April 2, 2012

Increasing Dependence on Government

I've been saving this one for when nothing else struck me, I was too busy to work out a proper post, and it had been awhile since my last post. I'm working on a book review of Mark Steyn's After America which I will have up this week, so in the meantime take a look at this dreadfully depressing article:

Cause or Effect?
February 22, 2012
by Richard Fernandez

The Heritage Foundation has a series of graphs which appear to depict two trends: an ever increasing dependency of the American population on government transfer payments and a narrowing income tax base. It writes, "it is the conjunction of these two trends--higher spending on dependence-creating programs, and an ever-shrinking number of taxpayers who pay for these programs--that concerns those interested in the fate of the American form of government."

The 2012 publication of the Index of Dependence on Government marks the tenth year that The Heritage Foundation has flashed warning lights about Americans' growing dependence on government programs. For a decade, the Index has signaled troubling and rapid increases in the growth of dependence-creating federal programs, and every year Heritage has raised concerns about the challenges that rapidly growing dependence poses to this country's republican form of government, its economy, and for the broader civil society. Index measurements begin in 1962; since then, the Index score has grown by more than 15 times its original amount. This means that, keeping inflation neutral in the calculations, more than 15 times the resources were committed to paying for people who depend on government in 2010 than in 1962. In 2010 alone, the Index of Dependence on Government grew by 8.1 percent. The Index variables that grew the most were:

Housing: 13 percent
Health Care and Welfare: 13.1 percent
Retirement: 3.1 percent.

The increase from the previous Index means that the Index has now grown by 60.7 percent just since 2001. One of the most worrying trends in the Index is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public. The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009. This means that in 1984, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes; in 2009, 151.7 million paid nothing.

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Tim Wise, who is a regular guest on CNN, says the dependency question is only another way of looking at the history of racism in America. The idea of small government, he argues, is the nothing more than a code word in the "politics of nostalgia"; the a desire to return to the inequities of the past.

Oh, and not to put too fine a point on it, but the founders actually did foster quite a lot of government dependence: enshrining slavery was about government protecting white people from the competition of free black labor, and white folks becoming quite dependent on that protection. Stealing native land and then redistributing it to white people was about dependence on government-imposed violence. And later, yet still in the supposedly "good old days," government dependence was at the heart of segregation-which artificially subsidized white people in the job, school and housing markets-and was at the heart of the FHA and VA loans that white families used (and from which black families were all but completely blocked) in the 40s and 50s, which literally built the white middle class.

But I'm guessing that when she uses a phrase like "dependence on government" she isn't thinking about the white folks who were given 270 million acres of essentially free land under the Homestead Act. Or the 15 million or so white families who got those racially preferential home loans, with government underwriting and guarantees, thanks to programs implemented by liberals and thanks to pressure from the left. I'm thinking she isn't talking about the white soldiers (but typically not the black ones) who were able to return from World War II and make use of the GI Bill to go to college, or get job training. And the fact that she likely doesn't think of those kinds of things and those kinds of people as being dependent on government is, of course, precisely the problem, and the point I was trying to make. ...

Indeed several of the e-mails made this same argument about opposing "government dependence," all the while oblivious, it appears, to the way in which that concept has become so color-coded in the white imagination over the past several decades. In fact, this is a point I had made on the program: that according to a significant body of social science research (among the most prominent, Martin Gilens's brilliant book, Why Americans Hate Welfare), most whites perceive social program spending aimed at helping the have-nots (be they income have-nots, housing have-nots, or health care-have nots) as being about giving something tothose people, who are, of course, conceived of in black and brown terms, and taking from "hard-working" white folks in order to do it. So if the notion of government dependence itself has been racialized-and the evidence says it has been-to say that it is only this dependence you oppose, and that racism has nothing to do with it is to either lie or engage in self-deception of a most unfortunate and unbecoming variety. ...

In the end, although there are many people, with many different reasons for opposing the President or his health care proposal, the role that race and racism is playing cannot be ignored. With major conservative spokespersons stoking the fires of racial resentment daily, and with most whites having long ago come to the conclusion that social program spending is something done on behalf of racial "minorities" at their own white expense, it is not too much to insist that race is operating, for some quite overtly and for others more subtly.

According to this point of view, "government dependence" is nothing more than an index of the frontline in class struggle. Small government is nothing but the effect of Big Property. Big government on the other hand, just represents sharing the wealth. And there is nothing wrong in that; it simply represents the flow of resources, for so long in the direction from the poor to the rich, back in the direction it should go. At least so goes the argument.

Whichever side of the issue one takes on this matter, the question might be if that line is where it should be. Is the growing role of government as a redistributor of incomes a bug or a feature? Is it good or bad? Underneath the differences in personalities which supposedly underlies each campaign, the question of whether this boundary is what actually divides the country lies at the heart of the 2012 election.

What is the role of government in the social context of America? Is it a promoter of 'freedom' or a champion of 'fairness'?

Crazy, but this is how the left thinks. Because things were done wrong in the past, it's ok to do wrong today. Because the government allegedly encouraged dependence in the past, it's ok to do it today. Nevermind that there are vast differences, not the least of which is that the founders did not encourage sloth and an complete lack of responsibility for one's actions. And today the left encourages everyone to see themselves as helpless victims, and only government can save them. And not to mention the small matter that we're spending ourselves to oblivion, only a slight difference from yesteryear, but more on that later this week.

Posted by Tom at 10:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 6, 2010

The Bureaucratic State

One of the things that so concern we conservatives is the movement of power in our government from democratic institutions to bureaucratic ones. This shift in power has been going on for a long time, but has been brought home by the radicalism of Barack Obama. Conservatives came awake when last December the EPA announced that it would regulate 'emissions' whether Congress passed "climate legislation" allowing them to do so or not.

It has long been a goal of the progressives to get power as far away from democratic institutions as possible and into the hands of "experts" who, they believe, know what is best for you. Western Europe is far ahead of us in this transition. The European Union grants vast powers to unelected bureaucrats far removed from the various legislatures, and mostly unaccountable to them. The bureaucracy hires, fires, and is almost an independent self-sustaining body. One more step and we'll be there.

"The Four Horsemen of Progressivism: Richard Ely, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Herbert Croly" (National Review, digital subscription required) outlined some of the history. Jonah Goldberg laid out more history in Liberal Fascism. Joseph Postrell tells us where we are today in today's Washington Times

Constitution in Decline
The Washington Times
By Joseph Postell
May 6, 2010

It's time to reform our administrative state. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right when she said Congress would have to "pass the health care bill so you can find out what's in it." That's because the health care bill, like most major laws passed by Congress over the past hundred years, isn't really a law. Rather, Obamacare is a series of assignments to bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Human Services. It is emblematic of what scholars call the administrative state, where legislative, executive and judicial powers are delegated to unaccountable experts sequestered in a fourth branch of government.

If we are seeking the most effective means of defending - and restoring - the Constitution, we must pay attention to the rise of the administrative state and the decline of constitutional government in the United States.

The Founders confronted a basic problem: How to vest government with sufficient power to get things done without giving it the instruments to exercise tyrannical control? To protect individual liberty and rights, they established (among others) two basic principles at the center of our constitutional order: representation and the separation of powers. To assure that government operated by consent, they provided that those responsible for making laws would be held accountable through elections. Moreover, legislative, executive and judicial power would be separated so those who made the laws were not in charge of executing and applying them.

Our modern administrative state violates these principles. That also is by design, courtesy of the progressives - the original architects of the administrative state. Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson disdained the idea of government "by the people" and sought to replace it with government by the experts. Wilson complained of America's "besetting error of ... trying to do too much by vote." "Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything," he argued.

The progressives sought to circumvent representative government by transferring power from Congress to a newly created fourth branch of government, our modern bureaucracy. Congress would no longer make laws but merely pass bills that consist of assignments to agencies. The actual laws then would be passed by agencies in the form of "rules" carrying the full force of law.

However, Article I of the Constitution requires that "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." This is not optional. The people, through the Constitution, delegate legislative powers to the Congress. Only the people can delegate legislative power, because they are sovereign according to our founding principles. Legislative power cannot be further delegated.

James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 62, "Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?" Todays administrative state violates Madison's principle.

The progressives also had contempt for the Constitution's separation of powers. James Landis, an influential adviser to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, explained that administrative agencies arose in response to "the inadequacy of a simple tripartite form of government to deal with modern problems." Circumventing the separation of powers, these agencies would not only have the power to make laws - they also would be authorized to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and enforce violations of those laws.

Herbert Croly, progressive intellectual and founder of the New Republic, explained that such agencies composed "a fourth department of the government" that "does not fit into the traditional classification of governmental powers. It exercises an authority which is in part executive, in part legislative and in part judicial." Agencies would be "a convenient means of consolidating the divided activities of the government for certain practical social purposes."

The administrative state holds sway today. The overwhelming majority of laws in this country are made not by Congress, but by administrative agencies. They execute their laws and adjudicate alleged violations of their laws through agency-employed hearing officers or administrative law judges. In this fourth branch of government, filled with unelected and unaccountable experts, all three powers of government are consolidated.

But all is not lost. In the minds of the people, the Constitution is still the governing document of this country. Most just haven't paused to ponder how far we have strayed from its structural design. But the political will to return to the Constitution is there, and increasing daily.

Two things are needed urgently. First, we need a public education program explaining the pervasiveness of our administrative state and how it departs from the Constitution's vision.

Second, and more difficult, is a practical road map for restoring the principles of representation and the separation of powers. The question is not necessarily how to make government smaller, but how to get it back under popular control and accountability.

We must devise a strategy to: bar Congress from delegating legislative power to agencies, eliminate the consolidation of all three powers in these agencies and make these agencies accountable to the people.

Such reforms would ensure that the only burdens we suffer are those we impose upon ourselves, with a government over which we, the people, finally have regained control.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 6, 2009

Democracy v Authority in Nation Building

In the wake of Vietnam we forswore nationbuilding. Today we are heavily engaged in at least two such enterprises, Iraq and Afghanistan. Amazing how circumstances force such changes in policy.

But in a sense the West has been engaged in nationbuilding for decades, if not a century, whether we wanted to admit it or not. The Weimar Republic in Germany was a form of nationbuilding in that we pretty much forced democracy on that country in the wake of what was then called The Great War. In the 1950s and 60s, when ex-colonies were becoming nations, we insisted that they choose their government in democratic fashion. While some turned out to be one-man, one-vote, one-time, others, such as India, have turned into successful democratic states.

It is unclear whether our ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successes or failures. What is clear is that it's not easy to create anything like what we would call a democracy in either. One of my pet theories is that we in the West are good at setting up votes, but not so good at instilling true liberty, or creating a pluralistic societies. Germany after World War II was a Western society, so at least had the benefit of having gone through the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Reformation. We pounded Japan so hard that although their society had not gone through these things it didn't really matter. But neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have the Western experience, and we pounded neither into the ground as we did Japan. Thus, perhaps, our difficulty.

It was Rich Lowry's post at NRO's The Corner which set me thinking on this today. He brings up how many conservatives, seeing the difficulty of the project in Iraq, have said "sure these societies are having trouble setting up governments, but so did the United States." This is a fascicle comparison, he says, because it ignores the cultural differences, and that "it's the absence of order and functioning institutions not democracy that is the fundamental problem in these societies."

He then quotes Samuel Huntington from his book Political Order in Changing Societies:

[A] reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of a democratic revolution without having suffered one. So also, America was born with a government, with political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England. Hence Americans never had to worry about creating a government. This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries.

When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties--all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American is so fundamentally anti-government that he identifies government with restrictions on government. Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited.

Indeed we take public order for granted in the West. We've had our riots, but nothing that came anywhere near doing anything more than keeping some people from going to work for a few days. The American Civil War happened so long ago it's ancient history for us (in the U.S. we slap a historical marker on a house that's 100 years old, something that must make Europeans smile). We entertain ourselves with an apocalyptic movie here and there, but the idea of it really happening... no, not to us.

And this of course is a good thing. When listing the virtues of the West, most of us put things like democracy, liberty, pluralism, freedom, capitalism, tolerance, that sort of thing. Few people would put "public order." Natan Sharansky failed to discuss the importance of keeping public order as a prerequisite to democracy in his much-discussed 2004 book The Case for Democracy

Fewer people, I think, miss the "(already) functioning institutions not democracy," that Lowry brings up. We know that we inherited our institutions from Britain, as our revolution was fundamentally different than the French or Russian Revolutions, which completely overthrew the old order and started anew. In this sense our revolution was Burkean in that it was "to preserve the rights of Englishmen." But I'm not here to argue history.

My point, and question, is how do we take these lessons and apply them to the future? As I've said ad nauseum here on this blog, we are where we are with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan, so I've little patience in refighting the battle of whether it was right to invade either. I'm all for learning lessons, don't get me wrong. For example, one of the biggest lessons of Iraq is that democracy is impossible unless public safety is first ensured.

More to it, what about other third world countries around the world? What will happen with North Korea implodes? Is there any hope in the near term for African or Arab countries? Pakistan may be on the verge of sliding into Taliban-style fundamentalism, so is there any hope for them as well? What about Iran if or when they can rid themselves of their crazy mullah rulers? We tend to think of how we can create democracy and liberty in these countries, but as we've learned just keeping order is a huge challenge. And as we learned with Afghanistan, ignoring a problem won't make it go away. We forgot about that country when the Soviets left and the resulting chaos led to the Taliban, their hosting of al Qaeda, and 9-11.

I don't know the answers, but it's certainly worth pondering, because whether we like it or not I believe the world is going to present us with more challenges sooner rather than later, regardless of who holds the presidency in the U.S.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 2, 2009

Andy McCarthy Smacks Down Eric Holder

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has turned down an offer by Attorney General Eric Holder to participate in a roundtable discussion on detention policy. The AG has invited several current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases to seek their input, McCarthy being one of them.

McCarthy is known primarily as the man who led the team that sent the "Blind Sheikh", Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven others to prison. Rahman was the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plot to bomb several other New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. As such, Rahman was the most dangerous terrorist ever brought to justice in the United States. McCarthy wrote about the trial and his thoughs on our detention policy in his 2008 book Willfull Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad. As such, he is a legitimate expert on terrorism and the legal issues surrounding the issue.

McCarthy's full letter to AG Holder is below the fold, but here is the part where he states his reasons for turning down Holder's offer:

In light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Congratulations, Mr. President. This is the result of the atmosphere of intimidation that you created when you let loose the hounds of the left.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. Attorney General of the United States United States Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

This letter is respectfully submitted to inform you that I must decline the invitation to participate in the May 4 roundtable meeting the President's Task Force on Detention Policy is convening with current and former prosecutors involved in international terrorism cases. An invitation was extended to me by trial lawyers from the Counterterrorism Section, who are members of the Task Force, which you are leading.

The invitation email (of April 14) indicates that the meeting is part of an ongoing effort to identify lawful policies on the detention and disposition of alien enemy combatants--or what the Department now calls "individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations." I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear--most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany--that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president's first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.

Moreover, in light of public statements by both you and the President, it is dismayingly clear that, under your leadership, the Justice Department takes the position that a lawyer who in good faith offers legal advice to government policy makers--like the government lawyers who offered good faith advice on interrogation policy--may be subject to investigation and prosecution for the content of that advice, in addition to empty but professionally damaging accusations of ethical misconduct. Given that stance, any prudent lawyer would have to hesitate before offering advice to the government.

Beyond that, as elucidated in my writing (including my proposal for a new national security court, which I understand the Task Force has perused), I believe alien enemy combatants should be detained at Guantanamo Bay (or a facility like it) until the conclusion of hostilities. This national defense measure is deeply rooted in the venerable laws of war and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the 2004 Hamdi case. Yet, as recently as Wednesday, you asserted that, in your considered judgment, such notions violate America's "commitment to the rule of law." Indeed, you elaborated, "Nothing symbolizes our [adminstration's] new course more than our decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.... President Obama believes, and I strongly agree, that Guantanamo has come to represent a time and an approach that we want to put behind us: a disregard for our centuries-long respect for the rule of law[.]" (Emphasis added.)

Given your policy of conducting ruinous criminal and ethics investigations of lawyers over the advice they offer the government, and your specific position that the wartime detention I would endorse is tantamount to a violation of law, it makes little sense for me to attend the Task Force meeting. After all, my choice would be to remain silent or risk jeopardizing myself.

For what it may be worth, I will say this much. For eight years, we have had a robust debate in the United States about how to handle alien terrorists captured during a defensive war authorized by Congress after nearly 3000 of our fellow Americans were annihilated. Essentially, there have been two camps. One calls for prosecution in the civilian criminal justice system, the strategy used throughout the 1990s. The other calls for a military justice approach of combatant detention and war-crimes prosecutions by military commission. Because each theory has its downsides, many commentators, myself included, have proposed a third way: a hybrid system, designed for the realities of modern international terrorism--a new system that would address the needs to protect our classified defense secrets and to assure Americans, as well as our allies, that we are detaining the right people.

There are differences in these various proposals. But their proponents, and adherents to both the military and civilian justice approaches, have all agreed on at least one thing: Foreign terrorists trained to execute mass-murder attacks cannot simply be released while the war ensues and Americans are still being targeted. We have already released too many jihadists who, as night follows day, have resumed plotting to kill Americans. Indeed, according to recent reports, a released Guantanamo detainee is now leading Taliban combat operations in Afghanistan, where President Obama has just sent additional American forces.

The Obama campaign smeared Guantanamo Bay as a human rights blight. Consistent with that hyperbolic rhetoric, the President began his administration by promising to close the detention camp within a year. The President did this even though he and you (a) agree Gitmo is a top-flight prison facility, (b) acknowledge that our nation is still at war, and (c) concede that many Gitmo detainees are extremely dangerous terrorists who cannot be tried under civilian court rules. Patently, the commitment to close Guantanamo Bay within a year was made without a plan for what to do with these detainees who cannot be tried. Consequently, the Detention Policy Task Force is not an effort to arrive at the best policy. It is an effort to justify a bad policy that has already been adopted: to wit, the Obama administration policy to release trained terrorists outright if that's what it takes to close Gitmo by January.

Obviously, I am powerless to stop the administration from releasing top al Qaeda operatives who planned mass-murder attacks against American cities--like Binyam Mohammed (the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla) whom the administration recently transferred to Britain, where he is now at liberty and living on public assistance. I am similarly powerless to stop the administration from admitting into the United States such alien jihadists as the 17 remaining Uighur detainees. According to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, the Uighurs will apparently live freely, on American taxpayer assistance, despite the facts that they are affiliated with a terrorist organization and have received terrorist paramilitary training. Under federal immigration law (the 2005 REAL ID Act), those facts render them excludable from the United States. The Uighurs' impending release is thus a remarkable development given the Obama administration's propensity to deride its predecessor's purported insensitivity to the rule of law.

I am, in addition, powerless to stop the President, as he takes these reckless steps, from touting his Detention Policy Task Force as a demonstration of his national security seriousness. But I can decline to participate in the charade.

Finally, let me repeat that I respect and admire the dedication of Justice Department lawyers, whom I have tirelessly defended since I retired in 2003 as a chief assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. It was a unique honor to serve for nearly twenty years as a federal prosecutor, under administrations of both parties. It was as proud a day as I have ever had when the trial team I led was awarded the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award in 1996, after we secured the convictions of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and his underlings for waging a terrorist war against the United States. I particularly appreciated receiving the award from Attorney General Reno--as I recounted in Willful Blindness, my book about the case, without her steadfastness against opposition from short-sighted government officials who wanted to release him, the "blind sheikh" would never have been indicted, much less convicted and so deservedly sentenced to life-imprisonment. In any event, I've always believed defending our nation is a duty of citizenship, not ideology. Thus, my conservative political views aside, I've made myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, who've thought tapping my experience would be beneficial. It pains me to decline your invitation, but the attendant circumstances leave no other option.

Very truly yours,

/S/

Andrew C. McCarthy

cc: Sylvia T. Kaser and John DePue
National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section

Summarized, McCarthy's reasons for turning down the invitation are that one, the Obama Administration has already settled on a position, so this meeting is just for show, and two, given recent statements by Holder and President Obama, any lawyer who makes good faith recommendations may be prosecuted just for making those recommendations. As such there not only is no point in attending the roundtable, but it might be hazardous to one's legal future.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, but he never went after Clinton Administration officials for anything. Nor did he spend time blaming them for their national security lapses that helped lead to 9-11.

Update

McCarthy has a piece in National Review explaining his reasons behind the letter, as well as a few comments on the Administration's new policies. Money quote:

The second reason for declining the Justice Department's request is that the exercise known as the "President's Detention Policy Task Force" is a farce. The administration has already settled on a detainee policy: It is simply going to release trained jihadists. Holder said as much in his Germany speech. In the irrational world he inhabits, the existence of Guantanamo Bay, where dangerous terrorists cannot harm anyone, is more of a security threat than jihadists roaming free, plotting to menace and murder us. That's why the administration just released Binyam Mohammed, who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla to execute post-9/11 bombings in American cities. That's why Holder will soon announce (perhaps as early as today) that the Chinese Uighur detainees -- who've been affiliated with a designated terrorist organization and who've received paramilitary training at al-Qaeda camps -- will not only be set free in the United States but will, according to National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, subsist on the support of the American taxpayer.

For all their talk about "the rule of law," President Obama and Attorney General Holder have to know this policy is illegal. In 2005, Congress provided in the REAL ID Act that aliens who've been affiliated with a terrorist organization or who've received paramilitary training (which has been a staple of virtually every jihadist plot against the United States) are excludable from the United States. Moreover, even if the administration were not riding roughshod over federal immigration law, it is endangering the American people. The sophistry required to believe that having people who want to kill us locked up is more perilous than loosing them on civilian populations is so absurd it nearly defies description.

What was that about Bush and Cheney running roughshod over the Constitution again?

Posted by Tom at 1:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 10, 2008

For Your Own Good

The police in Washington DC want to access to a network of surveillance cameras so as to better fight crime. From yesterday's Washington Times

D.C. officials are giving police access to more than 5,000 closed-circuit TV cameras citywide that monitor traffic, schools and public housing -- a move that will give the District one of the largest surveillance networks in the country.

"The primary benefit of what we're doing is for public health and safety," said Darrell Darnell, director of the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, who announced the initiative along with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday.

There are some 5,200 already in place, and they're operated by the public schools or housing authority. What's new here is that if this initiative passes the police will be able to use them.

Not to worry, though, right? Won't they only be used to stop drug deals?

Consider how they're used right now across the pond.

From the Daily Mail (h/t Mark Steyn at NRO)

Digital speed cameras which capture drivers smoking or eating at the wheel are being introduced nationwide in a new move to hammer motorists.

Drivers will also face fines, bans and even jail for infringements such as driving without a seatbelt, using a hand-held mobile phone or overtaking across double white lines.

The hi-tech DVD cameras, which have instant playback, will also be used to provide photographic evidence against those eating sandwiches or rolling-up cigarettes at the wheel.

These are now considered serious offences under new guidelines drawn up for prosecutors

This in a country where the street crime and burglary is high and going nowhere but up.

The good news for residents of Washington DC is that council members are at least "wary" of their mayor's plan.

Conservatives like me normally bash groups like the ACLU, but this time they're right in their criticism of such plans. They even have a section of their website on the public video surveillance.

So, will our cameras eventually be used to peer into our car windows to see if we're eating while driving? Maybe and maybe not.

But we do know that in recent years we've seen the obsession with public safety taken to lengths never before thought possible. It was one thing to ban smoking in the workplace, quite another to to outlaw "trans fats" in restaurants. Maybe soon we'll be told that unless we acquiesce to laws against eating while driving, we're ogres who want to see people die needlessly, and if they're injured "we all pay for it".

Liberals are worried about FISA court this and FISA court that, and while I understand their concern I'm far more worried about the nanny-state police who want to put a camera on every telephone pole "for your own good".

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack