Free Markets, Free People

Constitution

Honduras – Where Was The World Before The “Coup”?

That’s Glenn Garvin of the Maimi Herald’s question:

For weeks, Zelaya — an erratic leftist who styles himself after his good pal Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — has been engaged in a naked and illegal power grab, trying to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow him to run for reelection in November.

First Zelaya scheduled a national vote on a constitutional convention. After the Honduran supreme court ruled that only the country’s congress could call such an election, Zelaya ordered the army to help him stage it anyway. (It would be ”non-binding,” he said.) When the head of the armed forces, acting on orders from the supreme court, refused, Zelaya fired him, then led a mob to break into a military base where the ballots were stored.

His actions have been repudiated by the country’s supreme court, its congress, its attorney-general, its chief human-rights advocate, all its major churches, its main business association, his own political party (which recently began debating an inquiry into Zelaya’s sanity) and most Hondurans: Recent polls have shown his approval rating down below 30 percent.

In fact, about the only people who didn’t condemn Zelaya’s political gangsterism were the foreign leaders and diplomats who now primly lecture Hondurans about the importance of constitutional law. They’re also strangely silent about the vicious stream of threats against Honduras spewing from Chávez since Zelaya was deposed.

Warning that he’s already put his military on alert, Chávez on Monday flat-out threatened war against Honduras if Roberto Micheletti, named by the country’s congress as interim president until elections in November, takes office.

I think Garvin’s question is a good one. If you have someone who continues to pursue activities which are clearly not constitutional, and instead is doing everything within his power to subvert said constitution, what do you do?

Well perhaps have the military arrest him and throw him out of the country is not the first action which comes to mind, granted. However, in Honduras, unlike here, the military does have a law enforcement function. That may not be ideal (because of exactly the perception it leaves) but that’s the case. Perhaps, in retrospect, the best thing that could have been done is have civilian law enforcement arrest Zelaya, keep him in the country and put him on trial. Bottom line – it seems his removal was justified based on his actions.

What the world seems to be objecting too most is the method of his removal while ignoring the reasons.

And then, as Garvin points out, we have the thug in Venezuela threatening Honduras while everyone remains silent:

”If they swear him in we’ll overthrow him,” Chávez blustered. “Mark my words. Thugetti — as I’m going to refer to him from now on — you better pack your bags, because you’re either going to jail or you’re going into exile.”

No one denouncing the coup seems to be bothered by Chavez’s threats. In fact, it could be argued that the reaction of the US has green-lighted Chavez and his followers to intervene in some way, to include militarily. Not that Chavez or the Venezuelan military are competent enough to actually do that, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me now if they tried.

Zelaya was trying to follow Chavez’s template and somehow manage a constitutional change to a permanent presidency through bypassing the constitutionally mandated process and claiming a popular mandate instead. Even his own party didn’t support his attempt and the congress, dominated by that party, passed a law making what Zelaya was attempting illegal. Zelaya attempted it anyway, making what Zelaya was doing a criminal offense.  The Supreme Court of Honduras ruled against Zelaya.  The Attorney General apparently enforced the law.

Here, we’d call that the “checks and balances” working.  There, the result is apparently a “coup”.

The point? In reality, this is not at all a cut-and-dried “military coup” as it is being portrayed. It wasn’t a disgruntled group of military officers who decided to take the law into their own hands and to change the government because they don’t like the form or direction in which it was heading. Instead a rather broad based coalition of politicians, to include those in his party, and other institutions such as the congress (legislative branch) and Supreme Court (judicial branch), found his criminal behavior to be unacceptable and decided to take what they considered to be legal action to prevent a rogue politician from any further attempts at violating the law.

They removed him from office.

And, unlike its reaction to the brutality on display in Iran, the world had an immediate knee-jerk fit.

We now have Venezuela threatening Honduras without a peep from the OAS or the US. We have the OAS now giving Honduras 3 days to reinstall Zelaya or else (what the “else” is is anyone’s guess). We have the president of Argentina sticking her nose into the affair. And we have the showdown tomorrow as Zelaya, in the company of the UN, OAS and Argentine president, reentering Honduras in a bid to retake office. Honduras has said Zelaya will be arrested if he reenters.

Why was there such a rush on the part of the US to denounce this? If sitting back for 10 days and assessing the situation in Iran before speaking was such a good idea as the administration claims, why wasn’t the same true in Honduras? As the facts come out, it seems that it isn’t what it is being characterized as.

If all of the world’s concern is focused on the “democratic process”, where was that concern last week as the now ex leader of Honduras tried to subvert the constitution and claim a mandate by means it prohibited?

Nowhere to be heard. The world was quite content, it seems, to let another declared leftist permanently install himself as a virtual dictator in a Latin American country. But let that country try to enforce it’s constitution, and all hell breaks loose.

~McQ

Sotomayor Overturned? (Update)

From Twitter a minute ago:

NYT NEWS ALERT: Supreme Court Rules for White Firefighters in Affirmative Action Case

This could give new legs to the opposition of Sotomayor’s nomination.

Again, developing …

UPDATE:  The Washington Post confirms.

New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide, potentially limiting the circumstances in which employers can be held liable for decisions when there is no evidence of intentional discrimination against minorities.

I’d say that’s a fairly significant ruling and certainly the opposite of what Sotomayor held. Of course, if Sotomayor was on the court right now (and hadn’t had to recuse herself for hearing the case in a lower court) she wouldn’t have made any difference since David Souter, the justice she’s slated to replace, voted in the minority.

More here.

~McQ

Honduras

It seems what has happened in Honduras is being characterized by most as a “military coup”. However Fausta, who has been following it all very closely, seems not to be sure that is the case. Instead she and some others are characterizing it as the military enforcing the orders of the Supreme Court and Congress.

Not being a Honduran constitutional expert or even really knowing whether that is legally permissible under their constitution, I’ll leave it to others to decide what the action really is. However, from Fausta, some background info that will get you into the picture. It is all about a referendum which President Manuel Zelaya wanted to hold concerning his term in office which is constitutionally limited to one term. Zelaya wanted to be able to serve another and decided a referendum would do to make that happen. The Supreme Court of Honduras declared such a referendum illegal. Zelaya essentially told them to pound sand (a very Jacksonian reaction):

Background on the referendum, which Zelaya insisted on in spite of it having been declared unlawful:

* When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest.

* Yesterday the Supreme Court ordered by a 5-0 vote that Vásquez be reinstated.

* Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered authorities to pick up all the ballots and electoral material, which were held by the country’s air force.

* The country’s Attorney General requested yesterday that Congress oust Zelaya.

* The courts have declared the referendum unlawful. Last Tuesday the Congress passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections. Congress has also named a commission to investigate Zelaya.

This is the first coup in Honduras since 1982 when a democratically elected civilian government came to power .

So the question remains, was the military acting on its own or under the orders of some other constitutional body that had the legal right to order the removal of the president? It may turn out that both sides acted unconstitutionally and illegally. However it should be noted that the Honduran Attorney General had weighed in on the situation:

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out.

So it is conceivable that the military was acting under the AG’s orders.

What Zelaya was trying to bypass is this provision in the Honduran Constitution:

Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions.

Apparently, at the moment, all is calm and quiet in Honduras. The Congress has accepted a “letter of resignation” from Zelaya which Zelaya (who is in Costa Rica) says he didn’t write. The Congress has also voted to make their head the new president.

Reaction has been swift and negative. The OAS said it would refuse to recognize the new government. President Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on Hondurans “to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter”, whatever that means.

It certainly seems that at least one party was trying to circumvent the “rule of law” in this case. Whether the others who removed him were remains to be seen. But the Obama administration is sticking by its one-note foreign policy song:

“We think this can be resolved through dialogue,” said the senior administration official.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez, with all his new Russian military equipment is rattling sabers in Venezuela as he sees a part of his Bolivarian Socialist revolution go astray. Of course the first knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the US. In fact the Obama administration claims to have tried to stop the “coup” when it learned about it (some might see that as “meddling” in the “internal affairs of another country”).

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, blamed “the Yankee empire”, and threatened military action should the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras be attacked; President Evo Morales of Bolivia described Mr Zelaya’s removal as “an assault on democracy”.

Of course both Chavez and Morales have stagemanaged similar assaults on their own Constitutions and managed to pull them off to their advantage.

As Drudge would say – developing …

~McQ

George W. Obama

What were the charges?

Expanded executive power. Trampled on rights. Ruled by executive order. Creeping authoritarianism.

Does that about cover most of what the left tried to hang on the Bush presidency? And who was the answer to all those problems?

Well feast your eyes:

The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, is drafting an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

So it was never about principle, was it? It was always about politics.

Hope and change.

~McQ

[HT: tkc]

TARP, Winners and Losers and the Constitution

So far my favorite (yes I’m being sarcastic here) government program to date has been the “clunkers for dollars” scam. We’re suffering from overspending and over-extended credit and the government puts together a program in which it tries to entice people with old, but probably paid off cars to go into debt for a new one by giving them $4,500 dollars of your money to buy a more fuel efficient model.

Brilliant.

But I have to say, this one is also a great (sarcasm again) program as well:

It can be difficult to keep straight all the billions going to auto companies. But today the Department of Energy is reportedly set to announce that it will begin doling out sums from a $25 billion loan program for the development of fuel-efficient cars. The money comes from a bill passed last September and signed by President Bush and is totally separate from the TARP.

Among the first recipients are Ford, Nissan and Tesla, the small electric car company. The amounts will be announced today, but Ford has requested $5 billion. Nissan is getting the money to build a battery-electric car in its Tennessee plant.

A few points – one, does anyone hear the public clamoring for electric cars out there? They may be, but I’ve sure missed it. Why in the world is my money going to these companies to build something I’m not asking for and really don’t want – especially given the stage the technology is in right now. Yup, its government picking winners and losers again and we know how that seems to always turn out.

Two – although I’m completely against this, it is obvious it is going to happen, so I have to ask, why are we subsidizing a foreign auto maker with my money?

Three – and I know this is a completely silly question, but would some Constitutional scholar out there point me to the part of said document that makes this all kosher?

Thanks.

~McQ

U.S. Spurns Aid To California. Really?

In one of those “make sure you read the whole article” stories in the Washington Post, it begins like this:

The Obama administration has turned back pleas for emergency aid from one of the biggest remaining threats to the economy — the state of California.

Top state officials have gone hat in hand to the administration, armed with dire warnings of a fast-approaching “fiscal meltdown” caused by a budget shortfall. Concern has grown inside the White House in recent weeks as California’s fiscal condition has worsened, leading to high-level administration meetings. But federal officials are worried that a bailout of California would set off a cascade of demands from other states.

If you read no further than that, you’d probably think, “thank goodness, a modicum of sanity has returned to the federal government”. It is California’s mess and California, along with the other states, need to learn a hard but necessary fiscal lesson here.

But, while perfectly correct in your assessment, you’d be wrong to think that the present rejection is final. Buried a few paragraphs down is this:

These policymakers continue to watch the situation closely and do not rule out helping the state if its condition significantly deteriorates, a senior administration official said. But in that case, federal help would carry conditions to protect taxpayers and make similar requests for aid unattractive to other states, the official said. The official did not detail those conditions.

I’m sure he or she didn’t. This is another Geithner plan based in the premise that California is “too big to fail” – the 8th biggest economy in the world and its failure would slow down the economic recovery of the US.

Given that inclination on the part of Geithner, it would appear that nothing has been learned from the Chrysler and GM bailouts, failure and eventual bankruptcies. Granted, California’s “failure” would be quite a bit larger than those two, but haven’t we yet learned that propping up a unsustainable business or government model just doesn’t work?

While it may be painful for both California and the US, nothing changes in California unless massive cuts and changes are made in that government. And, as has been evident to even the most tuned out of constituents, the California government model has been unsustainable for over a decade.

Naturally, California wants to characterize their plight in the way that will appeal the most to the emotions:

“After June 15th, every day of inaction jeopardizes our state’s solvency and our ability to pay schools and teachers and to keep hospitals and ERs open,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said Friday.

But the hard fact remains that the solvency of all those institutions are in jeopardy with or without a bailout. We’re simply talking about how long we want to extend the problem not how to solve it. Solutions mean massive cuts in government spending and resultant reductions in government services. Or said another way, California is finally going to have to live within its means or fail.

That’s not a condition the rest of the taxpayers in this country brought about, and it certainly isn’t one they should be on the hook to “bailout”. And that goes for every other state in that condition as well (see the article and its mention of how Treasury is thinking about doing something with auto suppliers in Michigan – is that the job of Treasury).

~McQ

Miranda Warnings In The Battlefield?

This simply can’t be right, can it? That the Obama administration secretly directed the military to Mirandize combatants and terrorists when captured? Surely this is just crazy talk:

… the Obama Justice Department has quietly ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high value detainees captured and held at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, according a senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “The administration has decided to change the focus to law enforcement. Here’s the problem. You have foreign fighters who are targeting US troops today – foreign fighters who go to another country to kill Americans. We capture them…and they’re reading them their rights – Mirandizing these foreign fighters,” says Representative Mike Rogers, who recently met with military, intelligence and law enforcement officials on a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan.

Rogers, a former FBI special agent and U.S. Army officer, says the Obama administration has not briefed Congress on the new policy. “I was a little surprised to find it taking place when I showed up because we hadn’t been briefed on it, I didn’t know about it. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of it, but it is clearly a part of this new global justice initiative.”

Ever since the Boumediene decision I’ve been warning that we’re turning legitimate military actions into law enforcement nightmares. No matter how badly we may want to achieve a world where transparency and the rule of law are the basis for all government action, the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of people out there who want to see the US destroyed regardless of the cost to themselves or their families. If we start dealing with these people as if they were common criminals, then we erode the very fabric that binds us as a nation. No longer does the word “jurisdiction” mean anything. Instead, we hand our enemies the keys to the castle.

Consider the following:

A lawyer who has worked on detainee issues for the U.S. government offers this rationale for the Obama administration’s approach. “If the US is mirandizing certain suspects in Afghanistan, they’re likely doing it to ensure that the treatment of the suspect and the collection of information is done in a manner that will ensure the suspect can be prosecuted in a US court at some point in the future.”

But Republicans on Capitol Hill are not happy. “When they mirandize a suspect, the first thing they do is warn them that they have the ‘right to remain silent,’” says Representative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “It would seem the last thing we want is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other al-Qaeda terrorist to remain silent. Our focus should be on preventing the next attack, not giving radical jihadists a new tactic to resist interrogation–lawyering up.”

According to Mike Rogers, that is precisely what some human rights organizations are advising detainees to do. “The International Red Cross, when they go into these detention facilities, has now started telling people – ‘Take the option. You want a lawyer.’”

Rogers adds: “The problem is you take that guy at three in the morning off of a compound right outside of Kabul where he’s building bomb materials to kill US soldiers, and read him his rights by four, and the Red Cross is saying take the lawyer – you have now created quite a confusion amongst the FBI, the CIA and the United States military. And confusion is the last thing you want in a combat zone.”

Prosecution of any war, regardless of what your betters may think, is absolutely impossible in a law enforcement setting. Imagine having to “arrest” enemy soldiers instead of shooting them on sight. Or worse, think about the complications involved when a soldier shoots anyone, as compared to when a policeman is involved in a shooting. How would it work to take custody or extract intelligence from any enemy soldier if our soldiers have to apply mercurial Supreme Court precedent to each situation before risking their lives? Any cop will tell you that it’s hard enough keeping up with the norms as laid down by the high court (and interpreted by the administrators) in order to simply arrest common criminals. The idea that soldiers in the field of battle have the time or ability to “arrest” terrorists and the like, in places where English is not likely to be a common language (N.B. does that mean the military will be required to provide interpreters before apprehending anyone?) is simply ludicrous.

War is not pretty, and anyone who pretends to make it so is simply a fool. Ugly, unmentionable, outrageous and despicable things happen in war, as they do in any struggle for life. Creating an imaginary world in which there are breaks for tea and the enemy plays by the same (or any) rules is how the British lost North America. Subjecting ourselves to the vagaries or our enemy’s backwardness, by ignoring their complete denial of our moral superiority, will only serve to hasten our defeat.

For the foregoing reasons, I have to assume that Stephen Hayes is on the wrong end of some very bad information. As much as I may disagree with the Obama administration on a great many things, I have a hard time believing that they could be this naive and unconcerned about the future of our country that they would grant unprecedented gratuity to those who most wish us ill. The policies are most certainly wrong, but they can’t possibly be this misguided.

“Health Care Reform” Update (Updated)

A few new developments, none of them good.

One – Obama has indicated his willingness to entertain legislation that would tax your private health care benefits. What that means is you’ll be taxed on the money your employer spends on your health care insurance. Of course the obvious immediate effect would be to raise revenue to pay for the public portion of his health care plan.

Two – Obama has decided that making insurance mandatory may not be such a bad idea. This is 180 degree change from candidate Obama who attempted to hide his statist tendencies by pretending that he wouldn’t require mandatory insurance for Americans.

Threein a letter to Democratic senators:

He told Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) that their legislation must include a government-run insurance option that would compete against the private sector. He also reaffirmed his support for a Massachusetts-style insurance exchange.

What do you suppose will happen if government-run insurance is an option for all? Depending on how it is structured (if, for instance, if it is a universal pool), we could see massive dumping of private insurance by businesses pointing their employees to the government option.

Four:

[I]mbuing a federal panel with the power to make Medicare payment recommendations that Congress must either accept or reject in their entirety.

Obama likens this proposal, based on the current Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, to the way military base closure decisions are made. To Republicans, however, the notion smacks of the kind of “rationing” dictated by government-run healthcare programs in Europe and Canada.

Ezra Klein explains the “federal panel’s” proposed role:

The health system changes too quickly for Congress to address through massive, infrequent, efforts at total reform. New technologies and new care structures create new problems. A health care reform package signed in 2009 might miss some real deficiencies, or real opportunities, that present themselves in 2012. A health reform process that recognizes that fact is a health reform process that is continual, rather than episodic.

But the reason health reform is so infrequent is that it’s structurally difficult. Small tweaks are too technically complex for Congress to easily conduct and so are dominated by lobbyists. Large reforms attract broad interest but are impeded by polarization and the threat of the filibuster. The MedPAC changes under discussion are, in other words, nothing less than a new process for health care cost reforms. They empower experts who won’t be intimidated by the intricacy of the issues and sidestep the filibuster’s ability to halt change in its tracks.

In other words health care decisions that will directly effect you will be in the hands of an unelected and unaccountable panel of bureaucrats just as all the critics of this sort have program have been claiming since the beginning of the debate.

The effect?

MedPAC, of course, is restricted to Medicare. But there’s little doubt that where Medicare leads, the health care industry follows. Private insurers frequently set their prices in relation to Medicare’s payment rates. Hospitals are sufficiently dependent on Medicare that a reform instituted by the entitlement program becomes a de facto change for the whole institution, and thus all patients. A process that empowers Medicare to aggressively and fluidly reform itself would end up dramatically changing the face of American health care in general.

Klein is exactly right, but most likely not for the reasons he thinks he is. The level of care, innovation and incentive will follow the decline in prices driven by MedPAC. What the nation needs is insurance reform, not “health care reform”. And while that is how the proponents of this try to spin the issue as just that, MedPAC’s existence and proposed expanded role argues persuasively against that spin.

Watch carefully – the Democrats are going to try to move this quickly and with little debate.

UPDATE: Apparently the letter from Obama I spoke about above also had another effect:

President Obama’s letter to Senate lawmakers yesterday saying a healthcare package must include a public option may have stalled progress on a bipartisan deal, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said Thursday.

Gregg said that the president’s letter, which said a public option should be included in the legislation, stalled “significant progress” in negotiations.

“We were making great progress up until yesterday, in my opinion,” Gregg said during an interview on CNBC. “There’s a working group under Sen. Baucus that involves senior Republican and Senate senior members who are involved in the healthcare debate, and we were, I thought, making some fairly significant progress.”

The most discouraging thing about this update is the fact that Republicans, who are claiming government is too big and we’re spending too much are knee deep in negotiating more government and more spending (i.e. selling out – again) having apparently swallowed the Democratic premise that this is necessary whole.

~McQ

Quote of the Day

Guess who is outdoing the avowed Socialists? And they’re jealous:

“Hey, Obama has just nationalized nothing more and nothing less than General Motors. Comrade Obama!” [Hugo] Chavez cheered on Venezuelan TV Tuesday. He gushingly added that he and Cuba’s Fidel Castro would now have to work harder just to keep up.

A real point of pride, huh?

~McQ

Policy Maker or Neutral Legal Umpire?

Which of those descriptions in the title would best describe your understanding of a Supreme Court Justice?

If you wonder what President Obama wants in a Supreme Court Justice, take a look at this excerpt from his speech explaining why he couldn’t vote for Justice Roberts.

He’s describing that 95% of the cases before the court will find all justices coming to the same conclusions. However, it is the 5% that concerned Obama and determined his inability to vote for Roberts. Here’s what he said:

In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

In those 5% of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country, or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions, or whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled — in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.

“Empathy” and “heart” do not equal “rule of law”.

Thomas Sowell distills the essence of the argument against Obama’s assertion:

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that he “loathed” many of the people in whose favor he voted on the Supreme Court. Obviously, he had feelings. But he also had the good sense and integrity to rule on the basis of the law, not his feelings.

Laws are made for the benefit of the citizens, not for the self-indulgences of judges. Making excuses for such self-indulgences and calling them “inevitable” is part of the cleverness that has eroded the rule of law and undermined respect for the law.

[…]

It would be considered a disgrace if an umpire in a baseball game let his “empathy” determine whether a pitch was called a ball or strike. Surely we should accept nothing less from a judge.

And that is reason enough why all of his nominees should be subjected to rigorous examination that requires them to explain their judicial philosophies in light of the president’s stated desires.

~McQ