impeachment Process

At least one Illinois Senator appears to understand that the rigged rules of the Senate impeachment trial of Rod Blagojevich, do not allow Blagojevich a fair trial. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sen. Rickey Hendon wants to ensure that Blagojevich gets a fair trial and "is upset that senators are being asked to impeach Blagojevich in part on policy matters on which they previously supported the governor: expanding health care for children, creating a prescription drug program for seniors and procuring flu vaccines from outside the U.S.."

Hendon's concern that alleged criminal conduct has been lumped together with alleged political misconduct, is correct. The legislature put the two together because to separate out the criminal and non-criminal allegations would reveal the weakness of the case against Blagojevich. As to the criminal allegations, the legislature cannot permit a full trial because U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will not allow testimony or evidence that pertains to the criminal case. As to the non-criminal allegations, the "abuse of power" is nothing more than the normal push-and-pull between a legislature and an executive, with each wanting more power and testing the limits of separation of powers. The legislature has used the public anger over the criminal allegations to cover for the weakness of the non-criminal allegations.

As I have noted before, the Illinois Senate rules do not allow for a fair trial, and in at least one respect clearly are unconstitutional. The Senate has turned over evidentiary control of the main impeachable offenses -- the criminal conduct alleged by Fitzgerald -- to Fitzgerald's complete discretion, in violation of the Illinois Constitution which requires that the Presiding Chief Justice and Senators hold the trial. It is shocking that there has not been more outrage that a prosecutor brings charges, delays indictment, refuses to release evidence to support the charges, then gets to decide which evidence can be presented in a state impeachment proceeding. Hendon is quoted in the Sun-Times article reflecting on the reason for this silence: "Hendon said other senators share his concerns but are afraid to be vocal about it in the current political climate."

The Illinois Senate will regret rigging the rules in order to achieve the result of Blagojevich being removed from office. With time the public will understand that in seeking to achieve justice for the people of Illinois, the Illinois legislature violated fundamental rules of fairness and itself violated the Illinois Constitution. The legacy will be that a Governor who had no respect for the law was removed by a legislature which had no respect for the law.

British Papers Cover For Hamas Again In Latest Ceasefire Breach

Hamas set off a massive roadside bomb at the Gaza border, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding several on the Israeli side of the border. In return fire, one Palestinian was killed. So how do British papers report the story? Here are the headlines:

Notice the moral equivalence. Palestinians attack, Israelis respond, both to blame for breaching ceasefire. While each story noted the sequence in the body of the story, headlines typically are written by the editorial or production staff, not the reporter. The headlines reflect the attitudes of the publishers, and in this case, the false moral equivalency which dominates the mainstream media on the other side of the pond.

Since many people focus on headlines, misleading or agenda-driven headlines can have a huge impact on public opinion. It is no wonder that Britain is the center of anti-Israel boycott movements.

At least the AP, not known for being sympathetic to Israel, got it right: "Deadly roadside bombing threatens Gaza truce."
UPDATE: Leave it to The New York Times to emulate the Brits in the moral-equivalence headline department: "Two Killed in Violence on Gaza Border." The NY Times takes it once step further with a moral-equivalence first paragraph, which requires the reader to delve deeply into the story to understand the sequence of events: "An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian farmer were killed along the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday in the first known fatal breach of the cease-fires that brought a halt to the Gaza war 10 days ago, according to Israeli officials and Palestinian witnesses. It was not immediately clear how the deaths would affect the truce."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Wants You To Be Honest

Last October was our first Halloween in Ithaca, New York. Because I couldn't tend to the door, I put a box of candy on the front porch, with a sign that said "Please be honest, take just one."

This being Ithaca in the month before the election, I thought about putting on the sign, "Obama wants you to be honest, so please take just one." But I didn't, and all the candy was stolen in the first hour. I turned off the porch light, and called it a night.

I am fairly confident that invoking Obama's name would have shamed Ithacan children into honesty last Halloween, but I won't ever know for sure.

Apparently, others in Ithaca also believe that invoking Obama's name will get things done. In a time of staggering state budget cuts, including education funding, Ithaca is starting a new charter school called "New Roots." The name says all you need to know about the educational and political orientation of the school.

In a column in today's Ithaca Journal, one of New Roots' trustees argues in favor of funding a new school by quoting, you guessed it, from Obama's inauguration speech:

"Now," observed President Barack Obama in his inaugural address, "there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans."

Hearing these words, I found it hard, as one of the leaders of New Roots Charter School, not to think of recent debates in our community.

The proponents of the New Roots school better act fast. Even now, just a week into Obama's presidency, it seems like invoking Obama's name doesn't quite have the gloss on it that it used to. Most, but not all of the "Obama" signs have been taken down. We don't have George Bush to kick around anymore, so "impeach Bush" doesn't get people motivated. The tingle running up Chris Matthews' leg is fading, although Matthews refuses to let go of the feeling.

As for me, I fear my chance to test the "Obama wants you to be honest" theory has passed. By next Halloween, Obama will be just another failed President, besieged from left and right, weathered, looking like he had been on the job for a hundred years and counting. And the kids of Ithaca will be back to worshiping their parents' original hero, Che Guevara.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Unjust and Unconstitutional Trial of Rod Blagojevich

On Monday, January 26, 2009, the impeachment trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich begins. Nominally, the trial will be held by the Illinois Senate with the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding. In reality, this case is, and always has been, under the control of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

The impeachment process started just days after Fitzgerald held his now famous press conference on December 9, 2008, in which Fitzgerald announced that Blagojevich was guilty of various crimes while in office, most spectacularly the attempt to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. The charge was made in a press conference, and in a criminal complaint and supporting affidavit.

During the press conference, Fitzgerald went to great lengths to quote colorful language by Blagojevich, making a point of inserting the term "bleep" into the quoted transcripts. Fitzgerald could have brought the charges, and thereby thwarted any attempt by Blagojevich, without the highly inflammatory theatrics at the press conference. The press conference was the first step in Fitzgerald removing Blagojevich from office.

The press conference made great theater, and poisoned the public against Blagojevich as Fitzgerald must have intended, but revealed very little of the evidence. At this point, a month and a half later, there still has been no indictment. Fitzgerald has obtained an extension of time until early April 2009 to bring an indictment, allowing him to maintain secrecy all the while proclaiming Blagojevich's guilt.

The Fitzgerald press conference created a media and legislative frenzy, but Fitzgerald has made public almost none of the evidence in his possession to support his claims to assist the public in assessing the truth behind the criminal complaint. The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint contains excerpts of taped calls, but does not contain complete conversations, much less other conversations which might put the excerpt in context. Although you wouldn't know it from the press conference, cursing profusely is not a crime.

The Illinois legislature has made the criminal complaint affidavit one of the centerpieces of the impeachment process. The other grounds for impeachment, such as violating separation of powers, are secondary. If the legislators were honest with the public, they would have to admit that the criminal complaint allegations are the reason for impeachment, and everything else is window dressing.

While the criminal complaint allegations are the reason the impeachment process started, Fitzgerald has made sure that Blagojevich was not able to obtain the evidence necessary to defend himself in the impeachment process against such charges. At Fitzgerald's request, the House impeachment committee forbade Blagojevich or anyone else from inquiring into the evidence supporting the criminal complaint affidavit. Instead, the House took the affidavit to be true, and based much of the article of impeachment solely on the affidavit. The Illinois Senate has accepted the house impeachment record, which incorporates the criminal complaint affidavit, into evidence while forbidding anyone from challenging the record. (Senate Rule 8(b))

The Senate also has forbidden anyone, including Blagojevich, from seeking any evidence which, in the sole estimation of Fitzgerald, would endanger the criminal case. (Senate Rule 15(f)). Blagojevich cannot call witnesses, such as Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, who are believed to be persons referenced in the criminal complaint affidavit as persons to whom Blagojevich attempted to sell the Senate seat, despite denials by Emanuel and Jarrett that any such attempt was made. So Blagojevich cannot call material witnesses to cast doubt on the specific and overall reliability of the criminal complaint affidavit. Rule 15(f) violates fundamental fairness.

More important, Rule 15(f) gives to Fitzgerald decision making power over the Senate trial. I believe this provision violates the Illinois Constitution, Article IV, Section 14, which states that "impeachments shall be tried by the Senate." Nothing in the Constitution vests the U.S. Attorney with the power to try a Governor, but here, the U.S. Attorney has been given the power to make decisions over the evidence permitted at the trial. The delegation of trial authority to Fitzgerald is unconstitutional, and is an irrevocable taint on the trial process.

By analogy, nothing in the various constitutional and statutory provisions empowering the judiciary to decide cases empowers the judiciary to delegate decision making authority to others. If would be as if a judge decided that trial rulings would be made by the judge's neighbor. Only in the case of Rod Blagojevich is such outrageous conduct tolerated, because Fitzgerald successfully convicted Blagojevich in the court of public opinion without so much as an indictment, much less a trial.

Blagojevich has done himself no favors by refusing to partipate in the pre-trial and trial procedures in order to contest the Senate Rules. In so doing, Blagojevich may have waived his otherwise valid objections.

The impeachment trial that is about to begin is an injustice. Not because Rod Blagojevich is innocent of the charges, or should remain in office. Rather, the injustice is a result of a prosecutor who saw it as his charge to use his bully pulpit to remove a Governor, and a legislature which willingly served this function for its own political purposes. Rod Blagojevich may not deserve sympathy, but he does deserve a fair and constitutional process, neither of which will be available at the Senate trial.

The Satellite Doesn't Lie - Obama Inauguration Crowd Was No Big Deal

Estimating the size of crowds traditionally has been an art, not a science. The art part of crowd-estimating leaves much to the artist's interpretation. Police departments often go with their "gut" feeling based upon experience with prior events, or a helicopter flyover.

In the case of Obama, there is a long history of the media overestimating crowd size, most notably at the Berlin campaign speech, where local television put the crowd size at one-tenth the size reported in the international media. For Obama's inauguration, the artists in the media (both mainstream and leftist blogosphere) predictably estimate historic numbers of people in attendance, anywhere from 2-5 million. (A good summary of media estimates is at Seth's Opinion Matters.)

But is there any reliable, more "scientific" measurement available, other than gut feeling and Obamamania-media hype? A professor at Arizona State University who specializes in computer-assisted journalism used satellite imagery to come up with an estimate of a far less historic 800,000 people in attendance:

An ASU journalism professor using satellite images calculated that 800,000 people attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor Stephen Doig calculated the official inauguration crowd estimate after analyzing a GeoEye-1 satellite image shot at 11:19 a.m. from a height of 423 miles. GeoEye-1 is a military-controlled satellite.

Doig said the image was taken 40 minutes before Obama’s swearing-in, but adjusted his estimation to include people who were still coming in before the swearing-in.

“The space-based image is fascinating because all the low-level shots make you think the crowd is much larger,” Doig said. “You see the very dense clots of people in front of the Jumbotrons but then the wide open spaces elsewhere.” [h/t Seth]

What does the National Park Service have to say about this? They won't say, since they have a policy of not reporting crowd sized after their smaller-than-politically-acceptable estimate of the not-quite Million-Man March drew the threat of a lawsuit. Let's hope Professor Doig does not experience the same fate.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Should Law Professors Really Be Running The Government?

You know the old saying, "those who can't do, teach." When I was in private law practice, I took that saying as gospel. Now that I teach, I'm not so sure I like it, or that it's true. I think a better phrase might be, "those who teach, should be careful what they do."

The beauty of teaching, particularly in a law school, is that you get to suppose and propose all types of innovative theories as to how to make the world better, without the burden of having your theories tested in the real world. That doesn't mean your theories are ignored or wrong, it's just that there is a real world person (lawyer, judge, client, juror, etc.) who acts as a filter to translate your theories into practice.

The Obama administration increasingly is being run by law professors. The law-professor-in-chief is Obama, who used to teach part time at the University of Chicago Law School. Other law professors are staffing the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and sundry other agencies which put theory into practice. Critical decisions on executive power, the economy, interrogation methods, national security, and other life and death matters will be made by people who have devoted their careers to proposing theories as how to make the world better knowing that their theories were just theories.

The problem is, in the Obama administration there does not appear to be a filter since the theorists are the ones making the decisions. If the Office of Legal Counsel advances an innovative legal theory as to whether Obama has the authority to take a particular action, Obama's hands will be tied lest he be accused of violating "the rule of law." If Obama receives legal advice that the administration needs an Act of Congress before committing U.S. troops to any battle, who in the administration will argue in favor of following the contrary practice of prior Democratic and Republican administrations? The consequence of unfiltered innovative legal theories limiting the role of the executive may be that Americans die.

Innovative legal theory in a law school setting is a thing to be praised; innovative legal theory in an administration is dangerous to the welfare of the nation. While the various Obama law professor appointees all may be good people, are they really the good people we want making decisions on national security?

The Left Lied The Country Into Accusing Bush Of Lying Us Into War!

An air strike from a Predator drone killed 15-20 people in the tribal areas of Pakistan yesterday. According to most reports, the targets were al-Qaida operatives. Presumably, the CIA, NSA, and other government intelligence agencies had intelligence information as to the location of the operatives in a specific house at a specific time, justifying President Barack Obama personally giving the go ahead to the strike. If Obama did not specifically approve the strike contrary to reports, then people operating under his command would have done so in his name.

This raises an important question. What if the intelligence were wrong? Would that make Obama a liar? Did Obama or his administration "lie us" into killing innocent civilians? Or worse, did Obama undertake the strike knowing that innocent civilians, including most likely the wives and children of the operatives, would be killed? Was this proportional to the threat posed by a few guys sitting in a house in Pakistan? Weren't the operatives entitled to their day in court and pro bono lawyers from the nation's leading law firms and law schools prior to execution? We may have killed a few bad guys, but didn't we just create hundreds of new bad guys as a result of killing civilians?

Why aren't the mainstream media or Democratic party politicians asking these questions, or making outright accusations that Obama "lied us" into war, as happened when the Bush administration relied on intelligence information which turned out to be wrong. The lack of questioning exposes the hypocrisy of the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and the left in this country. It turns out that all the hurumphing which spewed forth from the throats of the New York Times, MSNBC, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the broad nutroots blogosphere was just politics as usual.

Turns out, the left lied the country into accusing George Bush of lying us into war!

For the record, I applaud Obama's willingness to attack suspected al-Qaida operatives hiding in Pakistan or elsewhere. But I'd feel a lot better if Obama would apologize for all the nasty things he said about Bush lying us into war, now that Obama is the one who needs to make life and death decisions based upon intelligence reports.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blagojevich Right, But Doing It Wrong

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich just finished a press conference in which he claimed that he is not participating in the Senate impeachment trial, scheduled to start Monday, because the Senate impeachment trial rules deprive Blagojevich of a fundamentally fair hearing. Blagojevich is right that he is being deprived of a fair hearing, but his trial boycott is the wrong way to go about it.

The two Rules Blagojevich cited in his press conference are Rules 15(f) and 8(b)(thanks to CapitalFax Blog for live blogging the press conference and reprinting the Rules in real time). Rule 15(f) prevents Blagojevich from calling any witness or presenting any evidence if U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald objects:

15(f) It is never in order to request a subpoena for the testimony of any person or for the production of documents or other materials from that person if the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois has indicated that the person’s testimony, or inquiry into the subject matter of that person’s testimony, could compromise the U.S. Attorney’s criminal investigation of Rod R. Blagojevich…unless the U.S. Attorney subsequently indicates otherwise.
Blogojevich has a very good point on Rule 15(f). The Rule prevents Blagojevich from contesting evidence upon which impeachment is based. But that is not his best legal point. The more important point is that the Illinois Senate has delegated to a non-participant in the trial (Fitzgerald) authority over a Senate trial which the Illinois Constitution vests solely in the presiding Chief Justice and Senators. This is a potentially valid ground upon which to challenge the constitutionality of the proceeding.

Rule 8(b) furthers this problem by preventing Blagojevich from contesting the findings made in the House impeachment hearings (which had their own fairness problems):

No objection, however, may be made against all or any part of the House impeachment record filed by the House Prosecutor with the Secretary.
Rule 8(b) has the same fairness and delegation problems, although not as dramatic as 15(f). The Illinois Constitution provides for trial in the Senate, but the Senate has delegated the fact finding to the House. Again, a potentially valid ground upon which to challenge the Senate trial on constitutional grounds.

But Blagojevich has shot himself in the foot by not participating, submitting his witness lists, challenging the rules, or otherwise forcing the Senate to refuse to provide a fair trial in fact, not just in theory. Blagojevich should have fought each step of the way on each of these points, to create a record of his grounds to contest the inevitable verdict.

While there is no true "appeal" from the Senate trial verdict, it is likely that the Illinois Supreme Court, if it accepted the case (not a given), would apply the appellate doctrine of preservation. What this means is that you cannot raise on appeal an issue which you did not argue and preserve in the trial court, because an appellate court is not a court of first instance.

As applied here, the Illinois Supreme Court could reject Blagojevich's "appeal" challenging the Senate Rules on the ground that Blagojevich did not preserve the argument at the trial court level, even if Blagojevich's constitutional challenges (some of which I list above) were valid. As I predicted, Blagojevich would want to call Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and other witnesses to contest the criminal allegations, and to subpoena Fitzgerald's documents; so Blagojevich should have requested that subpoenas be issued and let the Senate reject the request. The same is true for the non-criminal allegations, which do not seem substantial to me; contest the grounds regardless of what the Rules say, ask to subpoena legislators, do something other than not showing up in order to preserve the record.

It may be too late for Blagojevich to do anything other than complain, which is too bad. A full and fair airing of the evidence would do everyone good.

I Feel Safe Now

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans .... Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Musicians Finger-Faked Inaugural Music

As if the flubbed oath of office wasn't enough, it has now been revealed that the all-star musical ensemble at Barack Obama's inauguration didn't play the music you heard live. The honorable Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero, Yo-Yo Ma, and Anthony McGill actually played on the stage, but the music played over the loudspeakers and on television was pre-recorded.

This is so deep, it's hard to know where to begin. The phony music is a metaphor for the phony message of hope and change. Remember the famous Obama kids music video? As loony as that was, at least it wasn't fake. Obama's gonna save us, oh yeah.

Back by popular demand, the real thing, not pre-recorded, not canned, just pure unadulterated joy of hoping for change. Whatever, here it is:

Don't forget the international version of the Obama kids music video.
UPDATE: Apparently there was a very quiet disclosure of the plan to run pre-recorded music. The Hill blog posted a short entry on the subject at 11:21 a.m. on the day of the inauguration, just before the musicians played. The official Presidential Inaugural website makes no mention of pre-recording, simply stating "Musical Selection: John Williams, composer/arranger with Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet) ." And as the article linked in the initial post above makes clear, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies denied that there was any, or any need for, disclosure that the music was pre-recorded.
UPDATE No. 2: It does not appear that the Marine Band used pre-recorded music, although one report indicates they had a Plan B in place just in case the weather turned really foul. The Marine Band prepared for the weather by replacing metal mouthpieces on brass instruments with plastic, to avoid lips sticking to metal, and applied extra lube to all moving parts.

Domestic Oil Drilling Still Is The Answer

Dramatic increases in domestic drilling were offered as the answer to many of our economic problems last summer when gas was approaching $4 per gallon. Even Democrats were forced to recognize the need to open up some offshore drilling, and pressure was building to drill in ANWR in Alaska. Yet Barack Obama is in the process of cutting back on the small increases which were agreed upon.

Now that gas is down below $2 per gallon, drilling is still the answer, and even more so.

Domestic drilling in an economic downturn makes even more sense, because there is no global demand to soak up increased production, so the effect in lowering prices should be more dramatic than in strong global economic times. The low prices and weak global economy also make it difficult for OPEC countries to cut production because so many OPEC countries rely on oil revenue almost entirely; it is not feasible for these countries to cut production unless the cuts increase oil prices, which will not happen in this global economic environment.

Lowered oil prices provide a direct and immediate financial stimulus for American families without any cost to the U.S. Treasury. The most obvious benefit of increased domestic oil production is lowered gas prices, which saves families hundreds of dollars a month. Lowering gas prices will do more for American families than the $1000 tax "rebate" checks Obama wants to send to people who don't pay taxes, putting money in the pockets of lower income families without turning almost half the population into welfare recipients.

Lowered oil prices also lower prices of goods that require shipping by truck, such as food, and products based on oil, such as asphalt for roads. Businesses that rely on car travel or equipment that uses gas also benefit. From the food shopper to the construction worker to the taxi driver, Americans at every level -- but particularly the middle class -- will benefit from increased domestic production. The increased economic activity will create permanent jobs, not just short term make-work jobs which have no economic justification.

Domestic drilling, and the lowering of oil prices, also helps in foreign policy. The regimes in Venezuela and Iran cannot meet their budgets at the current oil prices, and even lower prices at a minimum will hamper these countries from exporting their anti-Americanism. Russia also is highly dependent on oil revenue, and lower oil prices may inhibit Vladimir Putin from his increasingly hostile path. It is very possible that an all out push to lower oil prices will bring down hostile regimes without firing a shot.

Increased domestic drilling is not the only answer, but it is an important part of the answer. And it beats destroying the dollar and socializing our economy through trillions of dollars in new government spending programs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's First President-to-President Call to Abu Mazen

Symbolism counts for a lot. In a highly symbolic move, Barack Obama's first President-to-President phone call was to Abu Mazen, a/k/a Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority:

In a flurry of telephone calls from the Oval Office, [Obama] reached out to leaders in the region and vowed to engage immediately in pursuit of a permanent Arab-Israeli settlement.

The spokesman for President Abbas revealed that Mr Obama had told the Palestinian leader that their conversation was his first with a foreign leader since taking office.
I don't know what the symbolism of calling Abbas first means here. I didn't hear any announcement from the White House in this regard, so the comment must have been to Abbas on the hush. My first reaction was to think this reflected some shift in emphasis in the Middle East. Why not make the first call to the Presidents of Israel or Egypt, or the King of Jordan? Why call the leader of an organization which never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity?

But then I thought about it some more, and maybe this is a good thing. There's an old adage that when someone privately tells you it's his or her first, you're about to be .... well you know. When it comes to Obama's "first" call to Abbas, let's only hope the old adage holds true.

Do Unto Obama As Obama Did Unto Bush? You Betcha

I really wanted to put my disgust at Bush Derangement Syndrome behind me in approaching Obama.

Yes, Obama and his supporters (i) repeatedly lied about Bush lying us into war, (ii) distorted the court rulings on Gitmo to create the false impression that Bush is a war criminal, (iii) refused to acknowledge that their Iraq policy either would have left tens of millions of people to live in tyranny or would have resulted in a genocidal civil war and an al-Qaida run state, (iv) deliberately talked down the economy to the point that people believe that unemployment rates equal to those during the Clinton administration are the equivalent of the Depression era, (v) engaged in name calling while calling for an end to name calling, (vi) refused to acknowledge that the housing crisis and related credit crisis were the result of the free money policies started under the Clinton administration and the lowered lending standards mandated by Democratic policies, (vii) engaged in demeaning diatribes against Sarah Palin based on class arrogance and an ingrained hatred of traditional America, (viii) created bizarre and almost paranoid tales, including that Bush might not relinquish power in some sort of coup d'etat, and (ix) skillfully silenced legitimate criticisms of Obama's background and policies by tagging critics as racist. And the mainstream media was the cheerleader-in-chief throughout it all.

I was ready to put it all behind me, until the inauguration. The disrespect showed to Bush during the inauguration was too much. I'm just not that big a person to let it go.

As many others have noted, that disrespect was not only by the crowd, but by Obama himself during his speech. Obama couldn't seem to put his hostility towards Bush behind him for the inauguration, despite the extraordinary efforts of the Bush administration to ensure a smooth transition. There were no missing keyboard parts or petty vandalism as happened when Clinton left the White House.

The performance of the crowd and Obama was a metaphor for where this country is heading if those who oppose Obama's policies remain silent in the hope that Obama will play nice. Being nice to Obama does not result in Obama or his supporters being nice to you. As I have noted before, Obama is one of the most aggressive politicians ever, and conservatives are kidding themselves if they think a few kind words now and then from Obama reflect a change in agenda.

So should we do unto Obama as Obama did unto Bush? Will the country be better off with a real opposition party? As Sarah Palin would say, "you betcha."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NY Times Takes Out Subprime Mortgage

On the morning of the inauguration, when attention was focused on the peaceful transition of power from George Bush to Barack Obama, the NY Times disclosed that it had taken out a loan from Mexican financier Carlos Slim on terms that would shame the worst subprime lender:

The New York Times Co., which has been struggling with declining advertising sales and is facing deadlines to repay hundreds of millions in debt, is getting a $250 million infusion from Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim.

The Times is paying a hefty price for the investment — an interest rate of 14 percent for the six-year notes — and is giving Slim warrants that he could use to boost his stake in the company to 17 percent from the current level of 6.9 percent.

There is something ironic about the situation. The NY Times Editors have lambasted the mortgage industry for making subprime loans to the hispanic community. Now a hispanic is making a subprime loan to the NY Times. Maybe the NY Times should just say no to the money, or urge the passing of a law prohibiting such loans. Or maybe the NY Times is just waiting for its bailout package.

Stupidest Anti-Bush Comment Of The Day, Week, Month, Year, Century, Millennium

I have thought about opening up this blog, as many do, to multiple bloggers. It would make the work load much easier, but it carries the huge risk that one of the co-bloggers would say something really stupid, and the taint would rub off on me. So, at an excellent law blog, one I read often even though I don't always agree, one of the co-bloggers (not the one whose name is in the title) makes what possibly is the stupidest statement anyone, anywhere (including Keith Olbermann), ever has said about George Bush:
I am optimistic because of the simple fact that we are witnessing a transition of power today. Before the 2004 election, people wondered openly whether the Bush crowd would even surrender power were they to lose at the polls. While there is still legitimate doubt about what happened during that election, the outcome in 2004 did not allow us to test whether or not an overtly corrupt administration would allow itself to be replaced and would turn over the power of the government to those with whom it disagrees.
Really. I don't remember anyone worrying that the Bush administration would refuse to cede power should it lose the 2004 election, or that at the end of two terms, Bush would refuse to transition to a new administration. But then again, I wasn't reading blogs in 2004.

Will The Media, The UN and British Academics Help These Torture Victims?

The Associated Press already has announced that Hamas is "restoring order" to Gaza, just like Hamas did in July 2007, before the Israeli invasion. The UN is decrying the "alarming" humanitarian situation, just like it did in July 2008, before the Israeli invasion. And British academics are organizing a boycott of Israel, just like they did before the Israeli invasion.

All of the above, however, are silent as to the torture of Palestinians by Hamas which has been taking place since the Israeli withdrawal:
A Fatah official in Ramallah told the Post that at least 100 of his men had been killed or wounded as a result of the massive Hamas crackdown. Some had been brutally tortured, he added. The official said that the perpetrators belonged to Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin Kassam, and to the movement's Internal Security Force.

According to the official, at least three of the detainees had their eyes put out by their interrogators, who accused them of providing Israel with wartime information about the location of Hamas militiamen and officials.
None of this is surprising. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon is calling for an investigation of Israeli shelling of UN buildings, but not for an investigation of Hamas' use of UN ambulances to transport Hamas fighters, as shown on this video. The media, the UN, and British academics have their victim narrative already set in their heads, and it excludes any victim who does not fit their anti-Israel agenda.

Iran Already Rearming Hamas

Israel has ended its Gaza operation in the hope that Hamas has learned to change its ways. No surprise, Hamas already is attempting to rearm with even longer-range missiles via a large shipment from Iran:
US and Egyptian warships were scouring the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea Tuesday, Jan. 20 to waylay an Iranian freighter carrying scores of heavy rockets for delivery to Hamas.... [T]he cargo consists of 50 Fajr rockets whose range is 50-75 km, scores of heavy Grad rockets, new, improved launchers whose angle of fire can be precisely adjusted, tons of high-quality explosives, submachine guns, rifles and pistols and armor-piercing missiles and shells (of types used successfully by Hizballah against Israeli tanks in 2006).

The shipment, the largest Tehran has ever consigned to the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, includes also a large number of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines, equipment for assembling roadside bombs and advanced communications and night vision gear.
The shipment is reminiscent of the Karin A ship seized by the Israelis in 2002. Video of the Karin A seizure is here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cheap, Tawdry Blogger Trick Learned

Whenever it is a slow news day, or some event (like the Obama inauguration) is sucking the air out of the media and internet, someone whose blog I follow invariably posts a picture of a pretty woman under some pretext. When the picture pops up on my Blog Link scroll, like this one, I don't want to click, but I can't help it.

I'm beginning to learn that I have a lot to learn about blogging. So here's a picture of a pretty woman who happens to be the Prime Minister of a major slavic country. Only the classy stuff for me.

I refuse, however, to engage in immoral traffic whoring, or to link to a dirty rotten Russian attempt at an upskirt photo of this leader (anyone who clicks on the link is weak, very weak).
UPDATE: Robert Stacy McCain did it to me again. Picture of a another pretty woman, and I clicked.

The "Military Recruiting Goals" Media Lie

The media is all aflutter today with reports -- as headlined in the NY Times -- that "all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically...."

This is the perfect mainstream media story because it perpetuates two myths: That only the poor and uneducated join the military and that violence in Iraq caused reenlistment problems. This story, however, is a gross exaggeration at best, a lie at worst, premised on the hope that no one would check.

A simple web search reveals that in fiscal year 2007 (October 2006-December 2007), when the economy was strong and the surge in Iraq was under way, all military branches met or exceeded their recruiting goals and the reserves fell only slightly short:
The Department of Defense has announced its recruiting statistics by the active and reserve components for Fiscal Year 2007.... All of the active duty branches met or exceeded their recruiting goals for the fiscal year. On the Reserve side, four of the six reserve components met or exceeded their recruiting goals.
The increase in recruiting activity went back at least to 2006:
Last month's recruiting figures for all military services exceeded goals, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during testimony today [January 2007] before the House Armed Services Committee. "I'm pleased to report that all active branches of the United States military exceeded their recruiting goals for the month of December," Gates said, "with particularly strong showings by the Army and the Marine Corps."
The recruiting activity picked up dramatically during 2007 into October 2007, when the stock market and economy were at their peak:

The first month of fiscal 2008 was a success for all active and reserve military components.

In a meeting with Pentagon reporters today, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said all components met or exceeded their recruiting goals for October.

On the active-duty side, the Army made 101 percent of its goal of 4,500, with 4,564 recruits. The Navy made 100 percent of its goal of 2,788 recruits. The Marine Corps made 102 percent of its goal of 2,720, with 2,788 enlisting. The Air Force made 100 percent of its goal of 2,656.

The Guard and reserve components “did very well” in October, Whitman said. The Air National Guard made 134 percent of its goal of 609 accessions, actually signing up 818 airmen. The Army National Guard also had a very good month, signing up 123
percent of its goal of 4,311 soldiers. The Army Guard signed up 5,305 men and women.

The Navy Reserve made 112 percent of its goal of 818, signing up 918 sailors, and the Army Reserve made 104 percent of goal, signing up 3,297 against 3,169. The Marine Corps Reserve and Air Force Reserve both made 100 percent of their goals of 890 and 681, respectively.

The lie, in 2007, that the military was not meeting or exceeding its goals, was exposed by NewsBusters on November 13, 2007. That lie continues to this day because it is so perfect to attack the outgoing Bush administration on its last day in office.