Friday, December 31, 2010

Comment on Popular Mechanics:
China and Taiwan War -
U.S. Chinese Military Relations

China and Taiwan War - U.S. Chinese Military Relations - Popular Mechanics

Others have thought that the United States would retire from a limited war with a bloody nose. Osama bin Laden admitted he was surprised at the magnitude of America's response. 69 years ago Yamamoto warned the Japanese Imperial Staff that America was a consensual democracy and would resort to total war if attacked. 20% of Americans always have and always will resort to self flagellation exemplified by one commentator above. The majority will respond with cold fury. Ballistic missile attacks by a real enemy nation, not some amorphous terror cells with cut outs fading into civilian cover, will unite America and unleash a killing machine.

If China wants Taiwan it will have to do it the slow way by buying it piecemeal. If the Chinese economy implodes then Taiwan may end up buying China.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lindsay Redux

Some problems in government are intricate and demand a balancing of interests and knowledge of arcane subjects. Others are very straightforward. When you have a precedent of failure to reflect on don't emulate it. When you know a disaster is coming cancel your vacation. When you know a blizzard is going to hit get every employee on the payroll visibly out there to help. Then grab a shovel and start digging out cars, as Cory Booker of Newark did.

Alexander Burns of Politico gains points for his analysis of the December Blizzard of 2010's political impact. That contrasts with the earlier November political blizzard that, despite much hot air emitted, will have negligible effect on the climate. Particularly noteworthy was Burns' citing not only the implosion of John Lindsay's Presidential aspirations following the City's poor response in February 1969 but also what happened to Acting Mayor Michael Bilandic of Chicago, who had been elected to a partial term, as he sought re-election after the New Years Blizzard of 1979. The hapless Bilandic had inherited the Mayor's office when the The Mayor Daley died in harness. He was in one way a fortunate man. He was blessed with a very beautiful wife. She featured prominently in a campaign ad.

A Greater Power had another opinion.

Pretty wasn't it?
For three days everyone in Chicago was trapped in their cold miserable apartment or house unable to do anything but watch Heather Bilandic walk around her beautiful home with carpet so deep you could sink into it, and a roaring fireplace for good measure. The poor man was crushed.

Allahpundit at Hot Air seeks to absolve everyone, Bloomberg and Christie of New Jersey both. While I sympathize with his position we cannot predict how the public response to an actual Act of God will play out.

More than 24 hours after the snow stopped falling in New York there were still abandoned cars in intersections and snowbound cars blocking fire hydrants.

Fortunately most of the apartment building staff and private homeowners rose to the challenge. In Manhattan one merchant on Broadway around 30th Street displayed the right attitude.

This weather struck me as the perfect excuse to have Korean food on 32nd St. for lunch. My apologies for not taking pics of the 6 types of kimchee and bulgogi in a hot stone bowl. It was a good deal for $12 plus tip. On the way out I asked the Boss if they had opened the day before during the storm. He said yes. Then when I asked he said that it was busy, "a good day because everyone else was closed." I gave a smile and and said "That's great it really worked out." Korean businessmen tend to be a little stiff and formal but the smile that broke across his face was something to see. Somebody had a good day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Comment on BBC News:
Europe's Eastern periphery

BBC News - Europe's Eastern periphery

A false choice is offered in the example of Hungary. The author states that it cannot strengthen the currency because that would kill exports and also that it could not devalue the currency because that would kill domestic banks. The conclusion is that they have to borrow from the IMF to paper over the deficits and attempt to stimulate their economy. That is a logical fallacy. It is the same argument that produced the failed Stimulus policy in the US.

They can allow their currency to devalue and banks to fail without the consequences being worse than the increased long term debt under the IMF (or for Ireland or the PIIGS the EU loan) approach. Banks like other businesses can go bankrupt. The pain will be suffered by their owners, if they are private as they should be, and their managers. Failing to allow bankruptcy and reorganization or reallocation of capital is what distorts an economy and results in long term suffering.

The US is facing long term costs from banks that were bailed out and are failing a second time. GM and Chrysler should have gone through normal bankruptcy procedures to allow capital to be properly and lawfully reallocated. In the US politically connected financiers and unions were rewarded at the expense of those entitled to protection under the law. In Europe similar politically determined costs are being imposed. Reasonable care to avoid bankruptcy is needed. It should never be a first resort. Neither should devaluation be done without good reason. Stability and respect for contracts are the cornerstone of a free capital market system.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Comment on Best Photo Collection: Israellycool:
A Taste of “Concentration Camp” Gaza

A Taste of “Concentration Camp” Gaza: Best Photo Collection : Israellycool

Nice looking town. If the current residents refuse to live in peace with their neighbors then they need to be removed. My suggestion is that Israel start at the extreme North-East and every time there is an attack from Gaza the Israelis should advance 1/16 of a mile, that is 0.1 km. Given that the Gaza Strip is 41 km long it would take less than 14 months to completely clear the strip using this method.

It would be reasonable to expect that after a few such advances the current inhabitants would do one of four things. They could expel Hamas and make peace with Israel, or they could abandon the strip and evacuate to Egypt, or they could abandon their pretence of sovereignty and submit to occupation by the Egyptians who could impose security under terms agreeable to Israel, or they could launch a mass doomed attack on Israel. The last would result in the strip being reoccupied and the Israelis should be clear that if that happens the current population would be expelled.

It should be clear that any Israeli advance in response to any attacks from Gaza would be a permanent return and any current inhabitants would be expelled from any territory reoccupied. An exception might be made for a few hundred who are considered captives to be liberated, mostly Christians. Call it the "Squeezing the toothpaste tube" strategy.

Comment on David Webb's Facebook:
If the RNC takes a hard right turn ...

If the RNC takes a...

"If the RNC takes a hard right turn and violates the Reagan big tent principles I'm out. Sick of extremists."
David every person, almost wrote "man" but I will modify my prose in this instance, must set their own standards. The concern must be not to allow anyone who is an ideologue to define your parameters for you. If you allow the Hard Left to set the goal posts and define "Extremist" or "Consensus" then you will lose. The same is true for those you would identify as Rightest or Libertarian. We are a Center-right nation. My Rule of Thumb is to ask what would have seemed reasonable when things generally worked, ie 50 to 60 years ago. Correct for obvious abuses that were acknowledged at that time and resist other changes that would weaken what worked. That strikes me as Practical Conservatism.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Comment on Andrew S. Erickson:
China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’:
DF-21D ASBM Reaches IOC

China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches “Initial Operational Capability” (IOC) | Andrew S. Erickson

Americans have been on a 20 year binge, a Holiday from History. They reacted to 9-11 by going shopping and maxing out the credit cards. Mein Gott ein Himmel do people realize that the rest of the world is run by adults? Some are good and some are evil but they will not give points for cuddly intentions. The Chinese have been studying us, buying or renting our politicians and businessmen and methodically preparing a very 18th-20th century expansion of power. Given our behavior, our pathetic complacency, it is hard to expect them not to.

Comment on The Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby:
A House poorly divided

A House poorly divided - The Boston Globe

Jeff Jacoby covers one fourth of the reason to expand the size of the House of Representatives. In addition to the disparate size of constituencies the 435 seat cap creates there are other issues.

1. More districts allows each district to be centered on an identifiable compact community. This will reduce the possibility of gerrymandering.

2. That will increase the accountability of the politician to the people he is according to his job title representing and ensure that groups currently disenfranchised are offered representation.

3. The cost of running in dispersed districts with between 200,000 and over half a million voters excludes candidates and makes the elected Members dependent on the Lobbyists, party organizations, or increasingly upon 501 organizations to fund their campaigns and provide media support.

My suggestion is that we introduce two changes. First we should more than double the size of the House to 1,000 Representatives. Second we should implement what was intended at the time that the XIVth Amendment was adopted, before the recent phenomenon of illegal immigration became prominent. The apportionment of Representatives following the Census should be in accordance with the number of citizens eligible to vote.

If these two changes were adopted then each district would contain approximately 100,000 eligible voters. That would mean that anyone who could command the loyalty of 50,000 of their fellow citizens could become a Representative. That number of 50,000 is significant, almost golden. It is the upper bound at which it is possible to have actual contact and a sense of identification between the citizen and those acting on their behalf. That was the size of a population that Aristotle considered the ideal voting body for a Greek polis.

Comment on - ABC News:
Pilot Hasseled by TSA After Uncovering Security Breaches at Major Airport

Pilot Hasseled by TSA After Uncovering Security Breaches at Major Airport - ABC News

There is a serious security issue with the poor level of screening of many of the airline and especially of the contractor personnel who gain access to the secure area. This applies to both the Public Area of the concourses beyond the TSA checkpoints and the Air Side that the public normally do not have access to. The later includes the aircraft and baggage handling areas. Many of the people who are employed in these areas are not US citizens and background checks are often inadequate.

The pilots have always felt a grievance about what they saw as the irrationality of making them go through screening when they are going to have the controls of the plane in their hands. Checking their flight bag for a knife or screwdriver strikes them as irrational given that there is an axe attached to the bulkhead of the cockpit. Part of their discomfit is social. They see themselves as senior personnel, often they are military officers as the pilot in this story was, who are uncomfortable with the fact that most airlines treat them as simple hourly hired labor whose status and income has declined over the last 20 years. They find having to go through the public screening as degrading.

One problem is that the flight crew are not authorized to move around freely on the Air Side outside of their aircraft. If a pilot has to move from one terminal to another they often have to exit the secure area and then reenter. There are safety reasons for this and each airport is physically different. If the pilots and copilots were granted access separate from the public then the question would arise of how to treat the rest of the crew. In theory a special pilot's or flight crew screening could be established and then secure ground transportation could be established to move fight crew to their terminals but to do so would be very expensive.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Comment on David Thomson's Facebook,
"I agree with the stance of the new Hawaii Governor"

I agree with the...

The question is not for all but a very few people not one of whether Obama is a US Citizen but is he a "natural born citizen."

The Constitution was clear that citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution were eligible if they had been resident for 14 years, subsequent to that the "natural born" rule would take effect. That makes the comment about Martin van Buren completely irrelevant.

There are two types of citizenship. The first is being "natural born" and having citizenship at birth and the second is being a citizen as a result of naturalization. Under the Constitution Congress makes the rules for naturalization.

The status of being a "natural born' citizen has two components. First is being citizen by jus solis and not simply jus sanguinis. That means that you must be born on US soil, or under the native Sun. Some but not most claim that it means also having parents who are citizens, which is citizenship by the blood. Citizens born to US citizens outside of the country are considered as "naturalized at birth" by virtue of jus sanguinis, which is to say due to their parents blood.

In addition to the fact that "natural born" means that you have to be a citizen at birth and not by naturalization there is usually considered to be another restriction on being a "natural born" citizen. It is usually held that if a "natural born" citizen takes an oath of allegiance to any other sovereign then they give up that status. At some periods it has been held that doing so means renouncing your US citizenship and at other times the possibility of dual allegiance or citizenship has been admitted. If citizenship is lost then would have to be reapplied for but even if it is retained after acknowledging a foreign loyalty the status of being "natural born" would be lost and the person would be considered as simply being a citizen who was naturalized at birth, as if born overseas to a US citizen.

Now some people make an issue of Obama having been adopted by his Indonesian Stepfather and claim that makes him no longer a "natural born" citizen. That strikes me as untenable because it would give a noncitizen the power to remove US citizenship from a minor child. No US court would agree with such a position. What is more important would be if Obama had himself claimed to be a foreign national or taken some oath to a foreign sovereign after he became an adult.

That is why I would be more interested in seeing his travel records to find if he had traveled under the protection of a foreign passport after his 18th birthday. That could be disqualifying. In addition if he claimed to be a foreign national on his college financial aid forms then that would be likely to disqualify him. It would be likely to prove damning for several reasons. First because of the duplicity involved. Second because his doing so to take a financial benefit from the US taxpayer and then subsequently cover it up would be I think seen as repugnant even by many who supported him. That last is I believe the most likely case and I have always held that the birth certificate issue is likely to prove a red herring.

My expectation is that an examination of Barack Obama's birth records will show that he was born in the United States. Some have speculated that his father may be listed as UKN. That would prove embarrassing but would not in itself disqualify him from any office. If any wish to argue that being "natural born" means proving qualification under both jus solis and jus sanguinis, that is being born on US soil to US citizen parents, then that would be a new standard that has never been asserted and which no prior candidate was ever asked to offer proof of before. It has not been unusual until now for a successful politician to be a bit of a bastard.

Others have noted that his putative father was not only a foreign citizen, actually a subject of the British crown, here on a temporary student visa but that he himself would have been ineligible for an immigrant visa and Permanent Resident (Green Card) status or naturalization to become a citizen. That is because Mr Obama Sr. was a polygamist. That however would not be any bar to his child's citizenship or status at birth. It is likely that if he had not chosen to abandon his family he would have been allowed to gain a Green Card despite his polygamist past.

The question of why there is a special restriction on who is eligible for the office of President of the United States and whether it is wise or necessary is a political matter that is up to the people to determine. It can be changed by Amendment to the Constitution.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Comment on PJM, The Rosett Report »
Midnight Money for Durban III

The Rosett Report » Midnight Money for Durban III

If the NY State Democrats and GOP had not completely run off the rails they could step up to the plate. At one time the Democrats, please remember that Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were Democrats, had backbone.

If the Governor and Mayor of New York wished to they could stop this. They could unambiguously make clear that they would refuse to cooperate at such a level that the federal government would have to flood the city with troops to enable the UN to function. They could have every automobile with DPL or FC plates towed away and keep the Department of State busy getting them released. They could dig up the streets and send in Health Inspectors. They could make ConEd turn off the electricity and order State Bank Examiners in to examine all their accounts. They won't.

Bloomberg is the Mayor who worked behind the scenes to ram through the WTC mosque. Andrew Cuomo is tied to the NY Times and the corrupt Clinton Era real estate interests and shady money, with Chinese connections, that already weakened this country. We are like defenseless lambs now and the wolves are coming to town.

Comment on Rick Moran, Pajamas Media »
In Defense of the Filibuster

Pajamas Media » In Defense of the Filibuster

The problem with the use of the filibuster in the last century stems from the changed role of the Senate. Before 1913 the Senators were selected by their State Legislatures. The passage of the XVIIth Amendment converted the Senate from a council of ambassadors plenipotentiary sent by sovereign states in a federal system to a collection of glorified political operatives and elected functionaries in a unitary bureaucracy.

The role of the Senate has unfortunately become conflated in the popular imagination with the issue of racism. That was unfortunately caused by the efforts of leaders of the Democratic Party in the 19th century to first use the power of the federal government to defend slavery through the Fugitive Slave Act, then to weaken the government through nullification and finally to dissolve it through secession. The resulting Civil War reduced all the States' authority and rendered them incapable of resisting the erosion of their role.

This was accelerated by two factors. First was the industrial and commercial expansion of the nation and the attendant corruption of state governments that discredited them. The second, which accompanied the corruption of the states, was the rise of the railroads and the expansion of the power of the federal government as Congress invoked the Commerce Clause. These combined to fuel the Progressive Movement that promoted the XVIIth Amendment.

This is how the States were turned into cogs in a centralized apparatus of administration. That process was accelerated under the New Deal and the corruption that had afflicted the States flowed up to infect the national government. Wherever there is money and power there will be corruption and abuse but the centralization of government and the expansion of the sums involved have dramatically expanded the venality of the participants while removing the protections that a jealous federalism had afforded.

Since there is no magic virtue that adheres to either employment in the federal or a state body all the vices of racism, corruption, and factionalism that afflicted the states and which a proper federal system could ameliorate are now concentrated in a central reservoir. The federal system was part of the "Forest of the Law" that sheltered individual Liberty as described by Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons." The Progressives cut down the forest when they enacted the XVIIth Amendment.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ewer and Cup

Noticed today at the Met, from the XVIIth century.

It is not possible for things made by craft on this Earth to be more magnificent. Rock crystal and gold, enamel and gems, are combined to transform simple devices for transporting a fluid into objects of awe. Is the thing transported more important because of the magnificence of the vessel that surrounds it?

Once I saw in a book a photograph of the silver chalice elevated by Zwingli as a priest when he celebrated the sacrament of the Communion by performing the Miracle of the Transubstantiation of the Eucharist. Next to it was another photograph of the absolutely plain wooden cup that Zwingli later used to perform the reenactment of the Lord's Supper. Here they are from the Yale database.

He chose to shift from the first to the second and found a meaning, a value that is, in doing so. So did thousands of his Protestant supporters who stripped the churches bare and found the fervor with which to defeat the armies of the Catholic Emperor. In fact the Swiss proved to devoted to their own vision of pure clear thought and freedom that had earlier achieved independence from the Austrian crown that neither the Catholic monarchies nor the Lutheran princes and clergy were able to subdue them.

The response of the Catholics in the Counter-Reformation lead to the Age of the Baroque. An increased emphasis on display, not for its own sake, but as an affirmation that what was being honored was worthy of the effort and sacrifice the presentation represented. This can serve as an emotional battery for when the concentration needed to maintain the fervor of the ascetic experience, which the spare aesthetic of the Protestants relied on, inevitably flags. Fortunately or not depending on your view the inverse is also true. Effort expended on the superstructure of a ceremony can ultimately come at the expense of the content. The result of to far a digression down either path can be first spiritually and then physically empty centers of ritual.

Comment on Richard Miniter's Facebook:
"For the soldiers,..."

For the soldiers,... (1)

(On W. Curtis Draper sending free cigars to troops in combat zones)

Good, I was afraid the Nanny Command had put a stop to this. My first day on a ship I stepped onto the Bridge in my crisp spotless khaki uniform and hung the binoculars around my neck. A Mustang LT, meaning he had worked his way up through the enlisted ranks, walked over to me with a big cigar between his teeth, blew smoke in my face, and said "What's the matter son? You look a little green." I lost it right there. Not an auspicious beginning. He turned out to be a nice guy though.

The really bad news was that we were still in San Diego Harbor.

Comment on RedState: The Wheels Are Coming Off:
Senate Democrats Poised for Power Grab

Senate Democrats Poised for Power Grab | RedState

Most Democrats up for reelection in 2012 might consider this the end of their political career. The biggest surprise is that Manchin let himself get roped into this. Right now it looks to me like the GOP has 2 vulnerable seats coming up and the Donks have 8-10.

This does matter because of the appointments power of the Senate. All that the House could do if there really was an existential crisis of tyranny, in the strict sense of an arbitrary government at variance with traditional constitutional principles, from the Executive in collusion with the Senate Majority Leader is simply refuse to fund said positions or the enforcement of any such laws or treaties based on such a procedure. This would produce a crisis unprecedented in American history.

(further comment under the title "Try the Conservative Answer")
Rather than push for risky innovations that are likely to empower the Democrats by feeding the voters worst preconceptions of the conservatives, which is what any effort to enact "Nullification" will do, instead try a winning strategy to restore the Constitution. Any effort to enact a States Rights Veto on the Federal government will immediately produce a rejection by the vast majority of teh population. It will be demonized as proof that the Republicans are racists who want to restore the Confederacy. Never mind that it was the Democrats who ran that regime. Nullification is a waste of time and it will fail.Any energy spent on it is wasted and irrational to the point of being juvenile.

What will work? Restoring the Constitution as it was intended to function can be done much more easily and it does not demand a novel or discredited doctrine. Repeal the XVIIth Amendment and the Senators will be restored to their proper roles as the State's emissaries and tribunes to check the power of the Federal government. No federal appointment, no bureaucrat or ambassador or judge could take office, no treaty could be enacted, or law passed, against the wishes of the states.

Elsewhere I have called for consideration of a different innovation that does not expose supporters to the historical baggage associated with terms such as nullification. Currently the power of Judicial Review as practiced by the Judiciary is unregulated and unsupported by any text other than the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall. It was an unused doctrine for decades that has taken on a life beyond all reason, turning judges into legislators. Also of concern is the fact that the selection of the President under the Constitution was intended to be placed under the supervision of the States through the agency of the Electoral College. That body however was so ill defined that it almost immediately became a dead letter and is widely viewed as an anachronism. The Democrats are pushing to circumvent the restrictions it places on their ambitions by chaining states to commit their Electoral College votes in advance to the winner of the popular vote.

My suggestion is that we solve both problems, that of Judicial Review and that of the selection of the Executive, together. Instead of abolishing the Electoral College make it a permanent standing body. Make the heads of the 3 branches of government for each state ex offcio members and then have other members of a states delegation assigned for staggered terms of 3 years. Ensure that such appointments, except for the filling of a vacancy, be made 4 months before the EC selects the President. Grant the Electoral College the power to act as a Court of Judicial Review. Give the President as well as the Supreme Court and the Governors of a third of the States by petition all the power to submit an Act, Treaty or other instrument of the Federal government for Review. It should not be necessary for the entire EC to assemble to accomplish this task, as long as provision is made for all to review the matter before submitting their decision.

Third I would support increasing the number of Representatives. If possible double them. This would not only make each more closely tied to their community but it would cut down on the vices of gerrymandering and group disenfranchisement.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Comment on Daniel Hannan, Telegraph Blogs:
The first state seceded from the Union 150 years ago; the arguments still continue

The first state seceded from the Union 150 years ago; the arguments still continue – Telegraph Blogs

The United States Constitution guarantees each State a Republican form of government. The President is obligated to use the powers of his office to execute that promise. When Lincoln issued his call for troops after the attack on Fort Sumter he invoked the Militia Act.
"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed, in any state, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshals by this act, [words requiring notification by an associate justice or district judge were omitted in 1795 revision. The revision gave the President more authority] the same being notified to the President of the United States, by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. And if the militia of a state, where such combinations may happen, shall refuse, or be insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the legislature of the United States be not in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other state or states most convenient thereto, as may be necessary, and the use of militia, so to be called forth, may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the ensuing session."
Lincoln thereby declared that combinations to powerful to resist had seized control of the governments in the secessionist States and that the United States Marshals were unable to carry out their duties.
"WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, April -, 1861. "SIR,—Under the Act of Congress 'for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections; repel invasions,' etc., approved February 28, 1795, I have the honor to request your Excellency to cause to be immediately detached from the militia of your State the quota designated in the table below, to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.

"Your Excellency will please communicate to me the time at or about which your quota will be expected at its rendezvous, as it will be met as soon as practicable by an officer or officers to muster it into the service and pay of the United States. At the same time the oath of fidelity to the United States will be administered to every officer and man.

"The mustering officer will be instructed to receive no man under the rank of commissioned officer who is in years apparently over forty-five or under eighteen, or who is not in physical strength and vigor."
In effect Lincoln declared that the Southern States had succumbed to a putsch that had been effected by an anti-democratic conspiracy. This was a legal fiction because no one had previously claimed that the governments that passed the instruments of secession had been elected contrary to their existing State Constitutions or that those instruments were not Republican in form.

The one case where the case can be strongly made that a state was separated from the Union contrary to it's own governing principles and as a result of a minority conspiracy was North Carolina. They only seceded after the surrounding states had and a Confederate army had occupied them. Citizens of the Tar Heel state will go to great lengths to ensure that they are not confused with their neighbor to the south. Lincoln made a good case for the illegality of secession in his War Message. He was a competent lawyer.

Very few people asserted prior to 1860 that there was no right to secede. Most people argued that it would be unwise and the affection for the Union was wide and deep in all parts of the country, including most of the South. The question of such a dissolution could be effected without prejudice to the rights of other states is a lacuna within the Constitution. There are others. For example the entire concept of Judicial Review arises from a black hole in that it was simply asserted and then left dormant for decades.

The concept of Universal Sovereignty only became established with the adoption of the Reconstruction Amendments, which as has been noted even then did not include women. The doctrine of "one man, one vote", while based on the XIVth Amendment, was not made the law of the land until the 1960s. So under the law as it existed in 1860 it was possible to consider the governments in effect as legitimate.

There is little doubt that the Fugitive Slave Act was becoming unenforceable and that the Southern states were facing a legal and financial catastrophe by 1860. There is little doubt that despite all their arguments about State versus Federal power the governing interests in the South were engaged in a dispute that they could not win with the ordinary majority of free citizens of the North. It was the South that attempted to use the federal government to enforce their local institutions and laws. Failing to do so they then attempted to withdraw and impose a barrier to commerce and transit so as to discourage the erosion of slavery. Their position was not only morally indefensible but economically and physically untenable. They destroyed their own communities and the principles of local government they purported to defend.

My wish is to see some of the gaps in the US Constitution filled to strengthen the institutions that defend liberty and limited government. It is not necessary to revisit the issues on which the Civil War was fought to do so. The XVIIth Amendment that took the election of Senators away from the State legislators, and reduced the States to administrative cogs and agents of the federal bureaucracy, should be repealed. The Electoral College should be made a permanent standing body with the senior representatives of the executive legislature and judiciary for each state members ex officio. The power of judicial review should be transferred to the Electoral College empowered to act a s a court of review. Referral of a law for such review could be made by either the Supreme Court or by petition of a third of the States.

Comment on Super-Economy:
The new 2012 electoral map after 2010 reapportionment

Super-Economy: The new 2012 electoral map after 2010 reapportionment

If DREAM had passed it would be game over but if the Republicans can use their control over the House to really beat up the Holder Justice Department and reduce the vote fraud then that could be worth at least 1% in crucial districts. The real dream would be if reapportionment was according to the number of citizens qualified to vote. That was what the XIVth Amendment intended and convoluted wording gave us the current mess.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse

This was a bit of a disaster. First because my old 4 Megapixel Kodak isn't really up to the job but more because I wasn't up to holding steady in the cold. Despite my efforts to find a place without background light that was undoubtedly an issue also. The Moon is important on many levels.

As a symbol of Islam the eclipse and return of the orb may have significance in that it may drive them to despair or inspire them to belief in an ultimate triumph. It is hard to predict when any excuse for violence is so readily grasped at.

For me whether from my youth spent reading Tolkien, whose Elves identified more with the Moon than the Sun, or from my Father who had been a jeweler in his youth, I am drawn to silver over gold.

Comment on The Telegraph:
Vince Cable: I could bring down the Government

Vince Cable: I could bring down the Government - Telegraph

This should put Vince Cable on the short list for Nowhere. Who can trust him now? Not just that he can plot to bring down the government, that is expected, but that his judgment is so poor. When a suitable replacement is in position now he can be given the sack. The good news is that he has provided a reason to rethink subsidies for those who do not need them so that "means testing" can be introduced. The best news is that once he is gone then Britain may be able to get some control over immigration. David Cameron had better put the fear of God into Oliver Letwin after this. If the Tories do not instill some discipline over the abuse of asylum and immigration by the unskilled then enough voters will shift towards the BNP or Labour by the next election to bring down the government.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Comment on The New York Sun:
Wikileaks and Treason

Wikileaks and Treason - December 8, 2010 - The New York Sun

Assange is a citizen of Australia and by his actions against the United States gave aid to an enemy fighting not only an ally of Australia but also fighting his own country. Australia has soldiers engaged in battle while Mr Assange is divulging her ally's secrets. Could Assange be charged with treason in Australia? Remember Rebecca West's "The New Meaning of Treason" regarding the prosecution of William Joyce as Lord Haw Haw? He was executed for treason by the UK because he traveled to Germany on a British passport, even though he was at the time and unknown to himself a United States citizen who owed no duty to England and who broke no American law in 1939 by then going to Germany.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comment on PJM, Roger L. Simon »
The Omnibus Bill’s ‘Hit Parade’ of Senatorial Theft

Roger L. Simon » The Omnibus Bill’s ‘Hit Parade’ of Senatorial Theft

The Porkulus died to soon. It would have been better to run out the clock with it and then force through the bare minimum essential business and go home. The two and only two things that need to be done are a Continuing Resolution and a Bill to extend the tax rates. Unfortunately Reid now has over a week to push through the START treaty, and then join in Pelosi's final curses, DADT repeal, and finally the nuclear bomb on Democracy in America, the DREAM Act.

As a principle it is unwise to tinker with the Constitution. Calls to change it inevitably sound like a harrumphing of "There ought to be a law." The new Congress needs to consider some Constitutional reforms. High on the list should be eliminating the Lame Duck session of Congress. The Congress should adjourn before the election. If the President calls either or both Houses into session, as is in his power, to conduct necessary business between the election and January 05th then the newly elected Members should be sworn in. Provision can be made for the outgoing Speaker of the House and the President pro-tempore of the Senate and a minimum staff to stay on duty as needed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

While the Duck is Lame

(based on a thread of Wretchard’s at the Belmont Club)

Deterrence works and the inverse is true. Failure to respond in the face of aggression will yield more aggression or in tabloid form, Yielding to Push Yields More Push. When responding we need to pick a target the perpetrator cares about and then respond so effectively that they will not seek to calibrate our reactions. Both are important. We cannot show Jihadis how tough we are by ruthlessly beating up Israel or crushing the opposition to DADT repeal. We shall not deter future underwear bombers by locating the ticket counter for Salafi Air and then pulling our pants down and handing out DVDs of our biggest bomb, Ishtar. Unless backed by a strong economy and a strong military Diplomacy is worth nothing. Reality is very unromantic and conservative. You can't beat something with nothing.

Sometimes we do need to be ambiguous about our responses. We assured the world, not just the Soviets, that we would respond to any attack on either the US or our allies in a time and manner of our own choosing. That threat was credible because we were building a surplus capacity and had recently demonstrated the will to use it. Sometimes we need to be very explicit.

Now we have two linked threats. The threat of Islamic terror and the threat of China distributing Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) to the Taliban. Also there are news reports of thousands of Russian MANPADS being sent to Chavez, with some likely to go to Iran and Latin American guerillas or narco-terrorists. By the way to complete your joy this season remember that Iran's proxy Hezbollah is in Mexico. In these cases we need to be explicit and credible.

We need to announce a massive buildup of both conventional and strategic forces, to at least the levels of twenty years ago. We need to announce that any successful attack will result in the destruction of targets drawn from a list including Mecca, Medina, and the 18 largest cities in Dar al-Islam. We need to announce that any use of MANPADS will result in the imposition of a blockade on the country of origin of that missile.

An Amazing Comment that can't be improved:
Wretchard of the Belmont Club on "Aspiration"

Belmont Club » December Down Under

(this just needs to be linked to and preserved)

As I recall, Mark Latham, one time leader of the ALP (that’s the Australian Labor Party, our democratic socialist party, for the benefit of overseas readers) was quite enamoured of the term “aspirational”, and I’m sure it’s regarded as no crime in any western country to try and improve your lot in life by earning a living and spending some of it on lifestyle.

I’ve heard the word “aspirational” used before, and among its many meanings there is one which means ‘acting above your station’. There is some antipathy bordering on contempt which seizes a certain class of persons, who accustomed to thinking themselves superior, feel revolted by the sight of the Chan-nny-come-lateleys engaging in conspicuous consumption. And while this is occasional and certainly not universal, it always got me to thinking about why the hatred of “aspirationalism” was highly correlated with sneering at materialist American consumption.

It is perhaps because America was the first nation in modern history where status came from the uninherited aristocracy of success. What was wrong with America was not that some people were rich; but that the cast of rich people kept changing. There was something wrong with these jumped-up, grubby guys being the “best people”; some defect in the system.

Some writers believe that Kim Philby and his crew felt more comfortable throwing in with the Soviets than subordinating themselves to the crude, disgustingly naive, but rich and powerful Americans. It was the last protest of a fading imperial class. They would show, if only for the last time, how much more clever they really were. “One does not look twice at an offer of enrolment in an elite force,” he said, explaining his decision to join the Soviet secret service. It wasn’t about love for the common laboring man at all; just all about showing the “aspirationals” their place.

In the long run, political scientists may eventually conclude that the only novel form of Western politics to emerge in the last 500 years was from the American Declaration of Independence. There are only two actors in the Declaration: the Creator and the People. No middlemen, no permanent class of intermediaries were prescribed. The Declaration even did without the King.

That was, and perhaps continues to be an unthinkable step for some to take. Some individuals will always believe in the need for a class of nobles who must stand between brute man and nature. Someone to tell them how to propitiate Gaia; to dole out the housing; to decide how long you live. In that regard perhaps Marxism and Leninism will be found to simply be a disguised form of aristocracy. A way to keep aristocracy around while pretending it had been abolished. What is the Vanguard of the Proletariat, what is the Party, what is the Nomenklatura except aristocracy by another name?

The American form of democracy may not be very different in practice from the various other European forms, but philosophically it stands apart. That accounts for its peculiar hostility to Marxist ideal. Marxism is such a European idea. How funny it is to hear Christianity described as “Western” when it had its origins on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean. But Marxism had its origins in the reading rooms of the British museum. In all its forms, Marxism presumes an almost implicit acceptance of the existence of an “enlightened class”; and that in part accounts, I think, for why it is so easy for those who have a high opinion of themselves to become Marxists.

You don’t have to convince celebrities, ennobled scientists, and the Great and the Good that Marxism is the natural order of things. They’re halfway there already in any society in which aristocracy is seen as a natural condition. Perhaps that is why in any Latin American country the intelligensia and the social elites always have a soft spot for Marx or Che. What was Che but another General El Bruto with a stylish haircut and a nice beard? It may also explain why Americans look so foolish waving their credentials and celebrity around claiming quasi-elite status. Marxism ill becomes American political tradition for the simple shallow reason it that sounds unnatural, like Brad Pitt trying to speak Italian in Inglorious Basterds. Grrraztzie. Maybe Europeans can carry Marxism off far more naturally because it is deeply rooted in thousands of years of Continental culture. But from Keith Olbermann? Uh-uh. The problem with Keith isn’t, as Ann Coulter thinks, that he isn’t really from an Ivy League school. It isn’t the delivery; it isn’t the lack of some mystereious je ne sais quoi. The problem is that no matter what your provenance this Great And Good s**t just sounds ridiculous in the political context.

Today China and India are on the verge of becoming the new aspirational cultures. And if they wear pants that are little too short, or haircuts that look a little too cheap or buy wine by the brand, instead of by the bouquet and undertones, so what? It’s their money. And by and by, just like the Americans, it will dawn on the sneerers that they don’t aspire to be like them. They hear a different drummer in their heads. They’ll go straight from aspiring to be like the Great and the Good to being the Great and the Good themselves. And by then the only thing the faded old order can do is betray them in spite. And even that will ultimately be futile.

It’s terrible blinder, vanity is. The world changes and none of us stays in it long enough for the world to stop when we leave it. And maybe wisdom consists of taking a deep breath at the window and saying, “this is the day the Lord made. Thanks for the ride.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comment on Daniel Hannan, Telegraph Blogs:
Ten reasons to vote No to AV

Ten reasons to vote No to AV – Telegraph Blogs

It strikes me that the problem is engineered election districts that leave a substantial minority feeling disenfranchised. There are two solutions to that problem.

First ensure that no one is trapped in a hostile community. This especially applies to people feeling pressured by closed immigrant societies. If you do not like that your neighbors have voted Labour or Tory then you always can move.

Second is that you can increase the number of seats. Why can't Parliament be enlarged? If the Commons held a thousand seats, or even two thousand, then the composition would more closely resemble the popular will. Politicians would be more closely supervised by and reflective of the will of, their constituents. The only contrary argument that I see is that it might necessitate building a new hall to hold them in. In fact most of the important work now happens out of the main chamber. More legislatures would allow them to specialize and more closely supervise the administrative officers of the government. The population of the UK has doubled in the last 150 years. It may be time to double the size of Parliament.

Comment on Daniel Hannan, Telegraph Blogs:
Two cheers for the Localism Bill

Two cheers for the Localism Bill – Telegraph Blogs

"Localism" fits in with an earlier thread by Mr Hannan on the role of the police and the student riots. Britain does need accountable local government and constitutional reform.

What this observer thinks that the UK needs are real local governments, not 'authorities', with their own tax base. When people in a community of 50,000 - 75,000 elect their Council and Mayor who hire the local Police Chief and when every six to a dozen such units control a regional body, call it a County (pop. in the quarter to half a million range) with an elected Legislature, Governor and Chief Prosecutor, far more important than the Sheriff who can be appointed, and control over the schools and hospitals, then you will have the beginnings of federalism. The important thing is that local bodies must be supported by local taxes. In fact anyone who pays a local property tax should get to vote in local elections.

My vision would see the UK divided into about 50 such County units. For regional planning and cultural activities they could form regional groupings. If 10 were in Greater London then the others would approximate current local boundaries. What I would not do is create another layer of tax raising and spending government for these regions. Whitehall can then focus on International and national issues, and rooting out the inevitable cases of local corruption.

Comment on Daniel Hannan, Telegraph Blogs:
WikiLeaks: the correct response is not anger, but openness

WikiLeaks: the correct response is not anger, but openness – Telegraph Blogs

Our host discounts the deterrence value of punishing accomplices. In that I think that he is wrong. Some people are insane or gripped by ignorance and youthful passion, itself a transient form of insanity. They cannot be properly speaking deterred but must be intercepted and stopped. Others are more functional but also more rational. If Assange suffered the traditional punishment for Espionage and the word got out that the anonymity of the Internet was less than chat rooms populated by 17 year olds promised then all but a fraction of the problem would go away. The problem of securing the Web should be focused on defending against professional combat by cyber warriors from China. The hordes of script kiddies crashing web-sites on behalf of Wikileaks are chaff. They are tools being used as cover by the real threat.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Comment on CDR Salamander:
What budget cuts look like

CDR Salamander: What budget cuts look like

"Phibian Salamander" commented on this report from the UK;
"RAF Dropping to 6 Fast-Jet Units - Defense News"

Large military units, like capital ships and aircraft squadrons, operate under a Rule of Three. One is deployed. One is in predeployment training. One is in refit. The unit in training can surge rapidly but the unit in refit, reorganization and repair takes weeks at best to be combat ready. That is why in a world where the minimum number of combat ready aircraft carriers needed by the US Navy is 5, two by the Persian Gulf, two in North East Asia and one in the Mediterranean, we should not let the number of active duty carriers fall below 15. By cutting the number of squadrons the UK is guaranteeing that a future conflict will start when their sole JSF squadron is off line.

Will individual components be able to fight? Yes but that is not the same as having a trained combat ready organization that functions as a team. For a navy a task force is the smallest coherent unit capable of deploying and conducting a combat mission. In naval parlance there is a distinction between operational units, Task Element, Task Force and Task Group, and administrative components, Ships, Squadrons, and Type Groups. Combat effectiveness is greatly improved by minimizing the distinction between the administrative command that trains and the operational command that fights. At the level of the ship they are identical. In building complex structures, like a Task Force, elements such as a destroyer or a submarine or an aircraft may be assigned. If they can be held together in a larger unit, a whole DESRON or aircraft squadron then combat effectiveness will improve. Otherwise they will be, even if technically proficient, in the same role as replacements, who always suffer higher loses and achieve less than long term members of a team.

In aviation the smallest coherent unit that can function independently in both administrative and operational roles is the Squadron. By reducing the RAF to 6 combat squadrons, with only one JSF squadron planned, the ability to respond in a crisis will be reduced below the minimal level needed to deter threats. No matter how capable each aircraft and pilot is they will lack the flexibility to respond where three fully operational squadrons, one always alert ready as a unit, can.

Obamacare Mandate Ruled Unconstitutional

Here is the ruling by Judge Hudson in Virginia.
Obamacare Opinion 12-13-10
While I am pleased that the Act has been struck down it is proper to note that I have stated my belief that the power of Judicial Review is subject to abuse. It would be better if that function, which should be exercised by the Senate if it were serving to guard the rights of the States and the people as it did before the passage of the XVIIth Amendment, were transferred to another political body. For that reason I think that the review power should be entrusted to the Electoral College.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Comment on Richard Landes' Comment on
Yoel Silberman's Youtube™: "this is a ..."

this is a... (2)

Richard Landes referenced Phillip Salzman's book, "Culture and Conflict" regarding the perpetual war between Bedouin Steppe raiders and farmers who sustain agricultural societies and ultimately urban civilization.

Islam as promulgated by Muhammad is a distillation of an almost purely extractive and exploitive mentality. Islam was designed to need non-muslim wealth producers who could be plundered. The mass conversions to escape serving as the hosts for the parasitical elite was on one level an unexpected flaw. It did however trigger the mass expansion of Islam in 7th - 8th centuries AD as the multiplying mass of believers fanned out in search of new victims.

Once the wealth of newly conquered infidels ceased being sufficiently available to support the Ummah then those who held closest to the role of the ideal Bedouin raider aristocracy had to resort to degrading the native laboring class. This resulted in the shattering of the Islamic myth of a society of equals. Originally the ideal had resembled Huey Long's "Every Man a King." It also by cementing the role of a rapacious and unproductive aristocracy with a Raider Parasite ethic fomented the stagnation of economic and intellectual activity. Farmers were reduced to subsistence peasantry and merchants became mere transporters and brokers of goods. Artisanship and experimentation declined after an initial surge stimulated by contact with non-moslem poulations.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

YouTube - Electromagnetic Railgun
world record setting event

YouTube - Electromagnetic Railgun world record setting event

300 nm range. They do not take up large ammunition storage either, just the shells but there is no explosive needed. Soon small modular nuke plants will be widely available, they already exist, to deliver the energy and we can have hundreds or thousands of these installed on anything that floats. There will be a ground version also that will replace long range artillery and short range ballistic missiles. Install these in Korea and it would be game over for the NorKs as soon as they cough wrong. Over 90% of humanity will be within range of these.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nick and Nora at the Met

Yesterday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I looked for one of my favorite objects.

It was not in its usual location under the Etruscan balcony at the South end of the Roman Sculpture Court. That was because it had been removed, for the worthy purpose of displaying a roman mosaic on temporary loan.

South is at the top. The entire mosaic measures over 26.3'x13'. That object is traveling and will be at the Met until April. A permanent museum is being constructed where it was discovered in Lod, Israel.

The Roman sarcophagus lid reminds me of two of the finest sculptures anywhere, the Cerveteri at the Villa Giulia in Rome and at the Louvre.
Look at this couple.

This was the best depiction of what an ideal marriage should look like until William Powell and Myrna Loy brought to life Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles in "The Thin Man."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The New Electoral College, Visualized

The New Electoral College, Visualized

This is fascinating. It is hard to see how the Democrats can exceed 200 votes, out of 270 needed to win in the Electoral College, come 2012.

Comment on National Review Online - The Corner,
Mike Potemra: Claire Berlinski on Palin

Claire Berlinski on Palin - By Mike Potemra - The Corner - National Review Online

Largely agree that Romney is saddled with his Health Care position, and will not repudiate it. He is likely to be the next dead Republican candidate walking in a long line that stepped into that role and through the floor.

The best campaigners against Democrats (not unfortunately in the primaries) the GOP had in 2008 are to old now, Rudy and Fred Thompson. In this cycle I am thinking of Gov. Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal. They will both be attacked as inexperienced on foreign policy and Jindal will be attacked on religious grounds. Just read, if you can stand it, the archives on Charles Johnson's LGF to see that waiting on the shelf. It isn't fair but Palin set the mold for how to attack the GOP.

The best way to ensure cover on the international credentials is to surround with an accredited team, John Bolton and David Petreaus (if he is available) and Senators like McCain who are not running. My position here is that the GOP should run on domestic competence and assure the public that they have the adults ready to step in on foreign policy.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Comment on PJM, Ed Driscoll »
‘Read My Lips, No New Taxes—Until 2013′

Ed Driscoll » ‘Read My Lips, No New Taxes—Until 2013′

From Ed Driscoll:
1. My friend Hugh Hewitt is apoplectic about the 2-year deal, but it seems to set up 2012 nicely. Vote for us to keep your taxes from rising. Vote for them and they’ll go up guaranteed: it’s baked right into the law.

To clever by half.

The Republicans should insist on a 30 month extension. They can pressure Democratic Senators before the 2012 election but let the voters know that it will be the new Congress and President who will determine what happens. That should sweep the board, and may even get some Donks to cross the aisle.

What we need are some Amendments and one I want high on the list is the elimination of the Lame Duck session in Congress. The New Congress meets January 3rd under the XXth Amendment. Under Article I, sect 4 cl. ii Congress and the States can set the date of the election.

My recommendation is that an Amendment specify that Congress shall adjourn before a scheduled election and that should the President desire to call either or both Houses into session before the date stipulated then those members newly elected shall be sworn in and shall serve. Provision shall be made for the Speaker and other officers to remain in office and they may assist in any transition. Returning Members may conduct inquiries and hearings while Congress is adjourned. Departing Members may remain under oath and receive compensation for up to 90 days after an election to assist in any transition.

Lessons Learned From the Carmel Fire

My comment from the related Facebook thread.

The real going forward Lesson Learned is unsurprisingly an old one. It takes 72 hours to get a response to a disaster going beyond the local level. The US refused to learn that after Katrina, although it was built into the National Disaster Response Plan the media had no problem putting out the lie that the response was unusual because Bush was a Republican and thousands of blacks were being left to die. Here even though Israel is much smaller we saw again that when local resources are overwhelmed it take the government three days to improvise a plan and marshal resources. We always need the equipment and trained people at the local level to respond immediately and while it is good to have major assets, such as the military, available for release at a higher level, we must know that each higher level means a delay and when something new is needed, like bringing in aircraft from other countries, it will take three days.

In a related note in a Jerusalem Post thread I saw, "Turkish official: J'lem Ankara in contact to rebuild ties."
Al Hura reports that Israel agreed to apologize for flotilla incident and pay reparations; Netanyahu refuses to comment on bilateral ties.
In reply I left the following "Talkback."

It is a feature in Islam to cast arguments using a rhetorical trick. They repeatedly attempt to give both sides of the argument and then say, "So you can see that even they agree that in a True Religion it is just as we say." The only way to handle this is to refuse to be drawn into the delusion. If the Turks attempt to break an Israeli blockade, which is legal under the laws of war, then the offending vessel should be disables and towed away.

As a side note, the Jerusalem Post has the worst website that I have seen in years. It is almost impossible to link to it, use it in social media, or even comment on it.

Comment on Daniel Foster -
The Corner - National Review Online:
The Impending Tax Deal

The Impending Tax Deal - By Daniel Foster - The Corner - National Review Online

Killing DREAM is so critical, the Democrats literally intend to replace the electorate with one more pliable, that the Republicans should run out the clock and permit no deals to go through for at least a week. It would be better to absorb the pain of having to pass the tax cuts in the new Congress rather than allow Reid and Pelosi to ram through the Lame Duck agenda.

We need an Amendment to eliminate Lame Ducks. If Congress has to be called into session after an election then the newly elected Representatives should report and be sworn in.

Comment on NY
Rangel accused of misusing funds on his defense in previous ethics investigation

Rangel accused of misusing funds on his defense in previous ethics investigation -

The sad thing is that Rangel came in as the honest new face after the scandals of Adam Clayton Powell.

As for his claim that there is "no corruption," just why were those corporation lobbyists giving money to the school he was soliciting for in his office? They expected a quid pro quo from the Congressman. What was the benefit to Rangel? He benefited from the publicity and increased sense of dependency by his constituents. He gained more power and more votes. That is a reward as much as cash is. It is a reward that is worth cash.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Comment on Telegraph Blogs, Daniel Hannan:
Blogging from the second worst place in the world

Blogging from the second worst place in the world – Telegraph Blogs

The first thing that comes to mind to me is that we need to return to a very 19th century idea of levels of sovereignty. Begin with the attributes of sovereignty. These include;
1. defined borders and the means to control them,
2. a monopoly on the judicial use of violence by the State,
3. the ability to control the conduct of persons and property,
4. the ability to collect taxes,
5. the capacity to defend itself by resort to arms,
6. The capacity to enter into binding agreements.

In addition to the above traditional criteria we also have to consider more recent standards of evaluating a nations role in international decision making based upon their record on Human Rights. Some countries espouse high ideals but lack the ability to enforce the rule of law. Others can bring an abundance of coercive power to bare but offend the values of decent civilization. A hundred or more years ago what we call minimal standards of Human Rights was called by diplomats Christian civilization. While it may have often been honored in the breach the ideals of conduct were recognized. We still struggle with how to express a standard that can be universally recognized and not exploited by the most cynical and oppressive.

Now I will pass over how the United States fails to satisfy the first condition. Indeed it is possible after the Wikileaks scandal that the US may not meet the last condition either. We can also discuss at some other time whether the UK and other members of the EU are no longer sovereign and if they qualify for accrediting diplomatic personnel in their own names and claiming the privileges of the Vienna Convention for their Embassies and Staff.

Let me stipulate that there is a class of nations that have the ability, even if they choose not to fully demonstrate it under current political and social arrangements, to function as fully independent and sovereign nations in the traditional sense. The UN was itself founded on the presumption that members of the Security Council could function that way. Further the UN's Charter provisions for securing and enforcing the peace, in chapters IV and V, depend on all members having the ability to both defend themselves, under article 51, and enter into agreements to assist the UNSC in projecting power. These are attribute 5 and 6 functions.

The reality is that while some countries are fully sovereign and act so others are not. Israel may meet that standard and for our purposes I would say that the US, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia and China do too. The last two have some internal cohesion and rule of law problems and the three before them in that list have some residual legal constraints but they can function as they choose and their domestic institutions are not subject to external control.

The major nations of the EU are largely capable of acting as sovereigns if they so choose but have placed their domestic institutions voluntarily under the supervision of an apparatus, the European regulatory and judicial review system, that is external to and not meaningfully subject to any domestic source of sovereignty. In this discussion I am not considering the impact of the current financial crisis on the status of the nations of Europe. It is not that I deny the real impact of these events but I see them as more a result of the self imposed restraints I referred to than a real diminution of the parties capacity to act as independent nations if they so choose. At this time I would place Canada in this second category of a country that has been and could be fully free but currently subjects itself to artificial restraint. It is debatable as to whether Greece meets that standard but for the 20 or more nations of Northern and Central Europe my perspective seems fair.

This leaves over 150 more places that currently claim to be sovereign countries with all the same rights and privileges as were exercised by all but the Big Five when the UN was established. Most of these countries, except for those in Latin America, were under some form of colonial administration 60 years ago. After half a century of nominal Independence and theoretical equality with everyone else in the UN General Assembly how are they doing? Indisputably most of them are less capable of exhibiting the attributes of sovereignty today than they did when the European administrators and military bands departed two to three generations ago.

What is to be done? My suggestion is that we acknowledge that a seat at the head of the table must be earned based on meeting objective criteria. For those who do not fully qualify we should define broad categories. A few may need to be quarantined and honestly treated as not being "Peace loving nations" fit to be in the UN. Many nations may be able to function under their own institutions without having demonstrated the level of achievement or the capacity for effective action, needed to serve as a full member of the international community. Others frankly need to be reorganized and placed under close supervision. Finally some simply need to be dissolved and given to a willing country able to operate it properly.

What should be done with the Congo? As Mr Hannan implies its amalgamation into a single vast polity was an irrational historical accident. The West opposed the secession of the most viable section, Katanga 50 years ago for two reasons. First because it was backed by both the Soviets and some shady business interests. Second because it would have set a precedent for dissolving more of the post colonial arbitrary borders. Those conditions no longer apply and the cost of propping up the failed nations and their fraudulent borders has proven excessive. Divide the Congo into 5 units and lace each under a Trusteeship. Perhaps the Belgians can have another go at it. The certainly have gotten more experience through the EU in producing administrators willing to tell everyone else what to do.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Press Conference at the Haifa University Forward Command Center

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Press Conference at the Haifa University Forward Command Center

History pivots on events. Israel's relations will never be the same. Greece and Turkey have worked together in a manner that NATO never achieved. In a crisis Netanyahu stepped up when others may have faltered. It was his Giuliani moment and he met it.
PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Press Conference at the Haifa University Forward Command Center

Comment on -
Felony charge for vet accused of targeting Westboro

Felony charge for vet accused of targeting Westboro -

This is why we have a layered system with "Jury Nullification" as a feature, not a bug, built in. At the State/Local level the police have to temper their actions based on what serves the need to keep a positive respect for the Law in the community. The District Attorney and State Attorney General are usually elected, which can influence them not to pursue such a case. A Grand Jury can return "No True Bill" and refuse to indict and finally the (Petit) Jury can Acquit or be hung by a single holdout. While it is true that politics has on occasion produced needless prosecutions from grandstanding DAs and that any decent DA will say he can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich these facts can give some cause for hope.

If the State cannot prove that the accused placed his weapons in his car and then stalked the members of the Westboro group, really mostly one extended family, with a prior intent to commit violence then he may get off. That seems to me, and I not a lawyer, to be a tough thing to prove. If he did do the worst he is accused of then we get to see how good a lawyer the Defense has. Loathing for the Westboro group is so common that if they were the accused I think it would be hard to find a place where they could get a fair trial.

The biggest problem that Mr. Newell may face is financial. Prosecutors will use the cost of defending yourself as leverage to force a plea deal. Also juries are often swayed by the tactic of bringing multiple indictments so that the jury will feel induced to convict on something. Federal Prosecutors have fewer restraints with even more opportunities to abuse their powers. Just ask Scooter Libby. Still the fact remains that false convictions are, despite what the movies and TV imply, rare. The overwhelming majority of the people in prison belong there.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Comment on - Israel News, Ynetnews:
Hezbollah overjoyed by fire

Hezbollah overjoyed by fire - Israel News, Ynetnews

This is the reality check balance to the hopeful tone of the last blog entry.

It was always forbidden to damage the environment as a strategy of war. Traditional Arab culture specifically prohibited poisoning wells or cutting down date trees during a siege. Muhammad went into his tent and came out with a new revelation authorizing him to use such methods against his enemies. So yes we can expect the Islamists to destroy nature deliberately as a tool of war.

Excerpt from PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Security Cabinet Meeting Regarding the Massive Carmel Fire

PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Security Cabinet Meeting Regarding the Massive Carmel Fire

This is extremely serious, and it shows the strength and flexibility of a democracy in responding to a crisis. Perhaps on this Chanukah a miracle occurs and bitter enemies can come closer. By being humane we become more human.

At this stage, four aircraft have arrived from Greece. I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who responded immediately, and the mobilization here is exceptional, with all the crews and their logistical support.

I would also like to thank Cypriot President Demetris Christofias for dispatching a plane and a helicopter. The response was immediate, the aircraft are here. I would also like to thank UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Two British helicopters from Cyprus are here. All of these forces are helping us. UI would like to thank Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who offered and sent two planes, which are here; we welcome this.

I would like to thank Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov for sending 100 firefighters, who are here. I would like to thank Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who sent a very large Russian plane, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world, which is en route. It will be here this afternoon.

We have also received aid and very generous offers of assistance from Egypt, Azerbaijan, Spain, Croatia, France and Jordan.