Friday, February 26, 2010

Yoo and Bybee

I do not understand how we can let war criminals loose. It is appalling.

John Yoo and Jay Bybee were absolved from any responsibility for their infamous "torture memos." Why? Apparently because the investigators of the case didn't give enough credit to the tense atmosphere right after 9/11.

Okay. And that means they're not responsible for their

Sorry, but people are just as responsible for their actions when under stress as when they have nothing on their minds. It doesn't make you any less responsible for what you did.

From the NYTimes article-
"The report quotes Patrick Philbin, a senior Justice Department lawyer involved in the review, as saying that because of the urgency of the situation, he had advised Mr. Bybee to sign the memorandum, despite what he saw as Mr. Yoo’s aggressive and problematic interpretation of the president’s broad commander-in-chief powers in trumping international and domestic law."

"Okay, so I knew this wasn't exactly Constitutional, and I also knew this might not be the best thing to give the President, but I also thought that it might do...something...."

Okay. I see how this logic makes some sort of sense. In Wonderland.

From the same article-
"“While I have declined to adopt O.P.R.’s findings of misconduct, I fear that John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, view of executive power while speaking for an institutional client,” Mr. Margolis said."

And yet it was, apparently, not enough for them to actually say- "This guy is guilty."

When we let people like this off the hook, people who don't even have enough respect for the Constitution to consult it before giving the President power, what is our rule of law coming to?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Define a Terrorist

At what point do you become a terrorist? When you bomb a building? When you attend a training camp? When you talk to a terrorist?

Apparently all of those, even the last, hold true.

According to this article, in 1996, a law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act {PDF} (so much for there being nothing to deal with terrorism), set up a system whereby anyone providing "material support" (Supplies, people, etc.) would be treated as a terrorist- detained, imprisoned, etc.

With the advent of the PATRIOT act {PDF}, in 2001, the definition of "material support" was expanded to include "expert advice or assistance," and "service."

I see many problems with this- mostly because it is so incredibly abstract and over-reaching. What, exactly, is "service?" Is it doing electrical work in a house that is used by al Qaeda operatives? Delivering pizza? Or do there have to be overt tokens of actual complicity in the organization?

"A lawyer would commit a crime, she [Ms. Kagan] said, by filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a terrorist group. Helping such a group petition international bodies is also a crime, she added."

This is so incredibly wrong, I don't even know where to start. I really don't understand why we shouldn't be trying to reach out to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and yes, even al Qaeda and the Taliban. Perhaps we should listen to them, try to figure out their beefs with us or their main antagonists, and then perhaps we could reach a solution that would be mutually amicable.

It's like the Kurdistan Worker's Party (P.K.K.)- I've heard so many Americans use the Kurds as one of the biggest beefs with Saddam Hussein. "Don't you know Saddam killed hundreds of Kurds in nerve gas attacks?!"

Yeah. And you wonder why they were engaging in terrorist activities against him. The Kurds have been set upon by both the Turks and the Iraqis- and their situation isn't getting any better. But somehow, only Americans are allowed to be freedom fighters: all other peoples are just going to have to suffer in silence until we get around to helping them out.

"Support of any kind, Justice Kennedy said, “will ultimately inure to the benefit of a terrorist organization, and we have a governmental interest in not allowing that.”"

I can see his point in a way, but I also still think that this law is way too overreaching. Like I said above- where do we stop? The pizza delivery guy's pizza will come to benefit the terrorists, but should we go after him as an accomplice in terrorist activities? What about a school teacher? Should the men who taught the 9/11 hijackers to fly planes be imprisoned?

I have been saying for a long time that the PATRIOT act is way too powerful. I still think I'm right. And I think this confirms it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Brown the Republican Liberal

Heh. Big shocker here. Scott Brown, the Republican Liberal, voted Liberal. Well, 'magine that. Despite the overwhelming response from many Republicans of "Thank God we got Scott Brown," or "Thank Goodness a Republican got in! And in Massachusetts, too," Brown was nothing more than Same Ole', Same ole'. And guess what, you vote for Same ole', you get same ole'. Sorry, that's life.

And, of course, he was never anything different from other Republicans and Democrats. He just doesn't understand the political game in Washington quite yet, I don't think. Maybe people in Massachusetts will finally wise up and realize that, hey- neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are helping them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bushama the Valiant

Yet more proof that there is really very little difference between Bush and Obama- unless, of course, you count the fact that Obama seems to be more commited to the wars than Bush ever was. Especially given this tidbit from this article (written, by the way, by a republican sympathizer):

"But Obama has rejected this advice and instead increased the Bush defense budget from $513 billion in fiscal year 2009 to $537 billion for fiscal year 2010 and $549 for 2011. If defense budgets are one of the best indicators of the direction of policy, Obama's defense budgets mark him as no leftist."

And so we discover that Obama is not only a quasi-Republican, at least in defense issues, but he's even more Republican defense-wise than Bush was!

Big surprise.

Thanks to Don Emmerich for the link to the article. :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

State of the Union, Part II

See Part I here...and yes, this is still overdue. ^.^

"Let's try common sense, a novel concept."

Something that will never cease to amaze me- both sides claim to be on the side of 'common sense'. Does that make sense at all? Of course, the logical conclusion is that neither of them has common sense on their side.

"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections."

As I've said, I can't really find it in me to dislike this move. For starters, I think a lot would be helped if Americans would actually pay attention, and let those little alarm bells go off when they see someone getting an excess of money from corporations. Sadly, that doesn't happen so often anymore. So I can see the danger with this move by the Court.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities."

Unfortunately, the entirety of America is bankrolled by foreign countries. Let us think of the Federal Reserve- a central bank run by foreign investors. Our government is trillions of dollars in debt with other countries. That's not foreign bankrolling, oh no, not at all.

"Now, I'm not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony and some post-partisan era."

Especially not when Obama himself is so extremely partisan, he can't do a single thing without mentioning the opposite party as some sort of scape goat- when both parties are equally to blame.

"But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home."

Something I can agree with. And I hope it isn't just rhetoric, because if it is, I'll be very disappointed. But I would like to say that I agree with his current plan to bring the troops in Iraq home by this August. I think that is commendable- if they don't get shipped out again to Pakistan within the month, which, from the sound of Obama's rhetoric, might very well happen.

"That's why North Korea now faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions, sanctions that are being vigorously enforced."

Sanctions only hurt ordinary people. The ordinary people are the ones who get hurt because of the limits bigger countries impose on them. It is wrong. Yes, nukes may be terrible, but is it really any of our business whether they have them or no? Have we considered that maybe they'd like to be able to defend themselves from other countries?

"We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution, the notion that we're all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law, you should be protected by it, if you adhere to our common values, you should be treated no different than anyone else."

For someone who constantly talks about the Constitution, he really understands very little about it. Especially, oh you know, those little parts about the limits on the government.

"This year -- this year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."

For the record, gay people aren't kept from serving. They just aren't supposed to trumpet it to the skies. And I don't see why they should want, or feel the need, to. Does anyone care which sex you engage in relations with? I certainly do not, and I don't see how it should have any bearing on your military service, job status, or your life outside of the personal.

Anyway. I have effectively reached the end of this review. The rest of his speech was just like the beginning- talking about how great America is (or possibly just was) and how we have to move forward...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mullah Baradar

Well, we finally managed to actually get something done in Afghanistan. (So much for the claim that Obama is soft on terror and the wars.) Mullah Baradar, allegedly the second-in-command in the Taliban, was captured last week.

Of course, I find it not quite as significant to the future of the Taliban as some. Sure, he knows some stuff- but within a few weeks, what he knows probably won't be applicable anymore because the Taliban will move, and they'll have a new second-in-command. I would be willing to bet that there were plenty of people within the Taliban itself that would have been more than willing to shoot him so they could have his spot anyway, but his capture will serve the same purpose.

From the article:
"The participation of Pakistan’s spy service could suggest a new level of cooperation from Pakistan’s leaders, who have been ambivalent about American efforts to crush the Taliban."

Well of course they're cooperating. We've threatened to invade them. They probably figure if they be Good Little Friends and help us out, we won't send soldiers into their country. Small hope, that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Obama and Executive Power

Apparently, Obama is still having trouble pinning down that slippery Constitution stuff. Especially the second article.

He's making plans to use his executive power (whatever that is) to advance his agenda.

From the article:
"But in the aftermath of a special election in Massachusetts that cost Democrats unilateral control of the Senate, the White House is getting ready to act on its own in the face of partisan gridlock heading into the midterm campaign."

I love it. I've seen both sides do this- the Republicans lose their majority, and the Democrats are just evil. The Democrats lose a majority, and the Republicans are evil. It has nothing to do with their policies and the fact that the American people are sick of them, and that their ideas have failed. Oh no. It's Fox News' fault. Or CNN's fault.


The article claims that the executive branch has the power to basically pass legislation through executive orders, and 'administrative fiat'. Um, I could be totally off-base, but I don't think that was what those things were intended to do.

Another way our lovely President is trying to get around his now-divided Congress is through threatening to use his recess appointment power. That's pretty wrong, if you ask me. He's forcing Congress' hand, and that's not how it's supposed to be.

Once again from the article:
"Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so."

This kind of stuff completely defeats the purpose of the Constitution. The Constitution instituted three major branches of government, and they did that so that no one branch could grab too much power- thus keeping the people safe. (Of course, the Constitution also operates from the basic premise that the people actually care one whit about it and what their leaders do.)

Obama, in my estimation, doesn't even deserve kudos for trying. He's trying to circumvent the Constitution, and that just doesn't work well.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

State of the Union, Part I

**I know, I know, I was supposed to do this last week. Shoot me. :P**

Well, I'm going to read over the transcript of President Obama's State of the Union address, and comment on a few of his comments...and politely applaud if I actually agree with him. :P And yes, it's late. Oh well. ^.^

First off, I'd like to rant about the many times applause interjected. It was quite annoying. Like really, really, really incredibly annoying.

Simply put, at least at first, President Obama's address seemed to be yet more of the hopey-changey mumbo jumbo we were subjected to during the campaign. Nothing much of consequence, no real solutions offered; just "moving forward" and hope. Yeah, sorry, but moving forward doesn't pay the bills.

"And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it -- I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal."

He hated the bank bailouts? Well we sure didn't see that when he was pushing for them so hard, and when he quite eagerly crammed it into his budget, despite the economic ramifications that would almost certainly ensue (chief among them a higher debt and deficit, higher taxes, more spending on a federal level, but less on a state and individual level).

"Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses."

He cut taxes on small businesses. Really? My dad owns his own business, as I think I've mentioned before. This year, he paid $12,000 in taxes. Twelve thousand dollars. My family is not rich; my dad's business is not rich. He has five employees, plus a CPA. This year, we couldn't even draw a profit check. Yet our capital gains taxes went up.

I'd also like to add that just because paper says a business made a 'profit' doesn't mean they have that money. On paper, my dad's electrical company made a profit. Yet we have no extra money in the business' bank account. **Pet Peeve Moment**

"The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act."

Ah. So the fact that the American people are just resilient has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with the fact that the market is doing its job, at least in part. Oh no. It was all the doing of the Almighty Government.

I'd also like to point out, most of that money hasn't even been spent. So unless they managed to (through some conniving on the part of the Fed, no doubt) stretch each dollar by several hundred thousand, I don't see how that much good came out of the little they actually spent. (The rest is, apparently, still sitting in a treasury somewhere. Or currently coming off the presses in the Federal Reserve mint.)

"And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America."

Excellent idea. I mean, like imagine that- companies leave because they have to pay high taxes!

But just giving them tax breaks isn't enough. One of the most basic rules of economics is that people will not do things unless there is an incentive to do them. If there is no incentive (money) for companies to hire people here, they won't- and I don't think miniscule tax breaks will do much to add said incentives.

We need to make it easier for companies to keep workers, especially smaller businesses. They can't, not because there aren't enough tax breaks, but because they have to a) pay so much to their workers, b) pay so much in benefits to their workers, and c) they have to pay so many taxes for their workers.

Yes, yes, we all feel sorry for the poor laborers of America who unjustly toil while their evil bosses, the ones who really benefit from capitalism, drive them unmercifully hard. But then again, that picture isn't real. So it's really a nonissue.

Workers in America don't need to be paid so much. There's something messed up when a person can get paid $7.50 an hour at Walmart for putting my bleach and apples together. Pay should be by merit, not by what the government says employers have to pay. This is simple- if someone does a good job, they get more money. If they do a crappy job, they don't get money. Too bad for them. Maybe they'll grow up and see that "Hey, I need to do a better job!"

Something I just noticed- Obama likes setting Goals. Perhaps we should give him a button- Honorary Goal Setter of the United States of America.

"Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job."

What constitutes "a good job"? Sorry, but not everybody can have a job that pays $100,000 a year. We have to have garbage men and plumbers and electricians and sewer scrubbers and all sorts of other people. Those are still good jobs. We need people who can flip burgers and stock shelves and sew shirts and do nails. Those are still good jobs.

Someone has to do them. And if everybody has a college degree, there will be no one to flip burgers or take out the garbage or clean out our blocked sewers or fix our lights. Then your college degree is pretty much worthless. I'm not saying people shouldn't be able to pursue their dreams...but people shouldn't be pushed to do something they cannot feasibly do, whether because of money, time, or other constraints. That is just as wrong. (And besides, I've met a few people whose highest goal is to be a garbage man or a plumber.)

"And let's tell another 1 million students that, when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years, and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service..."

...Wow. No. This isn't how debt works. If people get into debt so they can go to college, that's their problem. Too bad for them. If they knew they wouldn't be able to pay for it, they shouldn't have gone, or they should have made better money choices.

Secondly, I don't think we should be telling college students the taxpayer will foot the bill for them. My goal is to be able to either work or pay my way through college. Yeah, it might be difficult. It probably will be. But I'm not going to steal from others, or chain myself to a huge debt because I couldn't plan ahead and manage my money.

Of course, I do think college tuition could go down. Significantly. How much they charge for the privilege of going to college is nuts, and I'm pretty sure those deans and board members aren't exactly hurting for money. They could lower rates. (But they won't, because they know their education can only be gotten in certain places, they're some of those places, and people will pay whatever it takes.)

"I didn't choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now, it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics."

Nevertheless, it is good politics, and I haven't seen anything but rhetoric that says otherwise. The political reality is this- if he doesn't get this passed ASAP, he's going to be in big trouble with his base.

It still amazes me how much Obama throws into the Federal government's court. Sorry, but ensuring everyone has affordable coverage is not the Federal government's job. You might- might- be able to swing it through state governments. But not the Federal government. It is so unconstitutional on so many levels. That is the job of the free markets and (my, here's a concept!) the people. If people wouldn't blindly follow the insurance companies and their elected officials (*coughRepublicanscough*) we would be in a lot smaller mess.

"By -- by the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program."

This I can agree with. Bush did do a lot of bad things, and a lot of it left us a lot deeper in debt. But that doesn't mean Obama has to continue the process. I thought the point of "Change" was to change the past administration's bad policies and find good ones...not just continue the old bad ones.

"I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do, but families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same."

Agreed. Like oh, cutting back on spending. And to be quite frank, adding trillions to the debt heap with a healthcare bill that won't do a thing isn't going to help us dig out of said debt heap. Believe me.

"To help working families, we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it."

We could if we'd start scaling back programs that are already bankrupt and have fundamental flaws. Like Medicare. Instead of adding more bandaids to the huge gash in it, let's just let it go down. Or welfare. Too many people are dependent on it. Wean them off. Or the Department of Education. Guzzles money, and our literacy rates are declining. Let's rethink that one, make it so that it works better, for less money.

Or Social Security. Good idea, bad results. Too many people get it, too much taxes get taken to pay for it. DHS, TSA...yeah, those could go and I don't think anyone would cry bucket loads of tears. The wars. And our foreign bases. Excess foreign aid. All those things could go, and there are other things I'm sure I'm missing...or rather, it would take much too long to list them all. Like the Administration on Aging. Or the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Interagency Coordinating Committee (Seriously, it's a real committee).

Endless Programs, Endless Possibilities for Fund Reduction.

"And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s."

Something that would really help us- either bribing the Federal Reserve, or getting rid of it. It has a past history of artificially inflating our currency, then letting it plummet back- or the other way around. Either way, it isn't good. Now, I see no problem with a pay-as-you-go policy. It's actually quite a wise way to do things. But um, well, I don't think it'll help much when the Senators keep raising their incomes. And sending money to special interests. Nope nope nope.

"From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument, that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts, including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away.

The problem is, that's what we did for eight years."

Actually, that's really not what we did for eight years. What we did for eight years is Regulate, Spend Some More, Start A War, Make A Gaffe, Distract the Pesky People, Start Another War, Regulate, Spend Some More...

Not exactly a recipe for success, or debt reduction.

Part II soon to come.