State of the Union

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

Is it too much to suggest that the federal government is putting all the tools in place that could one day lead to a totalitarian regime?  Patriot Acts, Military Commissions, NSA domestic spying, state secrets privilege, national security letters, and now a bill moving through the Senate that will permit censorship of the internet.  The constitution backed up by the judiciary should be protecting us from the invasive policies of the legislature and executive but has manifestly failed to do so. 

While one does not expect much from “analysis” coming from the mainstream media, the tone of some recent press coverage has been particularly disturbing.  Driving into Washington yesterday I listened to a succession of NPR news broadcasts.  All reported Wednesday’s acquittal of Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani on 284 of 285 counts relating to the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Dar es Saalam.  The coverage suggested that the trial was a failure from the point of view of the Obama Administration in that it did not obtain a complete conviction.  The Washington Post went ever further, reporting that the outcome supported the validity of “concerns that it would be harder to win convictions in civilian court.”  Proposed solutions aired by the Post include military tribunals where the rules of evidence are less stringent and also to avoid trials completely through the option “to hold others indefinitely and without trial under the laws of war.” 

Nowhere was it suggested that the acquittal just might have meant that the government case against Ghailani was not very good, at least not compelling enough to convince the six men and six women that constituted the Federal court’s jury in New York City.  Ghailani’s defense was that he was an unwitting dupe who was fooled by the conspirators into buying a truck and gas tanks that were used in the attack.  The government tried to introduce a witness who apparently had been identified by Ghailani himself while under torture by the CIA and who also might have been tortured, but the judge ruled the testimony inadmissible.  Ghailani was consequently convicted on the one charge of conspiring to destroy US government property.  The presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan hailed the ruling, noting “…the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests.  We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction.”  But he also supported the government’s “right” to hold Ghailani indefinitely as an enemy combatant during an ongoing war.

Now for all we know Ghailani might be guilty, but the government was unable to make the case.  The presumption by our political class that the threat of terrorism means that you need to create separate legal systems designed to convict rather than to protect constitutional rights is about as wrongheaded as can be and it is astonishing that many Americans are supporting such a disturbing concept. The right to defend oneself before a jury composed of peers is fundamental to maintain our remaining liberties.  Ghailani has been held for six years at CIA prisons and at Guantanamo and will be spending 20 more years in jail, so he is hardly an imminent danger to society, but the argument that someone is a terrorist just because a CIA interrogator thinks that to be the case must be tested in our courts lest all of us someday wind up being judged as terrorists every time we oppose what the government is doing.

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Who Fed the Tiger?

Missiles fired from the Chinese mainland could destroy five of the six major U.S. air bases in the Far East. So states a new report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, adding:

“Saturation missile strikes could destroy U.S. air defenses, runways, parked aircraft, and fuel and maintenance facilities. Complicating this scenario is the future deployment of China’s anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hold U.S. aircraft carriers at bay outside their normal operating range.”

Opposite Taiwan, China’s missile force has reached 1,600.

Beijing is also building rockets, submarines and surface fleets to extend her dominance out to the third chain of islands, enabling the People’s Liberation Army to strike U.S. carriers and bases as far away as Guam.

Since the demise of the blue-water navy of Russian Adm. Sergei Gorshkov, the Pacific has been an American lake. No more. Read More…

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Initial tea offerings

The Freikorp or “Free Corps” in immediate post-World War I Germany were organized groups of demobilized soldiers from the Kaiser’s Imperial Army who beat back an attempted Communist takeover in 1919. They were soldiers to be sure but not officially part of the army, which was discredited in the aftermath of a losing war and upheaval in German society.

One could say the Tea Parties were a sort of “Freikorp” of persons nominally Republican who didn’t want to associate themselves with a discredited Republican Party in 2009. Ultimately as 2010 came around they acted with the party structure but often times independently, running candidates in party primaries for example. Fox News pundit Brit Hume was right in saying by doing this the Tea Parties gave the GOP a legitimacy with right voters once again.

However, one would like to think all demonstrations and political activity had more meaning than making John Boehner the Speaker of the House. From some initial moves, gestures and statements in the news recently, there’s indication Tea Party activists and members of Congress intend to at least try to maintain their independence.

Some of these include freshmen members passing up plum appointments on the Appropriations Committee, to Tea Party organizations attacking the Claremont Institute for their freshman-orientation (I agree with you Eric Erickson, I think Claremont’s neocons and Lincoln idolaters are, to coin a phrase, “winguts” in their own way), forcing Mitch McConnell to flip-flop on an earmark ban for fear of setting off an intra-party struggle (although its a bad move in different ways) to Rand Paul pleasingly calling for cuts in the defense budget, (although one wonders if voters around Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell are wondering “Is this the Rand Paul we voted for?”) forcing a knee-jerk reaction from John McCain about “isolationism”

Freshmen in Congress are like freshmen in college. They’re away from home, perhaps for the first time, and buffeted by all sorts groups, persons, fads and the like designed to draw their attention and interests. Whether or not these members (a huge class, 85 new Republicans in the House alone) proves to be a base backed up by the Tea Partiers for a revived antiwar movement as Justin Raimondo potentially foresees is unknowable. Its hard to say how any freshman member will turn out in a few years (a good chunk of the freshmen from the “Republican Revolution” class of 1994, instead of changing Washington, joined it.) or what an event like an attack upon Iran would make of them either. The Tea Parties were populist reaction to the Panic of 2008, not something with an organized set of beliefs. And as anyone who attended such rallies (from myself to Medea Benjamin or Lew Rockwell.com fans) will attest, they had a very nationalistic/Jacksonian bent which made it hard to argue that the “empire” was a big reason for the bad economy. All that aside, the initial tea offerings show the independent spirit still alive and well.

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Interviews: Reid Buckley and Eric Garris

Two friends of TAC have lately produced very interesting interviews: Reid Buckley, whose new book is The Idiocy of Assent, talks to the Daily Caller; while Eric Garris, webmaster and founding father of Antiwar.com, discusses war and peace with the Daily Bell. Good reads both.

Yours truly was interviewed by the Daily Bell a while back; that chat is online here.

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Tea Party Conservatism

Other than being the highest-profile Republican victims of Tea Party candidates, what do Lisa Murkowski, Mike Castle, Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter have in common?

Other than being tea party insurgents who routed establishment Republicans in high-profile primaries, what do Joe Miller, Marco Rubio, Christine O’Donnell, Pat Toomey, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado and Mike Lee in Utah have in common?

The answer, writes Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner, is that all the former are pro-choice on abortion, all the latter pro-life.

Tea Party types and pro-life conservatives seem to be twins separated at birth. Carney continues: “Almost without fail the strongest advocates of limited government in Congress are pro-life and vice versa. Think of (Jim) DeMint and (Tom) Coburn in the Senate and Ron Paul and Jeff Flake in the House. They top the scorecards of the National Taxpayers’ Union and also have perfect scores from National Right to Life.”

Carney’s point: While all Tea Party insurgents and Tea Party-backed candidates seemed to agree on the economic issues — deficits, debt, taxes, Obamacare — they also seem united on other issues. Looking at the down-ballot battles in 2010, being pro-life is just one of them. Read More…

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Straight Talk from Sarah

Sarah Palin has written an “Open Letter to Republican Freshmen Members of Congress”   telling them what they should support in the upcoming legislative session.  The letter is clearly directed towards those congressmen who are believed to be associated with the tea parties.  Her advice on foreign policy is pretty much a straight neoconservative interpretation – not at all surprising since that is who is advising her and providing her with her talking points.  Her bumper sticker jingoism maintains that “We are the most powerful country on earth and the world is better off because of it.”  She calls for finishing the job in Iraq and Afghanistan, whatever that means, opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions “using whatever means necessary,” saying “no to cutting the necessities in our defense budget,” and standing “with allies like Israel, not criticize them.”  She is clearly ignorant of the fact that Israel is not an ally of the US in any legal sense and that it in fact pursues policies that damage American interests.  Nor does she seem concerned about the $3 billion a year that Israel receives from the US taxpayer in spite of her exhortations for fiscal austerity, a sum that the Obama administration has recently sweetened with an extra $400 million plus an offer of $2.75 billion more if Bibi Netanyahu agrees to a 90 day partial settlement freeze. And Sarah repeats the neocon meme that “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, not a settlement.”  Neocons always come back to the subject of Israel, which is dear to their hearts.  Palin also opposes trying “dangerous, evil terrorists in the US,” wants to keep Guantanamo open, and believes fighting terrorism is a military rather than a law enforcement problem.

Palin might be surprised to learn that many tea partiers are tired of the types of solutions that she proposes.  A review of a couple of tea party internet sites reveals that she has attracted considerable negative commentary over her foreign policy prescriptions.  She might also be shocked to discover that the midterm election was not an affirmation of George Bush’s foreign and security policies any more than it was an endorsement of the continuing war in Afghanistan. Her Manichean vision of the world is a guarantee of endless conflict not to mention bigger government and huge deficits, which the tea parties oppose.  She constantly cites the constitution but has apparently not read the part about war powers. 

If the United States ever has to suffer through a Sarah Palin presidency it would be an unmitigated disaster, driven by half baked ideas and simplistic solutions to complex problems.  That Palin is taking seriously by many is an indictment of our system of selecting office holders, where celebrity is more important than values and experience.

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Get Published in The American Conservative

All the best periodicals showcase the intelligence of their readership on their letters page–and at The American Conservative, we want to continue in this tradition.  The editors look forward to publishing your replies to our authors in next month’s print edition, which is due to hit newsstands only a few weeks from now. This month’s features included:

Please send your replies to letters@amconmag.com. (Try to keep your remarks pithy; they may need to edited due to space limitations.)

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Intern at TAC

We are now accepting applications for a winter-spring (January to May) internship at TAC.  Interns get significant experience with all aspects of producing a magazine and website: drafting short editorials, contributing headline and story ideas, and producing at least one print article by the end of the internship.  TAC is a small shop, with everyone pitching in on the less exciting administrative tasks; we’ll ask you to do the same.  The intern will be paid a modest stipend and work from our offices in sunny Arlington, Virginia — only a few metro stops from all the excitement of the imperial city.

While our preference is for a full-time commitment starting in January, we are open to a part-time arrangement for the right candidate.

If you are interested, please send a resume and writing sample to intern@amconmag.com.

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The Fed Trashes the Dollar

If it is the first responsibility of the Federal Reserve to protect the dollars that Americans earn and save, is it not dereliction of duty for the Fed to pursue a policy to bleed value from those dollars? For that is what Chairman Ben Bernanke is up to with his QE2, or “quantitative easing.”

Translation: The Fed is committed to buy $600 billion in bonds from banks and pay for them by printing money that will then be deposited in those banks. The more dollars that flood into the economy, the less every one of them is worth.

Bernanke is not just risking inflation. He is inducing inflation.

He is reducing the value of the dollar to make U.S. exports more competitive and imports more expensive, so that we will consume fewer imports. He is trying to eliminate the U.S. trade deficit by treating the once universally respected dollar like the peso of a banana republic.

Sarah Palin has nailed cold what Bernanke is about:

“We shouldn’t be playing around with inflation. It’s not for nothing Reagan called it ‘as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man.’

“The Fed’s pump-priming addiction has got our small businesses running scared and our allies worried. The German finance minister called the Fed’s proposals ‘clueless.’ When Germany, a country that knows a thing or two about the dangers of inflation, warns us to think again, maybe it’s time for Chairman Bernanke to cease and desist.

“We don’t want temporary, artificial economic growth bought at the expense of permanently higher inflation which will erode the value of our incomes and our savings.”

Egging Ben on is the Nobel-prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Fed policy is too timid, says Krugman.

When Bernanke said we are not “going to try to raise inflation to a super-normal level,” he blew it, says Krugman, and “there goes the best chance the Fed’s plan might actually work.”

What the Fed should do, he says, is change expectations “by leading people to believe that we will have somewhat above-normal inflation … which would reduce the incentive to sit on cash.”

But “sit on cash” is a definition of saving. Is saving bad? Once, Americans were taught that saving was a good thing.

Not to Krugman. He wants to panic the public into believing the money they have put into savings accounts and CDs will be rapidly eaten up by Fed-created inflation, so they will run out and spend that money now to get the economy moving again. Read More…

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Neocons and Tea Partiers

Here’s a piece I wrote for Right Web on the Tea Party — neocon relationship. I see my TAC colleague Leon Hadar also appears on the site.  Right Web is affiliated with the Institute for Policy Studies, a long time and influential left of center institution inside  the Beltway.  That’s a tale in itself: when I was a complete adult, age thirty-five or so, iI could no more imagine writing  for IPS than becoming a rock and roll star.  But political earthquakes have taken place: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the turn of the Republican Party away from realism, the dominance of the neoconservatives on the Right, the Iraq War.  Odd as it is, IPS makes a lot more sense on the critical issues of our time than National Review.  Ten years ago even, I couldn’t imagine thinking this for even a moment.

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