Friday, April 06, 2007

Syria, Pelosi and the Logan Act

A caller to Newt on the Limbaugh show reminded me of something I hadn't thought of since an old law school buddy of Michael's and mine had a "US out of El Salvador" bumper sticker on his car.

The Logan Act was enacted 200 years ago to criminalize dealings with foreign governments by unauthorized U.S. persons. It reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

I suppose we could argue that the Speaker of the House might have some implicit authority, but it would be the first time used since about ever. I suppose, too, we might argue that delivering an errant message from our strongest ally in the region was “in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States” or to defeat its “measures,” but just sitting down with the Iranian lapdog certainly lends a sheen to the Thugocracy behind the Lebanese assassination and the attacks on Israel last summer. It also sends a divided message from this nation at a time of war. Neither the White House nor the State Department granted her any authority and it is my understanding she met with Assad in spite of White House discouragement. Newt pointed out that this has never been used in Modern Times and I don't really encourage it here but Politics, Water's Edge, etc.... That used to be a tradition that both parties honored. Now, only one does.

I recall many Dems having to endure having their patriotism challenged during the 80s for getting cozy with the Sandinistas. As a matter of fact, I recall it was John Kerry and, I think, Tom Harkin who were at the forefront. All just as Ollie North was getting around the Boland Amendment and Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul were poking sticks into the Soviet carcass.

And wasn’t there mention during the last presidential campaign of Kerry meeting with some of the bad guys in Paris shortly after his discharge from his service in Viet Nam? I am too young to remember that but I think I recall some discussion in 2004.

Where are the Jacksonian (Scoop, that is) Dems when you need them? There is only one and he is now a Democratic Independent from Connecticut.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Re: Syria

It's all over the right, but in case LJ missed it, even the WAPO [registration required] decried Pelosi's trip:

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. What's more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria," she said.

Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message.

Cactus Records is gone.

Went to Bookstop today and noticed that Cactus was gone. Couldn't find a news story but a couple of blogs indicate it closed March 31, 2006.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hanson and the English Speaking Peoples

As I mentioned yesterday, I have concerns about the future of the UK/US alliance, the most critical team among those in the English Speaking Peoples. Victor Davis Hanson reinforces today at the Corner:

Blair's stalwart role in Iraq has disguised that fact; but any who read the U.K papers, both right and left, look at the opinion polls, or consider the Islamic problems in London, can easily conclude that Anglo-American exceptionalism is coming to an end for existential reasons that transcend this administration.


This article was in the Sunday DMN. Not a large article. Buried in the middle of the front section. And honestly, I can’t say why I even read it. But, as usual when dealing with D.C. and politics, one side has to criticize the other, the other responds and it is all ado about nothing.

The Speaker of the House, while on a trip to the Middle East, is going to stop in Syria. According to the Speaker’s office:

“As recommended by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan delegation led by Speaker Pelosi intends to discuss a wide range of security issues affecting the United States and the Middle East with representatives of governments in the region, including Syria”

The White House doesn’t like this idea. Per WH spokeswoman Dana Perino, speaking about the Speaker’s visit, called it “a really bad idea". She added:

“Someone should take a step back and think about the message that it sends and the message that it sends to our allies."

All fine and good, except (per the DMN article):

“Democrats were quick to point out that Ms. Perino did not speak out about a Syrian trip planned for next week by a Republican-led delegation.”

So…is the problem the trip itself, or that is being led, while bipartisan, by a Democrat? A Democrat that happens to be the Speaker of the House.

Let's go shopping - Iraq style

I had a serious debate with myself about whether or not to post on this subject. But what convinced me was my disdain with all things regarding politics. I understand "photo ops" (well, in the sense that I understand why politicans have them) and I understand "spin", but how stupid do politicians think we are. I think the answer is, and we prove it every election day, pretty dumb.

So McCain leads a delegation to Iraq and they decide to take a stroll around a market to "prove" how progress is being made. How much "safer" things are now.


Now, perhaps the definition of "safer" is this...before, you had to leave the green zone in a helicopter. Now, you can drive out in a humvee, walk around wearing a bullet-prove vest, have a company of soldiers sealing off the area, have snipers on roof-tops and have attack helicopters circling overhead.

And if that isn't enough to "prove" how much "safer" things have become, Rep. Mike Pence (Rep-Ind) comes up with this gem regarding his trip to the Shorja market:

" a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.."

I've been to Indiana, but admittedly not in the summertime, nor to an outdoor market. Guess I couldn't find because I couldn't see any circling helicopters.

Here is a NY Times article about the stroll around the market and comments by Iraqis.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Happy Passover!

To all my Jewish friends (from first grade, my first encounter--Stephen, to college--Sam, from college, --Daniel and Fran, today) and to those Christians who celebrate the Exodus as part of our mutual heritage. I hope we will continue to enjoy, and learn from, your Seder.


While the movie was not as bad as I feared, it was not Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact. Other than the initial plot points, a rigged (for want of a better term) assassination and a heroic (critics might rightly say superhuman) vet duped by the evil other, I found almost no similarities between the the movie and the novel.

Beyond the necessary contemporization (if that's a word) of the story and some of the action scenes, I never felt the disappointments or guilt of Bob Lee which made the novel so compelling. I hate to sound so touchy-feely, but it didn't resonate with me, unlike the way such a fan as this one found resonance in the movie series of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings .

English Speaking Peoples

Appalling stats from the Great War (WWI) per Andrew Roberts in his book:

62M soldiers mobilized (42.2M Allied; 22.8M Central)

8M soldiers killed (4.88M Allied; 3.13M Central)

6.6M civilians killed (3.15M Allied; 3.45M Central)

21.2M total wounded

The US, due primarily due to its late entry into the war, suffered 50K soldiers killed and 206K wounded.

When one considers the populations (relative to today) of these countries and alliances in the teens of the 20th Century, these numbers are astounding. Particularly amazing are the numbers (relative to their respective populations at the time) were the numbers contributed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and even the British West Indies. (Interestingly, though one of the prime reasons for going to war was to protect France from the hegemony of the Central powers in Continental Europe, the Quebecois participated in substantially lower numbers, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of population, than the balance of Canada.)

The obvious comparison to the Middle East today makes me blush.

In the author's narrative leading up to the Great War, he really lionizes Teddy Roosevelt which I found a bit surprising even though I've been giving the ol' boy a bit more credit lately. He is credited with the foresight of the US needing a world-class navy to really put itself at its deserved place as the new world power.

Wilson is suffering from good intentions with bad unexpected consequences but apparently FDR will really shine when I get that far.

So far The History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900 is much less a slog than I thought it would be. It is crisply written in spite of the abundance of numbers like those cited above. I'm obviously through the first 18 years or so. If I haven't mentioned it before, the central thought is one with which I'm not really sure I agree, namely, that 1000 years from now historians and history students will look back on the Brits, Aussies, Yanks, Canucks, Kiwis et al as one people, hence the name of the book. Much like we don't really distinguish between Republican and Imperial Rome, he contends we will be viewed as one entity. I might agree with the premise through 2006 or 7, but things may be changing especially if one agrees with the premise of Mark Steyn's America Alone. I hope not, but maybe.

Interesting discussion of the Boer War and lots of background from the British Empire of the 19th Century.

He's not afraid to address the warts but neither is he ashamed to draw the comparisons that need to be drawn about the virtues of the "empires" of the English speaking peoples. Washington's Farewell Address admonishing against foreign entanglements takes several beatings.

So far, so good. If this continues, I'll have to put this next to Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics as a must read in Scooter's Library.