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Has NSA Spying Led to Any Abuses?

August 24th, 2013 No comments

Via Drudge, The Times reports that there indeed have been NSA abuses. I’ve been looking for even a single example of someone hurt by the NSA, and here is an example— though personal, not political. Read more…

Categories: army, government Tags:

The ‘Fire Napolitano’ Debate [Andy McCarthy]

December 31st, 2009 No comments

A post so good from Andy McCarthy that I reproduce it in full:

A couple of months back, Sean Hannity invited me on his nightly panel on a special show that was dedicated to ten of the more problematic figures in the administration — Van Jones, Kevin Jennings, Carol Browner, John Holdren, and some others. (Napolitano was not egregious enough to be included.) Sean pressed me on whether this one or that one should be fired, and I just shrugged my shoulders. The suggestion (not by Sean, but in a lot of the public debate) had been that these people had not been properly vetted. My reaction was that they had been extensively vetted — the “czars,” like Jones, were made czars rather than cabinet nominations precisely because they were the people President Obama wanted but he knew they’d never get through a confirmation hearing. Sure, you could fire those ten, but the same guy who picked them would be picking their replacements.

I never thought we should have created a Department of Homeland Security. People’s memories are short. The original idea behind DHS was to solve “the Wall” problem — the impediments to intelligence-sharing that were making the FBI, our domestic intelligence service, ineffective. But while DHS was being debated and built, the FBI and the intelligence community furiously called on their allies on Capitol Hill and protected their turf. By the time DHS formally came into being, they made sure it had no intelligence mission — in fact, it had no real clear mission at all except to be the unwieldy home of a huge agglomeration of federal agencies. Basically, we moved the deck chairs around on the Titanic but did nothing to improve homeland security.

Napolitano is an apt representation of Obama-style detachment from national security: She doesn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from; she doesn’t know illegal immigration is a criminal offense; she won’t utter the word “terror” (it’s a “man-caused disaster,” just like, say, a forest fire); she thinks the real terrorists are “right-wing extremists” aided and abetted by our soldiers returning home from their missions; when a jihadist at Fort Hood massacres more people than were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she won’t call it terrorism and worries mostly about racist blow-back against innocent Muslims; she doesn’t see any indications of a larger terrorist conspiracy even after a captured — er, arrested — terrorist tells agents he was groomed for the airplane operation by al Qaeda in Yemen; she thinks the “system worked” on Christmas when every element of it failed; and even her walk-back on the “system worked” comment — i.e., that it worked after the fact because all the planes then in the air were notified to take extra precautions “within 90 minutes” of the attack — is pathetic. You may recall that on 9/11, the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:16 a.m.; the Pentagon was struck at 9:37 a.m., and, thanks to the heroic passengers of Flight 93, the last plane went down a little after 10 a.m. — about 20 minutes from its target in Washington. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.

When DHS came into being, a good friend of mine put it perfectly: “We already have a Department of Homeland Security and its address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is there, not at DHS, that the problem resides. The President has in place exactly the team he wants. To clamor for Napolitano’s firing when she is just carrying out the boss’s program is to shift the blame from where it belongs.

Categories: government, obama, terrorism Tags:

Filling In Potholes Yourself

April 10th, 2009 No comments

From the Chicago Tribune via Taranto at the WSJ:

Do you have gaping potholes on your street and feel the city is not fixing them quickly enough? How about patching them yourself?

That’s what a group of residents on Chicago’s West Side did Wednesday. Members of the South Austin Coalition bought eight bags of a pavement mix for about $100 and used shovels, rakes and a 250-pound push roller to fill 15 holes on the 4800 block of West Van Buren Street….

For starters, it’s not safe for people to work in the street without taking safety measures like putting up orange cones to warn traffic, said Brian Steele, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation. Secondly, city crews are trained in the art of filling potholes—cleaning them out, pouring in the asphalt mix, making it compact and then rolling the patch with mechanical rollers, not the kind you can push.

The driveway mixture the group used in this case may have only cost a little more than $10 for a 50-pound bag, but the city says the $100-per-ton of high performance cold patch it purchases is worth it.

The Stevens Prosecution

April 2nd, 2009 No comments

April 8. The Justice Dept. seems to have decided to make it hard to get info on the case by removing files from their website, but I found the 10-02-2008 GOVERNMENT’S MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION TO
DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR A NEW TRIAL
and have posted it. This is worth having because it is said that the prosecutors lie in it. I haven’t been following closely enough to know where.

The place to go for info on this case is the blog Crime and Federalism.

April 7. I see another motivation for dropping the case. I read now that the judge is ordering the prosecutors to give him their background materials even though they want to drop the case. It looks to me as if the judge is outraged and wants to hold the prosecutors in criminal contempt, perhaps sending them to jail for a while. The FBI is accused of misbehavior too. If Holder can stop the proceedings, he’ll be able to hold the threat of punishment ordered by himself over the Public Integrity Section and the FBI, and use that as leverage. Thus, the Stevens case might be dropped even if Holder was sure he could get a conviction. What we may have here is that the attorney-general is willing for one criminal to go free (Stevens) to prevent another group of criminals from going to jail (the prosecutors). Stevens, of course, would not object to this– it’s a perfect opportunity for prosecution-defense collusion. The judge, however, has less reason to approve the deal.

I posted this comment at VC.

Brenda Morris joined the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice in September 1991. After working for twelve years as a Trial Attorney with the Public Integrity Section, she was promoted in March 2004 to Deputy Chief for Litigation. In August 2006, Professor Morris was promoted to the position of Principal Deputy Chief.

The acting head of the Criminal Division, who rushed the indictment unethically, was also a career civil servant. It does look as if the careerists have scored another scalp with Stevens.

A question for the lawyers: Is prosecutorial misconduct in a previous trial for the same offence admissible? If it is, Stevens would surely be acquitted in a second trial. Second question: Should it be? (Yes, I would think.)

What has received little discussion here are Holder’s motives. I wonder if it has any connection with Senator Dodd. Is failure to report a favorable mortgage a crime? It is, I suppose if favorable mortgage terms are defined as a gift.

Here is an article on the Dodd mortgage.

I called Robert Feinberg, the former Countrywide executive who blew the whistle on Dodd last summer, but he declined to speak on the record. What he said to me last October is still relevant.

Dodd “got the best of the best,” Feinberg told me in the fall, saying that the deal would have saved the Dodds about $77,000 over the life of the loan. It means, for example, that Dodd got a free-of-charge “floatdown” to a better interest rate and that he paid no points.

“There isn’t one person that was in my pipeline during that four and a half years that didn’t know they were getting VIP service,” Feinberg said.

I would really like to find out who is in the Justice Dept. as career and political appointees. The same goes for the rest of the government. How many are Democrats? The public has a right to the info of who is running our government.


April 7.
I hadn’t been following the Stevens case, and believed the conventional wisdom that he was guilty. Now I really wonder. It seems as if this is the story: Stevens had his friend Allen renovate his house. Allen billed Stevens for $160,000. Allen also let his construction company provide free work, bought furniture, a grill, etc. The government, it seems (this is not clear, and in any case, I don’t trust the government at all on this) values the free stuff at $240,000, and I couldn’t figure out what the defense valued it at. Allen claims that Stevens knew he was getting renovations cheap; Allen claims he didn’t know it.

I believe Stevens, on the renovations. He was not closely involved– he even gave a power of attorney to a neighbor to sign all the permits and suchlike— and he did, after all, pay $160,000 for not an entire new house, but just renovations. I don’t see how anyone could find him guilty there beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, he seems clearly guilty of smaller infractions. He knew he had gotten new furniture, a new grill, a salmon statute, etc. If the value of that was over the ridiculously small statutory limit– $320, I think— then he is guilty in not reporting it.

The government could easily have proved guilt on the gifts of chattels, without even using Allen as a witness. But that was too small a violation to make the prosecution seem reasonable. In fact, I bet half the Senate is guilty of not reporting $400 gifts from old friends. I hope the Federal Sentencing Guidelines don’t impose a big minimum sentence for that. Of course, prosecutorial discretion is supposed to help by preventing de minimis prosecutions.

Here are the exempt categories of gifts:

(1) Bequests and other forms of inheritance; (2) Political campaign contributions; (3) Communications to your offices including subscriptions to
newspapers and periodicals; (4) Consumable products provided by home state businesses to your offices, if those products are intended for consumption
by persons other than yourself; (5) Gifts received prior to your Federal employment; (6) Gifts to your spouse or dependent child totally independent of his or
her relationship to you; (7) Gifts from relatives;
(8) Personal hospitality of any individual (see instructions); (9) meals and beverages unless consumed in
connection with a gift of overnight lodging; and (10) Food, lodging, transportation, and entertainment provided by a foreign government within a foreign
country, or by federal, state, D.C., or local governments.

Categories: corruption, dodd, government, Holder, law, stevens Tags:

The Function of the Office of Legal Counsel

April 1st, 2009 No comments

More on the Holder overruling of the OLC. The Washington Post reported

In deciding that the measure is unconstitutional, lawyers in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel matched a conclusion reached by their Bush administration counterparts nearly two years ago, when a lawyer there testified that a similar bill would not withstand legal attack.

Holder rejected the advice and sought the opinion of the solicitor general’s office, where lawyers told him that they could defend the legislation if it were challenged after its enactment….

Through a spokesman, Holder portrayed the basis for his override of the OLC ruling as grounded in law, not politics.

“The attorney general weighed the advice of different people inside the department, as well as the opinions of legal scholars, and made his own determination that the D.C. voting rights bill is constitutional,” Matthew Miller said. “As the leader of the department, it is his responsibility to make his best independent legal judgment, and he believes that although there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the issue, ultimately the bill would constitutionally grant D.C. residents a right to elect a voting representative in Congress.”

I finally found a leftwing comment on this. Mark Tushnet says that Holder has not taken any formal, legally binding, action, yet and the bill hasn’t passed either, so nothing has happened.

It seems Tushnet is wrong, though. It is true there is not action yet, but that is like saying the “torture memo” was unimportant because when it was issued, no actual interrogation had occurred yet. What Holder has said is that for any DOJ action that depends on the legal question of whether the DC bill is unconstitutional, he is overruling the OLC and the Department is to act as if the bill is constitutional.

A VC comment of mine on AG Holder’s decision to back the DC Representation bill in court:

This is of course a much clearer case than in the Bush Administration of the top political leaders overruling the civil service lawyers on a legal stance. So I hope the people who objected to John Yoo’s stance call for AG Holder’s disbarment even more strongly.

As for myself, though, I find it appalling that anyone thinks the civil service lawyers ought to be making these decisions instead of the elected leaders. The OLC is just a bunch of staffers (mostly civil service staffers– i.e., lawyers who couldn’t get better jobs and who probably have strong ideological preferences). Staffers are supposed to give their best technical expertise to the organization leader, who then makes the actual decision– in this case, What Shall the Executive Branch’s Position be on the DC Bill? I do think the bill is blatantly unconstitutional, but I didn’t get elected President and I’m not on the relevant court. I say: Let Holder and Obama defend the position they want in court. And the opinion of his staffers should not be admissible there.

Ethics vs. Religion in Government

March 27th, 2009 No comments

Richard Painter at VC:

I do not address this as a matter of constitutional law, or theology, which I leave to others. I am saying that government entanglement with religion is difficult from a government ethics lawyer’s perspective. The more entanglement there is, the more difficulty there is. Combine religion with partisan political activity, as many government officials now do, and the ethics lawyer confronts a three way mix of Hatch Act regulations, the Establishment Clause and government ethics regulations. I pointed out in an earlier post that ethics problems often begin when someone thinks he or she can wear two hats instead of one. Try three.

My comment, after a number of others noting that religion in government is more persecuted than persecuting:

I, too, see some lawyerly blindness here. Most of us get a lot more nervous about lawyers hanging around the White House than clergymen. A clergyman might pray that I be damned (though I can’t think of any real ones that would actually), but an ethics lawyer might take away my money, my job, or my liberty, using the power of the state.

Similarly, it’s a lot more threatening when someone says, “We all believe in affirmative action, don’t we— since it’s it’s racist not to and you’re all forbidden by law to discriminate” than when someone says, “We all believe in the supremacy of the Pope, don’t we– since if you don’t, you’re not a Roman Catholic.” When people call their faith-held belief “ethics” they’re a lot more dangerous than when they call them “religion”.

Categories: ethics, government, lawyers, religion Tags:

The Ruins of Detroit

March 16th, 2009 No comments


Via NR, Time has a good photo series on the Ruins of Detroit.

This is what liberalism can do to a city. This is entirely the fault of bad government.

Categories: art, government, liberalism Tags:

Firing U.S. Attorneys

March 14th, 2009 No comments

One aspect of the Clinton scandals was that Clinton fired all the US Attorneys immediately upon coming to office, rather than waiting until he had nominated new people to replace the Bush appointees. This was widely thought to have been to aimed at replacing the Arkansas district attorney who was a threat to him personally, but who couldn’t have been fired as a single case without looking even worse. I just learned something new: the Clinton transition team lied to the Bush Administration about their intentions. Probably that was so the district attorneys couldn’t speed up investigations or take papers away with them. See The Washington Post:

Advisers to Obama say they have learned from past mistakes, including Clinton’s decision to require all U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations.

Critics said that move threw law enforcement efforts into disarray. And Richard Cullen, who was a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia under President George H.W. Bush, said that crossed signals during the Clinton transition left some prosecutors on the street unexpectedly.

“We just got a call one day: Resign right away,” said Cullen, now chairman of the law firm McGuire Woods. “That was at odds with what the Clinton transition people told the Bush transition people. Some people didn’t have jobs to go back to, and had families to feed.”

Of course, one of the oddities of liberals is how outraged they were when Bush fired a handful of U.S. attorneys later on without giving any reason.

Categories: clinton, corruption, government, law, prosecutors Tags:

Another Bungled Obama Nominee

March 6th, 2009 No comments

LIke everyone in America, I can’t keep up with all the failed nominees of teh Obama Administration. Well, maybe stock analysts are keeping up. Anyway, here’s another:

Annette Nazareth, a former senior staffer and commissioner with the Securities and Exchange Commission, made “a personal decision” to withdraw from the process, according to a person familiar with her decision.

An American Spectator article is alarming about the Treasury Department:

“We have no one here. There is no leadership,” says another senior career Treasury official. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We have a secretary who seems to have no understanding of what his job entails, and no one in the White House seems to either know it or want to acknowledge it. We have people making decisions who shouldn’t be making decisions, and in positions where we should have people making decisions about our domestic economy, our banking system and our Wall Street recovery plan, we have no one. People should be alarmed by this, but no one seems to care.”

Categories: government, obama, organization Tags:

President Obama’s Inaugural Address

January 20th, 2009 No comments

Thoughts on President Obama’s Inaugural Address.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

A good start. He says “our ancestors”, and that is correct to do, even if his father was an immigrant, and would be correct to say even if both his parents were. And he is gracious to President Bush.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

A gesture of respect to God, which is good.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

“Khe Sahn”: very good. That won’t make the Clintons happy.

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.

“Its rightful place”? That’s an odd thing to say.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

This sentence says a lot. Obama thinks that the purpose of government is to help you find a job and cheap health care and make you be dignified in your retirement (what he means, of course by, “a retirement that is dignified” is not a dignified retirement, free of internet porn, pant suits, and trips to Las Vegas, but a wealthy retirement). In the past, Americans would have thought that government was for things like crime prevention and national defense, and that a government worked if it just managed not to *prevent* your from finding a job or cheap health care. Of course, modern government makes it illegal for you to find a job if it would pay less than minimum wage, and it says you aren’t allowed to get health care from anybody cheaper than a graduate of a medical school.

Contrast with Jefferson’s First Inaugural:

[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

It’s such a parallel, and that Jefferson speech is such a famous Inaugural Address, that I wonder if the opposition to it in Obama’s speech is intentional. Jefferson also said:

Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Back to the present-day:

With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense,…

I hope he means that we won’t apologize for emitting lots of carbon dioxide or waver in defending our way of life, but I think this was probably just a mistake in editing.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.

Interesting. Will Jews mind being demoted to third place? Hindus will like being included.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

Again a gracious gesture. Did Bill Clinton say things like this? It’s hard to image him doing so, but maybe I’m just forgetful.

But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true.

I dislike the word “values” as implying lack of intrinsic worth, but the word is pervasive, and we can imagine Bush saying the same thing. I like “These things are true”, though. It doesn’t exactly make sense, but I think he means that these good things are truly good, not just his personal preference.

They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

That’s the best sentence of the speech. The second “the” is the key.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Another good phrase. It’s nice, too, because it reminds us subtly that he’s biracial.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

A good section for a cold day, even if it’s not as effective in print.

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

A good ending.

Wealth and Power

January 14th, 2009 No comments

Walter Williams writes on power:

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with about $60 billion in assets each, are America’s richest men. With all that money, what can they force us to do? Can they take our house to make room so that another person can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run retirement Ponzi scheme called Social Security? Can Buffett and Gates force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Unless they are granted power by politicians, rich people have little power to force us to do anything.

A GS-9, or a lowly municipal clerk, has far more life-and-death power over us. It’s they to whom we must turn to for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and myriad other activities. It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable.

Categories: corruption, freedom, government, regulation Tags:

Bailout Political Pressure

December 15th, 2008 No comments

It seems we already have an example of a bank that felt pressured to make bad loans from fear of losing government support. From the American Spectator:

Bank of America was the victim of a concerted shake-down operation that could be replicated around the country. Banks apparently now are expected to give money away to failed borrowers. This could become federal policy when Barack Obama, who supported this new example of Chicago blackmail, becomes president.

Categories: Economics, g406, government Tags:

Blagojevich Bribes the Tribune with State Money

December 9th, 2008 No comments

The charges against Illinois Gov. Blagojevich show why we have to worry about government bailouts resulting in political interference. He conditioned aid to the Chicago Tribune on the support of its editorial page.

…Intercepted calls allegedly show that Blagojevich directed Harris to inform Tribune Owner and an associate, identified as Tribune Financial Advisor, that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment. In a November 4 phone call, Blagojevich allegedly told Harris that he should say to Tribune Financial Advisor, Cubs Chairman and Tribune Owner, “our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

On November 6, the day of a Tribune editorial critical of Blagojevich , Harris told Blagojevich that he told Tribune Financial Advisor the previous day that things “look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page.” Harris also told Blagojevich that he was meeting with Tribune Financial Advisor on November 10.

In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.” Blagojevich allegedly responded. “Oh. That’s fantastic.” After further discussion, Blagojevich said, “Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You’re the man. Good job, John.”

In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, “as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field. …

Categories: corruption, government, politics Tags:

Arrest of an Oppositino Leader in Britain

December 3rd, 2008 2 comments

It’s amazing what Britain has come to. A leader of the opposition party was arrested and his House of Commons office searched by the special anti-terror police after he publicized information of government incompetence leaked to him by a civil servant. He was not accused of any crime. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/henryporter/2008/dec/01/damian-green-humanrights.

I don’t worry so much about government overreaching with respect to ordinary citizens. The government has no motive there to go after a person without reason to think he did something wrong. But when it comes to going after political opponents it is time to worry.

Categories: free speech, government, law Tags:

Novak Wisdom

November 22nd, 2008 No comments

From an interview with Robert Novak (via Advance Indiana) comes a lot of interesting things. This is important to history.

The most interesting Republicans right now are a few young House members. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the best of them. Also Jeff Flake of Arizona and Jeb Hensarling of Texas. They are known in the House as right-wingers. I would describe them as reformers. They think there’s been too much corruption and waste. They are supply-siders. They are very upset with earmarks and very, very upset with the passive leadership we have today….

Q: You’ve had some unparalleled sources. How does one go about cultivating them?

A: What I’m going to say may come as a shock, because I’m not a terribly likable person, but you gotta get a source to like you. There’s very little that I or any other journalist can really do for a politician. A favorable column is not all that much, so there’s not much payback. It’s gotta be “I want to help Novak because I like him.” That may sound naive, but it’s true.

Senator Pat Moynihan was one of my great sources. I don’t believe he said, “Boy, if Novak writes this column, I’m going to really be in much better shape.” He thought I was an interesting guy and had interesting ideas, and he liked to talk about things with me. …

I was just a Midwestern country boy when I came here. Rowly (Evans) was an elite Philadelphian. I didn’t realize how much a lunch was part of the whole source/reporter equation. Rowly learned that from Joseph and Stewart Alsop. If Rowly didn’t have a meal with a source, it was a bad day. Quite often he would have two sources for the same meal, usually breakfast….

Q: In your memoir, you describe an early meeting in the Oval Office with Reagan in which he quoted a couple of obscure 19th-century British free-trade advocates and some little-known modern Austrian economists. How underrated intellectually do you think Reagan was?

A: He was extremely underrated, particularly by the press. The press was very derisive. They were derisive of Eisenhower, too — they thought he was just another Army officer — but the attacks on Reagan were harsher. He was portrayed as stupid, uneducated, out of his element. I think he was very well educated and understood a lot of things. He was also very flexible in his policies — too flexible for my taste.

Q: How do you feel about Dick Cheney?

A: I think he’s the most forceful, effective vice president in history.

I like some of the things he’s done. I think he was instrumental in getting the tax cuts through, which I approve of. I’m at odds with his aggressive military policy, but he’s put a new dimension on the vice presidency that I don’t think will be continued and maybe shouldn’t be continued. …

I think Dean Rusk, for example, was totally the president’s man. Colin Powell leaned heavily the other way, maybe too much, trying to protect the Foreign Service….

Q: Who do you think were the best legislators?

A: Legislators are funny. One of the best-equipped legislators was Wilbur Mills, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He really knew trade, taxes — he really knew the field. He was very smart and came across as a shrewd bargainer. But he never got anything done.

A more recent chair of the Ways and Means committee was Bill Thomas, who was considered by his colleagues to be the smartest guy in town. I think Bill considered himself the smartest guy in the world. But he was very meager in terms of accomplishments. It’s hard to get things passed.

If you go by accomplishments, the best was Lyndon Johnson. There’s not even a close second in terms of getting bills passed. The reason: He was a trader, and he never took no for an answer. He could bargain into the night. …

Q: What about Newt Gingrich?

A: I thought he was a failure as speaker and a great success as a political manager in getting a Republican majority in the House….

Q: What’s the most helpful thing someone can say to a person who’s gravely ill?

A: There’s not much you can say. A lot of people say: “You’re a tough guy and a fighter. You’re gonna beat this.” Well, I don’t know if I will beat it. Being tough and a fighter have nothing to do with it. I guess the most helpful thing they can say, if they’re a man or woman of faith, is to tell me they’re praying for me.

Categories: government, history, politics Tags:

December 8th, 2007 No comments

Takings for “Public Purposes. (recycled) Kau v. City & County. A reader sent me the depressing court opinion, Kau v. City & County, No. 23674 (Haw. Sup. Ct. June 22, 2004), which reiterates the Hawaiian judicial precedent that the government can seize your property, if it pays the market price, and give it to someone else who wants it and has more political power, even if there is no public purpose involved. It is even worse than I’d thought, because the *supposed* public purpose is to reduce land prices– that is, pure redistribution, to hurt landowners and benefit other people.

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Categories: government, law, takings Tags: