Democrats Demonstrate Historical Amnesia

October 14, 2015

by Avi Davis

One of the most remarkable things about Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas was not the way the candidates sought to differentiate themselves from one another, but rather how much they struggled to make themselves look the same.

Part of this was due to the presence of a 72 -year-old firebrand, whose ideological weight made the stage sag way down to the far left and had all the candidates tumbling in that direction.  Bernie Sanders, with his calls for a political revolution, a crusade against Wall Street, free college tuition for all Americans and the break up of national banks sounded more like Fidel Castro in 1959, than a modern day American presidential contender.  And yet, he received by far the greatest applause of the evening, so long lasting  that at one point  the debate began to resemble a rally rather than a genuine exchange of ideas between thoughtful progressive candidates.



What is truly remarkable is how little resistance these entirely bankrupt and out- of-date ideas received from the other candidates.  When Jim Webb meekly attempted to challenge Sanders’ wild rhetoric  – pointing out that a political revolution is not exactly on the horizon and that Congress was unlikely to pay for the exorbitant programs Sanders was proposing, his criticisms were met with deafening silence.  Hillary Clinton, the long favored front runner, seemed too busy touting her experience and the fact that she is a female to be much engaged in confronting both Sanders’ and the audience’s silliness.

But letting this stuff go bears consequences.  That is because Sanders now has a national voice – which he may not have had before – and his brand of  socialist propaganda, which would never have passed muster 22 years ago when Bill Clinton faced off against his Democratic challengers, is going to be taken seriously in the upcoming presidential race.

The extraordinary thing is that here we are in 2015, twenty five years after the collapse of the world’s greatest failed experiment in socialism, in a country, by dint of its free enterprise system, which has ensured a greater level of prosperity for a greater proportion of its population, than any other nation in history.  Each one of the candidates harped on the great income disparity between rich and poor ( “the greatest gap since  the 1920s!,” at least three of them howled)  – but its all quite relative.  Even those in the lowest income brackets in our society today live lives of comfort and ease when compared to the existences of those same poor in the 1920s. Cell phones, 50″ television screens, owner-owned cars and a variety of other electronic  possessions can be seen in the homes of the most dirt poor areas of Detroit, New Orleans and East Los Angeles.  While these are not true determinants of income, they are symbols of an affluence that the poor in the rest of the world deeply envy and  why so many are risking their lives as illegal immigrants to cross our borders.

No one on that stage last night should have needed a history lesson in how socialism actually operates in the real world and how it significantly failed millions and upon millions of its adherents in the 20th Century.



But apparently no one was bold enough to stand up to Sanders and call him out for the ridiculous figure he casts in 21st Century American politics. They were all too busy retreading tired liberal tropes about brutal police tactics, institutional racism, billionaire avarice, climate change exigencies, Republican obstructionism, Wall Street chicanery and pharmaceutical industry malfeasance – all of which form part of Bernie Sanders’ bucket list of complaints against America.

And while Sanders was barking his socialist wares, Hillary Clinton was left free to address the country’s significant problems with broad platitudes. Although CNN host Anderson Cooper admirably continued to grill her about the consuming email scandal and her failures regarding Benghazi, none of her competitors seemed to consider these considerable vulnerabilities to be fair game. Sanders actually offered her a hand out of the furnace, seeming to agree with her that the concern of the country over her honesty and good faith, are not matters worthy of general discussion in Democratic circles but should be remaindered as Republican scare tactics.

The other big winner of the night was Barack Obama.  None of the candidates sought to distance themselves from Obama’s abysmal foreign policy record, the sluggish U.S. economy, his failures to assist his much venerated middle class, nor the Obamacare fiasco that any of them would need to fix immediately should they become President.  Clinton, whom the White House appears not too eager to see as as a presidential successor, went out of her way to avoid attacking Obama’s record and legacy, carefully sidestepping his most egregious failures.

This was the weak and uncourageous field which stood before the American public on the stage in Las Vegas last night.  We deserved and deserve much better.


Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


Paul Krugman’s Indefensible Defense of Barack Obama

October 24, 2014
Readers of Rolling Stone Magazine have long known what to expect from the bi-weekly’s acidulous commentaries:  anarchist screeds from the rather unbalanced Matt Taibbi; thinly researched and often specious investigative pieces from Tim Dickinson;  alarmist jeremiads from environmentalist hound dog Jeff Goodell and apoplectic harangues against Republicans, Tea Party groups and anyone else who espouses a right wing cause.  
The question, for those who regularly read genuinely powerful and well balanced commentary from other sources (from either the left OR right)  is: why bother with this stuff?  The unrepentant hippie-chic publication bathed in its love and peace- at-any-cost ethos, is in truth a hate mongering platform of the first order and in its advertising and feature articles on modern music and musicians often betrays a penchant for what used to be known as soft porn.  Can anyone really believe that this chronicle of modern nihilism has anything of importance to say about our national priorities?
You better believe it.   Rolling Stone’s influence today is far greater than any conservative gives it credit for and rather than being the standard bearer for long dormant 1960’s agitprop is in fact a mainstream publication, representing the views of a sizeable community within our intellectual classes. 
The magazine’s clout was ratcheted up several notches in 2010 when an article spotlighting Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal unveiled his antagonism to the Vice-President and several other senior members of the Obama Administration which in turn resulted in the General’s summary firing.  Since then the words of  such luminaries as Al Gore ( yes, but the man WAS Vice- President of the United States) and best selling authors such as Sebastian Junger and Stephen King have graced the magazine’s pages.  
Now comes an article by Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, which is proudly announced as a defense of Barack Obama. Not content with actually defending Obama’s record, Krugman in the body of his article goes a step further announcing: “Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history.”
Hmm. Pretty bold stuff.  After all, this would have Barack Obama one day sipping martinis and chomping cigars with some of the greatest in American history. 
But can Barack Obama truly be spoken of in the same breath  as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln?
Perhaps so, but you would not actually know it from the arguments presented by Paul Krugman.  What you would learn instead  is that Barack Obama is a middling president who did the best he could with the cards he was played; that he was buffeted by an uncooperative Congress but  that he passed revolutionary health care reform legislation anyway- a remarkable success which will leave a lasting imprint on the nation. Then, after a cursory examination of  the President’s record on financial reform, the economy, the environment, national security and social change he concludes, almost with a sigh,  that” the extent of his partial success ranges from the pretty good to the not-so-bad to the ugly.”  In other words, although he might have received an overall “C” on his report card,  it was really not as bad a presidency as it could have been and it really could have been a lot worse.  Not exactly the exalted encomium we had been expecting but, hey, this is Paul Krugman – and when this modern day Oracle declares you mediocre  perhaps it actually means you are destined for greatness.  Mount Rushmore sculptors take heed:  Krugman has spoken; Prepare the mountain for its next great historical retrofit.
No one should mistake Krugman for an objective observer   – although he  has indeed been highly critical of the President in the past, mostly for not being radical enough!   But that doesn’t excuse or explain the crassness of this particular contribution or give anyone confidence that the President is destined to be remembered as the savior of his people.
For now lets bare the truth on this truly execrable piece of writing:  that it is so amatuerly written that it could have been cobbled together by a high school student with only a rudimentary understanding of economics, environmental policy and the social dynamics of a highly complex nation;  that its very self impressed author fails entirely to address foreign relations where Obama’s meandering policies have resulted in disaster upon diplomatic disaster;  that he significantly sidesteps the incessant rise of Islamic terrorism in places where the President only a year before had  declared them snuffed out;  that he refuses to engage in any discussion of  the mounting scandals – the Benghazi sacrifice of an ambassador; the IRS debacle, wherein one of the most important public institutions in the country was revealed to have been thoroughly corrupted by politics; or the Fast and Furious campaign which placed American firearms in the hands of terrorists and gangsters. Also absent from the pen of our Nobel laureate is any commentary on the enormous expansion of executive power which has torn a  deep unconstitutional gash in the fabric of the Presidency;  Nothing on the Administration’s failure  to address our collapsed border and the threat this poses to the lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens in our southern states;  Or on our ballooning national debt – four times the size it stood under George W. Bush; or on immigration, race relations and out-of -control  tortious litigation  – all of which have taken a turn for the worse during the past six years.   And finally no word on Obama’s grandest promise of them all – that he was going to become a consensus president, bridging differences between left and right, black and white, rich and poor  and that he  would exercise his well honed skills in the arts of persuasion. 
These are all missing from the piece because Krugman reveals himself to be quite uninterested in any of them.  For him,  “high office shouldn’t be about putting points on the electoral scoreboard, it should be about changing the country for the better. “
Ah, there it is:   The raw, thumping heart of liberal orthodoxy.   The idea of changing the country, of converting it into something different, something purer and something approximating that great utopian vision of armchair socialists over the centuries, drips through Krugman’s analysis, making it abundantly clear why he avoids uncomfortable topics.  For Krugman  – an economically equitable society, drained of all prejudice and bigotry, where man pays obeisance to Nature and where its abundant resources are distributed equally amongst the world’s citizens – should apparently be the goal of our presidents.  Open borders, multilateralism, military retrenchment, the punishment of successful entrepreneurs, pan-sexuality,  the cosseting of tyrants and campaigns to end the expansion of land use or the excavation of fossil fuels – are all elements that might fit snugly into such a vision. 
One wonders how the three presidents with whom our current  chief executive will one day (in Krugman’s estimation) share the same pantheon might have reacted to the mandate to “change the country.”  Washington, after all, fought to establish it;  Jefferson worked to consolidate it and Lincoln struggled to save it – all worthy enough endeavors for any modern day president.  Changing the country, one would think, requires a level of consensus building coupled with a consistent articulation of a shared vision – skills that even our finest Presidents have experienced some difficulty in mastering.  Abraham Lincoln, after all, did not begin his presidency with the idea of outlawing slavery;  he deflected the issue, fearful of its incendiary potential – and was only led to it by the realization that his nation could not survive without that institution’s eradication.  His genius as a leader was to tap into the vein of righteousness within the citizenry  and to pump that rich resource for all its corpuscular abundance into the heated campaign which produced the Emancipation Proclamation.
Barak Obama, in contrast, has never cast himself as a president who cares all that much about what the citizenry, at its very bedrock, either thinks or feels. He is actually one of the most insular presidents in living memory, whose policies and decisions have been largely driven by superficial poll numbers and a creaking, weathered leftist ideology, rather than an instinctive  grip on the nation’s pulse.  Images of the President’s aloofness are so plentiful as to be embarrassing:  the Presidential motorcade, speeding through the arterial roads of our major cities, delivering the Commander-in-Chief to yet another fundraising event; the photographed fist bump with golfing buddies  just moments after delivering a particularly somber response to the beheading of an American journalist; the constant hobnobbing with the glitterati who gush over his every pronouncement;  and of course the maintenance of a very deliberate distance from  the members of Congress, whom he seems to regard with a singular contempt.  The best that might be said of his feel for the American people is his familiarity with national sports as well as an impressive knowledge of the plot lines of such cable TV series as Homeland and Breaking Bad . The demonstration of that kind of indifference  puts him in league with such 1850s presidents  as Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, both of whom would undoubtedly welcome him to their lonely outposts as the Presidents, who like Sergeant Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes, both knew nothing and saw nothing.
At his two inaugurations, Barak Obama took an oath of office  specified in Article TwoSection OneClause Eight of the United States Constitution:

 “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

How different would  Krugman’s assessment  have been had he used  that oath to measure Barak Obama’s presidential performance?  Maybe the author will soon recognize the empty spaces he left so glaringly open on the pages of his article and submit a more nuanced view of this presidency. Unlikely, perhaps. But if and when this revised version ever sees the light of day, the last place you can ever expect to find it is in the glossy, celebrity filled pages of Rolling Stone Magazine.   

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles and blogs at The Intermediate Zone

This article first appeared, in an edited version, in the American Thinker

This article  first appeared, in an edited version in the American Thinker

Guantanomo Has the Last Laugh

March 9, 2011

So there was the new president, two days following  his historic  inauguration, signing into law the order to close the Guantanomo Bay prison, ensuring that his administration, in contrast to his predecessor’s, would “ restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.”

A certain euphoria accompanied the signing of  the three executive orders that day – given that they fulfilled a heavily peddled campaign promise. Obama was giving notice that the new administration would no longer sanction indefinite detention of foreign nationals without trial and that the torture sanctioned by the Bush Administration, which had left an indelible stain on the nation, would be expunged.

It was of course a great deal easier to sign that executive order than it was to actually close down the prison.  For two years the administration has embarrassingly attempted to find a solution to the most obvious and glaring question posed by the potential closure:  where to put the prisoners.  According to every report and inquiry received by the new administration these guys were dangerous – lethally so – and no state in the Union seemed overly eager to receive them.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement on November 13, 2009 that five of the Guantanomo inmates, including 9/11 mastermind Khald Sheikh Mohammed, would be remanded to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for trial raised an outcry from that city and across the nation. Exactly one year later when Ahmed Ghailani, tried on 280 counts of murder and conspiracy to murder in the Kobar Towers attack in 1998 was acquitted of all but one of the charges leveled against him, the Administration began to see how bad things could go.   “Imagine,” they must have said to themselves, “if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was able to walk free because of a technicality – what would it do to us and our reputation?”

In December 2010,  Congress answered that question for them. On December 22nd  it passed legislation effectively barring transfer of detainees to the U.S.  for trial.

And so now, after twenty-two months of twiddling thumbs and attempting to find an answer to the increasingly intractable problem, the Obama Administration has not only decided to keep Guantanomo open, but is now resorting to the Bush inspired decision of trying them there in military tribunals.

So the Gulag remains and the Bush era policies for detaining terrorists and trying them as prisoners of war are essentially retained.

Such sloppy, unsophisticated policy making deserves the ridicule with which the Administration is now being lacerated.  Obama is learning the hard way that it is far easier to make election promises that obtain great political mileage than it is to fulfill them – particularly when absolutely no thought has been given to how to do so.

He might be finally appreciating that the man and administration he has spent four years vilifying might actually have got it right – a lesson history could soon also be teaching many Americans – grown nostalgic for the good old days of decisive leadership.

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Cinco de Mayo As Symbol of Hispanic Separatism

May 9, 2010

My organization, the American  Freedom Alliance, shares an executive suite with several other organizations, law firms and accountants. The residents of the suite all hail from different nationalities and observe different religious practices.    We all get along pretty well, and there is general acceptance of a range of  holidays and respect for individual traditions.  Therefore each late December both Christmas and Channukah will be respected, with  a Christmas tree sharing a wall along side the Channukiah, the traditional candelabrum that Jews light on each of the eight nights of their festival.   Other national events, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Thanksgiving are almost always marked by their own tokens of remembrance.

I was therefore not at all offended  when, on May 5, the office receptionists brought a dozen sombreros to the office and  went around the suite offering to take a photograph of anyone who chose to don one.  They generously supplied a large bowl of guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips in the luncheon room, displaying great pride in celebrating their Hispanic origins and culture.

That’s all fitting and well within the bounds of respectable multicultural sentiment.

But what happens when white Americans begin regarding Cinco de Mayo as a cultural icon that they insist all Americans must be forced to respect as a symbol of Mexican national pride?

That is exactly what happened this week at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hills, California when administrators at the high school sent five students home on Wednesday after they refused to remove their American flag T-shirts and bandannas — garments the school officials deemed “incendiary” on Cinco de Mayo.

The five teens were sitting at a table outside the school on Wednesday morning when Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez asked two of them to remove their American flag bandannas.  The boys complied, but were asked to accompany Rodriguez to the principal’s office.  There it was explained to the students that wearing such clothes might be considered offensive to students of Mexican extraction.  When the boys protested that to be forced  to turn their own t-shirts inside out would itself be offensive, they were given the option of going home. They chose to go home.

While the school’s dress code policy allows the school ” to request that any student dressing inappropriately for school will change into other clothes, be sent home to change, and/or be subject to disciplinary action,” one has to wonder how the expression of such patriotism attracts the ire of the school dress watchdogs, on a day when more than 100 students were spotted wearing the colors of the Mexican flag — red, white and green — as they left school, including some who had the flag painted on their faces or arms.

Not many today  realize how peculiarly an American event the celebration  Cinco De Mayo has become.  It has its origins  in a Mexican army  victory over the French on May 5, 1862, at the city of Puebla, Mexico.   The French, Spanish and English had invaded to enforce debt payments that the Mexican government had repudiated.   At that point in history, the French army had not been defeated anywhere for over 50 years.  No country in the Americas has been invaded since that date  by a European military force.

The victory, however, was only a minor setback for the French.  Within a few months its expeditionary force had recovered from its defeat and occupied Mexico City, where they installed Maximillien II as king.

Cinco de Mayo began to be celebrated in California in 1863 and, to a more limited extent, in Puebla itself.  But for the most part, it is ignored in Mexico – and in even in most of the United States.

The problem with the celebration today is that it often hoists Mexican nationalism above American patriotism and in recent years has seen immigrant riots, the veneration of  Mexican nationality and even flying the American flag upside down.   For instance, in response to proposed federal legislation regulating illegal immigration, students at Montebello High School on March 27, 2006  in California staged a protest at which the Mexican flag was raised , the American flag raised upside down beneath it and the California flag stolen. Other incidents, most particularly in California, once owned and ruled by Mexico, have indicated that there is a restive minority in the country’s largest state who do not subscribe to assimilationist ideals but cling tenaciously to their Mexican national identity.

The school system is particularly prone to this kind of inverted thinking.  Four years ago, a parent at a school in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles told me that she was shocked to arrive at a parent-teacher meeting which she found being conducted wholly in Spanish, with translations  made available to English speaking parents only through headphones.   Another parent told me of a high school in Florida where a giant mural celebrates true “American” heroes – Fidel Castro, Che Gueverra and Simon Bolivar.

As Victor Davis Hanson has argued in his powerful book Mexifornia:  A State of Becoming, ” if America once invaded Mexico and hurt its pride, Mexico has now quietly  invaded America – not with thousands, but with millions, and as an occupying force that plans to stay.”   The Republic of Mexico, according to Hanson, is secretly supportive of illegal immigration seeing that the yanquis and gringos once invaded their land, rigged the border to permanently harm the Mexican people and oppress their southern neighbors.  They therefore surrepetitiously  support their illegal brethren to the north in a covert attempt to “reclaim” California.

It is time we start recognizing that California is a society under siege  from those who insist on such ethnic chauvinism, bilingualism and Hispanic separatism.  This cultural assault  is being abetted by multiculturalists who use Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day ( September 16) and November’s Day of the Dead to reinforce the notion that the State of California is eternally Mexican, and will one day, inevitably, return to the fold.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo may therefore be pleasant enough, but not if it gives a leg up to rampant disrespect for American nationalism and fealty to another nation.

On the Border

March 21, 2010

Somewhere south of Campo, CA  there is a phalanx of illegal immigrants planning a journey tonight that could cost them their lives.

The story of the treacherous crossing of the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande into our border states is well known.  It has been depicted movingly in films such as El Norte and Sin Nombre and sung about with deep sentiment by artists such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen.

Less well known are the hardships that those seeking to protect our borders from illegal immigration must endure as they conduct a vigilant reconnaisance of the border.

The tragic battle between the Mexican illegals and their enablers( known as coyotes)  with the volunteer guardsmen, known as Minutemen, is one of the least understood sagas of our time.

The illegals, fleeing poverty, violence, the incessant killings in the drug wars and looking for a better life  north of the border are as much victims as they are villains.  They sometimes hand over their life savings to unscrupulous smugglers who bring them across the border into the arid southern states of  California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas only to often be abandoned by them, left to die of thirst, raped or robbed of what few belongings they still possess.

The Minutemen, frustrated by powerlessness of the U.S. Border patrol to adequately monitor the border are a voluntary citizen patrol who monitor the southern crossings for illegals who trample their crops, kill their animals and threaten violence if they are confronted.   Although  there have been cases of Minutemen having engaged the Coyotes in armed combat, most merely report crossing to the  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol who take over from there.

You would think the Minutmen would be accorded hero status for their selfless efforts to protect the border from the relentless wave of illegal immigrants.  But they have been vilified as vigilantes and marksmen, who shoot first and ask questions later.  They are seen as racists who fail to understand that these hardworking immigrants are willing  to perform the dirty jobs that Americans no longer want to do.  The illegals are cast by liberals as the same breed of individuals who flooded into America in the 1880s through 1920s , immeasurably enriching our nation with their talents and skills.

The equation of  the illegal immigrants of today with the great immigrations of the late 19th Century is, however, spurious.  Ilegal immigrants as a whole do not add to national productivity as previous generations did  but in fact  make a far greater contribution, by comparison, to welfare  rolls, gang violence and inner city poverty as a percentage of the population than any of the previous of immigration waves to this country.  It is also fatuous to state that immigrants have  some kind of “right” to cross over the United States border in order to find work and a livlihood.  Such an attitude bespeaks a rejection of  U.S. sovereignty and the sanctioning of one world government.

The advocates of illegal immigrants also fail to appreciate the way the drug trade uses the open southern border as access to the rich urban markets of this country.  Many of the Coyotes double as drug runners. Smuggled in hollowed concrete posts, frozen broccoli packs, sacks of coffee and crates brimming with exotic woods and aromatic spices, enough drugs reach the streets of America to keep an estimated 12 million addicted.

If there is any true haplessness  in all of this, it is the Federal Government’s efforts to establish proper border controls and its failure to adequately safegauard and monitor the border.  A border fence has been under construction since 2005 with high tech components and titled The Secure Border Network Initiative.  This system has two main components: SBI,  the threat level associated with an illegal entry into the United States between the ports of entry, and SBI tactical infrastructure (TI), fencing, roads, and lighting intended to enhance U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents’ ability to respond to the area of the illegal entry and bring the situation to a law enforcement resolution (i.e., arrest). The current focus of the SBI program is on the southwest border areas between ports of entry that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol  has designated as having the highest need for enhanced border security because of serious vulnerabilities.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the $600 billion system isn’t operational yet and has been bedeviled by system failures.  These include blurry images, radar that couldn’t differentiate between people and animals and field agents who couldn’t log onto their laptops. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the prototype has been fixed, but Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, nevertheless  froze most funding to the project on Tuesday last week, pending a review.

In the meantime, citizens like  Jim Wood, identified in the photos below, have taken it upon themselves to address the border’s lapses and vulnerabilities.  Through his Declaration Alliance, he has raised the funds to build his own surveillance system near Campo in an attempt to give ordinary citizens  the ability to monitor the border and report suspicious movements to the Border Patrol.

Although his system is also prone to crashing, his lone efforts – and those of the Minutemen –  are one more proof that citizens cannot always rely on lumbering government bureaucracies to address urgent local, state or national problems.

The idea that citizens must sometimes take matters into their own hands where a reliance on government has failed them – whether it be in regard to drug trafficking, the terrorist menace or the diminution of national sovereignty – has taken hold of the imaginations of many citizens around the world.

It is a fine line, of course, between law and order and pure vigilantism. But for many, it is the only viable means of protecting homes and their local environment when government action is completely ineffective.

The minutemen’s effort is the brainchild of Web developer Jim “Woody” Wood. He got the idea when he and other minutemen flocked to the Campo border in 2005 to rally against immigration reform. But he got bored as few immigrants were spotted. He decided a surveillance system would be best. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Wood, who lives two hours north of the border in Mission Viejo, Calif., raised money to start the project through his Web site, People have to take a multiple-choice test on the site in order to gain access to the camera images. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

He says if he had permission, he would detain illegal aliens. For now, though, he’s focused on expanding his surveillance system at the pace his two herniated discs and Parkinson’s disease will allow. “A lot of this heavy labor is not something that I’m really capable of,” he said. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano diverted some of the project’s funding towards more practical tools, such as mobile radios and laptops. With the exception of a small section in Arizona currently being tested, spending on the ambitious border-long system is on hold until a review she ordered in January is completed. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

In Campo, Calif., a fence stretches along a desolate area of the U.S.-Mexico border. The federal government wants to install radar, sensors and cameras, but the plan is beset by delays. Campo agents were supposed to be hooked up to the virtual fence in early 2009. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

The Volunteer Attorneys

March 15, 2010

The battle over the attorneys continues.  First the Bush administration fired nine Justice Department attorneys in December, 2006 occasioning a Congressional investigation of Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales’ conduct and resulting, a year later, in his resignation.  Then the Obama administration launched an investigation into the conduct of Legal Counsel to the President’s office, helmed by John Yoo and Jay Bybee to determine the extent of their liability for giving legal sanction to the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.  Unlike Gonzales, Yoo and Bybee emerged innocent of all charges, even if they were badly singed by the process. 

Now its the Republicans’ turn.  In his book Courting Disaster, former  Department of Defense speech writer Marc Thiessen devoted an extensive chapter to the way in which several Obama appointees to the Justice Department had voluntarily defended Guantanomo Bay detainees.  U.S. justice calls for every man to have his innocence defended in court by legal counsel and indeed our courts are mandated to appoint  legal counsel where the accused has not elected to defend himself .    But should those who have volunteered to represent the enemies of the state be serving in our own Department of Justice? 

That is the volatile question posed by Keep America Safe, an organization co-founded by Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.  In an advertisement distributed through YouTube, Cheney demands that  Attorney-General Eric Holder identify the seven Department of Justice attorneys who once served as voluntary counsel for the Guantanomo Bay al Qaeda inmates.  Should Holder be forced to disclose those names and why is it important? 

The Wall Street Journal Weekend Journal posed that very question two attorneys who should know something about the issue.  Steve Jones was the Oklahoma City based attorney who defended Timothy McVeigh after his arrest in 1996 on charges of planning the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City.  Andrew C. Mc Carthy was the lead federal prosecutor of the plotters of the World Trade Center bombing in New York in 1993. 

Jones leads off with a case for attorneys who defend unpopular clients.  He  states that it has long been the position of American system of justice to offer a defense of criminals who our system labels innocent until proven guilty.  John Adams defended British soldiers accused of shooting several Boston’s citizens in 1770 and suffered public opprobrium for doing so.  But that did not stop him from becoming our second president. 

As an attorney Abraham Lincoln also took up unpopular causes, as did many of our distinguished federal judges.  Jones concludes that “neither history nor experience demonstrates that the points being made by Ms. Cheney and her allies have any merit.  They merely represent “forensic vigilantism,” and “a political lynch mob mentality.” 

Not so, says McCarthy.   It is not an American tradition for U.S. attorneys to volunteer to represent enemies of the state, but rather a modern anomaly.  The prisoners at Guantanomo Bay, were not U.S. citizens who had been deprived of their right to habeas corpus but unprivileged, alien enemy combatants.   U.S. law has also not traditionally extended the right of legal counsel in habeas corpus cases, even to U.S. citizens – and until 2004, enemy prisoners were not entitled to challenge their detention at all.  Moreover, he defends the Keep America Safe advertisement in its insistence that when attorney volunteer to participate in cases, where there is no requirement of representation of legal counsel, that choice likely reflects their policy preferences.  

On balance, Jones’ case comes out as unconvincing.   It fails to answer the question of how the American public should regard those who voluntarily (rather than as draftees, as he was) defend non-citizen enemies of the state and whether it has a right to have the political orientation and policy biases exposed through a demonstration of their choices. 

There is almost no question that at a time of grave national security risk (or war, as Mc Carthy calls it), the country’s legal team should be composed of individuals, who, at the very least, place the country’s security first and individual human rights in only a secondary position.  For as the John Yoo episode well demonstrated, we rely upon these attorneys for the legal justification of our national security policy.  If their position is that the individual rights of terrorists trumps the need for the American public to be protected, then we should demand their resignation. 

In the end, this debate exemplifies the struggle between the exigencies of national defense on the one hand and the rights of individuals to privacy and protection on the other.  In another sense it also illustrates the battle between those who reject American particularism, which requires that American law apply to just Americans  – and those who support the notion that American protections and privileges should have universal application.    

Does the decision of the so called ‘al- Qaeda Seven’ to defend non-citizen enemy combatants make them, ipso facto, supporters of al Qaeda’s ideology?  Of course not.  But equally it does not makes them heroes of conscience whom we should reward with employment in an important national office tasked with responsibility for our safety and well being.

Plugging Up the Dam

January 14, 2010

This morning the Los Angeles Times reported on the capture of Mexican Drug Cartel boss Teodoro Garcia Simental.

There are few news items that could bring further relief to the citizens of Northern Mexico than the incarceration of this thug and extortionist.   For years he has been known to be behind the most brutal slayings in the region, involved in thousands of decapitations , kidnappings and acts of torture.    He had branched out from traditional drug running and focused his attention on extortion and kidnappings of  Mexico’s wealthy.  In the process he engaged in bitter turf wars with his rivals, with his murdered adversaries massacred, burned , tossed in vacant lots and hung from freeway overpasses.

Although Baja California  has been described as something of a success story in 2009 in its war on drugs, the New Year has brought a heavy toll down on the citizens in that province.  In just the first eleven days of 2009, four people were decapitated, at least 10 people were killed in drive-by attacks and five people were kidnapped, including two security guards and a prominent businessman. After the drive-by shooting of the three teenagers — two boys and a girl — outside their high school on January 5, every one knew that the death toll was about to ramp up again.

The capture follows the killing of Arturo Beltran Leyva , one of Mexico’s toughest drug lords in December.  He died in a hail of bullets after a crack anti-terror squad had tracked him down to a hotel in Sinaloa.

Since 2006, over 15,000 people have died in the bloody drug wars of northern Mexico, many of them innocent bystanders.  The bloodlust of the killers had begun to spill over the border and create extraordinary concern for the U.S. border communities.

The existence of a war of this nature on America’s doorstep has always posed an enormous threat to national security.  Not only was there danger of  cartel representative groups emerging in American cities but there have been increasing reports in recent years of drug lords striking deals with Muslim terrorist groups facilitating their passage into the United States.

The killing of  Levya and the capture of Simental offer some relief from the murderous rampage.  But the real systemic problems  remain with hundreds of  lawyers, judges, police officers, military personnel and even politicians in the pay of the drug cartels.

Because of this and the seeming ineffectiveness of Calderon Government’s war on the cartels, Mexico seemed in 2008 to be on the verge of collapse.  I wrote about the prospects for the United States in the event of such a collapse in my piece When The Dam Breaks in February last year.   In that editorial I made reference to the Joint Operating Report for 2008 which painted a pretty gloomy picture of the future of Mexico.

With the latest news, things might be looking a little more optimistic. Yet it is still depressing in the extreme to think that only a few hours south from where I live, life carries on  in the shadow of  a terror that causes even schoolchildren go to classes fearing for their safety.

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