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Napolitano’s Case Against Military Tribunals

Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano makes the case against using military tribunals for suspected 9/11 terrorists in Sunday’s LA Times. Excerpt:

The casual use of the word “war” has lead to a mentality among the public and even in the government that the rules of war could apply to those held at Guantanamo. But the rules of war apply only to those involved in a lawfully declared war, and not to something that the government merely calls a war. Only Congress can declare war — and thus trigger the panoply of the government’s military powers that come with that declaration. Among those powers is the ability to use military tribunals to try those who have caused us harm by violating the rules of war.

The last time the government used a military tribunal in this country to try foreigners who violated the rules of war involved Nazi saboteurs during World War II. They came ashore in Amagansett, N.Y., and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and donned civilian clothes, with plans to blow up strategic U.S. targets. They were tried before a military tribunal, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt based his order to do so on the existence of a formal congressional declaration of war against Germany.

In Ex Parte Quirin, the Supreme Court case that eventually upheld the military trial of these Germans — after they had been tried and after six of the eight defendants had been executed — the court declared that a formal declaration of war is the legal prerequisite to the government’s use of the tools of war. The federal government adhered to this principle of law from World War II until Bush’s understanding of the Constitution animated government policy.

The recent decision to try some of the Guantanamo detainees in federal District Court and some in military courts in Cuba is without a legal or constitutional bright line. All those still detained since 9/11 should be tried in federal courts because without a declaration of war, the Constitution demands no less.

Read the rest at: Los Angeles Times

Watch the video below to see Judge Napolitano debate Bill O’Reilly regarding military tribunals and civilian courts.

Will Climategate End Cap & Trade?

According to Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the cap and trade legislation is dead. He believes the recent email scandal has ended the chances for cap and trade to pass in the Senate. He made this bold statement before even more bad news came for cap and trade proponents: the original data used in the global warming studies have been thrown away, so there is no longer a source to validate with.

Sen. Inhofe

Sen. Inhofe

While I would love to agree with Sen. Inhofe, I still think the legislation is very much a threat. The IPCC has already responded by saying there is ‘virtually no possibility’ of a few scientists biasing IPCC’s advice.

My gut instinct tells me that the global warming community will be extremely defensive of their work. As evident by the leaked emails, global warming scientists have no problem excluding conflicting data and manipulating data to show increases in temperature that do not exist. Since their plan to ignore scientists with differing views has been exposed, their next tactic is to try and publicly discredit them.

As no suprise, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, does not want an investigation into the contents of the leaked emails, as it “would achieve little”. Pachauri did, however, express his desire for a criminal investigation into how the emails were obtained.

Why Modify Data and Push for Climate Legislation?

There is no doubt that most of the scientists whom have contributed to the IPCC report are sincere and honest. The problem arises, however, that many of their contributions relied on data that Phil Jones from the University of East Anglia provided (which is now known to be biased, based on his leaked emails). The same university has also thrown away the raw data which Jones’ work was based on.

This is a mute point, however. While the scientists may be sincere, the politicians in control are not. Those with power couldn’t care less if the data is valid or not; it’s merely the perception of a crisis that matters. In times of crisis, governments expand and powers grow.

Who would stand to benefit from cap and trade legislation? First off, corporations already in the loop. GE would stand to make billions in profit from “green” initiatives. Not only are they the largest wind turbine generator maker, they are going to profit heavily from the cap and trade credits as possibly the sole “secondary market” trader of these credits. So naturally, their lobbyists are hard at work to pass cap and trade.

Secondly, and more importantly, the government stands to gain more power. And while some people may not view this as a bad thing, it truly is a scary thought. If you watch the video below, you’ll realize that cap and trade is the least effective way to counter global warming. So then why the push to pass it? Power.

Government officials, in their ever persistent struggle for more power, wish to enact legislation that allows them more control over their citizens. In the US, “cap and trade” is that legislation. On the global scale, the United Nations wishes to impose those sanctions and controls on a worldwide scale via the COP15. One way to increase a people’s dependence on government is to limit their production of goods and ability to work, which these measures would do.

So, unfortunately, while the scientific data may be under scrutiny since the emails were leaked, governments’ desire for more power is still strong. And since the driving force behind cap and trade from the beginning was government power and corporate profits, not science, this legislation is still very much a threat.

The Dollar Bubble

This video ties into my earlier post, The Myth of Deflation.

Judge Bill Sowder’s Experience on Military Tribunals

Gitmo Detainees

Gitmo Detainees

Last night, the Lubbock County Republican Party held its Executive Committee meeting with special guest speaker, Judge Bill Sowder. Judge Sowder is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves. He was called called for active duty to serve as a senior legal advisor for the military commissions in Guantanamo Bay.

He started out with a disclaimer that President Obama is his boss and that he would not criticize the orders from the Commander in Chief regarding closing Gitmo and trying detainees in New York. He then shared his experiences in working within the military tribunal system.

He was adamant that military tribunals offer due process and afford the defendants the same rights as in civilian trials. He did admit, however, that there are two distinct differences between military tribunals and civilian courts. First, the use of evidence presented through the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” was permissible if the judge reviewed the context of the information and believed it to be reliable. Second was the use of “hearsay” as evidence against the defendant was permissible; again, after review from the judge to determine reliability and context.

Sowder was quick to say that the judges would not accept evidence obtained through torture. He didn’t say what the judges defined as torture and how it differed from “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

In all, I believe his experience of military tribunals depicted a fair trial system; the same system that soldiers are awarded.

With that said, there were a few questions I wish I could have asked him. The first would be if he ever witnessed a trial where the defendant was found not guilty. If so, what happened in those situations? There have been dozens of accounts of where innocent men have been detained for years, only to be released. What happens in those situations? Does the US offer any type of reconciliation?

Judge Sowder said he liked the military tribunal system –without criticizing the decision to try them in New York– because the defendants were at war with the US. He believes that since they are “soldiers” at war with us, they should be tried for war crimes through the military tribunal system just like any other prisoner of war.

This brings up an interesting question. What constitutes a “prisoner of war”? Does the prisoner’s personal declaration of war on the US define him as a prisoner of war? He said that if they were picked up off the battlefield then it is easier to label them as such. I’d disagree with him there, but only because we haven’t officially declared war on either Afghanistan or Iraq. According to Article 2, Section 8 of the US Constitution, only Congress can declare war; which they did not. Because of this oversight, it creates a legal quagmire. It would have been easy to label them as prisoners of war if we declared war, but since we didn’t, they are in the gray murky territory of “soldiers” and “criminals”.

So while Sowder’s speech did inspire confidence that the military tribunals weren’t a “guilty until proven innocent” process, I wish he would have expanded more on the two key areas of detention of innocent men and whether “enemy combatants” are clearly prisoners of war.

The Myth of Peak Oil

Peak Oil Chart

Projection of Peak Oil

In continuance of the Myth series, today we explore “peak oil.” Last week, an IEA whistleblower made headlines by stating, “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone.”  This has obviously caused some stir among environmental experts and politicians.

What is Peak Oil?

Peak Oil is the period of time in which we start finding fewer and fewer places to extract oil. Imagine a bell curve which represents access to oil, peak oil would be at the very tip of the curve, thus the term “peak oil” (see image at right). It’s at this point, it is said, that oil prices will increase at an exponential rate because finding oil fields will become harder and harder. And since our economic infrastructure is based on cheap oil, it will devastate our economy.

Virtually everything we use is based on oil; plastic, rubber, fuel, etc. If the cost of oil rises too quickly, it could cause a snowball effect of rising prices in virtually every product we use. Thus, the collapse of our very way of life.

The Free Market Solution

While this post is titled The Myth of Peak Oil, it’s actually more about the myth of collapse due to peak oil. Scientifically speaking, peak oil makes sense. There are only so many places we can drill before we eventually run out. And, aside from the Abiotic Synthesis Theory, there is no way to quickly replenish those wells.

However, despite this “doomsday” scenario of running out of oil, the free market has the solution. Or, let me rephrase: the free market is the solution.

The free market has this uncanny ability to adjust to consumers’ demands. If demand for a product increases, the market will adjust their supply accordingly. In this case, demand for alternative fuels will force manufacturers to increase supply in those alternative fuels, be they natural gas, electricity, hydrogen, or whatever. Instead of plastics made from oil, perhaps supplies of plastics made from hemp or other materials would increase. As more of those alternative sources are used, the costs associated with those items will decrease.

Will product prices increase overall after peak oil? Only the free market can tell you that. It is possible the prices will increase. However, unlike what the doomsdayers believe, they will rise gradually, not immediately. Eventually, those increased prices will top off as well, as the costs of alternative sources decrease because of increased usage.

So, in the event that we’ve already reached peak oil, the free market is the only solution for preventing a total economic collapse.

The Myth of the Free Market

Milton Friedman, Proud Father of Global Misery?

Milton Friedman, Proud Father of Global Misery?

It has become the mantra on the left that the free-market is dead. Posters have sprung up all across the country showing Milton Friedman’s face with text underneath it reading, “Proud Father of Global Misery.” And it’s not limited to the left. Even former president George Bush said, “I’ve abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”

The irony is, we don’t have a free market system in America. We have corporatism. Some may argue that they are one and the same. Some may say that free market capitalism leads to corporatism. However, hardly anyone disagrees that what we currently have is corporatism.

What’s the difference you ask? In a true free market, businesses are left to their own devices. Supply and demand are determined by market forces (manufacturers and consumers) . In corporatism, supply and demand are manipulated by the government to promote the interest of select corporations. For instance, sugar producers lobby Congress to limit the importation of sugar from outside the country. So while demand remains the same, the supply is limited, causing prices to increase. This is obviously desirable to sugar producers in America, as it increases their profits while reducing their competition. And so it goes with every industry in America.

In a free market, demand is created by human behavior. In corporatism, demand is created through government intervention. An example of this is the housing industry. Demand for more houses were erroneously increased by government programs to increase availability and affordability of homes. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low, allowing banks to make riskier loans than they would have otherwise made. Private banks also had to compete with Fannie/Freddie whose government mandated objective was to provide provide mortgages to those who couldn’t afford them. Since this was an artificial increase in demand, it created a housing bubble.

Many will argue that government intervention in the free market is necessary to protect us from fraudulent businesses. However, as evident by the Bernie Madoff scandal, government intervention simply makes matters worse. The government tells its people that they are safe because of the regulations they have put into place; that their watchdogs are on top of things. No need to worry. However, con men will still find ways to con people; with government regulations or not. This merely sets a false sense of security and allows for con men to prosper in areas where people would otherwise be more cautious.

So the next time you hear that the free market is dead, remember one thing: we didn’t have a free market to begin with. Corporatism is dead. And there seems to be only two solutions. Either go back to a free market economy or embrace socialism. Which would you prefer? An economy run by the government, or one run by the people?

The Myth of Deflation

Inflation/DeflationWendy Macy put together a good video of Rand Paul and Peter Schiff discussing the myth of our current “deflationary crisis.” As the myth goes, prices for consumer goods and commodities have been falling during this last year of the recession, therefore we have a deflationary crisis.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. While prices have indeed decreased, the expansion of the money supply has increased exponentially. The more money the Federal Reserve prints, the more the value of the dollar decreases, thus goods and commodities increase in price. However, in our current situation, we have a couple of factors playing into why prices have decreased.

First, the increase in money supply has been soaked up by banks. The idea was for banks to use the money to  rid themselves of toxic assets and open up credit to businesses and individuals again. However, the banks have not used the money yet, as the toxic assets are still on their books and credit is still tight. Therefore, the increased amount of money has not fully made into into the market yet.

Another reason for decreased prices is liquidation. Businesses are liquidizing their assets in order to stay in business. As evident by the increasing unemployment numbers, businesses are still finding it hard to stay in business. One way to decrease their costs is to let their employees go. Another way is to reduce the prices of their products to drive up demand.

Eventually, however, the banks will let go of the newly printed money, unleashing a fury of inflation on Americans; 1970’s style. How long the banks continue to hoard the money and keep credit tight is unknown, however, what we do know is that with our government spending and deficit increases in the next couple of years, inflation will strike regardless. The Federal Reserve/Treasury will have to print the differences, thus increasing the money supply to the market immediately.