Monthly Archives: January 2007

What does this have to do with fighting terrorism?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is using a provision of the PATRIOT Act to fire US Attorneys and appoint replacements. The new appointees are more politically friendly to the Bush Administration.

“It appears that the administration has chosen to use this provision, which was intended to help protect our nation, to circumvent the transparent constitutional Senate confirmation process to reward political allies,” Pryor said in the joint Democratic statement.

Not true, Gonzales told The Associated Press.

“We are fully committed to ensuring that with respect to every position we have a Senate-confirmed, presidentially appointed U.S. attorney,” Gonzales told editors and reporters during an interview Tuesday.

“We in no way politicize these decisions,” he added.


In the year since the reauthorization took effect, 11 federal prosecutors have resigned or announced their resignations – some at the urging of the Bush administration, Gonzales said. He described a range of reasons for ousting sitting U.S. attorneys, from their job performance to their standing in their communities, and noted that federal prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president.

Gonzales repeatedly cited the Patriot Act when discussing the replacements, but twice refused to say when asked whether any of the personnel changes at issue pertained to national security.

But he stressed that anyone named to replace the departing prosecutors have their jobs only temporarily, pending Senate confirmation.

Gonzales scares the hell of out me, as well as the rest of the Bush Administration.

Recently, Andrew Napolitano (a Fox News contributor) had this to say about Bush and his cronies:

George W. Bush, with a rubber-stamp Congress, has shown less fidelity to the Constitution than any president since Abraham Lincoln. At the very least, with divided government in the next two years, we should expect more constitutional government.

The Bush administration, which has treated the Congress—on the rare occasions when it failed to act as a rubber stamp—as if it were merely a constitutional nuisance, will be forced to read the supreme law of the land, and to recognize and accept the equality of the Congress with the executive branch. With the Democrats in control of both houses, we can now expect congressional interaction with the executive branch to be more in line with what the Founders contemplated.

We can also expect to learn what kind of intelligence the administration relied on and used to persuade the United Nations, the Congress, and the American people that Iraq should be invaded. We can hope to learn what kinds of activities were included in the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program and in the CIA interrogation, detention, torture, and rendition program. And perhaps we’ll discover what poor souls have unknowingly suffered the rape of their constitutional liberties silently administered through the PATRIOT Act.

I’d say that FDR was more abusive to the Constitution than Lincoln, but other than that, Napolitano nails it.

[UPDATE] Instapundit reports that it’s no different from what Clinton did when he came into to office.

Ethanol And The Law Of Unintended Consequences

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about the consequences that have resulted from the Federal Government’s decision to heavily subsidize the production of corn-based ethanol

[T]he great virtue of ethanol is that it represents a “sustainable,” environmentally friendly source of energy–a source that is literally homegrown rather than imported from such unstable places as Nigeria or Iran.

That’s one reason why, as Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren note in the Milken Institute Review, federal and state subsidies for ethanol ran to about $6 billion last year, equivalent to roughly half its wholesale market price. Ethanol gets a 51-cent a gallon domestic subsidy, and there’s another 54-cent a gallon tariff applied at the border against imported ethanol. Without those subsidies, hardly anyone would make the stuff, much less buy it–despite recent high oil prices.

That’s also why the percentage of the U.S. corn crop devoted to ethanol has risen to 20% from 3% in just five years, or about 8.6 million acres of farmland. Reaching the President’s target of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017 would, at present corn yields, require the entire U.S. corn harvest.

The most immediate consequence of this should be pretty obvious, the price of corn has skyrocketed in the last year. That’s great news for corn producers, but it’s bad news for the rest of us, and even worse news for poor countries like Mexico:

Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas. That, in turn, has led to lower sales for vendors such as Rosales and angry protests by consumers.


There is almost universal consensus in Mexico that higher demand for ethanol is at the root of price increases for corn and tortillas.

What’s worse, the supposed environmental benefits of ethanol just aren’t true:

As an oxygenate, ethanol increases the level of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere and thus causes smog. The scientific literature is also divided about whether the energy inputs required to produce ethanol actually exceed its energy output. It takes fertilizer to grow the corn, and fuel to ship and process it, and so forth. Even the most optimistic estimate says ethanol’s net energy output is a marginal improvement of only 1.3 to one. For purposes of comparison, energy outputs from gasoline exceed inputs by an estimated 10 to one.

And because corn-based ethanol is less efficient than ordinary gasoline, using it to fuel cars means you need more gas to drive the same number of miles. This is not exactly a route to “independence” from Mideast, Venezuelan or any other tainted source of oil. Ethanol also cannot be shipped using existing pipelines (being alcohol, it eats the seals), so it must be trucked or sent by barge or train to its thousand-and-one destinations, at least until separate pipelines are built.

If nothing else, the continued survival of the ethanol subsidies is a testament to political power.  Forget about Big Oil, the real winner in the energy sweepstakes these days is Big Corn.

The Militarization Of The Presidency

Garry Wills writes in today’s New York Times about the disturbing way in which the President’s role has Commander in Chief of the military has expanded as the Imperial Presidency has grown in power:

WE hear constantly now about “our commander in chief.” The word has become a synonym for “president.” It is said that we “elect a commander in chief.” It is asked whether this or that candidate is “worthy to be our commander in chief.”

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.

As Wills points out, the fact that President is now referred to as “our Commander in Chief” reflects not just a debasement of the language, but the fact that the Presidency itself has taken on a much more militaristic aura than it had when the nation was founded:

When Abraham Lincoln took actions based on military considerations, he gave himself the proper title, “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” That title is rarely — more like never — heard today. It is just “commander in chief,” or even “commander in chief of the United States.” This reflects the increasing militarization of our politics. The citizenry at large is now thought of as under military discipline. In wartime, it is true, people submit to the national leadership more than in peacetime. The executive branch takes actions in secret, unaccountable to the electorate, to hide its moves from the enemy and protect national secrets. Constitutional shortcuts are taken “for the duration.” But those impositions are removed when normal life returns.

But we have not seen normal life in 66 years. The wartime discipline imposed in 1941 has never been lifted, and “the duration” has become the norm. World War II melded into the cold war, with greater secrecy than ever — more classified information, tougher security clearances. And now the cold war has modulated into the war on terrorism.

It’s the idea of the permanent crisis, of course, that leads to the idea of the Imperial Presidency. If we are constantly under threat, whether its from the Communists, or the terrorists, or the drug runners, then, the argument goes, we’ve got to have one man with enough power to “protect” us. The fact that we’ve given that power to the branch of government most identified with the King we revolted from is both ironic and sad.

One consequence of the militarized Presidency is the suggestion that his actions are above criticism:

There has never been an executive branch more fetishistic about secrecy than the Bush-Cheney one. The secrecy has been used to throw a veil over detentions, “renditions,” suspension of the Geneva Conventions and of habeas corpus, torture and warrantless wiretaps. We hear again the refrain so common in the other wars — If you knew what we know, you would see how justified all our actions are.

But we can never know what they know. We do not have sufficient clearance.

When Adm. William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized the gulf war under the first President Bush, Secretary of State James Baker said that the admiral was not qualified to speak on the matter since he no longer had the clearance to read classified reports. If he is not qualified, then no ordinary citizen is. We must simply trust our lords and obey the commander in chief.

That’s not what the Constitution provides, and it’s not what the Founders intended.

Simon Says: I’m At A Loss…

The current crop of politicos are as vapid as they claim GWB to be.  I can’t write doggerel to match their idiocies — Shakespeare would gape, and Twain would reach for the whisky.

So, if the Muse fails me? I’ll fall back on quotations. 

Thus on the Democrats, and the Republicans, blundering towards the bottom of… well, something:

Error can point the way to truth, while empty-headedness can only lead to more empty-headedness, or to a career in politics.

Thank you, Number Ten Ox… and Mr. Hughart.


Another big government Republican files for ’08

It’s official, Mike Huckabee is running, well he at least is taking the step of form an exploratory committee.

Here is what Erick over at Red State had to say about Huckabee:


You too can support a guy who has no problem raising taxes, hiking the minimum wage, spends his time doing rice commercials, called No Child Left Behind the greatest education reform in his lifetime, wants to ban trans fats, thinks the government needs to up the funding of Phys. Ed. classes, and has a host of other nanny-statist ideas.

This “favorite of conservatives,” as the Associated Press calls him, also rated ‘dead last’ second to last among Republican governors in CATO’s 2006 rankings of the nation’s governors (and sixth from the bottom overall).

That’s right. Mike Huckabee is running. Welcome to the mediocrity Governor.

There were only two possible candidates from either major party that I could bring myself to vote for, one being Ron Paul (at this point I’m backing him)…the other is Mark Sanford from South Carolina, who is not running.

God help us.

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