It is so very hard for me, when writing on politics, not to leap into the same few issues dear to my heart – in general, the negative effects of partisanship on our collective ability to find reasonable solutions to problems and the mistake of both parties in believing that spending money we don’t have in the hopes of creating a sustainable economy (value) is sustainable.
So, I’m going to try, really, really try not to slip down those paths, and just cover the topics of the past month or so for which I hope to have something to say you can’t read in the millions of other blogs out there.
Khalid Sheikh Mohmmamed
Presidents rarely do anything I like. Obama is no different. In fact, based on what I have seen so far, I suspect I may conclude someday that he is a worse president than even Bush II. Bush was in my opinion, the worst president of my lifetime, and yes, I am including Jimmy Carter. He was handed a golden if bitter opportunity for greatness when 9/11 occurred, but, instead of being Churchillian, he just tried to sound Churchillian, or his writers did, and he led us into two very badly run wars and much other nonsense I won’t go into here. I started blogging at a time when Democrats were regaining some power in government, and thus at a time when Bush was less powerful and therefore having his better years in my opinion, save the last few months of his administration when he engaged in the economic madness that I am trying to avoid discussing (and which Obama/Congress has multiplied fourfold). I have yet to chronicle Bush's eight years and might some day. No, he was not, in fact, up to the job, and I was not even then proud of my 2004 vote for him, which, had the Democrats put up someone other than Kerry, in my opinion one of the worst characters in politics, would not have been necessary for me or many others.
With Obama, I can find few things his administration has done (or not done) which either satisfies me or I find wise. Just thinking of the stimulus package, the continued bailouts, the looming health care fiasco, the parade of apologies on foreign soil, the middle east situation, the Iran situation, the Russian situation, the continued empty blather about what he is going to do for the middle class or gays in the military, etc., I can come up with little positive. Perhaps, as far as I know, the administrations efforts to keep the Mexican drug war out of the U.S. was successful. Given the state of the media - I am prepared to be disappointed.
So, it should be no surprise to me that he has decided to try Kalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in a United States District Court. It is much like the apparent decision to warn combatants taken prisoner of their “rights”. A big mistake that must lead to problems down the road. The conservative criticism that liberals want to "criminalize" war is an accurate one.
There has been so much written on this already from people with a similar viewpoint to me, that I don’t want to go down that path to far. In short, it’s not a good idea, because it breaks with our law and our tradition that, at least, foreign combatants captured on a foreign battlefield, do not get the benefit of the U.S. judicial system. The trials should be held wherever our military or the commander-in-chief think best, and, arguably, when the conflict is over, or earlier if desired, be held before a military tribunal with the defendant given an opportunity to defend himself against charges of war crimes. Terrorism, obviously, is deemed a war crime by every nation. Indeed, even were KSM caught on our soil, the same rules should apply. In no manner do I understand how the Geneva Conventions might apply (although the Supreme Court seems to think so) except that I believe the prisoner's should not be tortured or abused (and I'm not engaging the incredibly rare, if ever, ticking time bomb situation here).
Whatever special rules are set for KSM's case, I fear we can count on a few things. The trial judge will almost certainly be on the prosecution team throughout the trial. Expect all but harmless rulings to go the defendant's way. The trial will likely be a show trial, made to have the trappings of justice, but few of the risks.
However, I do not believe (maybe I should have said hope) that the government would have decided on an Article III trial if they did not have rock solid, non-confessional evidence of KSM's guilt. But, someone, perhaps Obama and the AG, should have to write "Murphy's law is real" one hundred times on the blackboard, because something will certainly go wrong. There will be the inevitable fight over the defendant's constitutional rights. Indeed, if I were one of KSM's attorneys, I would raise every single constitutional defense I could think of including excessive bail (they couldn't take the chance he'd ever make it, even if a billion dollars).
There are two bad outcomes - a show trial of the type that found Saddam Hussein guilty or the O.J. civil wrongful death case, both of which were embarrassment to the legal profession, or, a bizzare acquital for lack of evidence and KSM being kept a prisoner anyway - something our legal system cannot countenance, but in his case, must. Even if his being convicted and sentenced to multiple murders is a more likely possibility, these are not risks that need be run. Other suspected terrorists have or are being tried under military courts, there is no good reason to try him otherwise. But, given sufficient reason to believe someone is Al Quaeda, they should be held indefinitely until AQ or its derivatives and imitators have largely ceased to operate. Admittedly, that will be difficult to tell, but this is a war they have chosen and we have to defend it.
At the very, very least, trying KSM in a military court would be a much better solution. I'm not suggesting that he not be given an opportunity to defend himself, and the notion that a military court has to be a kangaroo court is unfair and untrue. The rules should be clear and fair.
Why is Carrie Prejean on my radar again? Are we serious? Do we really want to spend time wondering why a teenage beauty queen might have sent her boyfriend salacious images? It was bad enough when I heard her say at a speech that God had chosen her to say that marriage is between a man and a woman. At least God has a good eye for the chicks, I guess.
I've said this before, so I'll be brief. Carrie Prejean took, seemingly with humility and appreciation for hurt feelings, the same position as Barack Obama takes - marriage is only between a man and a woman. I disagree, but am greatly outnumbered by my fellow citizens who routinely defeat every opportunity to change the law. Her being denied the Miss America crown was wrong in my book - if you can get past how silly the whole contest is - but her lionization by the right is even sillier.
Her performance as a conservative speaker is, to be kind, an embarrassment to the conservative movement, and, were I Newt Gingrich, or Sarah Palin, I wouldn't want to be on the same stage with her. In fact, I'd be embarrassed.
But, of course, this is exactly the type of stuff that fascinates America. So, we are stuck with her for a while. At least she's nice to look at - but if we want beauty queens, we only need to turn on FoxNews.
When John McCain chose Sarah Palin for his running mate, I was surprised only because of the ongoing ethics investigation regarding her brother-in-law (which eventually went away). But, the public had made it clear that they were not interested in things like that or Jeremiah Wright or other side shows this election. I thought she was a good choice, in that she was a fresh face, and despite the unfamiliar accent, and colloquialisms, she spoke better than any of the three men in the race, much freer of wacky mistakes, if not as soaringly as Obama. I liked her anti-spending position and the fact that she wattacked people in her own party. Those both gets bonus points with me.
That was a first impression, of course. She wilted under the media attention. The Katie Couric interview was a disaster that just didn't have to be. Watching it made me think of the Titanic, if the captain had in fact seen the iceberg, but kept drifting towards it anyway. Could you not think of one newspaper or magazine? No doubt, she was following her handlers' advice. This is often a mistake for both presidential and vice presidential candidates, but one that is inevitable in our scripted phony times.
I do believe there has never been a worse roasting of a major candidate than the press gave Palin - it was never fair, and ridiculous rumors about her, it seems mostly, if not all untrue, were given credence by both the media and the left. My opinion - if everything about her was the same except she was pro-choice, the media and the left would have loved her and the right would have dismissed her. Such is the power of the abortion issue in American politics. Everything is colored by it even when it is not a campaign issue itself.
I have heard a number of people say they decided to vote for Obama after McCain had chosen her. The people I've met anyway, who say that, have in most cases never voted for a Republican candidate for president anyway. The polls show she had no more impact on the race than Biden did. People voted for Obama because they hated George Bush or because of the economy or because they wanted the ill-defined "change". Also, I think, because of the horrible campaign run by McCain's team who tried to help him win the election - unfortunately, it seemed like that election was the 2000 Republican primary.
I believe very few of the negatives I hear about Palin. I have never, for example, seen any indication that she wants to force people to be Christians, although I've certainly heard that from people on the left (in fact, it is just moronic). Nevertheless, her post-campaign existence has far from impressed me. She has been full of excuses and recriminations, won't acknowledge a mistake (even that she was awful in the Couric interview), and, she gave up her governorship to be a media personality and cash in on her memoirs.
It is not clear whether she will be a candidate in 2012. Right now, many on the right seem enamoured of her, at least social conservatives. I don't understand why they believe the crucial independent block will vote for her for president. Yes, Obama also had very little experience when he ran for president, but now he has experience few people in the world have had and none of them will be candidates. But, she quit halfway through her first term as governor for no explained reason. In fact, the speech she made to explain it may best be described as double tongued, cross-fingered gobbledy goop. There's always a second act in American politics, but the right is making a mistake if they adopt her in 2012.
For the far right, she will be a vindiction of what they believe in most - pro-life and pro-christian values, states' rights and Hayekian economics. Even independents and moderates who believe that Obama has not performed well will stick with him rather than vote for someone who gave up her one ticket to the show.
The truth is, as I pointed out ad nauseum during the campaign season, neither Republicans nor Democrats really care about experience - they care the candidate agrees with them on a few core issues. Governing experience is, in reality, no more important than most political rhetoric.
The Health Care Police
There are so many issues with health care it is a virtual blogging embarrassment of riches. Two stand out with me. First, the suggestion that health care will pay for itself by reducing fraud and waste is so laughable, we need to all stop and give a collective hardy har har har har har. If that were true, the good news is that we will be able to make medicare, medicaid and social security solvent again the same way. Imagine, no more problem with the defense budget. There's tons of fraud and waste we can collect there. Okay, joke over. Not funny. Health care reforms will add to our budget and our deficit. The truth is, few politicians on either side of the aisle have ever cared about the deficit, believing we will eventually grow our way out of it. That, after all, is what the Reaganites were saying back in the 80s.
The problem is, our deficit now far exceeds all prior deficits for the last century, except for the time period of the two world wars. Far, far, far exceeds. In fact, even in the 80s, the highest deficit/gdp ratio was far less than half of what it is now.
And what of the threat in the pending bill - pay for health insurance or go to jail. Probably you've seen the video where Nancy Pelosi said that this was fair. It doesn't seem fair to me. Those backing her suggested it's like the requirement in many states that we buy car insurance. Except, that's only for people who want to own and drive a car. No one else has to do it.
But, opponents of the provision make too much of it as well. They even claim it is unconstitutional to do so, forgetting that the government could, constitutionally, tax 100% of your income and has since almost the beginning required things of its citizens which would make the founders spin so fast in their graves we could probably use it for a renewable power source. The belief that this provision is unconstitutional goes along with the frequent absurd notion that if people don't like something, it must be unconstitutional, and if they do like it, it is. Of course, the constitution has become so divorced from the original meaning and intentions, it is as much an unwritten constitution now as a written one. Perhaps it always was. This notion of mine is not too popular, but I think, rationally, it is inarguable.
If the federal government wants to, it can draft you, and no one now would seriously claim that as being unconstitutional. It can force farmers to grow what it wants them to grow and regulate pretty much anything it wants to, tax you to paupery, make civil fines where criminal ones aren't available, criminalize normal activities, forbid you from the most personal of choices. If the government can force you to wear a seatbelt, tell you you have to racially balance hiring, require you to go to school, it can certainly require you to buy health insurance.
We don't have to like it.
I really don't know much about marijuana. If you put some tobacco in front of me along side it, I probably couldn't tell the difference. About 15 years ago, a date of mine was in stitches because I referred to a joint as "a marijuana cigarette". Just never been interested in it.
But, as much as the whole marijuana culture turns me off - the "oh, wow man," mentality always left me cold, and I could never figure out what it was people were getting out of it to begin with (I do realize I'm a "fag" and you are all laughing at me), I still do not understand why pot is illegal and alcohol is not. Forgetting for a minute that driving while under the influence, which I'm fine with, give me a choice between a road filled with drivers high on pot or alcohol, and I'd rather every one light up instead of drink up. Frankly, I think we should do away with most crimes of possession for personal drug use, but I'll be happy if we start with pot, even if it's not for me.
Don't get me wrong. I generally think it's bad for you. But, just as Prosac and the like has improved many people's lives, maybe some people need pot for the same reason. Shouldn't we be free to screw up our lives as we see fit, like I do by ingesting large amounts of refined sugar, bread and McDonalds whenever I break my diet. When they make that illegal - then comes the revolution.
California and a few other places have had medical marijuana available for a long time but the federal government didn't care and arrested people anyway based on federal laws. When the matter came up to the Supreme Court, it ruled that since federal government laws trump state laws and the feds had the right to raid and arrest (Gonzales v. Raich ). That's certainly a correct decision legally, but, given the innocuousness of the "crime," it just seemed ridiculous to many people like myself. The Obama administration justice department has reversed the previous policy and has announced it will no longer enforce its laws against medical marijuana sellers and users in state's where it is legal. And the Supreme Court itself has turned down a recent appeal by a California anti-marijuana county. I applaud that. Not only is there greater liberty, but it means more tax revenues and we sure need that. Will California turn into a state filled with pot smoking morons? Maybe, but maybe it will be hard to tell the difference.
Burn the Witch
I'm not a Nancy Pelosi fan. I'm not a fan of most politicians. But, the recent decision by the tea-baggers not to burn her in effigy was a good one. Seriously, what were they thinking? Do I really need to blog on this one, or will all of you at least give me on pass and just say "Amen"?
- I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .