Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: January 15, 2010

An Arrogancy of Jurisdiction

Suppose I told you that there is an organization which claims to have worldwide jurisdiction (literally, “where the law speaks”) over all matters of criminal law and justice, regardless of who a person is? No I’m not referring to the ICC, but instead to the Obama administration.

The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of masterminding the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, a plan that would bring one of the world’s most notorious terrorism suspects just steps from the U.S. Capitol, The Associated Press has learned.

Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, was allegedly Osama bin Laden’s point man in Indonesia and, until his capture in August 2003, was believed to be the main link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing on the island of Bali.

It’s not readily apparent what charges would be brought against Hambali, but a real question exists as to exactly what power our civil judicial system would have over him. In order to pass judgment on anyone, a court must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, which essentially means that he has some nexus with the place where his trial takes place. With respect to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, there is at least a good argument that his alleged activities with respect to the 9/11 attacks and the World Trade Center bombings creates a connection with the court of record in New York City. In contrast, Hambali does not, as far as anyone has alleged, have any connection whatsoever with the District of Columbia, nor with anywhere else in the United States. So on what basis can a DC court claim to have any power over his person?

Yet that’s just what the Obama administration proposes to do. It is considering trying Hambali in a federal civil court, supposedly for his terrorist actions (which are legion, to be sure) elsewhere in the world. Most famously, Hambali is thought to be the mastermind behind the devastating bombings in Bali back in 2002. But Bali is in Indonesia, not the United States. Indeed, Jemaah Islamiya, of which Hambali is known to be the operations coordinator and chief liason to al Qaeda regarding its Southeast Asia conquests, has not been alleged to be involved in any actions in America or her protectorates. All of which should lead to the inexorable conclusion that our federal courts have no jurisdiction over Hambali.

Perhaps no real harm would come from a court reaching such a decision. It wouldn’t lead to a release of the prisoner, necessarily, since the question of guilt or innocence would never be addressed. But what if, instead, a ruling is made that there is personal jurisdiction over Hambali? Stranger things have happened — witness the vast expansion of judicial power created in Boumediene v. Bush, where the Supreme Court found that its jurisdiction for habeas corpus purposes extended to any person within America’s exclusive control. Should a DC court find it does have personal jurisdiction over a person who has no connection to America except for being captured by her soldiers, that would be paramount to declaring American law and jurisprudence the law of every land. In other words, we would be claiming that our laws “speak” everywhere and for everyone, whether you like it or not.

If you are inclined to believe that holding enemy combatants at GITMO directly aids al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts, how do you think the terrorist organization and her adherents will take to our claim that they, and everyone else in the world, are subject to our civil laws? How will the rest of the world view such an arrogant statement? Beyond satisfying some petty political aims, by taking such a misguided step as this the Obama administration is not doing the U.S. any favors, and is likely damaging our interests.

Obama’s Failure Can Be Blamed On Congressional Democrats – “It’s The Economy, Stupid”

There is a lot of analysis going on about Obama’s first year and why, it seems, his job approval numbers are so dismal. And why, given the promise he brought to the White House, at least according to the PR faithfully pushed by his campaign, are Democrats looking at the possibility of large net losses in both houses of Congress?

The first hints of the dissatisfaction of the electorate came in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races where Republicans won – in VA handily. The Democrats claimed their candidate there ran a lack luster campaign and it wasn’t at all a referendum on the Obama administration and the Democratic agenda. But now, the very same thing is happening in Massachusetts with an unknown GOP state legislator giving the Democratic candidate for the “Ted Kennedy” seat, a run for her money (and, in the latest poll, up by 4 points over the Democrat).

Is this too the result of just a lackluster campaign and a poor candidate? Certainly a case can be made for that – except in this case, it is reliably and overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts. It doesn’t work quite as well there as it might in VA. It is beginning to sound like a bit of whistling past the graveyard.

In fact, as with VA, it is a reflection of some deep-seated dissatisfaction with Democrats in Congress and yes, with Obama as well. Charlie Cook nails the problem today in his analysis of why the Democrats are in such deep electoral trouble:

Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.

The latest unemployment and housing numbers underscore the folly of their decision to pay so much attention to health care and climate change instead of focusing on the economy “like a laser beam,” as President Clinton pledged to do during his 1992 campaign. Although no one can fairly accuse Obama and his party’s leaders of ignoring the economy, they certainly haven’t focused on it like a laser beam.

Cook is actually minimizing the problem somewhat. In fact, Obama and his party leaders have given little but lip service to the economy, unemployment and job creation while they’ve spent enormous time on agenda items which mean very little to a country suffering the depth of joblessness and economic hardship now prevalent. Add to that their extremely obnoxious handling of what they have focused on, the blatant partisanship in which they’ve conducted their “business” and the total lack of transparency in that process and you have a pretty toxic picture painted of Democrats in general.

Why, then, did Obama’s promise fail to materialize in his administration – at least in the first year? Well there are many reasons. Among them is a rookie politician (Obama) who got rolled by an experienced Democratic leadership that saw a small and closing window of opportunity to pass huge social welfare agenda items that had repeatedly failed in the past and chose to tackle them while ignoring the obvious elephant in the room. My guess is they miscalculated in more than just the way Cook contends. With their majorities, I’m sure they thought they could quickly put these bills together and pass them, leaving plenty of time to work on the economy. But, of course, given the diversity of opinion and interests even among Democrats, that wasn’t the case. It has dragged into the new year while work on the economy has been essentially non-existent (they threw a $787 billion pork bill out there and called it “stimulus”, figuring their usual panacea – throwing money at a problem – would work. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t).

Voters are mad about that. Rightly or wrongly, they blame the government for what does or doesn’t happen on their watch economically. For the most part, government can best affect the economy by making it easier for markets to expand and create jobs – tax cuts, less regulation, etc. Spending rarely sets up the conditions to do that. But regardless, of what action the government takes, voters expect the economy to be the absolute focus of government in times of economic crisis.

That has not been the case at all with this administration or Congress. And, it appears, they’re going to pay a huge price for that in 2010 and possibly 2012. What was a bright Democratic future less than a year ago has now become a scouting trip for a good place in the “wilderness” for Dems. If, as many economists expect, unemployment remains at 9% through 2012, we may be reading the obligatory columns about the “Death of the Democratic Party”. And while Obama’s personal popularity may remain high (while his job approval numbers tank), that doesn’t mean such perceived economic negligence will be rewarded with a second term.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Pat Robertson, Meet Danny Glover

Fools to the right of us, fools to the left of us, fools continue to volley and thunder.

Tell me again that AGW isn’t becoming a religion. Danny Glover opines on why the devastation in Haiti occurred:

GLOVER: When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?

Oh I know what you’re “sayin’”. And you’re as big a fool as Robertson for saying it. But I wonder if we’ll see this denounced by the White House as quickly as it denounced Robertson’s foolishness.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

By George The Stimulus Worked! We Say So!

Don’t you just love non-falsifiable government claims?

Why here’s one now:

The Obama administration, in its latest progress report on the $787 billion stimulus program, said both the overall economy and employment continued to be in better shape at the end of 2009 than they would have been without the government’s help.

Better shape, hmmm? Wasn’t this the same stimulus which promised it would keep unemployment below 8% if passed? Yet here we are at 10% with no real relief in sight. Wasn’t this the stimulus which was promised to create or save millions of jobs? Even the administration has finally given up making such claims, instead quietly changing the way it makes such determinations and including pay raises and anything even remotely job related on which the money was spent. So when further claims, such as this, are made, they should be taken with a large and skeptical grain of salt:

Though unemployment reached 10 percent at year’s end—two percentage points higher than the peak that the council forecast when the administration proposed the stimulus package to Congress nearly a year ago—the number of jobs was between 1.5 million to 2 million greater in the fourth quarter than it would have been without the recovery plan, the council said.

This is the same council that made the 8% claim and changed the rules for counting “saved and created” jobs. If anything, their claims should be completely disregarded.

This is the stimulus which was claimed to be so necessary to the recovery, yet of the $787 billion signed into law, only $263 billion has been spent. How is that a stimulus? The theory is the government pumps money into the economy as quickly as possible to “stimulate” growth and hiring. Yet this particular bill is structured so that less than half the funds are spent within what most would consider the critical first year? That alone tells you two things about this particular bill:

  1. It had little to do with stimulus and a lot to do with pork. In fact, it appears to be a 100% pork bill despite the President’s claims to the contrary. Just because individual earmarks weren’t in the bill doesn’t mean this bill isn’t a compilation of wasteful spending and pet projects. They were simply written up differently than they normally are. There was never any intention of spending this money to jump start the economy as witnessed by the amount spent in the first year and its lack of effect. It can be credibly claimed, in contravention of the administration’s claim, that it hasn’t done anything to stimulate economic growth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of the spending that has been done or its continuation, but any objective analysis would make the point that $263 billion in a contracting 14 trillion dollar economy is likely to have little effect if any at all. So far the numbers seem to verify that.
  2. Any claims made about the bill’s effect should be viewed very skeptically. In reality, this bill was a spending bill, not a stimulus bill. It was the bill which allowed Democratic legislators (and a good number of Republicans) to spend money on things they’d been unable to get through the body in the past. Again, its structure and the items upon which the money were spent make the argument pretty handily. Its failure to “stimulate” as advertised is precisely why there is talk of a second stimulus. There never was a first.

Whatever recovery has gone on in the economy has been largely a result of factors other than this bill. That includes the positive 3rd quarter GDP numbers they try to trot out as “proof” of the stimulus’s efficacy. Those numbers were driven by the cash for clunkers program, a program outside the stimulus bill, and were largely illusory. They were illusory because it was “growth” driven strictly by government spending, it was temporary growth because it was simply stealing from future sales, and when all the dust settled, that was quite apparent to those who analyzed the results.

What this present claim is all about is message preparation. These claims, which really don’t stand up to scrutiny at all, are being made now for a reason. The president has a State of the Union address coming up soon and needs some “good news” very badly. That’s why these non-falsifiable claims are being tossed out there now. Establishing these claims and repeating them often enough is done in the hope of having them become “conventional wisdom” by the time the SOTU address rolls around. Then when the President makes these claims, an uncritical press will parrot them, establishing them as “fact” for the administration and a part of the narrative that will be repeated in 2012.

That is how the game is played, folks.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!