Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stuff you need to know, now.

Congress Passed an Arizona-Like Immigration Law in 1996

Congress is always looking to get tough on something. It plays well on the campaign trail. Get tough on crime. Get tough on corporate ethics. Get tough on fanny packs and man purses. Just this year Congress got tough on Ford Motor Company by giving the administration millions of dollars to subsidize General Motors. [See which industries give the most to members of Congress.]

Back in 1996 (when fanny packs were still cool, in some circles) it was time to get tough on immigration, and an interesting little law was passed. Congress deemed it appropriate for state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. In the inscrutable manners of Washington (where all legislation seems to be named with insufferably cute acronyms or indecipherable legislative codes that read like security passwords), this law came to be known as 287g.

Want to know what 287g says? Well, just read the law in Arizona. Yes, that law. The one causing protests in the streets of Phoenix, hysteria on cable talk shows and confusion in the courts. The one that empowers state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law.

[Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on immigration.]

The federal law that has been on the books for more than decade … empowers state and local law enforcement to impose immigration law. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 60 jurisdictions in states across the country have taken advantage of this law.

Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma, Ohio, New Hampshire, California, and even Massachusetts are among the states in which local police are enforcing immigration law.

Seems we’re missing out on the chance for a lot more street theater and cable news shouting from both sides of the partisan divide. Why stop at the Arizona border?

There are differences in the federal and Arizona law but the primary gist of each--the aspect that has caused most of the ruckus--is the provision that allows a local law enforcement officer, who in the course of his or her regular duties has reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally, to request identification and, if none is provided, to detain that individual for potential deportation.

The federal version of the law requires the Department of Homeland Security to approve state and local requests to enroll in the program; then ICE is to provide training and assume supervision of cross-designated officers when they are engaged in immigration enforcement. The Arizona law, on the other hand, actually requires all law enforcement to enforce immigration laws regardless of whether DHS has given its blessing. If the federal law is gingerly tip-toeing into the shallow end of the immigration pool, the Arizona law is a cannonball dive into the crowded deep end.

The practical result of both laws is that the local law enforcement officer must coordinate with federal immigration agents to determine the status of those detained and request that federal agents pick up the individual for deportation. Which the ICE agents will likely ignore--the dirty little not-so-secret secret of immigration enforcement.

The reality is that ICE has nowhere near the manpower or resources to start picking up detained aliens in localities around the country. There are 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country but only about 5,000 to 6,000 ICE agents. To give this figure some context, New York City alone has more than 35,000 cops. It’s just one more example of Congress passing laws with no intention of providing the resources to ensure they’re enforced.

Which makes this controversy as much a legal debate as an enforcement matter. In her injunction blocking the key provisions of the Arizona law, Judge Susan Bolton asserts that Arizona’s law intrudes upon the powers of the federal government’s role in enforcing immigration law. However, 287g is an actual federal statute asking for such intrusion. Consider this: On its website, ICE refers to 287g as “one of the Agency's most successful and popular partnership initiatives as more state and local leaders have come to understand how a shared approach to immigration enforcement can benefit their communities.”

In Bolton’s judgment, though, “requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked.”

Not quite. The Arizona law doesn’t require that every individual have his or her immigration status checked; only those who present law enforcement officers with “reasonable suspicion” in the normal course of duty--which is what the federal law also requires. In any case, by Judge Bolton’s logic, both the federal and state laws will unavoidably restrict the liberty of lawfully present aliens “while their status is checked.”

So if it is unconstitutional in Arizona, why is it not unconstitutional in the 60-plus other jurisdictions that have signed agreements with DHS, some of which have been in operation since at least 2002?

[Poll: Was Blocking the Arizona Immigration Law the Right Decision?]

Which begs another question: Since Attorney General Eric Holder is in a litigating mood, now that he has sued the people of Arizona will he sue Congress and the Department of Homeland Security? Come to think of it, since the Justice Department was responsible for enforcing immigration when this law was first passed, would Holder sue himself?

And would he stand for the prosecution or the defense?

Note the poll on this site for or against the AZ law. When I looked it was over 90% in favor.

    Are they smarter? Just ask them

    The elite's bogus appeal to 'authority'

    Tom Rowan
    One of the ruling class's favorite propaganda points is that they are smart and if you disagree with them you, in fact, are dumb.

    Historian Paul Johnson pointed out the liberal ruling class's penchant for self puffery when he wrote Intellectuals. To give you an idea of where Johnson was going, chapter 1 is titled - Jean-Jacques Rousseau; ‘An Interesting Madman.'

    In the book Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell exposes the "intellectual" ruling class who, as National Review put it, "Exalt themselves by denigrating our society - and are working to destroy it."

    The fabrication of this worldview, i.e., that liberals are the smartest, best and the brightest, and above reproach, has been the underlying template for how we are to view our world. Just ask any liberal.

    Liberals are self described authorities on everything. Persuasive speech writing technique implores that the speech giver make an "appeal to authority" to persuade his audience. This is why Algore tells his audience that they don't have to take his word for it, just ask the experts. Ask the scientists, they are the authorities!

    Wattupswiththat science blog has a hilarious must see take on this appeal to "authority."

    The "top nine authoritative science phrases in print media" are: science tells us we should, science requires, science dictates, science compels, science commands; science says we should, science tells us we must, and science says that we must. The print media makes science out to be a dictatorial prima donna or spoiled child actor.

    This technique is used by Obama relentlessly. He implores us that "most leading economists" agree with him on everything. The only problem with that theory is that economists like Keynes are never held into account for their disastrous prescriptions. Algore can tell us that he invented the internet, was the original muse for Love Story, and that he is not bound by any "controlling legal authority" yet he is to be given a pass by the media. Being part of the ruling class means never having to say you are sorry or having to be proved to right about anything.

    This false bubble of superiority helps explain why Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman are highlighted by the left. They are considered "authorities" and therefore are above criticism from the unwashed masses. This helps explain how these two blistering imbeciles can be so wrong on just about everything and still be taken seriously by polite "ruling class" society.

    This also helps to explain the left's hysterics over Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Ronald Reagan. Most Americans agree with the political worldview of these conservatives and that definitely does not fit the template of "smart liberal vs dumb conservative."

    Palin, Limbaugh, and Reagan are to be mocked as less than intelligent. The left's assault on Palin is not in the battle of ideas, where the left always loses; it is on her appearance and her propagandized lack of intellect. Limbaugh was once again correct in his analysis of the Gulf oil spill. Time magazine's putrid Michael Grunwald gave credit to Rush by noting that the "obnoxious and anti-environmentalist" Rush Limbaugh was right. And who can forget the "amiable dunce" president we had who defeated the Soviet Union and created the largest peacetime economic expansion in the history of mankind?

    Who is "smarter" on just about every issue we face today? Who is right on the issues and who is demonstrably wrong on the issues - Palin or Obama? I rest my case.

    More and more, Americans are waking up to the ruling class liberal elite's penchant for being wrong about everything. On every issue the liberals have it wrong; from job creation to the size and scope of government, from tax cuts to budget cuts, and from common sense to the nonsensical and even absurd.

    All this helps to explain why liberals are perplexed that Obama is not getting credit for all that he has done. Why are his job approval ratings plummeting? Could it be "messaging" or "branding?" Do the wizards of smart need to tweak the propaganda noise machine? Could it be that Obama has not sufficiently explained it all to the clueless rubes whose votes he needs? Does he need to speak more slowly to them to make them understand?

    Does Obama need more appearances on "The View" to help mold our own worldviews?

    But then again, what do we know? We are merely conservatives.

    Friday, July 30, 2010

    Decide for yourself?

    Is the White House Following a Blueprint?

    Dissecting Obama policies.

    Global AIDS Activists Pine For President Bush

    The aim: One Party rule

    Why Democrats are Pushing the $165 Billion Union Pension Bailout

    Remember how the left went ballistic over the Patriot Act?

    Getting the totalitarian meme yet?

    Breaking a Promise on Surveillance

    It is just a technical matter, the Obama administration says: We just need to make a slight change in a law to make clear that we have the right to see the names of anyone’s e-mail correspondents and their Web browsing history without the messy complication of asking a judge for permission.

    It is far more than a technical change. The administration’s request, reported Thursday in The Washington Post, is an unnecessary and disappointing step backward toward more intrusive surveillance from a president who promised something very different during the 2008 campaign.

    In a 1993 update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Congress said that Internet service providers have to turn over to the F.B.I., on request, “electronic communication transactional records.” The government says this includes the e-mail records of their subscribers, specifically the addresses to which e-mail messages were sent, and the times and dates. (The content of the messages can remain private.) It may also include Web browsing records. To get this information, the F.B.I. simply has to ask for it in the form of a national security letter, which is an administrative request that does not require a judge’s signature.

    But there was an inconsistency in the writing of the 1993 law. One section said that Internet providers had to turn over this information, but the next section, which specified what the F.B.I. could request, left out electronic communication records. In 2008, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion saying this discrepancy meant the F.B.I. could no longer ask for the information. Many Internet providers stopped turning it over. Now the Obama administration has asked Congress to make clear that the F.B.I. can ask for it.

    These national security letters are the same vehicles that the Bush administration used after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to demand that libraries turn over the names of books that people had checked out. The F.B.I. used these letters hundreds of thousands of times to demand records of phone calls and other communications, and the Pentagon used them to get records from banks and consumer credit agencies. Internal investigations of both agencies found widespread misuse of the power, and little oversight into how it was wielded.

    President Obama campaigned for office on an explicit promise to rein in these abuses. “There is no reason we cannot fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties,” his campaign wrote in a 2008 position paper. “As president, Barack Obama would revisit the Patriot Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.”

    Where is the “robust oversight” that voters were promised? Earlier this year, the administration successfully pushed for crucial provisions of the Patriot Act to be renewed for another year without changing a word. Voters had every right to expect the president would roll back authority that had been clearly abused, like national security letters. But instead of implementing reasonable civil liberties protections, like taking requests for e-mail surveillance before a judge, the administration is proposing changes to the law that would allow huge numbers of new electronic communications to be examined with no judicial oversight.

    Democrats in Congress can remind Mr. Obama of his campaign promises by refusing this request.

    Let's see the Obama fellow travelers defend this?

    The Sherrod race business pays well

    Real Sherrod Story Still Untold

    By Jack Cashill
    Had Andrew Breitbart dutifully written a column detailing how an obscure USDA official, Shirley Sherrod, and her husband, Charles Sherrod, had scammed the government out of millions, the story would have had the range and lifespan of a fruit fly.

    Instead, as the world knows, Breitbart released an edited version of Shirley Sherrod's speech before the NAACP that provoked national headlines and caused the NAACP to denounce her and a panicky Obama administration to fire her from her position as the Georgia Director of Rural Development for the USDA.

    Then, of course, when the full version of the speech emerged -- which showed Sherrod as a recovering racist, not as a practicing one -- the Obama White House fell all over itself apologizing, and the media turned their guns on Breitbart.

    Breitbart, however, had put a potentially huge story into play the only way he could -- through sheer provocation. As he knew, and as we are learning, the story goes well beyond Sherrod's long-ago racist mischief-making with a poor white farmer.

    This past Sunday, in his weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle, "Willie's World," veteran black politico Willie Brown confirmed that "there is more to the story than just [Sherrod's] remarks."

    "As an old pro," Brown acknowledged, "I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place." Brown observed that Sherrod had been a thorn in the USDA's side for years, that many had objected to her hiring, and that she had been "operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN." Although Brown does not go into detail, he alludes to a class action lawsuit against the USDA in which she participated some years ago.

    In the way of background, in 1997, a black farmer named Timothy Pigford, joined by four hundred other black farmers, filed a lawsuit against Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, claiming that the USDA treated black farmers unfairly in all manner of ways, from price support loans to disaster payments to operating loans. Worse, they charged that the USDA had failed to process any complaints about racial discrimination.

    The notion that the Clinton Ag Department had spent four years consciously denying black farmers their due defies everything we know about Clinton's use of race and should have made the media suspicious about Pigford's claims dating back to 1983.

    Flush with revenue in 1999 and eager to appease this bedrock constituency, the administration settled with the farmers -- more realistically, their attorneys -- for fifty grand apiece, plus various other perks like tax offsets and loan forgiveness. If any of the presumably racist USDA offenders were punished, that news escaped the media.

    After the consent decree was announced, the USDA opened the door to other claimants who had been similarly discriminated against. They expected 2,000 additional claims. They got 22,000 more, roughly 60 percent of whom were approved for this taxpayer-funded Lotto.

    Despite having a year and a half to apply, some 70,000 more alleged claimants argued that they not only had been discriminated against, but also had been denied notice of the likely windfall that awaited them.

    In 2008, for reasons unknown, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lobbied to give the alleged 70,000 "another bite at the apple." Co-sponsoring the bill was none other than U.S. Senator Barack Obama. In February of 2010, the Obama administration settled with the aggrieved 70,000 for $1.25 billion that the government did not have to give. This money, by the way, was finessed out of a defense appropriation bill.

    At the time, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agreement would close a "sordid chapter" in the department's history, a chapter in which no one seems to have been so much as reprimanded.

    The major media reported the settlement as though it were the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For the last forty years, as the civil rights industry has manufactured more and more absurd grievances -- most notably the Tea Party smear that incited Breitbart's reprisal -- the media have reported on them with increasingly wide-eyed innocence.

    In the various stories on the settlement, not one reporter that I could identify stopped to do the math. Pajamas Media did in a detailed article by "Zombie" titled appropriately, "Pigford v. Glickman: 86,000 claims from 39,697 total farmers?"

    Although 86,000 black farmers are alleged to have received payments, at no time in the last three decades have there been more than 40,000 black farmers. Nor is there much turnover in the farming business. No entrepreneurial activity involves more long-term investment.

    Realistically, of the 40,000 or 86,000, how many could have applied for a USDA loan and been rejected while white farmers in comparable circumstances were getting loans? If there were hundreds, let alone thousands, the heads of loan officers should have been rolling around the USDA floors, but I know of no such purge.

    More to the point, out of about $1 billion paid out so far in settlements, the largest amount has gone to the Sherrods' New Communities Incorporated, which received some $13 million. As Time Magazine approvingly reported this week, $330,000 was "awarded to Shirley and Charles Sherrod for mental suffering alone."

    Unwittingly, Charles Sherrod shed light on the how and why of the settlement in a speech he gave in January 2010. As he explained, New Communities farmed its 6,000 acres successfully for seventeen years before running into five straight years of drought. Then, according to Sherrod, New Communities engaged in a three-year fight with the USDA to get the appropriate loans to deal with drought.

    Said Sherrod, "They were saying that since we're a corporation, we're not an individual, we're not a farmer." Nevertheless, the Sherrods prevailed, but the late payments "caused us to lose this land." In other words, the bureaucratic delay over taxpayer-funded corporate welfare payments cost them their business.

    Then, thanks to their "good lawyers," said a gleeful Sherrod, who seems to have fully recovered from his mental suffering, the Sherrods successfully sued the government for "a large sum of money -- a large sum of money." While saying this, he made hand gestures suggesting $15 million. The land itself was admittedly worth no more than $9 million.

    Sherrod gave this talk to announce that the FCC had awarded New Communities a radio station in Albany, Georgia, still another race-based corporate welfare boondoggle. Before the award of this station, he added, the Sherrods "had no means of communicating with our people."

    The "our people" in question, of course, are black people. With this new voice, the Sherrods will help "stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections. We must not be afraid to vote black."

    Yes, indeed -- these are just the people we want spending the money we don't have.

    Covering for a Democrat tax cheat. But then that's nothing new

    The House ethics committee recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel be reprimanded, which is the least severe punishment, according to a new report.

    The disclosure was made today by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who is the panel's chairman.

    A reprimand falls below expulsion and censure on the list of available punishments.

    Making crime pay

    Inmate sues man he's convicted of burglarizing

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A Florida inmate is suing the man he's convicted of burglarizing, claiming the man and two others roughed him up during a citizen's arrest.

    Michael Dupree is serving a 12-year sentence for burglary and cocaine possession stemming from a 2007 break-in of a van in St. Petersburg. Dupree allegedly stole a bicycle locked inside and was apprehended after the owner, Anthony McKoy, saw him with the bike down the street.

    Dupree says McKoy and two others pointed a gun at him, handcuffed him and placed a knee painfully in his back. He's seeking $500,000 for disabilities and distress suffered during the takedown.

    Dupree filed the civil lawsuit on his own, without the help of an attorney.

    After being served with the suit, McKoy said, "I thought it was a joke. I'm the victim."

    Are we becoming like Britain where crime is considered an occupation?

    If you have the time and stomach read the comments below the piece...

    Letting Bush Tax Cuts Die Would Kill Recovery: Analysts

    The depth of economic ignorance and hatred is overwhelming. How do you convince people who believe the 90% tax rate of the 50's was stimulative. These fools don't know or won't say that during these high tax periods there were a huge number of exemptions. Will they tell you that interest expenses were deductible-- that means credit card interest was deducted from your adjusted gross income.

    Living well on welfare

    Egyptian Journalist Describes 'Absolute Prosperity' in Gaza

    Note the flag with Che's face on it.

    It's said that the people were bussed in by the SEIU. Obama's goon and thugs.

    When do you slip from a republic to a dictatorship?

    Memo outlines backdoor 'amnesty' plan

    Immigration staffers cite tools available without reform

    With Congress gridlocked on an immigration bill, the Obama administration is considering using a back door to stop deporting many illegal immigrants - what a draft government memo said could be "a non-legislative version of amnesty."

    The memo, addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration ServicesDirector Alejandro Mayorkas and written by four agency staffers, lists tools it says the administration has to "reduce the threat of removal" for many illegal immigrants who have run afoul of immigration authorities.

    "In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, USCIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear," the staffers wrote in the memo, which was obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

    Anti Israel media bias at the NY Times

    Questions for ‘The New York Times’

    "A story on May 7 by Bronner deceptively cited “Nancy Kricorian, a New York City novelist and poet who visited here for the first time as part of the Palestinian [writers’] festival.”

    The “novelist and poet,” who was quoted as “infuriated” at “military checkpoints and the separation barrier,” was presented as an apolitical literary soul newly encountering Middle East realities.

    Actually, Kricorian is the New York coordinator of the far-left Code Pink organization and promotes stridently anti-Israel political positions, including the organization’s “Stolen Beauty” boycott campaign against the Ahava company, creator and marketer of Dead Sea beauty products."

    Democratic Congressional Campaign Assaults GOP Challenger For Taking "Jewish Money"???

    The Anti-Semitic Left is getting pretty bold:

    Mike Grimm, a G.O.P challenger for Mike McMahon's Congressional seat, took in over $200,000 in his last filing.

    But in an effort to show that Grimm lacks support among voters in the district, which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, the McMahon campaign compiled a list of Jewish donors to Grimm and provided it to The Politicker.

    The file, labeled "Grimm Jewish Money Q2," for the second quarter fundraising period, shows a list of over 80 names, a half-dozen of which in fact do hail from Staten Island, and a handful of others that list Brooklyn as home.

    "Where is Grimm's money coming from," said Jennifer Nelson, McMahon's campaign spokeman. "There is a lot of Jewish money, a lot of money from people in Florida and Manhattan, retirees."

    As a point of comparison, the campaign also provided in-district and out-of-district fundraising totals from McMahon and Grimm's G.O.P primary opponent, Michael Allegretti. However, they did not provide an out-of-district campaign filing from Grimm, but only a file of Jewish donors to him.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    And, of a communist upbringing

    Barack Obama, Adult Child of an Alcoholic

    It's not what you want, it's what they want.

    Terry Jeffrey: Obama's transportation goal: coercing people out of cars

    By: Terry Jeffrey
    OpEd Contributor

    Liberals love Ray LaHood because he is the type of Republican who wants government to control more of American life. When President Obama named him secretary of transportation, it was not so much an act of bipartisanship as an expression of ideological solidarity.

    About a month into his tenure, LaHood told the Associated Press that the administration should consider taxing people for every mile they drive their car, a system that would require tracking people's movements.

    "We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," he said. "What I see this administration doing is this -- thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America."

    LaHood's Big Brother-like suggestion proved too much even for Obama, who had just pushed a $787 billion stimulus law through Congress and was preparing to start an ambitious campaign to enact a national health program. Within 24 hours, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters the president would not back the driver-tracking plan.

    As we shall see, however, the president would back other ideas LaHood had for controlling how people move.

    Control Freaks: 7 Ways Liberals Plan to Ruin Your Life

    Tuesday: Obama eyes your savings to expand government

    Wednesday: White House science adviser wants to "de-develop" U.S.

    Thursday: Obama's transportation goal: Coercing people out of cars

    In LaHood's view, the transportation secretary's highest duty was not to build highways and facilitate freedom of movement, but to use government to change the way people live. Early on, he announced what he called a "livability initiative" and formed a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at creating "sustainable communities."

    As Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation observed, the partnership LaHood's department formed with HUD, together with a rhetorical attack unleashed by President Obama on suburban "sprawl," seemed to indicate the administration's "intent to re-energize and lead the Left's longstanding war against America's suburbs."

    LaHood first described what he had in mind using benign-sounding words in testimony given to the House subcommittee that allocates gas tax money.

    "If a large share of the traveling public could walk or bike for short trips, it is estimated that the nation could save over one million gallons of gas and millions of dollars in motor fuel costs per day," he said. "Transit-oriented development also has the potential to contribute significantly to the revitalization of downtown districts, foster walkable neighborhoods, and offer an alternative to urban and suburban sprawl and automobile-focused commuting."

    The administration, he conceded, wanted to "influence how people choose to travel." But their goal was to increase the "independence" of those who do not drive rather than limit the independence of those who do.

    In a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club a few days later, LaHood defiantly restated his intention to use government to stop people from driving.

    "Some in the highway supporters and motorists groups have been concerned by your livability initiative," said the moderator, reading a reporter's question. "Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?"

    "It is a way to coerce people out of their cars, yeah. ..." LaHood said.

    The JounOlists are always looking in the mirror

    Raw Journolist emails: Do Tea Party members ‘parallel’ Nazis?

    They seem to take no umbrage at their Red Shirts. The ACORN attacks on banks were what if not intimidation.

    Another insane jury award

    Jury awards $34M to restaurant workers at harbor Ruth's Chris


    Defending Our Afghanistan Policy


    From the left and the right, this morning’s newspapers bring fundamental challenges to our Afghanistan policy.

    In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that the U.S. war effort is simply too costly. He suggests withdrawing troops and instead building schools. “That,” he argues, “would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.”

    Over in the Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, Jack Devine, a former CIA officer who was involved in efforts to help the mujahideen in the 1980s, also argues for withdrawing U.S. soldiers. His preferred alternative is relying on his former employer, the CIA, to mobilize Afghan proxies on our behalf. He admits that after a troop withdrawal, which he envisions happening in 2012, “Afghanistan will likely enter a period of heightened instability,” including the possible collapse of the government, so he advises “we should figure out now which tribal leaders — and, under specially negotiated arrangements, which Taliban factions — we could establish productive relationships with.”

    I’ve written a longer article based on my recent visit to Afghanistan for an upcoming issue ofCommentary that explains why the policy we’re currently following offers our best chance of success and why there is no realistic Plan B on the horizon. But let me just point out a few of the more obvious problems with Kristof’s and Devine’s prescriptions.

    Take Kristof first: he places an awful lot of faith in the power of education despite the fact that some types of education — like that provided in many madrassas — actually fuels extremism. Presumably, he has in mind secular schools that educate boys and girls. He might ask himself how long such schools would last under a Taliban regime — which would be the inevitable result of an American pullout.

    Kristof takes comfort from the fact that some foreign-funded schools are able to operate today in dangerous parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the connivance of local tribes, but the Taliban today don’t exercise absolute control over most parts of Afghanistan. Even in areas of strength, they often must make compromises with local factions and avoid antagonizing the people because they know that if they do, the government of Afghanistan and its foreign allies may take advantage of a popular backlash to push them out. If the U.S. actually left and the Taliban were able to consolidate their rule, it is safe to say they would exercise no such restraint. They certainly didn’t in the 1990s when few schools were operating, and practically none admitted girls.

    More broadly, a Taliban takeover would be a nightmare for the people of Afghanistan. How would women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, and other cherished liberal values fare under those conditions? Perhaps Kristof should ponder those questions a bit before suggesting the withdrawal of the most humane and liberal force in Afghanistan — the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

    Devine’s argument appears, on the surface, to be more hardheaded, but actually, it is almost as unrealistic — and not incompatible with Kristof’s fantasy, as I bet Kristof imagines that his “schools for all” option could be supplemented by Special Operations and CIA actions to keep the Taliban in check. Such operations worked well in the past, as Devine notes, when the CIA was helping the mujahideen resist Soviet rule and then again in 2001, when it was helping the Northern Alliance overthrow the Taliban. But there is a fundamental disparity between those situations and the one we face today. It’s much easier for a covert force to overthrow a government, especially an unpopular government like the Soviet-backed regime or the Taliban. Altogether more difficult is imposing the rule of law, extending the authority of a new government, and stamping out a tenacious insurgency. Those are the challenges that we face today in Afghanistan, and they can’t be accomplished by a handful of special operators. They require large troop numbers, and because the Afghan National Army still lacks adequate capacity to police the country, its efforts must be supplemented for the short-term by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

    Devine’s prescription – making common cause with local strongmen — would make the problem worse, not better. Much of the reason the Taliban were able to stage a resurgence beginning around 2005 was that after 2001, we had not sent large troop numbers into Afghanistan. Instead, we relied on unsavory local allies who, with our help, built up vast networks of patronage and corruption that alienated the people and made some of them turn to the Taliban for succor. (For a profile of one of these unsavory characters, turn to theWashington Post today). As Richard Holbrooke notes, “Rampant corruption in Afghanistan provides the Taliban with their No. 1 recruiting tool.” Devine’s strategy of bolstering local strongmen would make the corruption problem even worse and would thereby make the Taliban even stronger.

    POSTSCRIPT: An American working in Afghanistan points out another problem with Kristof’s argument that I should have noted: “How will Kristof’s schools get built if there’s no U.S. presence to make sure they’re done? How many billions have we already had stolen by the locals and local governments, right under our noses?” Good point. The deeper one delves, the more absurdities emerge with Kristof’s “schools rather than troops” daydream.

    Insulating the government from criminal investigsations

    SEC Says New Financial Regulation Law Exempts it From Public Disclosure

    By Dunstan Prial

    So much for transparency.

    Under a little-noticed provision of the recently passed financial-reform legislation, the Securities andExchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities." Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say. Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.

    That argument comes despite the President saying that one of the cornerstones of the sweeping new legislation was more transparent financial markets. Indeed, in touting the new law, Obama specifically said it would “increase transparency in financial dealings."

    The SEC cited the new law Tuesday in a FOIA action brought by FOX Business Network. Steven Mintz, founding partner of law firm Mintz & Gold LLC in New York, lamented what he described as “the backroom deal that was cut between Congress and the SEC to keep the SEC’s failures secret. The only losers here are the American public.”

    If the SEC’s interpretation stands, Mintz, who represents FOX Business Network, predicted “the next time there is a Bernie Madoff failure the American public will not be able to obtain the SEC documents that describe the failure,” referring to the shamed broker whose Ponzi scheme cost investors billions.

    "The new provision applies to information obtained through examinations or derived from that information," said SECspokesman John Nester. "We are expanding our examination program's surveillance and risk assessment efforts in order to provide more sophisticated and effective Wall Street oversight. The success of these efforts depends on our ability to obtain documents and other information from brokers, investment advisers and other registrants. The new legislation makes certain that we can obtain documents from registrants for risk assessment and surveillance under similar conditions that already exist by law for our examinations. Because registrants insist on confidential treatment of their documents, this new provision also removes an opportunity for brokers, investment advisers and other registrants to refuse to cooperate with our examination document requests."

    Criticism of the provision has been swift. “It allows the SEC to block the public’s access to virtually all SEC records,” said Gary Aguirre, a former SEC staff attorney-turned-whistleblower who had accused the agency of thwarting an investigation into hedge fund Pequot Asset Management in 2005. “It permits the SEC to promulgate its own rules and regulations regarding the disclosure of records without getting the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, which typically applies to all federal agencies.”

    Aguirre used FOIA requests in his own lawsuit against the SEC, which the SEC settled this year by paying him $755,000. Aguirre, who was fired in September 2005, argued that supervisors at the SEC stymied an investigation of Pequot – a charge that prompted an investigation by the Senate Judiciary and Finance committees.

    The SEC closed the case in 2006, but would re-open it three years later. This year, Pequot and its founder, Arthur Samberg, were forced to pay $28 million to settle insider-trading charges related to shares of Microsoft (MSFT). The settlement with Aguirre came shortly later.

    “From November 2008 through January 2009, I relied heavily on records obtained from the SEC through FOIA in communications to the FBI, Senate investigators, and the SEC in arguing the SEC had botched its initial investigation of Pequot’s trading in Microsoft securities and thus the SEC should reopen it, which it did,” Aguirre said. “The new legislation closes access to such records, even when the investigation is closed.

    “It is hard to imagine how the bill could be more counterproductive,” Aguirre added.

    FOX Business Network sued the SEC in March 2009 over its failure to produce documents related to its failed investigations into alleged investment frauds being perpetrated by Madoff and R. Allen Stanford. Following the Madoff and Stanford arrests it, was revealed that the SEC conducted investigations into both men prior to their arrests but failed to uncover their alleged frauds.

    FOX Business made its initial request to the SEC in February 2009 seeking any information related to the agency’s response to complaints, tips and inquiries or any potential violations of the securities law or wrongdoing by Stanford.

    FOX Business has also filed lawsuits against the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve over their failure to respond to FOIA requests regarding use of the bailout funds and the Fed’s extended loan facilities. In February, the Federal Court in New York sided with FOX Business and ordered the Treasury to comply with its requests.

    Last year, the network won a legal victory to force the release of documents related to New York University’s lawsuit against Madoff feeder Ezra Merkin.

    FOX Business’ FOIA requests have so far led the SEC to release several important and damaging documents:

    •FOX Business used the FOIA to obtain a 2005 survey that the SEC in Fort Worth was sending to Stanford investors. The survey showed that the SEC had suspicions about Stanford several years prior to the collapse of his $7 billion empire.

    •FOX Business used the FOIA to obtain copies of emails between Federal Reserve lawyers, AIG and staff at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in which it was revealed the Fed staffers knew that bailing out AIG would result in bonuses being paid.

    Recently, TARP Congressional Oversight Panel chair Elizabeth Warren told FOX Business that the network’s Freedom of Information Act efforts played a “very important part” of the panel’s investigation into AIG.

    Warren told the network the government “crossed a line” with the AIG bailout.

    “FOX News and the congressional oversight panel has pushed, pushed, pushed, for transparency, give us the documents, let us look at everything. Your Freedom of Information Act suit, which ultimately produced 250,000 pages of documentation, was a very important part of our report. We were able to rely on the documents that you pried out for a significant part of our being able to put this report together,” Warren said.

    The SEC first made its intention to block further FOIA requests known on Tuesday. FOX Business was preparing for another round of “skirmishes” with the SEC, according to Mintz, when the agency called and said it intended to use Section 929I of the 2000-page legislation to refuse FBN’s ongoing requests for information.

    Mintz said the network will challenge the SEC’s interpretation of the law.

    “I believe this is subject to challenge,” he said. “The contours will have to be figured out by a court.”

    SEC Financial Regulatory Law H.R. 4173