Monthly Archives: April 2008

CAGW’s 2008 Pig Book Names Names

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released its 2008 edition of the Pig Book. CAGW found $17.2 billion in pork for fiscal year 2008 and this time, they named names.

The top 5 porkers in the Senate were:

#1 Cochran (R): 241 projects costing $892.2 million.
#2 Stevens (R): 150 projects costing $469.4 million
#3 Shelby (R): 206 projects costing $464.5 million
#4 Landrieu (D):161 projects costing $458.5 million
#5 Byrd (D): 111 projects costing $386 million

The three senators running for president where ranked as follows:

#13 Clinton (D): 281 projects costing $296.2 million
#70 Obama (D): 53 projects costing $97.4 million
#96 (tied with 4 others) McCain (R): 0 projects costing $0.00

In the House the top 5 porkers were:

#1 Wicker: 43 projects costing $176.3 million
#2 Young, Bill: 87 projects costing $169.5 million
#3 Murtha: 73 projects costing $159.1 million
#4 Abercrombie: 29 projects costing $153.6 million
#5 Hoyer: 98 projects costing $149.1 million

At the bottom of the list:

#495 Boehner, Broun, Flake, Fossela, Foster, Kline, Latta, Pitts, Shadegg, and Terry: 0 projects costing $0.00

Where’s Ron?

In case anyone is wondering, Ron Paul (R) ranked #196 with 8 projects costing $22.7 million (I was very shocked and saddened by this).


Thank You, Big Oil

Glenn Beck on CNN wrote a nice little piece about the hypocrisy of “environmentalists” and why we shouldn’t be demonizing “Big Oil” for working for profit.  Worth a quick read.

I Can’t Think Of A Catchy Title

I suppose the best way to describe myself would be to say that I have a problem with authority. I’ve always disliked when people told me what to do, even as a young child, and I’ve always preferred to find my own path through life and make my own decisions, even if it occasionally went against the conventional wisdom and sometimes worked to my short-term disadvantage. My dad said I inherited it from him, but that I’ve taken it to a whole new level. When I was young I wanted to be a journalist, until I got to college and realized that journalism was less about the search for objective truth than it was about writing the stories that best suited your employer’s interests, whether they were true or not (which didn’t sit well with me at all). So I drifted aimlessly through a couple of years of college as an indifferent (often drunk) student, unsure of what to do with myself until one of my fraternity brothers gave me a copy of “The Fountainhead” and I got hooked on the ideas that success and a refusal to conform to societal standards were not mutally exclusive, and that the greatest evil in the world was society and government’s failure to recognize or accept individuality and individual freedom as a strength, not a weakness. So I threw myself into studying politics and history, worked in a few political campaigns after college, had some success, and thought about doing a career in politics until I realized that most of the people I knew who had never had a career outside of politics had no comprehension of how the real world actually worked and tended to make a lot of bad, self-absorbed decisions that rarely helped the people they claimed to be representing.

That didn’t sit well with me either, so I decided to put any thoughts of going into politics on hold until I’d actually had a life and possibly a real career, and I spent the next couple of years drifting between a series of random yet educational jobs (debt collector, deliveryman, computer salesman, repo man, dairy worker) that taught me the value of hard work, personal responsibility and the financial benefits of dining at Taco John’s on Tuesday nights (2 tacos for a buck) when money got tight.

After awhile, however, the desire to see the world (and the need for a more consistent and slightly larger paycheck) convinced me to join the Army, where I spent ten years traveling around the world on the government dime working as an intelligence analyst. I generally enjoyed my time in the military, despite the aforementioned problem with authority (which wasn’t as much of an issue in the military as many people might think it would be), and I got to see that the decisions our political leaders make were sometimes frivolous, often ill-informed, and always had unforeseen repercussions down the road…especially on the soldiers tasked with implementing those decisions. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my 10 years in the military doing jobs I enjoyed, traveling to countries that I always wanted to see (Scotland is the greatest place in the world to hang out, Afghanistan is very underrated) and working with people I liked and respected, until I finally decided that at 35 it was time to move into a job where I didn’t have the threat of relocation lying over my head every two or three years, where I didn’t have to worry about my friends being blown up, and where I didn’t have to work in any capacity for George W. Bush.

I work now for a financial company in Kansas where I’m responsible for overseeing, pricing and maintaining farms, commercial and residential properties, mineral assets, insurance policies, annuities, etc. In my spare time I like to read books on economics, history, and politics (I’m preparing to tackle Murray Rothbard’s “Man, Economy & State” and Von Mises’ “Human Action”…should take me about a year at the rate I’m currently finishing books), watch movies, and destroy posers on “Halo 3″ (where I’m signed in under “UCrawford” for anyone interested in taking a shot at me some time). I used to play rugby until age, inconsistent conditioning, and a string of gradually worsening injuries finally convinced me to quit. I’m a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks in general and their basketball and football programs in particular and I’m also a devoted fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. I’m also fond of going online and debating/picking fights with people on the merits of the philosophy of individual freedom…sometimes to the point of being an asshole (but hopefully a reasonably well-informed asshole). I’ve been a big fan of The Liberty Papers ever since finding it online, I respect the body of work they’ve put out, and I’m honored that Brad Warbiany invited me to join his jolly band of freedom fighters. So cheers, Brad, and to everyone else I look forward to reaching consensus or locking horns with you in the near future.

Bill Of Rights ? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bill Of Rights !

As if yesterday’s memo asserting unprecedented extra constitutional Executive authority weren’t bad enough, the Associated Press reports today that former Presidential adviser John Yoo also asserted that a key provision of the Bill of Rights could be ignored in the name of the War On Terror:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn’t apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,” the footnote states, referring to a document titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.”

Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.

That program intercepted phone calls and e-mails on U.S. soil, bypassing the normal legal requirement that such eavesdropping be authorized by a secret federal court. The program began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and continued until Jan. 17, 2007, when the White House resumed seeking surveillance warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What is means is pretty aptly summed up by Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project who said:

“The administration’s lawyers believe the president should be permitted to violate statutory law, to violate international treaties, and even to violate the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S. They believe that the president should be above the law.”

The question we need to be asking anyone running for President is whether they agree with this view of the Constitution.

Did Hillary Clinton Attempt to Deny Richard Nixon Legal Counsel?

According to Hillary Clinton’s former boss Jerry Zeifman, she did that and more. Zeifman, who was the Judiciary Chief of Staff during the Watergate scandal, supervised a 27 year-old Hillary Rodham who was on the House Judiciary Committee. Apparently, Hillary believed that she had discovered a legal loophole which would deny President Richard Nixon his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. After Hillary presented this argument to Zeifman, he promptly squashed the argument by pointing out that there was legal precedent for legal counsel in impeachment cases. Zeifman showed Hillary the precedent existed after Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was allowed to have legal counsel in his attempted impeachment in 1970. Additionally, even the top Democrats including the House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill believed that the president had the right to an attorney.

Despite her knowledge to the contrary and against Zeifman’s expressed orders to pursue Hillary’s legal theory, Hillary prepared a legal brief which fraudulently stated that there was no legal precedent and stole secured public documents* regarding the Douglas impeachment case (which were not yet available to the public) which would disprove her argument. Fortunately for Hillary, Richard Nixon resigned before she had an opportunity to file the brief. Had Hillary had the chance to present the brief before a judge, Zeifman believed that Hillary would likely have been disbarred because her arguments were ridiculous and her methods were unethical.

Why did Hillary and others try to deny the president legal counsel? According to Zeifman, if Nixon’s attorney could cross-examine E. Howard Hunt (the man who masterminded the Watergate break-in), he would possibly bring to light unethical and illegal activities which occurred during John F. Kennedy’s administration (such as an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro allegedly supported by JFK). Hillary’s former law professor, Burke Marshall (who recommended Hillary to Zeifman) was working with Zeifman on the impeachment case. Marshall previously served as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s attorney in the infamous Chappaquiddick case.

Besides these possible conflicts of interest, the goal of the House Judiciary Committee was to impeach Richard Nixon. What might have happened if Nixon refused to resign and if E. Howard Hunt had revealed crimes committed by the Kennedy Administration? Such revelations might have undermined the case against Nixon by deflecting attention away from his crimes. Who knows who else Hunt may have implicated in various positions in the government in both political parties?

On the other hand, if Hillary and Marshall had succeeded with their scheme, Zeifman believes that the House Judiciary Committee would have lost the ability to be part of the process of drafting the articles of impeachment or cross-examine witnesses. In other words denying Nixon legal counsel would have backfired and Nixon might have possibly escaped impeachment.

Following Nixon’s resignation, Zeifman fired Hillary from the staff and refused to write her any letters of recommendation (Hillary Rodham is one of only three people he refused to write a letter of recommendation for in his entire career).

The reason? According to Zeifman:

She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.

My question is why hasn’t the MSM picked up on this story? This story has everything: Watergate, Chappaquiddick, John F. Kennedy, Hillary stealing public documents, a legal theory that a person does not have the right to legal counsel in an impeachment trial, and general corruption at all levels of the federal government! Maybe Jerry Zeifman is a cracked pot attempting to swift boat** Hillary’s campaign? Maybe he isn’t who he says he is? Zeifman claims to be a life-long Democrat but he has written articles critical of Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi for the conservative paper News Max and voted for Bob Dole in 1996 (after voting for Bill Clinton in the previous election***).

This is not the first time Zeifman has made these charges about Hillary, however. Zeifman wrote two books on this very event: Without Honor: Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of Richard Nixon (1996) and Hillary’s Pursuit of Power (2006).

It’s very clear that Zeifman has an axe to grind, but is he telling the truth? Hillary Clinton has lied to us many times before (most recently about being under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia as first lady) so if it’s her word against Zeifman, I would tend to trust Zeifman.

Either way, the MSM has thus far been MIA on this story. The American people have a right to know if Mr. Zeifman’s charges are true or not. If the charges are not true, the MSM should expose Zeifman as a fraud. If these charges are true, however; maybe this would offer some insight to the character and the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton.

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Constitution ? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Constitution !

The Bush Administration yet again demonstrates the depths of it’s depravity:

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president’s ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”

Although the existence of the memo has long been known, its contents had not been previously disclosed.

Nine months after it was issued, Justice Department officials told the Defense Department to stop relying on it. But its reasoning provided the legal foundation for the Defense Department’s use of aggressive interrogation practices at a crucial time, as captives poured into military jails from Afghanistan and U.S. forces prepared to invade Iraq.

Sent to the Pentagon’s general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president’s inherent wartime powers.

“If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Yoo wrote. “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”

Interrogators who harmed a prisoner would be protected by a “national and international version of the right to self-defense,” Yoo wrote. He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations — that it must “shock the conscience” — that the Bush administration advocated for years.

“Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification,” Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.

There are two types of government in this world. A government of laws, and a government of men. One exists with the restraints necessary to protect individual liberty. The other results in tyranny. Back in 1776, men like Jefferson, Washington, and Adams set America on a particular path because they rightly realized that only a government of laws would create a free society.

In 2003, John Yoo and the Bush Administration decided that law was irrelevant and the rule of man would suffice.

For that reason alone, George W. Bush is close to being the worst President in American history.

Cuba — Can You Hear Me Now?

Now, you’re not going to hear me defend Raul Castro very often, but he has at least made some slight easing on the restrictions of ordinary Cubans. Among other things, he’s lifted the ban on private ownership of cell phones. Most of the changes are very small, but typically freedom is an infectious organism, and when an oppressed people start to get a taste of it, they want more.

But one ivory-tower elitist– a phrase I don’t use often– doesn’t like the change. David Lazarus of the LA Times would prefer that Cuba remain the quiet, poverty stricken hellhole that it’s been for decades, rather than have to put up with an annoying cell phone user.

You know you’re in for a ride when an article starts off like this:

The Cuban government made headlines worldwide when it announced the other day that its citizens would finally have unrestricted access to cellphones, ushering in a new era in telecommunications for the economically challenged island.

I say: The people of Cuba don’t know how good they’ve had it.

Oh, yes, David! Tell us how wonderful the average Cuban has had it!

Economically challenged?! That’s one way to put it. Someone who has to take out a pay-day advance loan to pay for a car repair is “economically challenged”. The Cubans, on the other hand, are economically oppressed.

It’s only a matter of time before the Cuban government bows to the inevitable and permits its citizens to pay in local currency, and thus follow the example of people throughout the developing world in flushing their hard-earned money down a rathole of text messages and idle chatter.

How about this, David? Maybe the Cubans who don’t want to throw their hard-earned money down for cellphones can choose not to. And those who actually want to use their newfound freedom to join the modern world can choose for themselves, too! Part of that whole “freedom” thing is allowing people to do things that you don’t agree with, as long as they don’t infringe upon your rights.

Cubans will be able to enjoy the capitalistic thrill of paying not just the advertised price for cellphone service but also hidden taxes, fees and surcharges that can boost monthly costs by as much as 20%.

Hmm, the “hidden” taxes and fees on my wife’s cellphone bill look to be either most or all government-imposed. Just what is a “capitalistic thrill” about that? Really, if you wanted to attack policies like “bundling” of services or the fact that you often get charged for things you don’t need (really, if you have a cellphone why do you need “automatic call forwarding”?), I could at least understand. But to call government-imposed fees a “capitalistic thrill” is just disingenuous.

He goes on to rant about how Cubans will adjust to people answering cellphones in movies and driving with a cellphone. Because you know that in dirt-poor (kept so by the government) Cuba, movies and cars are just plentiful! Somehow, I just don’t think these concerns will be nearly as large a problem as Lazarus believes.

How about this, David? Perhaps if Cuba’s ruling elite eases a few more restrictions, there might be private business again? And maybe– just maybe– cellphones will help those who wish to do business to pull their “economically challenged” island out of the 1950’s and into the 21st century? You may have your little neo-luddite fantasy, but please don’t suggest that Cubans should have their freedoms continually restricted to support it.
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Another Congressional Show Trial

The heads of so-called “Big Oil” were brought before yet another Stalinist tribunal Congressional Committee today and asked to explain how they could commit the unpardonable sin of making a profit:

WASHINGTON — Top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies said Tuesday they know high fuel prices are hurting consumers, but deflected any blame and argued their profits _ $123 billion last year _ were in line with other industries.

“On April Fool’s Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., as his committee began hearing from the oil company executives.

Lawmakers were looking for answers to the soaring fuel costs a day after the Energy Department said the national average price of gasoline reached a record $3.29 cents a gallon and global oil prices remained above $100 a barrel although supplies of both gasoline and oil seemed to be adequate.

“I heard what you are hearing,” John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., told Markey, adding in prepared testimony that he knows that “Americans are worried about the rising price of energy…. These cost increases are hitting consumers hard, particularly the poor and those on fixed incomes.”

But neither Hofmeister nor the executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips said their companies should be blamed and they rejected the notion that their profits are extreme.

“Our earnings, though high in absolute terms, need to be viewed in the context of the scale and cyclical, long-term nature of our industry as well as the huge investment requirements,” said J.S. Simon, Exxon Mobil’s senior vice president. Last year the oil and gas industry earned 8.3 cents per dollar of sales, only a little higher than the Dow Jones Industrial Average for major industries, he argued in prepared testimony.

In other words, the marginal profit of Exxon Mobil or any of the other oil companies isn’t any different, on average, from any other major industry. There are no “windfall” profits. There is no price “gouging.” Yes, profits are higher in relative terms, but that’s because in relative terms the price of the chief commodity used in the production of gasoline, crude oil, was recently higher than it has ever been, even when adjusted for inflation.

In order to understand that, of course, you have to understand economics, which is the one thing that the demagogues on Capitol Hill don’t understand:

Markey challenged the executives to pledge to invest 10 percent of their profits to develop renewable energy and give up $18 billion in tax breaks over 10 years so money could be funneled to support other energy and conservation.

But who, Congressman Markey, is supposed to decide which alternative energy projects are the most promising ? Isn’t that something we’ve always left up to the market.

There’s nothing wrong with making a profit, and that’s all the oil companies have done. Until Congressman Markey and his henchman can point to a similar contribution they have made to the productive capacity of the entire planet, they should just shut up.

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