Thursday, October 27, 2005


I am a wargamer, have been for years. Just at the moment, I am setting up a giant Eastern Front World War I game (Germany and Austria-Hungary against Tsarist Russia). For the past several days in my hideaway office upstairs at home, I have been deploying the Imperial Russian armies, all over the huge map of the eastern Ukraine, Poland, and what is now the Baltic States and Belarus; hard on the borders of East Prussia and Austrian Galicia and the Bukovina. Quite a massive deployment, and impressive to see set out on the maps. All told, about 75 infantry and cavalry divisions, with supports and other troops coming up, (26 or so against Germany, 49 against Austria). Dwarfed by similar deployments in World War II, and later offensives in World War I of course, but no-doubt enormous for the Russian, German and Austrian officers involved, all brought up studying 19th Century wars.

I got interested in this hobby, and military history generally, I think because I enjoy geography and maps. I have always had a particular interest in the Eastern Front of World War I: a largely forgotten conflict.

It was here, in the then sleepy back-country of Eastern Europe, amid swamps, dust and poverty, from Minsk to Berlin; that the modern world was born. From 1914-1918, the great Austrian, German and Russian empires, along with the whole, laboriously built-up European state and colonial system, collectively committed suicide here; and civilization, in a sense, ended. All the crackpots and murderers of the modern age: Communists, Nazis, assorted left and right populists, Third World tinpot nationalists, Islamic religious fanatics -- all acquired their political opening right here. The cauldron brewed here threw up the repulsive nihilism of so much of what passes for culture today. On this same bloody ground, most of the Holocaust happened.

Lots of food for thought, but just at the moment, I find myself wondering what the people who worked with the original maps – in particular the Russian General Staff officers -- thought of it all, while mobilization and deployment went forward in late July-early August 1914. Setting up their own headquarters, watching the symbols appear on the maps, passing on their drives or rides to the various field headquarters the long, dusty columns snaking down the dirt roads and tracks of Poland from the railroad sidings? The clank of tons of equipment; the overpowering smell of horses, unwashed men, their wastes, gun-oil, the smell of the field-kitchens and cook-fires; burning eyes from the clouds of dust; the curses and blows of the sergeants; the wheep of the horsewhips; the inevitable confusion of transition from peacetime garrison to movements in the field; the wondering whether all the bustle was yet another Balkan crisis that would pass, or the real thing.

I am sure it all looked quite impressive on the maps, but given the normal conditions in the Imperial Russian Army, was certainly quite a mess in practice. I wonder if it occurred to any of the generals, or any of the bright whipper-snappers on the staff, watching the symbols go up on the big maps, that they were witnessing the apocalypse made flesh, the murder-suicide of their world ? What an utterly stupid and useless waste.

Exeunt Miers, Hannibal Ante Portas, Finis Astros

Lots of news this morning. By letter to the President dated this morning, Harriet Miers requested that her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court be withdrawn. Ms. Miers attributed her decision to probable demands by the Senate for documents concerning her tenure as Counsel to the President which would be protected by executive privilege. The President’s statement accepting her decision states that Ms. Miers will remain as White House Counsel.

Ms. Miers’s decision to withdraw her nomination extracts the President from a political jam, and is welcome. Given the lack of support for Ms. Miers among Republican Senators and interest groups; and the President’s other problems at the moment, her withdrawal was a political necessity. Her graceful exit should be remembered, and rewarded by the President at the proper time.

As readers of this blog may remember, I have said before that Ms. Miers would not have been my own choice, but I believe, and continue to believe, that the President’s choice was entitled to consideration by the Senate, and to support from the President’s party and supporters unless and until hearings showed her unworthy. Criticism and skepticism about the choice is one thing, but the degree of piling-on by certain persons who ought to have known better has been shameful. To preserve his own position, the President will need to, eventually, retaliate politically against those most obnoxious in this business.

In all probability, however, this will have to wait awhile, because Hannibal is at the gates. The Justice Department Special Counsel looking into the Plame business, Patrick Fitzgerald, has stated that there will be no announcement from his office today. The term of his Grand Jury expires tomorrow unless extended. One interpretation of Mr. Fitzgerald’s Delphic “no announcement” statement” would be that that indictments, possibly of persons in the White House or in the Vice-President’s office – will be forthcoming on the marrow. The President, and those under threat, are being given a day to get their affairs in order.

The Plame matter is completely ludicrous, but the President will need the united support of all conservatives and Republicans. Consequently, prepare for a solidly conservative nominee, and a titanic fight in the Senate. On the other hand, if Mr. Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury expires without indictments, at least of administration personnel, issuing, the President is in a much stronger position to pay back persons who have recently made themselves odious.

On the local front, the Chicago White Sox swept the World Series last night, sinking the poor Astros in Houston. El Jefe is not a huge baseball fan, but he commiserates with his fellow disappointed Houstonians this morning, and longtime Astros fans everywhere (including the Heir and SWMBO), who so wanted a winner. In truth, the Astros did magnificently to even get to the World Series, and that feat alone is worth congratulations. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

World Series

Last night, El Jefe and the Heir, along with the Heir’s cousin, were privileged to attend Game 3 of the World Series, at Minute Maid Park here in Houston, as guests of El Jefe’s Dad. Quite something: I had attended one previous World Series game, in New York City in 1986 (Mets vs. Red Sox). But it was splendid to attend a World Series game at home, and see the hard-luck home team finally in the Big Show.
A great night for baseball, not too cold, but like most Astros fans, I would have preferred the stadium roof closed. What bloody business is it of Major League Baseball what we do with our roof ? This aside, we ate our hot dogs, snarfed some peanuts and had a good time.

Last night's result was certainly somewhat disappointing for Astros fans, particularly after the Astros left three runners on base in the 9th inning, and nobody in the top of the order could even get a single. Hopefully, the Astros experience a change of fortune, but Houston fans should be pleased just to be in the series. I know I was happy to be there.

The Way Forward in Iraq

There is at last some truly splendid news from Iraq. The Iraqi people have defied their enemies and detractors, and adopted a constitution. Their courage in the face of threats, and the fortitude of our troops in the face of cowardly murder and complete disregard for the laws of war on the part of our barbarian common enemies, opens the way forward to complete victory in Iraq. By December, Iraq, uniquely in an Islamic world governed by petty tyrants; corrupt and murderous dictators a la Saddam; barbarian mullahs and jumped-up tribal-chiefs --will have a fully functioning republican government, and the beginnings of liberal institutions.
Of course, the US mainstream press: mouthpiece of our craven opinion elites, our quisling academics and various and sundry defeatists and crypto-fascists -- can talk about nothing but the 2,000th US casualty in Iraq. In any normal historical context, the conquest and complete regeneration of a xenophobic foreign state of 29 million people for the cost of 2,000 dead would be a stupendous military achievement. Napoléon himself never did that.
Nothing has been impossible for the American soldier ! (I include his Marine, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard comrades). Our armies defeated a big, reputedly tough foreign enemy, dispersed their armies, occupied their capital, and captured their tyrant-leader, who now awaits hanging. Our armed forces have gone a long way towards establishing public order (which never in our sense has ever existed in Iraq). Our military engineers have restored (and in some cases established) basic public services, assisted the sick, and are training and building a new Iraqi Army that, in years to come, will be a solid American ally in the Persian Gulf. Finally, they are, bit by bit, terrorist by terrorist, putting paid to verminous barbarian enemies who make war on women and children when they aren't using them as human bombs. All this has been accomplished on a shoestring.
When the history of these years is truly written, its readers will stand in awe of the accomplishments of our uniformed brothers and children. Our children will see that the heroes of Baghdad, of Fallujah, of Nasiriyah are worthy heirs to their fathers of the Argonne, Bataan, Normandy, Iwo Jima, the Chosun Reservoir, of Khe Sanh and the A Shau Valley.
Every American and allied casualty in this war is a tragedy and a shame. No words or prayers of ours, no monument we may build, no help we can give can console the parents, the children and loved ones so bereaved. But do not be deceived by the too clever by half blandishments of those who say they support the troops, but not the cause they died for. If these political exploiters of pain and suffering are allowed to prevail, they will render the blood sacrifices of so many meaningless, and they will hand millions of innocent people: the voters of Iraq who showed by exercising their franchise that they want a better, peaceful way forward -- over to barbarism, to codign punishment for supporting us and to a worse than Egyptian bondage. They will go back to their newspapers, their tree-lined campuses and their BMW's, safely insulated from the tyranny they will cheerfully see imposed on others. When you listen to the traducers of our war effort, never, never forget their earlier work: the boat people of South Vietnam.
Let those who would use the dead to besmirch the cause they died for, or to weaken our resolve to win the war -- go crawl back under whatever rock they live under. There, they can preach the same noxious defeatist nonsense they have been preaching these past forty years. America, and liberty, are moving forward in Iraq. There is no substitute for victory here. There never was.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Time of Troubles

Wilma wrecks south Florida; a prosecutor is knocking at the Vice-President's door with indictments (Al Franken suggesting execution); the Left is collectively panting both for conservative blood and for the 2,000th US KIA in Iraq; the silly Beltway conservatives are shooting us all in the foot in wartime with their revolt over the President's dud Supreme Court candidate...
And all this week. Can things get worse ? How about a plague of locusts...
But we have to carry on. The President is right about all the big things. Napoleon said once that real courage was "two o'clock in the morning" courage: the ability to carry on even when it's inconvenient; when one most feels like giving up, when it would be so easy to pack it in. Here's hoping the President is ready to earn his pay.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

This Just In from Moonbat Central

Hugo Chavez, Tinpot Dictator of Venezuela, states that he is in possession of "intelligence" indicating that the US is getting ready to invade his oil-rich Bolivarian Banana Republic. Has to be false, unfortunately, the US is usually not that smart. Hugo'd do good in a padded cell in Guantanamo.
The Big Banana did not fail to add the usual commie diatribe about the US being "imperialist" and "terrorist." If only we were half that bad, at least to folks like Chavez.
Two can play the warped proclamation game: El Jefe Maximo, Godfather el grande of West University, announces that he is in possession of "intelligence" indicating that Tinpot Hugo Chavez is a raving loudmouthed lunatic who molests collies.
UPDATE: Eagle 1 over at Eagle Speak has more on Wackjob Chavez's fevered invasion imaginings, plus a link to the CIA factbook entry on the Bolivarian Banana Republic of Venezuela. Here's hoping Limp Banana's nighmares come true sometime.

Expecting the Spanish Inquisition

The AP reports that a Spanish judge, one Santiago Pedraz, has issued an arrest warrant for three US soldiers: Lieutenant Colonel Philip deCamp, Captain Philip Wolford, and Sergeant Shawn Gibson (all from 3rd Bn./64 Armor Rgt., 4th Bde., 3rd Inf. Div.). The soldiers are wanted for an incident during the Second Gulf War in 2003, when a US tank, whose crew believed they were under fire, opened fire on a Baghdad hotel, from whence they believed the shots were coming. The accusation is that the soldiers violated the Geneva Conventions, and the "Rome statute" creating the International Criminal Court. The US is not a party to the Rome statute.
Two journalists, including a Spanish television reporter, were killed. The US Army reviewed the incident, and found that the soldiers believed they were under fire, and that their reaction was justified.

Innocent persons are killed in war, and there is no evidence whatever that the soldiers, at all time acting under orders, killed these people intentionally. Judicial action against these officers and soldiers is outrageous.

However, the Spanish Court’s activities are part of a new trend in “international law” called “universal jurisdiction” which holds that any court, anywhere, may give itself jurisdiction over so-called violations of human rights. Spanish legislation gives that country's courts authority to act beyond Spain's borders in the case of alleged criminal acts which purportedly violate treaties to which Spain is a party. Moreover, private individuals may bring such cases to the attention of magistrates independently of prosecutors or law enforcement.
Such legislation, and this trend in the law generally, is both creation and creature of the media, non-governmental organizations, (NGO's) liberal activist groups, and other anti-American fellow-travelers and organizations. Universal jurisdiction is a direct attack on national sovereignty, and allows lawyers, judges, NGO's and the media to intrude into foreign and military policy matters properly left to sovereign governments, diplomats and generals. Other examples are the attempted Spanish prosecution of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, and various efforts to prosecute Henry Kissinger and other unpopular conservative politicians and diplomats – usually in Europe.

This tendency is only going to accelerate, and it will soon be impossible for American diplomats, soldiers, and anybody else with current or former connections with the government to be certain that they can travel abroad in safety. This is the product of an effort by transnational lawyers, NGO’s and weaker states to indirectly coerce sovereign governments into policy choices they would not otherwise pursue. Spain, and the other governments putting up with this nonsense, and the self-interested, anti-American lawyers in Europe, here and elsewhere pushing it are making a madhouse of diplomacy and military policy. The US government should immediately prepare to retaliate.

To begin with, this Spanish judge, and all abetting and assisting this prosecution should be indicted immediately under 18 U.S.C. § §1201(a)(5), 1201(d) and 1201(e) for conspiring to kidnap US officers and employees while “…engaged in, or on account of, the performance of official duties.”

Secondly, the military, the FBI and the State Department should be directed to, so far as is legally possible, to immediately begin compilation of lists of persons present or visiting in the United States or in places subject to its control, including employees of foreign governments – who are nationals of countries which permit their courts to practice such aggressions against American citizens and their government – whether via the theory of “universal jurisdiction,” human rights laws, or in any other way. Similar steps should be taken as to financial assets in this country of offending states and their citizens. To the extent there are legal barriers to such actions, the President should immediately seek the appropriate legislation.

In the event Spain or any other country moves to lay hands on American citizens, based on such patiently illegal justifications, the United States government should immediately, with regret, hold the persons listed in confinement until our citizens are released. (Maybe at Guantanamo ?)Two can play at the hostage game.

The Navy should be directed to dust-off plans for naval blockades, and seizures of shipping of countries engaging in such activities. Lots of water around Spain. Further, all branches of the military should ready contingency plans to be used when possible for the rescue of US citizens wrongfully detained on such specious grounds.

Additionally, we need to see to affairs in our own legal house. The anti-national effort to weaken governments, politicians and diplomats in favor of the transnational chattering classes has support here also. This should be combated. Once and for all, it needs to be definitively established that international “law” is not domestic law: but a component of foreign policy subject to political control, and not the other way round. To this end, we need legislation immediately, amending Title 28 of the US Code as necessary to provide that the proper construction of international law, treaties and similar international agreements is determined by the President, or by the Secretary of State, and that construction shall be binding on US Courts.

Make no mistake: the concept of universal jurisdiction is a threat to the sovereignty not only of the US, but of all other states. This Spanish judge is perilously close to committing an act of war against the United States, and he should be answered in kind. Yet again, the Lilliputians: weaker nations, NGO’s, the media, and the international chattering classes – are trying to use the lawyers to tie down Gulliver – the government of the United States. They need to be slapped down good and hard.

Circular Firing Squad

Fred Barnes has an excellent piece over at the Weekly Standard website entitled “The Conservative Revolt” giving us “six reasons” why “conservatives have turned on Bush.”

His reasoning is unimpeachable, the grounds for revolt real. As Mr. Barnes and others persuasively argue, the Harriet Miers Supreme Court appointment was just the last straw, particularly to the Conservative intelligentsia. Go find it and read it, if you’re that interested.

No, Ms. Miers wouldn’t have been my choice, either. Yes, there are valid grounds for criticism of the President. But El Jefe’s not joining any revolt, and he’d urge any conservatives thinking of getting out the pitchforks to reconsider. We have enough trouble at present, and it is time to hang together or hang separately.

The usual second term political/legal scandals are well under way, and the liberals are rubbing their hands together like kids on Christmas hoping that there are indictments of Karl Rove, I Lewis Libby or others in the Plame mess. Meanwhile, in Austin, a runaway prosecutor seems determined to jail Tom DeLay for being a successful politician. Finally, there is a war on – a war which the political opposition is at best ambivalent about.

Conservative/Republican poll numbers are sinking. An election is coming. Depend on it: if the Democrats recapture Congress there will be more subpoenas and investigations than snowflakes and ice-flows in Antarctica. Just imagine how the media is going to pile on. Although the Democrats have some relative moderates, their political base is going to insist on some blood. Consequently, Bush will be exceedingly lucky to avoid impeachment. Also, remember the war. Last time this sort of thing happened, the consequences included the fall of Saigon, and defeat in Vietnam.

The stakes are too high now for patriotic conservatives to play dissident, and persons like Messrs Frum, Bork and Will should stop it. The Senate will deal with the Miers nomination, one way or the other. Would-be rebels would do well to turn their rhetorical guns away from the White House.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ave Atque Vale, Saddam

...Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! -- it's blue with our bones!)

Hands off o' the sons o' the Widow,
Hands off o' the goods in 'er shop,
For the Kings must come down an' the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says "Stop"!
(Poor beggars! -- we're sent to say "Stop"!)

Rudyard Kipling “The Widow at Windsor”

Saddām Hussein Abd al-Majīd al-Tikrīti, sometime President of Iraq, Field Marshal of the Iraqi Army, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Secretary-General of the Baath Party, Light of the Arabs, the New Saladin, etc., etc., etc., went on trial for his squalid little life today in Iraq. He Who Confronts is now himself confronting justice, ostensibly for killing 150 Shiites in Dujail, Iraq in 1982. This trial in the former Baath Party headquarters may be just the beginning, Iraq’s own Sawdust Caesar could face at least fourteen other trials. Seems a waste to make this wretch, who ordered the killing of dissidents by feeding them into woodchip cutters – wait this long for his date with the hangman.

Saddam’s had more people murdered that El Jefe’s had hot dinners, which is saying a lot. But his murders and crimes are not the real reason Saddam will walk up the long ladder, and then hang from the short rope. Justice is good, but a secondary consideration here. Saddam’s real hanging offense was not to “Stop !” when the modern equivalent of Queen Victoria’s Britain – the US, said to stop. The hanging of Saddam is the point of the war in Iraq: an object lesson to Saddam’s confrere dictators and neighbors. Not cooperating with the United States can be bad for your health. Are you listening Boy Assad ? Hear us al-Sauds, Boss Chavez, Fidel ? Paying attention Mamoud in Tehran ? How bout you, Bob in Zimbabwe, or Prune Face Kim in North Korea ?

Yes, gentlemen tin-pots, potentates and Grand Poobahs, look at Mr. Saddam and think on it. Wear your pretty uniforms, strut and give yourselves medals. Buy all the guns we'll sell you. Come to Las Vegas and drink and whore yourselves sick, and to Houston to see the doctor, but remember, when Washington or Wall Street says "jump," your role is to say "how high?" Little Mr. Saddam forgot. He thought because he called himself President/Field Marshal he was the cat, not the mouse.
When the Ambassador or the local US representative comes calling to ask for your police files on Bin Laden; or tells you to hand over your nukes, arrest certain persons, or keep your lousy traps shut, best give a very respectful listen. Go ahead: bleat to Kofi, his fellow idiots in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land on the Hudson or the stupid little liberals and their media friends all you like about the war-monger Americans. See how much good it did President/Field Marshal/Chairman/Secretary-General Saddam, dragged out of his hole in the ground covered in his own piss, and soon to be dangling from a rope till dead, dead, dead; ashes tumped into an anonymous lime-pit someplace. Dream about it guys. It’s coming to you soon if you don't play nice.
Saddam can squirm and delay all he wants, and his lawyers will get to dance, but never forget the rope’s coming. Vale Saddam, you stupid bastard.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Matters at Casa El Jefe

Some renovations around El Jefe's Imperial casa. A couple of rooms upstairs have had old carpets removed and Pergo put in, including El Jefe's own sanctum sanctorum. This necessitated packing up part of El Jefe's little library. SWMBO tells me that 35 boxes of books were, well, a few too many. (Her description has been edited, after all, this is a family blog). Naturally, I have no clue what she means, but will have to be careful smuggling in new acquisitions in the immediate future.
Last night SWMBO and I joined our friends T and E for dinner at Benjy's. Fortunately, the Astros game concluded before we were due at Benjy's, or it might have been necessary to separate SWMBO from the car radio with the use of explosives. Thankfully, the game ended (well) just in time.

Benjy's has a fun upstairs lounge with a balcony. Houston is presently enjoying its two weeks of fall, so it was a splendid evening to sit outside, drink cocktails, gossip with T and E, and shout imprecations at some idiots down in the parking lot who refused to turn off their headlights. Several cosmos later, we went into dinner.

SWMBO enjoyed Crab Cakes in remoulade, (I got a bite, they were super good), and the Chopped Asian Salad (T and E had the salad also). In addition to the salad, T had the Margherita Pizza, which I shall try on our next visit. E had the Thai Barbecue Chicken Pizza, which really smelled wonderful, although I've never quite associated Thai or Thailand with barbecue. El Jefe had the Snapper, with red wine risotto, sunchokes, tomatoes, and olive oil. Some good wine, and creme brulee for desert finished things off. (E's cheesecake looked good, but the creme brulee was just right). I'm sure my doctor will sentence me to a flogging.
T and E had us over afterwards for a glass of wine, and after that and more fun chit-chat, we finally went home about midnight. A very nice evening.
T sent a reading assignment home: she lent me her copy of Louis Freeh's new book My FBI, which I have wanted to read since I saw the teasers published in Drudge just before the book was released. Got through the first chapter on the Khobar Towers bombing while drinking large quantities of H2O. Looks like a good book.
Back to unpacking books this afternoon. This is likely to be a long process, I tend to graze as I work. My bookshelves in the sanctum are double-ranked, so to speak, I have two ranks of books on each shelf, so stuff tends to stay hidden if on the rear shelves. I keep meaning to catalogue the collection, but that would be quite a bit of work. Fortunately, I know what I've got, so I can generally locate a book, but packing and unpacking tends to lead to a bit of grazing. Suppose I need to be more productive, or at least get the collection out of the bedroom before I get a rocket from SWMBO.
The Heir and I are going camping next weekend with the Cub Scouts, so need to prepare for that also.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Columbus Day (an annual post)

It is Columbus Day in the USA, which commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1451-1506). Americans are still allowed to remember Columbus, if they choose, but fear not, Columbus Day will disappear into the liberal memory hole, or go the way of Washington's Birthday (folded into generic, anonymous, obnoxious "President's Day"), soon enough.
The great sailor's role in the American story was perhaps small, but certainly decisive. Legions of the politically correct despise the memory of Columbus, his voyages and his culture, never mind that many of them walk the streets spouting their nonsense only because the Admiral found San Salvador on 12 October 1492 (although it was clear he was near land on the 11th). The value of a man may often be gauged by the political enemies he has made; and the fact that so many Right-Thinking Lefties people dislike Columbus so much is enough reason to think he must have been quite a fellow.
Some say he was born in Genoa, others that he was born in Calvi, Corsica. If the latter, he was probably the most distinguished native of that island save Napoléon I. Son of a weaver, and already a distinguished sailor when he began his American voyage, he hoped to find a practicable route to India, but found a new world instead – and his discovery changed everything.
The European discovery of America was the biggest event in western civilization since the fall of Rome, and changed the whole world. The future existence of the United States was only one consequence of his voyages. His voyages were made in barely seaworthy leaky vessels, with abominable food and mutinous crews.
In recent years, Columbus has suffered from the slanders, slings and arrows of the stupid, the ignorant, and the outright malicious, and all of the other enemies of civilisation who gather under the soiled banners of leftism and “political correctness.” The memory and record of the Admiral are themselves ample defense from the insults of this mob, and Columbus's reputation will survive long after today's philistine lefties have crawled back under their rocks, and back into their midden-pits, to die.
Columbus’s nautical achievements, and the whole colonial experiment, were indubitably worth it. Columbus, and the other heroes of the colonization of the Americas need no special commeration. If you seek their monuments, look around you. The riches of the Americas, in the short run, enabled Europe to prosper, maintain itself and expand in the face of challenges from Asia and the Islamic world. In the long run, the successful implantation of European colonies in the New World, particularly in North America, ensured that civilization came to these shores, and Europe’s American children, would, in due course, be a credit to all that was good in their parents.

Finally, thanks in some part to Columbus and his sailors, in the Old World’s darkest hour, Europe’s children of the New World stepped forward to redeem the Old World from bondage and tyranny. No doubt Columbus, who sought a new route to Asia so that Europeans could carry on lawful commerce despite the Muslim blockade and harassment of Europe, would understand and sympathize with the struggles of the American soldiers of today, carrying the banners of America and civilization in Baghdad and Kabul in the struggle against the Islamo-fascist peril.

After Columbus’s initial voyage to America, he made three further trips to these shores, dying two years after the return from his fourth voyage. The authorities still argue whether he is buried in Seville (Spain), or in Santo Domingo. Thanks be to you Admiral, and to all your officers and sailors, for all you did.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Spies (2)

The espionage case I blogged about a couple of weeks back has taken a rather bizarre turn. The accused spy, Leandro Aragoncillo, former US Marine, was at one time assigned to US Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Al Gore. The criminal complaint against this villain allges that between May and August he either printed or downloaded 101 classified documents pertaining to the Philippines, of which 37 were classified “Secret” or higher.

More information, also, has surfaced about the putative spy’s employer. Mr. Aragoncillo’s contact and probable controller, Michael Ray Aquino, is allied with Filipino leftist factions seeking to unseat current Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

I don’t care, that much, what happens to Mr. Aquino or the spy’s Filipino bosses, provided the Philippines government cooperates fully with our investigation. We give the Philippines enough military and foreign aid to expect their eager and enthusiastic cooperation with our efforts, now that it appears Mr. Aquino was not working for his government. No doubt our ambassador and other diplomats have given, or will give, the Philippines counter-espionage and police authorities their marching orders soon enough, and they will certainly be complied with. Something seems to be happening on this front already, their Justice Secretary (equivalent of the US Attorney General), says that certain targets of the US investigation who are in the Philippines will be extradited upon request.

But that’s a Philippines problem. Mr. Aragoncillo’s ours. This wretch, and any other Americans who helped him, ought to hang or have something equally ghastly happen to them if they’re convicted.

Brief aside: I don’t like spies much. A personal failing of mine. They’re about on a level with child-rapists with me. This applies to our spies too. No, I don't mean CIA employees working (sometimes at great personal risk) to ferret out things we need to know; or Russian Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) guys, or British MI6 people, or whoever, doing the same things for their countries. Those people are patriots. Sometimes they are enemies of ours, but that doesn't necessarily make them evil. I mean the other end of the food-chain -- the inside operators, the turncoats, the people stealing the documents -- people inside our camp, or inside somebody else's who are selling out their own country for money, ideology or whatever.
I know spies are a necessary evil and often useful, but I just don’t think it’s cricket to sell-out your own side. I find a lack of national loyalty repulsive. Two days before the Battle of Ligny, on 14 June 1815, a French general named Bourmont, a royalist, defected from the French army to the Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher’s Prussian army, betraying Napoleon’s plans to the enemy. The old Prussian general turned the pestiferous traitor over to his staff, who learned what they needed to know, but Blucher refused to be in the same room with the traitor, acknowledge him, or shake his hand: saying something to the effect of “A dog is always a dog, no matter whose damn flag he waves.” Blucher hated Napoleon’s guts, but he knew a scumbag traitor for what he was when he saw one.

As for the Aragoncillo business, the question must be asked: how did this person get past the counterintelligence vetting process ? How was he handling classified documents over a period of months, without being apprehended? Don’t they polygraph people at the White House ? Snoop into their e-mail ? Check their bank statements, review their lifestyle ? Look into their personal phone-calls, friends, associates ? When you work with classified materials, you’re supposed to give up privacy.

The FBI needs to go back through the White House organization, especially during the period of this Aragoncillo’s employment, top to bottom. If this guy was there, is there anybody else ?

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Save the Sharks !

Terrible News ! An urgent dispatch from Moonbat Central ! Irish, Norwegian and British marine experts claim Spanish fisherman are “devastating stocks of deep-water sharks in the northeast Atlantic,” because they are using “wasteful and unregulated” fishing techniques, the AP reports.

I’m sure the Galactic Regulators will be right on the case, protecting those helpless sharks. Maybe they can fly PETA, Cindy Sheehan, Kanye West (whoever he is), and all the other Great and Good out there, and dump em smack-dab in the middle of the North Atlantic, to protect those endangered sharks.

Okay, I’m confused. Devastating the deep-water sharks is a bad thing ? Seems like we ought to be pinning medals on the Spanish fishermen.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Harriet Miers

I confess to being underwhelmed about President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the vacancy on the Supreme Court. But I was yawning about the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts as well, and I have a much more favorable impression of him today than when the hearings process began.

Ms. Miers would not have been my own choice, and probably not that of most other conservatives, either. But it’s done now, the nomination has been made and it is time to support the President’s choice. I have criticisms of the President, but in the main, I like him, trust his judgment, and have generally agreed with his policy choices, and I approve of most of his personnel. President Bush has, so far, been right on most of the big things, and I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt here, at least until we hear from Ms. Miers. Conservatives should quit the carping, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth, and exercise a little patience.

The chips are down. The liberals, the media and the foreigners think they have our President, and our country, on the run. There’s a war on, and the political strength of the administration is directly related to our ability to successfully prosecute it. Yeah, there are legitimate gripes to be made, but lets not lose sight of what is important. President Bush needs our support now, and no purpose whatever is served by division within our own ranks. Moaning about what might have been only helps our domestic and foreign enemies.
UPDATE (4 Oct. 2005). Have a look at Beldar's posts (here, here, here, and here), on Ms. Miers' qualifications, and some misrepresentations by her detractors over at Beldar Blog. These should be reassuring to most persons who have doubts as to Ms. Miers' s qualifications. Beldar's both a Texas trial lawyer, and a solid law blogger whose opinions on this subject are worth attention.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Defects in the American Constitutional System

Now that President Bush has made his first successful selection for the Supreme Court, it is a fitting time to consider the Constitution that the Supreme Court often construes. This will not be the usual Fourth of July rah-rah about the Constitution’s being the oldest functioning written constitution, or its role in guaranteeing our liberties, etc., etc.
All of this is of course broadly true; but our Constitutional system is not without problems or defects: most of which are the product of social, political and technological developments unforeseen in 1787, or of later amendments to the document, and/or faulty construction of the founding document by the Supreme Court. Also, some of what in fact comprises the constitutional “system” of the United States is not part of the written constitution, but has developed alongside of it, and although unwritten, product of judicial decision, or a creature of statutory law, is nevertheless in fact part of our Constitution.

I have been thinking on this subject for awhile, and it seems to me, that the American constitutional system, as it has developed, is open to criticism on at least the following points:

1). Term of office. Presidential terms are too short, and the 22nd Amendment's prohibition on re-election after two terms creates a lame duck. A six-year term with infinite re-eligibility for re-election would be better. The electorate is wise enough to determine for itself when a politican's usefulness has ceased. Similar criticism can be leveled at the short terms of members of the House of Representatives. Two years is barely enough time to learn the job, let alone accomplish anything. Four year terms would be better.

2). Power of the Federal Courts. In practice, the federal courts have acquired an excessive degree of power, at the expense of the political branches (the President and Congress). Primarily this has been because of the incorporation doctrine and its various permutations extending the Bill of Rights to the States, and the increased willingness to find congressional enactments unconstitutional to achieve results perceived as desirable.

3). Power of the Bar. A contributing factor to the problem in No. 2 has been the excessive power of the Bar, which is driven by the ease of litigation. Litigation is too easy because of (1) the contingent fee system, which makes it excessively affordable to litigate, because if a claim proves to be a bad one, the litigants bear their own attorney’s fees, (and the plaintiff loser often doesn’t have to pay the winner defendant’s), which removes the incentive to be selective about claims. Bad investments are made up for by the great payoff of a successful action (where the loser defendant does often pay the winner plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, one way or another – because the attorney collects, often, 33 percent of the recovery, sometimes more. Also (2), even bad claims can be prohibitively expensive (or good claims take too long to resolve) because of the bias towards giving almost everybody a jury trial.

4). Common Law. Another contributing factor is the common law legal system, which, although flexible, affords too much power to judges (unelected in the Federal system). A civil law judge (as in Europe, Latin America or Louisiana) has his discretion strictly limited by the written terms of a statute, which he is bound to interpret strictly and literally, and his interpretations are usually subject to being overturned by the legislature. Also, courts have no inherent powers, unlike the case here (see the note on equity, below). In our system, unwritten customary law and the ability to interpret the law allows judges to produce results they consider desirable, whatever the intentions of the legislative bodies – and this can be stretched with the inherent power of contempt. Both liberal and conservative judges have been able to engage in what they consider desirable social engineering, in a manner that would be unthinkable in, say, the French, system.

5). Equity Jurisdiction. All of this is related to the persisting existence of the species of remedial justice known as “equity” and equitable remedies. (For non-legal readers: “Equity” is a historical curiosity of English jurisprudence, and defines a series of remedies available to courts that are independent of or existing alongside “law” where courts have wide discretion to formulate relief (e.g. injunction) independent of the statutes or the common law. It used to be executed by its own system of courts. It was a by-product of the struggles between the kings, the nobles, and what became Parliament).

The merger of equity powers into regular courts of law, alongside the development of judicial review – the self-declared power of the courts to determine what is and what is not constitutional -- make the courts, as distinguished from Congress, the final arbiters of political and economic power in the American system. Federal judges are not elected and in practical terms are not accountable or responsible to the people, who are in theory sovereign. The Federal Bench is the equivalent of an American House of Lords.

6). The Decline of Federalism. Federalism has been a dead letter since the Civil War. This is partly because of the increased power of the executive and its attached bureaucracy, which occurred primarily because of the world wars, and because of the courts (see no. 2). The courts have accelerated this process. Much of the police and regulatory power seized by the Federal government intrudes into matters best left to the States -- such as abortion, and sundry less-visible issues such as the 55 mph speed limit.
7). The Senate. The abolition by the 17th Amendment of the indirect election of Senators by the State legislatures was pernicious, because it ensured that local oligarchies and power arrangements went un-represented in Congress. The House of Representatives is directly elected by the people, and ensures their representation in the legislative process. Directly electing the Senators short-changes the people, because it creates a second chamber of politicos more beholden to Washington lobbies than the lobbies back home. If indirect election of the Senate was bad, why not just abolish the Senate entirely ?

8). Increased reach of Federal Powers. This has occurred primarily via the abuse of implied powers by the Federal Government to enact legislation for which it has no competence. Again, driven by the world wars, and abetted by the courts. The 14th Amendment – used by the courts to extend the bill of rights to the States, has also helped.

9). The Media. The power of the electronic media, particularly television has expanded to such a degree as to actually threaten the ability of those governed to protect their own liberties, and it interferes with the power of the duly elected officials to accomplish anything at all. I am not writing primarily of the newspapers – although their political positions and instincts are the same as electronic media, they have less influence. I really am referring to television. The rise of the electronic media was not contemplated in 1787, but the power of the media is very real, is largely unaccountable, and permits powers and interests that are not politically accountable or responsible to exercise political power.

We now have an un-elected “opinion” oligarchy, which in alliance with academia, often exploits the ignorance of the public for the promotion of a liberal, and anti-national, agenda, on matters which favor its own interests. The media also operates to subvert or dictate support for particular policy choices made by elected officials. The electronic media is in fact a fourth branch of government, more powerful than the other three combined. It is not elected and cannot be held responsible, even for slander.

10.) Vetoes. The US constitution suffers from the lack of a line-item veto, at least for appropriations, and the lack of a requirement that all bills before Congress be limited to one subject, which combine to permit logrolling to an excessive degree. Prior to the Nixon era, the Presidents got round this by the use of “impoundment” – that is, acting to avoid expenditure of appropriated funds for projects they deemed unworthy, but the Supreme Court has since held this to be unconstitutional.

11). Civil Service. The creation of a professional civil service, (in lieu of the “spoils system”) which precludes punishment of unpopular bureaucrats by election of a new administration has operated to remove power from the people and their elected officials. Prior to civil service reform in the late 19th Century, a new President or new party in power could remove all the Federal bureaucrats and appoint its own. The modern civil service system insulates the bureaucracy from political pressures, thus giving it a great deal of unchecked political power – particularly combined with sovereign immunity – the inability, except under very limited circumstances, of citizens to sue government officials.

12). Regulatory Authority. The ability of the bureaucracy to interpret and enforce statutes by the promulgation of regulations amplifies the problem in No. 11. (e.g., the regulations established by the EPA, the FDA, the IRS, Homeland Security – take your pick). These may be useful and necessary, but they have the force of law, can result in fines, jail time, etc, and are issued by bodies that are un-elected and are not accountable to the people. The Constitution contemplates that the President shall see that the laws are executed (Art. II, § 1), and this would cover the issuance of regulations. However it is not contemplated that un-elected bureaucrats, not accountable to the president, should issue such regulations. This represents what appears to be an illegal delegation of legislative powers of Congress, and executive powers of the President. This has been upheld, (I believe wrongly), by the Supreme Court.