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Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Rejecting the Miers Nomination: Principle over Party
After decades of working to curb the Liberal activist tendencies of the Supreme Court, it's only natural that many Conservatives would be disappointed in President Bush's choice of Harriet Miers for a crucial vacancy. When Bush passed over such outstanding candidates as Michael Luttig, Sam Alito, Janice Rogers Brown, Michael McConnell, Emelio Garza, Edith Holland Jones and so many others to appoint his personal lawyer, many Conservatives erupted, myself among them.
The main objections to Ms. Miers are that she lacks experience with Constitutional law and has shown no indication, in her entire life, of her views on many of the important issues that we face. Her only distinguishing qualifications seem to be that she is very religious, and that she is personally devoted to President Bush. It is fast becoming obvious that she was only nominated to be the "religious vote" on the Supreme Court. I, for one, do not think that Supreme Court cases ought to be decided on the basis of religion, but on law.
Some on both sides of the aisle have tried to paint objections to Ms. Miers as "sexist." Many of the objectors have listed women like Janice Rogers Brown and Edith Holland Jones among their own preferred candidates. Objections have also been labeled "elitist" because Miers went to SMU instead of a fancy East Coast law school, but I haven't seen a single person criticise Harriet Miers on the basis of where she graduated. Quite a few objectors didn't even know what school she attended when they first voiced their opinion. The fact that Miers' defenders have to mischaracterise the arguments against her nomination shows how weak that nomination really is. When your opponents have to resort to a strawman argument, you know that you're probably right. And, more important: they know it, too.
One of the worst arguments against objecting to the Miers nomination is that objectors are "handing power to the Democrats" by undermining support for the President. Some have even gone so far as to accuse objectors of endangering support for the War on Terror, mostly based on hopeful stories in that vein from the "mainstream" media. Support for any politician is never an "all or nothing" deal, however. It is entirely possible to support the President on some issues while pointing out his mistakes on others. Have Conservatives not decried the administration's terrible spending habits and lack of border control before? Did that "play into the hands of Democrats" or undermine support for the war? Frankly, the mistake was made when President Bush spurned his own Conservative base by making this nomination. If he wants to regain the support of that base, all he has to do is withdraw it and name a candidate we can rally behind.
Other bad arguments include the "just shut up and trust the President" argument, and the "let's wait and see how she performs once she has a lifetime appointment to the most powerful court in the land" argument. The "blind trust" argument, despite Liberal accusations, has never worked with Conservatives, most of whom did not even support the invasion of Iraq until they researched and debated all the reasons as well as the ramifications of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The "wait and see" argument hardly deserves rebuttal, as it would obviously be too late to do anything about it if we wait that long to discover Miers' judicial abilities, if any. Most Conservatives are Republicans, and many Republicans are Conservatives, but the Harriet Miers nomination is forcing them to choose between party and principle.
The furor on the Right over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has brought hope to the hearts of die-hard Democrats, but it isn't really the anticipated apocalypse. It's more along the lines of a family squabble over who gets to host Thanksgiving this year. Oddly enough, it has even brought some Liberals and Democrats out to join Conservatives in calling for the nomination of only the best candidates to the Supreme Court. (Some, of course, really object to Miers just because she was nominated by President Bush, but some are sincere.)
This debate could lead to a more Conservative Republican party, if politicians are smart enough to pay attention to the anger of their base over this and other missteps (like overspending and loose border controls). If they don't, a Democratic gain in 2006 is likely. Republican politicians will have no one to blame but themselves if putting principle ahead of party means not supporting them.
And then, if that should happen, we start the fight to return to the system defined by the Constitution -- a system in which the Legislature legislates, the Executive branch guides and the Judiciary adjudicates -- all over again.
Posted at Wednesday, October 12, 2005 by CavalierX
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Why Didn't Bush Nominate My Sister?
Count me among the Conservatives who are less than thrilled with the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. It's just not enough to hope she turns out alright. Conservatives have fought to correct the Leftward slide of the Supreme Court for more than thirty years. Now, when the opportunity arises to replace the unreliable Sandra Day O'Connor with a solid Conservative, a brilliant expert in the judicial field, an excellent Constitutional scholar and -- most important -- a serious originalist Justice... we get someone we have to hope will be a good pick? True, she might turn out to out-Scalia Scalia... but I object to the necessity of using the word "might" in that convoluted sentence.
I don't know Harriet Miers. I have no reason to object to her... but by the same token, I have no reason to support her, either –- except for the President’s endorsement. As in the case of any nomination, support (or objection) should be based on two things: the nominee's resume, and the nominee's record. In Meier's case, one seems thin, and the other non-existent.
What are her qualifications for the job? She's been a lawyer for many years, the first woman hired by her old law firm. She headed the Texas Lottery Commission, and was the President's personal attorney before becoming the White House counsel. She became very religious in her thirties, which reassures most Conservatives about her personal beliefs, at least. That's all fine, but it's not much to go on when choosing a Supreme Court Justice. Plenty of people have qualifications for the position that match or exceed those of Ms. Miers.
Take my sister, for example -- why wasn't she nominated to the Supreme Court? She's been a lawyer for many years (though she is much younger than Harriet Miers), with a law firm widely regarded as the most prestigious in several states. She was, I believe, the firm's youngest female partner. My sister has argued cases before almost every court and nearly every judge in her state, it seems, and knows the law like the back of her hand. She can quote statutes, cases and decisions over the dinner table, and argue both sides of any recent major case, from memory, over coffee and cake. Why was Harriet Miers nominated instead of my sister, or any of thousands of excellent lawyers in this country?
As remarkable as both my sister and Harriet Miers are, the United States Supreme Court is no place for the merely remarkable. Those who sit on the highest court in the land ought to be truly exceptional, giants in their field, the best of the best that America can produce. Their job is to protect our Constitutional rights from violation by lesser courts. It's a place for only the brightest intellects, the most incisive legal minds and the wisest men and women the President -– any President -- can find.
I'm not worried about Harriet Miers becoming unmoored from her values and drifting Left, nor am I upset with the President for nominating someone whose values he feels comfortable with. Some have pointed out her affirmative answer to the question of whether gays should “enjoy the same civil rights as heterosexuals” as evidence of her support for gay "marriage." Well, of course they should -- all Americans are guaranteed the same civil rights by the Constitution. Changing the definition of marriage to include gay "marriage," three-way "marriages" or "marriage" between adults and children has nothing to do with civil rights, however.
I'm mostly concerned that Harriet Miers will simply become eclipsed by the other members of the Supreme Court. Decisions written by members of the Court -- especially dissents -- are often considered masterpieces of judicial scholarship and persuasive argument. What papers has she written that will tell us how utterly brilliant she is? What arguments has she brought that convinced those in dead opposition to her position to change their minds?
This is no time for a cipher or an empty chair. This is the Supreme Court, not the "Pretty Good Court." A nominee to that bench should be the best there is, if he or she expects support from Conservatives -- as opposed to those who are merely being faithful to their political party, or too trusting of any politician. Blind trust has never worked well for Conservatives in the past. Seven of the nine current Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republican Presidents, but only two of them have proven faithful to the Constitution as written – Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Remember, the jury is still out on Chief Justice John Roberts, to borrow a phrase.
I'm glad that Harriet Miers "understands real people," as Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) put it in his article for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. But what I want in a Supreme Court Justice is someone who understands the law and its relationship to the Constitution. I want a Justice who understands the relationship between the three branches of government as set out in the Constitution, and one who believes the Constitution is a rock -- not a blank slate upon which to write his or her own opinion. We deserve a Justice who is a brilliant legal scholar with the ability to argue his or her points using such logic, reason and factual command so as to change the opinions of even his or her staunchest opponents. A persuader, not just a "pit bull in size six shoes." If Harriet Miers cannot live up to those expectations, she should withdraw her nomination.
Of course, my sister is probably available for the post, if anyone asks.
UPDATE: There is, of course, an online petition and links to articles about Harriet Miers at StopMiersNow!
Posted at Wednesday, October 05, 2005 by CavalierX
Sunday, October 02, 2005
An Interview With The G-Man
On Tuesday, 27 September 2005, I had the honor to be interviewed by none other than G. Gordon Liddy, the G-Man himself, on his nationally-syndicated radio show. If you aren't familiar with his books When I Was A Kid, This Was A Free Country and Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy, you ought to check them out. The interview was in response to my 23 September post, "Goodbye to Anthropogenic Global Warming", which was seen in a reprint at Men's News Daily.
The show's executive producer -- Franklin Raff -- contacted me by email, and I called him back. I was more than half-inclined to think it was a practical joke, at first. There are people who owe me at least one, and one of them even lives in Washington DC. But it was no joke. Mr. Raff was even kind enough to send me an .MP3 of the interview, and I used that to type up an unofficial transcript of the segment. I was surprised to find that it lasted about thirteen minutes (including station identification).
I was, unfortunately, so nervous that I stated my conclusions too forcefully, and completely forgot to mention my own blog. I didn't even really notice when Mr. Liddy mispronounced my name. Still, many people have done worse on their first-ever interview on live radio, I think.
Posted at Sunday, October 02, 2005 by CavalierX
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Ronnie Earle and the Great White Whale
Like Captain Ahab's relentless pursuit of Moby Dick, Travis County (TX) District Attorney Ronnie Earle has spent years hunting the Great Right Defendant. After hounding most Conservative Democrats out of Texas politics with his attempts to use the court where the ballot box failed, he began pursuing the Republicans who took their places. Earle's closest encounter with success so far took place in 1993. He got an indictment against Kay Bailey Hutchinson (while she was campaigning for Senator), and finally brought her to the courtroom. When he was unable to present a convincing case, Earle attempted to withdraw the charge. The judge refused to allow it, instructing the jury to return a "not guilty" verdict so the charge could not be brought against her again. Now Earle's off on a new scent; he even bragged at a Democrat fundraiser that he was out to get House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He finally got a grand jury to return an indictment against DeLay, while a film crew follows him through every step of the case.
I'm having some trouble understanding just what it is DeLay's accused of, besides "being Tom DeLay." The indictment itself is even more vague than a Liberal explaining how he differs from a Socialist. Delay was apparently indicted for violating Section 15.02 of the Texas Penal Code. That section states: "A person commits criminal conspiracy if, with intent that a felony be committed: (1) he agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the offense; and (2) he or one or more of them performs an overt act in pursuance of the agreement." The statute also cautions: "An agreement constituting a conspiracy may be inferred from acts of the parties." So if Earle can just make it sound as though DeLay conspired to commit a felony, he might be able to get the case into a courtroom. All he needs is for a felony to have been committed.
Apparently, several corporations gave money to TRMPAC, a political action committee, in September 2002. Doing so is not illegal. Unfortunately, Texas law forbids money from corporations from being directly used to fund advocacy for a candidate, though it can be used to cover a campaign's administrative costs. So TRMPAC sent the money to the Republican National Committee to use for administrative purposes -- paying staff salaries, phone bills, equipment and car rentals, etc. That is also not illegal. The RNC had money from other sources, money that could be used for campaigning, that they would have used for administrative purposes. So they gave that money to several Texas campaigns. That, too, is not illegal... and wouldn't be even if, as alleged, TRMPAC told them which campaigns to help.
That's something both the RNC and DNC do -- orchestrate national donations for local campaigns. The corporate money was used to free up money that could legitimately be used for candidate advocacy. In fact, a 2004 article by National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty pointed out that on 31 October 2002, "the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000." Perhaps, to keep elections in the hands of locals, exchanging money between state and national campaigns should be made illegal... but at the present time, it isn't.
The alleged illegality is that some of the corporate money was ultimately spent on things not specified by the law as "advocacy," but that might be seen as such. The Washington Post reported: "At issue in this case is whether spending corporate money on pollsters, consultants and phone banks falls under the definition of administrative costs and not 'express advocacy' for a candidate." Tom DeLay's entire involvement, as far as the indictment claims, is that he might have known that this probably-not-illegal activity was going on. I'm sure that between giving speeches and performing his duties in Congress, DeLay was spending his nights poring over TRMPAC's ledgers to personally track every penny.
Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn't someone figure out whether a given activity is even a crime before handing down indictments for possibly knowing about it? What does Ronnie Earle plan for his opening statement? "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant might have broken the law, or he might not have broken the law. We aren't sure if he did anything illegal, or if anything illegal was done, but he's probably guilty anyhow. If, that is, the law was broken... which we're not quite sure it was. We sure think he's guilty of something, though. Or maybe not." That'll wow 'em. I hope for Earle's sake that Texas juries aren't armed.
In fact, this whole thing stinks like the fake Valerie Plame name-revealing scam. Remember how the Left "convicted" Karl Rove of revealing the name of a super-secret undercover spy? It turned out that she openly held a desk job at the CIA's Langley headquarters, about which all her friends and neighbors knew... and Rove never revealed a thing. Now, as then, the Left has their man tried, convicted and hanged, and they're selling souvenirs at his gravesite, but no one can say what the crime was that he supposedly committed. Without any evidence of an actual crime having taken place, and DeLay's knowledge of it, I'd be surprised if this case would normally make it to a courtroom to be shot down. Figuratively speaking.
The sad part is that it doesn't need to get to a courtroom for Earle to have done his intended damage. Tom DeLay followed the House Republican rules and stepped down as Majority Leader upon being indicted, though he could have forced a rule change that would keep him in place barring anything short of a conviction. A real conviction, that is... not the media conviction that has already taken place. For the rest of his life, even if tried and found innocent, Tom Delay's name will always be followed in the mainstream media by, "the former Republican House Majority Leader indicted for campaign finance corruption."
If only DeLay were a Democrat, his name and position would never be in jeopardy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose glee at DeLay's indictment led her to call Republicans "a culture of corruption," was actually promoted from Whip (second-in-command) to Leader after she was fined by the Federal Election Commission for violating fund-raising rules... something the media never mentions.
Was a crime even committed in this case? At this stage of the game, the only thing that looks criminal is Ronnie Earle's abuse of his office for political attacks. If I were writing the campaign finance laws, I would clearly spell out which activities constitute "candidate advocacy" and which are "administrative costs." But the law, as it stands, does not do so. And unlike Liberals, I am not prone to mistake my personal beliefs for written law.
Tom DeLay will probably survive this obviously partisan attack, though he is unlikely to regain his place as House Majority Leader at this point. Ronnie Earle may find himself in trouble at last, if the indictment is overturned. Remember that in the end, the Great White Whale killed the obsessed Captain Ahab.
The silver lining may be that the Republicans, having lost one of their leaders, might realise they're not secure in their majority, and stop bickering among themselves while Democrats work to divide them. They may even realise they need to keep their Conservative base happy by cutting wasteful expenditures and pork... but no, now I'm dreaming.
Posted at Thursday, September 29, 2005 by CavalierX
Friday, September 23, 2005
Goodbye to Anthropogenic Global Warming
As predictable as the path of an apple falling from a tree, you can always count on Liberals to bring up the canard of human-caused global warming in any discussion that touches upon nature. You can reasonably expect that they will blame any natural disaster on our refusal to surrender to the self-destructive fallacy of the Kyoto agreement. Well, current natural disasters, anyway -- they don't seem to blame the 1900 Galveston hurricane on global warming the way they lay blame for Hurricane Katrina, nor do they accuse mankind of causing the 1868 Nazca earthquake as they do the earthquake that caused the 2004 South Asia tsunami.
Before the rain even stopped falling in New Orleans, Liberals like Robert Kennedy Jr. were already on the attack. "As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it’s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush’s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2," he wrote. People like Kennedy have spent years using natural disasters to demand that the Western world dismantle its industrial base, while allowing countries like China and Indonesia free reign. It's a sort of industrio-socialism, using propaganda to enforce a homogenised economic and industrial outcome in entirely different countries.
Kyoto, beloved of Liberals, demands that signatories reduce their emissions of certain greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels. The only way for America to comply would be to force companies to reduce production and spend money on expensive environmental controls. This would result in companies relocating their operations to non-Kyoto countries to avoid going bankrupt. And Liberals complain about "sending jobs overseas" now! No wonder Congress soundly rejected it in 1997. Such a move would cause the biggest jump in unemployment in the Western world since the Great Depression. Another result would be the worst pollution imaginable, from countries that have no little or no environmental regulation at all.
Polluting the other side of the planet doesn't seem as important to some Liberals as not polluting the backyards of the rich and famous, however. Indonesia is responsible for releasing one-seventh of the total CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitted every year, but Liberals never seem to mind that. They would be more strident about peat-burning in Indonesia if the reduction of greenhouse gases was their real aim. Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry and the Kennedy clan, great proponents of wind and solar power that they pretend to be, threw up legal roadblocks to prevent a company from building a wind farm within sight of their Martha's Vinyard and Nantucket retreats. "People want to look out and see the same sight the Pilgrims saw," said Robert Kennedy Jr. -- yes, the same man who attacked President Bush for not reducing CO2 emissions. By "people," he must have meant, "the important people."
At the root of all this hysteria and hypocrisy is the absolute Liberal certainty that global warming is caused by humanity, particularly industrialised capitalist Western nations. You know... the bad guys at the heart of any Liberal fantasy. It was only a few decades ago that the media was full of calamitous warnings about the coming global freeze. Liberals are sure they're correct this time, though. This time, they tell us, the world really is going to end. Scout's honor.
Proponents of anthropogenic global warming deliberately ignore the fact that the global mean temperature, along with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, have risen and fallen in an easily discernible pattern for at least 400,000 years -- all without interference from lowly humans -- and that it's just reaching a high point between cold snaps. If we all try really hard, we just might be able to add enough CO2 to trip the cycle into the next 50,000 year downslope a few years early.
The keystone of anthropogenic global warming is that the global mean temperature has risen sharply in the last 150 years, since scientists began to measure it. Of course, in order to make their case, Liberals have to ignore the fact that we're still emerging from the Little Ice Age -- a cold spell that gripped the Northern Hemisphere for centuries, until about 150 years ago. Of course the temperature is rising. But is it really due to human influence?
For years, Conservatives have tried in vain to explain to eco-freaks and enviro-nazis that the Earth is largely self-regulating, when they're the ones who often claim it's a living organism. There's a reason we talk about cycles and seasons. When the level of CO2 rises -- which plants certainly don't see as "pollution" -- it triggers natural modulating influences. Higher temperatures melt ice, which causes heavier cloud cover due to moisture, which reflects more of the sun's light back into space, which lowers the temperature. And so on.
When CO2 levels fall too low, natural processes cause it to be released from the soil -- as seems to be happening now. Researchers from the UK's Cranfield University found that some 13 million tons of carbon are being released from the soil every year, as Reuters recently reported. "Since the carbon appears to be released from soil regardless of how the soil is used, the researchers conclude that the main cause must be climate change itself. Though they could not say where all the missing carbon had gone, much of it may be entering the atmosphere as the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, which many scientists say is causing global warming." Scientists from Germany's Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry wrote, "These losses thus completely offset the past technological achievements in reducing CO2 emissions, putting the UK's success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a different light." In other words, many Kyoto signatory nations have crippled their industry, spent vast amounts of money and caused rampant unemployment for absolutely nothing.
Science -- not junk science based on hysteria and ideology, but real science based on data and reason -- suggests that global warming is driven more by the sun than anything humans have done. A recent study by Swiss and German scientists indicates that the sun is burning hotter than it has at anytime in the past thousand years. "The Sun is in a changed state," stated Dr. Sami Solanki, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. "It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently -- in the last 100 to 150 years." Does that time frame sound vaguely familiar? It's about the same time the Little Ice Age began to end -- the same time that Liberals claim humans began to cause global warming. Isn't it clear that the sun is the real cause? Shouldn't we at least examine this before ruining our economy for nothing?
Every experiment must have a control, or a source of data uncorrupted by the experiment itself. There are no humans on Mars, and there's no way we could influence its climate. Yet Mars is also experiencing global warming, which strengthens the hypothesis that Earth's global warming is heliogenic, or sun-based, to the point of positive proof. It's simply not possible that the sun could cause environmental warming on Mars, but that similar warming on Earth is caused by SUVs and capitalism.
In the absence of any evidence to support it, the anthropogenic global warming argument is as dead as the dinosaurs whose ancient remains I put in my gas tank this afternoon. I'm going to celebrate with a cookout.
Hat tip to Mike's America for the Cranfield University story.
Posted at Friday, September 23, 2005 by CavalierX
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Katrina's Fallout: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The most severe fallout from Hurricane Katrina's effects on New Orleans is in the federal government's reaction. I don't mean the administration's reaction to the hurricane itself, nor the disaster that befell a huge swath of the Gulf Coast, but their response to the media's overblown and falsified attack.
Remember the dire headlines of only weeks ago? The media proclaimed that ten thousand people may have died in New Orleans alone, warning that it would take months just to begin pumping out the deadly toxic water or allow residents back in. It would be years before people could live in New Orleans again, if ever, according to media consensus. Moreover, the media struggled mightily to pin the blame for everything that went wrong on President Bush. (They never did manage to explain how it was his fault that the mayor allowed buses to flood instead of using them for evacuations, or that the governor used the National Guard to turn the Red Cross away from New Orleans instead of patrol its streets.)
After three weeks, however, power is back on in parts of NOLA, the water was nowhere near as toxic as the media led us to believe, the gas pipelines are restored to service, businesses are already reopening and the entire death toll may not reach a thousand. Despite the lack of potable water and dependable levees, residents are moving back in -- disregarding FEMA's advice. (I wonder who they will blame if a late-season hurricane should flood their city again?) The situation was never as bad as the media painted it to be.
It's the same method the media has used to portray Iraq as a horrific quagmire, despite outstanding successes there. Coalition forces have helped Iraqis hold elections, assisted in rebuilding schools and hospitals, and witnessed a free people create a free country. The mainstream media sells stories based on the worst-case scenario, projecting and predicting doom and gloom in order to make a fast buck, regardless of the facts. The reason we can see the truth in New Orleans is that some reporters are actually hitting the streets, instead of holing up in a downtown hotel and reporting what they're told.
Until now, the Bush administration has more or less ignored the mainstream media's hyperbole and responded to the facts, especially in Iraq. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, however, they appear to be addressing the media hype more than the reality of the situation. President Bush's speech of 15 September summed up the good, the bad and the ugly of the administration's reaction.
The good part of what President Bush proposed is the application of Conservative principles to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. Bureaucratic environmental regulations will be eased. Corrupt union rules will be put aside. Home ownership and small business will be encouraged, not stifled. Money will be set aside specifically for job education and training. Federal expenditures will, as much as possible, be balanced by spending cuts instead of higher taxes. The next few years should see the entire area enjoying an economic boom like it's never seen before.
The bad, on the other hand, is short-term job creation fueled by dumping federal tax money into the area. Spending cuts, each of which will be bitterly opposed by Democrats and even some Republicans, can offset not all of it. Moreover, many people will become dependent on aid money, and become unwilling to take advantage of less-secure job opportunities. Unscrupulous politicians will undoubtedly promote federal jobs as a "right," making it more difficult to reduce the amount of federal -- that is, taxpayer -- money going to sustain those jobs. Just wait until the Democrats spend their 2008 campaigns bleating about how the eeevil Republicans are taking away federal jobs from poor people. Print this page and read it again in a few years.
The ugly part of the response is as ugly as it gets. In his speech, President Bush said, "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces." A more powerful central government with the ability to declare federal authority over a state at will is something that should never be allowed. Giving the federal government the power to declare martial law over a state by decree, without asking the consent of the state's governor, would be a betrayal of much of the freedom for which our forefathers fought.
Why should we bother to have state governments, if they can simply be bypassed whenever the federal government perceives a need to do so? Have state officials no responsibility to their citizens at all -- are they not the proper entities to conduct the local response to an emergency? Who should know better where rescue efforts would be effective and supplies might best be allocated -- some faceless bureaucrat in Washington DC? If state and local leaders prove themselves incapable of handling a crisis, the correct answer is to elect better local and state leaders, not to consign even more of our sovereignty to Washington. How can we surrender the rights of sovereign states to an all-powerful federal government merely on the latter's say-so?
In the Declaration of Independence, the founders of this country declared that "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States." The structure of the federal government was created to deal with other countries -- friends or foes -- and to regulate trade and disputes between those independent states. The Constitution itself is mostly a list of limits on federal power, including the strict admonishment that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
Now we've come to a point where we're actually considering whether to cede state control to a vastly more powerful central government than our founders could have envisioned. I have too much respect for them and for the country they created to accept that.
I fully expected Liberals to push for a stronger central government after Hurricane Katrina -- that and calling for higher taxes are the two things we can always expect from the Left on any provocation. However, I never expected President Bush to accede to that demand.
Posted at Sunday, September 18, 2005 by CavalierX
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Four years ago, most Americans shed our ignorance and innocence as hijacked passenger planes slammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a lonely field in rural Pennsylvania. The terrorists struck at our heart, but couldn't touch our spirit. On that day, we saw and felt disbelief, horror, anger, fear and hysteria... but also saw levels of heroism, compassion and resolve that many of us never thought to witness. We saw the lowest humanity had to offer, in the terrorists who deliberately murdered thousands of innocent people. We saw the greatest of humanity as well, from the firefighters who rushed into burning skyscrapers to rescue trapped office workers, to the ordinary men and women who fought back on Flight 93 to prevent the terrorists from hitting who knows what target.
Most of us realised on that day that no preparations, no screening procedures, no walls could altogether prevent our enemies from carrying out their attacks. They blend in, they hide, and they take advantage of our freedoms in order to destroy our way of life. Their goal is the submission of all the world to a radical form of fundamentalist Islam. They can't be reasoned or bribed into abjuring this ambition. So how do you defeat terrorism?
Part of the answer is to dismantle the structure that supports them -- destroy their training camps, freeze their funding, and coerce rogue nations into ceasing their support for them. America has been doing those things, working with allies around the world who see the threat unrestrained terrorism can pose.
Another part is attacking the root cause of terrorism -- changing the kind of oppressive governments that lead to that kind of hatred and fanatical madness. We've been fairly successful at this so far, considering that -- as usual -- America has had to fight this war from a dead stop, while our enemies have been geared to the fight for a long time. We are not a warlike country by nature; we don't usually function in a state of war. Afghanistan and Iraq are well on their way to becoming self-sufficient democracies, even as Syria-backed al-Qaeda tries desperately to cow the Iraqis into accepting their Islamofascist rule. Increased demands for democracy have echoed throughout the Middle East: from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and even from the oppressed subjects of theocratic Iran.
What makes the fight against terrorism difficult is those in our own country who refuse to let us fight it. Some of them feel that we deserved to be attacked, while some feel that any use of force by America is inherently wrong. In seeking to place blame, they refuse to blame the terrorists themselves. Some are merely tired of hearing about 9/11 and war, unhappy at the loss of complacency. Some are anxious to "get back" to a mythical time when everyone loved America, and such things never happened here. Others, like most members of the "mainstream" media, are slaves to their own negativity, seeing only the costs and none of the achievements. Some actually seek to portray 9/11 as "all America's fault," and use the death of every soldier to undermine public support. They generally bill themselves as "anti-war," though in their portrayal of terrorists as "freedom fighters," they only seem to be against one side of this war.
Those who complain that the country has become divided forget that the division was evident little more than a week after 9/11. The first anti-war protest took place in New York on 20 September 2001, while the city still reeked of smoke and dust, and as hope of finding survivors alive in the rubble was just beginning to flag. It's difficult to believe that, even then, Americans who detest America were sapping our will to defend ourselves. That was the same day President Bush declared, "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated... We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
The appeasers have become more insidious and more subtle, though they still like staging large rallies whenever a public forum can be had. Anti-war, anti-American sentiments have even taken over memorials to the victims of 9/11. The memorial at Ground Zero in New York, thanks to the tireless efforts of the anti-war crowd, is scheduled to feature a place called the "International Freedom Center." As they enter the 9/11 site, visitors will be "informed" about slavery, Native American issues, the KKK, Nazi genocide and Soviet gulags before being introduced to 9/11 in the context of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.
In the Pennsylvania field where UA Flight 93 went down, a semi-circle of red maples -- forming the Red Crescent that is the most recognisable international symbol of Islam -- will frame the crash site. The design, called "the Crescent of Embrace," won the design competition "funded through the generous support of the Heinz Endowments," as stated on the Flight 93 Memorial Project web site. (Yes, the same Heinz Foundation, run by Teresa Heinz-Kerry, that funds Code Pink, Global Exchange, Earth Action Network, Green Corps and the Tides Foundation.)
One site will thus become a forum for casting blame on America for the victims of 9/11, the other a paean to their true murderers. Can you imagine a tribute to Holocaust victims dedicated to defending Hitler, or a Pearl Harbor memorial featuring the Japanese Empire's excuse for mounting a sneak attack?
The Crescent of Surrender, funded by Teresa Heinz-Kerry
Although it's difficult to maintain our resolve in the face of a home front dedicated to sapping our will, we owe it to the victims of 9/11 -- and the potential victims of all future terrorist attacks -- not to give up the struggle against terrorism. We cannot let the events of 9/11 become bogged down in anti-American politics. We have to remember. We have to fight. And we have to win.
Thanks to Zombie for the crescent graphic, and a hat tip to Michelle Malkin for the link.
Posted at Sunday, September 11, 2005 by CavalierX
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Demanding Dictatorship in Katrina's Wake?
Probably the most astonishing result of Hurricane Katrina so far has been the overall reaction of the Left. I don't mean the whining criticisms or the politicising of tragedy for political purposes, however -- those Liberal reactions are par for the course in any situation. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch was at his most honest when he said that "it's fair game for the Democrats to attack the president at this time. They want to win the House next year." What amazes me is that the same people who have spent four years accusing President Bush of shredding the Constitution and mounting a military coup in America seem to be angry with him... because he didn't shred the Constitution and mount a military coup.
The most persistent Liberal and Democrat attacks concerning the aftermath of Katrina have been that "the government" (by which they mean the federal government) was too slow to take charge of the situation. According to the critics, Bush should have immediately sent the US military into New Orleans to keep order, taken personal command of the National Guard and directed relief efforts on the scene from the moment the levee gave way. FEMA should have assumed direct control over all police, fire crews, EMTs and other first responders.
In other words, Liberals seem to feel that the rights and responsibilities of state and local governments can and should be taken away by the federal government in emergency situations. But that's exactly what the Constitution was designed to prevent.
More than anything else, the Founders feared an all-powerful central government dictating to the states and citizens. The United States is supposed to be a federal republic, not a centralised totalitarian government. The President has no authority to command state militia (or the modern substitute, National Guard units) without permission of the state governor to whom they report. He cannot order the evacuation of a city. He cannot simply assume command over the local and state governments. He certainly cannot send the US military to take control of a city or state except in case of insurrection. And the last thing the looters in New Orleans were doing was setting up their own secessionist government.
"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
- US Code, Title 18, Section 1385
The Posse Comitatas Act of 1878 forbids the President from using the US military to enforce the law without an Act of Congress. Posse comitatus, or "all possible force," refers to the power of a sheriff to call upon every able-bodied man in his county to help apprehend a criminal. (The things you learn from watching old Westerns...) The President can not similarly use "all possible force" to enforce the law, because doing so would be equivalent to declaring martial law in the United States.
Exceptions to the law, aside from suppressing insurrections, include assisting drug enforcement agencies or during emergencies involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), there is no exception for a local or state government failing to respond properly to a crisis. State and local officials failed to evacuate the citizens, declined to quell the looting and other crimes being committed, and even refused permission for the Red Cross to bring food and water to the people packed into the Superdome and Convention Center. The Red Cross explains on their web site that "The state Homeland Security Department had requested... that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." Without the governor's permission to act, the federal government was effectively hamstrung.
Louisiana Governor Kathy Blanco could have requested federal help, but would not sign the authorisation to allow it, even after the situation had descended into total chaos. "Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans," the Washington Post reported. "The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law." Governor Blanco decided to maintain final authority over the situation in New Orleans. With that authority comes responsibility for the results -- good or bad.
Every person who complains because the federal government did not take control of the New Orleans situation -- despite the governor's refusal to give permission -- is advocating a far more powerful federal government than we should ever want. The burden of response to local disasters rests on local elected officials while they choose to retain their authority. The federal government cannot intervene unless specifically requested to do so. To suggest otherwise is to invite a military dictatorship.
Posted at Wednesday, September 07, 2005 by CavalierX
Saturday, September 03, 2005
The Harsh Lessons of Hurricane Katrina
What happened in New Orleans? How did things go so terribly wrong, and how can such a total breakdown of civil order be prevented in the future? It's easy to point the finger of blame, but that won't do anything to help the next city that falls victim to disaster -- natural or man-made. We need to look at what went wrong, so similar mistakes can be avoided.
On 27 August 2005, two days before Hurricane Katrina hit near New Orleans, President Bush declared the state of Louisiana a major disaster area. This allowed FEMA, which coordinates state and local disaster relief efforts, to make funds and supplies available to Louisiana Governor Kathy Blanco. Medical supplies, food and water and National Guard units were deployed within a short distance of New Orleans -- short under normal conditions. The Red Cross set up headquarters in Baton Rouge, perhaps 80 miles away.
It's impossible to know precisely where a hurricane will strike land, or where the devastation will fall. If you put your emergency supplies and people too close to the hardest-hit area, then they, too, might be damaged or killed. If you place them too far away, they'll be unable to reach the affected area in time, if at all. Placement of resources does not appear to have been the problem... use of them, however, was a different story.
The residents of New Orleans were informed as much as anyone can be of the dangers posed by Hurricane Katrina. The NOAA issued a bulletin for New Orleans on 28 August 2005, the day before Katrina hit. The bulletin warned that Katrina's strength would rival that of Hurricane Camille. "Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks... maybe longer," it went on to say. "Power outages will last for weeks... as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." Although the NOAA attributed the anticipated problems to the hurricane itself, the warning was certainly vivid enough.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency, and ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city after a personal appeal from President Bush. Some of those who remained behind were too poor to escape via normal public or private transportation. The poorest residents had no way out of town. Photos have shown fleets of school buses still parked in their flooded lots. Why those buses were not pressed into service, no one knows. The City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan clearly states, "The City of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas," and "Transportation will be provided to those persons requiring public transportation from the area." Part II, Section B, paragraph 5 of the Louisiana Emergency Operations Plan (supplement 1A) states, "School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating." Public buses only took people to the Superdome, which was clearly not outside the threatened area. The school buses were never used at all. Emergency plans are created for a reason, and need to be followed in order to ensure the safety of the citizens.
Over 200 school buses that did not evacuate 10,000 to 12,000 per trip
After the hurricane had passed, everything seemed normal in New Orleans, though power and communications had been largely cut off. In hindsight, and under similar circumstances in the future, that would be the time to move the National Guard into the area, to gather information if nothing else. With no communications, no one could know the city's situation for sure. The Guard would be the governor's eyes and ears on the ground. But they were not told to move into the city. Then the levee gave way, and moving into New Orleans en masse became nearly impossible.
The levees that protected the city from the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain were partially redesigned and rebuilt to withstand a Force 3 hurricane. The ten-year project to build them up to that level was launched in 1965, but is still incomplete after 40 years. The portion of the levee that collapsed, however, was one that had been completed. The city and state governments took a continuing gamble since the 1960's that no stronger storm would happen to strike New Orleans. Eventually, they were bound to lose... it was only a matter of time. Some critics would like to blame the disaster on the recent reduction of federal funds to the Army Corps of Engineers, but funds have been declining for nearly a decade. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Congress in 1999 authorized the corps to conduct a $12 million study to determine how much it would cost to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane, but the study isn't scheduled to get under way until 2006."
Lawlessness and looting followed the inrush of water almost immediately, as people began taking what they could get their hands on before the water could claim it all. The city police force and fire department had no way of coping with the hurricane damage, the loss of power and communications, impassable roads and the looters thronging the streets, while simultaneously trying to rescue people from the rising flood without getting trapped themselves. Still, the governor declined to order the Louisiana National Guard into the city to maintain order and help rescue survivors, though the Coast Guard quickly began rescue operations. No call was made to mobilise the National Guard units from other states -- it's as though the existence of the Guard was completely forgotten.
The Red Cross and other relief agencies could not get supplies into New Orleans until the roads were cleared. Desperation worsened looting, and the crowds packed into the Superdome and the Convention Center descended into chaos, as the food and water began to run low and the facilities became unusable. Other people have been sitting on the roads and parking lots around those areas for days, waiting for the authorities to tell them where to go and what to do. The result is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in American history, a black eye for the entire country, and a lesson plan for our terrorist enemies, who would love nothing better than to cause such chaos and destruction themselves.
The New Orleans disaster should serve as an alarm for every city in America -- not to mention every city, everywhere. Lessons have to be drawn from this that will prevent a repeat during the next crisis, whether it comes from a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Local and state governments should pay careful attention to what the New Orleans crisis is telling us about how to deal with future problems.
1. Work out emergency plans, and carry them out as closely as possible. If an evacuation is called for under the circumstances, move as many people as possible to as safe a place as possible -- not just across town. Don't plan on keeping them there just for a few hours, but plan for days, just in case. Stage emergency food and medical supplies at places designated as rescue points. If plans are followed, then loss of communication among the authorities won't matter as much -- each government official will have some idea what the others are doing.
2. Maintain law and order. The main obstacle to the food and water distribution and rescue operations has been the rioting looters in the streets, shooting at the rescuers. Those who merely take food and water are making it impossible for others to use it, and impossible for local authorities to commandeer those supplies for the sick and helpless. Inside the refugee centers, there aren't nearly enough police or security guards or hastily-sworn-in deputies to prevent rape, murder, theft and other violence among the angry, hungry crowds.
3. Maintain communications. The people packed into the stadium and convention center are turning hostile mostly because they feel they've been abandoned. Buses and trucks pass them by, feeding and evacuating others according to a plan that isn't being shared. Frustration easily turns to anger, and anger to rage. No one on the outside even knew how many people were jammed into the Superdome and the Convention Center until news trucks made their way to those buildings to report.
4. Use all available resources. The Louisiana National Guard could have done so much in the early hours of this crisis, but they were not utilised. Even a few thousand Guardsmen patrolling the streets would have gone a great deal towards maintaining at least the appearance of law and order -- and appearances can mean a great deal in a city-wide crisis. Press every city-owned bus, dump truck and bicycle into service to transport people to safety if needed.
5. Do not wait for the federal government. There's a reason we pay state and municipal taxes, and it isn't so that our elected officials can sit on their hands and wait for Uncle Sam to bail us out of a crisis. For every inch of red tape in a city bureaucracy, there's a foot of it at the state level and a mile at the federal. Emergencies demand swift action and clear communication to avoid the sort of chaos Katrina has left in her wake.
We will face disasters again, possibly as severe as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The days of ignorant complacency vanished on 9/11 -- an artificial disaster can happen anytime, anyplace. A lesson for the individual here is not to depend on any government, but on yourself. Make sure you always have at least a few days' worth of food and any medicine you need. Keep some bottled water on hand in case of emergency. Above all, keep your head.
Posted at Saturday, September 03, 2005 by CavalierX
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Who Will Help Katrina's Victims?
Once again, disaster has struck in our own backyard, but I don't expect to see aid flooding in, so to speak, from other nations. New Orleans appeared to have escaped the worst effects of Hurricane Katrina until two of the levees broke, flooding an estimated 80% of the city. Since New Orleans is built in a huge bowl-shaped depression, the levees were necessary to keep out the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain.
Animal and human bodies swirl in the floodwaters, while tree trunks and downed power lines obstruct rescue operations... but nothing seems to deter looters, nor the rioters who took hostages inside a prison. The tens of thousands of people who took refuge in the Superdome are being forced to evacuate by the rising waters, lack of air circulation, and overwhelmed facilities. There is hardly any drinkable water anywhere in the city, no electricity for millions in the area, and it may be months before power is fully restored.
Meanwhile, 30-foot waves slammed into Biloxi MS, destroying its power grid and sewage systems. Floods engulfed parts of Alabama, destroying homes, shipyards and businesses. The number of people who were left homeless and nearly helpless by Hurricane Katrina can only be imagined at this point.
People around the world, even in countries whose governments consider themselves our enemies, know that when disaster strikes they can depend on the generosity of Americans to help them survive and recover. The rest of the world is so used to our automatic offers of money, food, doctors, engineers, medicine, clothing and other forms of assistance in times of trouble that our government has even been called "stingy" when their response was not quite fast enough or the checks not quite large enough to suit our beneficiaries. But it's not really the job of our government to send our tax dollars overseas that way. It's not really the government's responsibility to help domestic disaster victims, either. It's ours. And Americans always respond brilliantly to calls for help from around the world. Yet charity, it is said, begins at home.
When Americans are in trouble, they can only truly depend on the help of fellow Americans, the same people who are so quick to help people of other nationalities in distress. The effects of Hurricane Katrina are unprecendented, and it will take an unprecedented amount of help to recover from them. Please call the American Red Cross at 1-800-HELP NOW, the Salvation Army at 1-800-725-2769 or Mercy Corps at 1-888-256-1900 to give what you can.
31 Aug 2005 UPDATE: Here is FEMA's list of organisations to which you can donate money or volunteer service.3 Sept 2005 UPDATE: Offers of assistance now come from around the world. Qatar tops the list of over 50 so far, offering $100 million. Even Sri Lanka, still recovering from the December tsunami, offered aid. Israel, Japan, Australia and others are stepping up. Well, perhaps the Liberals were wrong about the "entire world" hating us after all.
7 Sept 2005 UPDATE: Kuwait comes through with $500 million in aid for the people who saved them from Saddam.
3 Sept 2005 UPDATE: France and Germany have begun to offer relief for New Orleans. France offered to send 35 relief workers from the Caribbean (with 60 more from mainland France). Both countries offered hundreds of tents and beds, along with generators, water treatment plants, planes, ships and medical supplies.
Posted at Tuesday, August 30, 2005 by CavalierX