Free Markets, Free People

Michael Wade

Cap-and-Trade Bill: The Home Invasion

One of the single most important reasons we’ve been railing against the push for universal health care around here is because, at bottom, it will result in a massive loss of individual freedom. Aside from the physicians who will be treated like slaves (the only possibility if their services are considered a “right”), government will have every reason to control how we live our lives since, after all, if its paying for our health care then it has a vested interest in how we live our lives. Too much sugar, Tylenol or cigarettes? Well you’ll just have to quit or pay heavy fines or even go without health care altogether. Indeed, this is how virtually all bureaucracy works — i.e. once the state has responsibility for some part of your life, it starts taking over greater and greater portions thereof. As it turns out, cap-and-trade will be no different:

Let me introduce you to a little section of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill called the “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program”. It’s section 304 [ed. – It’s actually Section 204] of the bill and it says, basically, that your house belongs to the state. See, the Federal Government really wants a country full of energy-efficient homes, so much so that the bill mandates that new homes be 30 percent more energy efficient than the current building code on the very day the law is signed. That efficiency goes up to 50 percent by 2014 and only goes higher from there, all the way to 2030. That, by the way, is not merely a target but a requirement of the law. New homes must reach those efficiency targets no matter what.

But what does that have to do with current homeowners like you? Well, I’m glad you asked. You’re certainly not off the hook, no way, no how. Here’s what the Democrats have planned for you. The program requires that states label their buildings so that we can all know how efficient every building (that includes residential and non-residential buildings) is and it requires that the information be made public.

First, a couple of corrections: (1) The “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program” is in Section 204 of the bill; (2) Section 304 of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (42 U.S.C. 6833) is amended by Section 201 of this bill to mandate the efficiency standards set forth above.

Taking these in order, the labeling program essentially coerces the states into adopting the federal standards set forth in the bill for identifying and reporting the energy efficiency of each structure, whether residential or commercial. Essentially this means that Uncle Sam will get all the information it wants about your energy use in the home by strong-arming the states into gathering it for them.

That’s bad enough, but it’s the amendment to Section 304 of the Energy Conservation and Production Act that really inserts the feds into your life. That’s where the efficiency mandates are laid out in Congress’ attempt to create a national building code:

(c) State Adoption of Energy Efficiency Building Codes-

‘(1) REQUIREMENT- Not later than 1 year after a national energy efficiency building code for residential or commercial buildings is established or revised under subsection (b), each State–

‘(A) shall–

‘(i) review and update the provisions of its building code regarding energy efficiency to meet or exceed the target met in the new national code, to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings;

‘(ii) document, where local governments establish building codes, that local governments representing not less than 80 percent of the State’s urban population have adopted the new national code, or have adopted local codes that meet or exceed the target met in the new national code to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings; or

‘(iii) adopt the new national code; and

‘(B) shall provide a certification to the Secretary demonstrating that energy efficiency building code provisions that apply throughout the State meet or exceed the target met by the new national code, to achieve equivalent or greater energy savings.

If states or localities fail to adopt measures implementing or exceeding the efficiency standards promulgated under this bill, then the federal standards simply become the law of that land:

(d) Application of National Code to State and Local Jurisdictions-

‘(1) IN GENERAL- Upon the expiration of 1 year after a national energy efficiency building code is established under subsection (b), in any jurisdiction where the State has not had a certification relating to that code accepted by the Secretary under subsection (c)(2)(B), and the local government has not had a certification relating to that code accepted by the Secretary under subsection (e)(6)(B), the national code shall become the applicable energy efficiency building code for such jurisdiction.

This is a massive arrogation of power to the federal government, and an intolerable invasion of individual property rights. In order to avoid a fairly blatant exercise of unconstitutional authority, the bill essentially denies federal funds to states that do not comply. However, it also leaves wide open just how compliance will be enforced:

‘(f) Federal Enforcement- Where a State fails and local governments in that State also fail to enforce the applicable State or national energy efficiency building codes, the Secretary shall enforce such codes, as follows:

‘(1) The Secretary shall establish, by rule, within 2 years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, an energy efficiency building code enforcement capability.

‘(2) Such enforcement capability shall be designed to achieve 90 percent compliance with such code in any State within 1 year after the date of the Secretary’s determination that such State is out of compliance with this section.

‘(3) The Secretary may set and collect reasonable inspection fees to cover the costs of inspections required for such enforcement. Revenue from fees collected shall be available to the Secretary to carry out the requirements of this section upon appropriation.

‘(g) Enforcement Procedures- (1) The Secretary shall assess a civil penalty for violations of this section, pursuant to subsection (d)(3), in accordance with the procedures described in section 333(d) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6303). The United States district courts shall also have jurisdiction to restrain any violation of this section or rules adopted thereunder, in accordance with the procedures described in section 334 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6304).‘(2) Each day of unlawful occupancy shall be considered a separate violation.‘(3) In the event a building constructed out of compliance with the applicable code has been conveyed by a knowing builder or knowing seller to an unknowing purchaser, the builder or seller shall be the violator. The Secretary shall propose and, not later than three years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, shall determine and adopt by rule what shall constitute violations of the energy efficiency building codes to be enforced pursuant to this section, and the penalties that shall apply to violators. To the extent that the Secretary determines that the authority to adopt and impose such violations and penalties by rule requires further statutory authority, the Secretary shall report such determination to Congress as soon as such determination is made, but not later than one year after the enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

Subsection g above appears to empower the Secretary to assess civil penalties against individuals for noncompliance. I say “appears” because the italicized portion does not actually show up when you view the bill, only when you cut and paste it as I’ve done here (I never considered the idea that “transparency” in law-making meant “making the law transparent”). Of course, even without that italicized section, it’s pretty easy to see where this is going. If your home isn’t as efficient as the federal government wants it to be, then you will probably be facing some sort of civil penalty. How that could possibly be constitutional I have no idea.

In addition to the outrageous invasion of our homes represented by this bill, the mandates set forth are sure to drive up the costs of new homes in ways that will probably make them unaffordable for a great many people. For example, I would guess that if homes are to be 30% more efficient in just a few years, then they will likely be roughly 30% more expensive. It may be less, it may be more, but either way those prices are going up. That’s not exactly the best prescription for an ailing home market.

The bottom line of all this is that you had better be sure to tidy up your home because the federal government is coming to stay awhile and it’s bringing an awful lot of demands with it. It’s going to make having your mother-in-law over for a spell seem like a Bahamian resort vacation.

Rep. Waxman: Against the President = Traitor

Funny how the same people who threw hissy fits when challenged on actually rooting for the War in Iraq to fail, now find it perfectly acceptable to question anyone’s patriotism who doesn’t step in line with a hearty “Jawohl!” Well, more sad than funny really:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has had an eventful couple of weeks to say the least, believes House Republican opposition to climate change legislation and the stimulus indicates they’re cheering against the good ol’ US of A.

“It appears that the Republican Party leadership in the Congress has made a decision that they want to deny President Obama success, which means, in my mind, they are rooting against the country, as well,” the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told WAMU radio host Diane Rehm on Tuesday morning, promoting his new book, “The Waxman Report.”

Just to be clear, opposition to the President’s agenda means that you also oppose America, according to Waxman. Doesn’t that mean that Waxman and most of the rest of his Democratic allies, including our current President, were “against America” for not supporting Bush’s agenda?

Ah well. That was a different time, I guess. Things are so completely different now that questioning one’s patriotism is absolutely justified. At least that’s what Steve Benen seems to think:

This sounds like intemperate rhetoric, but under the circumstances, it’s hardly over the top.

It’s not immediately clear what “circumstances” we’re under that render such accusations perfectly acceptable to Benen, but one can’t help but recall Obama’s famous call to bi-partisanship: “I won.”

Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

When it comes to economics, the Pope should stick to poping. While it’s not uncommon for the papacy to issue decrees and opinions vaguely in line with common socialist principles (e.g. love thy neighbor, etc.), it is somewhat rare for the Pope to outright call for one-world government:

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.”

He also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.

I wonder what happened to leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Or how about that whole concept of “free will”; you know the very basis and foundation of our religious “faith” (which, of course, can only come from choice and not from force)? That seems to be under indictment with Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical.

Leaving aside world governance for the moment, the Pope really goes off the rails when he gets into economic policy. For example, at one point he decries “globalization” and “outsourcing” as little more than the rich preying on the poor:

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

But he also wrote that “The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favor of the shareholders.”

In short, managers should run their companies for the benefit of those who whine about the common good rather than for those who actually paid for the company (i.e. the shareholders). I’m guessing this is the “squeaky wheel” part of the sermon.

Yet, while outsourcing is deemed “bad”, the Pope also laments that poor countries aren’t better taken care of by richer ones. Towards that end

Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so that there could be a unified “global political body” that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” he wrote.

Except for the fact that “development aid” is not wealth. Wealth is created through productivity, not handouts. Indeed, the surest and simplest way to aid development in poor countries to give them jobs … a.k.a “outsourcing.” Doesn’t that whole give a man a fish/teach a man to fish thing ring any bells, your Holiness? Moreover, the more things like outsourcing happen, then the greater wealth there is in the world, and the more work/wealth/happiness there is for everyone to enjoy. Again, I’m pretty sure that was something about loaves and fishes in the Bible that would help illustrate this point.

So much for Papal infallibility.

Just to be clear, I say all of this as a practicing Catholic who is raising his own children in the same tradition. I have great respect for the Pontif when it comes to matters of the spirit. I just wish he’d leave the day-to-day management to the rest of us.

Honduras: Will the Rule of Law Prevail?

Watching the events unfold in Central America over the past week has been an infuriating and dismaying exercise. Too many people, either sadly uninformed or maliciously misinforming, have referred to the ouster of Mel Zelaya by the unified government of Honduras as a “military coup” and an illegal transfer of power. Not only are such castigations dead wrong, they are made without any justification and completely against the actual Honduran Constitution.

Hello, Triple A?  I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country.  Can you help?

Hello, Locks-R-Us? I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country. Can you help?


To understand just how far off base these accusations of illegality are, ask yourself what law is alleged to have been broken. Has anyone cited an actual provision of the Constitution or a statute that’s been violated? Of course not, because there is none. In fact, if any of those who have been so quick to condemn the Honduran government had actually done just a smidgeon of research, they would have found the ouster of Zelaya to be self-perpetuated and entirely within the rule of law.

To wit, here is Title II, Chapter 4, Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, first in Spanish:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República.

El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez (10) años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

And in English#:

Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.

Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.

The plain text of Article 239 quite clearly states that Zelaya, through his own actions, ended his presidency. By seeking to hold a referendum on whether Hondurans should consider changing the term-limits portion of the Constitution, Zelaya’s official duties were ended “immediately” and he was further barred from participating in public office for a period of ten years. Period, the end.

Some may try to argue that Zelaya did not receive any due process in his ouster, but that argument must fail. Even under U.S. jurisprudence, due process is simply all the process that is due. In this case, once Zelaya was determined to have violated the term-limits provision of Article 239 by proposing its reform, which Zelaya has basically admitted and which the Honduran Supreme Court derivatively found, then he received his due process. Despite the decisions against him, Zelaya decided to go ahead with his illegal referendum, gathered a mob together, and invaded the military compound where the (Venezuelan-created) ballot boxes were being kept. He fully intended to hold the referendum on Sunday June 28th had he not been stopped.

These, among other actions, were what led the Congress to pursue impeachment, the Attorney General to issue an arrest warrant on Saturday June 25, 2009, and the Supreme Court to issue its own arrest warrant on Sunday resulting in Zelaya’s removal from the country:

Honduras’s military acted under judicial orders in deposing President Manuel Zelaya, Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz said, rejecting the view of President Barack Obama and other leaders that he was toppled in a coup.

“The only thing the armed forces did was carry out an arrest order,” Cruz, 55, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tegucigalpa. “There’s no doubt he was preparing his own coup by conspiring to shut down the congress and courts.”

Cruz said the court issued a sealed arrest order for Zelaya on June 26, charging him with treason and abuse of power, among other offenses. Zelaya had repeatedly breached the constitution by pushing ahead with a vote about rewriting the nation’s charter that the court ruled illegal, and which opponents contend would have paved the way for a prohibited second term.

[…]

The arrest order she cited, approved unanimously by the court’s 15 justices, was released this afternoon along with documents pertaining to a secret investigation that went on for weeks under the high court’s supervision.

[…]

Cruz said the military decided to shuttle Zelaya out of the country for his safety and that of other Hondurans because riots would’ve erupted had he been held for trial.

“If he had been allowed to stay in the country, there would’ve been blood on the streets,” she said.

To recap, Zelaya violated Art. 239 by proposing and then attempting to hold a referendum to change his term limits, which referendum was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and the Congress, and then he tried to go ahead with it anyway. In the meantime, aside from the secret, court-approved investigation going on for some time behind the scenes, the Attorney General and the Congress sought Zelaya’s impeachment, and the Supreme Court and the Attorney General each issued arrest warrants when Zelaya pressed ahead with his illegal referendum. The military responded to the court-ordered arrest and took Zelaya into custody on June 28th.

But what about the deportation to Costa Rica? Surely that was an illegal action? Heck, even a top Honduran military official is saying so:

The military officers who rushed deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya out of the country Sunday committed a crime but will be exonerated for saving the country from mob violence, the army’s top lawyer said.

In an interview with The Miami Herald and El Salvador’s elfaro.net, army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza acknowledged that top military brass made the call to forcibly remove Zelaya — and they circumvented laws when they did it.

It was the first time any participant in Sunday’s overthrow admitted committing an offense and the first time a Honduran authority revealed who made the decision that has been denounced worldwide.

”We know there was a crime there,” said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. “In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.”

Of course, it wasn’t the first time anyone took credit for the decision (the Supreme Court has been saying for days that it order Zelaya’s capture), and Inestroza also declares that whatever “crime” may have been committed against Zelaya would be absolved anyway:

“What was more beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras or present him to prosecutors and have a mob assault and burn and destroy and for us to have to shoot?” he said. “If we had left him here, right now we would be burying a pile of people.”

This week, Deputy Attorney General Roy David Urtecho told reporters that he launched an investigation into why Zelaya was removed by force instead of taken to court. Article 24 of Honduras’ penal code will exonerate the joint chiefs of staff who made the decision, because it allows for making tough decisions based on the good of the state, Inestroza said.

Another provision to keep in mind is Title II, Chapter 3, Article 42:

Article 42: The legal rights of any citizen is lost:

5) If the citizen incites, promotes, or supports the continuance or the re-election of the President of the Republic;

Accordingly, not only has Zelaya lost his ability to continue in office through his own actions, he has also lost his rights as a citizen, among those which would presumably be the right to remain in the country. In the end, that all spells a one-way ticket to anywhere but Honduras for the would-be Chavista dictator. Moreover, Zelaya should be very thankful that he wasn’t ousted in the old-fashioned way which was much more permanent and painful.

The only question remaining is, why would our President, as leader of a country founded on the rule of law over the rule of men, opt to side with flouter of constitutional democracy instead of the leaders who took great pains to ensure that the country’s constitution was adhered to? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that there are no good answers to that question, and that our President is helping to precipitate a major crisis in Central America. Was this the change we were hoping for?

[General HT to Fausta for many of the above links]
________________________________________
# I’ve checked the translation against some Spanish to English translators and it appears to be essentially correct to me. Any suggested changes are welcome.

Welcome To One-Party Rule (Updated)

It’s now official: only one party has the reins to power in Washington, DC:

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled Al Franken the winner of last November’s Senate race, putting the former “Saturday Night Live” star on the brink of becoming a United States senator and Democrats on the cusp of holding a dominant 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the court upheld a three-judge panel’s April 14 ruling that Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the race by 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The 32-page was remarkably decisive, picking apart and rejecting one Coleman legal claim after another.

[…]

If Franken is seated, Democrats would hold a 60-40 majority in the Senate, the largest the party has enjoyed in a generation. Sixty votes are needed to break filibusters, ensuring that if Democrats stay united they would be able to cleave the GOP’s last lever of power in Washington. A Franken “yes” vote on health reform, climate change legislation and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) even more of a margin for error on these major votes.

Democrats were already celebrating the result.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty already stated that he would sign the election certificate for Franken if directed to do so by the Supreme Court, so this is pretty much a done deal. Coleman has not indicated whether he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Minnesota Republican Party doesn’t seem to sanguine about pushing further:

Even Minnestoa Republicans – highly disappointed by the ruling – weren’t ready to call for a federal legal challenge.

The Minnesota Republican Party issued a strongly worded statement, saying the ruling “wrongly disenfranchised thousands of Minnesotans who deserve to have their votes counted.”

But the chairman-elect of the party, Tony Sutton, made no mention of next steps, only saying, “As we move forward, our deeply flawed election system must be dramatically improved to ensure our state’s elections are fair, accurate and reliable.”

Assuming that Coleman doesn’t seek cert., or if he does that no stay of the decision is put into place, then Franken will be seated as early as next week. With a vetofilibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Democrats won’t need to play parliamentary games like using reconciliation bills, or the like, and instead will simply shove legislation down the throats of the minority. So get ready for cap-and-trade, government health care, huge tax increases, and a host of other government programs that don’t need and can’t pay for.

The only downside for Democrats is that they can’t credibly blame the fiscal and economic woes on Bush anymore as they will have cornered the political market. I say “credibly” because they will continue to do so, and the media mostly won’t call them on it, but such claims will be laughably false. The real question is, how and when will this come back to haunt them?

UPDATE: Coleman concedes.

Podcast for 28 Jun 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situations in Honduras and Iran, and the cap-and-trade energy bill.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

“There’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats” (Updated)

There have probably been moments where I’ve been more disgusted with my country’s leadership, but I’m having great difficulty bringing them to mind. Somehow, having repressive and murderous regimes over for lunch clouds my memory of indiscretions gone by:

The United States said Monday its invitations were still standing for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 celebrations at US embassies despite the crackdown on opposition supporters.

President Barack Obama’s administration said earlier this month it would invite Iran to US embassy barbecues for the national holiday for the first time since the two nations severed relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“There’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

“We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran,” Kelly said. “We tried many years of isolation, and we’re pursuing a different path now.”

The only thing I can think to say is, how dare you?

How dare the representatives of a country founded on freedom from tyranny and the principles of inalienable rights not give any thought — no thought whatsoever — to reexamining its invitation to theocratic sponsors of terrorism who violently deny their own people access to any say in how their lives are governed?

How dare the supposed leader of the free world not ponder, even for a moment, that perhaps treating thuggish dictators as legitimate state actors, on our nation’s birthday no less, might be sending the wrong signal?

How dare the supreme ambassadors of everything we hold dear as a country extend anything more than a single, firmly-flexed digit in the direction of a bully state that clearly has no business pretending to represent the interests of its citizens?

President Obama, how dare you slap your own countrymen in the face with such a rude and thoughtless gesture?

How dare you forgo “thought” on the matter; aren’t you supposed to be the intellectual president … y’know, The One who thinks about things?

I can only hope that our government hasn’t become so comfortable with its own power-grabbing that it fails to recognize blatant state repression when it’s invited over for hot dogs and fireworks.

It’s one thing to hold one’s tongue, or to speak in moderate tones when addressing momentous historical events as they unfold. It’s entirely another thing altogether to look tyranny in the face and smile as you invite it into your home. Even more significantly, our duly elected representative to the world is doing all this on the day to commemorate the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears our forefathers spent in casting off the yolk of dictatorial control so that we might have a nation of laws, and freedom to pursue our own individual happiness — freedoms that our “guests” routinely spit upon. President Obama should be ashamed.

[HT: Hot Air]

UPDATE: Bruce helpfully makes the point I was trying to get at above, but somehow failed to include in my rant:

And, for those who find “hot dogs on the 4th” still acceptable for members of a regime presently engaged in viciously and murderously silencing their own people, on has to assume you believe in rewarding bad behavior by pretending it hasn’t happened. That’s not “diplomacy”, that’s simply an abysmally poor choice that signals weakness.

Obviously we’ve coddled repressive regimes before, to our and their people’s detriment, but I’m not trying to suggest that we simply disengage from any discussions whatsoever. There are times and places for diplomatic discussion, even with tyrannical governments such as Iran’s. While that regime is busy slaughtering peaceful protesters and on a national holiday celebrating our hard-won freedoms is not such a time.

Podcast for 21 Jun 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Letterman/Palin controversy, and the situation in Iran.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Possibly Real Iranian Election Results Leaked

Before anyone gets too worked up about this development, it should be noted that there is probably no way to authenticate this alleged letter, and its existence comes to us via Robert Fisk (yes, that “Fisk“). Nevertheless, there is a purported letter from the Ministry of the Interior running around Iran that states the following:

Salaam Aleikum.

Regarding your concerns for the 10th presidential elections and due to your orders for Mr Ahmedinejad to be elected President, in this sensitive time, all matters have been organised in such a way that the results of the election will be in line with the revolution and the Islamic system. The following result will be declared to the people and all planning should be put in force to prevent any possible action from the opposition, and all party leaders and election candidates are under intense surveillance. Therefore, for your information only, I am telling you the actual results as follows:

Mirhossein Mousavi: 19,075,623

Mehdi Karroubi: 13,387,104

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: 5,698,417

Mohsen Rezai: 38,716

(signed on behalf of the minister)

Fisk has this to say about it:

They were handing out the photocopies by the thousand under the plane trees in the centre of the boulevard, single sheets of paper grabbed by the opposition supporters who are now wearing black for the 15 Iranians who have been killed in Tehran – who knows how many more in the rest of the country? – since the election results gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more than 24 million votes and a return to the presidency. But for the tens of thousands marking their fifth day of protests yesterday – and for their election campaign hero, Mirhossein Mousavi, who officially picked up just 13 million votes – those photocopies were irradiated.

[…]

In a highly sophisticated society like Iran, forgery is as efficient as anywhere in the West and there are reasons for both distrusting and believing this document. But it divides the final vote between Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi in such a way that it would have forced a second run-off vote – scarcely something Mousavi’s camp would have wanted.

[…]

Could this letter be a fake? Even if Mr Mousavi won so many votes, could the colourless Mr Karroubi have followed only six million votes behind him? And however incredible Mr Ahmadinejad’s officially declared 63 per cent of the vote may have been, could he really – as a man who has immense support among the poor of Iran – have picked up only five-and-a-half million votes? And would a letter of such immense importance be signed only “on behalf of the minister”?

That the Independent’s intrepid reporter is cautioning against assuming the veracity and provenance of the letter should tell you something (and, it should be noted, “intrepid” is truly meant here as Fisk is openly and flagrantly defying the journalist ban at great personal risk, for which he deserves great praise and admiration). Whether or not it’s real, the mullahs have their work cut out for them in damage control. If the protesters are fairly enough convinced (and it would appear, for now, at least some of them are), then little more fuel will be needed for the fire. Moreover, others who have been either sitting on the fence, or who thought the election was legitimate, are convinced of a sham due to this letter, then it’s difficult to see how the regime can retain any legitimacy.

In any event, this alleged letter may have a significant effect on the outcome of events in Iran.

NoKo: Pressing Buttons

Kim Jong-Il is apparently not content with good old-fashioned saber rattling, and instead wants to push the envelope (or the button, as it were) a little further:

North Korea may fire a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii in early July, a Japanese news report said Thursday, as Russia and China urged the regime to return to international disarmament talks on its rogue nuclear program.

The missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2 with a range of up to 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers), would be launched from North Korea’s Dongchang-ni site on the northwestern coast, said the Yomiuri daily, Japan’s top-selling newspaper. It cited an analysis by the Japanese Defense Ministry and intelligence gathered by U.S. reconnaissance satellites.

The missile launch could come between July 4 and 8, the paper said.

While the newspaper speculated the Taepodong-2 could fly over Japan and toward Hawaii, it said the missile would not be able to hit Hawaii’s main islands, which are about 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from the Korean peninsula.

A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report. South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service — the country’s main spy agency — said they could not confirm it.

If North Korea does carry out such a plan, it would be a most provocative act, bordering on a casus belli. Figuratively speaking, it would not be any different than the child’s game of swinging one’s arms within inches of one’s sibling while declaring “not touching!” In realpolitik terms, it is simply a threat.

Of course, the real question is, what do we do about it?

President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met in Washington on Tuesday for a landmark summit in which they agreed to build a regional and global “strategic alliance” to persuade North Korea to dismantle all its nuclear weapons. Obama declared North Korea a “grave threat” to the world and pledged that the new U.N. sanctions on the communist regime will be aggressively enforced.

In Seoul, Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho told a forum Thursday that the North’s moves to strengthen its nuclear programs is “a very dangerous thing that can fundamentally change” the regional security environment. He said the South Korean government is bracing for “all possible scenarios” regarding the nuclear standoff.

[…]

In a rare move, leaders of Russia and China used their meetings in Moscow on Wednesday to pressure the North to return to the nuclear talks and expressed “serious concerns” about tension on the Korean peninsula.

The joint appeal appeared to be a signal that Moscow and Beijing are growing impatient with Pyongyang’s stubbornness. Northeastern China and Russia’s Far East both border North Korea, and Pyongyang’s unpredictable actions have raised concern in both countries.

After meetings at the Kremlin, Chinese President Hu Jintao joined Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in urging a peaceful resolution of the Korean standoff and the “swiftest renewal” of the now-frozen talks involving their countries as well as North and South Korea, Japan and the United States.

“Russia and China are ready to foster the lowering of tension in Northeast Asia and call for the continuation of efforts by all sides to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, through dialogue and consultations,” their statement said.

Keep in mind, as well, that North Korea need not tip anyone of those missiles with a nuclear warhead (which it does not yet have the capability to do) in order to pose a significant threat. Reportedly, the Stalinist regime is well-equipped with chemical weapons as well:

The independent International Crisis Group think tank, meanwhile, said the North’s massive stockpile of chemical weapons is no less serious a threat to the region than its nuclear arsenal.

It said the North is believed to have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, phosgene, blood agents and sarin. These weapons can be delivered with ballistic missiles and long-range artillery and are “sufficient to inflict massive civilian casualties on South Korea.”

Although the nations involved have been ready to talk sternly about “grave threats” and to urge further negotiations to quell the tensions, Kim Jong-Il is notably unimpressed. Rather than seeking to retard the North Korean leader’s ambitions, everyone seems insistent upon being cautions in order to avoid “provoking” Kim Jong-Il. That is a shrewd plan when dealing with a crazy person, but in the end, a bully is just a bully, whether he’s crazy or not.

Unfortunately, at some point a swift smack on the nose will be necessary if we truly want to back the recalcitrant dictator up a step or two, which admittedly carries its own unfortunate possibilities. Even if that point is not now, or if and when North Korea sends its missiles hurling dangerously close to our sovereign territory, it does seem to be approaching quickly. Given the rather meek approach taken by all nations thus far, one can only hope that Kim’s own machinations do him under before the international community’s hand is forced.