Without the nefarious nine, FOIA may never have seen the light of day. In other words, without the 9 exemptions, especially nasty number 5, the Freedom of Information Act, passed into law on July 4,1966 by a reluctant President Johnson, might have instead been vetoed or died in some committee. In 1974, a willing President Ford was convinced instead to veto that year’s Privacy Act, (which contained amendments that strengthened FOIA), by chief of staff Rumsfeld and deputy Cheney with legal advice from government lawyer A. Scalia. Congress overrode the veto and the act became law. And as we end the year with a Senate approved bill to reform FOIA now waiting for House approval, the blushing bride in this case is Boehner, prudishly reluctant to expose government secrets that may prove difficult for, well, government. At least that’s the rumor.
Is this reluctance, whether on the part of LBJ, Rumsfeld et al, or any politician or more likely bureaucrat nowadays, merely vested self-interest? The current proposal is hardly radical. It would bring to an end exemption number 5 which is so broad as to allow any government official a handy excuse not to comply with any request for information they choose not to, for whatever reason. So the question is who decides how necessary secrecy with respect to government produced documents and other information is? The tendency is for possessive, bureaucratic ownership of any information they, or any particular government agency, may have had a hand in creating. As anti-secrecy crusader Steven Aftergood states, “the secrecy system does not exist in some kind of abstract isolation. It is an ordinary bureaucratic artifact that is subject to pressure on many levels.” That means the usual foibles of human nature which can and usually do lead to power and greed fueling corruption of various kinds. The quite liberal Aftergood also suggests the boundary between secrecy and transparency is constantly shifting due to changing national security priorities. This does make sense. When combined with U of Chicago’s Geoffrey Stone’s assertion that government secrecy should be presumptively illegitimate, and only authorized when there is a clear and overriding justification, it clearly makes the proposed reforms of the FOIA more than justifiable. The reforms seem modest and do not involve endangering national security as can be argued was the case with Julian Assange. They should be passed.
In Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett’s opinion piece on the Columbia University Law Exam Delay, alongside his admonition to grow up and get a spine he states, “if you don’t like the system, go out and change it.” Unfortunately, with their demand that their exams be delayed, the Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color, is doing exactly that. They are asking for preferential treatment based on their self-proclaimed identity. This is group rights in action and it will be only a matter of time before other students group themselves into self-identified collectivities and demand preferential treatment or some other action, positive or negative, on the part of terrified College administrators. This means that in the central legal and political debate of whether individual or collective rights should predominate in the USA, and elsewhere, this has in fact set a precedent in favor of collective rights. It can be seen as part of affirmative action, and one that leads into the minefield of academic performance and social and ethnic class.
That prods and dangles the ghost of guilt, white and often liberal, in order to gain preferential treatment. But even that will be defined away. It will no longer be preferential treatment, but something more like “equalizing opportunity” in the words, and title, of an essay by Luke Charles Harris and Uma Narayan. As they write, “an array of factors that contribute to institutional discrimination – such as class, race, gender, and sexual orientation – should be taken into account. When several factors intersect and contribute to a process of discrimination, as in the case of a working class, Black woman, each factor should be considered.” In other words, a great matrix of group identities will in the future define you, a radical sociologist’s paradise. In the perfect world for people like the CLSCCSC, (with it’s soviet sounding acronym), or Harris and Narayan, you will be graded, employed, and treated in court depending on where you fit in this great matrix. And the guardians of this great matrix will be those who are best able to claim victimization and advocate on behalf of it’s alleged victimized groups.
It is impossible to deny the brutal injustices of the past regarding race. It is vital, however, to debate which way forward respects the principles of the US Constitution. While Jarrett’s advice to stop the whining and show some spine makes a lot of sense in today’s legal world, if groups like the CLSCCSC continue to be successful in their advocacy for collective rights, today’s legal, academic, and job market worlds will be radically different within a generation. Far more than they already are today. Collective rights cannot be ignored. But they must be framed, in the best possible sense of the word, with wisdom and restraint.
How does the government, especially the Executive, but the Congress and the Judiciary as well, ensure accountability in the essentially clandestine intelligence field? While it appears that the CIA spun both the press and the White House in terms of the success of its intelligence gathering, the question remains how to oversee such claims? Is the intelligence community an enormous bureaucracy that protects its own interests, sometimes to the detriment of the government and people it is charged with protecting and serving? Of course it is. The question is how to minimize exaggerated or outright false data that may be used to justify any given program or approach to intelligence gathering. And that means answering the question of how one can possibly independently measure the data that the CIA or NSA or any of the 17 “elements” or agencies of the community that collect and analyze data? Perhaps the multiplicity of agencies is not merely turf-staking, but also is meant to provide a multiplicity of viewpoints, as Rumsfeld suggested about 10 years ago. That would mean that the 17 elements of the intelligence community keep each other in check. Given the complexity and secrecy of intelligence gathering and analysis, that hardly sounds like a reassuring proposition.
But the question remains: how can you possibly measure success of any intelligence program on say, a quarterly or annual basis? As if it were the latest job numbers out of Washington? How can you do it when the very act of independently measuring any data obtained might jeopardize the program itself? How can you hold intelligence agencies accountable without undermining their capability to perform their job? The same press that heaps scorn on alleged CIA abuses will lambast them should any terrorist succeed in harming American interests or Americans, at home or abroad.
Clearly the government’s oversight of the intelligence community is a difficult, if not impossible task, and one they must do. Perhaps this release of the report in question is a tactic meant to pressure the CIA and other agencies to provide more credible data, if this in fact is a persistent problem. Unfortunately, in former CIA deputy director Phillip Mudd’s words, “we either get out and sell, or we get hammered.” For this to change, both the government, and the intelligence community need to agree on oversight that is measurable and effective. That’s a tall order for an unwieldy bureaucracy that is also a firewall against violent attack on life on property. Perhaps less getting out and selling and more cooperation, rather than grandstanding, on all sides would be a first step. And measuring success in a way that doesn’t drown in due process would help.
The to-be-released Senate report on CIA interrogation techniques, and possible violations of al-qaeda suspects’ rights under said interrogations is angering many in Washington, including those in the intelligence community. Charles Krauthammer asks the obvious question “what is to be gained here?” and those critical warn of risks to both allies, intelligence agents and military personnel abroad. While one can speculate on the exact motives of the White House for insisting on the report’s release, the question underlying the fuss is simple: do suspected terrorists enjoy ample human rights protection? Especially when being interrogated? Those who insist on an absolute yes have no place in any debate. They are the same who suggested we look carefully into our own hearts in the days after 9/11, and generously apportioned blame for the attacks on America itself and not on the crazed, medieval fanaticism of islamic extremists. Those who insists on an absolute no risk alienating local allies in the Middle East and elsewhere and isolate America in its efforts to contain and, God willing, bring an end to this type of terrorism.
So the question becomes one of balance, a seemingly impossible balance at times, between the intelligence community’s legislated duty to defend the nation, and a minimum acceptable guarantee of some form of due process and rights for those who may have life-saving information and are unwilling to share it with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The techniques involved may not be very comfortable, even rather painful both physically and psychologically, and they are designed to be so. But they must be effective at the same time, and not produce confessions that lack credibility, and are given by desperate witnesses who have endured extreme pain. That this balance has been endlessly studied and quantified by the intelligence communities is beyond any doubt. That the balance should be up to the intelligence community itself is not a good idea, however. That means Congressional and even judicial oversight of some form. But with that oversight comes the responsibility to not endanger the very purpose of these interrogations. The release of a sensitive report by a lame duck Senate does precisely that; endanger future intelligence gathering efforts, as well as lives of intelligence agents, military personnel and others overseas. When all countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America enjoy stable representative democratic governments with an independent judiciary that pursues and punishes terrorism, the intelligence community will have to provide the commensurate degree of transparency. That time is a ways off. America’s intelligence agencies already operate under judicial and congressional constraints, constraints that may have played a part in 9/11. A flexible system of oversight that allows them to operate but holds them accountable is a good idea. An unwarranted release of potentially dangerous information is not.
Defense Secretary nominee Ashton Carter’s life tends to come in nice round numbers, a logical outcome for a brainy defense bureaucrat who has worked his way up the academic, corporate, and defense ladder one impressive step at a time. He was born 5 years after the Department he will now head, assuming he is confirmed by the Senate, was created on the foundations of the then-160-year-old War Department. He had his PhD in Physics by the age of 25, apparently as a Rhodes Scholar. Already an Assistant Secretary of Defense during Clinton’s first term, he had been Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. His membership in high-powered advisory boards is lengthy and impressive as well. So one wonders, if Senator McCain’s gruff warning to Carter to prepare for “incessant micromanagement” on the part of the White House as Secretary of Defense is in reality unintentionally ironic. Isn’t Ashton Carter precisely the type of high-powered bureaucrat who actually has been doing all that incessant micromanaging?
While the White House might have ideas and initiatives on defense as it relates to domestic security and foreign policy, it is an area where there is not an abundance of expertise one suspects at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That means Obama’s advisors consulting with “experts”, and that means people like Ashton Carter. What manner of relationship Carter has had with Obama’s White House is not quite clear at the current time, but Carter’s resume suggests it is good, better than Hagel’s. In other words, Ashton Carter should know exactly what to expect when he is confirmed. That does not guarantee he will toe the White House line, whatever that happens to be. He is known to be fairly hawkish on matters like Iran. The real issue is whether he will see himself as a caretaker and administrator in the final 2 years of an administration in decline.
The answer to that question is that his own job will not let him. Defense is too vital, too volatile in the very nature of the responsibilities he has been charged with, to allow that. Try predicting what ISIS will be doing in the next year or two, for example. Try predicting what North Korea may or may not do and how China will respond. Try predicting what Iran’s nuclear ambitions will drive them to do, despite the slow-burn, do-little negotiations. But that exactly, and countless of other dangerous and unpredictable issues, will be Carter’s job, as well the more important tactical and strategic mission of designing and implementing responses. And here is where Senator McCain’s warning matters most. Ashton Carter should know by now exactly what he is getting into, but how successful he will be in convincing this White House to let his department implement robust responses is uncertain, especially because a robust response needs a coherent and committed foreign policy behind it that convinces voters at home and allies and rivals abroad. Ashton Carter will be reminded of that need more than a few times in his new job.
Mark Flatten, in a series of articles in the Washington Examiner, has been investigating the fate of whistleblowers, especially those connected with Veterans Affairs. It turns out they usually suffer persecution of various kinds, including prosecution by the agency’s own Inspector General, for dubious causes. As well as other forms of intimidation, as in the good old fashioned “you’re fired.” What a surprise. Government bureaucracies punish those who don’t follow the official story. Whistleblowing apparently has its roots in 13 century English law, through Qui Tam; a common law writ that allowed those who aided in the prosecution of corporations or governments to be awarded the penalties assessed. In America, the False Claims Act of 1863 allowed for the filing of claims against government contractors. Most claims have been filed against military contractors and in the health care field. So it makes sense that much of recent whistleblowing activity has taken place at or around the activities of VA hospitals.
In the wake of what seems to be multiple cases of clear retaliation against such whistleblowers, one has to ask how effective can the Whistleblowing Protection of 1989 be? In what is at best a quasi-judicial and in-house system, can you really expect those who provide information to the media that may impact strongly on a government agency to receive anything but intimidation, exclusion and abuse? This is by no means to suggest that whistleblowing be ignored or punished with impunity, but how to effectively protect those who inform is a tricky question. One answer would be to take the information straight to the judicial system rather than have it fester in an internal review. Would this be feasible? Would the courts find themselves inundated with charges stemming from resentful employees? One has to remember that the Supreme Court has placed limits on the first amendment rights for government employees, especially those in the intelligence sector. Writing in Forbes magazine in 2010, Steve Pearlman, an attorney experienced in employment litigation, suggested that Dodd-Frank encouraged whistleblowers to head straight to 3rd parties like the SEC rather than resolve the issue internally. Part of the reason for this are the financial incentives offered to them, much like in the days of Qui Tam in 13th century England. Pearlman of course advocates in the same article for an open culture within corporations where financial misconduct is weeded out by well meaning complainers. Given the fate of recent whistleblowers at Veterans Affairs, can you blame them for wishing they had headed straight to a third party? And do government regulations even allow their own employees to do that? It will be a long time before we can expect ethical internal reviews in response to any employee complaint regarding unethical or illegal activity. But it remains, more than a worthwhile, a necessary goal.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Information Management System, or PIMS, has been collecting data on K-12 students since 2007. Of course, data like school records and perhaps even violations or disciplinary measures has been collected by local school boards for some time, but PIMS takes it a step further. As their own Manual states: “PIMS is a state wide, longitudinal data system that will efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student data for each student served by pre-K through Grade 12 public education system.” Should you be shocked as a a parent living somewhere in Pennsylvania? Perhaps not; data is collected at an astonishing rate and has been for some decades now. But the last two verbs in their ambitious and interventionist list are the ones that do cause worry: disaggregate and use. That means focusing, if they choose to do so, on a single student and utilizing his or her data to perhaps adjust a learning program, or perhaps engage in more invasive interventions. At least that is what critics of common code and PIMS claim.
It is already true that, for example, to get a job your resume will have to successfully pass through automated screening programs, that as one HR manager found out, won’t even accept some of the higher ups already working at the particular company you are applying to. Your data is being mined, has been mined, and shall be mined for the foreseeable future, whether by employers, insurers, marketers, or government. What might this mean for your children who are accumulating a data profile from an early age onwards, (and not just from education department information systems)? Will the PIMS flag certain types of profiles for Ritalin prescriptions? That might sound extreme, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, provides some protection against this. Some protection, but not anywhere near complete protection. As the PIMS Manual states: “Under FERPA … education agencies may release personally identifiable information to PDE for the purposes of auditing and evaluating educational programs, and for complying with federal and state regulations.” Does that make you feel better as a parent? Likely not, Federal and state regulations is a long list in any state, and your child’s data may de deemed sharable for any number of reasons under that definition. But let’s be clear, common core has been interventionist from the get go. Whether it does so in cohesive ways that achieve it’s original purpose – allay fears that American students were falling behind East Asian students in subjects like math – and whether it’s current purpose is an unwieldy mix of politically correct goals and muddled academic standards, is an ongoing debate. To give education departments the kind of control over your child’s data implied by PIMS in the middle of such debates over common core, is an uncomfortable reality at best for many parents.
Mike Rowe explains to a Liberal how Christians, and anyone else for that matter, can vote Republican. His answer is perfect.
Thanksgiving Day is so important because it give Americans a purpose to reflect and be grateful and celebrate our liberty. Even though we may not agree or have voted many politicians into office, they are our leaders, and we may not support their beliefs but it’s out duty to support our nation. Every Thanksgiving I re-read, for President Reagan’s speech he gave on Thanksgiving in 1985. It’s on the best.
President Reagan closes his Thanksgiving address with, “My fellow Americans, let us keep this Thanksgiving Day sacred. Let us thank God for the bounty and goodness of our nation. And as a measure of our gratitude, let us rededicate ourselves to the preservation of this: the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
To read the speech in entirety click here. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is here, and Ferguson is burning again. Those that burned, enraged as they might have been, whether friends of the Brown family or outside agitators or prone to violence, only wanted to know one thing: was Darren Wilson going to be indicted? The facts, the circumstances, the credibility of some witness accounts; all that was either secondary or meaningless. They had decided the facts of the case and only wanted to know if their opinion of justice was to be carried out or not. And not an informed legal opinion, one that rests on a reasonably careful examination of the evidence, one rather based on community and history. Justice as social justice, justice as righteous revenge in their eyes, justice as violent protest in the absence of the legal outcome they felt they were entitled to.
Some have suggested that the prosecutor felt that the evidence did not rise the level necessary to justify calling a grand jury to examine it. But the prosecutor went ahead with the case and instead, left the grand jury in charge of owning the decision, if you will. The NY Times in a critical article suggested the entire grand jury process needs to be reworked. Bloomberg news gave us a history of the English origins of the grand jury as a check on unnecessary prosecutions by the state and condemned St. Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch’s tactic of leaving the decision up to the grand jury rather than prosecuting vigorously or not bringing the case to a grand jury. Would a public trial, the next stage had the grand jury brought forward an indictment, have eased tensions? Would the media circus, with it’s misplaced emphasis and omissions, to not say untruths, have changed to thoughtful in-depth coverage? Would the trial have resulted in a rational, legal process free of inflaming rhetoric and community violence? The pressure will build from those who criticize the grand jury’s decision to have the Justice Department bring a civil rights case against Darren Wilson. If this does in fact occur, will Ferguson suddenly become an oasis of sombre, rational calm? Or will the media circus and the burning continue?
Come January, Mitch McConnell has promised action from the Senate in response to the president’s amnesty for illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, whatever bill they do decide to try and pass to counter the executive action, the magic number of 60 is still a tough target for the GOP majority that will take their place when the new year’s session gets underway. There are 5 Democratic Senators who have expressed disappointment with Obama’s amnesty, but their disapproval may not necessarily translate into a yea when the crucial vote comes, and even if all five do, that’s still one short. And that’s assuming Louisiana’s run-off election goes the right way. But let’s assume somehow the GOP manages to get 5 Democratic Senators to vote their way and even convinces a sixth to vote with their legislation. The ensuing symbolic victory will be just that, symbolic, and will be vetoed when it reaches the president’s desk.
Then we have Ted Cruz’s proposal. Decline to bring nominations to the senate floor, aside from those involving vital security interests. As well as funding, “one at a time, the critical priorities of the federal government.” While attempting to pass legislation might be seen as a more positive response, one that would involve an alternative plan on immigration perhaps implicit in any legislation attempted by the GOP Senate majority, Ted Cruz’s proposals would certainly have an impact. Would Cruz’s way be too negative and contribute to voter’s views of Washington as dysfunctional? Perhaps that depends on how the senate frames such a tactic in the media. For example, as a response to a unilateral action from the executive branch with no Congressional or, for now at least, Judicial overview, making it necessary to tie up nominations in response. An interesting question is, when voters criticize dysfunction in Washington, are they really talking about presidential nominations? It seems more a case that they want certain problems and issues that affect their lives taken care of. The problem of course is that there are very differing views among voters on how to solve immigration. The GOP House bill was one, and the Gang-of-Eight bill was another. And Obama’s amnesty is more a defining away of the problem rather than a legislative solution to the long running immigration issue in America. Maybe combining Ted Cruz’s hardball, focused response with alternative legislation put together by the GOP majority is possible. Hold up nominations and put together meaningful legislation that secures the borders and deals with the issue. Senators have lots of staff and pretty awesome budgets for their offices. Why not try both?
The therapeutic left is having it’s moment in the sun, especially in those states closer to the border with Mexico with high illegal alien populations. Before listing all the reasons why Obama pronounced amnesty from the White House, avoiding all the checks and balances that the constitution requires, one perhaps can ask, why in the world did he do it? Beyond the obvious electoral ploy, (which is not a clear-cut winner for Democrats given the effect amnesty will have on both workers who used legal means to come to America, and it’s effect, perceived and real, on some in various African American communities), why did he do it? For compassionate reasons, clearly. Compassion, or the therapeutic feel-good narratives, that ignores rational and legal debate in favor of emotional reasons.
Just ask Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobacah, who has had to endure harassment and front-door protests because he has spent years trying to ensure that people follow the law in order to come to America. One infamous protest, (that had himself and his family away from home), involved busloads of chanting protesters descending on his front lawn, and some of the children involved leaving a pair of shoes on his front porch. What is happening here seems to be the incursion of Latin American populist politics into the American political culture. Texas A&M professor Diego Vacano, blogging on a conference hosted at A&M, observed that Latin American populism essentially demands an unbridled executive that can “express the political aspirations of the people.” Guess what, they just got their little dose of unbridled executive power. Of course, Latin American populism in America has been going on for decades now, with Hispanic media sounding the drumbeat and framing the issue in terms of so-called “undocumented” workers. rather than illegal immigration. And some sectors of the nation’s employers, especially those in Hospitality and Fast Food, have been silent, or not even silent, partners to the decades long erosion of the integrity of the nation’s borders and the laws that define them. What can someone like Kris Kobach do in these post-amnesty days? He can take on the emotional, populist, community-entitlement-taken-to-its-extreme faction the only way left to him. With the most rational debate of all, a lawsuit, to be decided in the courts. And precisely because it is a legal play, process suddenly becomes vitally important. Who launches the suit? Perhaps a US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agent from Texas, who literally have to put their lives on the line at times to defend the border. The proof of damages to the plaintiffs will have to carefully assembled and forcefully presented in a court of law, so Kobach has his work cut out for him. But if anyone is ready to launch a legal challenge to Obama’s amnesty, it his Kris Kobach. Anyone who has been able to remain focused and determined under the continual barrage of assaults he has suffered, is clearly the right person for this job. The therapeutic left, (and that includes all those outside the Latino-Mexican community who support it’s emotional, compassion-based slogans), may have met their match.
Michael Barone, writing in the Washington Examiner, thinks that America should follow Australia and Canada’s point systems that require a fairly high level of skills in order to gain a work permit. Start from scratch and leave behind the piecemeal reform of legislation that, in part, is almost 100 years old. Unfortunately there are 2 major differences between America and the other 2 countries. The first is a substantially higher birth rate in America. It is estimated that in 2014 the U.S. had an overall birth rate of 2.06, right between Colombia and Greenland. Australia’s, in the same survey, was 1.77, while Canada’s was 1.59. In other words, Canada and Australia would risk facing a declining population without immigration, unlike America. The vast size of these 2, combined with relatively sparse populations and either oceans or America acting as a buffer mean they do not face the immigration problems America does. And that brings up the second point. Illegal immigration, and illegal immigrants, as a percentage of the population is not even on the charts in the other two. Canada does not face nearly 2 million, (a number roughly proportional), illegals living within it’s borders, and Australia does not come close either, even on a proportional basis.
While Hispanic immigrants, and other communities as well, are contributors to America’s enormous problem, it is essentially one country’s fault. Mexico. They, for all intents and purposes, have a quasi official policy of exporting poverty and unemployment – the symptoms of a partially failed state – onto the back of the American taxpayer. And try immigrating to Mexico if you’re from Guatemala for example. So it is inevitable, if unfortunate, that a trade off seems to be playing out in the wings of Congress between the tech industry lobbying for H1-B visas, and Democrats and Hispanic lobbies pushing for amnesty. Amnesty is rightly criticized as undermining the rule of law, but perhaps the question should also be asked; does America desperately need H1-B visa holders? Can H1-B visa holders work cheaper and save companies salary costs? Of course they can. Does that help the American economy, especially in terms of jobs and wages? If America does eventually ascribe to a points system similar to the other two, one that prioritizes skills, careful attention should be paid to the details. The visas should be reserved for those who truly have a skill that a company needs and not as an excuse to lower wages. And amnesty should not be a prerequisite for any progress on skilled worker visas.
Are Pacificorp’s wind turbines shredding endangered bird species? The Interior Department is being sued by Pacificorp to prevent them releasing figures on the avian death toll to an AP reporter, thereby hoping to stave off sullying wind power’s clean image. Are the carcasses of bald eagles scattered around these silent killers? Ok, large wind turbines are anything but silent, but is this an issue to get worked up over? Clearly it’s a black mark against the highly subsidized industry and it’s no accident this story is being circulated right at the time that the lame duck Senate may do battle with House Republicans over extending tax credits to the wind industry. It is time for wind power to prove itself without government handouts is what the GOP has been saying for some time, and that time seems to have come. That billionaire Warren Buffet owns Pacificorp means the handouts the company gets from Washington are hardly an act of charity. If wind power – or any other alternate energy source – is to capture a significant share of the energy market in America, then it will have to do so on it’s own two feet.
It is simply not sustainable to keep subsidizing wind farms decade after decade. Not only does it cost taxpayers money, it ties up capital in what may not be the best option. Now $13 billion over 10 years is not major money by some standards, but 13 billion in reduced payroll taxes for small businesses, for example, is much more than a rounding error. But more importantly, there is nothing like the necessity of avoiding bankruptcy, or going into bankruptcy and then trying to emerge, for spurring innovation that pays for itself by providing a service that is profitable and cost-effective. A little less coddling and a little more market discipline would do the wind industry good and would free up capital to pursue other avenues or even rethink the wind industry itself. A selective expiry of tax credits for the wind industry should be allowed to take place. For the industry’s sake itself.
Keystone is alive and well, but not in Louisiana. What was voted down in the Senate is Keystone XL, an extension to an already existing pipeline system that runs all the way down to Houston (or will by next year). Senator Landrieu was given the dubious favor by Harry Reid of having a vote in the Senate on Keystone XL, her last gasp attempt to convince voters in her state that she holds a certain amount of leverage in the upper chamber. With the runoff elections coming up soon, she now has this defeat hanging heavy over her and voters may well decide that despite her support for the energy industry, it would be far better for Louisiana to have a GOP senator advocating their interests in Washington. Obama gets a free pass, for now, on having to veto legislation giving the go ahead to Keystone XL. Rumor has it that Barak is no fan of Mary, her tactics to try and get a favorable ruling having angered the White House and ultimately backfired.
If you ask Bill Cassidy, the GOP Representative for Baton Rouge who will face Landrieu on Dec. 6, he’ll say she’s on the wrong team. He would know. The Chicago-born physician was a Democrat and actually supported Landrieu in 2002. He switched teams when the bureaucracy of the public health care system drove him to the view that big government was not the solution. And he’s backed up that change of heart with real action on the ground providing health care to the needy in his state in admirable and innovative grass roots projects. He of course, should he win and the odds look pretty good, will have a seat on the Senate Energy Committee in a GOP controlled Senate. And he will be part of a GOP majority that will re-introduce Keystone XL and force Obama to approve it or veto it. Rather than having Landrieu desperately trying to line up support for the measure among her colleagues, there will be one more GOP senate seat in an increasingly solid majority determined to re-introduce the bill. That’s a bet that Louisiana voters, whose jobs, in large part, depend on a thriving energy sector and an extended Keystone pipeline, seem to be increasingly willing to take.
While concern over the northern border with Canada has caused a bit of a media kerfuffle lately, the prime mover for the concern, ISIS or ISIL’s use of social media to weaponize lone wolves who could then conceivably cross the US-Canada in either direction to carry out terrorist acts, is more of a concern in each country. But the open stretches of border in the west of the North American continent are, and have been, a concern for decades now. And the reason predates ISIS, and arguably, predates 9/11. The concern is Canada’s borders with the rest of the world, not the US. Canada might have argued that the concern is not justifiable, that the terrorists in 9/11 entered directly into the USA, but from a broader perspective, there is reason for that historical concern.
Terrorist groups like the Tamil Liberation Army, for example, enjoyed virtual immunity in Canada because of the Liberal government’s close connections with Tamil-Canadians and their importance in several key ridings in Ontario essentially in the 90’s and the first years of this century. How do you trust, as a partner in common security goals, a government who refused to detain and deport suspected terrorists? What do you say to the prime minister – that would be former prime minister Jean Chretien – who failed to attend a 100,000 strong rally in a spontaneous display of solidarity with America in the days following 9/11? It was the late Paul Cellucci, then ambassador to Canada and a successful Massachusetts Republican, bless him, who presided over the event and gave words of wisdom and strength on that beautiful sunny September day in Ottawa, while the leader of the government hid rather than come out strongly against the terrorists and their manifest evil.
It has only been with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government that a change has come in Canada’s attitude to its borders and security in general. While Canada toughened it’s vigilance at airports and its borders in the years immediately following September 11th, it did so in fearful response to the possibility of America effectively shutting down the borders to Canadian business. Economics matters a lot, but there are times when freedom and courage matter a lot more. And Stephen Harper’s government seems to understand that. Perhaps a long silent majority of Canadians get it too, but time will tell on that. While the current government in Ottawa is a more trustworthy partner, there remains hundreds and hundreds of miles of open border between the USA and Canada. Canada has to prove itself a worthy partner in security to America, and America has to do what it deems necessary as far as its northern border – including the border with Alaska – and the nation’s security is concerned. Let us hope there is truly a sea change in Ottawa and Canada. But hope is not enough. Action on the northern border – more guards, more posts, and whatever technology and other resources can be brought to bear on the frontier – along with collaboration that clearly communicates to the US’s partner that it needs to come up to speed with the USA, will continue to be an issue in the years to come.
The National Labor Relations Board was born in the first years of the Roosevelt Administration with a prototype Board being dissolved after about a year and the permanent structure – more or less – established in mid-1934. Needless to say, it was born in the top-down world of centralized, statist planning and was established to act as a quasi-tribunal for labor relations. The current board, some 80 years later, is now headed into what may be a furious few weeks of rushed rulings before current board member Nancy Schiffer’s term expires on December 16. Perhaps the current Senate can approve Dem Senate staffer Lauren McFerran in the few weeks remaining, but the risk is the approval process may be delayed until the new GOP controlled Senate holds hearings. That makes hurrying up on some of it’s rulings a temptation to the board. One of the rulings that may come down any time now is on the timing of union elections. At the current time, once a regional NLRB director approves workplace union elections, they must be held within 42 days of the decision. This amount of time has meant that businesses have had a reasonable chance to convince workers not to join a union. That may change soon, as the NLRB might shorten the required time within which elections must be held to about 2 weeks. Apparently, studies show that union elections are almost twice as successful under these shortened conditions. That means a lot more unions in a lot more workplaces across the country as the result of such a ruling by the NLRB, should it actually decide that way.
What would a significantly more unionized America behave like in today’s world? Fast food franchises say that they will be squeezed further between a mature, and extremely competitive market and the rising cost of labor, which will rise even faster. With union demands for minimum wage increases echoing louder and louder as employees increasingly join unions, will we return to an age of labor unrest? Strikes and lockouts at your local MacD’s? A father with his toddlers getting pushed around for crossing a picket line to buy them some fries? Or home health care workers picketing their own state governments demanding higher pay from them? It’s hard to say how much support there is generally for unions and higher minimum wages, along with other demands by labor. But the NLRB sits at a key junction of policy and politics in the American workplace, as an independent federal agency. How it rules will impact on how business is done in the country, especially in areas like fast food and home health care, make no mistake. The next few weeks at the NLRB should be interesting.
I live in the 11th congressional district of New York which encompasses all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. Now yes I acknowledge we are typically the butt of many jokes but our most recent election for congress is not only fodder for comedy but a sad reflection on the local state of politics in New York City but of the parties as well. This election saw GOP incumbent Rep. Michael Grimm who is currently facing a federal 20-count indictment, defeat Democratic opponent Domenic Recchia Jr. who had a massive fundraising advantage. Not only did he defeat Recchia, he clobbered him by 16 points. For the Democrats it was a massive embarrassment and for the local GOP, it was only a minor victory.
The congressional district that comprises Staten Island hasn’t been free of scandal over the past half century. This is probably the only district that has had two indicted representatives during that time period. The first was Democratic Rep. John Murphy who was brought down by ABSCAM in 1980 and now Rep. Grimm. Also, former Rep. Vito Fossella resigned in 2008 following a drunk driving incident which revealed that he was involved in an extra-marital affair. Rep. Grimm has been involved in numerous scandals and has been accused repeatedly of impropriety. From questions over why he suddenly left the FBI in 2006, to his questionable business partners which include felons and Mafia acolytes, to his fundraising in 2010 and relations with a mystical Rabbi who is facing numerous charges in Israel. One can never forget Grimm earlier this year threatening to throw a NY1 reporter off the balcony. For the Democrats, this seat represented a golden opportunity or so they thought.
Recchia was defeated by 13 points. The last Democrat to face Rep. Grimm was Mark Murphy who in 2012 was only defeated by 5 points. Murphy was the son of former Rep. John Murphy and waged a campaign with little funding and little to no help from the national party. Truth be told Recchia was an awful candidate who upon having been term-limited pout of the New York City Council sought a way to stay in elected office. He had intended to run for New York City Comptroller, then Brooklyn Borough President, then for the 11th congressional seat all within a period of less than four months. He was the only choice for local Democrats and they thought following the indictments against Grimm that the election would be a breeze.
Able to raise $2.3 million on his own and with an additional $1.6 million from the DCCC and $2 million from the House Majority PAC, Recchia clearly had the monetary advantage over Grimm. With those funds a campaign was waged that revolved solely around the indictments against Grimm. It was negative ad after another, some of which implied that Grimm was already found guilty. In over a year on the campaign trail Recchia failed to articulate a single policy position on his website until less than a month before the election. Never mind, the election wasn’t so much about him but about how bad Grimm was. The Democrats waged a campaign based on zero substance and thought that opposing a scandal scarred congressman under indictment would secure them victory.
Then Recchia began to be questioned by the media and any opportunity the Democrats had to take the seat was lost. Recchia showed time and time again he had a limited grasp of the issues that he would face if elected. It was gaffe after gaffe, some moments so cringe worthy that they made one wonder how he was able to pass the BAR exam. His ineptness was even picked up by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where Stewart was unable to fathom how Grimm could be winning in the polls. At the time a poll had been released which showed Grimm up by several points. In the final week of the election a poll was released showing Grimm with a 16 point advantage over Recchia. It was at this same time that Recchia disappeared from the public view, apparently afraid to provide the media with any more gaffes.
Even local media outlets were so turned off by Recchia that they endorsed Rep. Grimm. Entitled Very Grimm Choice, The Daily News described Recchia as “a candidate so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense.” The Staten Island Advance gave what some call the greatest non-endorsement, endorsement of a candidate ever. In endorsing Grimm they noted the litany of scandals he has been involved in noted how he has helped to make Staten Island the “laughingstock of the nation.” At the same time though in arguing against Recchia they noted “…it’s fair to ask if these claims of his [Recchia] supposed “simplicity” are not just a cover. No one’s asking for slick, just knowledgeable.”
Rep. Grimm was able to secure a third term but there are those who believe he won’t last to see it through. There are rumors of a second set of indictments that are being prepared against him and the attorney that indicted him, Loretta Lynch has been nominated by President Obama for the position of District Attorney. One would think that her case against Grimm is solid. Also there are talks about who will replace Grimm in a special election next year. A good number of those who voted for Grimm didn’t vote for him necessarily but for the opportunity that he will be replaced next year in a special election.
Democrats ran an awful candidate with a campaign base on zero issues. Republicans ran an indicted congressman with the hope of him being replaced in a special election the following year. What great choices we have.
Obstruction of justice does just that, by impeding that justice be done, but for the New York Civil Liberties Association, due process is far more important. A new bill being proposed by New York City Council, and supported by the New York Civil Liberties Association, would require the police to request a written or audio permission – does that mean a taped response?? – from suspects they wish to search, when a warrant has not been issued and when probable cause is not certain. In essence, it would extend the Miranda Warning to searches. Otherwise, potential suspects may unwittingly allow the police to search them and discover things like weapons and drugs. While one can make an argument in terms of due process, it seems a long way from the Fifth Amendment’s original intention which was to prevent unreasonable search and seizure. NYC police already operate under a number of checks and balances to ensure that intrusive searches are as infrequent as possible, and are often punished in broad daylight for overstepping the line. How they would be able to operate effectively under this new bill is a troubling question. It will likely become a sport to defy and refuse when an officer requests a potential suspect’s consent for a search, and may further endanger the lives of police officials in NYC. A similar law is in effect in Colorado and West Virginia but both are a long way from NYC in every sense of the word.
In an adversarial legal system, a straight admission of guilt, or a clumsy act of self-incrimination is viewed as justice denied. Is it? In an age in which legal academics Allen, Ferrall, & Ratnaswamy, writing in the Valparaiso Law Review on self-incrimination, state that “Constitutional interpretation should not be viewed as predominantly a logical matter, but instead as involving the reasoned revision of belief”, then what starts to matter is who you are and how you feel, and not what you may do, or may have done. Crime a problem in NYC? Change your beliefs and define the problem away. It is no accident that they enthusiastically dissect Justice Scalia’s sin of logical deductions. So we live in an age of enshrined identity politics in which the only logic that matters is process. And bills like the one proposed by the New York City Council are inevitable. And it will make an NYC police officer’s job that much tougher.
For some it’s a paid holiday, and without our Veterans we wouldn’t have many of the freedoms we enjoy including paid holidays. We encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate or support our veterans today in any way they can and enjoy. There are probably to-do lists to be checked off or maybe relaxing is the only thing on the agenda, but take the time to express gratitude to the men and women who haven helped protect our freedom every day.
We wanted to share a heartfelt video from George W. Bush.