LFTC wishes readers much joy & prosperity....
Gone fishin' until January 5, 2015.
Sorrow shadows our year-end revels....
Saturday's horrific assassination of two NYPD officers was a sadly predictable result of four months of orchestrated protests--some openly violent, all openly contemptuous of those who protect them and those whose lives they cavalierly disrupted. These cynical, heedless acts recklessly spread social gasoline all over and left boxes of matches everywhere.
Rather than deliver an extended tirade against those I hold responsible for creating the environment that was a cinch, eventually, to lead to this kind of atrocity, I will make a few brief points. And as always, LFTC readers will make their own choice.
Please, first, check this CompStat page for NYPD. (CompStat is the crime statistics system established by Rudy Giuliani, even exonerated by the feds during the Clinton years.) Note not just 2014's data, but the historical data as well. Federal agencies should only be as transparent--and even half as successful. Note also that since 2010 the rank-and-file NYPD officers on active patrol have been majority nonwhite.
And please, keep in mind that symbols matter. The mayor of a city sets a mood by words as well as deeds. That Mayor deBlasio selected William Bratton is commendable, and for appointing him the mayor may take derivative credit for NYPD's excellent performance in 2014. Credit goes primarily, however, to the men & women of NYPD.
But it is to Mayor deBlasio's everlasting discredit that he impliedly accused his own police force of endemic white racism when he told his son to beware of cops--and shared this with the public in a recent ABC "This Week" interview:
What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have ...an encounter with a police officer....
With [his son], very early on, we said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do. Don’t move suddenly. Don’t reach for your cellphone. Because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.
And when he takes the likes of Al Sharpton as chief consigliere in police matters that, too sends signals that undermine those who protect the city's citizens and visitors from its vicious criminal element. For such calumny and its horrific aftermath DeBalsio was repaid at Saturday evening's press conference when upon his entry into the briefing room police attendees turned their backs (1:20) to him.
Bottom Line. All this anti-cop hyper-agitation is not merely deeply dividing our nation; it is literally ripping apart the societal fabric. Once ripped apart it is nearly impossible to rebuild.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Homeland Security, Conservative Politics
Cheers for Alan Gross, jeers for the president....
Changing 55 years of policy, laying the foundation for full diplomatic relations, pressing Congress to lift the economic embargo, signalling the bad actors around the world that Team Obama is open for business & prepared to grant generous concessions. . . .
This, despite the fact that in 2008 candidate Obama promised voters the polar opposite:
My policy towards Cuba will be guided by one word, liberty. The road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and it must lead to elections that are free and fair. That is my commitment.
I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with leverage to present, so do not be confused about this, I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with clear choice. If you take significant steps towards democracy, beginning with with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That is the way to bring about real change in Cuba, through strong, smart, principled diplomacy. We cannot keep playing political games on this issue. It is time for us to finally bring about the changes that will release the enormous potential of the people that are currently trapped in Cuba.
Shades of Syria's Assad, another flip-flop "what red line?" moment. . . .
But that is not the real import of this foreign policy fiasco. It augurs for more such unilateral concessions by a president determined to ignore the verdict of the 2014 election, utterly convinced he is right, contemptuous of his critics, and willing to stretch the bounds of what executive power can accomplish, even risking multiple reversals in federal court.
EXPECT: (1) diplomatic recognition of Iran--even if nuclear talks remain stalled; (2) diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian State along the pre-1967 lines--including a divided Jerusalem; (3) further unilateral strategic nuclear arms cuts; (4) a deal with Russia neutralizing the Baltic nations in return for Russia not invading any eastern Baltic provinces.
Bottom Line. In foreign policy as well as domestic, the president is prepared to accomplish as much of his program by executive diktat as he can. His aim is to create faits accomplis that effectively preclude reversal by subsequent administrations. If he succeeds his terms will prove calamitously consequential.
Were they legal, moral, useful?....
Marc Theissen's WaPo column shows how waterboarding led over a decade of investigative convolutions to bin Laden.
And Danielle Pletka's analysis shows how tainted Sen. Dianne Feinstein's report is. Further on this, Stephen Hayes & Thomas Joscelyn document how Feinstein's staff minions doctored their evidence to "prove" their claim that harsh techniques did not work. Their full 3-pager merits a close read. Charles Krauthammer calls Feinstein's report "a travesty" and asks as to alternative means of interrogation after 9/11:
So what was the Bush administration to do? Amid the smoking ruins of Ground Zero, conduct a controlled experiment in gentle interrogation and wait to see if we’d be hit again?
A nation attacked is not a laboratory for exquisite moral experiments. It’s a trust to be protected, by whatever means meet and fit the threat.
The first Navy SEAL Team 6 member elected to Congress says the Feinstein report will cost American lives. Senior ex-CIA leaders defend harsh interrogation methods in a WSJ op-ed, noting the context post-9/11:
The detention and interrogation program was formulated in the aftermath of the murders of close to 3,000 people on 9/11. This was a time when:
• We had evidence that al Qaeda was planning a second wave of attacks on the U.S.
• We had certain knowledge that bin Laden had met with Pakistani nuclear scientists and wanted nuclear weapons.
• We had reports that nuclear weapons were being smuggled into New York City.
• We had hard evidence that al Qaeda was trying to manufacture anthrax.
It felt like the classic “ticking time bomb” scenario—every single day.
In this atmosphere, time was of the essence and the CIA felt a deep responsibility to ensure that an attack like 9/11 would never happen again. We designed the detention and interrogation programs at a time when “relationship building” was not working with brutal killers who did not hesitate to behead innocents. These detainees had received highly effective counter-interrogation training while in al Qaeda training camps. And yet it was clear they possessed information that could disrupt plots and save American lives.
The CIA saved lives website posted the entire 3-part Megyn Kelly Dec. 16 interview with the "architect" of the harsh interrogations program--I use "harsh" rather than the buzzword "enhanced" because the latter is bureaucratic euphemism for nasty (however necessary) stuff. It is well worth full viewing, especially as to waterboarding. Here is The Kelly File's Dec. 17 single follow-up with Dr. James Mitchell, who addressed the legal issue:
If it was torture, I would be in jail. This thing was investigated over and over. I was told by the highest law enforcement agency in the land that we were going to walk right up to the edge of the law, and that all of the things we had included in that list were legal.
Mitchell said that he & other questioners were subjected to "tremendous pressure" to use harsh techniques, even in cases he thought did not warrant their use. Detainees break not during a session, but before the next one, having been told that they would be asked specific questions that they must either answer or be subjected to another harsh session. He added that KSM told him the liberal media and America would turn on him & his fellow interrogators.
Justice Scalia says that the Constitution is silent on "torture." Bush 43 A-g Michael Mukasey defends the CIA's program. He notes that law is a "technical business"; its definitions, not cocktail party or punditry chatter, define what constitutes "torture" in the area. He notes this of KSM, re not having suffered lasting injury, as law defines torture:
. . . 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perhaps the worst of the three waterboarded terrorists, eventually came to know the precise limits of the procedure and was seen to count the seconds by tapping his fingers until it was over. Some torture. Arguably, what broke him was sleep deprivation, but in any event he disclosed reams of valuable information. At last report, he is doing just fine.
Judge Mukasey notes that Sen. Feinstein confuses personal belief with legal definition:
Which is to say, Sen. Feinstein wins the argument only by defining herself as both the standard setter and the winner. Also, if she is looking for a “common meaning” of torture, how about something like a procedure to which no rational person would submit voluntarily? More journalists have tried the experience of being waterboarded than terrorists were subjected to it. That wouldn’t be the case if, for example, we were talking about needles under the fingernails.
Mukasey counters the John McCain "values' trump card, noting that a pair of Medal Of Honor recipients among Vietnam POWs came down on the opposite side of the debate. Finally, he separates personal view from actual law:
Moreover, and particularly at a time like this, I think it is important that we resist the New Age conceit of seeing each act of our government as an expression of who we are, and each act by its officials as an expression of who they are.
Brave and serious men and women, faced with the most terrifying attack in American history, and—along with the rest of us—fearful of more, devised and executed a program to get intelligence from captured terrorists who refused to cooperate. Former CIA directors and deputy directors have recently described in these pages how that program succeeded. Theirs was an act of national self-preservation, not of national self-expression.
As for the views of Sens. Feinstein and McCain and others about what is legal or illegal, this nation of laws is governed by what is in those laws, not by what at any given moment is in the minds and mouths of those who enact them.
John Yoo, the Justice Dept. lawyer who wrote the legal memos on interrogation during the first Bush term, explains that they were indeed legal, moral & useful. His money paragraphs:
Three reasons persuaded us to approve waterboarding. First, Al Qaeda terrorists were not POWs under the Geneva Conventions, because they fought for no nation and flouted the laws of war by killing civilians and beheading prisoners (such as Daniel Pearl). Second, the U.S. armed forces had used it in training tens of thousands of officers and soldiers, without any physical injury or long-term mental harm. Finally, the United States had suffered the deaths of 3,000 civilians and billions of dollars in damage; we knew little about Al Qaeda, and intelligence indicated that more attacks were coming, perhaps using weapons of mass destruction....
Feinstein implies that the CIA should have chosen standard interrogation methods, which depend on developing a relationship with the detainee. This may work for law enforcement, but not for any reasonable American president in 2001 and 2002. Building rapport with Al Qaeda leaders could take weeks, months, years — or never. Our prisons still hold convicted terrorists, such as those tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who have never cooperated with authorities....
Feinstein and other Senate Democrats can only attack this record by arguing that the interrogations yielded nothing new. But a central element of the CIA's success — killing Osama bin Laden and destroying Al Qaeda's leadership — belies her claim. The U.S. found Bin Laden by tracking a courier to his location. Feinstein's staff discovered the courier's name in CIA files before interrogations began, and so claims that they added nothing to the effort. This ignores the fact that the names of hundreds, if not thousands, of Al Qaeda suspects sat in CIA files. Only the interrogation of Al Qaeda leaders singled out that individual as the courier.
Yoo notes that two Justice Dept. inquiries cleared CIA actions. To which I'd add that even if every piece of data was also found elsewhere, corroboration is crucial in pursuing leads.
Now, my own assessment:
Bottom Line. Changing the rules in midstream benefits no one but our enemies.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Homeland Security, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics
Our northern neighbor's take on America 2014....
Forwarded to me via email from a friend:
Bottom Line. Instead of Canada becoming the 51st US state, how about America becoming Canada's newest southern province?
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Homeland Security, Foreign Policy, Economy, Conservative Politics
Cheap oil is lifting US economy, killing Greens....
How does under $60 oil, headed lower, sound? Oil has declined 44 percent from its June price. Consumer joy, supplier angst.
Thanks to fracking, in spite of Greens . . . an equivalent tax cut of over $40 billion at a 30 percent drop, so figure that number is already $60 billion with a 44 percent drop. The trend should continue for years. Saudi Arabia is cutting price to press Russia & Iran, both of whom need high oil revenues to sustain their aggressions; Putin needs $100 oil, which provides 1/3 of Moscow's revenues & 2/3 of Moscow's exports. Hyper-leftist Venezuela gets 97 percent of revenues from oil sales.
And our president? In 2012 Obama said "we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.”
Bottom Line. If oil stays low, all the good effects will be credited by a supportive mainstream media to the president, despite his hostility to "drill baby drill" policies; voters likely will do the same.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Conservative Politics
Sen. Feinstein's insanely self-righteous crusade....
Dianne Feinstein's Ahab-like quest to harpoon her fancied CIA Moby Dick--silently supported by the president & eagerly pressed by Senate Intelligence Committee Democratic staff--will inflict vast harm, whilst replaying old arguments that deeply divided the country and will again do so; that alienated allies and will again do so; that thrilled our enemies and will again do so. All this to further her evolving view as to what the proper limits of interrogation should be, her belief that we learned nothing major from the sessions and to promote what passes for her progressive viewpoint on constitutional law. The 6,000 pages to be disclosed will at best cumulate such facts upon which all are agreed, while perpetuating unsettled disputes without doing anything useful for American security. And our enemies may well unearth a treasure trove of CIA sources and methods that will enable them to frustrate much potentially vital intelligence gathering.
Partly we do this periodically in the mistaken belief that only by such acts of moral self-purification are we entitled to prosecute war against our enemies. That they are stupefyingly barbaric and we, though far from perfect, hardly like them, is not enough to head off the moral preening of the bloviating pomposity that has come to describe the junior senator from California.
Worse, Feinstein was briefed from the very start on these enhanced interrogation techniques & along with every major Democratic leader in Congress heartily endorsed their use. She now has joined with those who--absurdly--impliedly equate waterboarding & sleep deprivation with slow-motion beheading on Internet video.
Their moral mantra: First we must cleanse ourselves unsparingly, and thus bare our sinful soul before the entire world. Only then can we become worthy to pursue the laurels of victory, and at last show ourselves to have become a truly civilized society.
At least a generation--perhaps more than one--will pass before intelligence personnel ever trust any administration's guarantee that aggressive actions and risks they are asked to take--even under solemn assurances that such moves are fully lawful--will be protected from the lawfare wolfpack in successor administrations. No matter: Feinstein & her senatorial confederates will face neither criminal prosecution nor public defamation.
Bottom Line. In the name of forcing disclosure of every past sin, real or imagined (mostly the latter), Feinstein is urging us to prove that we meet HER test of being better than the enemy, and thus entitle us to seek ultimate triumph (no high-five celebrations, please). But above all Feinstein's crusade is a vehicle for ostentatiously showcasing what she sees as her own unimpeachable moral superiority.
For the future: Whenever Feinstein shows up on the boob tube to pontificate, turn down the sound, go to YouTube & listen to Michael Feinstein play & sing the music of George & Ira Gershwin.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, Homeland Security, Conservative Politics
GOP: getting out of the old era, into the new....
Senate. Half the new Senate--30 of 60--did not vote in 2010 to pass ObamaCare. Of these, 16 Ds either declined to run for, or failed to win re-election. The full breakdown: 11 Ds left & were replaced by Ds; 8 Ds left & were replaced by Rs; 8 Ds were defeated by Rs in bids for re-election; 3 Ds died in office (all replaced by Ds). With Sen. Mary Landrieu's 56 - 44 shellacking Saturday there is, for the first time since 1945, not a single D senator from the formerly longtime solidly Democratic Deep South. NRO's Kevin Williamson explodes the myth that alleged GOP racism caused the shift; in fact, blacks began voting solidly Democratic during the New Deal; white southerners didn't massively shift to GOP until the Reagan years. Indeed, GOP moderate Dwight Eisenhower carried more white votes in 1956--the year of the infamous "Southern Manifesto" signed by 101 segregationist pols in Congress (99 Ds & 2 Rs) opposing racial integration--than conservative Barry Goldwater won in 1964.
House. With a pair of R pickups Saturday in Louisiana run-offs, the new House will at least match the GOP postwar peak of 246 in 1946. One Arizona race remains undecided, for the seat formerly held by Democrat Gabby Giffords; in that race Martha McSally, edged out in her bid for the same seat in 2012, leads by 200 votes, with a machine recount scheduled to decide the winner; the current House count is 246 R -188 D. One of the two LA losers Saturday was former LA Gov. Edwin "Fast Eddie" Edwards. Should the GOP capture the remaining seat its total of 247 would be the highest since Rs held 270 seats in the 1929-30 Congress, during President Herbert Hoover's first two years. In his two midterms President Obama has now lost 75 seats--63 in 2010 & 12 in 2014--one more than the 74 Harry Truman lost in his two midterm elections. With some state seats yet to be decided, Rs anticipate a 2014 gain of 300 - 350 seats, to a level of 4,100 total Rs out of the 7,383; this would be the highest GOP total since the 1920s.
State Governorships. The 4 Statehouses that Rs picked up from Ds--AK, IL, MA & MD (3 retirements & IL incumbent Pat Quinn)--gives them 31 of 49 so far decided; Ds hold 18. Alaska shifted from R to independent after a recount. Vermont is still undecided, with no one getting 50 percent in a six-way race; come Jan. 2015 the heavily Democratic state legislature will select a winner. Incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin is expected to win, as VT has not picked a second place finisher since 1853 (NOT a misprint). In all, Rs control 23 state governments, Ds 7; 18 are spilt & Alaska remains undecided. The 4 GOP pickups included wins in 3 solid blue states: IL, MA & MD. Of 36 seats at stake in 2014 Rs held 22 & Ds held 14. Rs lost only PA.
State Legislatures. GOP dominance is reflected in state legislatures, where they have hit their highest mark in nearly a century. With 87 chambers at stake in 2014 (42 of 50 state senates & 45 of 49 state houses), the final 2014 tally: of 99 state chambers (Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan senatorial legislature), Rs hold 68, a gain of 11; they wrested 9 from Democratic control, and picked up another 2 where there had been a 50-50 split. Ds control 30. In 2014, 82 percent (6,057) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats were at stake; 56 percent (1,098) of 1,972 senate seats & 92 percent (4,958) of 5,411 house seats were decided. Of 11 chamber switches, the 6 GOP state senate pickups were in CO, ME, NY, NV, WA, WV; the 5 GOP pickups in house chambers were in MN, NH, NM, NV, WV. GOP gains come on top of 680 seats gained in 2010. Ds had modest state chamber pickups in 2012.
Presidents. Political ace Larry Sabato shows how from FDR onward presidents have cost their party seats during their White House sojourn. Every president lost seats in Congress during his tenure: Only Ronald Reagan managed a pickup of state chamber seats--a microscopic 6 seats out of nearly 7,400--during his presidential years. Obama's 2008 - 2014 record shows net losses of 13 senators, 69 House seats, 11 governorships, 913 state legislature seats & 30 state chambers. In all, Pres. Obama's 6-year cumulative tally is worse than the 8-year average losses for two-term presidents: 8 senate seats, 36 House seats, 11 governorships & 15 state chambers & 451 state legislative seats.
Bottom Line. President Obama's tenure has been a political disaster of epic proportions for his party, with record losses in both houses of Congress and even worse losses in state legislative chambers.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics
Palestine Authority Pres. Mahmoud Abbas slips...
PA President Abbas told an Arab conclave last weekend that he will never accept a Jewish state: “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.”
Hamas is ditching Abbas as coalition partner, a move showing it is winning the allegiance of more West Bank Palestinians--thus tilting Abbas more towards confrontation with Israel rather than compromise, ISO Arab "street cred."
Abbas is a Holocaust denier too.
Bottom Line. Supporters of the so-called "peace process" are simply out of touch with reality. The dispute is existential, not territorial.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, National Security, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics
ObamaCare summed up in four sentences....
Sent me by a friend:
Is everything perfectly clear?
Bottom Line. Jonathan Gruber was not kidding when he told select audiences that the law was by design opaque, so as to fool voters into believing that they would not be taxed, they could keep their doctor, they could keep their health insurance plan, etc.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, Conservative Politics
Meet James Webb, whom Ds should nominate...
Here is a journalistic portrait of Webb, who has made his mark as war hero, bestselling author, secretary of the navy--the rare official who resigned on principle--senator and lifelong champion of veterans. Webb opposes Green enviro-nuts. Webb surely would agree with Charles Krauthammer that Team Obama's latest enviro-deal with China is insane. And he is an economic populist who has made income inequality his central political cause. Webb will surely run on this if his presidential campaign gets off the ground.
More hawkish than his fellow Ds on defense, though he opposed the Iraq war, Webb also splits with his party over affirmative action, exemplified in his brilliant 2010 WSJ op-ed demolishing the liberal justifications for racial spoils. (In a similar vein, a lawsuit filed by Asian students charging reverse discrimination at Harvard may gain traction with the federal courts.)
After noting that LBJ's original constitutional basis for affirmative action was based on the 13th amendment and the 1866 Civil Rights Act command that the federal government take action to eliminate "badges of slavery," Webb argued cogently that policies then moved past remediation to discrimination against whites. He notes as to the South:
The old South was a three-tiered society, with blacks and hard-put whites both dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power. At the height of slavery, in 1860, less than 5% of whites in the South owned slaves. The eminent black historian John Hope Franklin wrote that "fully three-fourths of the white people in the South had neither slaves nor an immediate economic interest in the maintenance of slavery."
The Civil War devastated the South, in human and economic terms. And from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the beginning of World War II, the region was a ravaged place, affecting black and white alike.
In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt created a national commission to study what he termed "the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section." At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South's 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.
He added that whites are hardly a monolithic category, and that affirmative action thus should end.
Bottom Line. Jim Webb is out of step with his party's base. If somehow he were to win the nomination, which would require that Hillary self-destruct & Elizabeth Warren either do the same or not run--he could prove a formidable candidate come 2016. A President Webb could be expected to bargain with a Republican Congress, in ways the current Oval Office occupant has never seriously tried to do.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Conservative Politics