Can't do anything

Endless Regulations:

As if to underscore the point made two posts down, OSHA weighs in with a "proposed rule" governing "explosives," by which they explicitly also mean "small arms ammunition." Although the rule takes the time to state that such ammunition is covered, it doesn't take the time to distinguish how small arms ammunition is different from, say, dynamite.

So, if this rule goes into effect, manufacturers of ammunition will go out of business due to the costs of complying with new rules, which costs are estimated over $100 million. Stores stocking ammunition will be forbidden to allow firearms on the premises -- which means that outfitting stores will have to sell guns or ammunition, not both. (Of course, there may be no ammunition to sell.) Any store that does sell ammunition will be required to physically search prospective buyers before they will be allowed to approach the display.

NSSF is urging all retailers to contact OSHA directly and request a 60-day extension of the public comment period. Retailers should inform OSHA that the proposed rule constitutes a “significant regulatory action” as defined in Executive Order 12866 (1993) Section 3(f)(1) in that it will clearly “adversely affect in a material way” the retail sector of the firearms and ammunition industry, productivity, competition and jobs and that the annual compliance cost for all retailers of ammunition will far exceed $100 million dollars.

If you choose to draft your own letter, the reference line must read as follows:

RE: Docket No. OSHA-2007-0032
Request to Extend Public Comment Period and Request for Hearing on
“Significant Regulatory Action” as Defined in Executive Order 12866

Please fax the letter to: 202-693-1648 (include the docket number and Department of Labor/OSHA on the cover sheet and in the reference section of your letter).
I tried myself tonight, but the system offers no clear way of knowing if your comments have been accepted or ignored. I'll mail a hard copy letter in the morning.

This is just the sort of nonsense I was talking about below. We've got to get a handle on this kind of regulatory garbage if, or bureaucrats will fritter away what remains of our heritage of freedom.

Anabasis II

Anabasis, Book I Chapter II:

The Commissar's project continues. Especially if you haven't read Anabasis before, you might enjoy following along with his efforts. The comments from readers are also interesting.

Republican Platform

A Republican Platform:

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change wrote a hypothetical Democratic nominee acceptance speech, to show where he thinks the Democratic Party should go. I undertook to argue with him about it at some length, as did one David Blue, a sharp fellow I've debated in the past. AL responded by suggesting that we jointly compose a Republican platform.

I thought that was hilarious, since I'm a Southern Democrat, and David Blue is an Australian. On reflection, however, I decided that the Republicans seem to be in need of any help they can get. David agreed, so we hammered something out.

Since it fell into the comments at WoC, I figured I'd get it into one place.

AL's original post is here.

My main rebuttal is here. I'll quote it in full b/c it's important to the later platform.

I'd like to note that you have not addressed either of the two most serious problems for the liberal tradition in America. Social Security is the first; and the Federal pension/healthcare programs are the second. The costs of these are estimated to be fifty-nine trillion in hidden debt, not currently budgeted.

The government's response when asked about it was to oppose changes in accounting policies to account for those debts. Why? "The White House and the Congressional Budget Office oppose the change, arguing that the programs are not true liabilities because government can cancel or cut them."

So here's the stark truth as I see it: the government is stating baldly that it has no intention of paying those liabilities -- but intends, and indeed will have, to "cancel or cut them."

That will create massive problems for our country when it starts to occur. It will also be the dead end for the Reform Liberal tradition. No one is going to trust the government to handle their pension or Social Security or healthcare after the depth of their deceit becomes unavoidably clear.

Nor should they trust them now. It is already plain, and being articulated by the government itself, that these promises will not be honored. We need to begin privitizing American society now, so that the shock of the collapse of these promises -- and, indeed, the collapse of any remaining faith in the government -- will do less damage to the nation. The private sphere will survive when the government collapses -- for who will work in its bureaucracies when they see how the promises made to their ancestors are kept?

If the reality is a much smaller government, refocused on the actual Constitutional business of government, it may be worth the price. But we should start preparing for that world, because it's coming whether you want it or not.

Now: A general critique:

I have to admit I wouldn't feel good about voting for a politician who promised to "work damn hard" on "solutions" that "would never solve" the problems. What I want out of government is a lot less meddling, not a lot more -- especially in areas where we don't fully understand the problems yet, or the kinds of problems don't lend themselves to government-led solutions.

That's a general critique. I don't object (as do Libertarians or some conservatives) to using the government to influence the nature of the economy, for example, in order to create a society we would prefer to the one the market will create. For example, I think a policy designed to boost individual ownership of small business and family farms would be of great social value to America. Nothing against corporations; it's just that people are freer, as Jefferson noted in praising 'yeomen farmers,' when they own their own means of production.

But if we can't actually solve a problem, let's leave it alone. No meddling in the affairs of the People unless we can both name a specific policy we want to enact, and show that it has a reasonable chance of success for resolving the actual problem it addresses -- and won't create nasty unintended effects.

The desire to "fix" things that can't be fixed, or that we don't really know how to fix, is the single worst impulse of liberal politicians today. It creates an endless nest of binding rules and regulations, laws and agencies, taxes and tape, until whole areas of human freedom are lost -- and the problem never got fixed anyway.

More specific critiques:

Good points on the DPRK and Iran. Concurr.

Re: Palestine and Israel, see above on the subject of impossible problems and the unsuitability of US gov't meddling in them. For God's sake, let's not involve ourselves any further in this business. Israel's government may have to involve itself with this particular problem-without-solution, but we don't. "The United States has tried to make good faith efforts in the past to help negotiate a solution," we should say, "but we must admit that they have failed. It is time for Israel and Palestine to resolve their differences between themselves, or using such other moderators as they agree to prefer. While we will not stand by for an invasion of either territory by a third party, this dispute must be resolved by the involved parties alone."

As for military restructuring, I think I've written enough about that in the past to avoid needing to speak to it further here.

Now, your big economic question: "How do me make the basics of the American dream - a white picket fence and a better future for our kids - available to people who don't have advanced degrees or trust funds?"

I said above that I think the #1 thing we need to do is encourage the development of small business and family farms. That means a wholesale restructuring of farm aid policies; it also means rethinking government contracting, and perhaps accepting paying more for services and goods rather than going for lowest bidder status. Economies of scale aren't always available to small businesses, but we'd prefer a nation with more of them anyway.

There are other things of this type we can do. We can subsidize education for useful trades (more at the state than the federal level, as states have different needs and are not well served by a one-size-fits-all policy). We can create tax benefits for small businesses v. larger corporations; heck, we could simply forgo taxing small businesses and family farms at all, at least at first.

The number one thing we need to do is dramatically cut back on the regulation of such businesses. We need to make it easy to set one up, so you don't need a lawyer and an accountant to make and sell furniture out of your wood shop.

We need to exempt small businesses from some ADA regulations, so that you can open a restaurant out of your kitchen without having to rebuild your house to accomodate wheelchairs. I knew a nice Korean couple in China who had a business whereby you could come by at supper, and eat what they were cooking for a small price. Or, for more, they'd make something special for you. That's the sort of thing anyone can do -- some extra income for a retired couple, perhaps -- except for the regulations out the ear.


Another thing we could do (which speaks to your desire to build America in copper, steel, etc) is reestablish the CCC. Public improvements can be made by young people who are learning a trade at the same time. They have to subject themselves to orders and contracts (one of the CCC's things was that you didn't get the money you earned -- it went to your family. We might have to set up a 'trust fund' type account that you pay into, but can't draw out of except for education until you're 35). In return, they learn how to do something very well, for free; and they get the satisfaction of building something impressive (ever driven the Blue Ridge Parkway?).

Education will benefit most from being privatized. We need to start ending public education. It can't be done all at once, but we can start shifting a percentage of our expenses every year to helping establish new private schools (another small business!) and establishing voucher programs. We should aim to eliminate public schools, with their attendant bureaucracies and public-sector unions, within fifteen years.

You want your mother making $30,000 to have a shot at Harvard? I'd suggest you aim higher, myself, but if that's what you want... let her pick the school that is right for child and his particular talents. Harvard already doesn't require families making under $60,000 to pay tuition, so if we can handle educating the individual child to his best advantage, he should have a pretty good shot.

Or he could go to a real school, like West Point. The service academies are exempted from the critique of public education, as they are better than any other public education. They are better because they train the whole man (or woman): they train the mind and they strengthen the body, they improve his personal willpower and discipline so that he can excel, but also inculcate a sense of the debt that we owe to our nation and its traditions. This is what American education should want to produce.

As for your environmental policies, I have a few comments.

1) You want to get the worst polluters off the road. This conflicts with your desire to help the poor, unless you plan to buy them a car: most of the worst polluters are the oldest vehicles, which are barely kept running because that is what the owner can afford.

2) You want to decentralize to help us against terror attacks. This I agree with entirely, and not merely for terrorist reasons; but again, you need cars for that. I am a great believer in light rail systems -- Virginia's VRE was a wonderful way to commute, when I had to get into DC. But you can't run a railroad everywhere. Most of America is going to drive where it needs to go.

That "most" of America is also the poorest part of America -- the money is in the cities. So, again, unless you're going to buy new fuel-efficient pickups for the rural poor, you're hitting a conflict.

3) Building new plants is a great idea. Moving power generation closer to where it's being generated is a great idea.

4) We should encourage better air quality and other environmental benefits through tax breaks rather than new regulations and oversight agencies. We should always endeavor to avoid regulation, and keep taxes as low as at all possible; so let us do so here.
David began the "R" platform here:
#24 from Armed Liberal: "David B - do you want to coordinate w/Grim on the "fantasy Republican" response?"


If you don't think it's too badly off topic, we could start discussing it here, in the context of what you said and the need for Republicans to have an answer to this.

#25 from Grim: "It'd be odd for a Southern Democrat and an Australian to write the Republican platform. On the other hand, by all evidence they seem to need any help they can get."


I agree with Peggy Noonan: the Republican Party now is headless. George W. Bush has thrown away Ronald Reagan's coalition as though it was his property and he was entitled to. He, and other top Republicans like the odious Trent Lott, seen to think that the base of the Republican Party consists of stupid people whose hearts are in the wrong place.

That implies a political crisis) as seen in the illegal immigration struggle) and fundamental rebuilding - much more bottom-up rebuilding than the Democrats need to do.

The party aristocracy will not do this - and if they did they'd do it wrong, but they simply will not rethink and rebuild. We see this in their lack of reading on jihad. We see this in their slowness in getting internet savvy. They won't read, they won't think, you can't make them, and if you're so smart why aren't you incumbent like them? That's their attitude.

Any serious rethinking will have to come from outside the charmed circle of the "best" people. Anybody can pitch in and help with this. Even us.

Who was that Australian recently who I vaguely recall was found to be an illegal immigrant working for one of the major parties? I guess I'm one up on him, because due to the wonder of the Internet, I can do my part here without violating my principle of promoting legality. :)

First, let's see how much were are on the same page on fundamentals.

I start with faith and confidence in the goodness and powers of the American people, the wisdom of their founding fathers (including and especially the author of the second foundation, Abraham Lincoln) the fundamental correctness of their system of law as enshrined in the American Constitution (though not always as courts have applied it: out, damned Roe!), and their future. The American are strong and clever (good engineers), they breed enough to replace themselves (ignoring the major problem of the vanishing white), they've got socially useful religious traditions (Christianity limited by strong requirements for non-establishment and freedom of speech, with a dash of fix-the-world Judaism), they have good neighbors (compare Mexicans and Americans to Palestinians and Israelis), they have a natural network of informal allies (the Anglosphere) - and so on.

So my attitude to fundamental, serious pessimism about America is to dismiss it. Just let the system work and it'll be fine. And my attitude to fundamental reform is, America's fundamentals aren't broken, so don't fix them.

You know the joke about the young multi-millionaire who owed his success to applying a formula? His daddy gave him millions of dollars and said: "Son, this is yours, don't lose it." When it comes to liberty, and the conditions of prosperity and national strength, America is that lucky young man and the Constitution is the most valuable item in his legacy.

Most people in most countries will never come close to achieving the freedoms that in America come gift-wrapped in the founding documents of the state. Better yet, these freedoms are not bestowed, they are recognized by the state as coming from God. That couldn't be better.

So, since you live in a lucky country, your first concern should be to stay lucky.

The Republican Party as an instrument for the preservation of American national greatness is not nearly in the happy position of America itself. I have always been and still am skeptical that "red state" demographics guarantee conservatives a growing edge in national politics. I think that the party has lost its way.

Americans are problem-solvers and they like problem-solvers. Even though it may be true that often the government does best by doing less, I think Americans will always be biased to the guy running for a position in government who says: "I've got a solution, let's do this!"

Through apparent futility in war, protracted deadlock on key social issues, and a needless failure of his intended reforms in the two terms of George W. Bush, the Republican Party has more or less lost the mandate of the effective do-something party. (Which is not to say that Democrats have picked up - prior to the rise of Armed Liberal of course. :) The recent Republican "victory" on illegal immigration was won by gladiators like Jeff Sessions and Jim DeMint. Yes, it's valuable to block bad things, so well done. But the Grand Old Party has to get back to positively accomplishing good things, specifically it has to accomplish good things for the three vital elements of the Reagan coalition, which must be restored.


1. What do you think Republican security conservatives most need?
2. What do you think shrink-the-government free enterprise conservatives most need?
3. What do you think Christians, pro-lifers and social conservatives most need?

4. What do you think is the issue the system most needs? What is the top issue that's like preventive maintenance on sewers: it's really, really got to be done, regardless of whether there's a charged-up constituency for it?

(I've said it's legality, with Justice Clarence Thomas as my guide to what that is. I think American needs to get back to working a lot more like a civics class says it does, and a lot less like the "earmark" system, the pro-bill side of the illegal immigration debate and the jurisprudence of the "living constitution" demonstrates that it does. I think you need a state of laws, not a system where in effect the law is to do what the powerful and wealthy say, or you'll be sorry.)

5. What do you think independents and persuadable Democrats most need from the Republican Party? What do you think would count as the Republicans solving something for once?

6. What do you see in what Armed Liberal said that we should mercilessly steal, or regard as an offer that's so hot that we have to make some kind of rival offer?

#33 from David Blue at 2:41 am on Jul 06, 2007
Re: point 6: I see you've already addressed that in a lot of ways, but I'm trying to pick out your top priority in each category that I think is important.
My response is here.
All right, David, if you want to give it a go, I'll join you.

On your fundamentals:

I agree that the American people are fundamentally good, insofar as humans can be good. You will recall "The Smell of Death," in which I considered what some of the limits on inner goodness might be. Still, judged as humans, they're well-intentioned, and want to live in a country that "does the right thing."

The underlying freedoms of the American Constitution are solid. The system for administering them is, as I see it, broken (see "Time for a Change," another piece on the topic). Serious Constitutional adjustments are needed to bring the government back into something like what the Founders actually intended for it to be.

I'm not sure precisely what you mean by crediting Lincoln with 'the second foundation' of America. It's true that Lincoln's example and rhetoric were and are stirring; and it's true that the Civil War would have been lost without his guidance. However, Lincoln himself did not do much to change the operation of the Constitutional system. The Reconstruction Amendments, 13th-15th, are to be credited to later actors. It is principally the 14th Amendment that is responsible for the structural changes in the US government, which were severe enough to be rightly considered a second foundation.

I am not a fan of the 14th Amendment, and think that a successful settlement of America's internal social differences will require that it be amended to reduce the power of the Federal courts. It is precisely the abilities of the 14th that make SCOTUS decisions so needlessly explosive: because they are impositions on all jurisdictions, it is a matter of extreme political rancor when we have to nominate a new Justice. In fact, I would say this has become the central issue of our elections -- people who are totally furious at the Republican party will vote for them anyway in 2008, precisely to avoid the risk of the SCOTUS drifting left. A huge amount of our political fundraising and activism is driven by concerns about the court.

I think we need to change that, to return to something closer to the original founding, if we are to have an America that can really be for all Americans. The American social contract was meant to allow for multiple solutions to contentious issues -- Bostonian Puritans, Southern rumrunners, and "Rogue's Island's" freethinkers. Now every contentious question demands a one-size-fits-all solution from SCOTUS. There either will or will not be a protected right to abortion; there either will or will not be prayer allowed in schools; and so forth. So much of the heat that is keeping us from working together and viewing other Americans as allies and brothers first is coming from the concentration of power in the SCOTUS and other Federal courts.

There are other systemic concerns I have, which are cause for a certain amount of real pessimism about the American government. About the American people, I am broadly optimistic. They're good lads, mostly; watch too much TV, but mostly they're all right.

I think your story about the young millionaire is precisely right. The number one thing we ought to do is to focus on preserving our heritage of freedom, and not frittering it away (see my objection, above, to AL's proposal for endless "working on" this and that impossible problem, to the tune of constant new regulations in every sphere of life).

I do agree that Americans like to see the government doing things, for fundamentally cultural rather than well-considered reasons. They hate idlers, and they hate people who seem not to be earning their money or benefits; Congressmen have money and other benefits; therefore, they'd better at least appear to be doing something worthwhile to earn it.

That said, Americans also do know that we have tons of useless, pointless, and outright harmful laws and regulations. A Congress that was predicated on passing laws to repeal laws of that sort -- to hunting them out from constituent advice and getting rid of them -- would be a Congress I could even get excited about. "Let's clear the way for you to build the life you want," would be a good slogan. You could easily do ten thousand 30-second ads that would resonate:

Sue: "Hey, you're a good cook, Jill. Why not open a bakery?"

Jill: "That's a great idea!"

Flash through ten scenes of clerks denying her things, enforcing regulations, trying to explain the regulations, etc.

Sue: "You look down. What happened?"

Jill: "So much for my bakery. It's gotten to where you can't do anything in this country."

That's not freedom. Vote for Joe Republican, and start living your dreams!

I'll handle your "six questions" separately.

#39 from Grim at 4:20 am on Jul 06, 2007
1. Security conservatives are, at this point, mostly concerned about security at home. Above all, they want the border secured -- and really secured. They want the TSA to be professional and courteous, quick and yet thorough. Right now we're in an isolationist moment, as security conservatives feel like Iraq means the end of any chance of fighting terrorism overseas -- so they want to make sure the locks on the doors work.

That may change if things improve in Iraq before the election. Speaking as a military analyst, I expect them to do so -- though there is no certainty about it, to be sure. Still, even if things are going far better in Iraq next year, there will be no more Iraq-style adventures in the near future. The next president will, absent a massive provocation, be limited to Clinton-style air war at most.

2. The number one issue for shrink-the-government types is tax reform. There's a "Fair Tax" book that is making the rounds -- I see it everywhere. I don't mean, "in bookstores everywhere." I mean, you go to people's houses, it's on the coffee table. I haven't read it myself, so I don't know if the plan holds water or not -- but I know a whole lot of people are thinking about it.

If the plan's any good, it would make sense to endorse it. If it isn't, it would make sense to get the guys who are behind it off to one side, negotiate a compromise they could support, and become the candidate of tax reform.

3. Pro-lifers are separate from others, in that they are defined by their issue. They will vote Republican for SCOTUS reasons; aside from the occasional meet-and-greet to talk about their issue, they need no further attention.

Movement Christians are hard for me. I hardly ever set foot in a church, to be honest; I have a great respect for religion, and indeed for Christianity, but I have little use for sermons and prefer to sort it out on my own. Nothing at all against people who find a great deal of joy in having a community of believers to belong to; it's just not for me, at least not so far. As a result, I don't know what conversations they're having, so I can't give much of a sense of what their top issues are.

Social conservatives are #1 on immigration right now. Much like security conservatives, they want to make sure the locks work on the doors; but they have the added concern of the culture being overrun, as mass immigration leads to millions of new citizens (children born here, in any event) who may not be fully assimilated and yet able to wield tremendous ballot-box power. There are several solutions to this; the one I favor is to remove forever the path to citizenship from anyone who came here illegally, and to repeal birthright citizenship so that only lawfully naturalized immigrants or the children of American citizens would become American citizens (this is, of course, how almost all nations do it already).

But you still have to secure the border. Fortunately, per #1, you were going to do that anyway.

4. I think we need to hold a Constitutional convention along the lines discussed in the comments to this post and the "Time for a Change" post already mentioned. There are several nuts and bolts issues about the function of the government we need to think about.

If I had to pick just one, it would be the SCOTUS/14th issue I mentioned above. America would be a quieter, happier place if the people on the other side of the Red/Blue divide weren't always having to fear that one SCOTUS ruling would put the heathens on the other side in charge of some cherished aspect of their life.

I don't want to control people; I am happy for California, for example, to have universal health care if the governor wants it and can arrange it within their means. I just don't want it here. That's what America was meant to be, a place for all of us. I want that back. I'm tired of fighting Americans, whom I really want to be happy and to have the lives they want to live -- just not at my expense, if you please.

5. You could get a lot of Democrats with the immigration issue -- I mean union men, chiefly, but also poor Democrats from the western states who are competing for jobs. It's a wedge issue, and if the Republicans could "solve" it, they'd win big.

On the other hand, as I mentioned above, my own preferred solution includes permitting mass immigration to continue -- I think the greater immediate threat is a collapse of the Mexican state, which would cause far larger problems. The influx of hard cash from illegals in America is one of the legs holding up a wobbly Mexican table.

We do have to address the demographic / cultural concerns, but I think we benefit from keeping Mexico propped up in this way. At least, given that the option is a failed state on our southern border, it's the lesser of two evils.

6. The health care issue is a problem. People have been talking about it so long -- and aging Baby Boomers, who either neglected to provide for their retirements properly or are just greedy enough to take 'free' health care from younger people trying to raise families, are so large a voting bloc -- that something has to be done. There's just this huge number of people who are hot to suck up the health care industry into the state's clutches, and others who are scared and don't know what to think, and others who have just heard it talked about so long they've become convinced.

What we need to do is the hardest of things -- we need to educate the public about those budgetary deceptions I mentioned earlier. We need to let them know that the government already can't pay, and has not intention to pay, for their Social Security and Medicare at anything like its promised levels. We need retiring Federal pensioneers (and current workers) to understand that they have been sold a fraud. They have been promised assets that will vaporize when they need them most.

Once the scale of the fraud is clear, I don't think the taste for socialized medicine will be so strong. We need to push for those accounting changes I mentioned above, so the scale of the real Federal debt is clear. We need to talk about how hard the benefits cuts and tax increases are going to be already.

We need to make clear that all those rosy promises that came with money sucked out of your every paycheck -- they were all lies.

We need people to understand that the government cannot be trusted with the security of their families. That is a duty you cannot lay down, because there is no one out there who can be trusted to take it up. You cannot trust the government to take it for you; you must not trust them to seize it.

Sorry to end on a negative note -- that's just how the questions fell out. But there we are.

Anabasis I

Anabasis, Book I:

The Commissar has taken to the study of ancient Greek, and is blogging his translation of Xenophon's Anabasis. This, the story of "the Ten Thousand," is a tale of Greek mercenaries who become involved in the losing side of a civil war in Persia -- and have to fight their way all the way back home. It is one of the great tales left to us from the Classical period.

In the comments to his post, a discussion about hosptality and the concept of the xenos, the "Guest-friend." Readers of Grim's Hall will recognize strong parallels with the concept of frith, particularly as it plays out in surviving Anglo-Saxon literature and the Norse sagas.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday:

Two hundred thirty-one years ago, a small band of men got together to settle a large problem. They represented a group of colonies in one of the world's largest empires.

The declaration they wrote was a daring one.

These men willingly put their lives, fortunes and honor at risk in an attempt to make the colonies into free states. They could not predict whether their attempt would succeed or fail, but they signed their names on that Declaration of Independence.

Historians would later document a long struggle from that bright July day in 1776 to the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the ratification of the Federal Constitution. The nation birthed in that struggle is now one of the greatest nations on the Earth.

This 4th of July, we remember the Declaration of Independence that was published more than two centuries ago.

Happy Birthday to the United States of America.

Maulana Jeff Davis

Maulana Jefferson Davis:

This story from Pakistan should be fun to watch. It reminds one strongly of the alleged capture of Jefferson Davis in a dress. As you may know, the story is that Confederate States' President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union forces wearing his wife's garments, in an attempt to hide. Jefferson Davis strongly resented the story, and its truth is unknown to historians. It may have simply been Northern propaganda; or it may have happened in some form.

However, it was a tale that was widely distributed among the public, made for numerous political cartoons, and so on. Even in America, the portrayal of Jefferson Davis in a dress was sufficiently humiliating to be a major propaganda strike against the whole Confederacy. Such blows were needed, as the war was ending and the people in the South needed to be convinced that the CSA was not merely defeated but illegitimate. Whether or not the story was true, it was used for just that purpose.

Will the Pakistani government use the maulana's capture in a burqa in the same fashion? They ought to, if they have any sense for information operations. It's a gift on a platter, if the story is true; and if it's not, maybe they're as smart as P. T. Barnum.

Libby Commutation

Mr. Libby:

I'm bothered to see President Bush, who has never shown a particular desire to make use of the presidential powers of pardon or commutation, take a unique interest in the Libby case. That's not to say that the case was justly handled to begin with; followers of Cassandra's page, especially, have been kept up to date on the various oddities around the whole affair. There is no doubt that "Scooter" got extra-bad treatment from his political foes for being who he was; why shouldn't he get extra-good treatment from his allies?

Well, because factionalism is meant to stay outside of the justice system, not that it does. Prosecutors from Chicago famous for their ethics, as Fitzgerald was, are meant to keep to those ethics when given the chance to go after members of an administration unpopular in Chicago. Presidents who do not normally pardon or commute are meant to continue their preferences when dealing with intimates, just as they would with the poor and unknown.

I don't think the use of the Presidential pardon or commutation is unjust in and of itself -- in fact, I think it is vastly underused. Were I President (if you can imagine so unlikely a thing), I would make it my habit to subject every sentence to the review of my office, and commute or pardon freely when I felt injustice had been enacted by jury or judge. That is part of the President's job: to serve as a bulwark against injustice by the courts. That is why he was given the power. That recent Presidents have rarely used it only means that they have abandoned that responsibilty, not that the need for it no longer exists.

Yet to use that power once, for a friend, when you have denied it to nearly everyone else? That is not justice.

No one in this episode has covered himself with glory, at a time when our Republic could greatly have used an example to convice the People that the law still bound the powerful. There is no reason to be happy about any aspect of this episode. It has been disgusting from first to last.

Oddly enough, the only exception was Mr. Libby himself, who behaved in a generous and noble fashion at a time when that very action was likely to endanger his liberty. Perhaps alone among the actors in this drama he did something praiseworthy and right when it could not benefit him, and in fact was sure to harm him.

That cannot undo the fact that he was convicted by a jury of a deadly offense. Perjury, of which he was accused and convicted, is a terribly serious crime for a public official. The violation of one's oath attacks the foundations of our government, which invests great powers in public and military officials, but requires binding oaths of them in turn.

If only we could prosecute every one of them who seems to have violated his oath, with the severity that the offense deserves. But this episode underlines and affirms the lesson of the Clinton years: the political class that commands our government laughs at the concepts of honor and perjuy, and sneers at any attempt to enforce them.

Back to the future.

Just keep clicking.

I'm of an age where I only saw this stuff in old magazines. I wonder what it was like to see it all the first time.

I bet James Lileks would like this.
They shot the Donkeys too.

Michael Yon, who proves once again that he is the equal of any reporter working for a 'real' news service, posts this dispatch recounting Iraqi and American forces cleaning up after after Al-Queda has evidently liquidated members of a village near Baqubah.

Congrats Mike

Congrats, Mike!

A happy day for Mike the Marine, who is a new father. Mike is a long-time friend of the Hall, and in fact is the guy who taught me how to install comment code on the blog, back before Blogger had such things. So, all these great discussions we have? They're his doing, in a way.

All the best, Mike, all the best.